Bharatanatyam is the classical dance form from the southern states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in India. One of the oldest forms of Indian Classical Dance, its origin is traced back through the centuries to the temples of Ancient India, where it was performed as a ritualistic form of worship. It is intricately bound with Hinduism, in particular with Hindu myths and customs. Visually, it is a dynamic style of dance, yet innately graceful. Dance teachers called nattuvanars and ritualistic dancers, the devadasis, in the temples of South India have handed down the highly cultivated art of Bharatanatyam through the centuries.
There are two explanations for the word ‘Bharata’ in Bharatanatyam. One is that it is a combination of Bhava (expression), Raga (musical mode) and Tala (rhythm) which are important elements in the dance form. The other theory is that the word derives from the name of sage Bharata who is the author of the treatise, Natya Shastra, written in the 2nd century BC. A large part of Natya Shastra deals with dance and Bharatanatyam adheres to most of the codes of this text.