Janaki Sooriyarachchi

........... Bharata Natyam is poetry in motion, tracing its hoary origins in the Natya Shastra, written by the great sage, Bharata, it is a highly traditional and stylized dance form. Crystallized in the cast-iron mould of Bharata's technique, this art form grossly disallows new-fangled innovations or gimmicks except in repertoire and forms of presentation. Emerging far back in the labyrinthine twists of ancient history (as information for the date conscious, 4000 B.C. is the ascribed date to the Natya Shastra), Bharatanatyam has been immortalized in successive generations, as much by the sinuous grace of great dancers as by the nimble fingers of renowned sculptors who have demonstrated the perfection of Bharata's technique in the flowing lines of temple sculptures.

The general interpretation for the name is
BHA va(expression) + RA ga (music) + TA la(rhythm) + NATYAM (dance) = Bharatanatyam

Origin of Bharatanatyam

The Gods & Goddesses pleaded Lord Brahma to create another veda which would be simple for the common man to understand. It is believed that considering this request Lord Brahma created the Panchamaveda , Fifth veda, Natyaveda , an essence of the other four vedas. It is believed that he has taken pathya (words) form the Rigveda, abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajurveda, get (music and chant) from Samaveda and rasa (sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda to form the fifth veda, Natyaveda.

After creating this natyaveda, Lord Brahma gave the same to sage Bharata and asked him to popularize this veda on earth. Following the words of Lord Brahma, sage Bharata wrote Natyashastra or the Science of Dramaturgy, a great, comprehensive work on the science and technique of Indian drama, dance and music. Bharatanatyam might have got its name from sage Bharata also.The dancers still follow this work to perform.

Janaki Sooriyarachchi

There is also another story which says that Goddess Parvathi taught this dance form to Usha, daughter of Banasura, a demon. Usha taught the same to the Gopikas of the city of Dwaraka, Lord Krishna's birth place. Thus the divine dance form Bharatanatyam was introduced to the mankind.

In Indian mythology, Lord Shiva is considered as the supreme lord of dance. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva & his wife Goddess Parvathi. The Dance performed by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava , which depicts his violent nature as the destructor of the universe. The tandava performed with joy is called Ananda Tandava and performed in violent mood is called Rudra Tandava . There are 7 types of Tandava. Namely Ananda Tandava, Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava. There are few people who believe that there are 16 types of Tandava. Tandava has vigorous, brisk movements.The dance performed by Goddess Parvathi is known as Lasya , in which the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic also. Some scholars call Lasya as the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya has 2 kinds. Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya .

The art form has definitely gone through lot of changes over the years. In olden days it was performed mostly by female artists. They were called Devadasi s, who would perform in the temples. These devadasis were accomplished artists who would sing, dance, play many instruments. They were well worsed in sanskrit & other languages which helped them to interpret compositions which they would perform. But this tradition came to an end as the devadasis lost their position in the society.
Then the dance entered the royal courts. Here the artists called Rajanartakis , performed in the courts of kings who gave them shelter.Even these were accomplished artists like devadasis .

The next well-documented period of dance history is far more recent. In the first half of the 19th century the dance tradition was revitalized and defined anew through 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 dance movements of pure dance into a progressive series of lessons [adavu chapters]. Each adavu (basic unit of motion) was taught in systematic order and then combined with others to produce choreographed sequences based upon the rhythmic contour of a musical composition (Krishnamoorthy Pillai). In addition the brothers composed new music specifically for the dance, and introduced a different sequence of items which integrated the various aspects of dance and music into a carefully coordinated, aesthetically sound progression. This infusion of creative energy marks the early 19th century as one of the most innovative periods in the history of Indian dance.

The contribution of Udayshankar, Rukminidevi Arundale and Balasaraswathi, in the 20th century, cannot be forgotten at this juncture.

Even though Bharatanatyam has gone through lot of changes, it still has its roots deep into the religious and rich mythological heritage of India. In the modern day scenario it is performed by both male & female artists. Many learn as a hobby and few make it as a profession. Whether taken as a hobby or a profession it certainly needs lot of practice,concentration and dedication.

About Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam is evenly divided between three elements Nritta, Nritya and Natya .

Nritta : Rhythmic Element.Interprits the language of rhythm with the help of body movements.

Nritya : Combination of Rhythm with Expression .Conveys poetic meaning with the help of expressions, rhythmic gaits and postures. e.g.. Varna, Shabda, Pada etc.

Natya : Dramatic Element. Performing for a theme like Ramayana, Mahabharata etc.

Nritta can be broadly divided into Chari, Karana, Angahara and Mandala. Movement of a leg is called Chari. Movement of both the legs is Karana. 3 Karanas make a Khanda. 3 to 4 Khandas make a Mandala. 4 to 9 Karanas make a Angahara. 4 to 5 Angaharas also make a Mandala. 108 Karanas and 32 Angaharas are defined in Natyashatra. The 13 Nritta Hastas (explained later) are used to perform nritta. The rhythmic body movements along with hand gestures are called Aduvu s. Number of aduvus constitute a Jati . Jati will generally end with a Muktaya or Teermana .
There are varieties of Aduvus like,

  • Tattaduvu
  • Mettaduvu
  • Nataduvu
  • Kattaduvu
  • Kudittamettaduvu
  • Maiaduvu
  • Mandiaduvu
  • Jati
  • Nadai
  • Ardi

There are 12 aduvus in each of the above explained. Hence 120 aduvus exist in total. Only about 70 - 80 are in practice. The aduvus are more or less Karanas. Hence can be concluded that there are 108 aduvus. The 108 Karanas or Aduvus are carved in the Chidambaram Temple in Tanjore, Tamilnadu, India. To perform an aduvu aramandi , bending of the knees is very very important.

The entire body is divided as Anga, Pratyanga and Upaanga.
Anganyatra shirohastau vaksha paarshwakateetatau
Paadaviti shaduktaani greevamapyapare jaguhu

Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, Legs are the Six Angas. Some people include Neck also.

Pratyangaani twathaskandhau baahoo prushtam tathodaram
ooroo janghe shadityahurapare manibandhakau
jaanooneekoorparamiti trayamapyadhikam jaguhu

Shoulders, Arms, Stomach, thighs, Knee are the Six Pratyangas. Some people include Wrist, elbow and Ankle also.

Drushtibhrooputatarashcha kapolau naasikaahanuhu
Adharodashanaa jihwaa chubukam vadanam tatha
Upaangani dwadashitaanyanyaanyangaani santi cha
Paarshnee gulbautathangulyaa karayoho padayostale

Sight, Eyebrow, Eye lids, Eye balls, Cheeks, Nose, Gums, Lower Lip, Teeth, Tongue, Chin and Face are the 12 Upaangas. Few people include Heels, Fingers, Feet, Palm also into upaangas.
Pratynaga and Upaangas should move along with the Angas.
Anga Lakshana , the way of moving body parts, are described below.

  • Shirobhedha - Head Movement
  • Greevabhedha - Neck Movement
  • Drushtibhedha - Eye Movement
  • Padabheda
    • Mandala - Standing Posture
    • Utplavana - Leaps
    • Bhramari - Circling Movement
    • Chari - Leg Movement
  • Gatibhedha - Characteristic walks and
  • Hastas or Mudras - Hand Movements
    • Asamyuta Hasta
    • Samyuta Hasta
    • Deva Hasta
    • Dashavatara Hasta
    • Navagraha Hasta
    • Jaati Hasta
    • Bandhu Hasta
    • Nritta Hasta

Janaki Sooriyarachchi


Samam Udvahitam Adhomukham Alolitam Dhutam
Kampitancha Patavruttam Utkshiptam Parivahitam.

