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Introduction to Semiotics

Bharatanatyam A journey from temples to the proscenium

An introduction
Bharatanatyam is a Sanskrit word, which means the dance of Bharata (India). True to its name, it is one of the oldest and most popular dance forms of India. It originated in the temples of Southern India and was later codified and documented as a performing art by the Tanjore Quartet. It is now the most popular Indian classical dance and is appreciated worldwide. Bharatanatyam is a language in itself. Like Sanskrit language, bharatanatyam follows strict rules and is technically sound. The grammar of the steps is followed rigorously. It is danced to Carnatic music and the mathematical precision of the dance equals the Carnatic music measure
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Many padams (narrative pieces) depicted the love story of a nayak (hero) and a nayika (heroine). In most cases, the nayak was in the form of Lord Krishna, or Shiva or any other mythological hero. While Shiva was said to be serious, Krishna was full of pathos and love. Thus, the choreographies mainly concentrated on Sringara rasa (love).
Gradually the devadasi system started getting plagued with several notorious ills. Around this time, it was customary for the Indian people hailing from royal or aristocratic families to invite a devadasi to a celebration, to sing and dance and perform. The best dancers were invited to the royal courts to perform, in return which they were provided with a shelter. In this period, the position of the devadasis could be compared to that of an apsara (celestial nymph) who danced in the courts of the Gods in order to please them. Eventually, the rich men and the aristocrats attracted the devadasis with good money and luxurious lifestyles and lured them into being their mistresses. The devadasis were easily enticed to the kind of lifestyle offered to them. Thus, the sringara rasa in their choreographies converted into eroticism and they danced merely to appease the rich men. As consequence of which, these devadasis who were held at par with the temple priests lost their respect in the society.
By this time, the Europeans had arrived to India. Their
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