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Bharatanatyam is a very popular and oldest classical dance of India. It is a dance of mind and soul. It's antiquity lies about 3000 years ago with a mythological as well as a historical origin. It was originally known as Sadir-attam (court dance) and also Dasiattam (performed by the daasis-the servants of God).

The name "Pushpanjali" stands for saluting and offering flowers to God, Guru and the audience.

The name Bharatanatyam is understood in two ways:

It is the dance (natyam), that beautifully blends the three elements - 'Bha' - Bhava (from expressions), 'Ra'- Raga (from musical melody) and 'Ta' - Taaala (from rhythm).

The name 'Bharata' is after Bharata Muni, the great author of the "NATYA SHASTRA".

Bharatanatyam is basically a solo dance which includes both aspects - 'nritta' (pure steps) as well as 'abhinaya' (expressions) in equal measures. The dancer represents the devotee, worshipping God to unite with Him.

Bharatanatyam has three elements. 'Nritta', this pertains to pure dance. No abhinaya (expressions) is done, e.g. Jathiswaram, Alarippu etc. 'Nritya', this consists of both Nritta and expression, e.g. Varnam, Shabdam etc. 'Natya', this element consists of the dramatic element where the dancer herself becomes the character as in dance dramas like the Ramayana etc.

The rhythmic body movements along with hand gestures are called 'Adavus'. A combination of Adavus is called a 'Korvai'. The meaning of lyrics of the song that the dancer dances to, is conveyed to the audience with the help of hand gestures and facial expressions. Through the feet, the tempo (laya) is followed. This kind of series is called Aangika Abhinaya.

The movements of hand gestures have been grouped as Asamyukta Hastas (single hand gestures) and Samyukta Hastas (double hand gestures). 'Margam' is a path or one full definite course where in dance items are performed in a traditional order. The items that are included are Alarippu, Jathiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Padam, Tillana and Shlokam. According to the great legendary dance T.S.Balasaraswati,

"We enter through the Gopuram (outer hall) of Alarippu, cross the Ardhamandapam (half way hall) of Jathiswaram, then the Mandapam (great hall) of Shabdam and enter the holy precinct of the deity in the Varnam. In dancing to the Padams, one experiences the contentment, cool and quiet of entering the sanctum from its external precinct. It is akin to the juncture when the cascading lights of worship are withdrawn and the drum beats die down to the simple and solemn chanting of sacred verses in the closeness of God. Then the Tillana breaks into movement like the final burning of camphor accompanied by a measure of din and bustle."

Alarippu : This is a tamil word meaning to bloom. 'Alarippu' consists of set of movements without any meaning or expression. The movements are performed for syllables set for a beat(Tala). The steps are so formed that it looks like a bud blooming into a flower. In the Arangetram, the item 'Alarippu' is a warmup piece to prepare the body for the next few hours of performance.

Jathiswaram : The steps is 'Jathiswaram' are more complex than 'Alarippu'. In this item also the movements does not convey any meaning or theme. The composition can have amazing postures and teermaanams or muktayas(ending of a jati).

Shabdam : This is a dance item with both nritta and abhinaya. Usually, the theme of the lyrics will be devotional like praising lord Krishna, depicting lord Krishna's childhood, praising a king etc.

Varnam : Varnam is the most enthralling, interesting and a challenging item in a Bharatanatyam recital. Varnam is nearly 45 minutes to one hour long and creates an impression of beauty, grandeur and profundity while depicting the changing moods of love for the hero who is God. There is a perfect synchronization of Bhava, Raaga and Taala, thus giving the dancer abundant scope for displaying her rhythmic talents along with rich and variegated abhinaya.

Padam : Padams are abhinaya items, usually love lyrics and are rendered in a slower tempo. The various moods and emotions of the Naayikaa are executed by the dancer giving immense scope for the expression of variegated sentiments and shades of emotions.

Tillana : Tillana is a 'nritta' item comprising of beautiful and graceful pure dance steps along with a number of alluringly sculpturesque poses and varied patterns of movements. Each adavu is executed in slow, medium and fast speed with a meticulous combination of the adavus, resulting in scintillating teermaanams. 'Tillana' ends in fast speed, thus impressing and spell bounding the audience.