Bharatnatyam is a classical Indian dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The name Bharatnatyam comes from the combination of two Sanskrit words Bharata (meaning India) and Natyam (meaning dance). With its intricate footwork, graceful postures and expressive gestures, Bharatnatyam has become one of the most popular classical dance forms in India and around the world.What is Bharatnatyam?Bharatnatyam is a highly structured dance form that has its roots in the ancient Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu. Traditionally performed by women, Bharatnatyam is a solo dance form that tells stories through intricate hand gestures, facial expressions, and complex footwork. The dance is accompanied by music, which is usually in the Carnatic style, a classical music genre that originated in South India.History and Evolution of BharatnatyamThe exact origin of Bharatnatyam is unclear, but it is believed to have evolved from a much older dance form called Sadir, which was performed by Devdasis - women who were dedicated to serving the Hindu deities in temples. Over time, Bharatnatyam became a popular form of entertainment for the royal courts of Tamil Nadu, where it was performed by courtesans.During the colonial era, Bharatnatyam was suppressed and even banned by the British authorities, who saw it as a form of immorality. However, with the efforts of Indian artists and reformers, Bharatnatyam was revived in the early 20th century and has since become a popular form of classical dance in India and around the world.Association of Bharatnatyam with Devdasi CultureBharatnatyam has a deep association with the Devdasi culture of Tamil Nadu, where girls were dedicated to serving the gods as temple dancers. Over time, this practice became associated with prostitution, leading to the suppression of Devdasis and the banning of their traditional dance form, Sadir.In the early 20th century, artists and reformers such as E Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale worked to revive Bharatnatyam and to separate it from its association with the Devdasi system. Today, Bharatnatyam is performed by both men and women and is recognised as a highly respected form of classical dance.Opposition and Ban in Colonial RuleDuring the colonial era, Bharatnatyam faced opposition and even a temporary ban from the British authorities, who saw it as a form of immorality. However, the dance form was revived in the early 20th century, thanks to the efforts of Indian artists and reformers. Today, Bharatnatyam is widely recognised as a highly respected form of classical dance.Repertoire of BharatnatyamBharatnatyam has a rich and varied repertoire, which includes both solo and group performances. Some of the popular items in Bharatnatyam include Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, and Tillana. Each of these items has a specific structure and is accompanied by music and rhythm. Bharatnatyam performances are known for their intricate footwork, graceful movements and expressive gestures.Costumes, Instruments and Music in BharatnatyamThe costumes in Bharatnatyam are designed to accentuate the dancer's movements and gestures. Women dancers typically wear a saree, while men wear a dhoti and a shirt. The saree is draped in a specific way, with the pleats tucked in at the back, to allow for ease of movement. The dancers also wear jewellery, including earrings, necklaces and bangles.The musical instruments used in Bharatnatyam performances include the mridangam, a drum and the violin, which are typically accompanied by vocal music. The mridangam provides the rhythmic accompaniment for the dance, while the violin and vocal music provide the melody. The music in Bharatnatyam is usually in the Carnatic style, a classical music genre that originated in South India.Famous Personalities Associated with BharatnatyamOver the years, many artists have contributed to the development and popularisation of Bharatnatyam. Some of the most famous personalities associated with the dance form include:1. Rukmini Devi Arundale: She is credited with reviving Bharatnatyam in the 20th century and bringing it into the mainstream. She established the Kalakshetra Foundation, a school of dance and music, in Chennai, which has trained many renowned dancers.2. Balasaraswati: A famous dancer and musician, she was known for her expressiveness and virtuosity. She was a leading figure in the revival of Bharatnatyam in the early 20th century.3. Yamini Krishnamurthy: One of the most famous Bharatnatyam dancers of her time, she was known for her grace and precision. She later expanded her repertoire to include other classical dance forms.4. Alarmel Valli: A leading dancer and choreographer, she has won numerous awards for her contributions to Bharatnatyam. She is known for her innovative choreography and her ability to convey complex emotions through her performances.ConclusionBharatnatyam is one of the most ancient and beautiful classical dance forms of India, with a rich history and cultural significance. It has evolved over centuries and continues to enchant audiences around the world. From its association with the Devdasi culture to its revival in the 20th century, Bharatnatyam has a fascinating story that has shaped its present form. The dance form's graceful movements, intricate footwork, and emotive expressions continue to inspire and captivate audiences today. If you are interested in Indian classical dance, Bharatnatyam is definitely worth exploring.FAQsWhat is the meaning of Bharatnatyam?Bharatnatyam is a classical dance form that originated in South India. The word Bharatnatyam is derived from two Sanskrit words Bharata, which refers to the author of the ancient text on performing arts, the Natya Shastra, and natyam' which means dance.What is the origin of Bharatnatyam?Bharatnatyam is believed to have originated in the temples of South India, where it was performed as a form of worship. Over time, it evolved to become a secular art form that was performed at royal courts and in public performances.What is the costume worn in Bharatnatyam?Women typically wear a saree, while men wear a dhoti and a shirt. The saree is draped in a specific way, with the pleats tucked in at the back, to allow for ease of movement.What are the musical instruments used in Bharatnatyam?The musical instruments used in Bharatnatyam performances include the mridangam, a drum and the violin, which are typically accompanied by vocal music. The music in Bharatnatyam is usually in the Carnatic style, a classical music genre that originated in South India.Who are some famous Bharatnatyam dancers?Some of the most famous Bharatnatyam dancers include Rukmini Devi Arundale, Balasaraswati, Yamini Krishnamurthy and Alarmel Valli.