Bharatanatyam Dance – Oldest Classical Dance In India!

Bharatanatyam - featured

Bharatanatyam Dance, also spelt Bharathanatyam, is a classical dance form of South India, said to be originated in Thanjavoor of Tamil Nadu. It was known as “Daasiyattam” since performed by Devadasies in temples of Tamil Nadu long ago. The name ‘Bharatanatyam’ is derived from three basic concepts of Bhava, Raga and Thaala. The modern Bharatanatyam was systematically regularized by well known ‘Thanjavoor Brothers’, Ponnayya, Chinnayya, Sivanandam and Vativelu.

Bharatanatyam Dance

Bharatanatyam Dance- origin

Bharatanatyam Dance is an ancient classical dance form evolved in the Tamil Nadu state, India. This form of dance was propounded by Bharata Muni. Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance and correct date of the evolvement of this dance is not concrete, but as per the texts of the Sangam Literature, which is a part of the golden age of the Tamil history, Bharatanatyam dance poses is considered to be in practice since 2000 years. The enhancements of this dance forms can be observed in Thanjavur and Madras(now Chennai)

Bharatanatyam Dance Elements

There are three basic elements of this dance form, they are

  • Bhava, means imitations of emotions
  • Raaga, means music and
  • Taal, means rhythm time.

In this forms of dance the three fundamental essence of life is present – Religion, Philosophy and Science. It is believed that this dance was evolved from ‘Sadir dance’ which was performed by Devadasis(temple dancer). The teacher of this dance art was called “Nattuvanar”.

There are many elements of Bharatanatyam like.

Alarippu – An invocation to the Gods to bless the performance.

Bharatanatyam Dance - Alarippu

Jatiswaram – An abstract dance form where the drums set the beat and dancer elaborate footwork and graceful movement of the body.

Bharatanatyam Dance - Jatiswaram

Shabdam – the dancing is accompanied by a poem or song with a devotional or amorous themes.

Bharatanatyam Dance - Shabdam

Varnam – the centre piece of the performance. It is the longest category of the dance emphasized with the most difficult and complex movements. Positions of the hands and the body tell a story, usually of love and the longing for the lover.

Bharatanatyam Dance - Varnam

Tilana – the last category is a pure dance called as ‘Nritta’ when the mastery of the music is mirrored in the complicated footwork captivating postures of the dancer.

Bharatanatyam Dance - Tilana

Bharatanatyam dance – Interesting Facts:

Bharatanatyam Dance

  • Some scholars ascribe Bharatanatyam its name to Bha, Ra, and Ta standing for bhava, raga, and tala.
  • Its present form is nearly the Dasi Attam form of dance.
  • Famous three gharanas of Bharatanatyam are: Thanjavur, Kanchipuram and Pandianallur and these gharanas are known by the name of the Pani.
  • The teacher of this dance form is called “Nattuvanar” and is considered as patrons of this dance till early 20th century.
  • The king of Pandyas, Cholas, Marathas and the emperors of Vijayanagara patronaged this dance. 64 principles are present in this dance. These are related to the mechanical movements of hands, feet, face, and body. Mridangam, ghatam, flute, and manjira are main musical instruments of this dance. In modern time E.Krishna Iyer nurtured this dance and is propounder of modern bharatanatyam.
  • It is female dominated dance. They form their postures like idols and goddess. Emphasis is on hand movement to convey different kind of emotions or rasa. In this artists visualise his or her body as made up of triangles.
  • Rukmini Devi Arundale nurtured this dance. T.Balasaraswati is an excellent dancer. Sonal Mansingh, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Leela Samson, Padma Subrahmanyam etc are some excellent artists.
  • In India, traditional yoga schools have adopted Bharatanatyam dance and altered it as a mediational activity which is practised till date.
  • The modern type of bharatanatyam dance had been epitomized during the rule of Maratha emperor Sarabhoji-II by 4 experts of his Tanjore court during the early nineteenth century. These quarters were Chinnayya Pillai, Sivanandam Pillai, Ponniah Pillai, and Vadivelu Pillai.
  • Indian metaphysics in ancient time, fire was assumed to be a combining element of the human body. Bharatanatyam dance is considered to be the celebration or worship of this element. It is basically a dance that is assigned to fire as the movements of the body indicates that of fire during dancing this form.


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