How to wear a bharatanatyam dance dress

Bharatanatyam Costumes for Men and Women

The costumes of Bharatanatyam dance are one of the most elegant forms of dresses which adds to the beauty of the dance and represents the culture and tradition of India. Before we jump into various types of Bharatanatyam dance costumes, let’s take a quick look at Bharatanatyam dance form.

Bharatanatyam is an age-old dance form that speaks stories of the mythologies. It was initially performed in the temples and the courts of the king and later became popular in South India.

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  • Bharatanatyam Costumes History
  • Common Forms of Bharatanatyam Costumes
    • Bharatanatyam Ankle Bells
    • Jewellery in Bharatanatyam Costume
    • Bharatanatyam Makeup
    • Summary

    The costumes of Bharatanatyam are the various clothing and accessories which are worn by a dancer. Any costume for dance is often specially made with proper customization. The right costumes help make the movements of the dance easier and more comfortable to wear during dance performances. It also helps to bring out the aesthetic beauty of the dancer which the choreographer wants to show through the dancer’s moves.

    Bharatanatyam Costumes History

    The costumes of Bharatanatyam are one of the most elegant forms of dresses. Not only does it add to the beauty of the dance, it also represents the culture and tradition of India. The Bharatanatyam dress worn in the king’s courts did not cover most of the parts of the women’s body. The transformation in the dancer’s costumes happened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries under the influence of Marie Camargo.

    The costume or dress of the Bharatanatyam dance form usually represents the costume a bride wears in Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam was said to even have been performed as a part of the Devadasi dance form whereby women as servants used to perform the dance to please their masters. During their occasional performances in the King’s courts, they used to wear the costumes of Bharatanatyam.

    Common Forms of Bharatanatyam Costumes


    Bharatanatyam costume for women

    The two most popular Bharatanatyam costumes are in the skirt style and in the style of pyjama style. The material of the Bharatanatyam sarees is made of silk and is emphasised with the golden “zari” works. The pleats which are present in these costumes give a marvellous look. Furthermore, embroideries depict the various mythological happenings in the Indian historical past.

    These clothes are both beautiful and comfortable to wear as the dancer otherwise would face hardships to perform the dancing steps. The dancing dress is beautiful so as to enhance the beauty of the dance during a performance. The small piece of cloth which tends to cover the blouse and upper portion of the women’s body known as the ‘choli’ tends to be of the same colour as that of the dress worn by the women during the performance.

    How to wear a Bharatanatyam costume


    Bharatanatyam costume for men

    The men’s dress is quite simplistic for the Bharatanatyam dance whereby a pleated dhoti covers the lower portion of the body. These pleats enrich the dance moves and their beauty. On the other hand, only a few pieces of jewellery cover the upper portion of the body. There is an absence of clothing material for the upper portion of the men’s body.

    Bharatanatyam Ankle Bells

    The ankles bells are integral part of Bharatanatyam costume. The Bharatanatyam dance requires essentially the bells which are worn both by the men and the women in their dance. This helps the dancers keep a proper rhythm of their leg movements with the ‘Tala’ sounds. These dancers are judged by the sounds of their ankle bells, which must move according to the music and keep track of the footwork of the dancer in Bharatanatyam dance. They begin by wearing a two-row bell and then a three-row bell. However, the number of rows increase as the dancer keeps getting better.

    Dancers consider these ankle bells sacred and the teacher instructs him or her to always respect their ankle bells and keep them with care. These ankle bells also add to the beauty and music of the dance. Furthermore, the sound of these bells adds to the sense of rhythm, thus, making the audience feel good.

    Jewellery in Bharatanatyam Costume

    There is an extravagance of jewellery which enhances the beauty to this costume and specific names are given to the various pieces of jewellery which are worn by the Bharatanatyam dancers.

    “Temple Jewllery’ refers to all these pieces of jewellery collectively. This constitutes the bangles, the necklaces as well as the wristlets.

    The Bharatanatyam dance costume also requires the wearing of the buns and the making of plaits. The bun on the upper portion of the plaits is decorated with flowers and the forehead is decorated with that of the ‘tika’ and the ‘dot’. There is also an important headpiece called the ‘Thalaisaman’ and dancers also wear the ‘Chandrasuryam’.

    Bharatanatyam jewellery includes the earrings and the neckpiece which adds to the attractiveness of the dance form. Peacock and the floral motifs, as well as red and green pearls, cover the neckpiece. On the upper portion of both the arms, they tie ‘Venkies’ and a long snake-like ornament decorates the plaits.

    Bharatanatyam Makeup

    Make-up is one of the most distinct aspect of Bharatanatyam costume. Dancers use make-up to make the eyes prominent so that the dancer’s eye movements are noticeable. In addition, they also wear red dies on the tips of their fingers and toes to add beauty while dancing. These dances help connect the dancer to the viewer and attract them to the dance form.

