History of Bharatanatyam

June 27th, 2007 by Anjali

Today I would like to give a brief history on how the beautiful dance form came into existence. This classical dance form originated from the state of Tamil Nadu. It has its inspirations from the sculptures of the ancient temple of Chidambaram located near Pondicherry (now Puducherry). Bharatanatyam, as the name depicts is the combination of:

BHA- Bhava (Expression), RA- Raga (Music) and TA- Tala (Rhythm)

Photo Credit: Panache

Traditionally the dance was performed by Devadasis (community of temple dancers) in the ancient temples. The Devadasis were women who dedicated their lives to serving the temple deity as dancers and musicians and their performances were an inherent part of the elaborate temple and court rituals.

Somewhere around the 1930’s some surviving Devadasis such as the legendary Balasaraswati were called for stage performances by the elite educated Class. Thus Rukmini Devi was the first ever educated elite to learn this dance form under the guidance of Balasaraswati.

The present form of Bharatanatyam as we know it today has been codified and documented by four brothers Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Vadivelu and Sivanandam in the early 19th century. They are also famously known as the Tanjore Quartret. Their dance compositions form the bulk of the Bharatanatyam practiced today.

Today this is one of the popularly practiced dance forms in India. I feel that if any body is interested in the art of dance, one must actually give a thought to learning any of the classical dance forms of India. Such dances are more of DEVOTION, WORSHIP, DISCIPLINE, is SOFT and sometimes even BLISS. It is more introvert than extrovert. The younger generation of today is being continuously exposed to the hip hop by the media. I feel more exposure to classical dance forms would help them understand the very essence of DANCE.

For more information, please visit the Bharatanatyam page on Wikipedia.

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Leave A Comment

80 responses so far ↓

  • 1 aishwarya Jan 26, 2008 at 9:25 am

    hi… this was informative …thanks

  • 2 Amelia Oct 19, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Hi, I was wondering whether or not Bharatanatyam can be called a fire dance, like it says is Wikipedia. When I watch other classical Indian dances, like Odissi or Mohiniattam especially, I do get that feeling for Bharatanatyam because it’s more stiff and flickering. Could you give me your professional thoughts as a Bharatanatyam dancer?

  • 3 Anjali Oct 20, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Hey Amelia, Bharatanatyam is known for it geometric lines in the movements. Movements finishes in straight lines and angles. It has both the tandava (vigour) and the lasya (soft)aspects. Where as mohiniattom and oddisi is more into lasya with rounded movements. For me all of them are very beautiful and challenging in their own way. It is meaningless to compare these dance forms.

  • 4 Surya Dec 29, 2008 at 10:17 am

    Anjali,

    my daughter has been learning bharatnatyam for 6 years now and her teacher is going to “quiz” them on their adauvs, just to see how much they remember. My daughter doesn’t remeber a lot of the earlier ones like the nattadauvs, 5-8 and the sarukal adavus. Do you think you could help some way through this blog? Thanks! By the way, you’re doing a wonderful job with the site, it is great for dance awarness!

  • 5 Anjali Jan 5, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Hi Surya,
    Any way let her go through the quiz and she would come to what she has forgotten. Let me know how can I help you. Thanks a lot for the kind words.

  • 6 bharathi raja Jan 24, 2009 at 9:53 am

    respected madam,
    mam, when i was 9th standard.my master taught the tatta adavu and naatadavu 1,2,3, only after that he married.so he could not able to come to my school.after i would like to learn bharatantym but because of education i cant able to continue and also my age is 18 and also i dont know basic steps .now i saw your video in youtube so i am happy i can learn bharatantym .my humble request is may i call you as my master

  • 7 bharathi raja Jan 24, 2009 at 9:55 am

    now i am collage second year student

  • 8 Anjali Jan 25, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Hello Bharathi, I am glad to know you are learning from this site. Thanks a lot.

  • 9 bhavani Feb 11, 2009 at 7:14 am

    than k u for giving information about history of bharathanatyam

  • 10 sujitha May 9, 2009 at 11:23 am

    wow

  • 11 suhani May 13, 2009 at 8:03 am

    hi…..ive been learning bharatanatyam since i was 4 years old……now i have a very good and famous teacher shrimati jayalaxmi eshwar teaching me and it is good to know people are interested in this dance form.It is really good of you to help people know more about this national classical dance form

  • 12 akshai.s Jul 19, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    its really uncommendable ……….excellent idea to provide a virtual class on the complex art of bhrathanatya… …its never mere informative but also inoperative, resourceful and agood teacher…..
    in this modern technological era,even though it cannot provide the full benifit of gurusishya method but can do its duty up to its zenith….thanks for all who behind the idea….
    -akshai.s

  • 13 Anjali Jul 20, 2009 at 5:25 am

    Akshai, thanks for your kind words. In fact we have regular individual sessions where I conduct online personal classes with my students. So the guru shishya relationship is still there. Glad that you like it. Your words will keep me motivated.

