Indian classical dance. Kuchipudi style.

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Ornamentations in Indian classical dance

Make-up and ornamentations relate to Aharya Abhinaya as Rangabhusa aspect. Although Aharya is of Ornamentations in Indian classical danceminor importance in comparison with the aspects of Angika, Sattvika and Vachika Abhinayas, it acts as an additional means for intensifying the visual performance of the aesthetical aspect. At the same time the use of make-up and ornamentations as well as the use of stage scenery and flowers varies depending on vritti (type) and dharmi (form of a performance). For instance, Natyashastra, a treatise on the art of drama, ascribes certain ornamentations for men and women.Ornamentations in Indian classical dance

Women Siddhi must perform in yellow saris and ornamentations made of pearls and emeralds. Actors playing Apsars (celestial dancers) use ornamentations as ornamental patterns made of jewels and arrange their hair in a high coiffure.

Dancers portraying Gandharvas (celestial musicians) decorate themselves with rubies and perform in bright red costumes. In their hands they must hold Vina (the Goddess' Sarasvati's string musical instrument).

Vidyadharis must appear before the audience in white costumes decorated with pearls. Dark garments and blue stones serve as the Ornamentations in Indian classical dancedecoration for dancers playing demonesses. The costumes made of green silk and ornamentations made of pearls are typical for portraying goddesses. The costumes of milk carriers must be of blue color and their hair must be plaid.

Color gamut is used to tell one personages from the others. So the Kshatriys (warriors) perform in reddish and rust-colored shades, the Vayshyas (merchants) and the Shudras (servants) perform in darker shades.

The impeccable white is destined for the Brahmans.

The symbolism of color, costumes, make-up and ornamentations is the additional external means for dancers to resort to in order to portray this or that image, a hero or a heroine or a character.

Ornamentations play a special role. Dancers of classic styles Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Mohiniattam wear the so-called temple ornamentations made of gold and jewels. Nowadays jewels are replaced with artificial stones. The traditionality of a temple set of ornamentation remains up to now. Every element of ornamentation has its name and symbolism.

Chandra-prabha (the Moon) and Surya-prabha (the Sun) which are fixed on the left (the Moon) and the right (the Sun) sides of the hair parting with the purpose of endowing a dancer with their beauty and shining.

Talay-saaman or Chutti emphasize the line of forehead and hair parting.


Talay-saaman with Surya and Chandra






Maatal (pendants) are fixed to the ear lobes and hair in order to cover cochleae. They protect a dancer's hearing from the loud sound of drums.





A long necklace is called differently depending on style and tradition: Maanga-malay, Muthu-malay, Tanmani and Kantha-haaram in the Kuchipudi tradition. Its purpose is to balance a dancer's breathing.


Tanmani (long necklace)



Addikai (short necklace)



A belt around the waist supports the spinal column and also has different names: Oddiyanam, Kamar-patta, Vaddanamu in Kuchipudi.





Bracelets Valayal protect wrists and add elegance and grace to them.





Chalang or a ring in a nose also plays a special role. A full set consists of three kinds: a small nail or a clip for the right nostril, a ring decorated with jewels for the left nostril (inOrnamentations in Indian classical dance Kuchipudi it is called Mukkera) and a pendant that is fixed on the lower part of the nasal septum.

In the Kuchipudi tradition a certain dance episode from the drama Bhama Kalapam is dedicated to this type of Chalangornamentation. The central personage of the drama, Satyabhama, treated her collection of ornamentations with the great awe because she had a separate set for each day of the week. The most precious among them was a ring Mukkera. Once after the quarrel her beloved Lord Krishna left Satyabhama. She turned to her friend Madhavi for help in returning Krishna's love. Satyabhama offered to give all her ornamentations but did not desire to part with Mukkera. Madhavi kept on insisting that Satyabhama gave her the ring. Her intention was not to take possession of the ring but to make her friend part with her most precious treasure. Here Satyabhama's ornamentation is compared with ego. By giving the ring she as if gets rid of the ego's heavy bonds. It is easy to give what belongs to you but the giving will be full only when you step over your ego. The drama finishes in Satyabhama's giving the ring to Madhavi and Krishna returns to her after getting the proof of her complete devotion to him. The ring's purpose is to protect innocence.


Other ornamentations:


Jimmiki (earrings) or Kundalu in Kuchipudi.



Bells - Gunghru, Gajjelu or Kinkini. They help to beat the rhythm and protect ankles.

Bells - Gunghru, Gajjelu or Kinkini


Flowers of jasmine (white) and orange Kanakambaram.

Flowers of jasmine


Raakodi - an ornamentation for the false hair decorated with a broche and a braid.



Kunjalam - an ornamentation entwined with a plait with pompons or tassels on edges.



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