Bharatanatyam is an extremely elegant classical South Indian dance form, having its origin from Thanjavor, a vibrant place in Tamil Nadu state, of India. It is derived from the devadasi (temple dancers) tradition, and can be regarded as the manifestation of music in a visual form.
This lovely dance form is inspired by the antique sculptures of Chidambaram Temple and includes the Bhava (expression), Raga (music) Tala (rhythm) and Natya (dance).
It is one of the oldest forms of dance and is considered as a ‘fire dance’ as it displays the Jesuitical element, fire in the human body. Also a Bharatanatyam dancer has the most captivating features, like the arm gestures, head and hand movements, along with highly engrossing footwork merged in its very style, resembling a dancing flame.
Rebirth of the Dancing Style
Bharatanatyam has its origin from the Dasi Attam, which lead to the devadasi tradition. This gradually debased and lead to the birth of Rajanartaki tradition (dancers at the royal courts). With the emergence of British rule in India, the tradition is abolished.
Later, about 150 years ago, the pure form of this vivacious art is restructured by the four famous brothers, the Tanjore Quartet Ponnaiah, Chinnayya, Sivanandam and Vadivelu, who are regarded as the pillars of contemporary Bharatanatyam.
Nataraja, the God of Dance
The deity of dance is lord Shiva, in the Nataraja pose, with a hand raised for blessing (Abhaya hasta), is the main God to whom a prayer is offered through this dance form. The remaining three hands of the lord are seen holding a drum depicting creation of sound, fire destroying the evil, and the third pointing his foot, crushing the demon of ignorance.
Bharatanatyam technique consists of three main aspects, Natya or the dramatic art of expressions and gestures, i.e., the Abhinaya; Nritta or the rhythmical dance proper; and Nritya the combination of Natya and Nritta. With the basics of the art strongly laid in these three aspects, several best known styles of Bharatanatyam, with distinctive characteristics, are practiced across the globe.