History and Origins of Bharatanatyam

About Bharatanatyam

About Bharatanatyam :

Bharatanatyam as we know it today used to be practiced as "Sadir" or "Dasi Attam" in the days of the Devadasis or the temple dancers.

The dance was revived and popularized by E. Krishna Iyer and Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale.  Rukmini Devi coined the term "Bharatanatyam" for the dance form.

The syllabus for Bharatanatyam,  structure of a dance recital and dance technique was standardized and codified by the four brothers Ponniah, Chinnaya,  Sivanandan and Vadivelu popularly known as the Tanjore Quartet.

There are many styles of Bharatanatyam practiced today - Pandanallur, Vazhavoor and Mysore  are a few of these.

The name "Bharatanatyam" can be attributed to the sage "Bharata Muni" who wrote the Natya Shastra.  Additionally, the name is also an acronym - made up from "Bhava", "Raga" and "Tala" to indicate the three  important elements of dance:  emotion (Bhava), melody (Raga) and rythm (Thala).


Classical Texts on Dance :

The Natya Shastra was composed by Bharata Muni in the 2nd century B.C.  The Natya Shastra is a compendium on all apsects of  Indian drama and covers allied arts like music, instruments, stage craft, costume, make up, sculpture, painting - all inter related and integral parts of drama. The text is in Samskrit, contains about 6000 verses and is spread over 36 chapters.

Natya Shastra is often refered to as the fifth veda - Bharata is said to have taken words from the Rigveda, music from the Samaveda, gestures from Yajurveda and Bhava/Rasa from the Atharvaveda.

Several scholars have written commentaries on the Natya Shastra which are even more voluminous than the original work.

The Abhinaya Darpana ("Mirror of Expression") is a text on dance by Nandikeshwara.  This is the most widely used and quoted text by Bharatanatyam dancers today.

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