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Bharatanatyam; Indian Classical Dance Form in its Elegance
Classical dance forms of any origin always enliven the minds with their traditional way of expressing the themes and narration. Watching a classical dance performed by an acclaimed artist is a better way of getting away from the hustle and bustle of our daily life. Indian classical dance has become popular now-a-days, as so many art lovers from abroad come to India to learn about its various forms and to experience the emotional thrill of playing it.
Bharatanatyam, originated in Tamil Nadu, one of India’s prestigious states, is one of the ancient classical dance forms of elegance. It is named after the great author of the bible of Indian Classical Dance, Bharat Muni. Precisely, it is a temple art performed as an offering to the God. Contributions to Bharatanatyam have made it go a longer way to an international rendering.
Bharatanatyam with a unique touch
The main character who is delivering the discourse in a narration is depicted by means of respective postures. The artist must be competent enough to pose brilliantly in order to reflect the original character illustrated in the narration. The verbal communication between the characters is delivered to the audience by means of hand gestures and facial expressions. Most of the themes selected for the performance are from the Hindu religion epics. Later developments in Bharatanatyam have enhanced itself to select and render discourses of any religion, nation or socio-cultural events.
Background music termed as 'vaaythari' is sung by talented singers for the dance movements rhythmically. The artist has to dance according to the song with graceful body movements involving expressions. The three main elements of this divine dance form are:
Nritta : comprising of rhythmic movements
Natya : based on a drama
Nritya : combining Nritta and Natya
The different body movements along-with hand gestures are termed as 'adavus' in Bharatanatyam. 'Adavus' as a set make up a 'jathi'. 'Mudras' are symbolic gestures performed using hands and fingers. There are 28 root mudras in Bharatanatyam, which are combined using hands, arms and body movements. The basic mudra is 'Pataka hasta' that can represent the wind, the abode of the gods, a year, a river and various other actions and objects. Other mudras are 'asamyuta', 'samyuta', 'jaati', 'bandhu', 'hasta', 'dasavatara', 'navagraha' and 'nritta hasta'.
'Anga shudhi' or cleanliness and coordination in performing 'adavus' are normally expected in a Bharatnatyam artist. The act or 'natya' rendered throughout the performance is termed 'abhinaya'.
HasthamudraClick thumbnail to view full-size
Bharatanatyam costumes play an important role in making this dance form visually appealing and attractive. The dress is connected with the rites of 'deva daasis'; temple dancers who used to dance Bharatanatyam in front of deities. But now, as the dance form has become contemporary, costumes also have changed to reflect the various themes. The female attire can be of two types; the pajama or a half saree with blouse made of Kanjivaram silks. A fan shaped piece of cloth is attached to hang from the waist to form pleats while making body movements. Male dancers wear a pajama or dhoti, and a small piece of cloth wrapped around the top bounded by a waist-band.
Temple jewelery made of semi precious stones, metals and pearls are used to ornate the artist. Garlands and bangles are the primary ornaments used to adorn the dancer. Ear hangings, ear band, nose ring, finger ring, and waist-band all together give a touch of traditional elaboration of a dance form that originated years back. The ornamental 'talaisaaman', a headset consisting of the sun, moon and symbols add up to the decoration. The hair is mostly plaited and tied to a beautiful fringe called 'kunjulum'. Neatly tied jasmine and one form of orange flowers called 'kanakambaram' are attached to the top using hair slides. 'Raakodi', placed on the centre of these flower threads acts as an anchor. 'Chilankai' is a medium sized pad of small bells tied to the ankle to produce a rattle as the dance starts.
Make up also contributes a lot to the beauty of the performance. Embellishment starts with a light coat of pinkish tone to the entire face. Rosy tint or rouge is dabbed on the cheek-bones for glow. The eyes are outlined with thick black eye liner putting tails looking like a fish. A dash of mascara is applied to the eyelashes to make the eyes come alive. A red or maroon round design or “bindi” is put on the forehead using liquid colors. Lipstick in red or maroon along-with lip liner makes the dancer gorgeous. Final round of make-up is for the limb parts. Alta, a red color liquid is applied on the top of fingers and toes, as well as on the middle of palms and feet.
Bharatanatyam by Dr. Padma Subrahmaniam
What is Bharatanatyam ?
According to the dance queen Balasaraswathi, “Bharathanatyam is an embodiment of the music in visual form, in its highest moment”. A communion of melody, rhythm, expression and involvement together best describe this classical dance form of Indian continent. Present day choreographers present this dance form in group performance too. If one theme focuses on the aspect of nationalism, other can be one describing animal rights activism. In 1997, Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai, organized a dance festival called “Vande Mataram” which included an array of topics from secularism, sanctity of environment, AIDS, evils of current education systems, threat of nuclear weapons, caste and reservation systems and bribery. The group performers very well succeeded in delivering the right message to the audience in all these themes.
Do you like Bharatanatyam dance?
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© 2015 Radhika Sreekanth