How to Wear a Bharatanatyam Dance Dress




Introduction: How to Wear a Bharatanatyam Dance Dress

Bharatanatyam is a classical dance form originating in Tamil Nadu, India. It follows the rules of the Natya Shastra, which is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music, written between 200 BC and 200 AD. Bharatnatyam is considered the manifestation of the metaphysical element of fire in the human body and is usually learnt from one Guru (teacher). Learning Bharatanatyam normally takes many years before the student can perform his/her Arangetram(debut) in public.

There are two commonly used styles in Bharatanatyam Costumes for women: the Skirt (Saree) Style or the Pyjama Style. Dancers wear costumes made of silk sarees with gold zari embroidery designs. The pleats in these costumes opens beautifully when the dancer forms a particular posture especially arai mandi (half sitting) and muzhu mandi (full sitting). 

You can buy or rent the costume and jewelry online

Things you'll need:


Blouse (upper part)
Pyjama (lower part)
Small fan (waist)
Pallu (drape over bosom)


Jumka (earring with upward extension)
Oddiyanam (waist band)
Nathni (nose ring)
Long Mala (long necklace)
Short Mala (choker)
2 Vaanki (arm bands)
Chudiya (colored bangles to match your dress)
Ghungroo (musical anklet with metallic bells)
Mattal (forehead)
Chandra (moon shaped hair ornament)
Surya (sun shaped hair ornament)
1 Red stick-on Bindi(a decorative mark worn in the middle of the forehead)


Kunjalam (Three cotton pom pom's to tie at the end of a braid)
2 Rubber Bands
Hair Extension (to tie a long plait with)
Real or fake Gajra (string of flowers, usually white)
A pair of Scissors
Black String

Make up:

Eye Shadow (to match dress)
Face Powder
Liquid Foundation
Red Lip Color
Red Nail Polish
Eye Liner
Kohl (dark black)
Eyelash Curler
Alta (a red colored liquid that the dancers use to decorate their hands and feet)container
A small Container
Cotton Buds
Safety Pins

Step 1: Wear the Blouse and the Pyjama

Make sure the drawstring of the pyjama is tight before you tie a double knot.

Step 2: Making a Plait

1.Holding the connected end of your hair extensions, start tying it into a plait
2.When you reach the last 3 inches, plait in the Kunjalam
3.Tie the strings of the Kunjalam around the end of the plait as shown
4.Take a 15 inch string through the connected end of the hair extension

Step 3: The Hair: Bun

The Bun

1. Brush back all of your hair
2. Part your hair centrally till the top of you head (look at example)
3. Using a rubber band, tie a tight ponytail at a medium height
4. Turn the ponytail around into a bun and secure in place with another rubber band
5. Tuck in any stray hair with hair pins

Step 4: The Hair: Extension and Gajra

Adding the extension
1. Taking the plaited hair extensions by the string tie it securely around the bun2. You can go around several times to ensure a tight grip

The Gajra
1. Attach one end of the Gajra securely to the side of the bun using hair pins2. Take the Gajra around the bun two or three times (till it look sufficiently thick)
3. Attach the other end to the hair using a hair pin4. The Ganja should feel tight and stay in place. Use extra pins wherever required.

Step 5: Tying the Pallu

1. With the help of a safety pin, attach the Pallu's top end to your blouse from the inside
2. Pull back the drawstrings from the front half and tie a tight double knot at the back
3. Pull infront the drawstrings from the back half and tie a tight double knot on the front
4. Tuck in the front and back loose ends of the Pallu into the Pyjama (consult images)

Step 6: Attaching the Small Fan

Take the small fan around your waist and attach it to the front as shown in the images

Step 7: Make Up

Basic Face Make Up

1. Evenly apply necessary amount of liquid foundation on you face and neck (varies as per skin tone)
2. Apply Face Powder on face and neck
3. Apply Face Blush to your cheeks. Be generous with the color. 
4. Apply red lipstick

Eye Make Up

The eye make-up of a Bharatanatyam Dancer is the most essential part of her dressing. The eyes are highly expressive during the dance therefore it becomes essential to highlight them with proper care. 

