Origin of Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam Dancer

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.

About Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is evenly divided between three elements Nritta, Nritya and Natya .

  • Nritta : Rhythmic Element.Interprits the language of rhythm with the help of body movements.
  • Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression.Conveys poetic meaning with the help of expressions,
    rhythmic gaites and postures. eg. Varna, Shabda, Pada etc.
  • Natya : Dramatic Element.Performing for a theme like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc.

Nritta – Nritta can be broadly divided into Chari, Karana, Angahara and Mandala. Movement of a leg is called Chari.
Movement of both the legs is Karana. 3 Karanas make a Khanda. 3 to 4 Khandas make a Mandala. 4 to 9
Karanas make a Angahara. 4 to 5 Angaharas also make a Mandala. 108 Karanas and 32 Angaharas are defined
in Natyashatra. The 13 Nritta Hastas (explained later) are used to perform nritta. The rythmic body movements
along with hand gestures are called Aduvus. Number of aduvus constitute a Jati. Jati will generally end with a Muktaya or Teermana.
There are varieties of Aduvus like

• Tattaduvu
• Mettaduvu
• Nataduvu
• Kattaduvu
• Kudittamettaduvu
• Maiaduvu
• Mandiaduvu
• Jati
• Nadai
• Ardi

There are 12 aduvus in each of the above explained. Hence 120 aduvus exist in total. Only about 70 – 80 are
in practice. The aduvus are more or less Karanas. Hence can be concluded that there are 108 aduvus. The 108
Karanas or Aduvus are carved in the Chidambaram Temple in Tanjore, Tamilnadu, India. To perform an aduvu
aramandi, bending of the knees is very very important.

The entire body is divided as Anga, Pratyanga and Upaanga.
Anganyatra shirohastau vaksha paarshwakateetatau
Paadaviti shaduktaani greevamapyapare jaguhu
Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, Legs are the Six Angas. Some people include Neck also.

Pratyangaani twathaskandhau baahoo prushtam tathodaram
ooroo janghe shadityahurapare manibandhakau
jaanooneekoorparamiti trayamapyadhikam jaguhu
Shoulders, Arms, Stomuch, thighs, Knee are the Six Pratyangas. Some people include Wrist, elbow and Ankle also.

Drushtibhrooputatarashcha kapolau naasikaahanuhu
Adharodashanaa jihwaa chubukam vadanam tatha
Upaangani dwadashitaanyanyaanyangaani santi cha
Paarshnee gulbautathangulyaa karayoho padayostale
Sight, Eyebrow, Eye lids, Eye balls, Cheeks, Nose, Gums, Lower Lip, Teeth, Tongue, Chin and Face are the 12 Upaangas. Few people include Heels, Fingers, Feet, Palm also into upaangas.
Pratynaga and Upaangas should move along with the Angas.
Anga Lakshana, the way of moving body parts, are described below.

• Shirobhedha – Head Movement
• Greevabhedha – Neck Movement
• Drushtibhedha – Eye Movement
• Paadabhedha
o Mandala – Standing Posture
o Utplavana – Leaps
o Bhramari – Circling Movement
o Chari – Leg Movement
• Gatibhedha – Charecteristic walks and
• Hastas or Mudras – Hand Movements
o Asamyuta Hasta
o Samyuta Hasta
o Deva Hasta
o Dashavatara Hasta
o Navagraha Hasta
o Jaati Hasta
o Bandhu Hasta
o Nritta Hasta

When all Angas(main body parts) coordinate (along with pratyanga and upaanga) the artist is said to have
Angashudhi. Anga meaning body parts and shudhi, meaning perfect. Any dancer should try to achive this perfection. The Natyashastra, which talks about all aspects of Bharatanatyam, quotes shlokas to perform all the above
movements. All the above said movements are dealt in detail in the respective links.

Aspects of Abhinaya

The expressions which are shown to express poetic meanings is Abinaya. Here the emphasis is more on
facial expressions than rhythmic movements. The Abinaya is divided as
• Angikabhinaya
• Vachikabhinaya
• Aharyabhinaya
• Satvikabhinaya

Angikabhinaya : Expressing the meanings of lyrics using the body parts like Head, Hands, Legs etc. is
Angikabhinaya. The Bhedas which i have explained above come under Angikabhinaya.
Vachikabhinaya : Expressing the Story using narrations in the dance drama is Vachikabhinaya.
Aharyabhinaya : Imitating the Costumes, Jewellary, Make-up etc. in a dance comes under Aharyabhinaya.
Satvikabhinaya :Showing the Bhava(moods) come under Satvikabhinaya.

Lord Shiva is praised as the embodiment of the above 4 types of abinaya in this following shloka.

