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Difference between Bharatanatyam and Odissi

Difference between Bharatanatyam and Odissi

Both Bharatanatyam and Odissi are classical Indian dance forms, but they are vastly different from each other. Bharatanatyam is more lyrical and graceful, while Odissi is earthier and more energetic. Learn the differences between these two dance forms to see which one might be right for you.

What is Bharatanatyam?

Bharatanatyam is a form of Indian classical dance that originated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Bharatanatyam is characterized by fluid movements, intricate footwork, and expressive gestures. The movements of Bharatanatyam tell stories from Hindu mythology, and the dance is often performed to Carnatic music. Bharatanatyam has its roots in the Natya Shastra, a Sanskrit text on dramaturgy, and it was traditionally performed by temple dancers known as devadasis. In the 20th century, Bharatanatyam was popularized by E. Krishna Iyer and Rukmini Devi Arundale, who helped to establish it as a concert dance form. Bharatanatyam is now performed all over India and the world, and it continues to evolve as a living tradition.

What is Odissi?

  • Odissi is a major Indian classical dance that originates from the state of Odisha. It is characterized by its graceful movements and spiritual nature. Odissi has been performed in India for over two thousand years and is considered one of the oldest surviving dance forms. The Odissi repertoire includes a wide range of different dances, from solo pieces to group dances.
  • The most distinctive feature of Odissi is its use of abhinaya, or expressive gestures. This, combined with the fluidity of the movements, makes Odissi a highly emotional and deeply touching dance form.
  • Odissi is also known for its use of music and lyrics from the Oriya language, which lends the dances a uniquely regional flavor. In recent years, Odissi has gained popularity outside of India, with performances being held in many different countries around the world.

Difference between Bharatanatyam and Odissi

  • Bharatanatyam and Odissi are two of the most popular forms of Indian classical dance. Bharatanatyam is a traditional dance form that originated in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, while Odissi is a more modern form that originated in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. Both styles are known for their graceful movements and intricate hand gestures.
  • Bharatanatyam is typically performed to Carnatic music, while Odissi is usually performed to Hindustani music. Bharatanatyam dancers often wear bright colors and jewelry, while Odissi dancers typically wear more muted colors.
  • Bharatanatyam movements are based on Hindu texts such as the Natya Shastra, while Odissi movements are based on the sculptures of the temples of Odisha. Both styles of dance require years of training to master.


So, what is the difference between Bharatanatyam and Odissi? The simplest answer is that Bharatanatyam is more lyrical and fluid, while Odissi has a more grounded feeling to it. But if you want a little more detail than that, read on for a breakdown of each dance form’s history, characteristics, and current popularity.

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