There is an incredible relation between bharatanatyam and mathematics. Every movements in bharatanatyam uses the numbers 3 (Thishram), 4 (Chaturashram), 5 (Khandam), 7 (Mishram) and 9 (Sangeernam) in various permutations and combinations for any of the dance compositions. The postures are characterized by linear formations and circular patterns. Certain postures create a wonderful symmetry in the body as in geometry that adds to the beauty of the performance. So it’s very important to understand the straight line patterns, circular movements and about the symmetry formation. A technical excellence in all these aspects could be achieved with years of practice. A combination of good posture, balance, centering symmetry and the geometric correctness gives you ‘Angasudhi ‘. More importantly all these efforts to perfection should be unconsciously executed by the dancer to make the performance impressive.
Nataraja is none other than the dancing Lord Siva (One of the Trinity Gods as per Hinduism). The name is derived from the Sanskrit words Natya meaning dance and raja meaning king and hence the name describes Himselves as the king or lord of dance.The Sanskrit word Natya itself is derived from Dravidian word Nadei which means to walk. It is a depiction of Lord Siva as a cosmic dancerwho performs his divine dance to destroy the weary universe and make preparation to restart the process of creation.
The header image of this blog is the idol of nataraja which shows one of the dance postures. It is a visual image of dancing Siva created by Indian artists and sculptures hundreds of years ago in a beautiful series of bronze.You can view a beautiful and stunning idol of Nataraja while you visit the Thousand Pillar Hall in the Meenakshi Amman Temple in TamilNadu. If you look at the image you can find the following:
• There are four hands for the dancing Siva. The upper right hand holds a Damaru (drum) which symbolizes the sound originating creation, a new awakening. The upper left hand holds Agni (fire), representing the destruction. Thus the hand holding the drum and the one holding the fire balance the force of creation and destruction.His other right hand shows Abhaya mudra bestowing protection from both evil and ignorance to those who follow the path of dharma (justice). The other left hand is pointed towards the raised left foot which has crushed demon Muyalak who represesents liberation from ignorance.
• The dwarf over which Lord Siva dances is the demon Apasmara which symbolizes the victory over ignorance.
• The surrounding flames represent the Universe
• The snake that is swirling around his waist is the Kundalini the divine force thought to be residing in every being in the Universe
• The half moon shown on the head is the symbolization of protection of the moon by Lord Siva because the fall of the moon causes cosmic destruction and that means the destruction of entire life.
• Surrounding the Siva is shown many aureole flames emanating from him depicting the value of wisdom and truth.
• As the Lord of dance, Nataraja performs the dance during when the Universe is created, maintained and destroyed. Siva’s long knotted hair usually piled up in a knot loosen during the dance and crash into heavenly bodies knocking them off and at times destrying them
The divine dance performed by Lord Siva is called the Tandavam which is considered as the source of cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. He does it with bliss as well as violence, the former being Ananda (blissful) Tandavam and the latter is called Rudra (Violent) Tandavam. When Sati (Lord Siva’s first wife jumped into the Agni Kunda (sacrificial fire) while her father Daksha’s Yagna, Lord Siva is said to have performed the Rudra Tandavam expressing his deep grief and anger.
Tandavam takes its name from the name of Lord Siva’s attendant, Tandu who instructed sage Bharata (author of Natyasastra) about the use of Angaharas and Karanas. There are 32 Angaharas and 108 Karanas described in the fourth chapter of Natyasastra.Karana is a combination of hand gestures with feet movement and ending up in a posture. Seven or more Karanas makes one Angahara.
Bharatanatyam has established seven types of Tandavam:
• Ananda Tandavam
• Tripura Tandavam
• Sandhya Tandavam
• Samhara Tandavam
• Kaali Tandavam
• Uma Tandavam
• Gauri Tandavam
To be continued….
If you notice the live orchestra group of a bharatanatyam concert, you would definitely find one person who sits and plays the simplest of the instrument among the rest of the ones. That instrument is a set of round plate like stuff held on both hands and the person shall be tapping it in different angles to represent the sound of the dancer’s feet when they make contact with the ground.This set of cymbals are called the Nattuvangum and the person who plays it is called the Nattuvannar. The most important person in the bharatanatyam orchestra group is unarguably a Nattuvannar. A well trained Nattuvannar reproduces the alternate hard and soft beats resulting in a synchronized pattern of the talam.He enhances the intricate foot works and energetic movements of the dancer. Nattuvangam is used in classical and light music recitals as well but the one used for bharatanatyam is a heavier one. The one held on the right hand is made up of brass that makes a treble sound and the one held on the left hand is made up of iron that makes the bass sound. In ancient days, the nattuvangam was made out of panchaloham (pancha means five and loham means metal). The Nattuvannars believe that a heavier one maintains a steady tempo and they prefer that. But nowadays, because of the less demand and escalating costs they are made lighter. Also they were hand made in the earlier days and this practice is also not there as people started making in dies as technology improved
In ancient times a professional female dancer was called as Patra.
The Abhinayadharpana has a sloka that says
Javaha Sthiratwam Rekha cha
Bhramari Drishti Shramaha
Medha Shraddha Vacho Geetham
Paathra praanaa Dasha Smruthaha
which are the ten essential qualities of a professional dancer.
1. Javaha – Agility
Ability to change the postures rapidly without losing the body balance
2. Sthirathwam – Steadiness
Ability to maintain the postures while dancing slow or fast
3. Rekhacha – graceful lines
The entire body is assumed to be a mass which is equally divisible along the central meridian. Every movement shall be done in such a way that the weight of the body is perfectly balanced to get the samabhangi or Tribhangi.
4. Bhramari – balance in circling movements
Circling movements steadily
5. Drishtir – Glancing Eyes
Glancing eyes are very important in a dance performance. It is said where the hand goes, there should the eyes and when you do this your mind naturally gets involved & concentrated in the dance and thus the expression comes out involuntarily.
6. Shramaha – Hard work / Endurance
Not only in dance but in everything you do you need this endurance; the regular practice that builds in confidence, hope that pursue you to perfection.
7. Medha – Intelligence
Abhinayadharpana says that a female dancer should be clever, courteous in behavior, bold and free from indolence.
8. Shradha – Devotion & Concentration
Paying attention and staying focused is the most important factor as performing a dance involves the harmonious movements of the anga’s and the pratyanga’s and also the abhinaya.
Devotion to the art helps you seek in depth knowledge about the art and gets you to imbibe as much perfection as you could in performing this art.
9. Vacho – Good Speech
The dancer should have the ability of giving good and clear speech.
10. Geetam – Ability to Singing and understanding music
The dancer should be able to understand music and also should have the ability to sing inorder to have awareness of when to dance and when to stop and with the rhythm of the music.
A professional danseuse (patra), according to the Abhinaya Darpana, must possess the following qualities:
She has to be youthful, slender, beautiful, with large eyes, with well-rounded breasts, self-confident, witty, pleasing, well aware of when to dance and when to stop, able to follow the flow of songs and music, and to dance to the time (thalam), with splendid costumes and of a happy disposition