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 downfall. 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. 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 Bhagavatham and ‘Mela’ means group. Therefore Natya mela or Bhagavata mela of Tanjore refers to the group of artistes performing Yakshaganams of Kuchipudi origin, based on stories of Srimad Bhagavatam, in and around Melattur in Tanjore.
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 Melattur too, gained the advantages of few characteristics of Kuchipudi Yakshganams. 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 of Tanjore District, developed this style.