Bharatanatyam Costumes for Men and Women

The costumes of Bharatanatyam dance are one of the most elegant forms of dresses which adds to the beauty of the dance and represents the culture and tradition of India. Before we jump into various types of Bharatanatyam dance costumes, let’s take a quick look at Bharatanatyam dance form.

Bharatanatyam is an age-old dance form that speaks stories of the mythologies. It was initially performed in the temples and the courts of the king and later became popular in South India.

Bharatanatyam Costume

The costumes of Bharatanatyam are the various clothing and accessories which are worn by a dancer. Any costume for dance is often specially made with proper customization. The right costumes help make the movements of the dance easier and more comfortable to wear during dance performances. It also helps to bring out the aesthetic beauty of the dancer which the choreographer wants to show through the dancer’s moves.

Bharatanatyam Costumes History

The costumes of Bharatanatyam are one of the most elegant forms of dresses. Not only does it add to the beauty of the dance, it also represents the culture and tradition of India. The Bharatanatyam dress worn in the king’s courts did not cover most of the parts of the women’s body. The transformation in the dancer’s costumes happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries under the influence of Marie Camargo.

The costume or dress of the Bharatanatyam dance form usually represents the costume a bride wears in Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam was said to even have been performed as a part of the Devadasi dance form whereby women as servants used to perform the dance to please their masters. During their occasional performances in the King’s courts, they used to wear the costumes of Bharatanatyam.

Common Forms of Bharatanatyam Costumes


Bharatanatyam costume for women

The two most popular Bharatanatyam costumes are in the skirt style and in the style of pyjama style. The material of the Bharatanatyam sarees is made of silk and is emphasised with the golden “zari” works. The pleats which are present in these costumes give a marvellous look. Furthermore, embroideries depict the various mythological happenings in the Indian historical past.

These clothes are both beautiful and comfortable to wear as the dancer otherwise would face hardships to perform the dancing steps. The dancing dress is beautiful so as to enhance the beauty of the dance during a performance. The small piece of cloth which tends to cover the blouse and upper portion of the women’s body known as the ‘choli’ tends to be of the same colour as that of the dress worn by the women during the performance.

How to wear a Bharatanatyam costume


Bharatanatyam costume for men

The men’s dress is quite simplistic for the Bharatanatyam dance whereby a pleated dhoti covers the lower portion of the body. These pleats enrich the dance moves and their beauty. On the other hand, only a few pieces of jewellery cover the upper portion of the body. There is an absence of clothing material for the upper portion of the men’s body.

Bharatanatyam Ankle Bells

The ankles bells are integral part of Bharatanatyam costume. The Bharatanatyam dance requires essentially the bells which are worn both by the men and the women in their dance. This helps the dancers keep a proper rhythm of their leg movements with the ‘Tala’ sounds. These dancers are judged by the sounds of their ankle bells, which must move according to the music and keep track of the footwork of the dancer in Bharatanatyam dance. They begin by wearing a two-row bell and then a three-row bell. However, the number of rows increase as the dancer keeps getting better.

Dancers consider these ankle bells sacred and the teacher instructs him or her to always respect their ankle bells and keep them with care. These ankle bells also add to the beauty and music of the dance. Furthermore, the sound of these bells adds to the sense of rhythm, thus, making the audience feel good.

Jewellery in Bharatanatyam Costume

There is an extravagance of jewellery which enhances the beauty to this costume and specific names are given to the various pieces of jewellery which are worn by the Bharatanatyam dancers.

“Temple Jewllery’ refers to all these pieces of jewellery collectively. This constitutes the bangles, the necklaces as well as the wristlets.

The Bharatanatyam dance costume also requires the wearing of the buns and the making of plaits. The bun on the upper portion of the plaits is decorated with flowers and the forehead is decorated with that of the ‘tika’ and the ‘dot’. There is also an important headpiece called the ‘Thalaisaman’ and dancers also wear the ‘Chandrasuryam’.

Bharatanatyam jewellery includes the earrings and the neckpiece which adds to the attractiveness of the dance form. Peacock and the floral motifs, as well as red and green pearls, cover the neckpiece. On the upper portion of both the arms, they tie ‘Venkies’ and a long snake-like ornament decorates the plaits.

Bharatanatyam Makeup

Make-up is one of the most distinct aspect of Bharatanatyam costume. Dancers use make-up to make the eyes prominent so that the dancer’s eye movements are noticeable. In addition, they also wear red dies on the tips of their fingers and toes to add beauty while dancing. These dances help connect the dancer to the viewer and attract them to the dance form.

Bharatanatyam makeup step by step


The dance forms remain incomplete without a proper costume which represents the specific form of dance. The dance costume of Bharatanatyam is important to represent the culture and tradition of the dance form and to enhance the beauty of the movements of the hands, legs, expressions and also the body positions in this dance form.

This beautiful dance form is enriched with the extravagant and gorgeous costumes, the makeups, the jewellery and the ankle bells which form a part and parcel in this form of dance.

To learn more about Bharatanatyam, visit learn Bharatanatyam online

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