Bharatnatyam 1 is a performing medium through which one can express a philosophy of life which aims to fulfill the needs of one’s spirituality (not only the performer but also the observer). We assert that there is a fundamental difference between an “expert” and an “artist”, and that this difference is the ability to achieve technique and then forget it. Once the artist becomes the expert, the performance leads the observer towards bliss.

The fifth Veda 2 Natyaveda 3 was written by Bharata 4, to simplify the essence of the four Vedas (Samveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda and Rigveda) and lead the common man towards an understanding of the philosophies of life. The main subjects of the narration were stories from Mahabharata, Ramayana 5, Puranas 6, etc.

The timelessness of any art depends entirely on the cultural values of the prevailing society. If these values are conserved, then the art lives forever. In India, these cultural values were passed on to each generation through stories from epics and the Vedas. These stories were enriched with Indian philosophies and mythologies that portrayed every possible human experience and emotion. During British Rule, this art almost died due to the rulers’ disrespect towards traditional cultural values; but the art was revived soon after the independence.

This paper aims to discuss the techniques and the hidden stories expressed through the body, which acts as a vehicle leading towards salvation.

An Introduction to Bharatanatyam 7

India has a strong tradition of narratives. For a very long time the ancient Indian educational system relied on oral traditions for the transfer of information and knowledge. The Vedas were ‘Shruties‘ i.e., to be learnt by hearing. Thus education depended on memory as the only repository until the art of writing became the mandate for education. To simplify complex philosophical concepts, a narrative medium was adopted. Hence stories of wisdom from epics, Puranas, formed the base of education. These stories actually express every kind of human experience. The narratives were expressed through various mediums. Apart from scriptures and writings, art was an important medium of communication, e.g. paintings, sculptures, architecture, music, and dance.

It is known that the art of Dance and Singing have grown and flourished together for centuries. But dance is believed to be older than the art of singing. Primitive humans were only able to express feelings or thoughts through vocal sounds, but there were no words. Language came into existence after the art of writing progressed (Kulkarni 1987).

From dance and music to abstract art, the concept of life is interpreted. We use arts as a means of touching that part of us that we cannot reach with Physical Science, Social Science, or any of the other Humanities. Art plays a valued role in creating cultures and developing and documenting civilizations; it teaches us how to communicate through creative expression.

We know that medium plays an important role in understanding the subject. In today’s context, there is a vast difference of perception when you read a story from a book and when you see the same story through the medium of movies. The latter is direct, very easy to grasp and translate; but at the same time it is tendentious, leaving very little room for the observer to imagine. The former, though more demanding in terms of effort on the reader’s part, opens a vast world of imagination for the reader to explore. Depending upon the gravity of the text, the oral / written version creates a broad, open space for the perceiver to operate in.

Bharatanatyam, a technique of story performing, is unique, in that it provides an experience between the literary and the visual. It gives an observer the required freedom to imagine within a stipulated set of guidelines or frameworks. To read, one must know the language of scripts; similarly, for decoding dance one must grasp the language of dance which comprises three aspects: Nritta, Nritya and Natya.

Nritya is a combination of Nritta and Natya. In nritya, meaning is conveyed through stylized hand gestures, facial expressions, mime and action; these in turn augment the emotions and sentiments conveyed by the dancer (Kothari 1979b:71).

The concept of Rasa and Bhava 8 emerges here. This particular aspect of dance is most communicative. And the examples are shabdam, padam, javali, varnam etc. When abhinaya(acting) enters the dance, it becomes a narrative or a story. The viewer starts relating the dance to a certain storyline. The dancer creates that entire space necessary for the storyline in front of the viewer. This space is a ‘temporal’ space created with body movements and hand gestures, and the viewer imagines it in his own way, perceives it individually; taking clues from the first sequence, the viewer relates to the next sequence of spaces – all through the ‘nritya‘ of the dancer.

Nritta consists of bodily movements and patterns of dance which are decorative and convey no meaning. Nritta means pure dance.

