Classical Dance Form – Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is one of the most famous classical Indian dance forms in the world. It is widely considered to be the mother of various other classical and regional dance forms that are prevalent in different parts of India.


Traditionally, Bharatanatyam is a woman only solo dance performance which originated in the Hindu Devoted temples of Tamil Nadu. Later, it was largely adopted by many other states in South India.

Bharatanatyam has its origin in Natya Shastra, an ancient Indian manuscript written in Sanskrit. Bharatanatyam is a dance form that is used to communicate spiritual ideas and messages using expressions and a range of hand movement and footwork.

Apart from the dancer and the musician, there is a guru, an elderly dance master who not only taught the dancer but also assists her while she performs on stage. Bharatanatyam is very popular and has very deep roots in the Indian society. There are several ancient paintings and sculptures that are dedicated to this performance art.


The Natya Shastra was written during 200 BCE and 200 CE periods where Natyam literally means dance in Sanskrit. Bharata is a mnemonic word that means emotions and feelings. You can find references of Bharatanatyam in a Thillai Natarajar Temple that was built in the 12th century. Not only this, Shiva Temple located in Kanchipuram, dating back to 6th to 9th century CE, contains several wall carvings of dance poses from Bharatanatyam.

Resistance and Fight

In the ancient times, temple performers were also called Devdasi and were considered to be a part of all the rituals that were performed in the South Indian temples. However, during the British rule, Christians started showing contempt towards this traditional dance form, and subsequently, the age old ritual of performing in the South Indian Hindu temples came to an end by a high court order.

After India gained freedom in the 20th century, efforts were made to revive several traditional art forms, and Bharatanatyam saw a comeback. Today, it is considered to have a very rich history, and one of the most difficult dance forms in India.

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