By- Gayatri Deka
Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form of India, originating in the Southern Indian state, Tamil Nadu. It is one of the oldest dance forms of the subcontinent and finds mention in the ‘natya shastra’. It places equal emphasis on the different aspects that go to make a dance, namely Bhava (expressions), Raga (melody), Tala (rhythm). Bharatanatyam is the combination of all the three aspects mentioned, BHAva, RAga, TAla and Natyam in Tamil refers to dance. Thus the name BHA+ RA+ TA+ Natyam.
History has it that the origins of Bharatanatyma owed to the Devadasis dancing in the temples in devotional worship of their lords. The dance form today has moved beyond the walls of the temples and is performed also on concrete wooden stages in front of audience. Every single part of the body is involved in this dance form with expressions being shown through eyes. This form of dance is subtle and sophisticated providing a spiritual satisfaction to the performer. It follows the same choreography as in shastras yet continues to be fresh and fascinating. All forms of dance has their own patron deity, Lord Shiva being the one for Bharatanatyam. Lord Shiva in his Nataraja (nata-dance and raja-king) form is considered the God of the dance form. It represents the faith that human life emanates from and consists of the five prime elements viz fire, water, space, wind and earth. The Nataraja holds Agni(fire) in his left hand, Ganga(water) in his tresses, Aakash (moon) on his head, Damaru (wind) instrument in his right hand and his foot rests on the earth.
Bharatanatyam today has attained international recognition and is considered to be one of the prestigious components of our cultural heritage. On 10th January, 2015, 2100 dancers from Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa performed together in Kolhapur to set a Guinness World Record. The dancers were trained and led by Nrtuyachandrika Sanyogeeta Patil, an exponent of the dance form.
Note: Further additions to the article are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
(The author is a Bharatanatyam dancer based in New Delhi, India. She has been performing across India since 2008 and has been teaching the dance form for about half a decade now. She can be reached at email@example.com)