Bharata Natyam

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Bharta Natyam, the clssical Indian dance form
A female Bharata Natyam performer
A male Bharata Natyam performer

Bharata Natyam (|Tamil: பரதநாட்டியம்) is a classical Indian dance form that is popular and nurtured in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This dance form denotes various 19th-and 20th-century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called Devadasis. Sadir in turn, is derived from ancient dance in the treatise Natya Shastra by Bharata. Its origin traced to more than 3000 years ago, is from South India and is now a National Dance of India. It is performed both men and women but more appealingly and pleasantly by women.It is inferred the name is derived from sage Bharata Muni who scripted the Natya Shastra to which Bharata Natyam owes many of its ideas. This etymology also holds up to scrutiny better since Bharathanatyam is considered to be 'short form' (kuril) wherein "Bhavam" means expression and "ragam" meaning medium, "thalam" meaning rythm and natayam meaning dance, consist the 'long form' (nedil). Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.

Quotes[edit]

Parsvanikutttakam - one of the 108 karanas in the classical Indian dance
  • Bharata Natyam is an art which consecrates the body which is considered to be in itself of no value. The Yogi by controlling his breath and by modifying his body acquires the halo of sanctity. Even so, the dancer who dissolves her identity in rhythm and music makes her body an instrument at least for the duration of the dance for the experience and expression of the spirit.
  • ...the traditional order of the Bharata Natyam recital viz., Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Sabdane, Varnam, Padams, Tillana and the Slokas is the correct sequence in the practice of this art, which an artistic Yoga, for revealing the spiritual through the corporeal.
    • In "Devadāsī: Dancing Damsel", p.45
  • Bharta Natyam is a resolutely a global form. It has circulated internationally at least since 1838. In the last two decades, however, this circulation has accelerated; its viewers too are on the move. A dancer can no longer assume that she performs for an audience of afficiandos.
  • At the beginning of the twenty first century, the global status of Bharata Natyam renders the form even more visible.
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.2
  • Bharat Natyam transcends national and cultural boundaries yet remains resolutely tied to them. It circulates globally but operates as a symbol of exotic.
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.4
  • ...in the period from 1923 to 1948, known as the Bharata Natyam revival. Performers, critics, and promoters through Bharata Natyam to the urban proscenium stage, recontextualizing and renaming it. In doing so they crafted a genealogy in which Bharat Natyam came to represent ancient tradition and critical experimentation, nationalism, regional identities and the global transference forms outside of geographical and cultural boundaries.
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.4
  • Bharat Natyam’s immediate predecessor was sadir, primarily a solo dance form practiced by devadasis, courtesans affiliated to temples and courts as performers and ritual officiants.
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.4
  • Maharaja Swati Tirunal of Travancore (1813-1847) wrote 67 padams in Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and |Malayalam and he introduced them in Bharata Natyam performance by artists patronized by him in his own state. His padams have a rare literary flavour and the padams of this composer are becoming increasingly popular in the Bharat Natyam field…
    • In "Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo" p.449
  • Raja Srfoji II (1798-1832), the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur rendered a unique service to Bharata Natyam from a different angle. Thanjavur is considered to be the home of Bharta Natyam and the art was at its peak during his time...Serfoji wrote chain compositions in Marathi for use in dance dramas in the Bharata Natyam style and many of these padams and abhinaya padams are intended for choreography.
    • In "Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo" p.449
  • The revival of Bharat Natyam therefore depended not only on politics, but also on the ability of practitioners and promoters to articulate their understanding of the dance form’s history .
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.5
  • Bhrata Natyam dancers, like Western dance modernists, strove to validate dance, describing it as a “high” autonomous art that expressed creativity and engaged with serious intellectual and philosophical concerns. Dancers in India, as in the West, validated their performance practice by emphasizing the originality of their work while also drawing on historical sources for their enquireis.
    • By Janet O'Shea in "At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage", p.5
Rukmini Devi Arundale, the revivalist and doyen of the modern form of Bharata Natyam
  • The introduction of the Shiva as the central deity to the form, a god who incinerates impurity introduced to Bharata Natyam, a modality quite outside that of devadasi dance, a dance preoccupied with cataloguing the infinite shadings of feeling in love.
    • In "Diasporas and Interculturalism in Asian Performing Arts: Translating Traditions" p.97
  • [This] refined dance form became and remains perceived as the form that ‘encapsulates the phenomenon and depth of the spiritual and artistic heritage of India'.
    • In London Arangetram brochure quoted in "Diasporas and Interculturalism in Asian Performing Arts: Translating Traditions" p.97
  • The dance tradition and its package deal debut have become points around which Indian families rally to guarantee the continuity of Indian values, to reconfirm their Indianness to themselves...and to prepare their daughters to enter middle class Indian-American life.
    • By Greenstain and Bhradwaj, 1988 quoted in "Diasporas and Interculturalism in Asian Performing Arts: Translating Traditions" p.98
