Bharatanatyam is one of the prominent or well known Classical Dance Art form of India. Originated as a temple dance in south India – Tamil Nadu.

This dance form is mostly based on the Natya Shastra by Bharata Muni and Abhinaya Darpanam by Nandikeshvara.

As per Hindu mythology, all gods and godesses requested the creator Brahma to create fifth Veda which can be learned by common man easily and thus Lord Brahma created the fifth Veda or Natya Veda, which is a combination of the existing four Vedas (Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharvana Veda).  Brahma took pathya or words from Rig Veda, Abhinaya or elements of communication like body movements from Yajur Veda, Geetham or music or chanting from Sama Veda and Rasa or emotional element from Atharvana Veda to create Natya Veda.  This was then assigned to Sage Bharatha to propagate to mankind and sage Bharatha wrote Natya Shastra and with the help of Apsarasas and Gandharvas he performed and

which is a combination of the existing four vedas [ Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Veda]. He propogated this veda on earth through Sage Bharatha, who wrote it down as Natyashastra. Brahma took pathya [ words ] from the Rig veda, Abhinaya [ communicative elements of the body movements] from the Yajur Veda, Geeth [ music and chant] from the Sama Veda, and Rasa [vital sentiment, an emotional element] from Atharva veda, to form the fifth veda – the Natya Veda. Bharatha, together with groups of Gandharvas and Apsaras performed Natya, Nrtta, and Nrtya before Lord Shiva [the Lord of Devine Dance]. Thus Natyabecame the authoritative form of classical Indian dances. The term “Bharatnatyam” partly owes it’s name to Sage Bharatha.


There are various styles of Bharatanatyam and the important and well known forms are as below:

Pandanallur Style

This style of Bharatanatyam derives its name from Pandanallur village, Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu, India. Variety of sitting postures and intense jumps and swift movements characterize this style. Generally, movements in this style appear feminine.

Vazhuvoor Style

Body slightly bending forward and temple statue postures highlights of this style. Movements in this style are relatively slow. I was attracted to this style when I watched how Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam would mesmerise the audience with her extraordinary Abhinaya. Yes. The Abhinaya, giving the scope to the performer to enter the inner dimensions of the main protagonist of the act !!. Both connoisseurs and laymen can connect to this aspect. My guru Natyanilayam Manjeshwar, emphasized the need for natural expressions while performing. This became a center stone of my learning and I started expressing myself instead of just emoting or copying. For me, this aspect alone distinguishes Bharatanatyam from rest of the dance forms.

Kalakshetra Style

This is a modern and a famous style of Bharatanatyam. This is a simplified form of Pandanallur style. Rukmini Devi Arundale started Kalakshetra school of dance and with it, brought grace and respect to the Bharatanatyam dance form. This elevated the Bharatanatyam as a performance in temples to modern dance form. She emphasised not just in linear swift movements but also colourful costumes and stage settings. With this style Bharatanatyam also became a group, synchronised performance.

Melattur Style

Developed from the devadasi style, Melattur Bhagavata Mela by Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer nourished this style. Shringara and Bhakthi Rasa are the main elements of this style.