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 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) = Bharata Natyam

Origin of Bharata Natyam

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.

About Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is evenly divided between three elements Nritta, Nritya and Natya .

Nritta : Rhythmic Element.Interprits the language of rhythm with the help of body movements. Pure dance whose constituents are, taal and laya - time measure and rhythm. In nritta the emphasis is on pure dance movements, movements for their own sake, creating patterns in space and time.

Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression.Conveys poetic meaning with the help of expressions, rhythmic gaites and postures. Abhinaya is one of the most important aspect of bharathanatyam, which conjures up a fascinating world of imagination. A sanskrit term , abhinaya means to educate, or convey to the audience.The Abhinayadarpana-a sanskrit text by Nandikeswara-mentions that the actors educate the spectator by stimulating in him the latent possibility of an aesthetic experience. eg. Varna, Shabda, Pada etc.

Natya : Natya is a combination of nritta and nritya dramatisation of a theme. The themes that are in the repertoire of Bharathanatyam generally are mythological stories, which sing praises of the deeds of the various Hindu Gods. The themes also consist the innumerable stories of the kings of different eras in whose praise many a great poets have penned beautiful songs. Natya is thus the visual painting that the dancer draws to get the story across to the audience.

Top Nritta
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

  • Tattaduvu
  • Mettaduvu
  • Nataduvu
  • Kattaduvu
  • Kudittamettaduvu
  • Maiaduvu
  • Mandiaduvu
  • Jati
  • Nadai
  • Ardi

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.

The entire 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 Neck also.

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.
  • Shirobhedha - Head Movement
  • Greevabhedha - Neck Movement
  • Drushtibhedha - Eye Movement
  • Paadabhedha
    • Mandala - Standing Posture
    • Utplavana - Leaps
    • Bhramari - Circling Movement
    • Chari - Leg Movement
  • Gatibhedha - Charecteristic walks and
  • Hastas or Mudras - Hand Movements
    • Asamyuta Hasta
    • Samyuta Hasta
    • Deva Hasta
    • Dashavatara Hasta
    • Navagraha Hasta
    • Jaati Hasta
    • Bandhu Hasta
    • Nritta Hasta

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.

Aspects of Abhinaya

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
  • Vachikabhinaya
  • Aharyabhinaya
  • Satvikabhinaya

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 is Vachikabhinaya.
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 following shloka.

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 aboutNayika(the Heroine) and Nayaka (the Hero) bhavas. Top


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 artists generally perform
In the second half

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1999 Bharata Natyam