1. Apply eye shadow. Choose the colors according to your dress as well as what looks good with your complexion. Try to use darker colors
2. Apply a thick layer of eyeliner that extends outwards and curls upward. This should not touch your eyebrows (consult the image)
3. Use a thick, dark line of kohl under your eyes
4. Add volume to your eyelashes using mascara and curl them up with an eyelash curler

Step 8: The Bindi

The Bindi

1. Stick the Bindi at the center of you forehead2. Using eyeliner make a small dot under your Bindi (optional)
(Note: people wear various types of Bindis. Some are long and decorative while others are round and simple. Bindi's come in all shapes and sizes so choose one that suits your face. Some people also paint on their Bindi's)

Step 9: Painting the Hands

1. Color all your nails red (hands and feet)and wait for it to dry.
2. Pour some Alta in a container
3. Using an earbud paint a circle in the center of your palm and fill in color at the tip of your fingers (consult image)
4. Repeat for front and back of both hands
5. Paint a circle on top of your foot. Draw a line around your feet and fill in your toes (consult image)
6. Wait for your hands and feet to dry to avoid staining your costume

Step 10: Jewelry (Part 1)

Chandra Surya

1. Tie the Chandra and the Surya on a string about seven inches apart.
2. With the Surya on the right and the Chandra on the left, tightly pull the string from the top of your head to under your bun and tie two strong knots there
3. Secure in place with the help of hair pins.


1. Put on the earrings
2. Take the upward extended part and attach it to your hair using hair pins (Note: You can also tie some string to the earring's top end to make it easier to attach with your hair)


1. Pull the center band of you Mattal to the top of your head so that the top of your forehead has the Tikka(big central ornament)
2. Make Sure that the Tikka is not droopy or loose.
3. Pull the side bands of the Mattal from behind your earrings, to the back of your head. Tie them tightly together.
4. Use hairpins to tighten if needed.


1. Press the nose ring tightly on the left side (optional)

Step 11: Jewelry (Part 2)

Short Mala

Tie the choker tightly around your neck (remove your plait from between the string)

Long Mala

1. Tie the long mall around your neck (remove your plait from between the string)
2. Attach both the strings of the Mala to the Pallu using safety pins from reverse side. This is done so that the Mala stays in place through the dance
3. Attach the Pallu to the blouse using a safety pin (from reverse side)


Tie both the arm bands on either side over the sleeve of the blouse very tightly


1. Tie the waist band around your waist 
2. Make sure to tie the plait INSIDE the string of the waistband (this is don't so that the hair stay in place)
3. the plait should be pulled out from the top of the waist band to it's maximum like in the image (this is done to give the head freedom to move)


Wear the bangles equally on both hands


1. Tie the Ghungroo securely around your ankles
2. Make sure the Ghungroo's are tied over the Pyjama and the Pyajama are tucked into the Ghungroo
(Note: There are some Ghungroo's that come on a string. Both can be used and should be tied over the Pyjama)

Step 12: You're Done!

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    14 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Want to prepare for Bride Dance


    5 years ago on Introduction

    thank you updating information regarding bharatanatyam dress etc... i have seen online regarding this costume and jewelry online at some shopping store i'm sharing which will useful for who are looking jewllery related dance items...


    Thank you very much for posting this article. I was really tensed about it. It looks awesome. :-)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I can not thank you enough for posting this. Very well laid out, thank you. My four-year old daughter and I recently started studying the beautiful art of Bharatanatyam and this will be so helpful to us in our dancing.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    How do they manage to dance after wearing so much ?????


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Please tell how to wear the Surya and Chandra head ornaments
    which one on the left side of the head and which one on the right side ?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey! The Surya (Sun) is on the right and Chandra (Moon) is on the left. Hope that helps :)


    8 years ago on Step 12

    Thank you every body to post this log. It is very useful to my sister's daughter. once again thank u


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, very beautiful and in-depth process. Thank you for sharing this!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Very interesting indeed, and I must say, one Mahatmama!