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Jathiswaram – Meaning – Bharatanatyam

Jathiswaram is a part of nritta in a Bharatanatyam recital. It is executed to the tune of a combination of swaras (sol-fa notes), set to a particular raga (melody) and tala (cycle of beats). It is not a proper song. The notes are woven in round melodic lines conforming to a particular raga or melody.

The Jathiswaram generally comes second or third in the usual order of presentation in a Bharatanatyam concert, and is danced for the drum syllables recited by the nattuvanar (conductor of the dance). Jathiswaram commences with a jati (rhythmic piece) and the jati ends with a muktayi or a finale.

It is fast-composed piece normally set to a quadruple movement (catusra gati). Based on this movement, jatis are grouped in tisra (three), khanda (four), misra (seven) and sankirna (nine beats).

Jathiswaram includes a pallavi (melodic line), which is followed by four or five segments called carana. The pallavi is repeated after the completion of every carana. The caranas expand from a single avarta (time cycle) to more cycles. The dancer performs from simple rhythmic structures to more complex ones. The first note of the melodic line, the first beat of the metrical cycle, and the end of the dance sequence are synchronized perfectly. Each carana (segment) is sung a definite number of times and in each of these renderings the same temporal duration of tala (time beat cycle) is displayed. The svaras in each segment are fixed and sung repeatedly.

Jathiswaram is not a set choreographed piece and is treated differently by different dancers and choreographers. It involves much exertion, and therefore pauses are given at the end of every segment, with the dancer taking a few backward steps and adopting a pose before commencing the next segment.

Jathiswaram was probably once an integral part of the pushpanjali krama (the invocatory piece preceding the jatisvaram) which later got separated into the present day alarippu (the invocatory piece) and Jathiswaram.