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What is Bharatanatyam?


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Traditional Indian Dance Form - Bharatanatyam, Tamil Nadu, India

Oldest Classical Dance Form of India - Bha ra ta natyam

What is Bharatanatyam?
Bharatanatyam is the oldest classical dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, India.

What does Bharatanatyam consist of? The true essence of this dance form can be understood by breaking down the term Bharatanatyam into different parts - BHA - Expressions & Moods or Bhavana, RA - Melody or Raga, Ta - Rhythm or Taal, Natyam - Dance.

In other words, the Bharatanatyam dance form is a beautiful amalgamation of dance movements, expressions, music, mime & moods which derives its structure from the rules specified in the "Natya Shastra" written by Bharata Muni.

Evolution & Popularity It is believed that Bharatanatyam dates back to more than 2000 years. Besides this belief, there are several other stories which are associated with the origin of Bharatanatyam. One common belief is that Bharatanatyam was performed during the earliest days by women who served the temples & worshipped & praised the Gods with their dance. They were better known as DEVADASIS or female servants of Gods. Their was accompanying classical music too which was played by musicians.

The Devadasi System Under the devadasi system, the dance was handed over from one generation to another and that is how the dance form continued to exist. Later, with the advent of the Mughal rule, Bharatanatyam slowly found its way to the palaces of kings and queens. It is believed that the early part of the 20th century saw the revival of this rich dance form primarily due to the efforts of some elite, educated individuals of India.


Today, there are many renowned Bharatanatyam dancers who are keeping the glory of this traditional dance form intact. Students of Bharatanatyam are dedicated towards learning this age old dance form which continues to charm its spectators.

Theme & Music During a Bharatanatyam performance, the choice of music is Classical Carnatic. Some of the most common themes of the dance include stories and tales from the epics, puranas and revolving around Indian Mythology.

Bharatanatyam Dance Costumes The female Bharatanatyam dancers wear beautiful costumes made of silk. The pleats in the front of the sari and the fan shaped, gathered sari near the waist are some of the essential elements of this dance costume.

The dancer adorns a number of gold ornaments including the head wear, neck pieces, ear rings, arm ornaments, bangles, waist band, and ghungroos (ankle bells) etc.

Famous Bharatanatyam Dancers

Some of the well known masters of Bharatanatyam Dance include
Bharatanatyam Performance - Malika Sarabhai
  • Malika Sarabhai
  • Yamini Krishnamurthy
  • Mrinalini Sarabhai
  • Padma Subramanyam
  • Anita Ratnam
  • Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai

Contributions are Invited Are you a Bharatanatyam Dancer? To add greater value to this page, we invite you to contribute your picture in your traditional Bharatanatyam dance costume for inclusion on this webpage. We'll surely add your name under the picture as a token of thanks (Courtesy:) Email us at [email protected]

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