Bharathanatyam meaning: Bha meaning emotion (Bhava), Ra meaning music (Raaga), Ta meaning rhythm (Taal), and Natyam meaning dance. Thus Bharatanatyam is the dance that encompasses music, rhythm, and expression and strictly adheres to the Natyashastra (the scripture of classical Indian dance). Natyashastra is attributed to the ancient scholar Bharata Muni and its first complete compilation is dated to between 200 BCE and 200 CE, however, its timeframe varies between 500 BCE and 500 CE.
Many ancient Hindu temples are embellished with sculptures of Lord Shiva in Bharatanatyam dance poses. A famous example of illustrative sculpture is in the southern gateway of the Chidambaram Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, where 108 poses of the Bharatnatyam, that are also described as karanas in the Natyashastra, are carved in stone.
The style of dressing of a Bharatanatyam dancer is more or less similar to that of a Tamil Hindu bride. Women dancers wear a gorgeous tailor-made sari that consists of a cloth specially stitched in pleats that fall in the front from the waist. The sari worn in a special manner is well complimented with traditional jewelry. Hair neatly plaited in a conventional way is often beautified with flowers. A jewelry belt adorns the waist while musical anklets called ghunghru are made of leather straps with small metallic bells attached to them are wrapped in ankles. Dancers’ feet and fingers are often brightened with henna color so as to highlight the gestures of their hands.