September 19, 2013

0808 INDIA (Tamil Nandu) - Bharathanatyam dance

Bharatanatyam is a classical Indian dance form, popular chiefly in the state of Tamil Nadu, which denotes various 19th- and 20th-century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers called Devadasis. Considered to be a fire-dance, the mystic manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body, it is one of the five major styles (one for each element) that include Odissi (element of water), Kuchipudi (element of earth), Mohiniattam (element of air) and Kathakali (element of sky or aether). The name Bharatanatyam was coined in the 1930's to represent the three major elements of dance in the three syllables of the word Bharatha - bhava (facial expression), raga (melody), and tala (rhythm).

Bharatnatyam proper is a solo dance, with two aspects, lasya, the graceful feminine lines and movements, and tandava Ananda Thandavam (Tamil), masculine aspect, which is identical to the Yin and Yang in the Chinese culture. There are 3 types of dance: Nritta (a pure dance without any emotions, expressions or sahityam), Nritya (t has emotions, expressions and has a meaning shown by the hastas) and Natya (when a person is portraiting a character). It is known for its rhythmic, vigorous footwork, crisp movements, and sculpturesque poses. Contemporary Bharatanatyam is rarely practiced as Natya Yoga, a sacred meditational tradition, except by a few orthodox schools.

In the ancient time, the costumes of the dancers didn't cover most of their bodies, but in medieval times the devadasis wore the special, heavy sarees, that severely restricted the movements. The modern costumes are deeply symbolic, as their purpose is to project the dancer's sukshma sharira (aura), in the material world. Dancers wear anklets called gajjalu, made of rope or leather with rows of sleigh-like (traditionally copper) bells attached on the anklet. The dancers talent is judged (along with style and presentation) by the amount ringing heard and the amount of bells on the anklet. The less ringing heard from the anklet then the better the dancer, which is seen as having control and fluid movement. Typically, beginners have 1-2 rows, mediocre dancers have 3 rows, and advance dancers have 4-5 rows. The dancers wear also a unique set of jewelry known as "Temple Jewelry".

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Mother Teresa (1910-1997), is part of the definitive set Builders of Modern India, about which I wrote here.

The second stamp is a commemorative one, dedicated to 3 Para (special forces), issued on March 2, 2013.

Bharata Natyam - Wikipedia
History of Bharatanatyam - Rangashree, Dances of India
Traditional Devadasi Sadir (Bharata Natyam) - Dakini Designs

sender: Piyali Bose (direct swap)
sent from Janakpuri (Delhi / India), on 04.08.2013
photo: V. B. Anand