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Bharatnatyam and Interior Design

Bharatnatyam and Interior Design: A fine balance is an article written by Vibha B, student of SJB School of Design pursuing B.Sc. Interior Design & Decoration. The article tries to review the relationship between Indian classical dance form and Interior Design.

I am Ms.Vibha Batham, a 1st-semester student at SJB School of Design pursuing a B.Sc. degree in Interior Design and Decoration. I am an artist practicing the art of Bharatanatyam. I find a common link between the art form and the creative field of Interior design and Architecture as portrayed in the temple architecture of South India.

Introduction to Bharatnatyam and Interior Design

bha from “Bhava”, meaning Emotion, Ra from “Raga”, meaning Music or Melody, and Tha from “Thala”, meaning Rhythm. Bharatnatyam directly translates to the Dance that conveys emotion, music, and rhythm, elements that also define the design.

Originated as a temple dance by the devadasis, also known as “Servants of God”. They enjoyed a high status in society and received a great deal of respect. This dance form flourished especially under the Pallava and Chola Kings, and it was during this period that many temples were constructed.

Fig 01: Sculpture of Lord Shiva as Natraja at Brihadeshwara Temple, Tanjore
Fig 02: Intricate Dravidian Temple Interiors at Madurai Meenakshi Temple

Dravidian interiors and architecture can be seen in older South Indian temples and traces can still be seen today. Ancient Hindu philosophy saw the art of dance as a vehicle for divine invocation mirrored in interior/architectural surroundings. This was the core belief of the Dravidians of the Indian sub-continent, who regarded dance and interior as two physical models, co-existing in an intertwined system- rich with music, literature, and sculpture.

The popularity of Bharatnatyam was clearly reflected in the style of the Dravidian temple interiors as well, which were planned with Mandapas (temple halls) to accommodate the Devadasi performances. These stone temples also had their pillars and door frames sumptuously decorated with sculptures depicting female dancers in various poses. Thus, both these art forms- dance and architecture complemented each other and attributed their development to their common praise of the Lord.

Vaastu shastra

The circle embeds the square which is the form of the Vastupurusha mandala. Cyclical time and moments of the earth are symbolized in a circle. Meanwhile square simulates the non-abstract outer space. Regulation carved in Vastu shastra (textual stamps on the building) need to be followed by Stapathi (designers) in order to balance celestial bodies, earth, and cosmic law, which follow Purusha (mathematic divisions)

Fig 03: Vaastu Purusha Mandala

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Classical Dance, like interior design, is an exploration of space. For a dancer, the element of time is defined by space, and a dancer describes the three-dimensional space around themselves through the various movements and Bharatanatyam postures.

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