Origin of that mesmerizing art “The Bharatanatyam”


Long Long ago , thousands of years back, there was a dance form which was performed only by women of a certain caste called “Devadasi” who lived their life as dancers and worshiped Gods by paying obeisance through their dance. Music and dance was an essential and necessary ingredients of daily pujas at the temples those days. They enjoyed a very high status in the society and they were married to wealthy patrons. This traditional dance form was originally called as ” Sadir Natyam ” and “Daasiyattam” and was passed on from generation to generation and slowly started entering the royal courts. The dancers were called “Rajanartaki’s” thereafter.They performed dances whenever they are called for in the court’s of the Kings who ruled the provinces.
During the time of British rule the Kings who were patrons of the temples became powerless and devadaasi’s were totally left out without any support and patronage. Reformists started outlawing the tradition of the devadasi and they even launched an “Anti nautch” movement to eradicated the art. People continued enjoying this art form and their performances secretly. Slowly the society started ill treating them performing secretly and hence the devotional art form too. The art form was completely swiped out from the society during the beginning of 20th century.

But still there were a few families who preserved the knowledge of Bharatanatyam. From these people there were a few like freedom fighters, westerners interested in Indian arts, people other than Devadasi’s and the Devadasi’s themselves who played very important roles in the revival of Bharatanatyam. Two imminent personalities include E.Krishanyer a known freedom fighter cum lawyer and Rukmini Devi.

E.K who had learnt Bharatanatyam laid the foundation for the Music Academy in Chennai and used its platform for the performance of Bharatanatyam by Devadasi’s. Slowly the art form started gaining the respect.Once Rukmini Devi Arundalae from Tamilnadu had a chance to peep in this performance and got fascinated to this beautiful artform. She started perceiving the devadasi’s performance frequently and contemplated the Pandanallor style dance under “Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai” who was the guru of the Devadaasi’s and lived in a village called “Pandanallor” in Thanjavur district in Tamilnadu and thought of moulding it to a systematic art form which could be taught to the new generation. She thus created the enduring art form called “Bharatantyam” which is still very popular in India and the entire world. She along with her husband established the “Kalakshetra” academy of dance and music in the year 1936. Currently, not only does the Indians learn “bharatanatyam”, but there are many foreingners who are persuing this dazzling dance form as their passion.

Bhartanatyam is one of the most beautiful ways of expressing the human longings for the union with the divine and hence we can say that Bharatanatyam itself is a Yoga (meditation). The divine dance of Lord Nataraja (Lord Siva) is beautifully represented by the Natarajavigraha which is a real inspiration for all bharatanatyam artists. It needs a conscious understanding of our body, mind and emotions. For a trueand ardent devote of bharatantyam his or her’s devotion and profound interest to this divine art is the greatest dakshina and they shall experience in their life the Satyam (truth), Sivam (eternal bliss/goodness) and Sundaram (beauty). Bharatanatyam helps you shape the body into graceful and beautiful and your mind and emotions into alertful and controlled ones.


2 responses »

  1. I find it very frustrating and disrespectful to leave out traditional families who still practice the art. IT IS A FARCE TO BELIEVE THAT IT WAS ERADICATED BY THE BEGINNING OF THE 20TH CENTURY. Have you heard of T. Balasaraswati? She is regarded as one of the three great performing artists of the 20th century throughout the world – among Anna Pavolva and Maria Callas. She was a pioneer in creating the cultural export of bhratanatyam. She performed throughout the world – those who saw her, all the way from Ted Shawn to Anna kisgelgorff understood the greatness of her art. Just because we ignore it and deny it in India DOES NOT MAKE IT THE TRUTH. She came from the traditional practice and ensured that this art form was not completely “sanitized” and puritanical in nature – thereby losing its complete nature; its “jiva”. Today what is performed is diluted, insipid, and a completely misconstrude AND a misrecreation of this art. Do you know what it called “choreography” in dance is a complete cultural import? The lyrical aspect, according to the traditional format MUST be manodharma – that is completely from spontaneous improvisation. Is it followed today? NO because we have lost this unique cultural capacity , thanks to the overtly simplified, canonized institutionalization of what we BELIEVE to be “ancient dance”. Be careful of what you write – not everyone has forgotten history! I am the ninth generation of performing artists in my family with a continued practice for over 250 years. I am the great – great grandson of the great Venna Dhanammal and grandson of Padma Vibushan T. Balasaraswati. Please remember to give credit where it is do.

    • Hi

      First and foremost let me bow to the great artists you have mentioned and also the great family from where you are…i am a great lover of dance and have started learning this art very recently. Out of curiosity and the devotion to what i am learning i took a little effort to understand more about the art and collected the info i got and thought of putting it together and hence this blog. i apologize what made you upset and i believe i mentioned about the movement to eradicate this art form and not that it was eradicated completely. Anyways i am so thankful for your precious time given to visit this blog and correct and enourage me to contribute more into it.I wish i can get some suggestion to make it better.

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