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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Sixteen

Continued From Part Fifteen

Lakshana Granthas Continued

11. Sangita-ratnakara of Sarangadeva

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Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara  (first half of 13th century) is of particular importance; because, it was written just before influence of the Muslim conquest began to assert itself on Indian culture.  The Music and dance discussed in Sangita-ratnakara is free from Persian influence.  The Sangita-ratnakara, therefore, marks the stage at which the ‘integrated’ Music of India was , before it branched into North-South Music traditions.

[Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara was published by Adyar Library in four volumes. Please click here for : Vol IVol II ; Vol III and Vol IV 

And, please click here for the Sanskrit text of the Nartana-adhyaya]

The Sangita- ratnakara (the ocean of Sangita) describes the varied aspects of Sangita. The Sangita that the text refers to is indeed a composite term. The Sangita, according to Sarangadeva, is a comprehensive Art-form, composed of three elements (taurya-trika): the vocal (Gitam) and instrumental (Vadyam) music; followed by the third, the dance (Nrtyam) – Gitam, Vadyam tatha Nrtyam trayam Samgitam uccyate. 

The last one, the Nrtyam, is comprised of all the three Angas:  the elements: song, instrumental music, and, Dance.

Sangita

Here, the first element (Anga) of Sangita, the Gitam, the song format, is a fusion of Nada (sounds) and Akshara (a composition made of words). Its musical element is named Dhathu; while its lyrics or composition made of words is called Mathu. Locana Pandita, in his Raga-tarangini, explains the term Gitam, as:

Dhatu-matu-samayauktam Gitam iti uccyate budhaih; tatra nadatmako dhatur mathur akshara sambhavah

The Gitam, going by its traditional definition, strictly belongs to the Salaga Suda class of Prabandha, which is composed two Angas (elements) – Pada (words) and Taala (time-beats); and, having three components or Dhatus (Tri-dhatuka Prabandha) :  Udgraha, Dhruva and Abhoga.  For more on that, please click here. But, in common practice, anything that is sung goes by the name of Gita (Giyata iti Gitam).

The next term Vadyam, covers a wide variety of musical instruments, such as: the varied string instruments; different types of Drums; bell-metal cymbals; and a host of wind instruments including flutes, pipes, conch, trumpets etc.

Thus, the Sangita Shastra as envisaged by Sarangadeva was a composite Art consisting Gita (melodic-forms); Vadya (instruments); and, Nrtta (dance or limb movements). 

By the time of Sangita-ratnakara (13th Century), three Angas (limbs) of Sangita were well developed. Of these, the Vocal music was regarded as the essential, fundamental music through which all other forms of music were to be understood and interpreted. Here again, Sarangadeva focuses on Desi Sangita, though he comments on aspects of Marga Sangita as well. On Dance (Nrtya), he offers clear picture of both Marga and Desi traditions, although in a concise manner.

*

In his work Sangita-ratnakaraSarangadeva devotes seven chapters (Sapta-adhyayi) for discussing these three components (Anga-s) of Sangita; but, mainly about the first two. These seven Chapters covering varied aspects of Sangita are:

(1) Svara-gata-adhyaya ; (2) Raga-viveka-adhyaya (3) Prakinaka-adhyaya (4) Prabhandha-adhyaya (5) Tala-adhyaya; (6) Vadya-adhyaya; and,  (7) Nartana-adhyaya

The first six Chapters discuss, what is now known as Music – vocal and instrumental – (Gitam and Vadyam); and, these Chapters, together, are reckoned among the longest works on Music, in Sanskrit, covering all its vital aspects. The First Chapter deals with Nada (the principle of sound);  the Second with Raga (musical modes); the Third with Prakirna (miscellaneous topics relating to music); the Fourth with Prabandha (structured composition); the Fifth with Marga (classical) and Desi (regional) types of Taala (rhythm); and, the Sixth with Vadya (musical instruments).

Apart from these, the Sangita-ratnakara highlighted the ever changing nature of music; the expanding role of regional (Desi) influences on it, and the increasing complexity of musical material that needed to be systemised over a period. Yet; Sarangadeva was rooted in the prevalent musical practices of his time. His stress was consistently on the Lakshya, the music as practiced than on ancient theories (Lakshana), which though he respects them highly.

Thus, Sangita-ratnakara not only provides material for the study of the ancient music, but it also gives an insight into the then current practices. In his writing, Sarangadeva draws a clear distinction between the well established ancient (purva prasiddha) and the contemporary popular (adhuna prasiddha) Ragas. He also gives descriptions of the structures and temperaments of   musical instruments such as Veena and Vamsa (flute) according to the practices of his times. 

Therefore, the Sangita-ratnakara is regarded as a standard work or an authoritative text, on which the later scholars and commentators drew upon copiously.

*

[There are two well known commentaries on Sangita-ratnakara: the Kalanidhi of Chatura Kallinatha (c.1430); and, the Sangita-sudhakara of Simhabhupala (c.1330). Most of the editions of the Sangita-ratnakara are published along with these two commentaries, with the description:

Sangitaratnakarah, Chatura Kallinathaya virachitaya Kalanidhdya tikaya; Simhabhula virachitaya Sangitasudhakara tikaya cha samethah

Of the two, the Kalanidhi of Kallinatha (c.1430) is considered almost as a supplement to Sangita-ratnakara; as it expands on the text by citing verses of other authorities, and also introducing some new elements. For instance; Kallinatha, while commenting upon the descriptions of the Arm-movements, adds an entire section on the Vartana of which he describes thirty-one varieties (SR.7.270 to 286; Pages 105 to 110). Again, he adds another section on fifty types of Calanas or Calakas, another type of arm movement (pages 111 to 124). Further, Kallinatha quotes from the ancient authority Kohala, on the subject of Caris; and adds a new a new type Cari called Madhupa-cari (SR. pp.313-17)

The King, Simhabhupala, of the Recherla dynasty of Rajachala in Andhra, in his commentary Sangita-sudhakara (c.1330), written about a hundred years earlier Kallinatha’s Kalanidhi, tried to clarify the topics dealt by Sarangadeva in a clear manner. It provides some valuable information culled from the older texts. He cites from a certain text named Prayogastabaka, said to be a commentary the Dattilam ascribed to Dattila (Ca. First century); but, its manuscript, so far, has not been found.]

Dances

The Seventh and the last Chapter (Nartana-adhyaya) of the Sangita-ratnakara is about the third component of the Sangita, which is Nartana, the Dance format which includes Nrtta, Natya, and Nrtya. Here, Sarangadeva follows King Someshvara (Manasollasa) who had divided Nartana into three categories: Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya.  Though the Chapter on Dance is titled Nartana, it discusses mainly its Nrtta and Natya aspects.

On the subject of Dance, Sarangadeva has less information to offer than his contemporary Jaya Senapati (Nrtta-ratnavali, 13th century). But, what he offers is concise and systematic, presenting a clear picture of two Dance traditions – Marga and Desi – as were practiced dancing in the author’s time. And, the Seventh Chapter, the Nartana-adhyaya, with 1678 Verses, is the longest Chapter of the text.

And, so far as Dance is considered, Sangita-ratnakara marks the stage when Dance came to be viewed and treated as an independent Art-form; and, not as a mere ingredient adding beauty to a theatrical presentation. And, another significant feature was that the regional, the Desi style of Dance was given due importance, along with the classical Marga. Here, Sarangadeva was following the trend set by King Someshvara, in his Manasollasa.

Now, we are mainly interested in the last and the Seventh Chapter Nartana-adhyaya, dealing with Dance.

Sarangadeva

Sarangadeva / Sharangdeva (1175–1247) gives some information about himself in the beginning of the work. Sarangadeva introduces himself as belonging to a family which hailed from Kashmir. His grandfather Bhaskara, an Ayurveda physician, moved from Kashmir into the newly found Yadava capital at Devagiri (Maharashtra), in the Deccan region, at the invitation of King Bhillanna V (1173-1192). After the death of Bhillanna, his son Jaitrapala or Jaitugi ascended the throne and ruled for a short period. He was succeeded in 1200 by Sevuna (Yadava) King Simhana/Singhana (1200-1247). He was a very powerful king and also a great patron of arts, literature, and science. It was during his reign that Sarangadeva was appointed in his father’s (Sodhala’s) post as the Royal Accountant (Sri-karana-agrani). Along with his work at the King’s offices, Sarangadeva continued to practice the family profession of Ayurveda. He is also said to have written a Vedanta work entitled Adhyatma-viveka. That work is not available now.

During his spare hours, Sarangadeva was busy composing his monumental work on Indian music the Sangita Ratnakara, the Ocean of Sangita. It turned out to be one of the important and comprehensive Sanskrit texts on Music of India.

**

The Nartana-adhyaya opens with the famous verse, which is commonly associated with the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeshvara.

Angikam Bhuvanam sloka

Angikam Bhuvanam Yasya, Vachikam Sarva Vangmayam, Aaharyam Chandra Taradi, Tam Namah Saattvikam Shivam 

Whose bodily movements is the entire universe; whose speech is the language and literature of the entire Universe; whose ornaments are the moon and the stars; Him we worship, the serene Lord Shiva. ..!

There is, in fact, a protracted debate about the original authorship of the first forty verses of the Nartana-adhyaya.

Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja, in the introduction to the Fourth Part of the Sangita-ratnakara, edited and translated by him (published by Adyar Library, 1976), observes , it appears that nearly forty-two  verses in the introductory portions of the Seventh Chapter of the  Sangita-ratnakara , are almost the same as the introductory verses found in the Abhinaya-Darpana ascribed to Nandikeshvara.

The question is who borrowed from whom?

At the outset, it appears as though Sarangadeva borrowed these portions from the Abhinaya-Darpana.  However, the commentators, King Simhabhupala (c.1330), author of the Sangitasudhakara; and Kallinatha (c.1430) author of the Kalanidhi assert that the introductory verses of the Nartana-adhyaya are genuinely Sarangadeva’s own verses. If that is so, then the date of the Abhinaya Darpana would be pushed further down.

But, the Abhinaya Darpana mentions that these verses are the teachings of the older authorities – Yetani purva-shastra-anusarena ukthani ve maya (AD.47)

It is also likely that Nandikeshvara and Sarangadeva, both borrowed from a common source.

Yet; the question is still open.

*

In the introductory section of the First Chapter, Sarangadeva lists a number of earlier authorities, the essence of whose views, he states, he is presenting in his work.

Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara is a great compilation, not an original work, which ably brings together various strands of the past music traditions found in earlier works like Nāţyashastra, Dattilam, Bŗhaddēśī, and Sarasvatī-hŗdayālańkāra-hāra. It is greatly influenced by Abhinavagupta’s Abhinavabharati and Someshvara’s Manasollasa. But for Sangita-ratnakara, it might have been more difficult to understand NatyasastraBrhaddesi and other ancient texts.

Chapter Seven, which is the last Chapter, is in two parts.  The first one deals with Nartana. The term Nartana is a common term representing the arts of Nŗtta, Nŗtya and Nāţya (SR. 7. 3).

In describing the Marga tradition of Dance, Sarangadeva follows Natyashastra. In fact, the whole of the Seventh Chapter draws most of its material from Natyashastra and its commentaries. Many of the passages narrated therein (say, verses 78 to 89) are straightaway taken from the Ninth Chapter of Natyashastra. Even the definitions offered in this Chapter are adopted from other sources.

As regards the Desi class of Dance he improves upon the explanations offered in Manasollasa of King Someshvara and Sangita Samayasara of Parsvadeva.

In the second part of this Chapter, the author describes the Bhavas  (states or moods) and the related Nine Rasa-s, namely, Śrńgāra, Vīra, Hāsya, Raudra, Adbhuta, Karuņā, Bhayānaka, Bībhatsa and Shānta.

*

Sarangadeva commences his exposition on Dance with the statement that the Natya-Veda is, indeed, threefold: Natya, Nrtya and Nrtta (Natya, Nrtya tatha Nrtta tridha tadipi kititam- SR.7.3)

[Here Sarangadeva is following the classification as given in the Manasollasa; except that he does not use the term Nartana, as Someshvara did to represent the Dance , in general.]

Of these three, Sarangadeva explains the term Natya as that through which Rasa manifests (Natya sabdau Rase mukhyo Rasabhivyaki karanam – SR.17.18) . It connotes Abhinaya, through which the import of the Drama is expressed by the actors, in varied ways, providing uninterrupted joy to the spectators (SR.7.19).

