17 Facts About Bharatanatyam


Bharatanatyam is a major form of Indian classical dance that originated in Tamil Nadu.

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Description of Bharatanatyam from the 2nd century CE can be found in the ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram, while temple sculptures of the 6th to 9th century CE suggest it was a highly refined performance art by the mid-1st millennium CE.

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Bharatanatyam style is noted for its fixed upper torso, bent legs and knees flexed combined with spectacular footwork, and a sophisticated vocabulary of sign language based on gestures of hands, eyes, and face muscles.

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Bharatanatyam remained exclusive to Hindu temples through the 19th century.

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In 1932, E Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale put forward a proposal to rename Sadir aattam, known as Parathaiyar Aattam or Thevarattam, as "Bharatanatyam", to give the dance form a measure of respect, at a meeting of the Madras Music Academy.

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The compound word Bharatanatyam is seen to connote a dance that harmoniously expresses bhavam, ragam and talam.

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Theoretical foundations of Bharatanatyam are found in Natya Shastra, the ancient Hindu text of performance arts.

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The carvings in Kanchipuram's Shiva temple that have been dated to 6th to 9th century CE suggest Bharatanatyam was a well developed performance art by about the mid 1st millennium CE.

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Famous example of illustrative sculpture is in the southern gateway of the Chidambaram temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, where 108 poses of the Bharatanatyam, that are described as karanas in the Natya Shastra, are carved in stone.

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Some colonial Indologists and modern authors have argued that Bharatanatyam is a descendant of an ancient Devadasi culture, suggesting a historical origin back to between 300 BCE and 300 CE.

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The classical art revivalists such as E Krishna Iyer, a lawyer and someone who had learnt the Bharatanatyam dance, questioned the cultural discrimination and the assumed connection, asking why prostitution needs years of learning and training for performance arts such as the Bharatanatyam, and how killing performance arts could end any evils in a society.

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Bharatanatyam is traditionally a team performance art that consists of a solo dancer, accompanied by musicians and one or more singers.

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Solo artist in Bharatanatyam is dressed in a colorful sari, adorned with jewelry who presents a dance synchronized with Indian classical music.

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Bharatanatyam Arangetram is a solo debut performance that signifies the completion of initial formal training of a young dancer in Indian Classical Dance.

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Bharatanatyam contains at least 20 asanas found in modern yoga, including Dhanurasana ; Chakrasana ; Vrikshasana ; and Natarajasana, the pose of dancing Shiva.

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Bharatanatyam rapidly expanded after India gained independence from British rule in 1947.

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Outside India, Bharatanatyam is a sought after and studied dance, states Meduri, in academic institutes in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, Gulf States, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Singapore.

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