Origins of Bharatanatyam

This is a very popular dance form in South India. It is oldest of all classical dance forms in India. Dance of mind
& soul. It is extremely traditional and known for its grace, purity, tenderness, staturesque & sculpturesque poses.  It uplifts the dancer and the beholder to a higher level of spiritual consciousness. The dancer is considered as a worshiper, worshiper of the Divine. An embodiment of beauty, charm and gracefulness.
The general interpretation for the name is Bhava(expression) + Raga (music) + TAla(rhythm) + NATYAM(dance) = Bharatanatyam
Origin of Bharatanatyam
The Gods & Godesses pleaded Lord Brahma to create another veda which would be simple for the common man
to understand. It is believed that considering this request Lord Brahma created the Panchamaveda, Fifth veda,
Natyaveda, an essence of the other four vedas. It is believed that he has taken pathya (words) form the
Rigveda, abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajurveda, geet (music and chant) from Samaveda and rasa
(sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda to form the fifth veda, Natyaveda.
After creating this natyaveda, Lord Brahma gave the same to sage Bharata and asked him to popularise this veda on earth. Following the words of Lord Brahma, sage Bharata wrote Natyashastra or the Science of Dramaturgy, a great,
comprehensive work on the science and technique of Indian drama, dance and music.Bharatanatyam might
have got its name from sage Bharata also.The dancers still follow this work to perform.
There is also another story which says that Godess Parvathi tought this dance form to Usha, daughter of
Banasura, a demon. Usha taught the same to the Gopikas of the city of Dwaraka, Lord Krishna’s birth place.
Thus the divine dance form Bharatanatyam was introduced to the mankind.
In Indian mythology,Lord Shiva is considered as the supreme lord of dance. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva & his wife Goddess Parvathi. The Dance performd by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava, which depicts his violent nature as the distructor of the universe. The tandava performed with joy is called Ananda Tandava and performed in violent mood is called Rudra Tandava. There are 7 types of Tandava. Namely Ananda Tandava,Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava.
There are few people who believa that there are 16 types of Tandava. Tandava has vigourous, brisk movements.The dance performed by Goddess Parvathi is known as Lasya, in which the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic also. Some scholars call Lasya as the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya has 2 kinds. Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya.
The art form has definitely gone through lot of changes over the years. In olden days it was performed mostly
by female artists. They were called Devadasis, who would perform in the temples. These devadasis were accomplished artists who would sing, dance, play many instruments. They were well worsed in sanskrit & other languages which helped them to interpret compositions which they would perform. But this tradition came to an end as the devadasis lost their position in the society.
Then dance entered the royal courts. Here the artists called Rajanartakis, performed in the courts of kings
who gave them shelter.Even these were accomplished artists like devadasis.
The next well-documented period of dance history is far more recent. In the first half of the 19th century the
dance tradition was revitalized and defined anew through the contributions of four talented brothers (known today as the Tanjore Quartet)Chinniah, Sivanandam, Ponniah and Vadivelu. By coordinating their diverse talents, the four managed to organize all the basic dance movements of pure dance into a progressive series of lessons [adavu chapters]. Each adavu (basic unit of motion) was taught in systematic order and then combined with others to produce choreographed sequences based upon the rhythmic contour of a musical composition (Krishnamoorthy Pillai). In addition the brothers composed new music specifically for the dance, and introduced a different sequence of items which integrated the various aspects of dance and music into a carefully coordinated, aesthetically sound progression. This infusion of creative energy marks the early 19th century as one of the most innovative periods in the history of Indian dance.
The contribution of Udayshankar, Rukminidevi Arundale and Balasaraswathi, in the 20th century, cannot be
forgotten at this juncture.
Even though Bharatanatyam has gone through lot of changes, it still has its roots deep into the religious and rich mythological heritage of India. In the modern day scenario it is performed by both male & female artists. Many learn as a hobby and few make it as a profession. Whether taken as a hobby or a profession it certainly needs  lot of practice,concentration and dedication.
Meghala Bhat – Director: Art of Vinyasa
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Arangetram is a tamil word.Aranga meaning raised floor and Etram meaning climbing in Tamil,one of the south indian languages. It is also called Rangapravesha in Kannada, another south indian language, Ranga meaning Stage and Pravesha meaning Enter. Ideally this should be the first public performance of an artist. After learning bharatanatyam under the guidance of an accomplished guru, this is the occation for the proud guru to present his/her deciple to the public. This is the testing time for both the guru & the shishya(deciple) as the guru’s knowledge & the deciple’s talent both are judged by the public. Hence, the guru will decide when the deciple is ready for public appearence. Atleast 10 – 12 years of training is necessary to give a comendable performance.