He explains Nrtya as that which expresses Bhavas (various states and moods) through Angika-abhinaya; and, it is of the Marga class (SR.7.26)

And, Nrtta, he says, is only the movements of the body (gatra-vishepa matra), devoid of Abhinayas (sarva-abhinaya vargitam) SR.7.28.

Then, Sarangadeva mentions three varieties of Nrtta: Visama (acrobatic, dancing around with ropes etc.,); Vikata (comical or ludicrous in ungainly dress and movements; and, Laghu (of Ancita and other easy Karanas) – SR.7.31.32

The Natyashastra had earlier described Tandava as the Nrtta performed by Shiva; and Sukumara (Lasya) as Parvati’s dance. And, Bharata had not qualified these dance types as either being aggressive or gentle. There was, of course, mention of Nrtya.

But, here, Sarangadeva differed from Bharata. He classified both the Nrtta and Nrtya into two kinds: Tandava and Lasya (SR.7.28). Further, he said that Tandava requires Uddhata (forceful, aggressive) and Lasya requires Lalita (delicate, gentle)   movements (SR. 7. 29- 30).

Thus, according to Sarangadeva, the Nrtya covers rhythmic limb movements (Nrtta) as also eloquent gestures expressing emotions through Abhinaya. It is a harmonious combination of facial expressions, various glances, poses and meaningful movements of the hands, fingers and feet. Nrtyam, the dance, delightfully brings together and presents in a very highly expressive, attractive visual and auditory form, the import of the lyrics (sahitya), the nuances of its emotional content to the accompaniment of soulful music and rhythmic patterns (tala-laya). And, Nrtya can portray both the Tandava and the Lasya Dance movements.

As mentioned earlier; with exception of some elements, the treatment of the Angika-Abhinaya in the Sangita-ratnakara, to a large extent, follows the Natyashastra of Bharata. But, Sarangadeva made some changes in the arrangement of the limbs, within the three groups of limbs: Anga, Upanga and Pratyanga. Here, Sarangadeva followed the Manasollasa of Someshvara – (Verses 38 to 42). For instance;

Anga

SR Anga

Bharata, under the category Anga, the major body-parts, had listed six parts as: the head,  the chest, the sides, the hips, the hands and the feet.

Here, Sarangadeva, following the general pattern as laid down by Bharata, adopts, under the Anga, the six body parts: the head; the two hands; the chest; the sides; the hips and two feet. In addition to these Six, he adds the shoulders also.

Here, Sarangadeva differed from both Bharata and Someshvara [who had included shoulders and belly in place of the hands (Hasthas) and the feet (Padas)].

Pratyanga

SR PratyangaBharata, under the Pratyanga, had mentioned six parts as: the neck, the belly, the thighs, the shanks and the arms.

Sarangadeva included all these six parts under the Pratyanga; and, in addition he also counted the knees and wrists. Here, Sarangadeva followed the classification made by Someshvara.

 

 Upanga

And, under Upangas, Bharata had included nine elements , such as : the eyes; the eyebrows; the eyelids; pupils; the nose; the lips; the cheeks; the chin and the mouth; in addition to facial colors.

[Sarangadeva enumerates thirty-six varieties of glances, as did Bharata. And, he remarks: these may be taken only as illustrations; but, in fact, its possibilities are innumerable, depending upon the actions of the brows, pupils and the eyelids.]

SR UpangaSarangadeva, in addition to the nine Upangas in the head, as mentioned by Bharata, brought in the elements of the breath, the teeth and the tongue. However, Bharata had not considered these three as Upangas.

Apart from the twelve Upangas located in the head, Sarangadeva counted the heels; the ankles; the fingers of the hand; the toes; and the soles of the feet. Here he was clearly deviating both from Bharata and Someshvara. Because, Someshvara had included only the tongue and teeth as Upangas, in addition to those mentioned by Bharata; but, he had not included those parts with other limbs as Upangas. Obviously, Sarangadeva adopted these details from some other source.

 

*

As regards, the colours of the Face (Mukha-raga), Sarangadeva adopts the four colours as mentioned in the Natyashastra: Svabhavika (natural); Prasanna (clear); Raktha (red); and, Shyama (dark) Verses 527-528

Asamyuktahastas

As regards the position of the hands (Kara-Pracara), Bharata had classified these into three kinds: Uttana (facing upward); Adhomukha (facing downward); and , Parsvagata (turned to the sides). Sarangadeva , however, adds twelve more  positions of the hands as sub-classification of  the three mentioned by Bharata: Agratastala (palm facing forward); Svasamm-mukhatala (palms turned to oneself); Urdhva-mukha (pointing upward); Adho-vadana (pointing downward); Paran-mukha (pointing outward); Sammukha (pointing toward oneself); Parsvato-mukha (pointing to the sides) ; Urdhvaga (moving up); Adhogata (moving down); Parsva-gata (moving to the side) ; Agraga (moving forward); and, Sammukha-gata (moving toward oneself). (Verses 532-537, Page 182)


flower design

Sarangadeva mentions (in Verses 42 to 48, Pages 16-17) that henceforth, in the Chapters to follow, he would be describing:

Sarangadeva mentions (in Verses 42 to 48, Pages 16-17) that henceforth, in the Chapters to follow, he would be describing:

: – The positions of the hands (Kara-Pracara); the movements of the hands (Kara-Karana); the actions of the hands (Kara-Karma); the places for the hands (Hastha-kshetra);

:- The descriptions of the two-fold Karanas , the Marga and the Desi Nrtta karanas,  those accompanied by jumps (Utpluti); the Angaharas along with their Recakas ; the Caris , with their Marga and Desi variants; the Sthanakas; the Vrttis; the Nyayas , with their Pravicaras , the Mandalas of all kinds;

: – The descriptions of the Lasyangas; the Rcakas;

: – The procedures for practice (Srama) of Dance ; the definition of a person fit for Dancing (Patra); the qualifications of a Nartaki, the qualifications of the Dance-teacher; the merits and de-merits of the Dance troupe;

: – The descriptions of the Acharya, the Nata, the Nartaka, Vaitalika, Carana, and Kolhatika;

: – Particulars of the rules relating to Gundali; the correct description of Peranin and his style;

: – The descriptions of the assembled spectators, the leader of the assembly, and the location of the assembly; and,

: – The descriptions of the Nava Rasa-s and Bhava-s;

Sarangadeva , generally, follows the descriptions provided in the Natyashastra and the  Manasollasa , while enumerating the different  positions and movements of the various elements and components of the body; the Caris, Sthanas,  Karanas and the Angaharas of both the Marga and the Desi types; the Lasyangas; qualities of the Dancers; qualities of the Dance teacher; the Desi Nrtta and its various forms ; and , discussions on the Rasas , Bhavas etc.

**

Sarangadeva’s description of Caris, Sthanas, Karanas and Angaharas of the Marga type are as per the Natyashastra.

[Sarangadeva explains Cari as the combination of the beautiful movements of the feet, shanks, thigh and the hips, performed in coordination. The term Cari, he says, is derived from root Car ( to move); and, by adding the suffix i (n) and ni , at the end.]

But, the Desi styles of Bhumi (36 types) and Akashi Caris (19 types); six Sthanas for men, seven Sthanas for women and twenty-three Desi Sthanas; nine sitting and six reclining Sthanas (altogether fifty-one Sthanas); the four types of Vrittis; the Bhumi and Akashi Mandalas; the Desi Lasyangas; and the 36 Utpluti-karanas from regional traditions, which demand strenuous physical exertion and perfect control of the limbs, are the same as those in the Manasollasa of Someshvara.

Some of the thirty-six Utpluti-karanas in the Sangita-ratnakara are also the same as in the Manasollasa, which lists eighteen karanas of the Desi variety (Manas. 16. 4. 1384-99).

*

As regards Bhramaris, in the Natyashastra, the Bhramari was the name of a Cari; and, it was not a particularly complicated revolving movement.

In the later times, many types of Bhramaris were developed; all of them being variations of the whirling movements. Gradually, as these diversified into more elaborate movements, they came to be recognized as constituting a distinct class. The earliest text to do so was Parsvadeva’s Sangita-samayasara (7.193) a treatise on Desi music and dance prevalent in 13th century; and, it describes eleven Desi karanas; along with five Bhramaris.  

The Abhinaya-Darpana (289- 98) also regards the Bhramaris as a distinct group.

Here, Sarangadeva was following Parsvadeva, who had described Utpluti-karanas needed for the Desi Nrtta along with eleven Desi Karanas with different Desi Sthanas; and, five Bhramaris.

These Bhramaris are included among Utpluti-karanas by Sarangadeva, also. And, it indicates that by his time, the Bhramaris were so developed and so important as to be regarded as a form of Karanas.

karanas_dribbble

After the description of the Sthanas which include sitting and lying postures that are appropriate to drama, the author discusses the four types of vrttis (caturdha Vrtti) , the modes of depiction and styles of presentation : Kaisiki; Sattvati; Arabhati; and, Bharati. Bharata regarded the Vrttis or the Styles as one among the most important constituent elements of the play. In fact, he considered the Vrttis as the mother of all poetic works – sarveāmeva kāvyānāṃ-mātkā vttaya smḥ (NS.18.4).

This is followed by a description of Mandala (combination of Caris); and then of ten Lasyangas of the Desi variety.

Jaya Senapati (Nrtta-ratnavali), who was a contemporary of Sarangadeva, gives a list of forty-six Lasyangas; and, Parsvadeva, who preceded both, had listed twenty Desi Angas.

But it is Sarangadeva’s list of ten Lasyangas that was cited by the  later authors.

**

Next, Sarangadeva describes the Gaundali and the Perani, the two dances commonly performed in the Desi tradition.  Here, Sarangadeva follows Sangita-Samayasara of Parsvadeva.

Parsvadeva, had mentioned Perana, Pekkhana, Gundali and Dandarasa, as forms of the Desi-Nrtya. He had also discussed the Sthanas and Caris needed for these Desi types of dances; and, in particular, the five elements or components (Angas) of Perana Dance: Nrtta, Kaivara, Ghargara, Vagada and Gita.

Parsvadeva had described Nrtta as consisting Lasya and Tandava aspects , which are based rhythm and tempo; Kaivara as praising the king through praising his ancestors; Gharghara as rhythmic stamping of feet , with bells tied to the ankles; Vagada as miming of ludicrous characters; and, Gita as a song sung according to the rules of a pure or mixed raga, complete with Alapa.

In that context, he had given the details of the instrumental music, drumming in particular, needed for four kinds of Desi dances, namely, Perana, Pekkhana, Gundali and Dandarasa. Parsvadeva had also indicated the requirements of a good dancer, her physical appearance; and, the way she should be dressed etc.

Sarangadeva, following Parsvadeva, also talks of the qualities and appearance of the Peranin a male dancer; and, says that the Peranin should : have his body covered with white coloured ash ; have his head shaved, leaving a small tuft of hair (Shikha); wear number of shining anklet-bells (Ghargharika); have a good voice ; be clever; be an expert in Tala and Laya; and, should be an attractive dancer (Verses 1301-3, Pages 384-85)

He also explains the sequential process of a performance, including the musical accompaniment, in the pure mode or Shuddha-paddhati, and the Gaundali of the Desi tradition (Verses 1316-25, Page 389). Here, Sarangadeva follows Manasollasa, entirely

The Gaundali and the Perani  seemed to have been the most common Dance-items in Desi tradition; because, they are mentioned in all the texts from the Sangita-samayasara in the twelfth/thirteenth century down to the Siva-tattva-ratnakara of Basavabhupala of Keladi (1684 A.D.-1710 A.D.)

And, Perani was popular, particularly in the Andhra region. And, Jaya Senapati had discussed it in fair detail. Its popularity is attributed to its fast movements; and, to the use of ankle bells.

Pekkhana or Preksana, a Desi Dance with Lasya and Gaundali are described with accompanying vocal and instrumental music. The Gaundali dance certainly survived till the eighteenth century; but,  later, it seemed to have faded away.

*

After describing these two dance pieces, Sarangadeva enumerates the qualifications of the Acharya (the teacher); the Nata (the actor); the Nartaka (the dancer); the Vaitalika (a common entertainer); the Charana (an expert in understanding Gharghara, a distinctive feature of the Desi dances of the Dravida region); and, the Kolatika (a performer who specializes in Bhramari, rope-walking and dancing with a dagger). Next, he describes the audience and the sitting arrangements.

Then, after describing the Lasyangas, Sarangadeva explains the importance of aesthetic beauty; and,  lays down the rules of exercise, and describes the qualities and faults of a performer (including a description of her make-up and costume), and those of the teacher and the group of supporting performers. Then he describes the sequential process of a performance, including the musical accompaniment, in the pure mode or Shuddha Paddhati.