Nritta is subdivided into static positions or poses, and dynamic movements and compositions in space. The static positions are basically the standing and seating postures. These anga lakshana,movements and compositions, are further subdivided into head movements, neck movements, eye movements, hand gestures and leg movements. All these movements can be put together to give rise to karanas leading to adavus. Adavus are abstract patterns of sequences of karanas. Systematic compositions of the adavus gives rise to the nritta sequences such as alaripu, jatiswaram, tillana, etc. One hundred and eight karanas followed by adavus are the basic dance units, i.e. the basic grammar or vocabulary of dance. Pure dance has two basic constituents, thetala and laya, the time measure and the rhythm. Timing and orderly sequencing (rhythm) play an important role in nritta. Alaripu, jatiswaram, tillana, and the nritta passages in shabdam, varnamand swaranjali are the examples of pure nritta. They are just abstract sequences of patterns for the observer, yet they evoke beauty (Vatsyayan 1968).

Natya is the dramatic element expressed in the dance form. In natya, expressions, mime, action, dance and movements are added to the spoken word. The natya is subdivided as dharmi – modes of presentation, vritti – styles of presentation, and abhinaya – types of acting.

There are two modes of presentation, i.e. pure drama and music drama/dance drama, and there are two styles of presentation i.e. tandava and lasya (Vatsyayan 1968). Tandava nritya, the cosmic dance of Shiva, is known as a dance of destruction. It consists of aggressive movements and a crescendo of rhythm. The dance is characterized by fury as well as energy. Tandava produces vigorous, brisk movements. It abounds in virility. When the dance is performed by GoddessParvati (wife of Shiva), it is known as Lasya, where the movements are soft, gentle, and graceful and sometimes seen as erotic.

There are four types of abhinaya. – angika, vachika, aharya, satvika. Angika abhinaya is basically body movements, hand gestures, body postures etc. Vachika abhinaya is the speech and song that accompanies the dance. Aharya abhinaya is basically costumes, jewellery and facial makeup.Satvika abhinaya is very important and deals with expression of psychic states. The dancer registers on her face the appropriate expressions in keeping with the spirit of the song, and creates the right mood. If the dancer is highly engrossed in the character that she is playing, then thissatvik abhinaya becomes a strong aspect of presentation. It adds soul to the overall performance. For example, bhagavat mela incorporate all types of abhinayas (Kothari 1979a:75).

But in Bharatanatyam, abhinaya is usually restricted to satvik and angik abhinaya. As it is mostly a solo performance and the dress code is also fixed, the depiction of evil and good is accomplished only with satvik and angik abhinaya. Unlike drama, the dancer does not have props or stage sets or different costumes to depict the environment and the character he or she is playing. She has to use her body as the tool to portray the desired character. She plays more than one character at a time. Hence her body language has to change rapidly, and should be quickly identifiable by the audience.

Thus the language of dance is technical, systematic, orderly, yet flexible. It offers a vast scope for permutations and combinations. The success of these narratives depends upon the basic technique (nritta) of the dancer along with his involvement in the character, understanding of the character and power of expression. In order to portray the emotions and actions of the characters from the stories, the performer must not only understand divinity but also the humanity (philosophy) as a whole.

Thus one can say that the role of a dancer is like a ‘priest’.

Her body acts as a vehicle to salvation. For that the dancer must be trained and the training gives the technique. But there is an inner and subtle quality that creates the fundamental difference between the expert and the artist. This quality is to achieve the technique and forget it. A truly spiritual artist is one who forgets himself and in that forgetfulness achieves the bliss which is called Ananda (Arundale 1979:16).

To give the observer a cosmic feeling, the dancer has to go beyond the self, the surrounding, and even the technique of presentation to achieve union with God, and thereby experience pure bliss – the satvik ananda. Here humanity and divinity merge. To really experience this bliss, the observer or the audience also should have a spiritual base, and an understanding and respect for Indian culture.

