Temple jewels in Barata natyam traditional dance  

Dancer Barata

Jewels are most important for Indian women in their everyday life. More than just ways of feeling beautiful jewels have specific significations for women. They are symbols of luck, prosperity or happiness and will bring good fortune on the women, her family and life.
It is thus logical to understand that for Barata Natyam (most traditional and ancestral Indian dance) jewellery plays a huge part with their signification and symbolic. Barata Natyam first role was to honor and worship Indian gods and their fantastic stories by performing in temples. Dancers put all these jewels on to be the most beautiful and honor gods during their performance.

It is most fascinating to understand the numerous mysteries of Barata Natyam. Every single aspect of the dance (mudras, costumes, facial expression, make up and jewels) can be explained. And we will try to give you here all information to understand the jewellery.
Each piece of jewellery has a specific location on the head, arms or legs of the dancer. Dancers will never forget one of them when they get prepared for a performance. Nowadays it is possible to find a wide range of jewels in real or fake gems and stones, real or fake gold.

Jewels step by step

Head as symbol of Heavendancer bharata

Head symbolises Heaven. Dancers wear a long thin jewel called netti sutti in the middle of their hair which end on the top of the forehead with a pendant. The surya chandran is made of two pieces falling on each side of the head, one symbolizing the moon and the other one the sun. The dancer is thus compared to the beauty of heaven. On the back of the head the dancer’s hair are decorated with traditional jasmine and orange flower garlands. Nowadays flowers are often fake ones but last longer during dances.
Nose is decorated with mukkutti and bullak, two pieces of jewels which gives grace and style. Ears are not forgotten and are embellished with two pieces of jewels, a traditional jimmiki (South Indian earrings) and little chains called mattals hanged from the ear lobe and in the hair.

Waist and arms as symbols of grace 

The dancer wears several necklaces and they all have a specific role. Attikai is the name of the first necklace which is very short. Under the Attikai is worn another longer necklace called Malai. This long necklace can be made of several pearls rows or simply of golden material. It is supposed to balance the dancer’s breathing.
Arms are decorated with many bracelets on the wrist and sometimes also on the upper part of the arm. Bracelets are great symbols of prosperity but they also enhance the rhythm of the music with their sound and give grace to the arms of the dancer. The hands are painted with red kumkum powder on the fingers and a circle is also painted on the palm of the hand. It helps spectators follow the dancer's moves.
The grace of the waist is outlined with a large golden belt called ottiyânam and sometimes decorated with pearls and gems.

Legs and feet for music rythm  

Anklet

Finally talking about legs and feet one cannot forget how important their moves are for Barata Natyam dance. Dancer will wear on their ankles salangai (leather pieces decorated with ankles). They sound loudly to mark the rythm. Feet are also painted with red kumkum powder on the toes and under.

The dancer’s beauty and grace is embellished by the jewels but they also enhance her moves. You now just have to watch your next Barata Natyam performance with all these information!