Meghala Bhat – Director: Art of Vinyasa

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For a distinct style for men

The classical dance technique has to clearly be different and distinguishable for men from that of women.
Male dancers should concentrate on power, tension, athleticism and such attributes rather than imitate feminine mannerisms, opines KARTHIK VENKATESHAN
For all the ostentatious machismo exhibited by Indian men in domestic, public and screen life, it is pathetic, dismal and ironical that the male classical dancers do not exhibit dignity, restraint, originality or refinement in their performances. Instead, they imitate the soft and feminine techniques of their opposite sex counterparts in both nritta and abhinaya. Furthermore, the imitation is extended to make-up,ornamental accessories and costumes. It is time to putan end to this crass buffoonery by the male dancers and make a change, don’t you think?
The fact that the classical male dancers for all their bravado are a laughing stock is not surprising as they have not been able to find a respectable place in the performing dance community unlike women who have been able to find their security, dignity, niche and identity.
I have been a student, fan and patron of Indian classical dances in general and Bharathanatyam in particular for the past 19 years. I have been trained by the well-known and indefatigable Guru Vasundhara Doraswamy of Mysore in the distinctive Pandanallur style of dance.
The mere mention of Pandanallur evokes the great Guru and nattuvanar tradition of clear-cut, crisp, aesthetic, technically correct, elastic and energetic movements, rhythmic patterns, firm poses, ingenious choreography and subtle expressions. If performed properly, by that I mean the proper araimandi, proper footwork, correct angles and position of limbs, straight back shoulders and spine and correct execution of mudras and adavus, the tautness and elasticity of every movement of the performer can be relayed to the audience. In other words, the audience can experience and be a part of the geometrical neatness and beauty.
From the time, the nattuvanar tradition has been passed on to innumerable dancers, the technique has been diluted and this has hurt the male dancers more than the female dancers. Women have been able to camouflage their technical deficiencies and inadequacies with glamour, beauty, provocative
poses and costumes. But that has not been the case of men; they seem to be more vulnerable and exposed to the deteriorating standards.
One of the main reasons, male classical dancing has not kindled sufficient audience or student interest is because of the supposedly effeminate form and appearance of a male dancer’s performance. This being far from the truth, classical dance has to tap and reach out to the men folk as a very physical, athletic and a dynamic activity akin to playing a beautiful game of basketball or football. The dance technique has to clearly be different and distinguishable for men from that of women’s technique. Men and
women differ in physical attributes and body mannerisms in day-to-day activities and life. If that is the case why is it that the male dancer has to imitate female mannerisms and technique.
Dance is a visual art like movies and theater and presentation is at a high premium. Lot of attention has to be paid in accentuating one’s positive attributes and camouflaging the negatives. In case of women dancers, the psyche, mentality and physical identity has been established as an elegant, stunningly beautiful, devout, astute and versatile storyteller. Sensitive and complex female qualities like chastity, subtleness, chivalry, dignity and coyness are heightened during the course of one’s performance. Be it a Maya, Shakthi, Yashoda, Krishna, Shiva, Arjun or Rama, she is the epitome of a feminine being. The mindset being that of a free flowing, outpouring,
visually captivating, enchanting, vivacious and playful dynamic object of nature.
What about men? I personally feel the mindset of a male dancer should be to accentuate one’s physicality, athleticism, power, tension, elasticity, stability, dignity and masculinity. The adavu and abhinaya technique should be modified to incorporate the above-mentioned characteristics. Instead of presenting in a soft, subtle and swaying manner, male dancers can enhance their art by a technique that involves flexible, loose-limbed but firm and well-defined movements. In addition to technique, modifications
regarding costumes, accessories, make-up and hair-dos could be made. Last but not the least, it is very critical for the male dancer to be wiry and defined than a round, soft-bellied and puffy figure. Be it a enactment of Draupadi, Sita, Saraswathi, Lakshmi or a female lover yearning for her lover, a male dancer does not have to lose his masculine identity, dignity and tautness of his movements and expressions. Neck, shoulder and hip straight and in position, the dancer can present his complex and invisible 3-point patterns.
I am well aware that the majority of dance teachers are women, but that should not hinder them in modifying and changing the techniques of male dancing.
My plea to every dance teacher is to train male students to dance in a physical, assertive, focused, dignified, devout and single-minded manner like a yogi executing his asanas. This in turn will encourage and inspire young boys to learn the art.
Recently, I was witness to a few dance performances by male dancers in a festival. The artistes, ranging from highly experienced to intermediate, with their overdone make-up combined with glittering and gaudy earrings, necklaces, bracelets and waistbands were a complete turn-off, and not to mention costumes designed from shiny silk saris. Furthermore, the artistes were physically unathletic and puffy. The dance movements were soft, half-hearted and undefined and incomplete. I am aware of the energy,
effort and finance that is expended in preparing and performing and my intentions not to criticize the artists. But should not a student of dance be paying attention to the fundamentals of technique, which is the backbone of his performance. Hopefully we will see a sincere combined effort from the entire dance fraternity of Gurus, dancers, patrons, organizers and audience.