For a successful communication, there has to be a chemistry between the ‘conceptual’ and the ‘perceptual’. The conceptual notions encoded by the dancer and the perception deciphered by the perceiver. This dialogue succeeds if the communication is mutually concurrent, and the comprehension is thorough. (Pandya 2005:12).

Origins of Bharatanatyam

If we take references from history, the origin of bharatanatyam has a number of stories associated with it. The term ‘Bharatanatyam‘ was introduced by Rukmini devi Arundale, and is thought to derive from: BHAva (expression) + RAga (music) + TAla (rhythm) + NATYAM(dramatic art).

Earlier this art was known as ‘dasiattam‘ or ‘sadir natyam’ during the time of Devadasis 9 .Bharatanatyam has its origin inTamil Nadu (South India). It is the most ancient of all the classical dance forms in India, which are based on Natya Shastra 10, the Bible of the classical Indian dance [100 BC – 200 AD].

There are various versions of the mythological origins of Bharatanatyam. Here we have documented those origins. This chronological development, when studied, displays a lot of ups and downs, including the dark ages in the history of this art. But one thing is quite evident, that the art is ‘timeless’ because its practice today is virtually the same as it was thousands of years ago.

Mythological origin

Gods and Goddesses pleaded with Lord Brahma for another Veda to be created that would be simple for the common man to understand, which was particularly important in Kali Yuga. Granting their wish, Lord Brahma created the Panchamaveda, the NatyaVeda, an essence of the main four Vedas. Brahma took padya (words) from the Rigveda, abhinaya (communicative elements of body movements, mime) from the Yajurveda, geet (music and chant) from Samaveda, and rasa (aesthetic element) from Atharvaveda to form the fifth Veda, NatyaVeda. After creating this Veda, Lord Brahma bestowed it to the sage Bharata, and asked him to propagate it on earth. Sage Bharata wrote the Natyashastra. It became the most authoritative text on the artistic technique of classical Indian dances. It is also possible that the term Bharatanatyam derives its name from sage Bharata.

Another version of the origin of Bharatanatyam is that Goddess Parvati taught this dance art toUsha, daughter of demon Banasura. Usha handed it down to the Gopikas of the city of Dwaraka, Lord Krishna’s birth place.

In the introductory chapter of natyashastra, it is mentioned that the danavas (demons) were troubling the dancers by freezing them into stillness by magic, at the time of their performance in front of the gods. At this time lord Indra rescued them by defeating the demons completely. And a secured enclosure where dance could be performed was constructed. Here the reference of the first ever built theatre by the divine architect ‘Vishwakarma‘ is found. When the demons found that drama depicted their own defeat, they remonstrated with Brahma , and this offered an occasion of dramatic art, not to flatter any party, but to represent the true or essential nature of the world.

Brahma explains to the danavas; ‘this play is not merely for your pleasure or the pleasure of the gods, but exhibits moods for all the three worlds’ (Coormaswami 2003).

Different authors have quoted different stories for the mythological origin of this art. But the gist of all these directs us towards the concept of a union of divinity and humanity.

One can imagine that the Gods and the Goddesses, being dancers themselves, have been passing the art of the heavenly dance through many other human channels, whose aptitude, understanding, and personal idiosyncrasies naturally varied from person to person, and created a number of dance styles.

Legends apart, we have enough evidence to establish that early Vedic rites were performed amidst pleasing aesthetic surroundings, and that dancing constituted an integral part of ceremony. Even the Vedic texts do contain direct references to natya. The art of dancing has been repeatedly mentioned in Rig-Veda, Atharva-veda, and Yajur-veda. A. B. Keith mentions in his ‘religion and philosophy of Vedas’, that dancing played a prominent part in the Vedic rituals relating to the offering of sacrifices to the gods, the consecrations of kings, the performance of marriages and other auspicious functions, the dancers on these occasions being girls.