Samam = Keeping head straight
Udvahitam = Lifting the head up
Adhomukham = Putting the head down
Alolitam = Rotating the Head Clockwise & Anti-clockwise
Dhutam = Nodding the head as if to say "NO"
Kampitam = Shaking the Head
Paravruttam = Lifting the head from right side
Utkhiptam = Lifting the head from left side
Parivahitam = Nodding the head as if to say "YES".


Sundareecha tirashcheena tathivaparivartita prakampitachabhavagny gneyagreeva chaturvidha

Sundari = Neck movement on both sides
Tirashcheena = Above movement with increase in speed
Parivartita = Movement to the corners
Prakampita = Moving the neck like a rooster


Samam Alolitam sachi pralokita nimeelite Ullokita anuvruttecha tathachivavalokanam

Samam = Looking Straight
Alolitam = Turing eye balls clockwise & anti-clockwise
sachi = Looking to the sides without turning the head
Pralokana = Looking to the sides alternatively without turning the head
Nimeelana = Looking down
Ullokana = Looking Up
Anuvrutta = Looking Up & Down
Avalokana = Looking deep down.


There are 10 categories in Mandala. They are

  • Sthanaka - Stand Straight with Ardhachandra Hasta on the waist
  • Aayata - Keep 12 inch distance between the feet and bending the knees a little.
  • Aaleedha - Keep the right foot 3 feet in front of the left foot, holding shikhara hasta in the left and katakamukha hasta in right hand
  • Prenkhana - Stand with one foot on the knee of the other and holding koorma hasta
  • Prerita - Hit the floor hard with one leg, bend the knees, keep the other foot a little further, hold shikhara in one hand, near the chest and pataka in another, stretched away
  • Pratyaleedha - Opposite of Aaleedha
  • Swastika - Keep right leg across the left leg and right hand across the left hand
  • Motita - Sit on toes, touch the ground with knees, alternatively
  • Samasoochi - Touch the ground with toes & knees
  • Paarshwasoochi - Sit on toes, touch the ground with one of the knees in one side

Sthanaka Mandala is further classified as

  • Samapaada - Stand Straight. While worshipping the god this is used.
  • Ekapaada - Stand with one foot on the knee of the other. To show a Saint in Penance this is used.
  • Naagabandha - Twist one leg with the other & one hand with the other. To show a pair of snakes this is used.
  • Aindra - Bend one of the legs little and lift the knee of the other and keep the hands as usual. To show Indra this is used.
  • Garuda - Bend the left leg keeping the foot completely on the floor, bend the right leg and sit on the right leg. This is used to show the bird Garuda, Lord Vishnu's Vehicle.
  • Brahma - Sit down, cross the feet like Padmasana. This is used to show meditation.


There are 2 types of Utplavana. They are,

  • Alaga - Hold Shikhara hasta on the waist and jump
  • Kartaree - Hop on the toes, hold Kartareemukha hasta behind the left leg and hold shikhara hasta, upside down on the waist
  • Ashvotplavana - Hop forward on one leg and bring the other leg together,hold tripataka hasta in both the hands
  • Motita - Hold tripataka hasta in both the hands, jump like Kartaree Utplavana on both side
  • Krupaalaga - Jump in such a way that the heel touches the back side


There are 7 types of Bhramari. They are

  • Utplutabhramari - With Samapaada Sthanaka, jump & turn around
  • Chakrabhramari - Hold tripataka hasta in both the hands and turn around while dragging the legs on the floor
  • Garudabhramari - Keep one of the knees on the ground, stretch the other leg and turn around
  • Ekapaadabhramari - Stand on one leg and turn around with the other
  • Kunchitabhramari - Jump and turn around folding the legs up
  • Aakaashabhramari - Jump , spread the legs apart and turn around
  • Angabhramari - Keep the legs 12 inch apart and turn the body around


There are 8 types of Paadachari. They are

  • Chalanachaari - Walk casually
  • Chankramanachaari - Walk while keeping the legs sideways
  • Saranachaari - Walk while dragging one feet and bringing the other together without lifting the heel from the ground
  • Veginichaari - Walk fast while changing alapadma & tripataka hasta alternatively
  • Kuttanachaari - Walk while tapping the feet hard on the floor
  • Lunthitachaari - Stand in Swastikamandala and perform kuttanachaari in the front leg
  • Lolithachaari - Perform kuttanachaari in one leg and walk slowly with the other one
  • Vishamachaari - Walk while the legs are twisted together


There are 10 unique ways of Gathibhedha(Gait). They are

  • Hamseegathi - Walk while keeping one foot in front of the other and sway with each step, hold kapitha hasta in both hands. (Walk like a Swan)
  • Mayooreegathi - Stand on the tip of toes, hold kapitha in both hands and fold up the legs for each step. (Walk like a Peacock)
  • Mrugeegathi - Hold tripataka in both hands and run around like a Deer
  • Gajagathi - Hold pataka hasta near the ears, walk very slowly with Samapaada
  • Turangineegathi - Lift the right leg, hold shikhara in left hand and pataka in right hand and jump with the left leg.(Like a Horse)
  • Simheegathi - Hold shikhara hasta in both hands, jump on the toes and move forward. (Like a Lion)
  • Bhujangeegathi - Hold tripataka in both hands & walk as explained in simheegathi. (Like a Snake)
  • Mandookeegathi - Like simheegathi.
  • Veeragathi - Hold shikhara hasta in left hand, pataka in right and walk as though coming from far.
  • Maanaveegathi - Keep the left hand on the waist, katakamukha in right and walk while turning around for each step.


The way a hasta/mudra is held, is divided into 12 Pranalakshana ie 12 different ways of holding a hand.

  • Prasarana Hasta - The fingers are stretched
  • Kunchita Hasta - The fingers are folded
  • Rechita Hasta - The fingers are given movement
  • Punchita Hasta - The fingers are folded or moved or stretched
  • Apaveshtita Hasta - The fingers are bent down
  • Prerita Hasta - The fingers are bent back or moved or stretched
  • Udveshtita Hasta - Holding the hands UP while dancing
  • Vyavrutta Hasta - Hands help UP in the sides
  • Parivrutta Hasta - Hands are brought together from sides (like a namaskara)
  • Sanketa Hasta - Hands used to convey Implied Meanings
  • Chinha Hasta - While dancing a dancer tries to show lot of things which are visible & invisible like a person's physical appearence, face, weapons, places of limbs & other parts of the body, his/her influence on others, their mannerisms etc. Hands used to show such things are called Chinhe
  • Padarthateeke - Hands used to confirm the meanings of certain words

The hand gestures are divided as

  • Asamyuta Hasta - Single hand gestures
  • Samyuta Hasta - Double hand gestures

There are 28 asamyuta hastas & 24 Samyuta hastas. Each hasta has a defined usage called Viniyoga. These viniyogas are again sanskrit shlokas written in Natyashastra.

  Asamyuta Hasta

Pataka tripatakordhapataka kartareemukhaha
Mayurakyordhachandrashcha arala shukatundakaha
Mushtishta shikarakyashcha kapitha katakamukhaha
Suchee chandrakala padmakosham sarpashirastata
Mrugasheersha simhamukho langulasolapadmakaha
Chaturo bramarashchiva hamsasyo hamsapakshakaha
Samdamsho mukulashchiva tamrachooda trishoolakaha
Ashtavimshatihastanaam evam naamaanivikramat.

