Session 21-Mardhita Step 7

This is a very common step to most styles of Bharathanatyam practiced today. I like to call this step the spiral staircase, since the hands move around the body like the way the steps do around a central pillar in a spiral staircase.

The Hastas used in this adavu are katakamukham, alapadmam and pathakam at the waist (alternatively dola may also be used) .

This step uses the follwing foot positions/movemnts: Aramandi,The Kudhittu/kuttu position position, Tattu (tapping as in tatadavu) and turning in Swastikam (also called agratala swastikam)

Lets Watch the animation for this steps :-

We will now look at the flow of movements in the adavus.

Start Position: Aramandi, with left hand on the waist and the right in katakamukham.

  • Ta:

    • The right hand is taken up in an alapamam
    • Jump on toes in aramandi(kuttu positon)
    • Face the uplifted right hand
  • Tai:
    • Tap left leg in an attempt to turn left
    • The right hand moves down a little
    • Bend towards the right
  • Tai:
    • Tap right leg behind the left in agratala swastikam
    • Move the right hand down a little
  • Ta:
    • Tap left leg in an attempt to turn left
    • The right hand moves down a little
    • Bend towards the right
  • Di:
    • Tap right leg behind the left in agratala swastikam
    • Move the right hand down a little
  • Tai
    • Tap left leg in an attempt to turn left
    • The right hand moves down a little
    • Bend towards the right
  • Tai:
    • Now you should be facing front
    • Bend in front and try to reach the floor with your hands
    • Tap right leg behind the left in agratala swastikam
  • Ta:
    • Bring back the right hand in katakamukham at the chest level
    • Lift and tap the left leg in line with the right leg.
    • Face the audience

    As you as you are done with this, shift your katamuhkham to the left hand and the right hand is now placed at your waist.Now mirror the movemne tto the right for the 8 syllables.

Practice with audio



Session 19- Mardhita Step 4 and 5

While we have been drawing arcs in space horizontally in the first 3 steps, we draw an arc in the vertical plane in steps 4 and 5. Now let’s watch the animation of step 4…

The foot work for this step is similar to step 2, where the step is executed to the right, left, left and then right again.

Lets now look at the flow of movements…

mardita4Start Position: Araimand with right hand in katakamukham in front of the chest and left in dola.

  • Ta:(Ref pos 1)

    • Right hand moves up in alapadmam above the head. Left hand remains in dola
    • Right feet taps on the spot
    • Torso is straight
    • The face looks up at the alapdamam stretched on top.
  • Tai:(Ref pos 2)
    • Right hand alapadmam is brought in an arc at about the shoulder level
    • Right leg taps a little away from the start parshvagam.
    • Waist bend towards the outstretched right hand
    • Face the alapadmam
  • Tai :(ref pos 3)
    • Move the left feet behind the right in Swasthikam.
    • The hand arcs further down.
    • Face and eye sight follows the alapadmam
  • Ta:(Ref Pos 4)

    • Move the right feet a little behind and tap in line with the left feet in parshvagam.
    • An attempt is made to reach the alapdamam as close to the floor as possible while retaining the aramandi and arch of the back.
    • Look at the alapadmam

    For di- tai- tai- ta, the hand is brought back to the initial start positon in similar gradations(reverse order) with the feet now executing a similar movement in the left.

  • For another set of the syllable ta-tai-tai-ta-di-tai-tai-ta, mirror the movement to the left.

Let’s try practicing this with the audio

Step 5: is an extension of step 4. After completing the right and left side movements of the previous step, the student then turns to her left and executes the right part of the movement. At this point she turns right and completes the left part of the movement. This step uses up 4 sets of the syllables ta-tai-tai-ta-di-tai-tai-ta .

This step is often refereed to as the “T” or “Inverted T” shaped mardhita because of the pattern it creates.

Test 1-Checkpoint

Dear students,

It is important we check to see if we have grasped and reatined what has been taught in the previous sessions, before we proceed further. So let’s see.