At the time of Bharata, this art degenerated to the level of vulgar rustic performances of the type of silpakas and dombakas. These silpakas and dombakas are types of very vulgar dramatic representations, including the black art and other despised practices in their themes. Because of this, the noble dance form was cursed to perish and to be devoid of Brahmins by the rishis of the day. However much Bharata implored the rishis to withdraw the curse, but they were unmoved. Finally they lifted the curse laid on the art but confined it to the degeneracy of the nartakas(Ketkar 1963).


Bharathanatyam has undergone a lot of change over the centuries. It used to be and is still mostly performed by women dancers. Centuries ago the Hindu temples in South India had dancers-priestesses called devadasis who would sing, dance Dasi Attam (old Bharatanatyam), and play many musical instruments. They were well-versed in Sanskrit and other languages as they had to adapt compositions to suit the audience. Initially, devadasis led a very strict and pious life and were not allowed to have a family. The devadasi tradition gradually degraded. As the dance entered the royal courts, the dancers were called Rajanartakis, who performed in the royal courts and gradually became royal concubines. British colonial rule completely corrupted the devadasitradition. Britishers literally uprooted the prevailing gurukul hindu system of education, and destroyed the links to the hindu literature. This led to a loss of cultural identity, and a major decline of all art forms in India.

After independence, in the first half of the 19th century, Bharathanatyam was revitalized and redefined by the contributions of four talented brothers known today as the Tanjore Quartet:Chinniah, Sivanandam, Ponniah and Vadivelu. By coordinating their diverse talents, the four managed to organize all the basic Bharathanatyam movements of pure dance into a progressive series, called adavus. Each adavu is a basic unit taught in systematic order and then combined with others to produce choreographed Bharathanatyam sequences based upon the rhythmic pattern of a musical composition. The brothers composed new music specifically for Bharathanatyam, and introduced a different sequence of items that integrated various aspects of dance and music into a carefully coordinated, aesthetically sound progression. This infusion of creative energy marks the early Nineteenth Century as one of the most innovative periods in the history ofBharathanatyam. In the 20th century, the social status and image of Bharathanatyam was restored by Rukminidevi Arundale, the founder of Kalakshetra.

Bharathanatyam has undergone much change, but is still deeply rooted in the spiritual Hinduheritage. It is still practiced in more or less the same way as it was hundreds years ago (Avatar 1984).

The symbolism in the pose of the Nataraja (The God of Indian Classical Dance)

(see figure 1)

The bronze image of Nataraja expresses the theme of Moksha or salvation. The image showsNataraja holding a drum in one hand. The drum symbolizes the power of creation. The other hand holds fire – the destructive force. The drum and the fire in each hand together symbolize the balance between the two elemental forces of creation and destruction.

The lower right hand is the fear negating gesture symbolizing the hand of protection. The second left arm is held gracefully across the chest below the right hand. The right foot tramples on the demon Apasmara symbolizing vice and the ignorance. The lifted left foot denotes the freedom of soul. Here Shiva wears a crescent moon on the head. This shows the control over the mind. His hair is matted and strands interlocked, denoting the forest of knowledge. In these is locked the holy river Ganges which stands for immortality of the soul and source of life. Shiva also wears a serpent round his neck like a garland which is the symbol of wisdom, eternity and also reincarnation. The two different earrings worn by the Nataraja figure are symbolic of the union of ‘shiv – shakti‘ – the ardha narishwar. In spite of depicting the above gestures effectively, the face (mudra) of the image is absolutely calm. This makes the Nataraja – a yogi (Gaston 1982).

According to the Hindu scripture, any art is the embodiment of the five elements of the cosmos i.e., the panchamahabhutas. It is said that, before the world came into existence, there was nothing but a Bindu – a point – from where the universe emerged. The panchamahabhutas ‘Wind, Water, Fire, Earth and Space’ (Vaayu, Jal, Agni, Pruthwi, Aakasha) are reflected in the figure accordingly (see figure 2).