  Samyuta Hasta

Anjalishcha kapotashcha karkata swastikastatha
Dolahasta pushpaputaha Utsanga shivalingakaha
Katakavardhanashchiva kartaree swatikastata
Shakata shankha chakrecha samputa pasha keelakau
Matsya Koorma Varahashcha Garudonagabandakaha
Khatwa bherundakakhyashcha avahitastathivacha
Chaturvimshatisankhyakaha samyuta katithakaraha

The Viniyoga (usage) of these are described below.

Hasta Viniyogas

Asamyuta Hasta
Samyuta Hasta

Using the above two, one can show lot of other things in dance like

  • Deva Hasta
  • Dashavatara Hasta
  • Navagraha Hasta
  • Jaati Hasta
  • Bandhu Hasta
  • Nritta Hasta

Asamyuta Hastas

Pataka Hasta

Stretch all the fingers & hold them tightly together to show Pataka Hasta.

Nattyaarambhe Vaarivaahe Vane Vastunishadhane
to begin the dance, clouds, forest, to refuse something
Kuchasthale Nishanyaamcha Nadhyaam Amaramandale
to show breasts, night sky, river, the heavens
Turage Khandane Vaayau Shayane Gamanodyame
horse, strike down, wind, sleeping, to go quietly
Prataapecha Prasaadecha Chandrikaayam Ghanaatape
to indicate greatness, to offer something, moonlight, bright sunlight
Kavaattapaattane Saptavibhaktyarthe Tarangake
to open a door, seven scriptures, waves
Vithipraveshabhaavepi Samatvecha Angaraagake
to enter a street, to show equality, to anoint ones body
Aatmaarthe Shapathechaapi Tushnimbhaavanidarshane
to show oneself, to take an oath, to show silence
Aashirvaadakriyaayaamcha Nripashreshtasyabhaavane
to bless,ideal king,
Taalapatrecha Khettecha Dravyaadisparshane tatha
palm leaf, shield, to touch things
Tatratatretivachane Sindhautu Sukrutikrame
to indicate such and such person, ocean, to indicate everything is alright
Sambhodhane Purogepi Khadgarupasyadharane
to address a person, going forward, sword
Maase Samvatsare Varshaadine Samaarjane tatha
month, year, rainy season, to sweep
Evamartheshuyujyante Pataakahastabhavanah
these are the different usages of Pataka Hasta

Tripataka Hasta

Bend the fourth finger & hold the rest tightly, like in pataka hasta to show Tripataka Hasta.

Makute Vrukshabhavecha Vajre Taddharavasave
Crown, Tree, Weapon of Lord Indra, Lord Indra
Ketakee kusume Deepe Vanhijwalavigrumbhane
Ketakee Flower, Lamp, to show flames
Kapole Patralekhayaam Baanarthe Parivartane
Cheeks, Letter writing, Arrow, Changing
Streepumpsayosamayoge Yujyate Tripatakakaha
Getting together of Man & Woman Tripataka is used.

Ardhapataka Hasta

Bend the fourth & the last finger and hold the rest tightly like in Tripataka Hasta to show Ardhapataka Hasta.

Pallave Phalake Teere Ubhayoritivachake
Sprouts, Board, Banks of rivers, to show two persons
Krukache Churikayancha Dhwaje Gopura Shrungayoho
Hack Saw, Sword, Flag, Shrine, Horns
Yujyaterdhapatakoyam Tatatkarmaprayogataha
Ardhapataka is used to show all these things.

Kartareemukha Hasta

Hold Ardhapataka Hasta. Then make an angle between the second & third fingers (like in scissors) to show Kartareemukha Hasta.

Streepumsayostuvishleshe Viparyasapadepicha
Separation of Man & Woman,differentiation
Lunthane Nayanantecha Marane Bhedabhavane
Stealing, Glance, Death, Showing Difference
Vidyudarthe Ekashayya Virahe Patanetatha
Lightning, Single Bed, Pain of Separation, Falling Down
Latayaam Yujyatechayam Kartareemukha Isyate
Creeper Kartareemukha is used for all these things.

Mayura Hasta

Hold Tripataka Hasta but touch the fourth finger with the thumb to show Mayura Hasta.

Mayurasye Latayancha Shakune Vamanetatha
Peacock, Creeper, Bird, Vomiting
Alakasyapanayane Lalate Tilakeshucha
Curls, Forehead, Dot on the Forehead(bindi)
Netrasyodakavikshepe Shastravade Prasidhake
Tears, Predictions, Famous
Yevamartyeshu Yujyante Mayurakarabhavanaaha
To show all these meanings Mayura Hasta is used.

Ardhachandra Hasta

Leave the thumb in the Pataka Hasta to show Ardhachandra Hasta.

Chandre Krishnashtameebhaje Galahastadikepicha
Moon, Krishna's Birthday, pushing out holding the neck
Bhallayudhe Devatanaamabhishechanakarmanee
Weapon, worshipping the gods
Bhukpatrecha Udbhave Katyaam Chintayaam Aatmavachake
Plate, Creation, Waist, Worrying, Saying that "It is mine"
Dhyanecha Prarthanechapi Angasamsparshane tatha
Meditation, Praying, Touching the Limbs
To salute the common man Ardhachandra Hasta is used.

Arala Hasta

Fold the second finger in Pataka Hasta to show Arala Hasta.

Vishamrutadipaneshu Prachandapavanepicha
Drinking Poison or Nectar, Thunder storm
Yujyateraalahastoyam bharattagamakovidhihi
Arala Hasta is used to show all these things.

Shukatunda Hasta

Bend the fourth finger in Arala Hasta to show Shukatunda Hasta.

Baanaprayoge Kuntarthe Marmoktaaugrabhavane
To Shoot an Arrow, Weapon, Saying Cunning things, Showing Fury
Shukatundakarogneyo Bharatagamavedhibhihi
Shukatunda Hasta is used for all these things.

Mushti Hasta

Fold all the fingers in to the palm & keep the thumb on them to show Mushti Hasta(like a fist).

Sthire Kachagrahe Dardhye Vastraadeenaanchadharane
Strength, Dragging by the Hair, Courageous, Holding Things
Mallanaam Yudha bhavecha Mushtihastoyamuchyate
Wrestling To show all these Mushti Hasta is used.

Shikhara Hasta

Stretch the thumb finger in Mushti Hasta to show Shikhara Hasta.

Madane Karmukhe Sthambe Nishabdhe Pitrutarpane
Cupid, Bow, Pillar, Silence, Offerings to the dead ancestors
Oshte Pravishtaroopecha Radane Prashnabhavane
Lips, Entering, Teeth, Questioning
Ange Naasteetivachane Smarane Abinayaantare
Limbs, saying 'NO', Recollection, At he end of an expression
Katibandhakarshanecha Parirambhavidhoudhave
Tying around the waist, Hugging
Shaktitomarayormokshe Ghantanadecha Peshane
Weapon names Shakti, Weapon called Tomara, Ringing the Bell, Churning
Shikharo Yujyatesoyam Bharatagamavedhibhihi
Shikhara Hasta is used to show all these things.

Kapitha Hasta

Fold the second finger on the thumb in the Shikhara Hasta to show Kapitha Hasta.