The Chapter offers guidelines for dance practice; dancer’s merits, credentials and shortcomings; and, the description of the music/performance hall. In doing so he combines the material from the Natyashastra with that from later works; and , presents a coherent view not found in previous works.

rasas

In the second part of this Chapter, the author describes Rasas , the Nine Rasas (Nava-rasa), thirty-three Sthayi-bhavas, eight Sattvika-bhavas , thirty-three Vyabichari  Bhavas; and the definition of Sattva. Sarangadeva largely follows the explanations offered by Abhinavagupta on the theories of Rasa.

Sarangadeva mentions that all the eight kinds of states or Sattvika-bhavas (temperamental states) can appear in any of the Rasas. And, in a Drama one Rasa must be made prominent; and, other Rasas should be supplementary.

**

The Seventh and the Final Chapter concludes with the Verse wherein Sarangadeva avers that he did not compile this work out of pride of his learning or knowledge; but, as a means to reach out and to seek a place in the hearts and minds of the learned.

Na vidya-darpato grantha pravrttirmam kim tvidam / Vidvan manasa –vasaya gantu patheyam asthitam // SR.7.1678 , Page 476 //

sangita-ratnakara-.jpg

lotus333

In the Next Part, we shall move on to another text.

Continued

In

The Next Part

 

References and Sources

  1. Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition by Dr Mandakranta Bose
  2. Sangita ratnakara  https://ia601602.us.archive.org/27/items/Mus-SourceTexts/TxtSkt-
  3. Sangita ratnaj -kars : https://ia601602.us.archive.org/27/items/Mus-SourceTexts/TxtSkt- https://ia601602.us.archive.org/27/items/Mus-SourceTexts/TxtSkt-
  4. All images are from Internet

 

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Fifteen

Continued From Part Fourteen

Lakshana Granthas – continued

10.  The Nrttaratnavali of Jaya Senapati

 

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Evolution of Dance During the medieval period

The medieval period spanning the Twelfth to the Fifteenth century was a very significant period in the history of Indian Dancing. And, the developments that took place during this period cast their influence on the future course of Indian Dancing. And, they were also instrumental for the emergence of numerous Dance forms, in the different regions of the country.

To start with; it was during this period that Dance along with Music (which were both clubbed under the term Samgita)  emerged out of the shadows of the Drama; and, began to be recognized and discussed in their own right , as independent Art-forms rather than as adjuncts to Drama.

Dance, in the Natyashastra, was an ancillary part (Anga) or one of the ingredients that lent elegance and grace to theatrical performance; and, it was not yet an independent art-form, by itself.  Further, Bharata had discussed Dance, mainly, in terms of Nrtta, pure, abstract and beautiful dance, performed in tune with the rhythm and tempo, to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music.

The Nrtta was described in terms of the motion of the limbs (Anga-vikshepa), the graceful composition of the limbs – gatram vilasena kshepaha ; the beauty of its form; the balanced geometrical structure; creative use of space; and rhythm (time). And, therefore, Nrtta was meant to be a beautiful visual presentation, as an auxiliary to Natya (Drama), pleasing the eye (Shobha hetuvena). But, it was not intended to give expression to thoughts, emotions or even to indicate objects.

Bharata, at that stage, is credited with devising a more creative Dance-form, which was adorned with elegant, evocative and graceful body-movements of the Nrtta; performed in unison with attractive rhythm and enthralling music; in order to effectively interpret and illustrate the lyrics of a theatrical song; and, also to depict the emotional content of a dramatic sequence. Thus, Bharata, in effect, fused the rhythm and fluidity of Nrtta with the evocative grace and expressions of the Abhinaya. 

But, Bharata had not assigned a name to that resultant new Art-form. It was only after the Eleventh-Twelfth century that this delightful and the most enjoyable of all Art-forms created by Bharata (Bhartopajanaka) came to be celebrated as Nrtya.

Bharata had not also classified what later came to be known as Nrtya into Tandava and Lasya types.  Therefore, the terms Nrtya and Lasya do not appear either in the Natyashastra or in its early commentaries. Even Abhinavagupta (11th century) avoids using the term Nrtya.  It was only during the later times (that is, during the period about which we are talking now) that Nrtya gained an independent recognition as an expressive, eloquent representational Art, which projects human experiences, with amazing fluidity and grace.

 It was beginning with this period that Nrtya, a blend of two well studied, well developed and well codified Art forms – the dance of Nrtta and Abhinayas of Natya –advanced  vibrantly, imbibing on its way, numerous novel features; and, soon became hugely popular among all classes of the society. It gained recognition as the most delightful Art-form; and in particular, as the most admired phrase or form of Dance.

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It was also during this period that the element of Lasya came into prominence; and, it also developed in different regions assuming varied forms (Desi-Lasyanga).  

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By this time (say, the 12th century) the influence of the Natyashastra was getting distant and weaker; and, most writers of this period followed the interpretations of Abhinavagupta (11th century).

Further, Natya, the Sanskrit Drama, by then, was beginning to lose its appeal among the common people. 

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The tradition, techniques and definitions as prescribed and codified in the Natyashastra came to be classified as the Marga, the classic or the pristine form of Dance, as distinct from the innovative regional styles called Desi.

At the same time, those dance forms which adhered to the established regulations and conventions of the Marga; and, which had a definite structure were termed and classified as Nibaddha. And, those free-flowing dance forms, which were spontaneous, unregulated, unstructured and not bound by any rules, were treated as Anibaddha

Anibaddha also meant allowing the dancer considerable latitude in devising body movements that best suited the aesthetic and emotional content of the theme. And, it also made room for enterprise to come up with fresh idioms of expressions.

And, because such spontaneous Desi Dances , unique to each region, were  practiced enthusiastically by the common people ; and, were gaining ascendency,  the writers and commentators of this period, in their texts,   assigned greater importance to the descriptions of the postures, feet positions and movements (Sthanaka, Cari and Karanas) of the regional and popular  Desi styles.

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Commencing with this period, there began the practice of composing texts and treatise, which were wholly devoted to the discussions on the theory, practice and techniques of Dance, as relevant to the contemporary methods of training, learning and performance. Until then, most of the texts and treatise which dealt with Music, primarily, also talked about dance, in comparatively briefly manner, towards the end.

Such specialized  texts of this period covered not only the well regulated dance forms (Margi), but also  the individual Desi Dances (Desi-Nrtta) and   the group dances (Pindibandhas) of the Desi types like Rasaka, Perani, Carcari, DaṇḍarasRaslīlā , and other folk dances of similar nature, some of which have survived as dramatic group presentations.

Though the texts usually commenced with descriptions of the Marga features, the contemporary Desi dance-forms were given a more detailed treatment, while illustrating various postures and movements.

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By about the twelfth century, the differences as also the relationship between the Nrtta (pure dance) and Nrtya (Nrtta with Abhinaya) were clearly established. And, those dance formats, in combination with music, were suitably applied and integrated into the performance of the Dance Dramas.

That marked the emergence of dance-dramas of the Uparupaka class, as a credible format of Dancing. Here, Dance was not a mere ornament as in the age of Bharata; but, it permeated the entire body of presentation. This was an altogether new genre of Dance oriented Dramas.

Such forms of Uparupakas, composed in very attractive and entertaining formats, with the predominance of the elements of the music and dance, accompanied by soulful songs, interpreting the emotional contents of the song through Abhinaya or gestures, soon gained immense popularity.

Such Uparupakas, of the dance-drama type, began to develop in many regional popular styles.  And, each of its derivative forms such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, and Kuchipudi and so on, formulated its own tradition, ethos and idioms of expressions , anchored  in its own regional and cultural background; and rooted  in its own philosophy  and outlook.

The features that were  common to all those diverse types of regional dance forms (Desi Nrtta) could , in short, said to be : the prominence assigned to the narration of the theme;  the dominance of Natya-dharmi mode of presentation;  more space and time given to  dances  depicting Srngara aspects performed to  appropriate music, Laya (tempo) and Taala (time-units, beats); employment of all the four Abhinayas in varying degrees; making a distinction between the Nrtta and the Nrtya, and maintaining  their distinctive features while executing  the respective elements in the performance; taking care to see that the Nrtta aspect, particularly the individual dance movements and postures, are  governed by the special techniques developed by each school of Desi-Dance; and, recognition of both the  Ekaharya (solo-where a single dancer enacts the role of several characters) and Anekaharya (where several actors participate  to enact their respective role)  modes of presentation.

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And, since then, such dance and music oriented Uparupakas have come to stay and flourish both in the solo and in the group dance forms; and, even have come to occupy a central position within the contemporary world of Art. They have also successfully retained their regional and cultural identity, while carrying forward their tradition to the present time.

[The early twentieth century witnessed the revival of the Marga tradition, thanks to the efforts of a group of artists, scholars and art-lovers. That regenerated Art-form, is celebrated by the name of Bharatanatya; and, its scope and content extends beyond Bharata’s concepts and techniques. It has brought within its ambit the formats of NrttaNrtya and Natya, in addition to the Uparupaka class of Dance Dramas. Further, though it is, essentially, rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, it has adopted many features and techniques from the regional dance traditions (Desi Nrtta) ; and, has thus enlarged its repertoire;  and, acquired many dimensions.

Though its teachers  and the learners , alike,  emphasize  the importance of adhering  to and preserving the purity of the Marga tradition; and, its continuation, Bharatanatya, in its practice, has brought within its fold some innovative techniques and refreshing modes of expression, in tune with the advancing times. These could be called as ‘context-sensitive interactions’.]

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The Nrttaratnavali

The Nrttaratnavali of Jaya Senapati (13th century) epitomizes the characteristic features of the Indian Dance tradition of the medieval period.

The Nrttaratnavali is the first text (perhaps the only text) of this period that is entirely devoted to the discussion on the subject of Dance. All the Eight Chapters of the text discuss Dance in its varied forms; and, the aspects of vocal or instrumental music is mentioned only in the context of Dance.

Though it commences with the discussion on the Angika-Abhinaya as per the norms specified in the Natyashastra (but, actually, as per Abhinavagupta), Nrtta- ratnavali later covers, in detail, the aspects of the Desi Nrtta, on which it lays greater emphasis.  In the process, the focus of the work is more on the Desi Nrtta, than on Nrtya with its Abhinaya aspects. And, that, perhaps, is the reason why the text was named as Nrtta- ratnavali.

It would be fair to say; the Nrttaratnavali went beyond the Natyashastra in its descriptions of the Karanas of the Marga Class. The Nrttaratnavali is perhaps, one of the few texts of its period, which presents graphic details for execution of a Karana along with its associated Caris (feet position), Hasthas (hand-gestures) and Pada-bedha (feet movements) , by following which a Karana could be reproduced successfully.

Apart from that; Jaya Senapati quotes the views of earlier writers on the treatment of Karanas, providing a broader view on the subject of evolution of the Karanas.

Thus, the Nrttaratnavali, apart from its theoretical merit, is also of great practical value.

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The King Someshvara, (12th century), in his Manasollasa, was the first writer to recognize and to describe the Desi Sthanas, Caris and Karanas.  He was followed by Sarangadeva (first half of 13th century), who in his Sangita-ratnakara, gave the Desi Nrtta a more detailed treatment.  And, Parsvadeva (a Jain Acharya of 12th or early 13thcentury) in his Sangita-samarasya also recorded some Desi Dances. But, it was Jaya Senapati (second-half of thirteenth century), who in his Nrttaratnavali, accorded a systematic and an elaborate treatment to all aspects of Desi Nrtta.

His work covers, in main, the Nrtta type of Dance forms and their movements as prevalent during the time of the King Ganapati Deva (13th century). Jaya Sena was the first author and commentator to write, in detail, about the dances prevalent in AndhraPradesh.

He enumerates verities of new forms and techniques of Desi Nrtta; the entire sequence of Desi Sthanakas, Caris and Karanas; how to perform the entire form of dance; and, clarifies the major points of dance and artistic techniques. One could say that the Nrttaratnavali covers all areas of the art of Desi-Dance, its techniques, composition, and aesthetics and so on.

The Nrttaratnavali is one of the early manuals on dancing to describe Lasya, in detail. It makes Lasyanga the very heart of the Upaarupakas, the minor type of Dance-dramas, narrating an incident or a segment of a theme, usually, related to the sports of Krishna (Krishna Lila). These Rasaka types of dances depict the graceful, delicate and love-laden-playful (Lalitha) dance movements associated with Srngara Rasa.