The Ardhamandala posture in Bharatnatyam is said to be formed on the same concept. The body of the dancer is encased in the space and time square. She lowers her body to her half, her naval being The Bindu, i.e. the source of energy. The beginning of the entire dance starts with the basicardhamandali position. This position and the dance that emerged from it can be decoded graphically as ‘shree yantra‘. In the geometrical language, one can express it as a specific arrangement of triangles and lines in the cosmic space. It is important to mention that the union of ‘shiva – shakti‘ is expressed by an upward triangle overlapping with the downward triangle. A triangle balanced on its base is a ‘male’ (purusha) representation, while the inverted triangle is a ‘female’ (prakriti) representation (Vatsyayan 1968).

The rhythmic repetition of such triangles symbolized ‘Shree-Yantra‘. It depicts the VishwaSwaroopa – the entire cosmos. We can very easily explore the triangles of the ‘ardha mandali‘ position geometrically. The straight line of the hands is the base of 1st triangle having the head as its vertex. The straight line joining the knees forms the base of the second triangle, having its vertex at the junction of heels. The straight line of the feet and two lines joining the vertex at the naval, passing through two knees, make another triangle.

In this manner the body of the dancer transforms as the ‘shree-yantra‘. Shree yantra is considered to be the most complex yet the most stable and the most beautiful structure. Shree means wealth and yantra means instrument. Shree yantra is used to achieve affluence, peace and harmony. It also signifies power and spiritualism. It is considered to be the source of attaining the worldly desires and fulfilling all wishes through inner cosmic power and mental strength.

This ardhamandala position makes the body grid for the dancer. This grid is rigid but also flexible in terms of time and space (e.g. though one hand leaves its place and comes out of the grid, forwards or backwards, the other limb has to stay in its original position). When the dancer breaks this grid in the space, it becomes a choreography grid. And when together, these two grids convey a meaning that reaches the audience and forms the cosmic grid.

Dance constitutes space that is dynamic and produced by movements of the dancer. It has time as its fourth dimension. Time and space coexist.

Time, in the Indian psyche, is a cyclic phenomenon. The faith in reincarnation, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, the unending chain of construction, destruction and reconstruction, all reaffirm the belief in he recurrence of time. This cyclic process is also depicted in the dashavatara, the ten incarnations of the lord Vishnu, where even the supreme divine is not spared the cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Pandya 2005:12). In Hinduism, Avatara (the Sanskrit meaning for “descent” viz., from heaven to earth), usually implies a deliberate descent from higher spiritual realms to lower realms of existence for special purposes, often translated into English as incarnation.

The ten most famous descents of Vishnu are collectively known as the “Dasavatara” (“dasa” inSanskrit means ten). This list is included in the Garuda Purana and denotes those avatars most prominent in terms of their influence on human society. The Cycle of Incarnations of Vishnufrom the lowest and less complicated forms of life to the amphibians to wild animals and then higher mammals till he finally reaches the stage of Man and the maryada purushottama (the ideal man) is as given below:

Matsya (fish – aquatic) avatara, Kurma (tortoise – amphibian) avatara, varaha (the wild boar – mammal) avatara, narasimha (half man- beast) avatara, vamana (Brahmin – dwarf) avatara, Parashuram avatar, Shriram avatar, Shrikrishna avatar, Gautam Buddha and Kalki avatar.

The first four are said to have appeared in the Satya Yuga (the first of the four Yugas or ages in the time cycle described within Hinduism). The next three incarnations appeared in the Treta Yuga, the eighth descent in the Dwapara Yuga and the ninth in the Kali Yuga. The tenth is predicted to appear at the end of the Kali Yuga in some 427,000 years time. Here four incarnations have been described in order to understand the larger meaning of the story, which is part of the narrative base for Bharatanatyam.

One must understand that the scope of the authors is limited to documenting the hidden meanings from these stories which convey certain messages for the benefit of the overall mankind and not to judge or comment on the evidence of their existence or reality.

Matsya Avatara

A Kalpa, meaning one cycle of existence with a span of 4320 million years, is equal to one day ofbrahma, the creator of the universe. After the completion of one cycle, brahma falls asleep, marking the end of creation. The vedas are said to reside in him, which are immutable and consist of instructions for creation.

