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Bharatanatyam Dance

‪Meditation in Movement

idance

Image courtesy of Sheela Unnikrishnan http://www.sridevinrithyalaya.com/

Originating in the temples of Tamil Nadu, South India, Bharatha Natiyam Dance (more commonly written as Bharatanatyam), has been an important aspect of Hindu tradition for over 2000 years.

Bhartanatyam is considered as one of the classical dance forms of ancient India that signifies the elements of the Earth and human body, the others being Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Kathakali.1

It’s beginnings are thought to stem from dance forms that were developed by the Devdasis or Temple-maidens2. One meaning of Bharatanatyam or பரதநாட்டியம் in Tamil is a derivation from the four most important aspects of dance (in Sanskrit) also known as the fifth Veda. These are: Bha from Bhava meaning emotion, Ra from Raaga meaning music or melody, Ta from Taala meaning rhythm and Natyam meaning dance.

A more accepted origin of the name is from Bharata Muni, who wrote the Natya Shastra from which Bharathanatyam gets many of its ideas. This etymology also holds up to scrutiny better since Bharathanatyam is pronounced with short (kuril) forms of “bha”, “ra” and “tha” whereas each of “bhavam”, “ragam” and “talam” contain the long (nedil) forms.

Bharatanatyam has no doubt been through many theoretical and technical modifications, but it has survived through the centuries to be widely practised in modern world.  It is making a resurgence in India by both male and female dancers and it’s becoming popular in many other countries like Estonia, Russia and the USA.

Bharatanatyam‬ is for men and women –
explanation and practise

Bharatanatyam in its modern form, has moved from the temple to the stage, though it still retains its spiritual aspects. Bharatanatyam‬ is a dance like no other in the world, requiring from its students a perfect blend of spirituality, discipline, physical mastery, ritual and established form.

Students go through years of training, not only in dance but in the meaning of the dance in which every move and every expression has importance. The best dancers are those who can transcend human limitations and connect with the Divine.

All good dance is an expression of the soul and human emotion, thoughts and experience — but Bharatanatyam is, first and foremost, a prayer and offering to the gods. The ultimate goal is not the performance, but the closer connection between the dancer and the gods.

 
Sheela Unnikrishnan is a renowned
exponent of Melattur style of
Bharatanatyam. She Combines tradition
with innovation & classicism with creativity.
http://www.sridevinrithyalaya.com/

It is spirit of Purusha and Prakriti, an expression of evolution of movement, a truly creative force that is handed down the ages. This embodiment of sound and rhythm creating spiritual poetry is called dance or Natya.

The first glimpse of the dance comes to us from Siva himself, a Yogi of Yogis. He shows us the Cosmic Dance and portrays to us the unity of Being. The Cosmic Rhythm of His dance draws around Him ensouled matter, which manifests itself into the variety of this infinite and beautiful universe.

Rukmini Arundale explains the philosophy of Indian dance thus:

Arangetram is a granduation performance that is the part of the traditional format. Arangetram is done only when the Guru feels that the Sishya is capable and talented enough to perform the Arangetram. For performing this Arangetram the student must have at least 6 to 10 years of training.

An excerpt from Pushpanjali – an invocatory
piece in Bharatanatyam; dance choreography
by Savitha Sastry. Student
of Dhananjayans and Adyar Lakshman.
For more information www.savithasastry.com

Today Bharatanatyam moves in ever-shifting global directions and has grown well beyond the historical debates surrounding its reinvention in the early twentieth century, even though traces of the anxieties over nation, body, sexuality, and performance still circulate in the practice of the form. This unit considers the importance of Bharatanatyam’s multiples pasts for its seemingly infinite futures.

The dance is spreading around the world as so many want more meaning in life. This dance is a workout, it’ll keep you fit, but more importantly, it’ll tune you into your authentic self.

  1. Indian classical dance is an umbrella term for various codified art forms rooted in sacred Hindu musical theatre styles whose theory can be traced back to the Natya Shastra of Bharata Muni (400 BCE).
  2. Temple girls; in South India, a devadasi (Sanskrit: servant of deva (god) or devi (goddess) ) is a girl “dedicated” to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life.

Links:
Sheela Unnikrishnan
Savitha Sastry
Facts Barn