Though the text initially enumerates the Lasya elements of Marga Class, as they appear in the Natyashastra, it then goes to elaborate on the Desi-Lasya, listing as many as forty-six regional variations (please check page 17)  of such Lasya type. These Desi Lasyas are presented, mainly, through the Angika (dance movements), with hardly any Vachika Abhinaya (speech). The Nrttaratnavali describes Lasya the graceful delicate dance performed by women; as also the Perani, a form of Tandava the vigorous forceful dance of men.

The Desi-Lasyangas enumerated in the Nrttaratnavali became the core of the Lasya dance tradition of Andhra Pradesh. Many of such Lasyangas can be seen in the performance of Padams, Javalis etc., of Kuchipudi dance form.

Therefore, Nrttaratnavali is said to mark a significant stage in the development of the dance-literature. The Dance-manuals of the later period, following the lead given by Jaya Senapati, accorded greater importance to Desi Dance sequences that were in practice during the contemporary times, instead merely  reiterating the norms  of the Natyashastra.

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Jaya Senapati

Jaya Senapati / Jaya Senani / Jaya Sena / Jaya Senadi-natha /Jayana / Jayappa Nayaka / Jaya-charya / Jayappa Nayadu , the author of Nrttaratnavali, was a Commander of the Elephant Forces (Gaja-Sena-pathi) as also a Elephant-trainer (Gaja-sadhanika) in the service of the Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva (1199-1262), considered as the greatest among the Kakatiya Kings,  who ruled from Warangal (Andhra-Maha-Nagara). Jaya Senapati, later served the legendary Queen Maharani Rudrama Devi (ruled 1262-1289), the daughter and the successor of Ganapati Deva.

It is said; Jayana hailed from a family of Chieftains (Ayya-kula sanjata) who, at one time, were in charge of the Velanadu region, under the Telugu Cholas who ruled from Chandavolu. And, later, Jayana’s father Pinna-Choda Nayaka was in charge of Divi Island (Divi-seema) in the Krishna Delta, under Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva.

The King Ganapati Deva an, enlightened ruler and a patron of Arts,  having noticed  the intelligence , politeness and studiousness  of Jayana, as also  his desire to learn ,  took the boy Jayana under his care; and supervised his education. He arranged for Jayana’s Dance –education under the Natyacharya Gundamatya.

The King Ganapati Deva later appointed Jaya as the Nayaka of the Tamrapuri (said to be in Guntur District); and honoured him with the title ’Vairigodhuma Gharatta’

Jayana though an army commander by profession, was at heart a true Artist; and, was a well qualified Nartaka. He grew to become a Natyacharya, a Master who imparted training to the aspirants desirous of learning Dance. He was also a qualified musician and a composer. He has to his credit the Geeta-ratnavali, a treatise on Music, as a companion volume to his Nrtta- ratnavali, a manual on Dance.

Jaya Sena mentions that the text of the Nrtta-ratnavali was completed during – Vaivasvata Manvantara, Kaliyuga, Prathama Pada, after 4355 years during this period, and in the year named Ananda-nama-Samvathsara – which equates to the year 1253 -54 AD. It is said; by then Jaya Sena had grown into a wise and erudite scholar of about sixty years of age.

He reveals that it was not easy for him to compose Nrtta- ratnavali, a work of a highly technical nature, in Sanskrit verses. He had to study much, work hard and had to consult many experts in various fields.

Jaya Sena mentions that he studied the Natyashastra of Bharta Muni , diligently , spending hours upon hours poring over its tedious text; delving deep into the depths of its numerous commentaries; debating endlessly with the well disposed scholars, each adhering to his tradition; learning from many Gurus the secrets of the Shastra; and, above everything else he had the faith he could successfully accomplish his task, blessed with the infinite mercy and Grace of Lord Shiva , the Supreme Natyacharya. (Nr. Rv. 1.12).

[Abhyasate Bhartokti-bhanghisu, bahau-vyakya patesu sramath, samvadath Guru sampradaya suhrudam, Shambho prasadadapi, jnathava shastra rahasyam,  nirmitamidam maharthanvitam, nasyath kasya hitaya shasvata yashasam rakshanam lakshanam – Nr.Rv. 1.12]

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He also studied the Dance sculptures of the Ramappa Devalaya, dedicated to Lord Shiva, as Ramalingeswara, at Warangal, depicting various KaranasIt was built during 1213 AD by a General Recherla Rudra, during the reign of the Kakatiya ruler Ganapati Deva, under whom Jaya Sena served.

The temple is known for its elaborate carvings that adorn  the walls, pillars and the ceilings of its marvelous edifice. In addition, there are images of Shiva in his various forms; the sculptures of Naginis, musicians; and, the bracket-figures of dancers executing various Karanas.

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Apart from the study of the traditional texts, Jaya Sena mentions that he learnt much from the practicing Devadasis, the temple-dancers.  And, he put that practical- learning to good use. He cites as many as three hundred dances performed by the Devadasis at the Natya Mantapas of various temples, as illustrations in his text Nrtta- ratnavali.

And, in return, Jaya Sena trained many young Devadasis, along with the Raja-Nartakis who danced at the King’s Court.

The Nrtta-ratnavali is thus the fruit of Jaya Sena’s dedication to his Art, earnestness and long years of learning from various sources. He remarks: Lord Shiva, verily, is formless (amurta); but, since he loved Dancing, he, in his boundless compassion (karunya) and love for the beings, assumed the form (murta) of Nrtta, in order to be accessible to the aspirants. For my humble-self, the Nrtta, indeed, is Shiva incarnated (Shiva-svarupam). 

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Structure of the Nrtta-ratnavali

The Nrtta-ratnavali is a comprehensive study of dance, structured into Eight Chapters (Asta-adhyayi). It has, in all, about 1700 verses (Slokas).

All the Eight Chapters of the text deal with dance exclusively. The first Four Chapters describe the Angika Abhinaya, generally following the Natyashastra of Bharata (which is the Marga tradition). And, the Four Chapters, in the latter half of the text, are devoted to the Desi Nrtta, keeping in view the contemporary practices.

In short:

The Chapter one , which serves as assort of introduction, provides  the definition of terms such as Nrtta, Nrtya, Marga, Desi, Tandava and Lasya, as also their different aspects ; and, gives  explanations of  the four types of Abhinayas. The Chapter Two deals with Angika-Abhinaya, giving details of the different body-parts classified under:  Anga, Upanga and Pratyanga. The Chapter Three explains the Dance-elements: Caris, Mandala, Sthanaks, Asana and Shayana; and the importance of physical fitness (Anga saustava). The Chapter Four enumerates the 108 Karanas, the Angaharas and the Recakas. As mentioned; the first four chapters contain material as per the Marga tradition.

In the latter half of the text; the Chapter Five deals with the Desi varieties of Sthanakas, Uupulika-karanas, Caris and Bhramaris. The Chapter Six describes Desi varieties of Pada-bedha, Caris, Lasyangas and Gati-bedha. The Chapter Seven discusses general topics related to dance; and, in main, the fifteen Desi-Nrttas, (Nrtta-bedha), including the Perani type of dance. It also discusses the theatre and its types, training methods, various types of artists involved in the production and presentation of Dance etc. The last Chapter Eight describes the general aspects of presenting dance; and, the administration of the theater. The Chapters Five to Eight are devoted to Desi Nrtta, in the light of the then current practices.

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 Brief Summary of the Contents of the Nrtta-ratnavali – Chapter-wise

As regards the Chapter-wise details:

Chapter One

1.The First Chapter (74 verses) of Nrtta-ratnavali begins with the customary benediction, praising dance as an Art-form par excellence, and, defining Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya. And, it also explains the four modes of Abhinaya, i.e., Angika, Vacika, Aharya and Sattvika; and, describing , in detail , the six forms of Dancing- Nrtta, Nrtya, Marga, Desi, Tandava and Lasya .

Jaya Sena explains, the verbal root ‘Nata’ represents the pulsations that occur when the innermost feelings of a being are stirred, awakened and move up (Uccara) towards awareness

Spandana artha taya dhootornateh Satvika puritam ; Rasa-ashrayam ca jneyam vakhyarta abhinayam atmakamNr.Rv.1.26  

As regards Abhinaya, Jaya Sena says, when the prefix ‘Abhi’ is added to the verbal root ’ni’; and, when it ends in ‘an’, the term Abhinaya is formed. Its purpose is to bring forth and to express thoughts and emotions, as also to indicate objects. Abhinaya, he explains, is the act of experiencing a feeling and expressing its meaning variously  , with clarity, through the postures, gestures and movements  of the parts of the body  , the major and minor limbs (Shakha, Anga and Upangas).

Shakha, Angair Upangai ca prayogena vibhavayan, artan bahau vidhan prapyena va Abhinaya mathah –Nr.Rv.1.28

Jaya Sena defines Nrtta as the movements of the limbs (Anga-vikshepam), in harmony with the rhythm (Laya), the music of the instruments and the song. It is pure Dance, devoid of Abhinaya etc.

Gita-vadyadi militam, laya-matra samashrayam, Anga-vikshepam Nrttam, Bhaved –AbhinayojjitamNr.rv.1.53

And, Nrtta and Nrtya, he says, are of two kinds each: Lasya, the delicate (sukumaram) and graceful; and, Tandava the vigorous (uaddatam).  

Lasyam- Tandava bhedena dvaya metat dvidha punaha, sukumaram, tayo -radhyam bhaved para uaddatam-Nr.rv.1.56

The mutual attraction and love between man and woman, he says, is Laasa. And, that which is meant to express such Laasa is Lasya. The Lasya comprises those delicate and graceful movements of the body, which arouse a pleasant euphoric feeling (manasija ullasa) and erotic desire.  The Lasya is to be performed only be women.

Bhavah Stri-Pumsayor Laasam, tad artam tatra sadhu va Lasyam manasija ullasa hetu mrudvanga horavat Devyai Devo upadistatvat prayaha Stribhi prayujyate –Nr.rv.1.57

Then, Jaya Sena enumerates ten forms of Lasyanga (Lasyangani): Geyapada; Sthitapāhya; Āsīna; Pupagaṇḍikā; Pracchedaka; Trimūhaka; Saindhavaka; Dvimūhaka, Uttamottamaka; and Uktapratyukta (Nr.rv.1.58-59)

 These ten Lasyangas, of Marga Class, mentioned by Jaya Senani are the same as in NatyashastraLāsye daśa-vidha hyetad-aganirdeśa-lakaam.

Geyapadam, Sthitapāhyam, Asīna PupagaṇḍikāPracchedaka Trimūha ca Saindhavākhya Dvimūhakam 119 Uttamottamaka caivam Uktapratyuktam eva ca NS.19. 120

[The Lasyangas, according to Jaya Sena, are the elements of the traditional forms of Dance (Marga). In the first part of his work, Jaya Sena presents the Lasyanga as per Bharata, whose emphasis was on the dramatic nature of Lasya. In the Second half of the work, Jaya Sena deals with the Desi –Lasya, the regional variations of the Lasya. He lists as many as forty-six (on page 17) such Desi-Lasyas, which are entirely rooted in Angika movements, with very little of speech element, the Vacika.]

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Jaya Sena remarks; some authorities include two more types of Lasyangas – Vicitrapada and Bhavika – but, he would not accept them; and, would adhere to the ten, as enumerated by Bharata Muni – Angani Dasa caiveti Munina yat prakirthitam (Nr.rv.1.72).

1 . Geyapada :  The Lasya opens with Geyapada; and, it is accompanied by instrumental music; and, by the singing of the Sushka Aksharas, the rhythmic syllables (Svaras) by the musicians.  Then the heroine enters, in dance-like movements; takes her seat; and, sings a song praising the virtues and merits of her Lover.

2. Sthitapāhya: The love-stricken Nati or heroine (still seated) renders a song composed in a Prakrit language, pining for her lover; and, pouring out her pain and pangs of separation.

3. Āsīna : The heroine continues to sit in a depressed mood, ruminating over her forlorn condition. She expresses her sorrow and misery through her doleful eyes and facial expressions.

4. Pupagaṇḍikā: The sad looking heroine enters the further phase of her love-pangs; and, with her friends by her side, she imitates her Lover, his gestures and his speech. And, the Nati-Nayika, assuming the role of a man dances and sings a song, as her Lover would do.

5. Pracchedaka: This stage depicts the overpowering influence of moonlit-nights over the beloveds. They, still separated, forget and forgive each other’s mistakes; and, long to be together again.

6. Trimūhaka: This is similar to the fourth stage of Lasyanga. Here, the pains of separation experienced by the Lover (male) is conveyed through a song composed in Sanskrit, in which the metre is even, employing words that are neither harsh nor severe; but , is natural. The accompanying Dance too is gentle.

