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An Introduction to the Bharatnatyam Dress

Bharatnatyam is an ancient South Indian classical dance form, originating from the state of Tamil Nadu. It is a highly stylized form of expression, where the dancer uses her body to express intricate emotions and movements. The traditional dress of a Bharatnatyam dancer is a key element of the performance. This article looks at the materials, colours, design features, accessories, draping styles, and cultural significance of the Bharatnatyam dress.

Introduction to Bharatnatyam Dress

The traditional dress for a Bharatnatyam dancer is known as a ‘pattu pavadai’ or ‘pavadai’. It consists of a skirt, a blouse, and a shawl or scarf. The skirt is often decorated with mirrors and intricate embroidery. The blouse is usually made from a lightweight fabric, such as silk. The shawl or scarf is also usually made from silk, and is draped over the dancer’s shoulder.

Materials and Colours

The traditional Bharatnatyam dress is usually made from silk, cotton, or brocade. The colours of the dress are typically bright and bold, reflecting the vibrant nature of the dance form. Red, green, blue, and yellow are common colours for the dress. The fabric is often embellished with intricate embroidery and mirror work.

Design Features

The skirt of the Bharatnatyam dress is usually a long, pleated skirt with a drawstring waistband. The pleats of the skirt are usually decorated with mirrors and embroidery. The blouse is usually cropped and can be either sleeveless or short-sleeved. The neckline of the blouse is typically decorated with embroidery or mirror work. The shawl or scarf is usually draped over the dancer’s shoulder.


The Bharatnatyam dress is usually accompanied by a number of accessories, such as bangles and anklets. These are usually made from brass or silver, and are decorated with intricate designs. The dancer may also wear a headdress, which is usually made from flowers or fabric.

Draping Styles

The shawl or scarf of the Bharatnatyam dress is usually draped in a particular style. This style is known as the ‘mangala sutra’, and is a symbol of a woman’s marital status. The scarf is draped over the dancer’

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