- What is Bharatanatyam?
- A brief history of Bharatanatyam
- Benefits of Bharatnatyam
- The popular Bharatnatyam performers
- Bharatanatayam Instruments & Music
- Bharatanatayam Costumes
- Association of Bharatnatyam with the Devadasi System
What is Bharatanatyam?
Bharatnatyam is one of the oldest and the most famous dance forms of India. It is regarded as the mother of other classical dances. Bharatnatyam was previously known as Sudhir Attam. The origin of Bharatnatyam dates back to Tamil Nadu and it is almost 2000 years old. The astounding footwork and impressive gestures of the dancers soothe the eyes of the viewers.
A brief history of Bharatanatyam
It is believed by the legends and many others that Bharatnatyam was revealed by Lord Brahma to Bharata who encoded the dance form in Natya Shastra. Bharatnatyam includes Nrita, Nritya and Nattya. Nrita includes pure dancing, movements and gestures of hand and foot. Nritya comprises of the expressions and Nattya includes play. The dancers are accompanied by music, singer and a guru who conducts the performance and directs the dancers.
Benefits of Bharatnatyam
Bharatnatyam is a classical dance form which is beneficial in many ways. It provides with many health benefits. Classical dance forms like Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri and Bharatnatyam are admired by people across the different states of the country. Classical dances have made a place not only in India but also in abroad because of its benefits to the body. Below are some of the benefits of Bharatnatyam.
Mudras are an important part of Bharatnatyam. They are created by different body parts that enhance flexibility. Bharatnatyam is associated with expressions and gestures which help in communicating the message and feelings. Mudras and expressions help in talking with the audience through the dance and also help in improving flexibility.
Like various other dance forms, Bharatnatyam too has many movements which help in making the muscles strong. These body movements are sometimes tough and the postures are needed to be held for some seconds. Bharatnatyam is no less than yoga or exercise so a few hours of practice and movement of limbs helps in boosting stamina.
Bharatnatyam includes different postures, poses and movements. The different body movements are called Karanas which help in improving the balance of the body. There can be different postures such as standing on one foot that needs to be held on for a few seconds to improve the balance. Bharatnatyam is as beneficial to the body as yoga.
Provides healthy heart
Dancing helps in keeping your heart healthy. It helps in circulating blood faster and pumping it. Just like many other dance forms, Bharatnatyam demands a lot of energy and ultimately it increases the blood circulation in the body. Dance and fitness always go side by side.
While performing Bharatnatyam, one needs to remember the mudras, karanas and hastas to perform well. It requires a lot of concentration and attention to remember all this correctly. A dancer needs to remember different movements, steps, the rhythm and beats and expressions while performing. Ultimately Bharatnatyam helps in improving the mental skills, concentration and mental alertness.
The other benefits of learning Bharatanatayam
Bharatnatyam demands a lot of facial expressions. It involves the movement of eyes, eyebrows, neck and lips which make the muscles strong. The facial tissues become strong due to the constant movement of facial muscles. Different expressions are used in displaying different feelings like sadness, anger, happiness etc. Bharatnatyam dancers have glowing skin and grace in their eyes. The eyes movements help in strengthening the eye muscles.
The popular Bharatnatyam performers
Rukmini Devi helped in the revival of Bharatnatyam after its ban in the colonial rule. She was born in an upper-middle-class family and was exposed to dance at a very young age. She established a school, Kalashetra for training in Bharatnatyam. Rukmini Devi bought a revolution in bringing back Bharatnatyam. She even shared about Indian cultural values in Europe. She passed away in 1986.
Padma Subrahmanyam is one of the most famous and esteemed Bharatnatyam dancers. She did her first performance at the age of 13. A school named Nrutyodaya is run by this legendary. She is considered as a gem as she is a combination of composer, dancer, singer, author, choreographer and a teacher.
She combines a dancer, filmmaker, editor, anchor and social activist in one person. Mallika Sarabhai is considered to be full of energy. She is not only a master of Bharatnatyam but of Kuchipudi too. Mallika runs ‘The Darpana Academy of Performing Arts’ with her mother. She has also published a book about environment protection.
Yamini Krishnamurthy started dancing at the age of 5 and moved to Chennai to pursue dance. To showcase her skills and talent, she ventured to many countries of the world and made a lasting impression on the audience. She established ‘Yamini School of Dance’ at Delhi in 1990. Apart from a dancer, she is also an author. She wrote the book ‘A Passion for Dance’.
Bharatanatayam Instruments & Music
Mridangam and a pair of cymbals are the most important instruments in Bharatnatyam. There are other instruments too such as the veena, violin, flute, tabla and sitar. The verses recited are usually in the south Indian languages such as Tamil, Telugu and Kannada.
The costumes worn by the dancers are bright and appealing to the eyes. It consists of pyjama or a dhoti accompanied by a tight-fitting bodice for women or a jacket for men. The jacket is made up of silk which is usually Kanjivaram or Banarasi.
To learn more about costumes, please visit this lesson on Bharatanatyam costumes for men and women
Association of Bharatnatyam with the Devadasi System
Bharatnatyam originates in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu which made it an important part of rituals in the temples. Devadasis are surrendered to God and performed Bharatnatyam in the temple. The purity and sanity of this ritual was altered through generations and now it is just an evil ritual for exploiting women which has led to banning it.
Devadasi means a servant of God. Devadasi system is an age-old ritual that is still being practised in a few districts of India especially in South. According to the devadasi practice, girls belonging to lower caste are forced to renounce everything and get married to a deity or a temple. The marriage usually occurs before girls hit puberty. Devadasis are forbidden to get married again.
To learn more about Bharatanatyam, please read the following articles-
- Bharatanatyam Postures for Beginners
- Bharatanatyam Adavus Steps for Beginners
- Bharatanatyam Mudras for Beginners
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