7. Saindhavaka: Here, the heroine is depicted as of a Vipra-labdha, waiting for her Lover who fails to turn up on time at the place of tryst. She is sad, disappointed and restless; and, she sings a plaintive song in Prakrit of the Sindhu region (Saindhavi), arousing pity. Her dance follows her mood.

8. Dvimūhaka: This is a happier dance, celebrating the heroine’s joy. In her Abhinaya, there is a clear portrayal of her Bhava and Rasa. She , in her playful exuberance, makes pretentious gestures, dances delightfully; turning and swinging merrily in circular movements. The accompanying melodious vocal and instrumental music reflect her happiness.

9. Uttamottamaka: This takes the heroine through a more joyous mood. She celebrates her Love through playful, seemingly mischievous and cheerful movements. The songs she sings are composed in verses of striking beauty. And, the instrumental music is lively and uplifting.

10. Uktapratyukta: The two lovers finally meet and come face-to-face. The Lady-Love, in mock anger, blames the erring Lover for the misery he caused her; and, brisk words are exchanged (Uktapratyukta). After due explanations, the two beloveds forgive each other; assert their Love for each other; and, promise never to be apart. The songs depict the moods and the theme of their exchanges. Then, the heroine dances around her Hero, sublimely.

[ Jaya Sena, in the latter part of the text, lists forty-six Desi- Lasyangas.]

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Chapter Two

2.The Chapter Two (437 verses) , which is the longest , having the most number of verses, deals with Angika Abhinaya, the movements of body-parts, which are most relevant to dance. Jaya Sena describes, in detail, the movements of the major and minor limbs – Angikani – (Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga).

He mentions six Angas (head, hands, chest, waist and feet) – Shiro, hastha, Purah, Parshva, Kati, Padau, sat-kramath (Nr.rv.2.1)

The six Pratyangas listed are: the neck, shoulders, stomach, spine, thighs and shanks (Griva, Bhuja, Kushiro, Prusta, Uru, Jamha, Prtyangani sat – Nr.rv.2.2)

And, the six Upangas are: the eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips cheeks, and chin (Vilocana, Bhru, Nasika, Oustya, Kapola, Chabukani, sat UpanganiNr.rv. 2.2.)

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Then he goes on to describe

: – thirteen types of head – movements (Shiro-lakshanam- verses 3 to 29);

:- thirty-six type of eye movements or glances  (Dristi-lakshanam) ; of which eight types of glances are based  in eight Rasas (Rasa-dristi);  eight glances expressing Sthayi-Bhavas (Sthayi-dristi) ; and those expressing the Sancari-Bhavas being twenty – (verses 30 to 72 )

: – Jaya Sena also describes the applications or uses of the glances enumerated by him (Dristinam Viniyogah) – (Verses 73 to 83)

: – Thereafter he moves on to describe nine kinds of the movements of the eyeballs (Tara karma) and its uses (Tara karma Viniyogah) – (verses 84 to 91)

: – Next, eight types of eye-expressions (Darsha Prakara) are described (Verses 92 to 96)

: – The nine types of the movements of the eyelids (Puta Karma) are described next (Verses 97 to 104)

: – The seven types of the movements of the eyebrows (Bru-karma) are described next – (verses 105 to 115)

: – Thereafter, Jaya Sena moves on to Nasika -lakshanam, the six types of movements of the nose (Nasa-karma) – (Verses 116 to 122)

: -The movements of the lips (Oustya or Adhara-lakshanam) are six – (verses 123 to 131)

: – The movements of the cheeks (Kapola-lakshanam) are also six – (Verses 131 to135)

: – The movements of the chin (Chibuka-lakshanam) are seven; these are coordinated with those of the tongue, teeth, lips. These are mentioned as Hanu-lakshanam, Jihva-lakshanam, and Danta-kama (Verses 136 to 151)

: – The movements of the neck (Griva-lakshanam) are of nine types – (verses 152 to 157)

: And, the facial colors (Mukha-ragam) are three- (Verses 158 to 163)

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Hastha –lakshanam

Jaya Sena deals with the gestures and movements of hands (Hastha-lakshanani) in fair detail. Here again, he, generally, follows the enumerations and the descriptions as provided in the Natyashastra. He also explains why he is adhering to the enumerations made by Bharata Muni; and, is not accepting the changes and modifications made by Someshvara and other commentators.

Jaya Sena describes 14 types of the movements of the single hand (Asamyukta-hasta) – (Verses 165-167); 13 types of the movements generated by the combination of both the hands (Samyukta-hastha) – (Verses 168-169); and, 29 types of the Nrtta hastha- (Verses 170 to 175)  . Thus, the Hasthas, in all, add up to sixty-six representations.

Jaya Sena describes each of the elements of the Asamyukta-hasta (Verses 187-263); the Samyukta-hastha (Verses 264-286); and, the Nrtta-hastha (Verses- 326-375), along with their Viniyogas (applications). During the course of presenting his explanations, Jaya Sena quotes the views of other authors, such as Abhinavagupta, Klrtidhara and others.

At the commencement of the discussion on the Hastha-lakshanam, Jaya Sena makes a very interesting observation. He compares the movements and gestures of the hands and fingers to a vast ocean.  He says, the subject is very vast; and is indeed, endless. Just as the ocean contains in itself, varieties of animals, creatures, vegetation etc., the Hasthas have varied and almost countless varieties of expressions.

Vast is indeed the subject of the gestures of the hands, just as the ocean. The waters of the ocean, in their depth, house the wily animals like crocodiles; on its surface are the lovely flowers like lotuses; and, over its surface fly the swarm of bees in graceful abandon. The waters are dotted and decorated by the beautiful wings of the swans; and, by the dancing petals of the lotus. The ocean, of course, is also the home of creatures like crabs etc.

Chatura Makaradi prollasat-padma-kosam, Bhramara-Lalita-Lilam, Hamsa paksha-abhiramam, pravicalad-alapadmam, karkata-dirupetam , jaladi jalami vedam, brumahe hastha-lakshanam (Nr.rv.2.164)

The terms that are cleverly used by Jaya Sena in this verse, also stand for the various types of hand-gestures (Hastha-bedha): Chatura; Macara; Padma-kosa; Bhramara; Lalitha; Hamsa-paksha; Ala-padma; and Karkata.  He has woven these terms, ingeniously, into the descriptive verse.

Referring to the limitless potential of the hand-gestures (Hasthanam ananthathvam) to express various suggestions, thoughts, emotions and objects; Jaya Sena remarks:  the whole universe can be expressed through these gestures. Their ways are truly endless. There are might be many Hasthas that are applicable in a particular context; but, there could be several more such. The skill of the performer lies in exploring; and, in choosing from the vast resources, the one that is most appropriate. The use (Viniyoga) of the Hasthas is, indeed,  infinite –ananta.

Abhijneyam jagat –sarvam ananto abhinayo pyayam, yo eva yujyate hastho tesam api anantataNr.rv. 2.287

Jaya Sena counsels: the truly wise must study deep, exercise their discretion to choose the most suitable Hastha, taking into consideration the context of place, time , performance and its purpose. Its expressions of the Sthayi and Sancari Bhavas must be adequately supported by the suitable meaningful eye- movements.

Desa, Kala, prayogartha vedi, netradi dristi cestitai, anukulai prayanjita sthayi-sancari-suchacaihi – (Nr.rv.2.290)

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Thereafter, Jaya Sena moves on to describe the movements of the other limbs (Pratyangas), such as the arms, shoulders, stomach, spine, thighs and shanks, with particular attention to the feet movement : Bahu Prakara (310-325); Paksha-lakshanam (376-382); Parshva-lakshanam (383-388);  Jatara-lakshanam (389-390); Kati-lakshanam (391-395); Uru-lakshanam (396-400); Janu-karmani (401-404); Jampa-karmani (405-411); Pada-lakshanam (412-426); and, Padanguli-lakshanam (427- 437 ).

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Chapter Three

3. The Chapter Three (198 Verses) is mainly about Caris (movements of one leg), Sthanas (postures); Nyaya (stance to be assumed while wielding a weapon in a fight); Vyayama (exercise); Sausthava (physical fitness); and, more Sthanas and Mandalas (combinations of Caris).

Here, Jaya Sena broadly follows the enumerations and definitions as per Bharata; but, makes certain variations.

He describes 16 types of Bhu Caris – both feet in contact with the ground (Verses 14 to 40) and 16 types of Akasha Caris – one foot in the air or a leap (Verses 41 to 69). Jaya Sena remarks, though for the purposes of the text the Caris are counted as 32 in number; its varieties are truly endless.

He also describes ten earthly (Bhu) Mandalas and ten aerial (Akasha) Mandalas.

As regards the Sthanas, standing-postures, Jaya Sena makes a distinction between the Sthanas meant for men (Purusha-Sthana) and those for women (Stri-Sthana). He reckons the following six Sthanas as being suitable for men: Vaishnava, Sampada, Vaisakha, Mandala, Alidha and Pratya-alida.

He describes, in fair detail, the Nyayas or the positions and postures to be assumed while fighting and wielding weapons.

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Chapter Four

4. The Chapter Four (377 Verses) describes Karanas (dance-units) and Angaharas (sequences of dance-units); and, ends with Recakas (extending movements of the neck, the hands, the waist and the feet), mainly, on the lines of the Natyashastra. In general, Jaya Sena’s treatment of the Marga tradition is faithful to Bharata and Abhinavagupta.

The groups of Karanas as listed in the text are : Valitoru (encircling); Aksipta (embrace); Kranta (anklet movement); Harinapluta (leaping like a deer); Bhujanga-ancita (curving-like-a-snake); Parsva-kranta (moving sideways); Apavidda (entertaining); Vrshabha-krida (like a bull); and, Urdhva-janu (lifting up the knee).

He then provides various combinations of the Stanakas, Nrtta-hasthas and Caris in order to compose varieties of Karanas. He describes several aspects of Angaharas; and, remarks, that by altering the sequence in the combinations of the Karanas, infinite variations of the Angaharas can be produced.

Here, while commenting on the Angaharas, Jaya Sena observes: Generally, a combination of three or four Karanas could be said to compose an Angahara.  But, there is no such strict rule in that regard. Bharata had used the prefix ‘va’ to indicate that there could be more options.  A combination of two Karanas is named Matraka; of three as Kalapa; of four as Khanda; and, of five Karanas as Sanghata. Therefore, the Karanas can be made into sets of six, seven, eight and even nine to form an Angahara. And there is no strict rule; it is left to the imagination and skill of the performer.

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Chapter Five  

5. The Chapter Five (109 Verses) marks the commencement of the Second-half of Nrttaratnavali; and, this latter-half is devoted to discussion on the Desi Nrtta.

The term ‘Desi’ has been in use since the time of Matanga’s Brhad-Desi; and , later it was extensively used by  other authors , such as : King Someshvara (Manasollasa) , Srangadeva (Sangita-ratnakara) and Parsvadeva (Sangita-samaya-sara). All these commentators described the various types of Desi dance-postures, movements and Dances.

As mentioned earlier, Jaya Sena in his Nrttaratnavali deals with the Desi Dances and their elements in Four Chapters (from Chapter 5to 8).  Here again, he discusses  the Desi tradition in two parts: in the First Part (Chapters 5 and 6) he describes the Desi types of Sthanakas, Utpluti-karanas, Bhramaris, Pada, Pata, Cari, Lasyanga and Gati-bhedas as being derivatives or supplements  to the Marga -bhedas.

And, in the second Part (particularly the Chapter 7), Jaya Senani focuses on the various types of Desi Dances that were prevalent during the time of his King Ganapati Deva; and, these include Dances forms that were peculiar to the Andhra region  (Desi Nrtta) such as : Perini, Rasakam, Carchari, Bahurumpam, Kanduka , Bhandika , Kollatamu , Chindu and Gondali.

Tandava

Jaya Sena commences the Chapter Five by defining the term ‘Desi’ as that which is innovative, depicting new subjects, in newer forms of Dance movements (Nava Nrttam), that are peculiar to the culture (Desanusara) of each region (Desi); and, that which are devised for the delight of the Kings, who are always interested in newer forms of entertainment; as also for gladdening the hearts of common people of.

Bhavanti Dharanipalah prayena Abhinaya-priyah, atah triptiyedyapi yad utpadyate navam Nrttam tatah smrutam Desi tat Desanusaraha (Nr.rv. 5.3)

He then goes on to describe twenty-three types of Desi Sthanas (Verses to 38); Fourteen types of Utpluti-karanas (Desi Karanas with leaping movements)- (Verses 39- 46) and their thirty-two types of applications (Verses 47 to 81); and, thirteen types  of Bhramaris  (pirouettes, spins and turns) – (Verses 82 10 109)

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Chapter Six

6. The Chapter Six (187 Verses) deals with the movements of the feet. These are described here as Desi-Padas, which are also called as Desi Caris by other authors. But, in the tradition of Bharata, the Caris and Padas are treated as being distinct.

