MELATTUR STYLE OF BHARATHANATYAM
(A compilation of information received from Guru M. Sundaram and references from history of South India).
From the traces of History, after the battle of Tallikota in 1565 A.D., the Vijayanagara Empire declined. The Kuchipudi art form too, which was patronised by the Vijayanagara kings had to face a dark age. The Nayakarajas of Tanjore came into power. Naturally and gradually, the glory and grandeur of Vijayanagara Empire entered Tanjore and the court of Nayaka kings became the abode of fine arts.During the 16th century, some of the Kuchipudi artistes, who are known as Bhagavathalus, migrated to the royal court of Tanjore from Kuchipudi village and received patronage from the King, Atchutappa Nayaka.
These Bhagavathalus settled at Melattur, a small village near Tanjore, and in other neighbouring villages. They pleased the king with their heart-stealing performances and thus secured an “Agraharam” for themselves from the King, Atchutappa Nayaka.
‘Bhagavathas’ or ‘Bhagavathalu’ means artistes who sing and dance episodes from 'Ithihasas' and 'Puranas' and the term ‘Mela’ means group. Therefore Natya mela or Bhagavata mela of Tanjore refers to the group of artistes performing Yakshaganams of Kuchipudi origin, in and around Melattur in Tanjore. Melattur (18 kms from Tanjore city) might have been derived from the combination of Melam (performing group) and Voor (place of settlement).
The very word “Bhagavathar” is the Tamil version of the Telugu word “Bhagavathalu”. Such was the merge of Kuchipudi culture in Tanjore region. Following this adaptation, it is clear that the then prevailing dance form in and around Tanjavur too, gained the advantages of a few characteristics of Kuchipudi's form. As the Melattur Bhagavatha Mela dance dramas are colourful, rich in music and has a striking visual appeal, the Melattur style Bharatanatyam too has all these characteristics as its unique features.
Our Mahaguru, Late Sri Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer, hailing from Mangudi Village (about 23 kms from Melattur) of Tanjore District, developed this style of Bharathanatyam.
Bharatha Natya Kala Bhooshana Virpannar,
Mahaguru Mangudi Sri R. Dorairaja Iyer,
Founder of Melattur style of Bharathanattam