  • 14 swetha Sep 6, 2009 at 12:36 am

    hi… i would like to know more about 7 thandav of shiva in detail.

  • 15 Vishnu Jan 7, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    It would be better if more detailing could be provided. those who are in the bharathanatyam field ie students or teachers could use some high level information

  • 16 Gabrielle Mar 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Hello, I am researching Bharatanatyam for my Dance IB project, and I was wondering if you could point me towards some good books or sources I could use to better my understanding of this amazing dance. It would be very helpful for me!
    Thank you,
    Gabrielle

  • 17 Anjali Mar 8, 2010 at 5:29 am

    Dear Gabrielle, books like Laghubharatam, abhinaya darpanam by P.chandrashekhar and manmohans ghosh’s translation of some dance books might help. Try vedambooks.com.

  • 18 Gabrielle Mar 8, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for the help! I was also wondering if you could give me your opinions as a bharatanatyam dancer if the Indian style of dance is in any way similar to contemporary style of dancing. Thank you,
    Gabrielle

  • 19 nigamaa Mar 9, 2010 at 7:21 am

    @Gabrielle: btw, a useful source might also be to take advanced courses like
    “History, Bharatanatyam and Western Classical music (Keyboard)”
    or similar ? This one is offered at
    http://sandesha.org/index.htm

  • 20 Gabrielle Mar 10, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Thank You so much for all your help! This website and the books you listed to me were great sources! :)
    Thanks again,
    Gabrielle

    P.S. Do you think american contemporary style is anything similar to Bharatanatyam?

  • 21 Abhishek Sharma May 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Wow
    thanks 4 this valuable information.
    That is our INDIA.
    INCREDIBLE INDIA

  • 22 lakshmi Jul 10, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    this piece of imfo ha really helped me and my friends with their grade exam !!!!!

    THANKS A LOT!!!!!

  • 23 Sangeetha Suresh Jul 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Hi Ma’am,
    i am Sangeetha Suresh. I am living in Bahrain. Here I am not going for any special dance class. I am studying what all you have instructed in videos. So seeing your videos i have a question; While dancing where we have to look?

  • 24 Anjali Jul 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    @Sangeetha, while practicing adavus look into your hands.

  • 25 Nairuti Aug 28, 2010 at 7:16 am

    hi m’am ! I’ v been through bharatnatyam since 8 years. i ‘ m learning bharatnatyam the age I was 4. I’ v just completed my Arangetram before 2 months. M’am I need your advice what 2 do further.

  • 26 Anjali Aug 31, 2010 at 5:17 am

    @Nairuti,you can start teaching if you like or look forward to learn more

  • 27 aditya kumar sharma Oct 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    thanks for teaching me.I didnot knew the state where it originated

  • 28 isha Nov 13, 2010 at 8:21 am

    love the information!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I really wonder if my sister liked what i searched for her!!!!

  • 29 Reeya Nov 16, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    “this was very helpful, thanks!”

  • 30 debolina Jan 3, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    can you tell more about the history of bharata natyam?

  • 31 sarvada Mar 11, 2011 at 4:41 am

    hiiii….the knowledge was really informative…thnxxx…it helped me alot…bcoz dance is my life

  • 32 anisha Apr 16, 2011 at 1:16 am

    i loved your information on bharatanatyam dance

  • 33 Reena NC Apr 22, 2011 at 2:48 am

    thank you for given information mam.. such a lovely history,…. thank u mam.. may gob bless….. :) :) … i’m blessed to know about the barathanatyam……

  • 34 Gayatri Apr 24, 2011 at 11:42 pm

    hey! I am a student of std.8th, but I am in Visharad 1st year. This information was very helpful for me in our written exam this year!! Thanks a Lot!!

  • 35 Mary Jul 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Hi, I understand your point. I am a trained bharathnatyam and kuchupudi dancer and I must say your last sentence is very arrogant. The essence of dance the is freedom of expression through rythimic movement.. To infer that the hip hop form is negative is very ignorant since if you broke it down there are many similarities.