Here are the questions…

  1. What does Thattikumudu mean? When is it done?
  2. What are steps called in Bharathanatyam jargon?
  3. How many speeds are prescribed for practicing steps ?
  4. What are Hastas?
  5. What are one handed gestures called?
  6. What kind of steps are found in Thatadavu? Stretching/tapping
  7. Naatu means to rest on the heel or toes?
  8. While dancing, especially the steps, the eyes usually follow the hastas/hand movements- true or false?
  9. What is the half sit in the Bharathanatyam called?
  10. Can you name a few positions of the feet that we looked into so far?

If you get less than 7 out of these questions right, it may help to revise your previous lessons. Remember we are always here and there is no hurry. Perfection and assimilation are first in our agenda. (Check you answers)
If you got 7 out of 10 correct to the above questions. Answer the following question…
Are you able to recall all the 8 tatadavus and Naatadavus?
Yes– Welcome to our next session.. Great going…
No– Please go through the animations once more before you join us for the next session.

You are welcome to send in your answers to us by posting them as comments. We will check them and let you know. The results/answers for this test will be released in our Orkut Community with a week’s time.

You are welcome to join our orkut community – specially created for the users of this website. Your comments, suggestions, answer to our queries and your queries to us can be posted there.

Session 14- Completing Naatadavu and related terminology

Before we start learning the7th variation in Naatadavu, let’s look at two other feetagrasancharam positions involved. We are going to study 2 terms today. They are :

  1. Agratala Sancharam: This is a term from Natyasashtra that describes, one foot placed normally and the other foot placed on the toes with the heels held up.There are a lot of variations possible in this position,and we come across one such in this step.( as shown in the right.)
  2. Parshvagam

    Parshvagam: This term from Sangita Ratnakara refers to the feet that is placed flat on the ground with the toes turned towards the sides.

      Anjitham sometimes spelled ancitam or Naattu you are already familiar with, receives mention in the Natyasahtra.

      Let’s now watch the animation and look for these positons…














      Ta- a




      Ha- a


      R Nattu

      L tap in parshavagam

      Turn to L

      (Right in agratala sanchara)

      L tap- R tap

      L Nattu

      R tap tap in parshavagam

      Turn to R Left in agratala sanchara)

      R tap- L tap

      Count Guide









      This table is given to help understand the footwork and its rhythmic distribution in this step.

      Start: Aramandi with katakamukhams at chest level.

      1. Thai– Stretch the right leg in anjitham to the side with the hands stretched diagonally in alapadmam.Right hand nearing the right toe.
      2. Yum: Tap the other left in parshvagam while the hands remain in the previous position.
      3. Tat– Turn towards the left, with the diagonal of the hand maintained change hastas to katamukham. The right feet is on toes stretched in agratala sancharam.(Ref fig in agratala sancharaam)
      4. Ta – There are 2 movements for this one beat.
        • (a)Tap the left in parshvagam with the hands retained in a diagonal stretched katakamukham.
        • (b)Bring the right leg back to aramandi position in a tap. The hands now move back to the front of the chest (still in katakamukham)

          For Thai-yum-ta-ha mirror the movements in left. Lets try this with our audio

          The Naatadavu 8th step is almost a double repition of the 7th step. Here the Sequence of movement from 1-4a is executed and the student then begins with the sequence 1 and completes it till 4 b. The whole scheme uses up all the 8 syllables as follows

          • Tai- Movement 1
          • Yum- Movement 2
          • Tat- Movement 3
          • Ta-Movement 4a
          • Tai- Movement 1
          • Yum- Movement 2
          • Ta- Movement 3
          • Ha- Movement 4a and b

          The left uses up another 8 syllables for total execution. Try with this audio

          In other styles like the Pandanallur its derivatives and Thanjavur traditions, there are few other kinds of Naatadavu extensions that are a combination of Naatadavu and Dit-tit-tai adavus that have a sorkattu Tai- yum- tat- ta- tai- tai- dhithi-tai. The Dit tit tai adavus are a category by themselves and will be covered as a seperate adavu a little later in this class.

