Bharatanatyam is a major genre of Indian classical dance that is originated in Tamil Nadu. Traditionally, it has been a solo dance that was performed exclusively by women, and it expressed South Indian religious themes and spiritual ideas, particularly of Shaivism, but also of Vaishnavism and Shaktism.

Bharatanatyam’s theoretical foundations trace to the ancient Sanskrit text by Bharata Muni, Natya Shastra.

Its existence by 2nd ce is noted in the ancient Tamil epic Silappatikaram, while temple sculptures of 6th ce to 9th ce suggest it was a well refined performance art by mid 1st millennium ce.

Bharatanatyam may be the oldest classical dance tradition of India.It remained exclusive to Hindu temples through the 19th ce, was banned by the colonial British government in the Indian community protested against the ban and expanded it outside the temples in the 20thce. Modern stage productions of Bharatanatyam have incorporated technical performances, pure dance based on non-religious ideas and fusion themes.

The dance is accompanied by music and a singer, and typically her guru is present as the director and conductor of the performance and art.

The performance repertoire of Bharatanatyam, like other classical dances, includes nrita (pure dance), nritya (solo expressive dance) and natya (group dramatic dance).

The term Bharatanatyam is a compound of two words, Bharata and Natyam.

The term Bharata in Bharatanatyam, in the Hindu tradition, is believed to have named after the famous performance art sage to whom the ancient Natya Shastra is attributed. There is a false belief that the word Bharata is a mnemonic, consisting of “bha”–”ra”–”ta”.According to this belief, bha stands for bhava (feelings, emotions), ra stands for raga (melody, framework for musical notes), and ta stands for tala(rhythm). The term Natyam is a Tamil word for “dance”. The compound word Bharatanatyam thus connotes a dance which harmoniously expresses “bhava, raga and tala”.

In its history, Bharatanatyam has also been called Sadir.

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

Natya Shastra is attributed to the ancient scholar Bharata Muni, and its first complete compilation is dated to between 200 BCE and 200 CE.The most studied version of the Natya Shastra text consists of about 6000 verses structured into 36 chapters.[19][22] The text, states Natalia Lidova, describes the theory of Tāṇḍava dance (Shiva), the theory of rasa, of bhāva, expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, standing postures – all of which are part of Indian classical dances.[19][23]Dance and performance arts, states this ancient text,[24] are a form of expression of spiritual ideas, virtues and the essence of scriptures


The traditional Bharatanatyam performance follows a seven-part order of presentation. This set of items are called ‘margam’


The presentation begins with a rhythmic invocation (vandana) called the Alaripu. It combines a thank you and benediction for blessings from the gods and goddesses.


The next stage of the performance adds melody to the movement of Alarippu, and this is called Jatiswaram.


Shabdam (expressed words).The solo dancer, the vocalist(s) and the musical team, in this stage of the production, present short compositions, with words and meaning, in a spectrum of moods.


Varnam(expressed dance)


This is the stage of reverence, of simplicity, of abhinaya (expression) of the solemn spiritual message or devotional religious prayer (bhakti). The choreography attempts to express rasa (emotional taste) and a mood, while the recital may include items such as a keertanam (expressing devotion), a javali (expressing divine love) or something else.


The performance sequence ends with a Tillana, the climax.

Timings and schedule

  • Wednesday-5:00 to 6:00pm
  • Friday-5:00 to 6:00pm
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