Lakshmyamchiva Saraswatyam Veshtane Taladharane
To show Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati, Going Around, Holding the symbols(Tala)
Godohanechanjanecha Leelattasumadharane
Milking the cows, Putting eye liners, Holding Flowers
Chelanchaladigrahane Patasyivavakuntane
Holding the Saree(pallu), Draping a cloth on the face
Dhoopadeepaarchanechapi Kapithasamprayujyate
To Hold Lamp and Incense, Kapitha Hasta is Used.

Katakamukha Hasta

Bring together the thumb, index & middle fingers & stretch the other two fingers at an angle to show Katakamukha Hasta.

Kusumapachaye Muktasrajaam Daamnancha Dharane
Plucking the flowers, Pearl necklace, Wearing Flowers
Sharamandaakarshanecha Nagavallee Pradanake
Getting attracted by the cupid arrows, Giving Beetle Leaf
Kastoorikadi Vastoonaam peshane Gandhavasane
Showing Kastoori & other Perfumes, Enjoying the perfumes,
Vachane Drushtibhavecha Katakamukha Ishyate
To show Talking & Seeing Katakamukha Hasta is used.

Suchi Hasta

Stretch the index finger & bring together all others to show Suchi Hasta.

Ekarthepi Parabrahmabhavanayam Shatapicha
Showing Number One, Showing Para Brahma, To show 100
Ravou Nagaryam Lokarthe Tathepivachanepicha
Sun, City, Universe, Saying 'That's how it is'
Yachabdepichatatchabdhe Vyajanarthepitarjane
Asking 'when, why, who, how?', Scaring
Karshye Shalakavapushe Ashcharye Venibhavane
Thin or Skinny, Wonder, Showing the hair
Chatre Samarthe Konecha Romalyam Bheribhedhane
Umbrella, Capable, Room, Excitement,
Beating an instrument called Bheri
Kulalachakrabhramane Rathange Mandaletatha
Showing potter's Wheel, Wheel of a chariot, Group of People
Vivechane Dinantecha Suchi Hasta Prakeertithaha
Thinking, Evening all these are shown using Suchi Hasta.

Chandrakala Hasta

Stretch the thumb finger in Suchi Hasta to show Chandrakala Hasta.

Yesha Chandrakalaa chandrakallayame Vyujyate
This Chandrakala Hasta is used to show Moon.

Padmakosha Hasta

Bend all the fingers towards the palm to show Padmakosha Hasta.

Phale Bilwa Kapithadou Streenaamcha Kuchakumbhayoho
To show Fruits like Bilwa & Kapitha, Breasts
Vartule Kanduke Swalpabhojane Pushpakoshake
Round, Ball, Small quantity of food, Bud
Sahakaraphale Pushpavarshe Manjarikadishu
Mango, Rain of flowers, Bunch of Flowers
Japakusumabhavepi Ghantaroopa Vidhanake
To show Flowers, Bell
Valmeeke Kumude Ande Padmakoshobhidheeyate
Anthill, Lilly, Egg Padmakosha Hasta is used.

Sarpasheersha Hasta

Bend the fingers a little in Pataka Hasta to show Sarpasheersha Hasta.

Chandane Bhujage Mande Prokshane Poshanadishu
Sandalwood paste,Snake, Slow, Sprinkling, Caring
Devarshudakadaaneshu Hyaspale Gajakumbhayoho
Holy water, Elephant's Forehead
Bhujaasphaletu Mallanaam Yujyate Sarpasheershakaha
To show the muscles of wrestlers Sarpasheersha hasta is used.

Mrugasheersha Hasta

Stretch the thumb & the little fingers in Sarpasheersha Hasta to show Mrugasheersha Hasta.

Streenamarthe Kapolecha Krama Maryadayorapi
To show Women, Cheeks, Way of doing things, To show respect
Bheete Vivade Nepathye Aavasecha Tripundrake
Scare, Argument, Back Stage, The place of living, Forehead
Mukhamukhe Rangavalyom Paadasamvahanepicha
Meeting of people, Sacred Design on the floor, Massaging the feet
Sarvasammelanekaarye Mandire Chatradharane
Getting people together, house, Holding an umbrella
Sopane Padavinyase Priyahvane Tathivacha
Stairs, Gait, To call the loved one
Sancharecha Prayujyeta Bharatagamakovidhihi
To show Movement this hasta is used.

Simhamukha Hasta

Touch the middle & the ring finger with thumb & stretch the second & little fingers to show Simhamukha Hasta.

Vidrume Mouktikechiva Sugandhe Alakasparshane
to show Coral, Pearl, Fragrance, Curls
Aakarnanecha Prushati Moksharthe Hrudisamstitaha
Hearing, Point, Salvation, Heart
Home Shashe Gaje Darbhachalane Padmadamini
Sacred fire, Rabbit, Elephant, Sacred Grass, Flower
Simhanane Vaidyapakashodhane Simhavakrakaha
Lion's face, Examine the medicinal preparations Simhamukha Hasta is used.

Langoola Hasta or Kangoola Hasta

Fold the ring finger in Padmakosha Hasta to show Langoola Hasta.

Lakuchasya Phale Balakuche Kalharake tatha
To show Lemon, Breasts of a teenager, Flower called Kalhara
Chakore Kramuke Baalakinkinyam Ghutikadike
A bird called Chakora, Beetle nut, Jingles, Tablets
Chaatake Yujyatechayam Kangoolakaranaamakaha
A bird called Chataka Kangoola Hasta is used.

Alapadma Hasta

Stretch & hold all the fingers at an angle to each other to show Alapadma Hasta.

Vikachabje Kapithadiphale Chaavartake Kuche
Lotus, Fruit Called Kapitha, Turning, Breasts
Virahe Mukure Poornachandre Soundaryabhajane
Pain of seperation, Mirror, Full moon, Beautiful things
Dhammille Chandrashalayaam Grame Uddhata Kopayoho
Knotted Hair, Moon Chamber, Village, Height, Anger
Tataake Shakate Chakravake Kalakalaarave
Lake, Cart, Bird Called Chakravaka, Sound of Birds, wind, water
Shlaghane Solapadmashcha Keertito Bharatagame
To Praise Alapadma Hasta is used.

Chatura Hasta

Stretch all the fingers, hold the little finger at an angle to the other fingers & fold the thumb & touch the bottom of the ring finger to show Chatura Hasta.

Kastooryaam Kinchidapyarthe Swarnataamraadilohake
Fragrance called Kastoori, To show small quantity, Gold and other metals
Aardre Khede Rasaaswade Lochane Varnabhedake
Wetness, Sadness, Taste, Eye, Differentiate colors
Pramane Sarase Mandagamane Shakaleekrute
Promise, Romance, Slow movement, Breaking
Aasane Ghruta Tailadou Yujyate Chaturakaraha
Seat, Melted Butter, Oil Chatura Hasta is used.

Bhramara Hasta

Touch the Middle finger with thumb, bend the second finger completely, stretch the last two fingers at an angle to show Bhramara Hasta.

Bhramarecha Shuke Yoge Saarase Kokiladishu
To show Honey Bee, Parrot, Meditation(Yoga),
Birds Called Sarasa & Kokila
Bhramaraabidhahastoyam Keertito Bharatagame
Bhramara Hasta is used.

Hamsasya Hasta

Touch the index finger with thumb & hold the other fingers at an angle to show Hamsasya Hasta.