          For Adavanced Learners:

          When analyzing the Nattadavu , we see 3 variations in “Anjitham/Naatu” itself:

          1. Parshva Anjitha– Nattu to the side -As in step1,2,7 and 8
          2. Sama anjitha– Nattu in the front- As in step 3and 4
          3. Tryasra Anjitha– Nattu in between the above 2 as in step5 and 6.

            Session 13- Naatadavu Step 6

            The 6th variation in Naatadavu is an extension of the previous step.

            Let’s now watch the animation…

            Looking at the steps in the flow of this step…

            1. Start– Sit in araimandi with hands stretched out inTirupathakam.
            2. Thai
              • Feet- Move right feet behind the left to make a swastikam.
              • Hands- Move right arm upwards to stretch above the head with tirupathakam facing the ceiling. The right hand is now at a right angle to the left
              • Face upwards and look at your right hand extended on the top.
            3. Yum– while in the previous position, tap the left feet.
            4. TatNat 5
              • Feet- Move right feet from behind (the lef)t to the front and stretch in “Naatu”
              • Hands- The right hand now moves down in an arc to make a parallel with the right stretched feet.
              • Head, neck and eyes, follow the movement of the right arm.

              Till this point it is exactly the same as the previous step.

            5. Ta- Now while at the previous position tap the left leg.
            6. Thai– (At this pointit is as if we begin the whole movement again)
              • Feet- Move right feet behind the left to make a swastikam.
              • Hands- Move right arm upwards to stretch above the head with tirupathakam facing the ceiling. The right hand is now at a right angle to the left
              • Face upwards and look at your right hand extended on the top.
            7. Yum– Tap the left feet in front with all other position similar to previous position
            8. Ta
              • Feet: Bring back the right feet to araimandi and tap
              • Hands: The right hand in Tirupathakam is brought down vertically in a straight line, while bending at the elbow. Also slowly turn at your wrist so that the tirupathakam finally faces the ground.
              • Face: tip your chin and look at your right hand in front of the chest.
            9. Ha
              • Feet: Tap left feet in araimandi
              • Hands: The right hand in Tirupathakam in front of the chest is now extended fully at shoulder level by stretching at the elbow.
              • Face: Lift your chin and look ahead(at the audience).
              • You are now in the start position.

              Mirror all the movements in left for another set of Tai- yum- tat-ta-tai-yum-ta-ha.

            Lets try with the audio

            Session 13- Naatadavu Step 5

            Naatadavu Step 5, is a geometrical construction literally. The hand here draws an arc and straight lines. This step lends itself beautifully to group choreographies.

            The Foot postions are once again the swasthikam and Naatu.

            The Hands are in Tirupathakam.

            Lets watch this step in our animation.

            Now lets analyze the flow…

            1. Start– Sit in araimandi with hands stretched out inTirupathakam.
            2. Thai
              • Feet- Move right feet behind the left to make a swastikam.
              • Hands- Move right arm upwards to stretch above the head with tirupathakam facing the ceiling. The right hand is now at a right angle to the left
              • Face upwards and look at your right hand extended on the top.
            3. Yum– Tap the left feet in front with all other position similar to previous position
            4. Nat 5Tat
              • Feet- Move right feet from behind the left to the front and stretch in “Naatu”
              • Hands- The right hand now moves down in an arc to make a parallel with the right stretched feet.
              • Head, neck and eyes, follow the movement of the right arm.
            5. Ta
              Feet- Move right feet back to araimandi position
              Hands- The right hand now moves upwards towards the chest while bending at the elbow and then stretched back in a straight line at the shoulder level.
              Head, chin and eyeslook from down at the audience brightly.

              • For Thai -yum Ta- ha- mirror the movement in the left.

              Teacher’s tip: It may help to say “Back- yum- front ta- back-yum-front -ha

              Practice with audio

              Session 12- Practice session

              Araimandi/NatyarambhamToday is your day to practice a few of the steps you have learned, in 3 speeds, with my audio accompanying you.

              Have you done your Salutation? Good! We will work on all the steps starting from Tatdavau 7 – Naatadavu 4. Sit in Aramandi. Good!

              Tat adavu 7 – Click on the adavu to play the audio

              Tat adavu 8Click on the adavu to play the audio

              Now that was good. Let’s go on to Naatadavu

              Naatadavu – Click and Play this  to practice the first second and third Naat adavus learned so far.