  • 36 Anjali Jul 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    @Mary, By Hip hop, I did not mean the style of dance, but the chaos and vulgarity in body language. As a dancer I appreciate ballet, salsa, hip hop and jazz.

  • 37 SHWETA SHARMA Jul 23, 2011 at 6:50 am

    goin to start this dance very soon….very excited

  • 38 Devanshi Aug 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Can anyone please let me know who was the fisrt guru of bharatnatyam?

  • 39 shankari Nov 27, 2011 at 2:01 am

    i think bharatanatyam is best for girls.thnk u

  • 40 Jessica Dec 25, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Really good. I was trying to find some information of bharathanatyam for my grade 1 exam.

  • 41 Macy Dec 25, 2011 at 4:48 am

    <3 thank you

  • 42 Rashneet Kaur Jan 26, 2012 at 5:37 am

    AWESOME!! LOVED TO KNOW SO MUCH ON YOUR SITE

  • 43 pravas Jan 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    hi., i am a boy . i want to learn bharatanatyam. Is there any facility?
    Can a boy learn and perform this dance? i want all details about where i can learn this.

  • 44 jacqueline chevillon Feb 12, 2012 at 2:54 am

    j’ai 61ans et fait du bharatanatyam depuis au moins 15 ans . Cette danse me ravit et je vous remercie pour votre site qui pour moi est une mine précieuse de renseignement.

  • 45 Mouli Feb 25, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Its a really good and helpful site as am a varatnatyam dancer

  • 46 Joy Krishna Mukhopadhyay Mar 2, 2012 at 6:02 am

    Hi! I am now 33yrs old. It is my dream to learn Bharatnatyam, but it was impossible to me (a few yrs ago) for my finance and very hard life.
    Now I may spent a few some bt unable to find any teacher in my location Pandua, Hooghly. I am little bit confuse also if I may able to start my lession in this age. But please if help me I will try my best to learn.

  • 47 mini Mar 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

    hi
    this is mina please can u explain to me about Dhari ki ta tu (Alaripu) i’m looking for thet one any one know please can u send me video and also explations.
    thanks
    alot

  • 48 Puja Patel Apr 1, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Hi Anjali!
    I’m doing my grade 5 Bharathanatiyam theory exam next week and this was very informative. It helped me a lot to undersatnd the history of Bharathanatiyam,
    Thanks so much!
    :)

  • 49 Puja Patel Apr 3, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Just wondering: What type of Varnam do you teach?
    Right now I’m learning the second part of Varnam, ragam-Dhanyasi, thalam-Adi. The lyrics are
    Ni indaa mayuum saydaal nyaayum thano daya nidiye….

    I also want to know the 3rd Korvey of the first part, could you help me?

  • 50 uvatharini Apr 17, 2012 at 5:09 am

    hai am in need about bharatanatyam early period n present period.including dressing stage etc. can u help pl

  • 51 varsha Apr 18, 2012 at 12:37 am

    it is very informative and good

  • 52 Anjali Apr 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    @puja, my varnam would be different from yours. So please clarify from your teacher

  • 53 deepak damodaran Apr 26, 2012 at 1:58 am

    thanks for providing such valuable information in internet

  • 54 smeetha May 6, 2012 at 4:28 am

    very good information and helped me very very much thank you!

  • 55 sri May 8, 2012 at 2:31 am

    it is very interesting for your workshop mam

  • 56 kavitasha May 20, 2012 at 6:57 am

    hi!thankz 4 tis information bcoz im doing a project bout bharatanatyam.so tis information is useful 4 me………..

  • 57 chudamani dakavarapu Jun 21, 2012 at 3:12 am

    very useful for people like me

  • 58 Khokan Saha Aug 14, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Thank you for giving information about history of bharathanatyam. My elder daughter, 9 years old has been learning dance for more than 4 years. She loves this form of dancing. I believe this site will be helpful for her. Thanks once again for the great endeavor

  • 59 Rekha tukaram Ballal Aug 23, 2012 at 10:19 am

    i love dance i m also learning a bharatnatyam i want more information in pls give more information in this professional

  • 60 saiprasad Sep 23, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Present 45 years only in college days I am also good Bharatanatyam dancer but not performed on state shows, this is our culture so, all relegion parents must have join you children in kuchpudi and bharatanatyam classes acually NRI’s doing and maintaing our traditions and cultures in their palaces but in indian recidents but not following these culture

  • 61 neha Nov 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    i go for the dance aswell. i am so happy know i now the history of bharanathiam.