    Bharatanatyam makeup step by step


    The dance forms remain incomplete without a proper costume which represents the specific form of dance. The dance costume of Bharatanatyam is important to represent the culture and tradition of the dance form and to enhance the beauty of the movements of the hands, legs, expressions and also the body positions in this dance form.

    This beautiful dance form is enriched with the extravagant and gorgeous costumes, the makeups, the jewellery and the ankle bells which form a part and parcel in this form of dance.

    To learn more about Bharatanatyam, visit learn Bharatanatyam online

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    Difference between Bharatanatyam and Kathak

    Both bharatanatyam and kathak are very different from each other not only in their meaning, but also have different characteristics.



    Bharatanatyam vs. Kathak

    The difference between Bharatanatyam and Kathak is that Bharatanatyam is a dance that is usually developed or based on the stories of Shiva. On the other hand, Kathak develops or is based on tales or stories about Radha and Krishna. nine0065

    The word Bha in Bharatanatyam means emotion, which is also called bhava, RA means music, which is also called Raaga, Ta means rhythm, which is also called Taal, and Natyam, which means dance. Thus, the word Bharatanatyam means dance with rhythm, expression and music, and is closely related to Natyashastra, which means the scripture of classical Indian dance.

    The word kathak comes from the Vedic Sanskrit word katha; it also means kathak and "history" which means telling a story. It is also considered one of the eight significant forms of Indian classical dance. nine0215 Begotten Bharatanatyam mainly practices in southern India. Kathak is mainly practiced in northern India. Instruments Bharatanatyam mainly uses instruments such as mridangam, nagaswaram and veena. The main instruments used in kathak are bansuri, tabla, sarangi and sarod. Costumes In Bharatanatyam, dresses and ornaments are very majestic and luxurious. nine0218 In Kathak, clothes and jewelry are mostly simple. Mechanism Bharatanatyam dance has many hip movements and many mudras. In the Kathak dance the dancer dances standing all the time; no hip movement. Main difference It is mainly designed or based on the story of Shiva. It is mainly designed or based on the story of Lord Radha and Krishna.

    What is Bharatanatyam?

    Bharatanatyam is considered an art practiced by temple dancers. Karnati music is played during the dance. This dance is also performed in the court of the South Indian king.

    Dancers use many hip movements and mudras. dancing. Because of the movement, half of the stage space is occupied by dancers.

    The movements performed by Bharatanatyam dancers resemble the movement of fire or flame. The Bharatanatyam dance is based or developed around the stories of Lord Shiva. nine0065

    This is a dance in which the dancers mostly sit or dance with bent knees. The dancers had unique costumes that come in many different designs and unique decorations depending on the performance of the dancers.

    Dresses worn by dancers do not hinder movement during dancing. Dresses in Bharatanatyam are very elegant and majestic.

    Dancers put on heavy makeup and hair to look good. In Bharatanatyam, different instruments are played such as mridangam, veena, violin and nagaswaram. nine0065

    It is also believed that Bharatanatyam was created by S. Krishna Iyer in the mid-thirties, which was later distributed by Rukmini Devi Arundale. The history of Bharatanatyam dates back to 2 to centuries through text in Natya Shastra and Muni.

    What is Kathak?

    Kathak is an Indian classical dance usually performed by dancers at the court of a Muslim king. People used to believe that the kathak dance tells the story of Rasalil, which Radha and Krishna perform in the forest. nine0065

    In Kathak, the dance movement is always a standing pose throughout the performance. He also has no or limited hip movement in the dance.

    Because Kathak tells the story of Radha and Krishna, and people believe that while performing the role of Krishna, the dancer sometimes appears dreamy and slightly closes his eyes as they don't make eye contact with anyone. The costumes worn by the dancers during performance are usually for women, while the dhoti is for men.

    Long skirt and top, also known as lehenga and choli, are also worn by kathak dancers. During the Mughal period, male kathak dancers also wore the kurta churidar with a cap. nine0065

    Various instruments are also played during the dance - some instruments such as sarod, sarangi, sitar, bansuri, ghungaru and harmonium. Kathak mainly originated during the bhakti movement.

    This classical dance also dates back to 400 BC, its earlier wise name was Natya Shastra.

    Main differences between bharatanatyam and kathak
    1. Both are different types of Indian classical dance performed in other parts of the country. nine0006
    2. Bharatanatyam is mainly practiced in southern India. On the other hand, Kathak is mainly practiced in northern India.
    3. Bharatanatyam was mainly developed or based on the stories of Shiva. On the other hand, Kathak develops or is based on the tales or stories of Radha and Krishna.

      Learn more