Bharata Natyam’s ornamental brilliance | Daily News


Bharata Natyam’s ornamental brilliance

The mention of Bharatha Natyam conjures visions of attractive costumes and glittering ornaments. Bharatha Natyam practised today evolved out of Sathir, the temple dance of Devadasis.

Devadasis regarded themselves as brides of the Lord. They decked themselves in bridal costumes and ornaments. The tradition with modifications continues. In the past dancers wore expensive costumes and jewellery. The jewellery was often made of gold freely imported by the merchant class. Today's dancers use gold or gilt jewellery. Traditionally, Tamil women parted the hair in the centre of the head in a straight line, with the nose and even today it is a common feature. The ornament that is worn down the hair parting is Uchipattam, with a small pendant dangling on the forehead.

The Nethipattam is an ornament which covers both sides of the forehead. Nethipattam is a pearl and stone studded chain firmly secured to the Uchipattam.

Sometimes the Uchipattam only is used. To the right of the Uchipattam another ornament, Suriapirai, is attached-- the emblem of the Sun; on the left of the Uchipattam the Chandrapirai, the emblem of the moon is attached. The sun depicts brightness, domination and light, while the moon illuminates calmness. At the end of the Uchipattam and on the top of the head the dancer wears the Rakodi. Traditionally, the Rakodi depicts the head of the peacock against the background of peacock feathers.

Another head decoration is the Chadanaagam which depicts the cobra (Aathisedan) made of flowers and it is woven along with the plaited hair. At the end of the Chadanagam, three flower Kunchams are worn. The ornament worn around the neck is the necklace called Maangai Malai (Mango necklace) made out of mango shaped stones.

Along with this, a Kasumalai of gold sovereigns strung together is worn around the neck. Instead of gold sovereigns, a brass chain is now used and with the Kasu Malai, a pearl Malai is also used. The pearl Malai with three strands attached with pendants depicting the peacock, parrot, swan or goddess Mahalakshmi is also worn. Another ornament used is Wangi which is worn on the upper arms.

Oddiyanam is worn around the waist. This is a narrow or broad belt according to the dancer's fancy. Below the Oddiyanam a waist chain is worn.

The ornaments for the nose are mainly pillaku and Nathu. Other ear ornaments are "Ear Studs" Simiki and Kannasaram. Normally ear studs and Shimiki are stone and pearl-studded ornaments. These two ear ornaments are attached to the hair with another ornament called Kannasaram.

Rings are worn on the fingers and bangles on the wrists. According to the individual's fancy gold or silver colour, small Jingling bells are worn on the feet and below the jingling bells, pure silver or silver colour coated anklets are worn. Dancers do their facial make-up with the aid of make-up men.

The palms and feet are painted with red colour ink or Alka. For Andal, Meenakshi Thalattu, and Meenakshi Kaliyanam a special type of Konde is worn on the side of the head. Male Bharatha Natyam dancers do not wear any head ornaments; they only wear ear studs, necklaces, malaise, chains worn on the chest, and no other ear or nose ornaments.

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