Mangalyasootrabandhe Chapyupadeshe Vinishchaye
Tying the sacred thread of marriage, Advice, Decision
Romanche Mouktikadoucha Chitrasamlekhane tatha
Excitement, Pearls & other precious stones, Drawing
Damshetu Jalabindoucha Deepavarteeprasarane
Fly, Drop of water, Wick of the lamp
Nikashe Shodhane Mallikadou Rekhavalekhane
Polishing, Searching, Jasmine & other flowers, Drawing a line
Malayaamvahane SohambhavanayanchaRoopake
Holding garland, To say 'i am Brahma'
Naasteetivachanechapi Nikashanamchabhavane
Saying 'No', Looking at the polished article
Krutakrutyepi Hamsasyaha Eerito Bharatagame
Hamsasya Hasta is used to show all these things.

Hamsapaksha Hasta

Stretch the Little finger in Sarpasheersha Hasta to show Hamsapaksha Hasta.

Shatsankhyayaam Setubandhe Nakharakankhanetatha
To show number 6, Bridge, Impression of the nails
Vidhane Hamsapakshoyam Keertito Bharatagame
Way of doing thing Hamsapaksha Hasta is used.

Samdamsha Hasta

Hold the Padmakosha Hasta, close & open the fingers often to show Samdamsha Hasta.

Udaare Balidanecha Vrane Keete Manobhaye
To show Generosity, Sacrificial Offering, Wound, Insects, Fear
Archane Panchavakravye Samdamshakyobhidheeyate
Offering Worship, Number 5 Samdamsha Hasta is used.

Mukula Hasta

Touch the tips of all the fingers to show Mukula Hasta.

Kumude Bhojane Panchabane Mudradidharane
To show Lilly, Eating, Cupid,Smearing sacred marks on the body
Naabhoucha Kadaleepushpe Yujyate Mukulakaraha
Belly button, Banana Flower Mukula Hasta is used.

Tamrachooda Hasta

Hold the Mukula Hasta, separate the index finger, bend a little to show Tamrachooda Hasta.

Kukkutadou Bake Kaake Ushtre Vatsecha Lekhane
To show Rooster,A bird called Baka, Crow, Camel, Calf and to show letters
Tamrachooda Karakhyasou Keertito Bharatagame
Taamrachooda Hasta is used.

Trishoola Hasta

Fold the thumb & the little finger, stretch the other fingers & hold them together to show Trishoola Hasta.

Bilwapatre Tritwayukte Trishoolakara Eeritaha
To show a leaf called Bilwa & to show the number 3
Trishoola Hasta is used.

Samyuta Hastas

Anjali Hasta

Hold Pataka in both the hands & join the palms to show Anjali Hasta.

Devataguru Vipranaam Namaskarepyanukramaat
To salute God, Teacher & the Learned hold the Anjali Hasta
Karyasshiromukhorassu Viniyojyonjalikaraha
above the head, in front of the face &
in front of chest respectively.

Kapota Hasta

In Anjali Hasta, only the borders of the hands are joined(Palm should not touch one another) to show Kapota Hasta.

Pramaana Gurusambhasha Viniyogeekrutishwayam
To make promise, Speak to the teacher, To be Polite,
To Agree this hasta is used.

Karkata Hasta

Bring the fingers of both the hands between one another to show Karkata Hasta.

Samoohadarshane Tundadarshane Shankhapoorane
To show Crowd, Thick articles, Blowing of Shankha
Angaanaam Motane Shakhonnamanecha Niyujyate
Stretching Limbs, Bending the branches of a tree this hasta is used.

Swastika Hasta

Hold Pataka Hands & cross the hands at the wrist so that the hands are opposite to each other to shoe Swastika Hasta.

Samyogena Swastikakhyo Makararthe Niyujyate
This hasta is used to show Alligator
Bhayavade Vivadecha Keertane Swastikobhavet
To Talk in fear, to Argument and to praise this hasta is used.

Dola Hasta

Hold Pataka Hasta, stretch the arms & keep the hasta upside down along the hip line to show Dola Hasta.

Naatyarambhe Prayoktavya Iti Natyavidovidhuhu
This hasta is used in the beginning of a dance.

Pushpaputa Hasta

Hold Sarpasheersha in both the hands & join them at the wrist to show Pushpaputa Hasta.

Neerajanavidhou Baala Phaladigrahane tatha
To show Lamp Offering, Children, Accept Fruits
Sandhyayaamarghyadanecha Mantrapushpe Niyojayet
Offering to the Sun in the evenings, Chant Holy prayers
This hasta is used.

Utsanga Hasta

Hold Mrugasheersha Hasta in both the hands, cross the hands, touch opposite shoulders to show Utsanga Hasta.

Aalinganecha Lajjayaam Angadaadipradarshane
To Embrace, To show shyness, To show one's body
Baalaanaamshikshanechaayam Utsango Yujyatekaraha
To deciplinne children Utsanga hasta is used.

Shivalinga Hasta

Hold Ardhachandra Hasta in the left hand(palm up), keep shikhara Hasta in right hand & place it on the left hand to show Shivalinga Hasta.

Viniyogastutatsyva Shivalingapradarshane
This Hasta is used to show Shivalinga (Lord Shiva).

Katakavardhana Hasta

Hold Katakamukha Hasta in both hands, cross the hands at the wrist to show Katakavardhana Hasta.

Pattabhisheke Poojayam Vivahadishu Yujyate
To show Coronation, To worship and to show weddings
this hasta is used.

Kartareeswastika Hasta

Hold Kartareemukha Hasta in both the hands & cross the hands at the wrist to show Kartareeswastika Hasta.

Shakhaasucha Adri Shikhare Vruksheshucha Niyujyate
To show the branches of a tree, tip of Mountains, Trees
This hasta is used.

Shakata Hasta

Leave the thumb & the middle fingers in Bhramara Hasta. Hold like this in both the hands & cross at the wrist to show Shakata Hasta. Another way of showing Shakata Hasta is to cross the Arala Hastas at the wrist.

Raakshasaabhinayechaayam Niyukto Bharatadibhihi
This hasta is used to show Demons.

Shankha Hasta

Hold the Left thumb with the last three fingers of the right hand, stretch the other fingers of the left hand, stretch & touch the thumb & index fingers of the right hand with the stretched fingers of the left hand to show Shankha Hasta.

Shankhaadishuniyujyoya Mityevam Bharataadayaha
This hasta is used to show Conch.

Chakra Hasta

Hold Ardhachandra hasta in both the hands, place them one above the other like a Plus(+) mark to show Chakra Hasta.

Chakrahastassa vigneya chakrarthe viniyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Chakra, the weapon of Lord Vishnu.

Samputa Hasta

Hold Chakra Hasta, fold the thumb & little fingers in both the hands to show Samputa Hasta.

Vastvaacchchade Samputecha Samputahkara Eeritaha
To cover things and to show the sacred box in which the
idols are placed this Samputa Hasta is used.

Paasha Hasta

Hold Suchi Hasta in both hands, bend the index finger a little & join these fingers like a chain to show Paasha Hasta.

Anyonyakalahe Paashe Shynkhalaayaam Niyujyate
To show Playful Quarrel, Rope, Chains this hasta is used.

Keelaka Hasta

Hold Mrugasheersha Hasta in both hands, bend the little finger a little & join these fingers like a chain to show Keelaka Hasta.

Snehecha Narmalaapecha Viniyogosya Sammataha
To show friendly talk this hasta is used.

Matsya Hasta

Hold Pataka hasta in both the hands, place them one above the other, stretch the thumb a bit (like fins of fish) to show Matsya Hasta.

Etasya Viniyogastu Matsyarthe Sammatobhavet
This hasta is used to show Fish.