Angikam bhuvanam yasya
Vachicam sarva vangmayam
Aharyam chandra taradi
tam vande satvikam shivam.

Meaning for the above shloka is

We bow to Him the benevolent One
Whose limbs are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all language,
Whose costume is the moon and the stars…”

In Lord Shiva’s well-known pose of NATARAJA,
his right hand holds the drum of creation – symbolising a new awakening
his left hand holds fire – representing destruction of the old order
his other right hand is raised in blessing
the other left hand points to his left foot, which has crushed demon Muyalaka – representing ignorance.

There are nine main or primary emotions, Sthayibhavas. It is also termed as Rasa(Mood).
• Shringara – Love
• Hasya – Mirth
• Veera – Heroism
• Roudra – Anger
• Bhayanaka – Terror
• Bheebatsa – Disgust
• Adbhuta – Wonder
• Karuna – Compassion
• Shanta – Tranquility
Vatsalya(Parental fondling) rasa is also sometimes included as one of the stayibhava.
Vibhava (cause of emotion), Anubhava (effect of emotion) and Sanchari bhava (subordinate emotions) constitute
the state of rasa.

Next are the Nayika(the Heroine) and Nayaka (the Hero) bhavas.

The Nayika Bhava

The shastras have classified the basic mental status of woman, the Nayika, into Eight divisions, called
Ashtanayika bhavas. These divisions portray the heroine in different situations, express different feelings,
sentiments & reactions.
The Ashtanayika bhava are
• Abhisarika
• Kalahantarika
• Khandita
• Proshitapathika
• Swadheenapathika
• Vasakasajjika
• Virahotkantita
• Vipralabda

Abhisarika – She is the one who boldly goes out to meet her lover.
Kalahantarika – She is the one who is repenting her hastiness in quarrelling with her lover, which has resulted
in their seperation.
Khandita – She is the one who is angry with her lover for causing dissapointment.
Proshitapathika – She is the one who is suffering in the absence of her beloved, who is away on a long journey.
Swadheenapathika – She is the one who is proud of her husband’s or beloved’s love and loyalty.
Vasakasajjika – She is the one who is preparing for the arrival of her beloved, by decorating herself and her
surroundings. to provide a pleasent welcome to her lover.
Virahotkantita – She is the one who is seperated from her lover & is yearning for reunion.
Vipralabda – She is the one who is dissapointed that her lover has not turned up at the tryst as he promised.

Other classifications of the Nayika bhava are
Mugdha – Inexperienced in love.
Madhya – Partly Experienced in love.
Pragalbha – Matured in the art of love.
This Pragalbha Nayika is further classified as
• Dheera
• Adheera
• Dheeraadheera
Sweeya – Married & faithful to her husband.
Parakeeya – Married but in love with another man.
Samanya – A free woman, who truly belongs to any man for a price.
Jyeshta – The preferred one.
Kanishta – The other woman.

Further classifications are
Uttama – Self-controlled & tolerant.
Madhyama – Literally the middle one, who gives as she gets.
Adhama – Literally the low one, who has no self restraint.

The Companion to the Nayika plays an important role in any padam, javali or Ashtapadi. This Companion is
the one to whom the Nayika will convey her feelings, she is the one who will take the message,if any, from the
nayika to the nayaka, she is the one who will sort out the differences between the nayika & the nayaka.
This companion is usuallly a girl who is close to the Nayika.
The classification of the Companion is as follows.
• Daasi – Servant
• Sakhi – Friend
• Kaaroo – Woman from a lower caste
• Chatriya – Step Sister
• Prativamshini – Neighbour
• Lindini – Saint
• Shilpani – Artist
• Swaa – Nayika herself as a messenger
The Nayaka Bhava
Just like the heroines, the moods and emotions of the hero are also classified into different divisions.
The main division is

• Dheerodaatta eg. Lord Rama
• Dheeroddhata eg. Demon Ravana
• Dheeralalita eg. Vatsaraaja
• Dheerashanta eg. Buddha

The other classification is
Pati – Married & faithful to his wife.
Upapati – Married but in love with another woman.
Vaisika – One who pays & enjoys women.

Further Nayaka classifications
Anukoola – Faithful to the Woman. eg. Lord Rama
Dakshina – Loves all his wives or women. eg. Arjuna
Drishta – When rejected, pleads to be accepted by his woman. eg. Vaali
Shatha – The deceitful one. eg. Lord Krishna

Most of the ashtanayika bhavas are experienced by the Nayaka also though the depiction of ashtanayika is
more than the nayaka.
Nayaka’s Companion plays an important role too. This companian is categorised as
• Peetamardhana
• Vita
• Cheta
• Vidooshaka