Types of Costumes in Bharatnatyam
There are two most popular styles, which are artistically used in the Bharatnatyam costumes. One is the Skirt style or Saree, which is donned in an artistic manner and the other fashionable version is the Pyjama style. In these styles the costumes are intrinsically embroidered with different religious motifs and designs in threads of pure gold and shimmering silk. The pleats of the sari are draped in a such a way that it opens out in a beautiful manner which showcases the entire zari work especially during symbolic postures like Muzhu Mandi, which is a full sitting pose and Aria Mandi which shows a half sitting pose.
Costumes in Bharatnatyam Dances for Women
Bharatnatyam costumes for women resemble Indian sarees, but are specialized for the dance. Despite the resemblance to saris, they are not single pieces of cloth, but combinations of a number of specially stitched pieces. This customization makes them easy to wear, and easier to dance in than a sari. Most costumes involve pleated pieces at the waist that fan out attractively during various movements. The costumes are bright and colourful. They inherit from the sari tradition the use of contrasting border colours, and the borders of the various pieces of the costumes form patterns that decorate the dancer’s form. Women wear a tight fitting ‘choli’ of the same colour and material as the ‘dhoti’. The saree is well complimented with traditional jewellery that includes the ones that adorn her head, nose, ear and neck and vivid face make-up specially highlighting her eyes so that the audiences can view the dancer’s expressions properly.
Costumes in Bharatnatyam Dances for Men
The costumes of men are simpler, usually a ‘dhoti’ covering the lower body and no upper garment. It is usually of richly embroidered needlework or shimmering silk or satin. It fits easily above the ankles and is pleated along the legs, which it protects. The men also wear ankle bells or salangai. They wear much less jewellery than women. Men do apply the same makeup to the eyes as women, since it serves an important purpose in the dance, but not to the hands and feet.
Ghungroo in Bharatnatyam Costume
An essential item of the Bharatnatyam costume is the pair of anklets or ankle bells known as ghungroo in Hindi. They make the rhythmic footwork of the dance audible. The salangai are blessed by the dancer’s guru, they are worshipped on special occasions, and are never worn casually. Dancers wear anklets made of rope or leather with rows of sleigh-like bells, traditionally made of copper attached on the anklet. The dancer's talent is judged (along with style and presentation) by the amount of ringing heard and the number of bells on the anklet. The less ringing heard from the anklet the better the dancer, who is seen to have control and fluid movement. Typically, beginners have 1-2 rows, intermediate dancers have 3 rows, and advanced dancers have 4-5 rows.
Jewelleries for Bharatnatyam
Jewelleries are one of the main parts of the costumes in Bharatnatyam dancers. They wear a unique set of jewellery known as "Temple Jewellery" during the performance. ‘Armlets’, ‘wristlets’ or ‘bangles’, ‘earrings’ and ‘necklaces’ serve to enhance the dancer appearance. Women wear a ‘veni’ or semi circle of real or artificial flowers round the bun or plait of the hair. In the centre of the forehead a ‘tika’ or dot is impressed. The most typical items of jewellery are the ‘thalaisaman’ (headpiece), with the ‘rakodi’, worn just above the flowers in the hair, and the ‘Chandra- Suryan’ (moon and sun) on either side, as the head symbolises the heaven. The ear ornaments consist of three pieces, the ‘maatal’ (chain), ‘jhumki’ (hanging earring) and the ‘thodu’, which fits on to the lobe.
For the neck there is the ‘adigai’, which consists of a ‘choker’ and ‘pendant’, and a ‘longer chain’ with a broad padakkam or pendant designed in red, green, and pearly stones with peacock or floral designs set in a half-moon like frame. An undulating bangle, ‘vanki’; for the upper arm, ‘gold bangles’ for the wrist, an ‘odyanam’ or broad ornament belt, and occasionally a hair ornament called ‘sarpam’ or snake to decorate the long plait, completes the whole.
Make-up for Bharatnatyam
There is, of course, makeup for the dance, and Bharatnatyam makeup has a few unique features. Heavy lines are drawn around the eyes, extending outwards past the eyes. Similarly, the eyebrows are darkened and extended outwards with liner. The purpose of this makeup is to accentuate the movements of the eyes and eyebrows, and make them more visible, because they are an important part of the dance, especially for expression. A red dye is applied to the soles of the feet and the tips of the toes, as well as to the fingertips. It is also painted in a solid circle in the palm of each hand. This unique decoration serves to emphasize the movements of the hands and feet.