Bharatanatyam, a classical dance form, has roots that trace back to 5000 years ago in the Southern part of India, and embodies music, movement and mythological stories to create a visual form. The word 'Bharata' is believed to derive from three main components: Bha for Bhava or emotion, Ra for Raga or melody, and Ta for Tala or rhythm. The bharatanatyam dancer emotes and performs complex dance sequences to ancient epics and poems written on Hindu Gods and Goddesses such as Krishna, Radha, Shiva, set to a uniquely composed melody and rhythm.
According to Hindu mythology, the Natyashastra or the Indian classical dance Bible was written when the Gods and Goddesses asked the Creator, Lord Brahma in Hindu Mythology, to create another Veda or Holy Book. The goal was to have a scripture for the common man because the existing Vedas contained scriptures that were hard to comprehend. So, the God Brahma created the fifth Veda, which is a combination of the existing four Vedas called the Natya Veda or Dance Veda.
The Natyashastra reads, "when the world had become steeped in greed and desire, in jealousy and anger, in pleasure and pain, the Supreme One (or Brahma) was asked by the people to create an amusement which could be seen and heard by all, for the ambiguous and hard to decipher scriptures were not enjoyed by the masses."
In many ways, the dance of bharatanatyam is like a long conversation with God.
Bharatnatyam was further scripted and organized by the Tanjore Quartet brothers, musicians in royal positions, into movements of pure dance into a progressive series and composed new music specifically for bharatnatyam.
The history of Kalakshetra is also noteworthy. Known to be performed by the Devdasis, Bharatanatyam received its true respectability and divinty under the direction of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale who established Kalakshetra or 'Temple of Art' in 1936 at Besant Nagar, Chennai.
Hailed as one of India’s foremost nattuvanars and a stalwart of bharatanatyam, Padma Shri Guru Adyar K Lakshman, Rukmini Devi's seniormost student, traversed the globe conducting Kalakshetra’s dance dramas, and solo performances of notable artists. Among these were Rukmini Devi Arundale, Sarada Hoffman, Krishnaveni Lakshman, Yamini Krishnamurthi, the Dhananjayans, Prof. C V and Anita Ratnam. For his outstanding contribution to teaching, Lakshman Sir received the Padma Shri award from the president of India in 1989, and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award India's National Academy of Music Dance & Drama and the Nadhabrahmam’ title at the Narada Gana Sabha in 2008.