Koorma Hasta

Opposite of Chakra Hasta is Koorma Hasta i.e Stretch the thumb & little fingers & fold the other fingers in Chakra Hasta to show Koorma Hasta.

Koormahastasyavigneyaha Koormarthe Viniyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Turtle, Tortoise

Varaha Hasta

Hold Mrugasheersha hasta in both hands, place them one above the other to show Varaha Hasta.

Etasyaviniyogastu Varaharthe tu Yujyate
This Hasta is used to Show Boar (Wild Pig)

Garuda Hasta

Hold Ardhachandra in both the hands, turn them & hold them with the thumbs to show Garuda Hasta.

Garudo Garudarthe cha Yujyate Baratagame
This Hasta is used to show a bird called Garuda.

Nagabandha Hasta

Hold Sarpasheersha in both the hands & cross them at the wrist to show Nagabandha Hasta.

Bhujagadampatee Bhaave Nikunchanaamcha darshane
To show Snakes, Creeper Chamber
Athrvanasya mantreshu Yojyo Bharatakovidhihi
Atharvana Veda Shlokas this hasta is used.

Khatva Hasta

Hold Chatura Hasta in both hands, place the hands one above the other, stretch the index fingers down to show Khatva Hasta.

Khatvahastobhavedeshaha Khatvaadishu Niyujyate
This Hasta is used to show Bed.

Bherundha Hasta

Hold Kapitha Hasta & cross them at the wrist to show Bherundha Hasta.

Bherundhapakshi Dampatyorbherundhaka Eteeritaha
To show a bird couple called Bherundha this hasta is used.

Avahittha Hasta

Hold Alapadma in both the hands, cross them at the wrist, place them near chest to show Avahitha Hasta.

Srungara Natanechiva Leelaa Kandukadharane
To show Love, Catching the ball
Kucharthe Yujyate Soyamavahitthakaraabhidhaha
Breasts Avahittha Hasta is used.

Deva Hasta

Name of the Deity Left Hand Right Hand
Brahma Hasta Chatura Hasta Hamsasya Hasta
Shambhu Hasta Mrugasheersha Hasta Tripataka Hasta
Vishnu Hasta Tripataka Hasta Tripataka Hasta
Saraswati Hasta Kapitha Hasta, in line with the shoulder Suchi Hasta
Parvati Hasta Ardhachandra Hasta, held downwards Ardhachandra Hasta, held upwards
Lakshmi Hasta Kapitha Hasta, in line with shoulder Kapitha Hasta, in line with shoulder
Vinayaka Hasta Kapitha Hasta, in front of chest Kapitha Hasta, in front of chest
Manmatha Hasta Shikhara Hasta Katakamukha Hasta
Shanmukha Hasta Trishoola Hasta Shikhara Hasta
Indra Hasta Tripataka Hasta Swastika Hasta
Agni Hasta Kangoola Hasta Tripataka Hasta
Yama Hasta Paasha Hasta Suchi Hasta
Niruti Hasta Khatva Hasta Shakata Hasta
Varuna Hasta Shikhara Hasta Pataka Hasta
Vaayu Hasta Ardhapataka Hasta Arala Hasta
Kubera Hasta Padmakosha Hasta Ardhachandra Hasta

Dashavatara Hasta

The 10(Dasha) incarnations(Avatara) of Lord Vishnu can be shown like this.

Name of the Avatara Left Hand Right Hand Position of the Hands
Matsya (Fish) Tripataka Hasta Tripataka Hasta First show the Matsya hasta and then hold tripataka hasta in both the hands, in line with shoulders.
Koorma (Tortoise) Tripataka Hasta Tripataka Hasta Show the Koorma hasta and then hold tripataka hasta in both the hands, in line with shoulders.
Varaha (Wild Bore) Show the Varaha hasta and then keep both hands on the waist.
Narasimha (Half Man & Half Lion) Simhamukha Hasta Tripataka Hasta Hold the hands in front of the chest.
Vamana (Dwarf) Mushti Hasta Mushti Hasta, turned down Hold the left hand little below the left shoulder and the right hand little above the waist, like showing the sacred thread.
Parashuraama Keep the hand on the waist Ardhapataka Hasta Stretch the right hand above the head at an angle.
Raama Shikhara Hasta Kapitha Hasta Hold the left hand above the shoulder level, like holding a bow and stretch down the right hand, like holding an arrow.
Balaraama Mushti Hasta Pataka Hasta Hold the hands in front of the chest.
Krishna Mrugasheersha Hasta Mrugasheersha Hasta Both the hands are held near the mouth with mrugasheersha hasta opposite to one another, like holding the Flute
Kalki Tripataka Hasta Pataka Hasta Hold the hands in front of the chest.


Navagraha Hasta

Name of the Graha Left Hand Right Hand
Surya Alapadma Hasta Kapitha Hasta
Chandra Alapadma Hasta Pataka Hasta
Kuja or Mangala or Angaraka Suchi Hasta Mushti Hasta
Budha Mushti Hasta, held horizontally Pataka Hasta
Bruhaspati or Guru Shikhara Hasta Shikhara Hasta, both hands held like showing the showing the sacred thread.
Shukra Mushti Hasta Mushti Hasta, held upside down  
Shani Shikhara Hasta Trishoola Hasta  
Raahu Sarpasheersha Hasta Suchi Hasta  
Ketu Suchi Hasta Pataka Hasta

Jaati Hasta

Name of the Jaati

Left Hand

Right Hand

Rakshasa Hasta

Shakata Hasta

Shakata Hasta, help near the mouth

Brahmana Hasta

Shikhara Hasta

Shikhara Hasta

Kshatriya Hasta

Shikhara Hasta, held horizontally

Pataka Hasta

Vyshya Hasta

Hamsasya Hasta

Katakamukha Hasta


Bandhu Hasta

Relationship Left Hand Right Hand
Dampati (Married Couple) Shikhara Hasta Mrugasheersha Hasta
Maatru (Mother) Ardhachandra Hasta , held near the stomach Samdamsha Hasta
Pitru (Father) Ardhachandra Hasta , held near the stomach Shikhara Hasta
Swashru (Mother-in-law) Hamsasya Hasta, held near the neck Samdamsha Hasta
Swashura (Father-in-law) Hamsasya Hasta, held near the neck Shikhara Hasta
Bhartru Bhaatru (Brother-in-law) Shikhara Hasta Kartareemukha Hasta
Nanand (Sister-in-law) Show the above hasta and then show Mrugasheersha Hasta in right hand  
Sodara (Brother Mayura Hasta Mayura Hasta
Putra (Son) Shikhara Hasta Samdamsha Hasta, held near the stomach
Snusha (Daughter-in-law) Show the above hasta and then show Mrugasheersha Hasta in right hand  
Sapatni (Second Wife) Mrugasheersha Hasta First Paasha Hasta and then Mrugasheersha Hasta


Nritta Hasta

13 Hastas are categorized under Nritta Hasta. They are so named because of their usage in Aduvus. There are different ways of holding the Nritta Hastas. They can be held
- Facing Upward
- Facing Downward
- To the Right
- To the Left
- In Front
Depending on the footwork, the nritta hastas should be held in proper places.
The 13 Nritta Hastas are

  • Pataka
  • Swastika
  • Dola
  • Anjali
  • Katakavardhana
  • Shakata
  • Paasha
  • Keelaka
  • Kapitha
  • Shikhara
  • Koorma
  • Hamsasya
  • Alapadma

When all Angas(main body parts) coordinate (along with pratyanga and upaanga) the artist is said to have Angashudhi. Anga meaning body parts and shudhi , meaning perfect. Any dancer should try to achieve this perfection. The Natyashastra, which talks about all aspects of Bharatanatyam, quotes shlokas to perform all the above movements. All the above said movements are dealt in detail in the respective links.