  • ...the fillip given to such ancient traditional forms as the Sadir, Bhagavata Mela, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Yakshagana by the revival movements in the country, has not been wholly to their advantage. Often, indeed we find corrupt tendencies and outlandish tastes...insinuating themselves ... ostensibly in order to make the art fashionable.
  • It becomes a momentous occasion, therefore, when someone emerges showing the restraint and spirituality of approach required to retain the essential quality of an art that took its birth with a sage.
    • By K. Chandrasekharan on Rukmini Devi Arundale quoted in "History of Bharatanatyam".
  • Traditionally Bharat Natyam has a close affinity to the floor and pull of gravity. The body “sits” in a demi pile position and energizes itself through rhythmic contact between feet and ground.
Balasaraswati, the legendary Bharat natyamdnacer in the traditional style
  • ...there is nothing in Bharata Natyam which can be purified afresh; it is divine as it is and innately so. The sringara we experience in Bharata Natyam is never carnal; never, never. For those who have yielded themselves to its discipline line with total dedication, dance, like music is the practice of the Presence. It cannot be merely the body’s rapture.
  • In Silappadikaram, eleven dances are referred to, which were danced by divinities like Siva, Tirumal (Vishnu), Muruga, Kama, Kali, Tirumagal (Lakshmi) and Indrani. They depict the destruction of various demons and symbolize the triumph of good over evil. This is evidence enough that dance was a divine art whose theme was the destruction of evil and the purification of the spirit.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • It is this stream of sringara that swells into the mighty river of the lover-beloved songs of the Vaishnava and Saiva saints, the Ashtapadi of Jayadeva and the compositions of Kshetragna. In Bharatanatyam, too when it comes to abhinaya, sringara has been the dominant mood.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • In the beginning, Alarippu, which is based on rhythm alone, brings out the special charm of pure dance. The movements of Alarippu relax the dancer’s mind and thereby her mind, loosen and coordinate her limbs and prepare her for the dance. Rhythm has a rare capacity to invoke concentration. Alarippu is most valuable in freeing the dancer from distraction and making her single-minded.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • The Bharata Natyam recital is structured like a Great Temple. We enter through the Gopuram (outer hall) of alarippu, cross the Ardha mantapam (half-way hall) of Jatiswaram, then the Mantapa (great hall) of Sabdam, and enter the holy precinct of the deity in the Varnam. This is the place, the space that gives the dancer expansive scope to revel in the rhythm, moods and music of the dance. The Varnam is the perpetuity which gives ever-expanding room to the dancer to delight in her self-fulfillment, by providing the fullest scope to her own creativity as well as to the tradition of the art.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • In the Sabdam, emotions are withheld at the beginning; thereafter, when the dancer has clarified herself, they are released in a measured and disciplined manner. It is after, mastering this discipline that she dances the Varnam which is a living river that holds together movement and interpretation.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • The Padam follows. In dancing to the Padam one experiences the containment, cool and quiet of entering the sanctum from its external precinct. The expanse and brilliance of the outer corridors disappear in the dark inner sanctum; and the rhythmic virtuosities of the Varnam yield to the soul-stirring music and abhinaya of the Padam. Dancing to the Padam is akin to the juncture when the cascading lights of worship are withdrawn and the drum beats die down to the simple and solemn chanting of scared verses in the closeness of God.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • Then, the Tillana breaks into movement like the final burning of camphor accompanied by a measure of din and bustle. In conclusion, the devotee takes to his heart the God he has so far glorified outside; and the dancer completes the traditional order by dancing to a simple devotional verse.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
Nine Mudras at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
  • The aesthetics and the artistry of Bharata Natyam alike make us realise that sringara has pride of place here. In a sense, Bharata Natyam is a combination of the yoga and mantra sastras. The mudras of the mantra shastras are the same as the hand gestures of Bharata Natyam.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • If we approach Bharata Natyam with humility, learn it with dedication and practice it with devotion to God, sringara which brings out the great beauties of this dance can be portrayed with all the purity of the spirit.
    • In "T Balasaraswati On Bharatanatyam"
  • The basis for the Bharat Natyam technique is the perception of the human body as a geometric ideal both in its static position (pictured as the straight axis around which a circle could be drawn) and its articulation through the dance (which explores all the harmonious geometric shapes possible from the central axis within the circle.
  • Unlike ballet, the demi plié of Bharata Natyam is not an intermediary position from which the body moves. The Indian technique demands a muscular consolidation of this position by allowing the weight of the lower body to ‘earth’ it. The arms in natya-aramba in a semi circular shape peculiar to Bharata Natyam create three-dimensional effect to the circle and trace its curve.
    • In "The Routledge Dance Studies Reader" p.185
  • The rules of Bharata Natyam nritta by referring to purely geometric ideals, make it also a totally objective dance.
    • In "The Routledge Dance Studies Reader" p.185
  • The ‘musical notes’ in Bharata Natyam are the adavus – units of dance which contain in them the alphabet and grammar of the dance.
    • In "The Routledge Dance Studies Reader" p.185

