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INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCES

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Bharathanatyam

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- Poetry in Motion

Bharathanatyam is the most popular classical dance forms of South India, which is believed to be originated in Thanjavoor of Tamil Nadu nearly 2000 years ago. This dance form was originally practised and performed in South Indian temples by Devadasis (servants of god) and it was known as Daasiyattam or Sadir. This dance form has received great patronage during the golden rule of the Maratha and Chola rulers.

During the Mughal rule this temple dancing has started declining and the Devadasis stopped receiving any kind of patronage. In the advent of British rule many dancers acted like prostitutes in order to earn livelihood. Thus Bharathanatyam dance has been considered as a cheap profession in the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Bharathanatyam has gained a new life and respectability by activists and dancers like Rukmini Devi and E.Krishna Iyer. Rukmini Devi started the institution Kalakshetra in 1936, and since then there has been a wave of reform. Some of the famous Bharatanatyam performers are Bala Saraswathi, Mrinalini Sarabhai, Rugmini Arundel, Kamala Laxman, Padma Subrahmaniam and Chithra Visweswaran. Efforts of these great people and other poets revitalized the traditional beauty of this popular form of Indian Classical dance.

The name Bharathanatyam is made up of ‘Bha’, ‘ra’, ‘tha’ and ‘natyam’, where as Bha = Bhava or expression, Ra = Ragam or melody, Tha = Talam or rhythm and natyam = Dance. This dance form is based on Adavu (steps) and Hasthamudra (hand gestures). There are 64 basic Adavu which are divided into 9 parts, on which Thattadavu, Naatadavu, Kuthithumettadavu, Mandiadavu, Sarikkal and Thattumettu are very important. Communication is done through bhavabhinaya (facial expression) and hasthamudra (hand gestures). Lord Nataraja

The Bhartanatyam is a combination of Aralippu, Jathiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Padams, and finally the Thillana.

Aralippu (invocation) - The performance starts with the prayers to God Ganapati and worship of Nataraja Moorti.

Jathiswaram, Shabdam (notes and lyrics combinations) – The dancer executes patterns with a chosen time cycle and a melody that reveal the architectonic beauty of the form. The torso is used as a unit, the legs are in a semi-pile form and the stance achieves the basic posture called araimandi.

Varnam (pure dance and expression), Padams and Javalis (light items and erotic) – The dancer performs to a poem, whose theme is from Indian mythology, the epics or the Puranas. It is performed through different facial expressions and the body movements reacting to the emotions which evokes rasa, the sentiments in rasikas, the spectators.

Thillana (pure dance) – The concluding part which is an abstract item and does not convey any specific meaning. Here the dancer creates varied forms of staggering visual beauty for the joy of the spectators.

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Last updated February 20, 2004