Originally known as Sadir, Bharatanatyam is the most ancient and widely practiced of classical dances in South India and has its origin in Tamil Nadu. It is based on the Natya Shastra, the gospel of classical Indian dance. The term Bharatanatyam is considered to be derived from the four syllables, BHAVA (expression), RAGA (music), THALA (rhythm) and NATYAM (dramatic art). It has undergone a lot of change over the centuries but is still deeply rooted in the spiritual heritage of India. In the first half of the 19th century Bharatanatyam was redefined by the contributions of four talented brothers known as the Tanjore Quartet. They organised all the basic movements of pure dance into a progressive series (adavus), composed new music specifically for Bharatanatyam and introduced a sequence of items which integrated various aspects of dance and music into a carefully coordinated, aesthetically sound progression. In the 20th century, the social status and image of Bharatanatyam was restored by Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder of Kalakshetra.
Like all the other classical dance forms the origin of Mohiniattam was also from "the temples of Kerala..." and was originally known as "Dasiattan". It was later changed to Mohiniattam. Literally, "Mohiniattam" means, "dance by a beautiful lady". It is an exquisite feminine style characterised by extremely soft, graceful and gentle movements which can be likened to the swaying of leaves in the gentle breeze or the movement of waves. The emphasis is on "abhinaya" or facial expressions. Mohiniattam is deeply indebted to the constructive contributions of the three pillars or Thri-Moorthis, namely Sri Swathithirunal, Sri Vallathol (a great poet and founder of Kerala Kalamandalam) and Smt. Kalamandalam KalayanikuttyAmma for its revival. The language used in the lyrics is a pleasant mixture of Malayalam and Sanskrit, known as Manipravalam.
Kathak, a classical form of dance originating from the northern parts of India, developed 2000 years ago in Hindu temples where 'Kathakars' (storytellers) narrated stories of Hindu gods and goddesses through dance, music and mime. Kathak evolved magnificently when it entered the courts of the Rajput and Mughal kings and it is in this period when gharanas (Jaipur and Lucknow) were formed based on the distinct style practised in each of these courts. Traditionally Kathak is performed to live music and the repertoire includes both the Nritta (technical abstract) element as well as the Nritya (involving expression or abhinaya) aspect.
Carnatic Music is a style of music most commonly associated with Southern parts of India. There are four main elements that make up the basis of Carnatic Music. They are Sruthi (pitch), Thalam (rhythmic cycle), Ragam (melodic scale) and Swaram (musical note). Carnatic Music is mainly taught through compositions of PurandaraDasa who composed the basic lessons of Carnatic Music and the Trinity of Carnatic Music (Saint Thyagarajah, MuthuswamiDikshitar and ShyamaSastri) who composed Kritis/Kirthanas. Most compositions are written to be sung but they can also be played on instruments such as the violin, veena or flute. Carnatic music is usually performed by a small group of musicians consisting of a vocalist, mridangist and a violinist.