This is a very popular dance form in South India. It
is oldest of all classical dance forms in India. Dance of mind & soul. It
is extremely traditional and known for its grace, purity, tenderness, staturesque
& sculpturesque poses. It uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher
level of spiritual consciousness. The bharatanatyam
dancer is considered as a worshiper, worshiper of the Divine. An embodiment
of beauty, charm and gracefulness.
The general interpretation for the
name is :
BHAva(expression) + RAga (music) + TAla(rhythm) + NATYAM(dance)
is a the most popular Indian dance in the South of India, especially
in Tamil Nadu. It is the most ancient of all classical dance in
India based on Natya Shastra. The Gods & Godesses pleaded Lord Brahma to create
another veda which would be simple for the common man to understand. It is believed
that considering this request Lord Brahma created the Panchamaveda, Fifth veda,
Natyaveda, an essence of the other four vedas. It is believed that he has taken
pathya (words) form the Rigveda, abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajurveda, geet (music
and chant) from Samaveda and rasa (sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda
to form the fifth veda, Natyaveda.
After creating this natyaveda, Lord Brahma
gave the same to sage Bharata and asked him to popularise this veda on earth.
Following the words of Lord Brahma, sage Bharata wrote Natyashastra or the Science
of Dramaturgy, a great, comprehensive work on the science and technique of Indian
drama, dance and music.Bharatanatyam might have got its name from sage Bharata
also.The dancers still follow this work to perform.
There is also another
story which says that Godess Parvathi tought this dance form to Usha, daughter
of Banasura, a demon. Usha taught the same to the Gopikas of the city of Dwaraka,
Lord Krishna's birth place. Thus the divine dance form Bharatanatyam was introduced
to the mankind.
In Indian mythology,Lord Shiva is considered as the supreme
lord of dance. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva & his wife
Goddess Parvathi. The Dance performd by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava, which
depicts his violent nature as the distructor of the universe. The tandava performed
with joy is called Ananda Tandava and performed in violent mood is called Rudra
Tandava. There are 7 types of Tandava. Namely Ananda Tandava, Tripura Tandava,
Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava.
There are few people who believa that there are 16 types of Tandava. Tandava has
vigourous, brisk movements.The dance performed by Goddess Parvathi is known as
Lasya, in which the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic also.
Some scholars call Lasya as the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya has 2 kinds.
Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya.
The art form has definitely gone through
lot of changes over the years. In olden days it was performed mostly by female
artists. They were called Devadasis, who would perform in the temples. These devadasis
were accomplished artists who would sing, dance, play many instruments. They were
well worsed in sanskrit & other languages which helped them to interpret compositions
which they would perform. But this tradition came to an end as the devadasis lost
their position in the society.
To know more about devadasis please click here
Then dance entered the royal
courts. Here the artists called Rajanartakis, performed in the courts of kings
who gave them shelter.Even these were accomplished artists like devadasis.
next well-documented period of dance history is far more recent. In the first
half of the 19th century the dance tradition was revitalized and defined anew
through the contributions of four talented brothers (known today as the Tanjore
Quartet)Chinniah, Sivanandam, Ponniah and Vadivelu. By coordinating their diverse
talents, the four managed to organize all the basic dance movements of pure dance
into a progressive series of lessons [adavu chapters]. Each adavu (basic unit
of motion) was taught in systematic order and then combined with others to produce
choreographed sequences based upon the rhythmic contour of a musical composition
(Krishnamoorthy Pillai). In addition the brothers composed new music specifically
for the dance, and introduced a different sequence of items which integrated the
various aspects of dance and music into a carefully coordinated, aesthetically
sound progression. This infusion of creative energy marks the early 19th century
as one of the most innovative periods in the history of Indian dance.
contribution of Udayshankar, Rukminidevi Arundale and Balasaraswathi, in the 20th
century, cannot be forgotten at this juncture.
Even though Bharatanatyam
has gone through lot of changes, it still has its roots deep into the religious
and rich mythological heritage of India. In the modern day scenario it is performed
by both male & female artists. Many learn as a hobby and few make it as a
profession. Whether taken as a hobby or a profession it certainly needs lot of
practice,concentration and dedication.
Its recital uplifts the bharatanatyam
dancer and the spectators to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. Bharatanatyam
is evenly divided between three elements Nritta, Nritya and Natya .
: Rhythmic Element.Interprits the language of rhythm with the help of body movements.
Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression.Conveys poetic meaning with
the help of expressions, rhythmic gaites and postures. eg. Varna, Shabda, Pada
Natya : Dramatic Element.Performing for a theme like Ramayana, Mahabharata
Nritta can be broadly divided into Chari, Karana, Angahara and Mandala. Movement
of a leg is called Chari. Movement of both the legs is Karana. 3 Karanas make
a Khanda. 3 to 4 Khandas make a Mandala. 4 to 9 Karanas make a Angahara. 4 to
5 Angaharas also make a Mandala. 108 Karanas and 32 Angaharas are defined in Natyashatra.
The 13 Nritta Hastas (explained later) are used to perform nritta. The rythmic
body movements along with hand gestures are called Aduvus. Number of aduvus constitute
a Jati. Jati will generally end with a Muktaya or Teermana.
There are varieties of Aduvus like
There are 12 aduvus in each of the above explained. Hence 120 aduvus
exist in total. Only about 70 - 80 are in practice. The aduvus are more or less
Karanas. Hence can be concluded that there are 108 aduvus. The 108 Karanas or
Aduvus are carved in the Chidambaram Temple in Tanjore, Tamilnadu, India. To perform
an aduvu aramandi, bending of the knees is very very important.
body is divided as Anga, Pratyanga and Upaanga.
Anganyatra shirohastau vaksha paarshwakateetatau
Paadaviti shaduktaani greevamapyapare jaguhu
Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, Legs are the Six Angas. Some people include
Pratyangaani twathaskandhau baahoo prushtam tathodaram
ooroo janghe shadityahurapare manibandhakau
jaanooneekoorparamiti trayamapyadhikam jaguhu
Shoulders, Arms, Stomuch, thighs, Knee are the Six Pratyangas. Some people include
Wrist, elbow and Ankle also.
Drushtibhrooputatarashcha kapolau naasikaahanuhu
Adharodashanaa jihwaa chubukam vadanam tatha
Upaangani dwadashitaanyanyaanyangaani santi cha
Paarshnee gulbautathangulyaa karayoho padayostale
Sight, Eyebrow, Eye lids, Eye balls, Cheeks, Nose, Gums, Lower Lip, Teeth, Tongue,
Chin and Face are the 12 Upaangas. Few people include Heels, Fingers, Feet, Palm
also into upaangas.
Pratynaga and Upaangas should move along with the Angas.
Anga Lakshana, the way of moving body parts, are described below.
- Head Movement
Greevabhedha - Neck Movement
Drushtibhedha - Eye Movement
Mandala - Standing Posture
Utplavana - Leaps
Bhramari - Circling Movement
Chari - Leg Movement
Gatibhedha - Charecteristic walks and
Hastas or Mudras - Hand Movements
When all Angas(main body parts) coordinate (along with
pratyanga and upaanga) the artist is said to have Angashudhi. Anga meaning body
parts and shudhi, meaning perfect. Any dancer should try to achive this perfection.
The Natyashastra, which talks about all aspects of Bharatanatyam, quotes shlokas
to perform all the above movements. All the above said movements are dealt in
detail in the respective links.
The expressions which are shown to express poetic meanings is Abinaya.
Here the emphasis is more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. The Abinaya
is divided as
Angikabhinaya : Expressing the meanings of lyrics using the body parts
like Head, Hands, Legs etc. is Angikabhinaya. The Bhedas which i have explained
above come under Angikabhinaya.
Vachikabhinaya : Expressing the Story using narrations in the dance drama
Aharyabhinaya : Imitating the Costumes, Jewellary, Make-up etc. in a dance
comes under Aharyabhinaya.
Satvikabhinaya :Showing the Bhava(moods) come under Satvikabhinaya.
Lord Shiva is praised as the embodiment of the above 4 types of abinaya in this
Angikam bhuvanam yasya
Vachicam sarva vangmayam
Aharyam chandra taradi
tam vande satvikam shivam.
Meaning for the above shloka is
We bow to Him the benevolent One
Whose limbs are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all language,
Whose costume is the moon and the stars..."
In Lord Shiva's well-known pose of NATARAJA,
his right hand holds the drum of creation - symbolising a new awakening
his left hand holds fire - representing destruction of the old order
his other right hand is raised in blessing
the other left hand points to his left foot, which has crushed demon Muyalaka
- representing ignorance.
There are nine main or primary emotions, Sthayibhavas. It is also
termed as Rasa(Mood).
- Shringara - Love
- Hasya - Mirth
- Veera - Heroism
- Roudra - Anger
- Bhayanaka - Terror
- Bheebatsa - Disgust
- Adbhuta - Wonder
- Karuna - Compassion
- Shanta - Tranquility
Vatsalya(Parental fondling) rasa is also sometimes included as one of the stayibhava.