It is said that once brahma yawned and the vedas flew out of his mouth. A demon calledHayagriva stole them instantly to gain immortality. He went deep inside the sea to hide them.

Vishnu witnessed this and changed his form to a fish – matsya. He located a pious king Satyavrata(later known as Manu), who was offering prayers to lord Vishnu by standing in the Water. LordVishnu in the fish form swam into Satyavrata‘s hands. The fish pleaded with him to save its life. He put it in a jar, which it soon outgrew. He then moved it to a tank, a river, and then finally the ocean but to no avail. The fish then revealed himself to be Lord Vishnu and told him that a deluge would occur within seven days that would destroy all life. Therefore, Satyavrata was instructed to take all medicinal herbs, all the varieties of seeds accompanied by the seven saints, along with the serpent Vasuki and other animals.

The deluge occurred and the lord reappeared as promised and advised Satyavrata to board the boat and fasten the serpent Vasuki to his horn as a rope to the boat. Matsya avatara then left to accomplish its mission; he tore apart the vedas from Hayagriva and returned them back tobrahma.

This incarnation of Lord Vishnu was a savior of life on the earth making Manu the progenitor of the whole mankind. This avatara focuses the perceptual love and concern of the benevolentvishnu, for the entire creation of world that had sprouted from the god. In this story, it is evident that the lord Brahma is performing the role of a creator while lord Vishnu is actually maintainingBrahma‘s creation. Here it is important to note that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are part of the ‘trinity’ of creation, maintenance and destruction. Lord Vishnu has appeared on the earth whenever there was a need to protect either the creation of Brahma or the values and morals of that creation.

Narasimha Avatara

Here the lord takes the form of half man and half beast. He assumes the form of a lion-headed man and proves how the little boy Prahalad was a true devotee. The story is basically of destruction of Hiranyakashyapu, a demon. He had received a boon, not to be slain by day or night, by weapons or missiles, neither indoor not outdoors, not on the earth or in the sky, neither by man nor beast. To save innocent people from his harassment, Lord Vishnu took a form of half beast-half man, and killed him placing upon his own lap (neither in the sky nor on the earth), at dusk (neither day nor night), at the doorstep (not inside nor outside the house) with his claws (no weapon).

Narasimha Avatar, is neither man nor lion but a curious amalgamation of both, with all the virtues and almost none of the drawbacks of each species. Narsimha is fundamentally a God of Strength and Energy. This storyline is underlined with a hidden meaning which portrays the concept of grey areas (the intermediate of day and night, the inside and the outside, neither black nor white, etc) and their acceptance in Hinduism.

Vamana Avatarm

The first human form that Vishnu takes in his cycle of avatars is a deceptively simple. He comes as a little dwarf. This form of Vishnu taught King Mahabali that arrogance and pride should be abandoned if any advancement in life is to be made. Mahabali was having delusions of grandeur and he also thought that he was greater than the creator; for he was holding a great festival-sacrifice, and he announced that he would satisfy the desires of all who turned up. Vishnu appeared as an extremely charming little Brahmin boy. His speech and intellect captivatedMahabali, and he proudly promised to grant any wish of the visitor.

In spite of the warnings given by his guru shukracharya, who by now had realized that this littleBrahmin was none other than the lord Vishnu, Mahabali kept his word. This refusal to listen to good advice is indicative in the Hindu Worldview of a willful desire for self-destruction. The Brahmin asked Mahabali for as much as land he could cover by the three paces of his feet. The dwarf suddenly assumed a cosmic galaxy-spanning size and covered the universe in two paces. The third pace was thus a debt upon Mahabali and he asked Vishnu to place it upon his head, as that is the most valuable possession he owned. Vamana placed his foot on is his head and pushedBali into the hell (patala). But, in spite of all this Vishnu was very much impressed by Mahabalias he kept his words to boot. He gave Mahabali the dominion of the entire patala.

