Bharatanatyam and Kathak – The Traditional Art Of Dancing

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form that claims its source from Tamil Nadu, South India. Most of the sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam dance postures known as karanas. In fact, it is the celestial female dancers or apsaras, who are depicted in many scriptures performing this heavenly dance, known on earth as Bharatanatyam. In the most essential sense, a Hindu deity is revered in royal opulence in his temple and offered a standard set of religious services called arotiks, among which are music and dance that are pleasing to the senses. Bharata Natyam as a dance form and carnatic music set to it are deeply grounded in the devotional mood, Bhakti. Bharata Natyam is said to be the embodiment of music in visual form and an offering of devotion.

Bharatanatyam is the manifestation of the ancient idea of the celebration of the eternal universe through the beauty of the material body.

The physical expressions express a poetic meaning known as Abinaya. It means that the emphasis is more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. Abinaya is divided into four categories:

1. Angikabhinaya

2. Vachikabhinaya

3. Aharyabhinaya

4. Satvikabhinaya

Angikabhinaya : Expressing the meanings of lyrics through the body parts like Head, Hands, Legs etc.

Vachikabhinaya : Expressing the Story via a dance drama

Aharyabhinaya : Imitating the dresses, Jewellery, Make-up etc. in the dance.

Satvikabhinaya: Showing the devotional moods come under Satvikabhinaya.

Lord Shiva is said to be the embodiment of the 4 types of abinaya.

Kathak is a partly narrated dance form based on fast footwork (tatkar), spins (chakkar) and innovative use of the devotional moods in abhinaya. Today it’s more of a form that has been practiced in the past by historical narratives, by kathakas or ancient bards, temple performances and the bhakti movement.

Kathak is an important classical dance in the culture of India, and an increasingly world popular theater art form. The word Kathak comes from katha, which means “pastimes-telling”. ‘Katha kahey so kathak kahaye’, which means one who narrates a pastime through a dance form is a Kathak. Long ago, the performers of kathak known as Kathakars narrated stories in temples of North India. The movement of hands, body and facial expressions used by the Kathakars to enrich the narrative, has given birth to Kathak.

Accoring to history, the earliest reference of this art is found in the Mahabharata, the great epic poem spoken about five thousands years ago. At this early stage the art of Kathak was performed by a group of Brahmins in glorification of the lord.

Change in the Bhakti Era

During the period of fervent worship of Radha and Krishna, Kathak was used to narrate pastimes of these two eternal personalities. Popular performances included Sri Krishna’s exploits in the holy land of Vrindavan, and pastimes of Krishna’s mischiefs as a child.

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