              Naatadavu 4– Click to listen and practice

              Wasn’t it an enjoyable session. Slightly tired. We will be fine with time.

              Bye and see you in the next session.

              Session 11- Naatadavu Step 4

              Swastikam-footHave you practiced the 3rd step?

              Let’s now move on to the next one. The 4th step is an extension of the 3rd one. At this point, a foot position known as swastikam is introduced.(Ref Fig). In this position one leg is placed on the toes behind the other leg that rests normally. This is a very beautiful position that gives a lot of stability and feminine grace to the dancer.

              Let’s watch the animation now…

              Now lets go through the flow of the movements. if you did watch carefully there is this swatikam part that is followed by the third step we saw in the previous post.

              Start Position: Feet in araimandi and hands in Katakamukham near the chest.

              Movement Flow

              • Thai : Stretch right feet in “naatu/ anjitham” towards to front, with hands in alapadmam and the torso bending to the front as if to reach the toes, just as in third step.
              • Yum: Tap the left feet while remaining in the above position.
              • Nat 4Tat:
                • Take the right leg backward and place the right feet behind the left in swastikam as explained above.
                • The torso is straightened and the waist slightly bends to the left.
                • The hands are now in Katamukham near the chest.
                • Tilt your head to the left and direct your glance to your front left corner.
              • Ta: Tap the left leg now in front while remaining in this position.
              • For Tai – Yum – Ta -Ha– Repeat the the thirs step as is.

              The whole series of 8 variations in the movements that we have just discussed above are then repeated to the left, mirroring the actions done to the right.For beginners this isn’t an easy step and don’t be too hard on yourselves. Within the next few sessions, you will be fine. Lets now practice with this audio file

              Teaching Tips: If kids and beginners find this step hard to memorize, you could try saying, ” Front- yum- back- ta- from – yum -ta-ha”.

              Check Point / Guidelines for practising Adavus

              It may at this juncture be pertinent to try answering the following questions?

              From a Student’s point of View :

              • How am I dancing ?
              • How does my dance come across/ look to the audience ?
              • How good are my adavus/nritta?
              • Are they any rules to be followed while practising the adavus?
              • Is quanity more important than quality, or in other words is it important to master what is learnt before progressing ahead.
              • What are the yard sticks to measure my accomplishmentso far?

              From a Teacher’s point of View :

              • How do I explain to my students about how their dance comes across/ looks to the audience ?
              • Are there any blanket rules that can be followed while training students on the adavus?
              • Is quantity more important than quality, or in other words is it important to master what is learned, before progressing ahead.
              • How do I support self assessment or discretion in my students?

              Here are a few points that have struck me in my experience…

              1. Eye Movement/Drishti Rules: Abhinaya Darpana, an ancient text that delves into the nuances of classical Indian dance lays down this famous Sloka:
              Yatho Hasta Thatho Drishti,
              YathoDrishti Thatho Manah
              Yatho Manah Thatho Bhaava,
              Yatho Bhaava Thatho Rasa
              This can be roughly translated as follows…

              Where the hands(hasta) are, go the eyes (drishti); where the eyes are, goes the mind(mana); where the mind goes, there is an expression of inner feeling (Bhava) and where there is bhava, mood or sentiment(rasa) is evoked.

              I t can easily be seen that your drishti/eye movement goes a long way in determining the success of your dance.

              At this point of time, when adavus are being learned it may be said that the Eyes follow the movement of your hand. This is a good indicator of the student’s involvement and understanding.

              2. Posture/ geometry rules:Angashuddha

              Bharathanatyam apart from being visual poetry is also visual geometry. The dance form itself is characterized by the absolute symmetry and perfect geometry of its movements. A technical excellence in these aspects may be referred to as”Angashuddha” and ‘Savustavam” in the technical lingo. We should satisfy ourselves in loosely explaining these terms as a combination of good posture, balance , centering, symmetry and geometric correctness. let’s look at the  fig. above to have a rough idea.

