Some historical snippets of Bharatnatyam – Part 1

Recently, I was reading through archives of The Journal of Music Academy of Madras (JMA), published since 1929. Foremost, I should thank the Madras Music Academy for making these issues public and accessible for everyone. For dancers, there is a lot of material available for simple reading and as well as for research.

In the earliest issue (1929) the last page caught my attention. An abstract was submitted by Mr. Venkatarama Sarma titled “Bharata Natyam”. I quoting the abstract below:

The term while indicating the name of the author of the science denoted its constituent elements Bhava, Raga, tala. There are different schools in the art as ‘Nandhi Bharatha’ ‘Dattilakohaliya’ ‘Umapatiya’ etc. Information about its origin is meagre. It was connected with religious rites. Brahma composed this natya sastra and considered it as the fifth veda. He gave it to Bharata. In Malabar the art is kept in purity in the shape of Kuthu, Ramanattam and krishnanattam ‘Balarama Bharatam’ is a complete work in the art composed about 150 years ago. Many musical works deal with ‘abhinaya’. In Sanskrit works it is generally delat with under 7 heads. (1) Swara (2) Ragaviveka (3) Vadya (4) Tala (5) Natana (6) Prabhanda (7) Prakirnaka. Siva represents the ‘Thandava’ style (used on occasions of worship) and Parvathi the ‘Lasya’ type (which is full of sringara). The imitation of the condition of the world which is mixed with happiness and sorrow and which is connected with the action of the limbs of the body is called Natya. Sarangadeva bases it on rasas. Viswanatha Kaviraja views the elements of abhinaya as (1) gestural (2) Vocal (3) extraneous, as dress and ornaments (4) internal, emotions and feelings.

Unfortunately, the full text of his presentation is unavailable. Some interesting parts were:

a) the different styles/schools of thought that existed and the names associated with it. Simple google search did not throw any light on these terms.

b) the views of Viswanatha Kaviraja is highlighted. He was the author of Sahityadarpana (the mirror of composition). See wiki for more details.

Any other observations are welcome!!!

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One response to “Some historical snippets of Bharatnatyam – Part 1

  1. Pingback: Some historical snippets of Bharatanatyam – Part 2 « Bharathanatyam and the worldwide web·

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