THE “ADAVUS” OF BHARATANATYAM
by Sapna Rangaswamy, Baroda
e-mail: rangaswamy@satyam.net.in
When I stamped my right foot, way back in the year 1970 I didn't know what I was doing… I didn't even know that it was my first day at learning Bharatanatyam.

Surprisingly, I learnt my tattadavu from the Kuchipudi maestro Guru Shri Acharyalu at the Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad. I was four years old and could hardly even spell the word “Bharatanatyam.”

So, for young students, like I was then, here is a basic introduction to Bharatanatyam.
There are thirteen groups of Adavus containing 36 to 52. Number of Adavus varies from the ways of teaching and depends on the Guru who may have his own style of interpreting them.

The Adavus can be classified under the following groups:

1. Tattadavuà Syllables: Tai ya tai
Hastas used: Pathakam.

2. Nattu Adavau -à Syllables: Ta tai tai ta and Taiyum tatta tayum taha
Hastas used: Tripatakam, Katakamukham, Alapadmam.

3. Kuditta Mettu Adavuà Syllables: Tai ha tai ha
Hastas used: Katakamukham, Alapadmam

4. Sarukkal Adavu à Syllables: Tai hath- dhit tai
Hastas used: Pathakam, Katakamukham, Alapadmam and Mrigashirsham

5. Thirumana Adavuà Syllables: Tadhikinathom, Kitatakatai kitatom
Hastas used: Tripathakam, Katakamukham, Alapadmam

6. Paithal Adavuà Syllables: Tai thaiyum tathaa
Hastas used: Katakamukham, Alapadmam, Shikram

7. Ettadavuà Syllables: Tai Taiyum tathaa
Hastas used: Thripathakam

8. Sarakkadavuà Syllables: Dhit tai thaam
Hastas: Katakamukham, Alapadmam, Pathakam

9. Mandi Adavusà Syllables: Tat taithaam, dhit tai taam
Hastas used: Tripathakam

10. Thatti Mettu: a) Chatusram (4 beats)
b) Tisram (3 beats)
c) Misram (7 beats)
d) Khandam ( 5 beats)
e)Sankirnam (9 beats)
Hastas used: Tamarachuda

There are a few more groups of Adavus.

1. Mardita Adavu: to strike the floor with the foot

2. Kuttadavu: to strike with the toes

3. Kovai (Korvai) Adavu: different variations are woven together

4. Sutral Adavu: whirling

For the students of Bharatanatyam it is necessary to understand the feet positions thoroughly. It is a basic necessity to form a strong foundation.

Basic Feet Positions:

1. Sama: where the feet are in natural position joined together with the knees straight.

2. Parshwa: where the feet and knees are turned on the sides forming a horizontal line.

3. Tayasra: the feet are placed to form ‘v' with the toes turned towards the corners.

4. Swastika: where the feet are crossed.

Feet Variations:

1. Kuttanam: Stamping the bhoomi with the sole, toe or heel.

2. Sarik: the feet move without being lifted.

3. Ancita: the toe or toes are held up while the heels rest on the bhoomi (ground).

4. Agratala Sancara: while the heel is raised the toes rest on the bhoomi.

5. Suci: one foot is on the ground in a normal position while the other has contact with the ground through the big toe.

6. Udghattita: the ground is stamped by the heel while the forefoot rests on the ground.

7. Kutta: the ground is stamped by the toes while the heel is raised.

8. Tadita: Holding the ground with the heel the forefoot stamps the ground.

9. Mardita: the sole rubs the ground.

10. Sakhalita: the foot is made to slip on the ground.

Hand Gestures:

1. Pataka: when the fingers are all stretched and thumb is bent and the hand is held like a flag.

2. Tripathaka: the ring finger is bent from Pataka posture.

3. Mayura: the thumb is in contact with the first finger while the other fingers are stretched.

4. Ardhachandra: from Pataka the thumb is separated and stretched.

5. Kapitta: the thumb is in contact with the middle of the first finger, which is bent. The other fingers are pressed against the palm.

6. Katakamukha: the thumb is stretched to be in contact with the first finger and middle finger while the other two fingers are stretched and separated.

7. Chandrakala: from Ardhachandra positions, the little, ring and middle fingers are pressed against the palm.

8. Mrigashirsa: from Pataka position the first, middle and ring fingers are stretched in front from their roots.

9. Alapadmam: the fingers are all relaxed, separated and held like a flower.

10. Kartarimukha: the thumb holds the ring and little fingers while the other two fingers are stretched
and separated.

11. Anjali: the palms and fingers of two Pataka Hastas touch each other

12. Natyarambha: the Pataka Hastas with the palms facing the floor are stretched out on the sides with
the elbows at the level of the shoulders. The wrists are curved towards the front.

Sapna Rangaswamy is a Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi exponent based in Baroda.