              3. Hasta rules:

              Hastas need to be clear and well defined to improve aesthetics and in later lessons to make communication clear. It is not unlikely for katamukhams turning to some unidentifiable insect, tirupathakams to fall and alapadmams to wither away unless conscious effort is put in. This effort will become natural and should be unconsciously executed by dancers with practice.

              4. Foot Work rules: Foot work should be firm and the tapping does not need to be unduly loud/soft. Remember to maintain the arch of you foot while tapping. To soft a tap may never give the feeling of rhythmic correctness and too loud a tap tires you out too soon.

              So to make a short note out of it here are the rulles

              1. Maintain a good posture
              2. Follow your hand movements with your eyes
              3. Keep hastas clear and firm.
              4. Be firm and careful with your foot step.

              This is in no way a complete list of rules that guarantee great dance, but just an aid. Observation is the key. Watch more and see what should be imbibed and what should be avoided.

              Session 4- Araimandi/ Introduction to adavus

              Please do the Salutation/pranam. This should be done before and after every class.

              Let’s practise all the exercises taught so far once.



              Now let’s start with steps- the building blocks of the pure dance /Nritta Bharathanatyam. The Technical Lingo for steps is Adavu in Bharathanatyam jargon.

              Adavus are comprised of the sthanakamm, Nritta Hasta and Chari.

              • Sthanakam – Posture (Eitherin the typical araimandi(half sit), standing or full sitting posture(Muzhumandi)
              • Nritta Hasta– Hasta/hand getures and their movement
              • Chari– the Foot work

              Adavus are usually practiced in 3 speeds/kaalams.
              These are considered building blocks of Korvais/Jathis in Nritta. Coincidentally 108 adavus are recognized. Most competent classes teach atleast 75 adavus. It may a take a student 3 months to 1 year to complete these depending on one’s exposure to the art form, age, potential and grasp etc.

              Note For Adavanced Learners:

              Origins of Adavus that are currently of use can be traced to Gangai Muttu nattuvanar, the ancestor of the Tanjore Quartet and have references in the Sangita Saramrita by King Tulaja II. That’s some 300- 400 years ago. Adavus are basically derived from the Tamil word “Adaivu” meaning to reach a point from a starting point. Some claim it comes froma Telugu root which means movement.You can definitely see the Tamil/Telugu regional origin even from the word.

              It must be remembered that the movement and execution itself is more important than the nomenclature. There are different types of adavus and the nomenclature or naming also varies according to the style or Pani. There are many styles or tradition of Bharathanatyam , the most common of which being the Vazhuvoor, Kalakshetra, Pandanallur, Mysore and Thanjavur styles. It may be noticed all the styles were born in a particular region after which it is named. The styles may vary in the execution aspects, for example the postion of the head , the gait, leaps or a particular way the hand is held, or the dramatic extent of their expressions, but basically conform to a basic structure .

              On adavanced levels, along with the nomenclature, an in-depth understanding of the movement in itself,its evolution and variations and its documentation and transcription may generate interest.


              Before we actually start, we need to pay attention the Araimandi, the essential half sit position of Bharathanatyam, in which the dancer compresses her height to atleast 3/4 of her original height. This gives the typical triangular shape and stability to Bharathanatyam.Araimandi is a very important posture in Bharatanatyam. It becomes a comfortable posture with practice. “In this posture, the back should not jut out, the stomach should not protrude and the torso should not bend forward. The ‘Brahmasutra’ (the vertical imaginary line passing through the centre of the body) is in balance. This means that the araimandi (half sit posture) adjusts according to the height of the dancer. When the araimandi is beyond the threshold point, there is an invlountary urge to lift the heels, which will result in imbalance. Too much of sitting or standing is not aesthetically beautiful. ” Prof (Smt.)Sudharani Raghupaty (Chennai, India) as told in Kutcheribuzz. Araimandi is also referred to as Ayatam and ardhamandalam.

              Lets look at the introduction of adavus in the following video:-

              Video Credits: You Tube, Swathi Soft Solutions DVD

              Work on this posture and we could start off with the steps in our next session…

              Its the end of this session , so don’t forget to do your salutations again.