Aspects of Abhinaya

The expressions which are shown to express poetic meanings is Abinaya. Here the emphasis is more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. The Abinaya is divided as

  • Angikabhinaya
  • Vachikabhinaya
  • Aharyabhinaya
  • Satvikabhinaya

Angikabhinaya : Expressing the meanings of lyrics using the body parts like Head, Hands, Legs etc. is Angikabhinaya. The Bhedas which i have explained above come under Angikabhinaya.
Vachikabhinaya : Expressing the Story using narrations in the dance drama is Vachikabhinaya.
Aharyabhinaya : Imitating the Costumes, Jewellary, Make-up etc. in a dance comes under Aharyabhinaya.
Satvikabhinaya : Showing the Bhava(moods) come under Satvikabhinaya.

Lord Shiva is praised as the embodiment of the above 4 types of abinaya in this following shloka.

Angikam bhuvanam yasya
Vachicam sarva vangmayam
Aharyam chandra taradi
tam vande satvikam shivam.

Meaning for the above shloka is

We bow to Him the benevolent One
Whose limbs are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all language,
Whose costume is the moon and the stars..."

In Lord Shiva's well-known pose of NATARAJA ,
his right hand holds the drum of creation - symbolizing a new awakening
his left hand holds fire - representing destruction of the old order
his other right hand is raised in blessing
the other left hand points to his left foot, which has crushed demon Muyalaka - representing ignorance.

There are nine main or primary emotions, Sthayibhava s. It is also termed as Rasa (Mood).

  • Shringara - Love
  • Hasya - Mirth
  • Veera - Heroism
  • Roudra - Anger
  • Bhayanaka - Terror
  • Bheebatsa - Disgust
  • Adbhuta - Wonder
  • Karuna - Compassion
  • Shanta - Tranquility

Vatsalya(Parental fondling) rasa is also sometimes included as one of the stayibhava.
Vibhava (cause of emotion), Anubhava (effect of emotion) and Sanchari bhava (subordinate emotions) constitute the state of rasa.

Now i would like to talk about Nayika (the Heroine) and Nayaka (the Hero) bhavas.

The Nayika Bhava

The shastras have classified the basic mental status of woman, the Nayika, into Eight divisions, called Ashtanayika bhavas. These divisions portray the heroine in different situations, express different feelings, sentiments & reactions.
The Ashtanayika bhava are

  • Abhisarika
  • Kalahantarika
  • Khandita
  • Proshitapathika
  • Swadheenapathika
  • Vasakasajjika
  • Virahotkantita
  • Vipralabda

Abhisarika - She is the one who boldly goes out to meet her lover.
Kalahantarika - She is the one who is repenting her hastiness in quarrelling with her lover, which has resulted in their separation.
Khandita - She is the one who is angry with her lover for causing disappointment.
Proshitapathika - She is the one who is suffering in the absence of her beloved, who is away on a long journey.
Swadheenapathika - She is the one who is proud of her husband's or beloved's love and loyalty.
Vasakasajjika - She is the one who is preparing for the arrival of her beloved, by decorating herself and her surroundings. to provide a pleasant welcome to her lover.
Virahotkantita - She is the one who is separated from her lover & is yearning for reunion.
Vipralabda - She is the one who is disappointed that her lover has not turned up at the tryst as he promised.

Other classifications of the Nayika bhava are
Mugdha - Inexperienced in love.
Madhya - Partly Experienced in love.
Pragalbha - Matured in the art of love.
This Pragalbha Nayika is further classified as

  • Dheera
  • Adheera
  • Dheeraadheera

Sweeya - Married & faithful to her husband.
Parakeeya - Married but in love with another man.
Samanya - A free woman, who truly belongs to any man for a price.
Jyeshta - The preferred one.
Kanishta - The other woman.

Further classifications are
Uttama - Self-controlled & tolerant.
Madhyama - Literally the middle one, who gives as she gets.
Adhama - Literally the low one, who has no self restraint.

The Companion to the Nayika plays an important role in any padam, javali or Ashtapadi. This Companion is the one to whom the Nayika will convey her feelings, she is the one who will take the message,if any, from the nayika to the nayaka, she is the one who will sort out the differences between the nayika & the nayaka. This companion is usually a girl who is close to the Nayika.
The classification of the Companion is as follows.

  • Daasi - Servant
  • Sakhi - Friend
  • Kaaroo - Woman from a lower caste
  • Chatriya - Step Sister
  • Prativamshini - Neighbor
  • Lindini - Saint
  • Shilpani - Artist
  • Swaa - Nayika herself as a messenger

The Nayaka Bhava
Just like the heroines, the moods and emotions of the hero are also classified into different divisions. The main division is

  • Dheerodaatta eg. Lord Rama
  • Dheeroddhata eg. Demon Ravana
  • Dheeralalita eg. Vatsaraaja
  • Dheerashanta eg. Buddha

The other classification is
Pati - Married & faithful to his wife.
Upapati - Married but in love with another woman.
Vaisika - One who pays & enjoys women.

Further Nayaka classifications
Anukoola - Faithful to the Woman. eg. Lord Rama
Dakshina - Loves all his wives or women. eg. Arjuna
Drishta - When rejected, pleads to be accepted by his woman. eg. Vaali
Shatha - The deceitful one. eg. Lord Krishna

Most of the ashtanayika bhavas are experienced by the Nayaka also though the depiction of ashtanayika is more than the nayaka.
Nayaka's Companion plays an important role too.This companion is categorized as

  • Peetamardhana
  • Vita
  • Cheta
  • Vidooshaka


Arangetram is a tamil word. Aranga meaning raised floor and Etram meaning climbing in Tamil,one of the south indian languages. It is also called Rangapravesha in Kannada, another south indian language, Ranga meaning Stage and Pravesha meaning Enter. Ideally this should be the first public performance of an artist. After learning bharatanatyam under the guidance of an accomplished guru, this is the occasion for the proud guru to present his/her deciple to the public. This is the testing time for both the guru & the shishya(deciple) as the guru's knowledge & the deciple's talent both are judged by the public. Hence, the guru will decide when the deciple is ready for public appearance. At least 10 - 12 years of training is necessary to give a commendable performance.

This arangetram was known as Gejjepooje in old mysore district, meaning worshiping the jingles in kannada, a south indian language.For a dancer, jingles are considered divine. In olden days, deciple's were not allowed to wear jingles till their first public performance. In their first performance, they were made to worship the jingles, wear them & then perform.
Accompaniments play a major role in the making of a memorable dance performance. Basic accompaniments are a Singer, Mridangam player, Violin player and of course the Natuvanga. Veena,Flute and other instruments are optional. These people sit in the corner of a stage or in a place in front of the stage which will be in a lower level than that of the stage.
The artist will wear lot of Jewellary, make-up and a specially stitched dress. Jingles are a must.
Usually duration of an arangetram will be 2 1/2 - 3 hours. To perform for such long hours one must have good stamina and concentration. This time is divided into two halves.

In the first half the artists generally perform

  • Pushpanjali or Alaripu
  • Jathiswaram
  • Shabdam
  • Varnam

In the second half

  • Padam
  • Ashtapadi or Devaranama
  • Tillana
  • Managalam

This is an item where the artist salutes to god, guru and the audience. This item is a warm up item where the artist prepares the body for the next few hours of vigorous performance.