Jaya Senani, following Bharata, treats these separately. He has a separate section for dealing with his Desi-Caris, some of which are not found in the earlier texts. Similarly, the descriptions of the Desi-Patamanis are his own.

Here, the Desi Pada implies merely contact of the feet with the ground; and, Desi -Patamani involves stamping or striking the ground with the feet (Pada-tadana); and, Desi-Caris involve movements of one extended leg.

Matanga, in his Brhad-Desi, had described sixteen verities of foot-positions (Sodasa-DesiPada-bedhah) that add beauty to the Desi Nrtta. Jaya Sena after describing these Desi-Padas (Verses 1 to 12) extends them to twenty-eight foot-movements – Astavimsati-patah (verses 13 to 53).

Jaya Sena recalls the statement made by Matanga that with some enterprise and imagination, one can devise more number of Desi Padas; and, Jaya Sena avers that he would be following Matanga’s advice. Accordingly, Jaya Sena describes forty-two verities of Desi-Caris, of which twenty-six are Bhumi-Caris (with feet in contact with the ground)- (Verses 63 to 88); and, sixteen are Akashi Caris (with at least one leg in the air) – (Verses 89 to 105).

Jaya Sena, in addition, describes four mixed varieties of Caris (Sankirna-Cari) : Talasarpanika (chain-like movements on foot soles), Hamsarutham (swan-like movements gliding back and forth), Tittiri-gati (simulating butterfly movements perched on toes) and Antarapadmasam (squatting in Padmasana and moving up) (verses 106 to 112).

Then Jaya Sena takes up Desi-Lasyanga, describing its forty-six varieties, following, in main, Srangadeva and Parsvadeva- (Verses 118 to 169).

Jaya Senani defines Lasya and Tandava as the two varieties of Nrtta and Nrtya. The Lasya, he says, is a feminine dance style, which arouses the Srngara Rasa with its delicate and graceful movements. Shiva taught this dance style to his consort Parvati.

In contrast, Tandava, a pure Nrtta with no element of Abhinaya, is a vigorous type of dance, performed in various Talas to invigorating music, in brisk and aggressive movements, exuding Veera and Bhayanaka Rasas. In the Desi Nrtta, Tandava is basically the dance of the warriors performed only by men. 

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The Chapter Six concludes with description of the Gatis (gaits), in slow (vilambita), medium (madhyama) and fast tempos (druta) – (Verses 170 to 187). During the sequence of taking such steps, the pace of gaits could vary from slow to fast or medium etc., or the other way; it would then be a Sankirna –Gati. Jaya Sena also indicates the Talas (the time units) that are appropriate for the Gatis of each tempo (Kala). For instance; if the performer takes two, three or more steps within a Time-unit (Tala), then that could be called Druta-Gati (Verse 172).

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Chapter Seven

7. The Seventh Chapter discusses varied subjects such as : auspicious dates for beginning dance lessons (the term that Jaya Sena uses here is Nrtya); the characteristics of the stage and some general discussion on presentation; the time and location of dance performances; the worship of Ganesha; the methods of training and practice; the qualifications desirable in a dancer; the dance costume; the hand-gestures for practice; and, the accompanying vocal and instrumental music. The Chapter then focuses its attention on describing individual dance pieces, calling them Desi Nrtta.

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There is an elaborate description of Perani. It is said; the term Perani was derived from ‘Prerana’ meaning inspiration. And, Perani is one who is inspired by Lord Shiva; or a dance form that invokes (Prerana) and is dedicated to the Supreme Dancer Shiva.

The text carries an elaborate description of Perani, lauding him in choosiest words of praise and attributing to him all the noble virtues.

A Perani , a dancer,  is one who is capable of taking the spectators to the heights of aesthetic delight; an attractive person of great reputation; descending from commendable linage; a sentient connoisseur; and adept in rhythm; expert in music; master of several instruments; devoid of aberrations; learned in several, branches of knowledge ; proficient in many languages; a dancer of great quality, who is well versed in both the Lasya and Tandava Dance forms; one who can execute the Karanas involving leaps , turns and spins; and, an adept in all the Dance techniques.( Nr.rv. 7. 34 to 37)

The text mentions; the Prerana dance has five aspects: Nrttam; Kaivaram; Ghargaram; Vikatam; and, Geetam.

Prerar-angani panchasya Nrtta, kaivarah, Vikatam, Geetam ityesham karma laksham pracakshapa (Nr.rv.7.43)

It is believed that this dance form invokes ‘Prerana‘ (inspiration) and is dedicated to supreme dancer Shiva.

Chhau-Dance

Jaya Sena describes the five parts of the Prerana Dance. And says :

 : –  The Nrtta is that which has both the aspects of Lasya and Tandava- tan Nrttam yat dvidataktam Lasya Tandava bhedah  (Verse 44).

:- The Kaivara is the dance which adulates and celebrates the virtues and valour of the Great kings of the past; and, through the metaphors used for such a great person , the King who is on the throne is lavishly praised (Verse 45).

:- The Gharghara is that war-dance which is enthused by vigorous and rousing beats of the thundering Gargara war-drums; dancing furiously, employing six of the ten Pada-bhedas (other than Parsva, Gattitama, Suci and Anguliprusta) – (Verse 55).

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 :- The Vikata is the grotesque dance  where the dancers wearing the ghastly make up and costumes of the demons and ghouls (Pisaca), covering their faces with masks of ugly faces, frightening eyes and repelling lips ; even turning their shoulders, stomachs and legs into ghastly proportions (Vikruta) , scream , shout most annoyingly ; and, jump, twist, turn in ugly ways. Some call this Dance as Vagada. (Verses 56 and 57)

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: – And, Geetam is that where the performers dance to the melodious and tuneful singing of the songs from the traditional Shuddha Chayalaga Prabandha Music format. (Verse 58).

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The Perani Paddati the ways of performing the Perani Dance are described in Verses 59 to 68. Here, Jaya Sena specifies the types of music, songs and instruments, as also the stage preparations suitable for performing all the five aspects of the Prerana Dances, in their sequence.

[The Perini Tandava is a vigorous Nrtta, usually, performed by warriors (Veerulu) before they leave for to the battlefield. It is therefore called ‘Dance of Warriors’. The Perini Tandava, done to the resounding beats of drums, is indeed believed to be the most invigorating and intoxicating male dance form. While dancing, the warrior invokes Shiva to come into him ; and, to dance through him.  Dancers drive themselves to a state of frenzy, where they feel the power of Siva in their body.

The dance form, Perini, reached its pinnacle during the rule of the Kakatiya Kings, who established their dynasty at Warangal and ruled for almost two centuries. The Perini dance form almost disappeared after the decline of the Kakatiya dynasty.]

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Jaya Sena outlines the Desi Paddathi of presenting a Dance performance.

The performance begins with the auspicious instrumental music; that is followed by Yati-Praharana; and Pushpajali is performed without song or musical accompaniment. Then follow the Jhenkara; Rigavani; Tundaka; and, Camatkara. Thereafter come the Geetanga, the orchestral music, the auspicious songs and finally the Praharana- (Verses 69-70) . Further details are provided in Verses 71 to 77.

[Pardon me; I am not very clear about some of the terms used here to indicate the ingredients of the Desi-Paddathi.]

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Jaya Sena, following the explanations provided by Matanga for classifying the Prabandhas, says that Nartana can also be classified into two classes: Shuddha Suda and Salaga Suda.

According to Jaya Sena, Nartana that follow the  Shudda Suda type of Prabandha  has nine forms : Ela; Karana; Varnasara; Kaivara; Jhombada; Tribanghi; Vartani, Rasaka; and Ekatali.( Verses 80 and 81)

And, the Salaga Suda has seven types: Dhruva, Mantha, Prati-mantha, Nihsaru, Addatala, Rasaka and Ekatali. (Verse 88)

The following twelve types of Desi Nrttas are described in the Nrttaratnavali:

1. Rasakam; 2. Carcari; 3. Natya-Rasaka; 4. Danda-Rasaka; 5. Sivapriyam; 6. Cinthu-Nrtta; 7. Kanduka-Nrtta; 8. Bhandika-Nrtta; 9. Ghatisani-Nrtta; 10. Carana-Nrtta; 11. Bahurupa-Nrtta; and, 12. Kollata- Nartana.

Rasaka

Jaya Sena, then, takes up the description of the Rasaka, which is a Pindibandha class of Group Dances. The Pindibandhas, or group dances, a form Nrtta, are performed by six, eight, twelve or more pairs of men and women. The Pindibandhas are classified into four types: Pindi (Gulma-lump-like formation); Latha (entwined like creeper or net like formation, where dancers put their arms around each other); Srinkhalika (chain like formation by holding each other’s hands); and, Bhedyaka (where the dancers occasionally break away from the group and perform individual numbers).

Of these four types of Pindibandhas, the Rasaka is treated as a Pindibandha of the Latha variety of  Lasya, which is related to Srngara-rasa, portraying love and other softer, graceful aspects.

Jaya Sena describes the Rasaka type of Desi Nrtta in Verses 84 to 99.

According to Jaya Senapati, Rasaka is to be performed by experienced, young, dancers in pairs of 8,12 or 16 , dressed appropriately, exhibiting various Caris , entering from either sides of the stage , in tune with the musical instruments, the Sangita Vadya.  He describes the beauty, youth and alluring qualities of the dancers; and, their flashing movements, comparing them to lightning.

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Carcari

Carcari is described as a springtime-dance performed by a group of female dancers, celebrating the Vasantotsava festival, singing sweet songs in Raga Vasantha; weaving various patterns and designs as they dance; clapping hands; snapping the fingers or striking each other’s palms while they dance around in circles; and form manifold patterns while performing Khanda, mandala, Cari etc., as in the Pindibandhas. Carcari is a kind of ensemble dance, resembling the Rasa-Lila of the Gopis.

Carcari is a jubilant Dance, a festive sport of merriment , singing songs  of Srngara Rasa, where the cheerful women, as they dance, move around in circles,  and sing praise the virtues of the Nayaka , the presiding King (Verses 98 and 99) .

It is said; the Carcari Prabandha is known as Jajara in some Telugu texts. And, Raja Bhoja, in his Srngara Prakasa, uses the term Carcari as an alternate name for Natya-Rasaka.

Maidens Performing The Ecstatic Dance

Natya-Rasaka

Jaya Sena explains Natya-Rasaka as a Dance performed in the spring season (Vasantha) by the women of the Court singing Desi Songs in Hindola Raga, praising the virtues and merits of the King ; and, interpreting the words of the song through Abhinaya (Padartha-abhinaya)- (Verse 100)

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Danda Rasaka

The Danda-Rasaka is Nrtta, a Pindibandha or group dance performed by eight or more pairs of men women, playing with coloured sticks. There is much singing and dancing in rhythmic steps; but, not much speech and Abhinaya. It is similar to the Rasaka. This type is also known as the Krida-Rasaka of the Gopis, where the Gopis play the Rasa with Sri Krishna.

Jaya Sena explains the Danda Rasaka as a form of group performance during spring season. It is performed by even number of pair of dancers, usually in multiples of 4 to 24, with sticks held in both the hands. In some variations, fly-whisks, daggers are held by the dancers in one hand and sticks in the other. The instrumentalists play melodious music to which dancers perform choreographic patterns including Lasyangas, Brahmaris, Caris and Utplavanas (leaps), in circling movements, to the accompaniment of rhythmic striking of sticks. Khandas or dance segments must be continued along with elegant leaps to the left and right hand sides as well as executing the circular movements. Specific strokes of the sticks must create the required beats.

Regarding the mode of the entry of the dancers, Jaya Sena said:  Eight of them may enter first, gradually by addition of batches of four, the number may go up to sixty-four, forming two rows.

Jaya Sena says that the songs are composed in praise of the Kings virtues. Dances are to be performed by experienced dancers. (Verses 101 to 107)

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Shiva Priya

Shiva Priya, is again, a group dance performed by men and women to the accompaniment of the beats of the various types of drums, cymbals, trumpets (Kahala). The participating men and women each holds in his/her left hand a replica of a snake made of brass or copper; and, a sword in the right hand. They all rhythmically make sounds ‘Kirikiti’.

