Classical Dance: Bharatanatyam


There are various styles of dance in different portions of India like Odissi, Kathakali, Kathak and Manipuri, but the only dance style that has the name Bharata attached to it is the Bharatanatyam of Tamilnadu. Some scholars erroneously believe that the name Bharatanatyam came into existence throughout the 20th century. This impression isn’t correct. Late Ghanam Krishnayyar in one of his songs describes a devadasi and says that she was a professional in Bharatanatyam. Subramania Bharati also mentions the word Bharatanatyam. Consequently, there’s without a doubt that Bharatanatyam isn’t a brand new term which came into existence in the 20th century.

From ancient time, Bharatanatyam is a system of dance, described in the Natya Shastra, capable of manifesting various forms. The scholar who wrote the commentary on the Natyashastra was Abhinava Gupta from Kashmir. He calls the Natyashastra as a Natyaveda. He was a modern Chola Raja who built the Big Temple at Tanjavur.

The dance of the devadasi was indispensable to the ritual worship. Devadasi families became experts in the arts of music and dance, and they maintained these traditions from one generation to another, supported by royal patronage. Sculptural and literary evidence suggests that dances of the Bharatanatyam form, that’s based on the Natya Shastra, were utilized in temple worship throughout India. This original classical dance deteriorated in the North because of repeated foreign invasions, and mixed dance forms replaced it. However, the dance tradition survived in South India, where it continued to be sponsored by kings and maintained by the devadasi system


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