Basic terms


Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest among the classical dance forms prevailing in India.This dance form is said to derive its name from Bharata Muni, the author of natya shastra (treatise on dance) written between 2nd century B.C and 2nd century A.D.This dance form was originally performed in temples by the "devadasis"(servants of god) and it is to them that we owe the preservation of this art form. This art form received great patronage during the golden rule of the Maratha and Chola rulers.The dance was then called "sadir".


Bharatanatyam in its present form was codified by the four brothers Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Shivanandam and Vadivelu collectively famous as the Tanjore Quartrette.

Their compositions form the bulk of dancing even today. Training was imparted by male gurus called "Nattuvannars". This was the time when art received maximum encouragement and dancers were given land and valuables as gifts and were placed in high esteem.

However with the advent of the mughals started the decline of temple dancing. The Mughal rulers brought dancers from Persian states. The devadasis stopped receiving patronage and many of them them started learning persian dance and took to court dancing. The British rule did away with princes and kings. In a desperate move to earn livelihood many dancers who now stopped receiving any kind of patronage took to acts like prostitution. Thus Bharatanatyam fell into disrepute. Girls from good families stopped learning dance and dancing came to be considered as a cheap profession in the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Bharatanatyam was again revived by activists and dancers like Rukmini Devi and E.Krishna Iyer. Rukmini Devi started the institution Kalakshetra in 1936, and since then there has been a wave of reform. Today many recognised universities offer degrees in Bharatanatyam, and artistes are given international recognition and honours. In Bharatnatyam rhythm and enactment go hand in hand to create a beautiful whole. Today there are innumerable male and female dancers all over India and more and more are taking up performing arts as a profession.

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