They all wear garlands made of Rudraksha beads; three stripe of Vibuthi across their forehead; and, reverently sing songs in praise of Shiva (Shiva stuti).

The Shiva Priya dance consists in the performers dancing in rhythmic  steps, displaying Lasyanga, singing songs ; and, sometimes facing each other in rows of two ; and, then breaking to form circles in various patterns . This Dance is said to be particularly dear to Shiva (Shiva Priya) – (Verses 108 t0 118)

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Cintu Nrtta

According to Jaya Sena, Chitu is a type of Desi Nrtta that originated in the Dravida Desa; and, it (Cindu) is very dear to the people of Tamil Nadu. Groups of well dressed young women dance swaying their arms and bodies, rhythmically, to the accompaniment of instrumental music. As they clap their hands and dance in playful steps, displaying the Padas, Caris and Gatis of Lasyanga, they sing songs composed in Dvipadi. The dancers interpret the meaning of the words of the song with predominance of Lasyanga, through Pada-artha-abhinaya.

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Kanduka-Nrtta

Kanduka is a peculiar kind of a Desi Nrtta and a ball-game as well, played by wide-eyed, young and beautiful women, in the prime of their youth, in a jubilant mood (Vibhrama). As these playful and joyous lovely women play and dance, the songs selected from the Prabahdhas relating to the Desi Nrtta; or the songs meant for the depiction of Bhandas (patterns) such as: Padma, Gomurtica, Naga, and Chakra, are sung and played on musical instruments.

The ball, these women play with, is made either of gold, silver or brass; and, is hallow inside. The ball holds within it number of beads, which rattle and make sounds, as the dancing women jump in the air, run around throwing and catching the ball.

As these beautiful women with mischievous flickering eyes, jump in the air, and, perform various types of Caris, Gatis, Padas of Lasyanga, while they create patterns resembling fish, lotus filled ponds etc. (Verses 118 to 125)

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Bhandika Nrtta

The Bhandika Nrtta is comical dance performed by clowns. As they dance around in irregular and difficult steps , mimicking Adavus, the instrumentalists pretend as though they are playing the pipe or beating the drums. The dancing jesters create their own rhythms  by clap of hands; and imitate the movements of hunchbacks, dwarfs and the maimed  and , they also make varieties of sounds of birds and animals such as : peacock, parrot, monkey, donkey, dog, camel etc. While making the sounds of each bird or animal they imitate its movements in exaggerated, funny and mischievous manners. These hilarious dances blow away the sorrows and anxieties of the spectators; and, make them laugh till their sides ache. (Verses 126to 129)

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Ghatisani-Nrtta

The Ghatisani-Nrtta is a dance that is oriented towards rendering a song with action, in the company of her friends. Here, a beautiful Candala women, dressed in light and modest costume; and, gifted with melodious voice and clear diction; sings songs, while playing on the Panduka Vadya (a kind of hand-held musical instrument). The songs she sings are variously selected from the Desi Suda Prabandha and Carya-Prandha, describing the playful actions of Shiva in his Kirata (hunter) aspect, holding bow and arrows.

As she sings and dances along with other male and female dancers, to accompaniment of the sounds of the drums , cymbals , trumpets (Kahala) and Karata Vadya (?); and to the rendering of Tala-Prabandha, Yati , Praharana etc., she moves along delightfully, in delicate (Sukumara) dance-steps, spreading cheer and happiness. (Jaya Sena mentions that even a male who is endowed with the requisite virtues can perform Ghatisani-Nrtta.)- (Verses 130   to 134)

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Carana-Nrtta

According to Jaya Sena, the Carana-Nrtta is the dance of the professional nomadic dancers and singers who come from the Saurastra region in the Western India. They travel (Carana) from place to place displaying their artistry.   Their songs composed in Dohas (couplets) or Dohaka, derived from Dohaka metre, laden with Rasas, set to attractive beats, are sung in melodious Ragas, with playful Desi-Kakus (intonations). They sing along merrily, clapping their hands, twisting, spinning (Bhramari) and tumbling somersaults (laghava); moving in swift but not with very aggressive (Lalita-uddhata) footwork (Pada-vinyasa) ;  they , in between, shout in booming voice ‘Bhi- Bhoo’ imitating the sound of instruments. Jaya Sena observes, the Carana women-dancers cover their heads with a part of the sari they are wearing (Pallu). – (Verses 135-138)

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Bahurupa Nrtta

The Bahurupa Nrtta is the display of varied forms of dresses, behaviors, speech etc., of persons coming from different regions and cultural groups.

Describing the qualities of a competent Bahurupa Nrtta performer, Jaya Sena mentions that such a dancer must be: young, agile, learned, clever, witty, fluent in his expressions, proficient in Sanskrit and regional languages; and, should induce happiness. In addition, such a Bahurupi should be a well trained, experienced dancer having a pleasant voice; he should be quick in changing the costumes and make up; he should, preferably have shaved off the beard and the hair on his head. A woman endowed with these qualities can also perform as a Bahurupi.

As regards the performance of the Bahurupi, Jaya Sena mentions, the dancer should adopt the Natyadharmi mode of presentation. And, in his versatility , he should be able to credibly represent the two-footed , the four-footed and even the feet-less living beings . He should, following the instrumental music and the songs, dance according to the situation. And, in between, he should also sing. More importantly, he should never cross the limits of decency.  A Bahurupi would do well to enact the roles of a King or of a renowned person in the history. (Verses 145 to 148)

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Kollata- Nartana

The Kollata – Nartana that Jaya Sena describes is , in fact, the dance of the acrobats who perform at  the street corners. They are also called ‘Dombigas’ or ‘Domburu’.  

Initially the acrobats perform Desi Caris, Karanas and other dance movements. And, then, as the drums, cymbals, bells, blow-horns (Bheri) play vigorously; and with the spectators clapping and cheering loudly, the tempo of the Dance increases. Thereafter, the acrobat climbs on the tripod supporting the leather strap or the rope that stretches across. He then begins to walk along the rope in careful steps. And, while on the rope he does dance movements with a remarkable sense of balance. Then, after reaching the other end of the rope , standing on the tripod, he executes dexterous and risky Bhramaris (Turns), wielding dangerous weapons like swords.

Then, after jumping down from the rope, the Kollatiga, dances around carrying incredibly heavy objects, twirling swords etc. The acrobat performs many types of skillful, swift and attractive dances; leaping, spinning, twisting, turning, tumbling, cart-wheeling etc.- (verses 149-152)

 **

Thereafter, Jaya Sena concludes the Chapter Seven by describing in great detail  the qualities of the female dancer (Nartaki), the male dancer (Nartaka) , the main singer (Mukhya-gayaka),the instrumentalist who plays the pipe (Mukhari) , the orchestra (Vadya-brunda) ; and the stage-manager (Sabhapati) . He also describes the theater (Nrtta-mandala)- (Verses 153 to 288)

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Chapter Eight

8. The Eighth and the Final chapter (84 verses) is the shortest. And, in general, it provides more information regarding presentation; the recital; the appropriate time for its presentation; the arrival of the chief guest ; and, the welcome to be accorded to the king and other important members of the audience; the qualities required in a dancer; her costume and make up; the orchestra; the seating arrangements; the entrance of a dancer; the use of three curtains on the stage and their removal etc.

The chapter also talks about honoring the dancer, the musicians and the poet

*

Jaya Senapati remarks that the spectators are very much a part of the Art-experience; and, even a very good performance would be of no avail unless the spectators are cultured, refined and truly capable of appreciating and enjoying the presentation.

Jaya Sena concludes his work with the Verse, which says: This garland named as Nrttaratnavali was knitted by Jaya Sena-natha, with the aid of Nrtta-angas composed of Sucimukha, Gati, Guna and Shikhara.

Here, he was playing on the words, by comparing the Nrttaratnavali to a garland ; and the various elements of  Nrttanga to sharp needle (Suci), thread(Gati); knitting (Guna) and the successful completion (Shikara).

Sucimukha, Gatisuchya, Guna, Shikara-shobini, Jaya-Senadi-nathena Nrttaratnavali krtah (Verse 81)

Eti Sriman Maharajadhi Raja Ganapathi Deva Gaja-sadhanica Jaya Senapati virachitam Nrtta-ratnavali Sampurnam

lotus-flower-and-bud

In the Next Part, we shall move on to another text.

Continued

In

The Next Part

References and Sources

  1. Nrttaratnavali (Translated into Telugu) by Prof. Rallapalli Ananata Sharma – published by Andhra Pradesh Sangita Nataka Academy –1969
  2. Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition by Dr Mandakranta Bose
  3. http://www.andhraportal.org/literature-nrtta-ratnavali/
  4. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/25592/9/09_chapter%201.pdf
  5. Bharatanatya: a paper presented by Dr.V Raghavan at the Dance Seminar held Sangita Natak Academy
  6. All PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

 

 

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Thirteen

Continued From Part Twelve

 Lakshana Granthas – continued

8. Srngaraprakasa of Raja Bhoja

rajabhoj

The Srngaraprakasa of Raja Bhoja (10-11th century) is a work; spread over thirty-six chapters, which deal principally with poetics (Alamkara shastra) and dramaturgy. Insofar as Dance is concerned, it is relevant for the discussions carried out in its Eleventh Chapter dealing with various types of minor plays (Uparupakas) or musical Dance-dramas.

Raja Bhoja or Raja Bhoja-deva Paramara was a king from the Paramara dynasty, who ruled between 1010–1055 CE. His kingdom comprised the Malwa region in Central India and parts of Gujarat. His capital was located at Dhara-nagara (modern Dhar, in the Malwa region of western MadhyaPradesh). It is said; the city of Bhopal is named after Raja Bhoja.

Bhoja was a warrior, a capable military commander; and, was also politically very active. He had a vast kingdom in the Central/ Western India. He had a strong alliance with the powerful King of South – Rajendra Chola; and, had even helped the Shahi Kings to resist the attacks of Mohammad of Ghazni. Bhoja fought many battles, with varying degrees of success.

Though Raja Bhoja reigned gloriously for more than forty years; the battles he fought are mostly forgotten. But, his fame as the greatest scholar-king of medieval India; an enlightened patron of learning; and, an accomplished erudite author remains undimmed.

As a ruler, he is said to have emphasised the importance of education in ones’ life; and, in his capital city Dhara-nagari, he set up a center for learning Sanskrit at Sarasvatisadana or Bhartibhavana, over which he presided.

Raja Bhoja is credited with the authorship of numerous books, covering an enormous range of topics. But, literary criticism, poetics, aesthetics; and particularly the Rasa doctrine in its various forms seemed to be his favourite subjects. And his fame as an author with refined tastes rests mainly on his two major works: Sriranga-prakasa and Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana.

The Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana (ornament in the neck of goddess Sarasvathi), is a treatise on Sanskrit grammar and Alankara-shastra (Poetics); an elaborate text of 643 verses, enriched by as many as 1,563 examples (or illustrations), spread over five chapters.

[The Sarasvathi-kanta-abharana edited by KN Sharma and VL Pansikar (1934); and Sarasvatikanthabharana of Bhojadeva: With the commentary Hrdayaharini of Narayana Dandanatha; edited by V.A. Ramaswami Śastri; Trivandrum Government Press 1948.]

And, Raja Bhoja’s other work Sriranga-prakasa, a treatise in 36 chapters dealing with both poetics and dramaturgy, is more widely known. The noted scholar Dr. V. Raghavan, who edited Raja Bhoja’s monumental work ‘ भोज गश्रांगार प्रकाश (1962)’, described it as the largest known work in the field of literary criticism and aesthetics  in the whole range of classical Sanskrit literature. While illustrating the encyclopaedic nature of the text, Dr. Raghavan called it as the richest Indian text in Sanskrit poetics; and remarked; ‘Whatever is found in Srngara Prakasa is found elsewhere; and, that which is not found in this work cannot be found elsewhere.’ 

[Despite all its stated virtues, Bhoja’s Srngara Prakasa did not , for a long-time, receive  the attention it deserved ; mainly because of its inordinate length (more than twice that of Bharata’s Natyashastra); and, its manuscript was  recovered late and published only  in 1955  by Sri C. R. Josyer  of  Mysore. It was brought to the attention of the scholars worldwide in 1963 , by Dr. V. Raghavan; and, later published by Harvard University, under its Oriental Series.

The renowned scholar Sheldon Pollock observes:

History has been unfair to Srngara Prakasa.. Despite the fact that it is the most comprehensive and sustained body of literary analysis in pre-modern India, in some ways the most germane – in view of the range of issues treated that are pertinent to reading actually existing Sanskrit literature – and, in its organization, style and plethora of citations and analysis perhaps the most fascinating.

