May 18, 2010

Bharatanrityam OR Bharatanatyam

My expresion of taal perhaps matured because of the wonderful dance form that I have been associated with as a child. Jogging back my memory, going for the regular weekend classes felt such a burden during those growing up days. I'd rather wear my sneakers and play base ball than toast in the sun while cycling down from home to the class, of course not to mention the hammering which one got for not stepping right at the beat of my guru-ji's taal!

A few memories that make you the person you are.

The quest around the dance form has deepend ever since. Today I am back to training under a new guru and feel a renewed rigor with which I pursue my talent. Determined that I will reach my arangetram this time I am readying myself with knowledge beyond the practical. I am reaching out to various sources of content to deepen my historical knowledge of this beautiful dance form.

Bharatnatyam is the one of the oldest classical dance form of India which originates from Tamil Nadu and is also popularly known as the 'fifth' veda. As the name depicts it is the combination of Bha-bhava, Ra-raaga & Ta-taala which gave rise to its name.

The spiritual symbolism of Bharatanatyam is a manifestation of the ancient idea of celebration of the eternal universe through the celebration of beauty of the material body.  It consists of elaborate gestures (Mridu Angaharas, movements of limbs), sentiments (Rasas), emotional states (Bhavas). Actions (Kriyas) are its soul. The costumes are charmingly beautiful and love (Sringara) is its foundation.

Some of the well-known interpretations of dance form are by Padma Subrahmanyam that were based on 108 (karana's) brief movement phrases describing specific leg, hip, body, and arm movements accompanied by 52 hasta mudras (hand movements) described in the Natya shastra and other scriptures, and from depictions of the movements in sculpture in five South Indian temples, notably the Chidambaram temple which contains depictions of the full set. Some other Bharatanatyam gurus, such as Adyar Lakshman (Kalakshetra school) and Sheela Unnikrishnan (Mangudi school), as well as the Kuchipudi guru C.R.Acharya have also attempted to reconstruct all the 108 karanas, which were often significantly different from Padma Subrahmanyam's interpretations.

Due to the significant variations in the depictions, and due to the vague textual descriptions, most traditional Bharatanatyam schools considered Padma Subrahmanyam's interpretations as incorrect, which forced her to name her own style as Bharatanrityam rather than Bharatanatyam.

While there are still some elderly devadasis who perform all the 108 karanas, in most contemporary Bharatanatyam or Odissi schools only 50-60 karanas have been transmitted by parampara up to date.

Apart from that, performing of the same karana differ greatly across different classical Indian styles. Currently, as regards the exact technique, there are no established standards and no universally agreed upon interpretations of the texts and sculptures.

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