Arangetram is a tamil word. Aranga meaning raised floor and Etram meaning climbing in Tamil,one of the south indian languages. It is also called Rangapravesha in Kannada, another south indian language, Ranga meaning Stage and Pravesha meaning Enter. Ideally this should be the first public performance of an artist. After learning bharatanatyam under the guidance of an accomplished guru, this is the occasion for the proud guru to present his/her deciple to the public. This is the testing time for both the guru & the shishya(deciple) as the guru’s knowledge & the deciple’s talent both are judged by the public. Hence, the guru will decide when the deciple is ready for public appearance. At least 10 – 12 years of training is necessary to give a commendable performance.
This arangetram was known as Gejjepooje in old mysore district, meaning worshiping the jingles in kannada, a south indian language.For a dancer, jingles are considered divine. In olden days, deciple’s were not allowed to wear jingles till their first public performance. In their first performance, they were made to worship the jingles, wear them & then perform.

Accompaniments play a major role in the making of a memorable dance performance. Basic accompaniments are a Singer, Mridangam player, Violin player and of course the Natuvanga. Veena,Flute and other instruments are optional. These people sit in the corner of a stage or in a place in front of the stage which will be in a lower level than that of the stage.

The artist will wear lot of Jewellary, make-up and a specially stitched dress. Jingles are a must.

Usually duration of an arangetram will be 2 1/2 – 3 hours. To perform for such long hours one must have good stamina and concentration. This time is divided into two halves.

In the first half the artists generally perform

  • Pushpanjali or Alaripu
  • Jathiswaram
  • Shabdam
  • Varnam

In the second half

  • Padam
  • Ashtapadi or Devaranama
  • Tillana
  • Managalam

This is an item where the artist salutes to god, guru and the audience. This item is a warm up item where the artist prepares the body for the next few hours of vigorous performance.


This is a tamil word. Alar meaning to bloom. It comprises of set of movements without any meaning or expression. The movements are performed for syllables set for a beat (Tala). The complexity of the movements gradually increase. The steps are so formed that it looks like a bud blooming into a flower. This is also a warm up piece to prepare the body for the next few hours of performance. Even though there is no meaning, this can also be considered as an item where the artist salutes god,guru and the audience. Alarippu , the opening dance of invocation, is ordinarily danced to a purely rhythmic accompaniment played on a drum capable of great variety of tonal color, the Mridangam . The chiming of small brass hand cymbals played by the nattunavar or dance master, represents certain patterns of recited vocal syllables which are used in teaching the various movements of choreography. The recited syllables, in turn, represent the sounds of the drum. The dance master, recites some of the syllable patterns aloud when a certain type of dance sequence known as tirmanam is performed in subsequent concert pieces. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows alarippus in three, four, five and seven beats respectively.



Jatisvaram is a musical form similar to the rondo, in which a refrain (heard first at the very beginning) alternates with three or four sections of contrasting melody. There are no words, but the melodies employ the Indian sol-fa syllables (sa, ri, ga, ma, pa, da, ni) for the seven scale degrees. These are known as swaras. Jatis are rhythmic patterns or compositions and comprise an arrangement of solfeggios in rhythmic patterns. Indian melody conforms to certain modal types known as ragas. Each raga has a particular scale, certain ornaments associated with its tones, traditional melodic phrases, various musical aesthetics, and emotional nal connotations which help to give it a unique character and mood of its own called raga bhava.


This is a dance item with both nritta & abinaya. Usually the theme of the lyrics will be devotional like praising lord krishna, depicting lord krishna’s childhood , praising a king etc.The movements here are leisurely . Shabdam is often sung in a medley of ragas, known as ragamalika. The form is simple consisting of four or five sections of poetry in different ragas, set in seven beats (misra chapu)separated by short passages of drum syllables chanted in the raga scale. This is the only instance where the syllables are sung rather than spoken. The text usually praises a king or a specific deity. The challenge here is for the dancer to keep a steady flow of gestures and mime to this densely compact text in seven beats. Short sequences of abstract dance are done to the syllables which separate the various poetic sections. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least three shabdams.


