Some historical snippets of Bharatanatyam – Part 4

Dancers by Tilly Kettle, 18th Century
(Image Courtesy: National Gallery of Modern Art

Apologies to blog followers for this delayed post. Again this is a continuation of our previous posts (part1, part2, part3) historical series on Bharatanatyam and its history. As mentioned in part3, this is an article by Smt. Vyjayanthimala Bali titled “Rare Forms in Bharatanatyam”. This was published in 1988 issue of Journal of the Madras Music Academy.

Disclaimer: I have attached the the link to the pdf of the essay as part of this post. I am not really quite sure of the copyright, although the website had no mention of it anywhere. So, I will remove the document if anyone points to any copyright infringement.

As the title suggests, there are some interesting and rare forms in Bharatanatyam that are rarer these days to witness. These compositions predated the padam, javali and kritis that are used for choreography in recent times. They are:

Prabandha: A prabandha has six angas (Svara, Biruda, Pada, Tenaka, Patam and Tala) and four dhatus (Udgraha, Dhruva, Melapaka and Abhoga). There were 124 prabandhas available. It is interesting to note that this structure of the song was latter merged into the kriti. Eg: Uma Tilaka Prabane in raga Mechabauli by Subbarama Dikshitar, and Kaivara prabandham in raga Narayanagaula by Venkatamakhi.

Thayam: A corruption of the word “Sthaya”. There were in total 106 Thayams.

Suladi: The theme is same as in Kirtana. Some suladis were set with different ragas and talas for different divisions/sections of the composition. Something akin to Ragamalika and talamalika combined.

Kavuttuvams (Panchamurthi and Navasandhi): I am sure most of us are familiar with popularity of kavuttuams in current repertoire. There are some interesting kavuttuvams mentioned, such as on Kali, Vishnu, Nachiar, Chokkar, Mahalingam and Andal Kavuttuam.

Enjoy reading!

Hopefully, I should be able to bring more frequent blogs in the coming weeks.

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