Bharatanatyam is an Indian classical dance which has been practiced for long time. The evolving of this graceful art form has been explicitly explained in the previous post “Origin of Natyasastra”. It is originated in the state of Tamilnadu in India. Initially it was called as Daasiyattam and the nomenclature transition into Bharatanatyam might have been justified as the natyam(dancing) is done with bhavam(expressions) along with a music(ragam) and in a particular taalam(rhythm). The term Bharatanatyam was used by Purandaradasa during the 15th century.It was in the 18th century during the period of King Saraboji in Tanjore , the famous quartet of the King’s court Chinnaya, Ponnaya, Sivanandan and Vadivelu who had made great contribution to restructure this art form to get its current form. The descendants of these four brothers formed the original stock of Nattuvanars or dance teachers of Bharata Natyam in Tanjore. One of the well known Nattuvanars is Guru Meenakshisundaram Pillai who was the guru of Rukmini Devi. The fall of Hindu kingdoms in southern India marked the beginning of the decline of Bharatanatyam. Later E.Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundhale had revitalized and popularized this great art form.

It is one of the five different styles of dance forms, others being Oddissi (which symbolizes the element of ‘water’), Kuchipudi (which symbolizes the element of earth), Mohiniyattam (which symbolizes the element of ‘air’) and Kathakali (which symbolizes the element of ‘sky’). Bharatanatyam symbolizes the element of ‘fire’.

It has three different distinct elements which forms inherent parts of it and they are Nritta, Nritya and Natya.
Nritta is the pure dance movement without any emotions or expressions and creates patterns in space and time. Alarippu and jatiswaram are considered as Nritta.
Abhinayadharpana says:
Bhavaabhinaya heenam
Tu nritmityabhdheeyatae

Which means dance that does not relate to any psychological state (bhava) is called Nritta

Nritya is the combination of the dance movements along with emotions or expression and it depicts a sahityam with the help of hastas and abhinaya.
Abhinayadharpana says:
Nrittamitiryatae etanrityam mahaarajasabhayaam

Which means dance that does not relate to any sentiment (Rasa) and psychological state (bhava) is called Nritya

Natya is a combination of nritta and nritya and the dancer himself / herself portrays a character.
Abhinayadharpana says:
Naatyamtannaatakam cha va
Pujyam purva kathayutham

Which means Natya is an adorable art that has some traditional story as its theme.

Nritta is a pure dance form which does not includes any emotions or expressions or sahityam. Nritta has four classifications:
• Chari : Movement of One leg
• Karana : Combined movement of the legs and the hands
• Angaharas : A combination of 6, 7, 8 or 9 Karanas
• Mandala : A combination of 4 – 5 Angaharas
A combination of two, three, four and five Karanas is also defined in the Natyasastra. In Karanas the left hand is usually held at the left side of your chest and the right hand follows the right foot. 108 Karanas and 32 Angaharas are clearly defined and described in Natyasastra. The rhythmic body movements which arise along with the hand gestures are classified into ‘Adavus’ which is performed in the araimandi posture. There are 10 types of Adavus each of which is again classified into 12 which makes a total 120 Adavus.
• Thattadavu
• Mettadavu
• Nattadavu
• Kudithumettadavu
• Meiyadavu
• Mandiadavu
• Jati
• Nadai
• Ardi

The dancer has to deeply involve herself to present a graceful and beautiful performance. Every dancer who performs Bharatanatyam should follow the “Abhinaya Dharpana” which says:

‘Yatho Hasta Thatho Drishti
Yatho Drishti Thatho Manah
Yatho Manas Thatho Bhavavo
Yatho Bhavo Thatho Rasah’

Which means wherever the hand goes there should the eyes, wherever the eyes are there should be the mind, where there is mind involved there evolves the bhava and where there is bhava there is rasa.

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