Bharata Natyam is a classical Indian dance form originating in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.This dance form denotes various 19th and 20th century reconstructions of Sadir, the art of temple dancers. Sadir in turn, is derived from ancient dance forms that includes some acrobatic Karanas (Dance poses).
Bharata Natyam is usually accompanied by Carnataka Sangeetham ( South Indian classical music). It has its inspirations from the sculptures of the ancient temple of Chidambaram, the temple of Hindu God Shiva ( Nataraja). Bharata Natyam, as the name depicts is the combination of expression, music ,rhythm & dance in Tamil.
Bharata Natyam is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses. Today, it is one of the most popular and widely performed dance styles and is practiced by male and female dancers all over the world.
In ancient times it was performed as Dasiattam by Mandira Devadasis ( Hindu temple dancers ). Many of the ancient sculptures in Hindu temples are based on Bharata Natyam Karanas (dance postures). In fact, it is the Apsaras (celestial dancers),who are depicted in many scriptures dancing the heavenly version of what is known on earth as Bharata Natyam.
In the most essential sense, a Hindu deity is a revered royal guest in his temple/abode, to be offered the sixteen hospitalities, among which are music and dance, pleasing to the senses. Thus, many Ancient Hindu temples traditionally had trained musicians and dancers, as did Indian rulers / kings.
In ancient India, kings often invited Devadasis (temple dancers) to dance in their courts, which created a new category of dancers known as Rajanarthakis ( court dancers) and modified the technique and themes of the recitals. A Devadasi( temple dancer ) had to satisfy her own soul while she danced unwatched and surrendered herself to the Lord, but the dance of the Rajanarthaki ( court dancer ) was meant for entertainment.
In the Natya Shastraas ( Art & Science of Indian classical dance ), Karanas ( dance postures) were meant to spiritually enlighten the spectators.
At present, Bharata Natyam recitals are usually not performed inside the temples, but outside it, and even outside the temple compounds at various festivals.
At present, not only the Hindus but many Christians and Muslims also learn this divinely beautiful art, bringing it beyond the rigid forms of religious boundaries.