Bharathanatyam is a traditional dance form of India. It is originated from South India. The word “Bharathanatyam” is a combination of two Sanskrit words; “Bharat” which means India and “Natyam” which means dance. And it is also a combination of three Tamil words; “Bhavam” (expression), “Ragam” (music), and “Thalam” (rhythm). As you might already know, Bharathanatyam is not the only traditional dance form of India. It is one of the main five forms which represent the five elements of nature; water, earth, wind, sky, and fire which is represented by Bharathanatyam.
In the past, Bharathanatyam was refered as “Sadhir Aattam” and “Chinnamelam”. And it was called “Dhasiattam” when it was danced only by the Devadhasis. Devadhasis are Hindu religious women who lived in temple and served gods; Bharathanatyam was one of their ways to “communicate” with gods.
But, over time, Bharathanatyam came outside of the temple world. It lost its religious importance gradually. So, in the beginning, Kings, Princes, people who had power, basically the monarchy asked and forced Devadhasis to dance in their palaces. They saw Bharathanatyam as an attractive aspect which should be admired. Those who danced outside temples were called “Rajanarthagis”. So, this is how Bharathanatyam continued its existence and evolution in two different paths; the religious version and the modernized version which can be practiced by anyone.