Bharatanatyam: The Classical Indian Dance Form
Bharatanatyam is one of the ancient and most prominent of Indian dance forms. This exemplary art brings forth Hindu religious themes and spiritual ideas to life when performed by an expressive dancer with dexterous hands and feet. Based on ‘Natya Shastra’, Bharatanatyam is repertoire of nrita, nritya and natya and other forms.Bharatanatyam Evolution and Timeline:
- Bharatanatyam is a portmanteau of ‘Bharata’ and Natyam’ where ‘Bharata’ is a mnemonic comprising ‘bha’, ‘ra’ and ‘ta’ which respectively means ‘bhava’- emotion and feelings; ‘raga’-melody; and ‘tala’-rhythm and Natyam means dance in Sanskrit.
- It is said that the sage Bharata inscribed Bharatanatyam in the Natya Shastra through Lord Brahma who revealed it. In the Natya Shastra, dance is mainly divided into two forms, ‘nrita’ and ‘nritya’ where the latter refers to expressive dance with hand gestures, body postures, movements and facial expressions while the former speaks of pure dance that is rhythmic, aesthetic and decorative. Natya Shastra also describes many other Indian classical dances intricately along with their postures, bhavas, rasa and more.
- Bharatanatyam carvings could be seen in Ancient Hindu Temples. Lord Shiva in poses of Bharatanatyam adorned the temple walls, especially in the South Indian Region. Some popular sculptures include the Karanas sculpture in Tamil Nadu where Lord Shiva depicts 108 poses of Bharatnatyam. The Tandava dance of the Nataraja sculpture the Badami cave in Karnataka is also has also attracted crowds.
- Bharatanatyam is said to have close with Devadasis, the temple dancers who date back to 300 BCE to 300 CE. The Devadasi culture soon became an inherent part of the South Indian rituals.
- The emergence of British colonial rule in the 19th century brought out a decline in various dance forms along with being mocked and ridiculed at. Such dancers were also disgraced by Christian Missionaries and British officials and finally banned in 1910.
- The Tamilians vowed to bring back Bharatanatyam, a dance form which was simply persecuted on the pretext of social reforms. Many classical revivalists questioned such discriminations and some were also imprisoned for the same. Meanwhile, dancers also came from abroad to study Bharatanatyam. As the Indian freedom movement progressed during the early 20th century, Indians fought to bring back its culture and traditions. Finally, prominent dancers like Arundale and Balasarswati promulgated the temple dance form to the mainstream arena where it was quick to capture people’s attention. Since then, Indians and even foreigners have developed a strong affinity to the dance form.
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