This is the item where the dancers are tested for their capacity to perform abinaya & nritta. This can be treated as a benchmark to judge the artist’s talent.The item will contain many complex steps and will have lot of room for expressions also. To perform this item one should have lot of stamina & concentration. The lyrics can be devotional, praising a king etc. Varna can also have shrigara rasa as its theme.
Varnam is a complex music form, and the basis for an even more complex dance. The main item on the program, it may sometimes be performed from a half hour to an hour depending on the expertise of the dancer. It combines abstract dance and abhinaya (drama). One line of the music, for instance, may be used for a brilliant rhythmic tirmanam as well as for improvisation of the text in drama. The musical and poetic form is in two main, sections. The first consists of Pallavi and Anupallavi , each having two lines of text, and Muktayi (composed) swaras. The latter melody is sung first in swara syllables and then with words. The dancer interprets the syllables as abstract dance movement,and the words in drama. Sometimes the two are combined-the dancer moves about with difficult foot work called tattimettu as she does the gestures. In Pallavi and Anupallavi words are also interpreted in abhinaya , and one line may be danced for some time. Each line generally concentrates on one of the nine rasas, or emotional states: love, bravery, compassion, wonder, humor, fear, disgust, anger and serenity. When the dancer finishes abhinaya for a particular line, she usually concludes with a tirmanam in abstract dance. The second half of the Varnam begins with a refrain melody known as the caranam . This alternates with four or five sections of swaras , in the same type of rondo form found in the jatisvaram . However, in the varnam , each set of swaras also has words, and is immediately repeated with text. The swara passages are done in abstract dance, and the sections with the text in drama. As in many Indian dances, there are moments of repose in the varnam where the dancer steps out of character briefly, before beginning the next portion. This provides an excellent aesthetic device to give both audience and dancer a rest as it were before they experience the intense emotion in the last half of the dance. An experienced Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least seven varnams .

In this dance item the dancer’s abhinaya is put into test. It narrates expression of divine love or pangs of separation in love. The tempo is slow and the performance is based on a specific mood of love.Padams will have Nayaka (Hero, Supreme lover, Divine Lord)& Nayika (Heroine, the yearning soul). Heroine will talk to her friend(sakhi) and narrate her feelings towards her hero. The lyrics can be about how the hero has betrayed, how he has delayed the arrival, how she is angry with her beloved hero etc. Padams follow the intermission and are considered the piece de resistance of this style. They are love songs in slow tempo sung to a highly ornamented and expressive melody. The text is interpreted on many levels; one text, for example, might be treated as the relationship of a lover and beloved, or as the devotee and deity. The ragas are called rakti ragas that are rich in emotional expression.

It is here in padam interpretation that the dancer relies heavily on raga bhava , her ability to sense the underlying mood of the raga . The luxuriant movement of the melodic ornamentation has a direct influence upon the movement of gestures and entire body. A padam is interpreted solely through drama, and the rhythm, though often slow, is the subtle foundation for every movement that the dancer makes. The musical form is tripartite: pallavi, anupallavi, and caranam
These are poet Jayadeva’s Sanskrit compositions called Geetagovinda , an extremely romantic composition. It describes the love of Krishna and Radha in twelve cantos containing 24 songs. The songs are sung by Krishna or Radha or by Radha’s maid. Each Canto is named differently considering Krishna’s status of mind.

  • Saamodadamodara – Joyful Krishna
  • Aakleshakeshava – Careless Krishna
  • Mugdhamadhusoodhana – Bewildered Krishna
  • Snigdhamadhusoodhana – Tender Krishna
  • Saakankshapundareekaksha – Longing Krishna
  • Kuntavaikunta – Indolent Krishna
  • Naagaranaaraayana – Cunning Krishna
  • Vilakshalakshmeepatihi – Abashed Krishna
  • Mandamukunda – Languishing Krishna
  • Chaturachaturbhuja – Intellegent Krishna
  • Saanandadamodara – Blissful Krishna
  • Supreetapeetambara – Ecstatic Krishna

Expressions are given foremost importance while performing these poems. Needs lot of grace. The artist should be mature enough to understand the lyrics and the situation to show the rasas.

This item is a devotional piece where the lyrics are in praise of god, describing the god etc. This is a pure abhinaya item with almost no emphasis on nritta. Usually the lyrics are in Kannada. These songs are the compositions of great mystics like Purandharadaasa, Kanakadaasa, Vijayadaasa, Vyasaraaja to name a few. The compositions are popularly known as Daasa Sahitya. It is a devotional literatures written in simple language understood by common man. It has made remarkable contribution to the spiritual and cultural upliftment of people by preaching philosophy of Love, Devotion and Peaceful Coexistence.


This is usually the last item in any bharatanatyam performance. Tillana is full of complicated movements & postures. This will also have complicated Muktayas or Sholkattu , ending of any step or aduvu. This is mainly a nritta piece which might have a charana , a meaningfully lyrics for which abinaya is shown. Tillana is the concluding item of abstract dance counter-balancing the alarippu , and is performed to a rhythmic composition using sol-fa and drum syllables with a small amount of text. A Bharata Natyam dancer usually knows at least four tillanas


Meaning ending the performance. Here the artist will again salute god, guru & the audience for making the performance a success.

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