India is a land with varied, rich and vibrant dance traditions. The art of natya, or dance drama, was so important in ancient India that the Natya Shastra (Science of Dramaturgy) was referred to as the fifth Veda, a means for the illiterate majority to be educated in the scriptures, philosophy, mythology, science, craft, yoga and the ways of human nature. Today in India one can find seven major classical dance forms, several dance-drama forms and numerous regional folk dance forms.

Of these forms, Bharatanatyam is the most widely known within India and abroad. It is the classical dance style native the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. Like other Indian classical forms, it exhibits three main components: nritta, or pure dance technique, featuring rhythmic footwork patterns and beautiful abstract movements of the body, nritya, expressional dance, featuring a vocabulary of hand gestures and facial expressions used to mime the words of the song and natya, dramatization of mythological stories.  The pure dance technique of Bharatanatyam is marked by symmetrical lines of the body, exuberant leaps and bends contrasting with subtle neck and eye movements, and crisp, intricate footwork. The lyrical content of the songs used for the expressional dance of Bharatanatyam is primarily devotional or mythological. Its purpose is not merely to entertain but to inspire, uplift, transform, and ultimately to carry both the dancer and viewer closer to knowledge of the Divine.

With ancient roots more than 2000 years old, Bharatanatyam evolved over the centuries taking its present form some 250 years ago. It was traditionally a solo dance form performed by women within the temple precincts as part of the daily worship ritual. In the 20th century, Bharatanatyam emerged from the temple to take its place as one of India's premier theater art forms. Despite its secular setting, the devotional lyrics of this dance form ensure its deep spiritual connection to Hindu tradition. Today, Bharatanatyam is learned and performed by men and women of all classes in India and abroad.