Friday, June 7, 2013

What is a Shabdam in Bharatanatyam?

What is a Shabdam (read: Sh-uhb-dham - शब्दं )?

Shabdam is a Bharatanatyam Item in which the Expressions (or Abhinaya) are introduced for the first time in the repertoire. The song (saahityam) is usually separated into stanzas and between each stanza, you'll have a simple Korvai (nritta steps). Each stanza can contain a different story or all of them put together is one single story. But essentially the whole item is about one person, one theme.

This item is usually set to the Misra Chapu Thaalam and Ragamalika (different Ragams or Tunes for different stanzas). Misra Chapu Thaalam is a series of 7 beats (1-2-3 ; 1-2-3-4 or tha-ki-ta ; tha-ka-dhi-mi)

The movements here are leisurely. In the Shabdam, emotions are withheld at the beginning; thereafter, when the dancer has clarified herself, they are released in a measured and disciplined manner.

Shabdams are also referred to as Yashogeethams . They have also inherited an Islamic Influence of repeating the Salaam or Namostute (paying respects to the Almighty or the King) at the end of each line. This pleased the patrons. Initially Shabdams were composed and rendered in one Raaga. But it is now a common practice to use one Raaga (or tune) for each stanza and present the composition in Raagamalika.

Some of the Shabdams that I know of are listed below. There may be many more to the list. Please let me know by leaving a comment on this post. I shall be happy to update the list -

Thandai Muzhanga
Aayar Seriyar
Adum Mayil
Vayu Maidane
Aazhi Suzhnthida
Devi Thaye
Venu Gananai
Krishna Manjari
Myilai Pujitha

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