Tandava[edit]

Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. Tamil Nadu, Chola Dynasty, India
Rudra Tandava: A dancer depicting Shiva kicking Yama, the god of Death.
  • Generally Shiva is associated with Tandava dance...found in the Natyashastra of sage Bharata.
    • In "Devadāsī: Dancing Damsel" p.45
  • According to Natya Shastra as proposed by Brahma, Bharat staged ‘Amrit Manthan’ aNd ‘Tripuradha’ before Shiva on a suitable place of Mount Kailasha. Both these dramas were composed by Brahma. Siva was very pleased and said – “it reminds me of my evening dances”. This dance was accompanied by various ‘Angaharas’ and ‘Karanas’. Then he told Bharata “I am glad to enjoy your dramas but I advise you present dances accompanied by songs. Then he instructed Tandu to train Bharata in ‘Angahaara’, ich was done accordingly. ‘Leshya’ was added by Parvati. Finally, Tandu designed the dance with songs.In this way the Tandava dance evolved. It was composed and designed by Tandu, so it may be called Tandava/
    • In "Devadāsī: Dancing Damsel" p.45
  • The image of Shiva as Nataraj is indelibly stitched into the Indian imagination. How many various dances of Shiva are known to His worshippers. I cannot say. No doubt the root idea behind all of these dances is more or less one and the same, the manifestation of primal rhythmic energy. Whatever the origins of Shiva's dance, it became in time the clearest image of the activity of God which any art or religion can boast of.
    • By Ananda Coomaraswamy in Nataraja. SSCNET, UCLA. Retrieved on 11 January 2014.
  • O my Lord, Thy hand holding the sacred drum has made and ordered the heavens and earth and other worlds and innumerable souls. Thy lifted hand protects both the conscious and unconscious order of thy creation. All these worlds are transformed by Thy hand bearing fire. Thy sacred foot, planted on the ground, gives an abode to the tired soul struggling in the toils of causality. It is Thy lifted foot that grants eternal bliss to those that approach Thee. These Five-Actions are indeed Thy Handiwork."
    • By Ananda Coomaraswamy in "Nataraja".

On men pursuing this dance form[edit]

  • There is no need to shy away from any form of art. Many men are interested in Bharata Natyam, however, they fear of thinking how society will look at them? How will they make a profession out of it? We have to break these barriers. There is a need to change and this cannot be changed overnight.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
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