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Carnatic Music in Dance

Music and dance are incomplete without each other. It is the music which adds that sparkle to the precious dance form Bharatanatyam which originated from Bharata’s Natya Shastram.

Bharatanatyam is danced to the Carnatic music. The mathematical precision of Bharatanatyam equals that of Carnatic Music measure for measure.Bharatanatyam is based on Natya Shastra, which is also a sacred book for Music as one can say that after the Samaveda this was the only text that talked about music in detail. In fact Bharata Muni has dedicated chapters 28-34 talking about music at length.

The Natyasastra clearly expresses rasa­bhava­prakriya, a yardstick used for all dance and musical dhruvas and abhinayam.The Natya shastra talks about Dhruva Ghana which were mainly songs used to enhance the entire dance drama. The term Raga was first described in the Natya Shastram along with demonstrating the usage of scales in  intervals of  2, 3 or 4 srutis. The Natya shastram classifies musical instruments into four categories, which include Tata (lutes), Sushira (flute), Ghana (cymbals), Avanadha (drums) and also speaks about the principles of usage of all classes of instruments , talas and even the Gandharva music.

Talams of the carnatic music play a vital part in the dance concert since the singer has to match the mrudangam and the dancer’s beats. Normally the talams for most of the songs sung in a dance concert tend to be Adhi talam an 8 beat talam though some of the more difficult ones would have to match beats of Ata talams and Jhumpa talams in various jathis.

Though carnatic music has an everlasting impact on this dance form the carnatic music which is sung for a dance recital varies from a pure music kutchery.

1. In any carnatic kutchery the opening is done with a Varnam where as in a dance recital Varnam comes much longer after Pushpanjali, shabdham and Alarippu.

2. The layam of the music has to match the Bhavams of the dancer on the stage unlike a pure music recital where the singer is the master/owner of the Layams and delivers it in the best way he chooses to.

3. While in a music concert, the singer can sing a composition in different talas and speeds, this cannot happen in a dance concert. The number of times even a line is repeated depends on the choreography of the dance.

It can be concluded with a sloka from the Sangeetha Shastram which clearly implies that Music and Dance are incomplete without each other:

Geetham Vadhyam Thatha Nrityam Thrayam Sangeetha Mucchyathe

Sangeetham comprises of Geetham ( songs), Vadhyam( instruments) and Natyam( Dance)


Ref:, Sangeetham Shastram book

– by Ashraya Ananthanarayanan.  Ashraya has been an Online Bharatanatyam student since 2009. Ashraya is an eight grader and author of two books Ring of Hope and Aria. She was also crowned the State Spell Bee champion in 2013. She also manages the SOHAM music newsletter of Shruthilayam Academy and has won the Veena Gayathri award for proficiency in Music. 

She was chosen as the winner of Prathyogitha a carnatic music competition held in PA by Judge Smt. Vidya Subramanian for her vocal talent at a tender age of seven. She was proud to be featured in one of the shows of Raagarasika. She is an ardent lover of Bharatanatyam and enjoys learning under her guru Smt. Anjali Nandan. 


  1. Smita

    Thanks for all the information. Additionally, the sequence in which all the matter is explained, it makes the whole matter more interesting.

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