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Bharatnatyam – World’s Oldest & Most Popular Classical Dance


Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, India. One of the oldest of the classical dance forms in India, it is also known as the fifth Veda. It started as a temple dance tradition called Dasiyattam (the dance of the maid-servants) 2000 years ago and is perhaps the most advanced and evolved dance form of all the classical Indian dance forms.

Bharatanatyam is usually accompanied by the classical music. It has its inspirations from the sculptures of the ancient temple of Chidambaram. Bharatanatyam comes from the words Bhava (Expression), Raga (Music), Tala (Rhythm) and Natya (Classic Indian Musical Theatre). In this dance form the dancers make considerable use of hand-and-eye movements to express different emotions. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by many dancers all over the world.

Bharatanatyam is considered to be a fire-dance — the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body. It is one of the five major styles (one for each element) that include Odissi (element of water), Mohiniattam (element of air), Kuchipudi (element of earth) and Kathakali (element of sky). The movements of an authentic Bharatanatyam dancer resemble the movements of a dancing flame. Contemporary Bharatanatyam is rarely practiced as Natya Yoga, a sacred meditational tradition, except by a few orthodox schools. It is a solo, lasya (feminine) type of dance, which is tender & erotic.

There are a number of musicians and instrumentalist who provide the musical accompaniment. Typically there is one or more vocalist, a person reciting the dance syllables, and a mridangam. Additionally, one usually finds violin, vina (saraswati vina), or venu (bamboo flute). There is also a thallam (manjira) which is usually played by the person reciting the dance syllables.

E.Krishna Iyer was one of those who raised the social status of Bharatanatyam and greatly popularized it. Rukmini Devi Arundale was instrumental in bringing it to the attention of the West.

At present, Bharatanatyam recitals are usually not performed inside the temple shrine but outside it, and even outside the temple compounds at various festivals. Most contemporary performances are given on the stage with a live ensemble. In popular culture, the adapted, or “semi-classical”, Bharatanatyam has been exposed largely through depiction in popular movies and TV programs.

The most intriguing aspect of this dance is that its root deep into the religious and rich mythological heritage of India. Bharatnatyam, though underwent through a lot of changes has still retained its ancient quintessence. The technique, costume, style nad theme of the dance tell apart it from the other classical dances of India.

Bharatnatyam dance is renowned for its grace, purity, tenderness and sculpturesque poses.

~Abhishek Agrawal


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  • Bhartnatyam is not originally from Tamil nadu but originally it was a dance of all hindu temples from gandhar region, Kashmir to bali where in kashmir the treatise on this dance was originally complied and with islamic invasions this art was destroyed with the temples of kashmir etc. South has retained it due to the fact that islamic invasions had less impact in the south compared to north

  • @aryan thats rubbish! Bhartanatyam has always been a Southern art form. The ancient scripts on the art are wriiten in ancient Tamil. Though many temple dance art forms evolved separately, the most codified one is from the south. Although the islamic invasion did wipe out much of what the north had it had very little to do with the evolution and history of south indian dance. Please down spread disinformation by long forgotten academics pushing for the Aryan invasion theory which glorifies the North.

    • @Oliver obviously you hv never studied the natya shastra which was compiled by a Kashmiri Rishi known as Bharat Muni. The Abhinaya Darpana was written by Rishi Abhinav Gupta who also is from Kashmir. You have no idea what you are speaking about. All the references which Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam & Odissi use are from this treatise. Bharatnatyam is nothing new for North. Study the sculptures in Gujarat, Himachal, Kashmir on temples where you can clearly see the half seated positions of dancing sculptures. South was also part of Vedic Bharat, it has now retained this dance form, while Odissi is only retained in North.

    • @Oliver WRONG, the ancient scripts are not written in Taml. Natya Shastra and Abhinaya Darpana are scriptures both compiled in Kashmir. Its common knowledge to those who know Hindu history. Both are written in Sanskrit. ALL the terminology used in Bharatnatyam are in Sanskrit ONLY. Get an education. None of the usage terminology in Bharatanatyam are in Tamil. Google Natya Shastra the Dance treatise used in Bharatnatyam and all classical Indian dances, and you will find this was compiled in Kashmir only. Also in Rajatarangani there is mention of Natya Shastra and how Kashmir contributed this treatise to the rest of India. I know my facts.