It is said that this is a double avatara of Vishnu, one the dwarf Vamana and the other known asTrivikrama when he covers the three worlds in three paces. It is the most complete avatar. Thisavatara is an allegory on the potentiality in every living thing as well as a warning never to underestimate anything because of its appearance.

Shree Ramachandra

Here the lord takes birth as a son of Dasharatha and Kaushalya in Ayodhya. Later he leads life with strict adherence to Satya (truth) and Dharma, despite hardship and personal travails. Vishnutook this Avatara to destroy the evil from this earth and manifest the qualities of noble man –Maryada Purushottama to mankind.

A most powerful demon, ten headed Ravana abducted Rama‘s beloved wife Seeta in the guise of a sage. Rama, with the help of Hanuman (Avatara of Shiva) and his brother Laxmana, defeatedRavana and saved his wife Seeta. He was confronted with the dissatisfaction and distrust of His citizens, after returning to his kingdom with Seeta. And he disowned the Queen of Ayodhya,Seeta, just to strengthen the faith of his citizens and to encourage mankind to adhere to Dharma. This decision was taken while in the shoes of the King, but to prove the sanctity of his relation as a husband, he never married again.

These stories of Dashavatar, if carefully understood, are impregnated with various philosophies. Every act of every character in the story is unique and deliberately designed to give certain guidelines and encourage morals in mankind. Thus there is a great responsibility to be shouldered by the dancer to bring out the exact essence of the story in order to educate the observer.

In India, all forms oconcept of religion. The art of representing the inner experience of the human soul found its highest expression in music and dance. Thus Indian classical dance is essentially a sacred rite. It is the revelation of many thousands of years of culture and civilization. It is pure devotion. (Ragini 1928).


(1.) Bharatanatyam is one of the oldest Indian classical dances.

(2.) The Vedas are the ancient scriptures or revelation (Shruti) of the Hindu teachings. They manifest the Divine Word in human speech. They reflect into human language the language of the Gods, the Divine powers that have created us and which rule over us. There are four Vedas- rigveda, samveda, yajurveda, atharvaveda. Scholars have determined that the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, was composed about 1500 B.C., and codified about 600 B.C. It is unknown when it was finally committed to writing, but this probably was at some point after 300 B.C.

(3.) Natyaveda was compiled from the four Vedas and is known to be the fifth Veda.

(4.) Natyashastra was written by sage, Bharata, who was instructed by Lord Brahma

(5.) Hindu culture is enriched with epics like Mahabharata, written by Sage Veda Vyasa andRamayana, written by Sage Valmiki

(6.) The Puranas are the richest collection of mythology in the world. Most of them attained their final form around 500 A.D. but they were passed on as an oral tradition since the time of Krishna(c. 1500 B.C.). The Puranas are not imaginative; they are actual histories, not only of this planet but of other planets within the creation. Hence the Puranas are like encyclopedias of religion and culture and contain material of different levels and degrees of difficulty.

(7.) ‘Story Performing’ is a phrase coined by the authors to redefine the narrative medium of theatre. Here it is categorically different from the story telling and actual acting in the drama or a moving film. It is similar to opera.

(8.) Rasa is the emotional experience of individual audience members. Rasa is reflected by bhava.Bhava is the emotional expression of the performer.

(9.) Devadasis – In Sanskrit “servant of god”, is a religious practice still found in some Hinducommunities, especially in southern India, whereby young girls are “married” to a deity or a temple.

(10.) Technical Indian literature of dance on which bharatnatyam is based.

(11.) Brahma; the creator, Vishnu; the lord of maintenance and the Shiva; the god of Destruction are supposed to be the parts of the divine trinity.

(12.) Bharatmuni in the first chapter of his work mentions the very same occasion for the performance of dancing.

(13.) Ardha Mandali – the half seating posture in Bharatanatyam is the basic and important posture of the body.


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Ragini, Sri (1928). Nritanjali, an introduction to Hindu Dancing (New York: oriental publishers)

Vatsyayan, Dr. Kapila (1968). Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts (New Delhi: Sangeet Natak Academy)