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Yoga for Headaches

Yoga not only provides relief for the pain and cause of headaches, but can also prevent headaches from occurring in the future.

Most headaches are due to stress and tension held in the head, neck, shoulders and upper back. When these muscles are continuously contracted, they constrict the flow of blood, oxygen and prana (energy) to the head. Since the brain is the first part of the body that will die if denied this blood and oxygen, it gets cranky really fast and usually lets you know via a pain in your head.

When you feel a headache coming on, the first thing to do is stop what you are doing and take a break. Close your eyes, relax and take a few deep breaths through the nose into the belly. Scan your upper body for tension and tightness and consciously allow it to release and relax. Adjust your posture: reach the crown of the head up to lengthen the spine, let the shoulders drop down and back to open the chest. If you cannot consciously release the tension, you may want to give yourself a shoulder, neck and face massage. Gently press and lightly circle on the tops of the shoulders, the back of the neck, the third eye and temples.

During a headache, yoga postures and pranayama can help alleviate pain and release tension and stress. Practice in a calming environment with low lights and soft music. Focus on calming and restorative postures like child, puppy dog, seated forward fold, supine bound angle, bridge, plow and knee down twist. Finish your yoga practice with shavasana using an eye pillow or a small, folded towel placed over the eyes. Start your shavasana with Dirga pranayama – slow deep breathing in the belly and chest.

A general yoga practice is the best preventative medicine for headaches. Focus on postures that will release tension in neck and shoulders, increase circulation to head and stimulate the nervous system. A general practice will reduce stress and tension in the whole body while increasing circulation and absorption of oxygen. Dirga, Ujjayi and Nadi Sodhana Pranayama will calm the mind, release tension, and increase circulation of blood and oxygen.

Talk to your doctor if you are having more than two or three headaches per week, or if a bad headache lasts for several days. Migraines and cluster headaches can be helped with yoga, but you must have the supervision and approval of your doctor.

Meghala Bhat – Director: Art of Vinyasa

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Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Yoga means “joined together.” The word comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word yug, which means “to unify.” Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices all aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit and achieving a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe. Yoga is not a religion but a spiritual practice or sadhana, which does not require any specific belief system to participate. The philosophies of yoga are universal and can be incorporated within any belief system.

Ashtanga Yoga is a system of Yoga recorded by the sage Vamana Rishi in the Yoga Korunta, an ancient manuscript “said to contain lists of many different groupings of asanas, as well as highly original teachings on vinyasa, drishti, bandhas, mudras, and philosophy” (Jois 2002 xv). The text of the Yoga Korunta “was imparted to Sri T. Krishnamacharya in the early 1900’s by his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari, and was later passed down to Pattabhi Jois during the duration of his studies with Krishnamacharya, beginning in 1927” (“Ashtanga Yoga”). Since 1948, Pattabhi Jois has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga from his yoga shala, the Ashtanga Yoga Reasearch Institute(Jois 2002 xvi), according to the sacred tradition of Guru Parampara [disciplic succession] (Jois 2003 12).

Ashtanga Yoga literally means “eight-limbed yoga,” as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. According to Patanjali, the path of internal purification for revealing the Universal Self consists of the following eight spiritual practices:

Yama [moral codes]
Niyama [self-purification and study]
Asana [posture]
Pranayama [breath control]
Pratyahara [sense control]
Dharana [concentration]
Dhyana [meditation]
Samadhi [contemplation] (Scott 14-17)

As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection, Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body. They also broaden the mental faculties and the spiritual capacities. The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana(or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility. The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The spinal column houses the all-important nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. By maintaining the spine’s flexibility and strength through exercise, circulation is increased and the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen.

yoga is the study of the self, spiritual scriptures and the divine, seeing through the illusions of life into the reality of oneness and deepen your practice and spiritual connection. By making each posture a prayer, each breath a celebration of life, we invoke the power of yoga and bring the energy of the divine into our practice. Through the exploration and awareness of the body and breath, through a constant self-exploration in the postures, we use yoga to study our bodies, minds and spirit.

