Bharata Natyam is one of the four main classical styles in India. It developed from ritualistic dances performed in the past as offerings to the deities of Hindu temples and in a more sophisticated form in the courts by solo female dancers. The traditionally conservative South maintained a style closely related to the type of dancing mirrored in temple sculpture during more than two thousand years of recorded movement in stone. The great wonder of Indian dance is that it can be both an act of religious devotion and a superb entertainment at the same time.
In a successful performance, philosophy and human emotion blend in a subtle combination which gives a special flavor to every sound and movement.
The two main categories of dance, nritta, or abstract dance for the sake of its own beauty, and nritya, an expression of a mood or story through pantomime and a rich language of gesture, are equally well represented in this style.
The word abhinaya may be loosely translated as drama, but it is a very particular style of drama. For the most complete aesthetic experience, a performance usually requires an audience understand the poetry.
The ideal audience is comprised of rasikas or Sahrdayas (people of pure mind, with no mental prejudices or inhibitions). Rasa is aesthetic rapture or relish on the part of the observer, which is derived from a work of art.
Rasa arises from a combination of Bhavas, emotional states - Sthayihbhava, the dominant stable state and Sancharibhava the transitory fleeting state.
The causes are called Vibhavas and the consequences are known as Anubhavas. Rasa in order to exist entirely depends on the viewer or perceiver.