  • 62 BHANUPRIYA Jan 3, 2013 at 8:29 am

    THANKS FOR THIS ONLINE BHARATANATYAM
    because i like to learn it i never got a chance to learn it but now i m practising nd learning about this dance form nd now i m very close to it.

  • 63 pranav Jan 19, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Glad to come across your blog thanks to indianbloggers.

    Such informational blog about bharat natyam :)

  • 64 Ritvika Singh Mar 19, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Hello ,, Anjali ji ,,
    ,,,,,,,,,,meri English bahut acchi nahi hai to kya aap mujhse hindi me baat kar sakti hai
    maine apki is website se bahut kuch seekha hai aur mujhe apki ye site bahut hi pasand hai main apse kai cheeje puchna chahti hu pls kya ap mujhe bata sakti hai

  • 65 shruti May 29, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    very nice info . i also learn bharatanatyam

  • 66 varsha Aug 14, 2013 at 5:09 am

    Hi this is varsha of class 7 in studying in chinmaya vidyalaya virigambakkam. I liked your information.I am learning dance .
    THEY GAVE ME A HW & I TOOK THE INFORMATION OF YOURS. THANKS EH ………….

  • 67 aastha rajpal Aug 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

    hi,this is really a fantastic dance as for my thinking one should try it once in her/his life.

  • 68 Sabitha Padmanabhan Aug 22, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Please let me know if you take classes in bahrain. If not can you please suggest a good kalakshetra style dance teacher for my 12 year old daughter ..I just moved to bahrain and finding it so difficult to find a good teacher.

    Thanks,
    Sabitha

  • 69 Vani Dec 23, 2013 at 5:40 am

    Hi Anjali,

    I am new user of your blog. I was searching links to learn bharatanatyam online and found this one interesting. Now I have started learning by seeing your videos. So, you are my first Guru :) I always had interest to learn bharatanatyam. Thank you very much for giving me opportunity to learn online.

  • 70 ashna Jan 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    i want to learn bharatanatyam

  • 71 ashna Jan 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    i like to learn baratnatyam and these are valueable messages for all………………………..
    thankyou………………….

  • 72 vijay Feb 13, 2014 at 12:39 am

    dance is my soul

  • 73 sonia Mar 6, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    thanks for the info.. i am form Fiji Islands and i was learning bharat ntiyam and other dance forms from when i was a 5 year old im 19 know and i left the it 1 year a go and i am getting very fat.. i want to continue with the dance but when i start my body do not go in the flow it used to be i what to get back to dance again.. can you help me in how can i start.. because i work 6days a week 12hours and only 1 day free so what will be the best to start from.

  • 74 Ravali Mar 10, 2014 at 4:10 am

    Mam,
    I was so fascinated by your website. I have a doubt, whether there are any differences between Bharatnatyam in Andhra pradesh and tamilnadu or both are same.

  • 75 Abhilash Lama Mar 18, 2014 at 3:24 am

    Hello mam,
    This site is very useful and i too am learning Bharatnatyam from your videos. Since i am from Nepal and i was always intrested in classical dancing since I was a kid. I am a boy and 18 years old. I have a question if it is still ok to learn it since I’m just a beginne.

  • 76 Anjali Mar 19, 2014 at 10:07 am

    @Abhilah yes you could still learn. good luck.

  • 77 SHWETA CHANDRA Apr 10, 2014 at 3:40 am

    hi
    since childhood i was interested in classical dance forms but being from bihar we nver got that chance to learn it from a professional point of view . i am an engineer pass out now that too from chennai ,being from such a place i got more inclined towards this dance form and i wonder if now i can learn this dance at this age to quest my desire of dancing? kindly answer my query then only i”ll be confident enough to learn bharath natyam ,,,

  • 78 Harshita Jun 11, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Why Abhinaya is the important aspect in Bharatanatyam? or why abhinaya is so important for every student ?

  • 79 sanju satheesh Jun 22, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Haiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii mam this information is very exiteddd i like very much because i am a bharathanatyam student ,THANKYOU SO MUCH……………..

  • 80 Dr.Ashwini Nov 28, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Hi Anjali, its a great pleasure,ur doing such a wonderful job, i m 31yrs old, i loved this dance form since i was in school but because of some problem i could not learn this dance form, but now i really feel deep interest in bharatnatyam can u guide me how to start as a beginner, shall it be ok at such an age to perform this dance…n how to start it