Sunday, 24 June 2012


Bharatanatyam Notes

The inspiration to start this blog came from Smitha who is my other half also an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer from Hyderabad. Just like the other blog on Kuchipudi I hope to build this blog to essentially provide basic knowledge about this art form which though very popular today, but is not undertood in its entirety by even the students of Bharatanatyam. 
Being someone who has spent almost all working life chasing after knowledge and also having authored an award winning book on knowledge management, I thought it imperative for someone like me to share the knowledge I am seeking with others as after all knowledge grows only when it is shared.

In the process of chasing after knowledge there is a possibility that someone may feel offended that some or a lot of information from their site or source is being taken out without their permission. I believe and so does most cyber law statements from around the world that so long as the source is clearly identified and the quotes are being taken with the express purpose of education and spreading knowledge then the copyright laws dont apply. The intention is to educate and not profit from plagiarism!

Priya MurleWith that caution let me begin by quoting the website which has this very interesting excerpt on what Bharatanatyam is all about "The contemporary form of Bharatanatyam evolved during the late 18th or early 19th century. Sadir, which was till then the domain of devadasis (girls who were dedicated to gods), reached its nadir during 1910-1930 with the degeneration of social mores. But during 1926-35, under the championship of E. Krishna Iyer, the dance regained its majesty and came to be known as Bharatanatyam.
Bharatanatyam dancers are usually women and, like the sculptures they take their positions from, always dance bent-kneed. It is an extremely precise dance style where a huge repertoire of hand movements are used to convey moods and expressions.
Bharatanatyam is vibrant and very demanding of the dancer. The body is visualized as made of triangles, one above and one below the torso. It is based upon a balanced distribution of body weight and firm positions of the lower limbs, allowing the hands to cut into a line, to flow around the body, or to take positions that enhance the basic form. A special feature of this dance form are Padams or poems on the hero-heroine theme. The tempo of these love songs is slow and each phase of the performance is crystallized into a specific mood of love."

What is Bharatanatyam

The website gives this equation
BHAva(expression) + RAga (music) + TAla(rhythm) + NATYAM(dance) = Bharatanatyam
I think that is an interesting way of depicting the dance form. The website follows through with the following explanation as to the origin of the dance form.

The Gods & Goddesses 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 popularize 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 performed by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava, which depicts his violent nature as the destructor 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.

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

Nritta : Rhythmic Element that interprets the language of rhythm with the help of body movements. 
Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression which conveys poetic meaning with the help of expressions, rhythmic gaits and postures. eg. Varna, Shabda, Pada etc.
Natya : Dramatic Element like performing for a theme like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc
Hand movements are an important part of the Bharatanatyam dance. Samyuta Hasta and Asamyuta hasta are two classifications for hand movement which the links provided to portrays. The site incidentally is one of the richest sites in terms of content and available for public viewing.
The Bharatanatyam Gurus and stalwarts
One of the greatest performers in the last century have been - Balasaraswati, and she has been almost as influentially in popularizing Bharata Natyam, as much as Rukmini Devi and others. Balasaraswati was known for her soulful renderings of abhinaya or mimetic pieces in which she not only danced but also sang. Since Balasarawati there have been other greats like Kamala , Vyjayanthimala Bali , Padmini ( and her sister Ragini), Indrani Rehman and Ritha Devi.
The greats that followed them are Yamini Krishnamurthy, Sonal Mansingh,Chitra Visweswaran, Sudha Rani Raghupathy, Lakshmi Vishwanathan, USKrishnaRao and Chandrabhaga Devi. More recently we have Malavika Sarukkai, Alarmel Valli, Leela Samson, and Srinidhi Cidambaram.

Other great stalwarts are the Dhananjayans, who have launched a training institution called 'Bhaskara', Guru Adyar Lakshman and Smt Kalanidhi Narayanan from Chennai. From Mumbai/Bombay we have Gurus Mahalingam Pillai and Guru Kalyanasundaram (of the Rajarajeshwari School of Dance), Guru Parvati Kumar a great scholar and teacher, Guru Mani (Kalasadan), Guru Rajee Narayan, Guru Kadirvelu and Guru Soundararajan. The Nalanda Nritya Kala Mahavidyalaya founded by Padmashree Dr. Smt Kanak Rele in Bombay has a graduate and postgraduate program in Bharata Natyam

Propagation of Bharatanatyam
Being an extremely popular dance form, Bharatanatyam has no problem about propagation as both the artists and the audience vye with each other to promote the dance form through all available communication medium. Web is a popular medium. Websites like , site link to the dancepersonal blogs chandradevi's or even an unsigned but interesting one by Anita popularise the art form. 
There are also innovative articles, features and even question and answer sections like the one runs with popular dance teacher prof sudharani. click to go to her Q & A section 

Bharatanatyam DVDs ,videos, CDs etc

There is a lot information about Bharatanatyam including videos and songs in public domain. Search Youtube for Bharatanatyam you will come across hundreds of videos. you can begin by checking the videolinks provide right next to these paras in the same blog. 
When it comes to DVDs on Bharatnayam one great source is and its Bharatanatyam page.


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  2. Thankyou...this is indeed a very informative blog, especially for new students like myself