Vibhava (cause of emotion), Anubhava (effect of emotion) and Sanchari bhava (subordinate
emotions) constitute the state of rasa.
Now i would like to talk about Nayika(the Heroine) and Nayaka (the
The Nayika Bhava
The shastras have classified the basic mental status of woman, the Nayika, into
Eight divisions, called Ashtanayika bhavas. These divisions portray
the heroine in different situations, express different feelings, sentiments &
The Ashtanayika bhava are
Abhisarika - She is the one who boldly goes out to meet her lover.
Kalahantarika - She is the one who is repenting her hastiness in quarrelling
with her lover, which has resulted in their seperation.
Khandita - She is the one who is angry with her lover for causing dissapointment.
Proshitapathika - She is the one who is suffering in the absence of her
beloved, who is away on a long journey.
Swadheenapathika - She is the one who is proud of her husband's or beloved's
love and loyalty.
Vasakasajjika - She is the one who is preparing for the arrival of her
beloved, by decorating herself and her surroundings. to provide a pleasent welcome
to her lover.
Virahotkantita - She is the one who is seperated from her lover & is
yearning for reunion.
Vipralabda - She is the one who is dissapointed that her lover has not
turned up at the tryst as he promised.
Other classifications of the Nayika bhava are
Mugdha - Inexperienced in love.
Madhya - Partly Experienced in love.
Pragalbha - Matured in the art of love.
This Pragalbha Nayika is further classified as
Sweeya - Married & faithful to her husband.
Parakeeya - Married but in love with another man.
Samanya - A free woman, who truly belongs to any man for a price.
Jyeshta - The preferred one.
Kanishta - The other woman.
Further classifications are
Uttama - Self-controlled & tolerant.
Madhyama - Literally the middle one, who gives as she gets.
Adhama - Literally the low one, who has no self restraint.
The Companion to the Nayika plays an important role in any padam, javali
or Ashtapadi. This Companion is the one to whom the Nayika will convey her feelings,
she is the one who will take the message,if any, from the nayika to the nayaka,
she is the one who will sort out the differences between the nayika & the
nayaka. This companion is usuallly a girl who is close to the Nayika.
The classification of the Companion is as follows.
The Nayaka Bhava
- Daasi - Servant
- Sakhi - Friend
- Kaaroo - Woman from a lower caste
- Chatriya - Step Sister
- Prativamshini - Neighbour
- Lindini - Saint
- Shilpani - Artist
- Swaa - Nayika herself as a messenger
Just like the heroines, the moods and emotions of the hero are also classified
into different divisions. The main division is
- Dheerodaatta eg. Lord Rama
- Dheeroddhata eg. Demon Ravana
- Dheeralalita eg. Vatsaraaja
- Dheerashanta eg. Buddha
The other classification is
Pati - Married & faithful to his wife.
Upapati - Married but in love with another woman.
Vaisika - One who pays & enjoys women.
Further Nayaka classifications
Anukoola - Faithful to the Woman. eg. Lord Rama
Dakshina - Loves all his wives or women. eg. Arjuna
Drishta - When rejected, pleads to be accepted by his woman. eg.
Shatha - The deceitful one. eg. Lord Krishna
Most of the ashtanayika bhavas are experienced by the Nayaka also though the depiction
of ashtanayika is more than the nayaka.
Nayaka's Companion plays an important role too. This companian is categorised
Arangetram is a tamil word.Aranga meaning raised floor and Etram
meaning climbing in Tamil,one of the south indian languages. It is also called
Rangapravesha in Kannada, another south indian language, Ranga meaning
Stage and Pravesha meaning Enter. Ideally this should be the first public
performance of an artist. After learning bharatanatyam under the guidance
of an accomplished guru, this is the occation for the proud guru to present his/her
deciple to the public. This is the testing time for both the guru & the shishya(deciple)
as the guru's knowledge & the deciple's talent both are judged by the public.
Hence, the guru will decide when the deciple is ready for public appearence. Atleast
10 - 12 years of training is necessary to give a comendable performance.
This arangetram was known as Gejjepooje in old mysore district, meaning
worshiping the jingles in kannada, a south indian language.For a dancer, jingles
are considered devine. In olden days, deciples were not allowed to wear jingles
till their first public performance. In their first performance, they were made
to worship the jingles, wear them & then perform.