This is a tamil word. Alar meaning to bloom. It comprises of set of movements without any meaning or expression. The movements are performed for syllables set for a beat (Tala). The complexity of the movements gradually increase. The steps are so formed that it looks like a bud blooming into a flower. This is also a warm up piece to prepare the body for the next few hours of performance. Even though there is no meaning, this can also be considered as an item where the artist salutes god,guru and the audience. Alarippu , the opening dance of invocation, is ordinarily danced to a purely rhythmic accompaniment played on a drum capable of great variety of tonal color, the Mridangam . The chiming of small brass hand cymbals played by the nattunavar or dance master, represents certain patterns of recited vocal syllables which are used in teaching the various movements of choreography. The recited syllables, in turn, represent the sounds of the drum. The dance master, recites some of the syllable patterns aloud when a certain type of dance sequence known as tirmanam is performed in subsequent concert pieces. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows alarippus in three, four, five and seven beats respectively.

Jatisvaram is a musical form similar to the rondo, in which a refrain (heard first at the very beginning) alternates with three or four sections of contrasting melody. There are no words, but the melodies employ the Indian sol-fa syllables (sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni) for the seven scale degrees. These are known as swaras. Jatis are rhythmic patterns or compositions and comprise an arrangement of solfeggios in rhythmic patterns. Indian melody conforms to certain modal types known as ragas. Each raga has a particular scale, certain ornaments associated with its tones, traditional melodic phrases, various musical aesthetics, and emotional nal connotations which help to give it a unique character and mood of its own called raga bhava.

This is a dance item with both nritta & abinaya. Usually the theme of the lyrics will be devotional like praising lord krishna, depicting lord krishna's childhood , praising a king etc.The movements here are leisurely . Shabdam is often sung in a medley of ragas, known as ragamalika. The form is simple consisting of four or five sections of poetry in different ragas, set in seven beats (misra chapu)separated by short passages of drum syllables chanted in the raga scale. This is the only instance where the syllables are sung rather than spoken. The text usually praises a king or a specific deity. The challenge here is for the dancer to keep a steady flow of gestures and mime to this densely compact text in seven beats. Short sequences of abstract dance are done to the syllables which separate the various poetic sections. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least three shabdams.

This is the item where the dancers are tested for their capacity to perform abinaya & nritta. This can be treated as a benchmark to judge the artist's talent.The item will contain many complex steps and will have lot of room for expressions also. To perform this item one should have lot of stamina & concentration. The lyrics can be devotional, praising a king etc. Varna can also have shrigara rasa as its theme.

Varnam is a complex music form, and the basis for an even more complex dance. The main item on the program, it may sometimes be performed from a half hour to an hour depending on the expertise of the dancer. It combines abstract dance and abhinaya (drama). One line of the music, for instance, may be used for a brilliant rhythmic tirmanam as well as for improvisation of the text in drama. The musical and poetic form is in two main, sections. The first consists of Pallavi and Anupallavi , each having two lines of text, and Muktayi (composed) swaras. The latter melody is sung first in swara syllables and then with words. The dancer interprets the syllables as abstract dance movement,and the words in drama. Sometimes the two are combined-the dancer moves about with difficult foot work called tattimettu as she does the gestures. In Pallavi and Anupallavi words are also interpreted in abhinaya , and one line may be danced for some time. Each line generally concentrates on one of the nine rasas, or emotional states: love, bravery, compassion, wonder, humor, fear, disgust, anger and serenity. When the dancer finishes abhinaya for a particular line, she usually concludes with a tirmanam in abstract dance. The second half of the Varnam begins with a refrain melody known as the caranam . This alternates with four or five sections of swaras , in the same type of rondo form found in the jatisvaram . However, in the varnam , each set of swaras also has words, and is immediately repeated with text. The swara passages are done in abstract dance, and the sections with the text in drama. As in many Indian dances, there are moments of repose in the varnam where the dancer steps out of character briefly, before beginning the next portion. This provides an excellent aesthetic device to give both audience and dancer a rest as it were before they experience the intense emotion in the last half of the dance. An experienced Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least seven varnams .

In this dance item the dancer's abhinaya is put into test. It narrates expression of divine love or pangs of separation in love. The tempo is slow and the performance is based on a specific mood of love.Padams will have Nayaka (Hero, Supreme lover, Divine Lord)& Nayika (Heroine, the yearning soul). Heroine will talk to her friend(sakhi) and narrate her feelings towards her hero. The lyrics can be about how the hero has betrayed, how he has delayed the arrival, how she is angry with her beloved hero etc. Padams follow the intermission and are considered the piece de resistance of this style. They are love songs in slow tempo sung to a highly ornamented and expressive melody. The text is interpreted on many levels; one text, for example, might be treated as the relationship of a lover and beloved, or as the devotee and deity. The ragas are called rakti ragas that are rich in emotional expression.

It is here in padam interpretation that the dancer relies heavily on raga bhava , her ability to sense the underlying mood of the raga . The luxuriant movement of the melodic ornamentation has a direct influence upon the movement of gestures and entire body. A padam is interpreted solely through drama, and the rhythm, though often slow, is the subtle foundation for every movement that the dancer makes. The musical form is tripartite: pallavi, anupallavi, and caranam

These are poet Jayadeva's Sanskrit compositions called Geetagovinda , an extremely romantic composition. It describes the love of Krishna and Radha in twelve cantos containing 24 songs. The songs are sung by Krishna or Radha or by Radha's maid. Each Canto is named differently considering Krishna's status of mind.

  • Saamodadamodara - Joyful Krishna
  • Aakleshakeshava - Careless Krishna
  • Mugdhamadhusoodhana - Bewildered Krishna
  • Snigdhamadhusoodhana - Tender Krishna
  • Saakankshapundareekaksha - Longing Krishna
  • Kuntavaikunta - Indolent Krishna
  • Naagaranaaraayana - Cunning Krishna
  • Vilakshalakshmeepatihi - Abashed Krishna
  • Mandamukunda - Languishing Krishna
  • Chaturachaturbhuja - Intellegent Krishna
  • Saanandadamodara - Blissful Krishna
  • Supreetapeetambara - Ecstatic Krishna

Expressions are given foremost importance while performing these poems. Needs lot of grace. The artist should be mature enough to understand the lyrics and the situation to show the rasas.

This item is a devotional piece where the lyrics are in praise of god, describing the god etc. This is a pure abhinaya item with almost no emphasis on nritta. Usually the lyrics are in Kannada. These songs are the compositions of great mystics like Purandharadaasa, Kanakadaasa, Vijayadaasa, Vyasaraaja to name a few. The compositions are popularly known as Daasa Sahitya. It is a devotional literatures written in simple language understood by common man. It has made remarkable contribution to the spiritual and cultural upliftment of people by preaching philosophy of Love, Devotion and Peaceful Coexistence.

This is usually the last item in any bharatanatyam performance. Tillana is full of complicated movements & postures. This will also have complicated Muktayas or Sholkattu , ending of any step or aduvu. This is mainly a nritta piece which might have a charana , a meaningfully lyrics for which abinaya is shown. Tillana is the concluding item of abstract dance counter-balancing the alarippu , and is performed to a rhythmic composition using sol-fa and drum syllables with a small amount of text. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least four tillanas

Meaning ending the performance. Here the artist will again salute god, guru & the audience for making the performance a success.


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