Meghala Bhat – Director: Art of Vinyasa

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The correlation between Yoga and Bharatanatyam – Dr.Vasundhara Doraswamy

As it is a universal fact that any form of dance involves a lot of physical movements and requires a certain degree of fitness depending on the corresponding style. Yoga involves a lot of breathing exercises and stretching exercises [asanas] which would enhance balance, spirituality, stamina and flexibility – the four most basic requirements for a dancer. Bharatanatyam is a dance form which involves both nritha [bodily movements] and abhinaya [facial expressions] – both of these playing equally important roles. I believe that it is very important for a successful performing artist to be at a fitness level that enables him/her to perform nritha at the same degree of intensity and let the abhinaya flow freely overpowering the constantly produced fatigue. Vinyasa, which is a major part of Ashtanga yoga, plays an extremely important role as itself in Bharatanatyam as the free flow and connection between poses and movements is as important as the pose or the movement itself.This can be achieved, by regular practice of Yoga. This can be achieved, by regular practice of Yoga. I have taken many of these various asanas from yoga and have been successful in blending them in my dance compositions.
Over my years of teaching and performing both Bharatanatyam and Yoga, I have discovered the millions of ways they overlap complementing each other. Strong core muscles keep your back healthy. They hold your body upright, improve your balance allowing you to move your arms and legs freely. If the core muscles are weak, your body won’t work effectively, and other muscles have to pick up the slack. An intense performance that requires quality nritha can be quite taxing to say the least on a dancer, and holding ones balance with the fatigue building up, needs stong core support, and excellent breath management to prolongue the endurance, which can be achieved by regular yoga practice.
My yoga training for over 30 yrs now has been a major factor in me tasting success in Bharatanatyam, my advice to any budding artist would be to take this blend which would prove a success factor in a prospering career.

Dr.Vasundahra Doraswamy – Director : VPAC

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Bharatanatyam – A brief summary

‘Anghikam Bhuvanam Yashya Vachikam Sarva Vanganayam Aharyam Chandra Taraditam Namah Satwikam Shivam’ – which means, Lord Shiva is a many splendoured cosmic personality. We bow to the energetic [Satwika] Shiva, whose bodily movement [Angika] is the phenomenalworld, whose articulate expression [Vachika] constitutes all verbal expression, and whose ornaments [Aharya] are the moon and stars of the galaxy. Bharatanatyam, the pure classical temple-dance of South India, is in one way or the other the base of most of the other great forms of Indian dances and an art of great antiquity, great beauty and great historic potentiality. The etymology of the word Bharata in Bharatanatyam is very interesting – the first syllable ‘Bha’ stands for Bhava [emotion], the second syllable ‘ra’stands for Rasa [music], and the third syllable ‘ta’ stands for Tala [rythm], the three constuting the basic essentials of Bharatanatyam.

Bharatanatyam is an ancient classical dance style, originally performed in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu, in southern India. Movement, mime and music contribute in equal measure to this beautiful dance andis evenly divided between nritta, pure dance, and nritya, expressinal compositions. The songs pertain mostly to the theme of love but not sensual love. These are given an elevated and somewhat spiritual flavour. The Indian dance system is the oldest and most comprehensive in the world, having an unbroken tradition that goes back 2000 years.

Bharatanatyam is devotional in spirit yet possesses a highly stylized and sophisticated technique. Bharatanatyam is a blend of two distinct components: nritta, or pure dance, utilizes a vocabulary of classical steps to create complex rhythmic patterns; nritya, or expressive dance, utilizes the language of gesture, called abhinaya, to express various themes from Hindu mythology, usually those of love and devotion. Emotions are suggested through various moods and the silent language of abhinaya.
The structure of a Bharatanatyam Performance:
A Bharata Natyam performance begins with alarippu, an invocatory number which is structured to give the effect of the body unfolding itself by degrees, as if in offering to God. The dancer begins with a sidelong glance, executes a lateral glide of the neck, and then fans the movement out to each part of the body. As she showers alternately silken and steely blows in space, in strict rhythm with the drum, the mridamgam, and the syllables sung by the nattuvanar, the conductor, the feet adorned with ankle bells change scores of rhythmic patterns.
The dancer’s skill at both pure dance, seen elsewhere in items like jatiwaram and tillana and in mime compositions like shabdam and padam, finds its acme in varnam. This is the central piece of a Bharata Natyam recital and makes the greatest demands on the dancer’s stamina and emotinal resources.

Meghala Bhat – Director: Art of Vinyasa

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