Accompaniments play a major role in the making of a memorable dance performance.Basic
accompaniments are a Singer, Mridangam player, Violin player and ofcource the
Natuvanga. Veena,Flute and other instruments are optional. These people sit in
the corner of a stage or in a place in front of the stage which will be in a lower
level than that of the stage.
The artist will wear lot of jewellery, make-up and a specially stitched dress.
Jingles are a must.
Usually duration of an arangetram will be 2 1/2 - 3 hours. To perform for such
long hours one must have good stamina and concentration. This time is divided
into two halves.
In the first half the bharatanatyam
artists generally perform
In the second half
This is an item where the bharatanatyam
dancer salutes to god, guru and the audience. This item is a warmup item where
the artist prepares the body for the next few hours of vigorous performance.
This is a tamil word.Alar meaning to bloom. It comprises of set of movements
without any meaning or expression. The movements are performed for syllables set
for a beat(Tala). The complexity of the movements gradually increase. The steps
are so formed that it looks like a bud blooming into a flower. This is also a
warmup piece to prepare the body for the next few hours of performance. Eventhough
there is no meaning, this can also be considered as an item where the artist salutes
god,guru and the audience.
This is also an item where the movements will not convey any meaning or theme.
Here the steps are more complex than the previous items. The composition can have
amazing postures and teermanas or muktayas(ending of a jati). This is a musical
composition set to a raga unlike alaripu which has only syllables.
This is a dance item with both nritta & abinaya. Usually the theme of the
lyrics will be devotional like praising lord krishna, depicting lord krishna's
childhood , praising a king etc.The movements here are leisurely.
This is the item where the dancers are tested for their capacity to perform abinaya
& nritta. This can be treated as a benchmark to judge the artist's talent.The
item will contain many complex steps and will have lot of room for expressions
also. To perform this item one should have lot of stamina & concentration.
The lyrics can be devotional, praising a king etc. Varna can also have shrigara
rasa as its theme.
In this dance item the dancer's abhinaya is put into test. It narrates expression
of divine love or pangs of seperation in love. The tempo is slow and the performance
is based on a specific mood of love.Padams will have Nayaka(Hero, Supreme
lover, Divine Lord)& Nayika(Heroine, the yearning soul). Heroine will
talk to her friend(sakhi) and narrate her feelings towards her hero. The lyrics
can be about how the hero has betrayed, how he has delayed the arrival, how she
is angry with her beloved hero etc. The Nayika and Nayaka Bhavas are explained
in detail Here.
These are poet Jayadeva's Sanskrit compositions called Geetagovinda,
an extremely romantic composition. It describes the love of Krishna and Radha
in twelve cantos containing 24 songs. The songs are sung by Krishna or Radha or
by Radha's maid. Each Canto is named differently considering Krishna's status
Expressions are given foremost importance while performing these poems. Needs
lot of grace. The artist should be mature enough to understand the lyrics and
the situation to show the rasas.
- Saamodadamodara - Joyful Krishna
- Aakleshakeshava - Careless Krishna
- Mugdhamadhusoodhana - Bewildered Krishna
- Snigdhamadhusoodhana - Tender Krishna
- Saakankshapundareekaksha - Longing Krishna
- Kuntavaikunta - Indolent Krishna
- Naagaranaaraayana - Cunning Krishna
- Vilakshalakshmeepatihi - Abashed Krishna
- Mandamukunda - Languishing Krishna
- Chaturachaturbhuja - Intellegent Krishna
- Saanandadamodara - Blissful Krishna
- Supreetapeetambara - Ecstatic Krishna
This item is a devotional piece where the lyrics are in praise of god, describing
the god etc. This is a pure abhinaya item with almost no emphasis on nritta. Usually
the lyrics are in Kannada. These songs are the compositions of great mystics like
Purandharadaasa, Kanakadaasa, Vijayadaasa, Vyasaraaja to name a few. The
compositions are popularly known as Daasa Sahitya. It is a devotional
literatures written in simple language understood by common man. It has made remarkable
contribution to the spiritual and cultural upliftment of people by preaching phylosophy
of Love, Devotion and Peaceful Co-Existance.
If you are looking for some compositions, here they are.
This is usually the last item in any bharatanatyam
performance. Tillana is full of complicated movements & postures. This will
also have complicated Muktayas or Sholkattu, ending of any step
or aduvu. This is mainly a nritta piece which might have a charana, a meaningfull
lyrics for which abinaya is shown.
Meaning ending the performance. Here the artist will again salute god, guru &
the audience for making the performance a success.
have refered to Annapoorna Anand, who is a dancer herself and have learnt bharatanatyam
for about 16 years.
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