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Alarippu In Bharatanatyam

Alarippu is an item in Bharatanatyam. It is a pure dance item without reference to any story or emotion. Its rendering is highly symbolic and aesthetic. It is the first item of a Bharatanatyam performance. Alarippu is used as an invocatory item. The body and the hand gestures suggest salutations to God, guru and the audience.

No lyrics accompany alarippu. The dance syllables are rendered by the nattuvanar or the guru (master). Every alarippu starts from tatkar, which is said to be the brahmavacaka. Thus by pronouncing ‘tat’, all the three, namely, the guru, the dancer and the audience should remember the Brahman. The different patterns, the hand gestures and movements of the eye and feet are designed to invoke the Supreme Being.

It is believed that Brahma is at the center of the stage. Alarippu, which is derived from the word alar is an invocation to Brahma. Alar in Tamil means ‘to bloom’, ‘to open’ or ‘to blossom’.

The context of the word alar may here be taken as the process of the blooming of the body. By dancing alarippu, inertness or rigidity of the body vanishes and the body becomes light and agile for the forthcoming performance.