Bhoja’s discourse on Rasa is the most detailed and provocative we have; and the most unusual, often differing from Bharata and those who follow him]

radha_krishna

The main topic of the Srngara Prakasa is Rasa, the aesthetic delight, a pleasurable sensation; and, its manifestation (Rasanispatti) in varied forms. And, the text is, therefore, regarded as an important watershed in the evolution of Rasa-theory (Rasa-siddantha). Bhoja Deva’s work is particularly focused on Srngara-rasa. He accorded a very elaborate and exhaustive treatment to the subject of Srngara-rasa; devoting as many as twenty-two Chapters, discussing sixty-four stages of Srngara, each divided into eight categories; and, each of that again subdivided into eight types. He also quoted hundreds of verses and passages from literary works in Sanskrit as also in Prakrit languages.

The Srngara, one of the eight Rasas categorized by Bharata, is ordinarily taken to mean a state of erotic or love. But, Raja Bhoja elevated Srngara to a sublime level, as the King of all Rasas (Rasa-raja); the Rasa of all Rasas; the Rasa in which myriads of other Rasas reside ;and the mother of all Rasas , giving scope for a countless other emotions including jealousy, fear, anger, compassion, and of course for the expression of physical intimacy.

‘Krishna and the Gopis on the Bank of the Yamuna River’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garwhal’ <i>Gita Govinda</i>, circa 1775–1780

No other Rasa has a vast scope; and, Srngara, he said, towers over all the other feelings and sensations, as it is the most important emotion in human beings. It is very endearing; and, it appeals to human mind; present in every segment of life, since life is a never ending quest for love and affection. It is the sweetest of all (Madhu-rati madhura). The enchanting Srngara is portrayed through rich imagery and there are different aspects (Bhavas) of Srngara e.g. love between a mother and a child; love between siblings; love between friends; love between a man and a woman; love between the Almighty and devotee; and, so on.

In regards to Poetics (Alankara Shastra), Raja Bhoja assigned highest importance to Srngara-rasa, placing it on the throne as the king of Rasas. Srngara, according to him, denotes the supreme phase of bliss; and, it is the highest aesthetic principle. He said, the Srngara assumes the form of Rasa when it is enjoyed by the Sahrudaya the cultured, well-informed spectator/ reader, gifted with empathy. Such a Sahrudaya, who is blessed with a refined sense of Srngara, is indeed the Rasika (the connoisseur); and, one lacking that virtue is Nirasa. According to Bhoja, the Kavya-rasa is universal, enjoyed by all in the world; and, it makes is no sense in calling at Alaukika (otherworldly).

krishna dance

Srngara Prakasa and Dance

The Srngara Prakasa is of relevance to Dance, because of the discussions it carries out regarding the minor types of plays, the Upa-rupakas.

The types of Uparupakas that Raja Bhoja was particularly interested were the Dance-dramas, which are adorned with rich music, melodious songs, as also with graceful and delicate dance movements. These, technically, could be called Nrtya-bhedas, the minor dramatic presentations. But, such musical plays were fondly addressed by varieties of names.

Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, had called such Uparupakas as Nrtta-kavya (dance-drama); Raga-kavya (musical-play); Raga-darshaniya (musical presentation to be viewed with delight); Geyam-anurupakam (a sort of play that is sung); and; Nrtta-prabandha-raga-kavya (musical play presented mainly through dance). And, Raja Bhoja gave these musical plays a rather grandiose name: Pada-arth-aabhinaya-atmaka preksya-prabandhas (the visual presentation of literary works, where the meanings of the words are illustrated with expressive gestures).

In short; such type of Uparupakas could be said to be minor dramatic works that were of the nature of Dance-drama, which are rendered through song, dance; and, interpreted through Abhinaya. And, in such presentations, the elements of song, music and dance (Gita-Geya-Nrtya) are dominant.  

*

It may be mentioned here; Bharata, in his Natyashastra, had discussed, in main, the Rupakas, the major forms of the Drama. His concern seemed to be, primarily, with those types of plays that had the potential to display various modes of representations; and, to evoke verity of Rasas. For him, the aspect of Rasa was central to the Drama. He had remarked: no sense proceeds without Rasa – Na hi rasadrte kascid-arthah pravartate.

In the process, Bharata had not discussed the minor forms of the drama, the Uparupakas or Natyabhedas, a minor class of dramatic works, distinct from the major works; and, which did not satisfy all the classic, dramatic requirements prescribed for a Rupaka or Nataka proper. Such minor class of plays (Uparupakas) handled only a segment of a theme or an event in a story (Vastu); and, not its full extent. It did not also, perhaps, employ all the eight Rasas and all the four Abhinayas, in their entirety.

By the time of Abhinavagupta (Ca.11th century), the Dance had diversified into many more forms than were known during the time of Bharata. Commencing with the 11th -12th century, the minor or one-act plays, Uparupakas, the forms of dance-dramas, with a major input of dance and songs; but, with just an adequate stress on Abhinaya (acting) and Sahitya (script) became increasingly popular.  During the time of Abhinavagupta, those minor classes of plays – Uparupakas, par excellence, had grown into becoming the main stay of the contemporary dance- scene.

Nayaka ko prakasa biyoga sringara

Raja Bhoja in the Eleventh Chapter of his Srngara Prakasa discusses twenty-four types of drama and their structure. He terms these as Preksya-prabandhas, visual or the poetic compositions to be seen; and, divides them into two categories: one, requiring Vakya-artha-abhinaya and the other Pada-artha-abhinaya.

These terms relate to the acting techniques employed by the performer  in a play or in a dance,  for portraying  various states of emotion (Bhavas) with the help of speech (Vachika); gestures (Hastha-abhinaya)  and actions (Angika), and costumes (Aharya) etc.

The Āngika-abhinaya (facial expressions, gestures / movement of the limbs) is of great importance, particularly in the dance and drama.  There are two types of basic Abhinayas:  Padārtha-abhinaya (when the artist delineates each word of the lyrics with gestures and expressions); and, the Vākyārtha-abhinaya (where the dancer acts out an entire stanza or sentence). In either case, though the hands (hastha) play an important part, the Āngika-abhinaya involves other body-parts, as well, to express meaning of the lyrics, in full.

Dhananjaya in his Dasarupa had earlier mentioned two broad categories of Dance-forms as: the Marga (the pure or pristine); and, the Desi (the regional or improvised) – ādya padārthā-abhinayo Margo Deśo tathā param // DhDaś_1.9 //

According to Dhananjaya, the Nrtya, which principally, is the display of various emotional states (bhava-asrayam Nrtyam), is a representation of the traditional Marga class.  While, the Nrtta, with emphasis on limb-movements, in tune with rhythm and timing (nrttam tala-laya-asrayam), belongs to the popular Desi style (Desi-nrtta).

According to Abhinavagupta, the depiction of Srngara essentially requires Nrtta; as it provides ValanaVartana and other movements or stances.

Raja Bhoja does not name the class of drama that requires Padartha-abhinaya; however, he lists and describes the twelve varieties within that class. These, it is said, belong to the Nrtya class which require delicate and meaningful expressions, along with limb movements. Bhoja called them Padartha-abhinayatmaka Preksya-prabandhas.

*

As mentioned earlier; the types of such minor dramas, Nrtya-bhedas which provide visual delight (Preksya-prabandhas) with the use of Padartha-abhinaya were categorized as Uparupakas.

Such a Uparupaka is more concerned with Angika Abhinaya, with larger elements of dance, song and music; and, is more connected with the performing and stage arts; whereas the Rupaka makes use of all four kinds of Abhinaya, with a greater emphasis on dialogues.

And between Nrtta, Nrtya and Uparupaka: the Nrtta is abstract, beautiful and attractive body movements; the Nrtya, in addition to that, has elements of Abhinaya, but no speech. And the Uparupaka (also named as Nrtya-bheda) uses the body movements of Nrtta, the Abhinaya of the Nrtya; and, speech as in drama proper (Natya), but to a limited extent.

An Uparupaka, thus, was a happy invention, structured as a narrative dance-drama, depicting a theme or a segment of a theme, with abundant use of music, songs and dance (Nrtta and Nrtya); but, with just the required quantity of speech.

*

Many scholars have written in detail about the Uparupakas. The more prominent ones among these are : Abhinavagupta (Abhinavabharati); Dhananjaya (Dasrupaka);  Saradatanaya (Bhavaprakasana); Raja Bhoja (Srngara Prakasa);  Hemachandra (Kavyanusasana); Sagaranandin (Nataka-laksana-ratna-kosa);  Bhavamisra (Bhavaprakasa); and Vishwanatha (Sahitya Darpana). Here, in this post, for a limited purpose, we shall discuss mainly about Raja Bhoja’s treatment of the Uparupakas.

Among the authors who succeeded Abhinavagupta, Raja Bhoja in his Srngara Prakasa was one of the few who dealt with the subject of Uparupakas, at length. Bhoja was also the first to include and describe twelve varieties of such Uparupaka, the minor dramas, giving details; and, later he was followed by Ramacandra and Gunacandra in their Natyadarpana.

Krishna Adorns Radha with a Tilak

Since these types of Uparupakas predominantly portray various phases of Srngara Rasa, the Kaisiki Vrtti, which is the graceful style of depiction, is considered most appropriate for the enactment of such Uparupakas. The Kaisiki-Vrtti, the gentle, graceful style, which characterizes the tender Lasyanga associated with expressions of love, dance, and song as also with charming costumes and delicate actions portrayed with care, mostly by women,   is most suited to Srngara-rasa (tatra kaisiki gita-nrtya-vilasadyair mrduh srngara- cestitaih). And, as said, the Srngara Rasa permeates the theme of the Uparupakas, Dance-dramas, which are largely composed of dance (Nrtta and the Nrtya) and songs. It increasingly resorts to the stylized Natyadharmi mode of presentation.

Kaisiki has four varieties (Bhedas): Narma (good-natured-small-talk); Narma-spinja (the pleasure blooms at the first meeting of lovers); Narma-sphota (the lovers delighting in each other company); and, Narma-garbha (covert pleasure; incognito). The prefix Narma indicates cheer or laughter.  Kaisiki is the most charming and delightful combination of Srngara and Hasya, playful expressions, one’s affection or longing for union with the lover.

krishna-radha

The twelve varieties of Uparupakas that Raja Bhoja discussed in his Srngara Prakasa were: Srigadita; Durmalika (or Burmilita); Prasthana; Kavya (Chitrakavya), Bhana (Suddha, Citra and Samkirna); Bhanika; Gosthi; Hallisaka; Martanaka; Preksanaka; Rasaka; and, Natyarasaka (also called Carcari).

Many scholars have written extensively describing as many as thirty forms Uparupakas, their themes and the modes of depiction. But, here, we shall just take a glimpse of those twelve Uparupakas that were listed by Raja Bhoja in his text

vishnu lakshmi

  1. Srigadita

The Srigadita depicts Vipralambha type Srngara. It is the Geya (song) rendered by a virtuous woman (Kulangana), describing to her friend, the virtues of her Lover. Bhoja explains that it is called Srigadita; because the heroine here describes (gadita) her Lord’s qualities, just as the Goddess Sri describes her Lord Narayana. Bhoja states that it is through such songs and recitations, the state of separation in love is depicted in this form.

[There is a variation of this mode; and, is called Vipralabdha, where the Lady Love feels deceived and is deeply hurt (vipralabdha) when her lover fails to show up on-time at the rendezvous agreed upon; and, finds fault with him.]

kulangana

  1. Durmallika (Durmilita)

In contrast to Srigadita, the Durmallika involves a ‘stolen love’ or a love-intrigue, where a deceitful female messenger (Ceti) , in an aside, takes the audience into her confidence; and, reveals  all the details of secret love between the two Lovers . The Ceti then sets forth, in mock villainy, her plans to make demands, bordering on extortion. Durmallika, according to Dr. Raghavan is a sort of blackmail. This is depicted in Kaisiki-Vrtti, laced with humour (Hasya). According to Raghavan this is a vulgar performance. No author has cited any example. The reason, he says, might be that this kind of performance did not attract scholarly attention.

  1. Prasthanaka

This type is characterized by descriptive gestures. Prasthana depicts all the phases of love in separation, including occasions when the Lover is away journeying to distant places (Pravasa Vipralambha). It also, at times, includes other aspects of Srngara; such as: the first meeting in the earlier stages of love (prathama-anuraga); misunderstanding (Anumana); and, the course of development of love through spring and winter. The descriptions of these seasons also form the theme of Prasthana.

The performance enlivens itself towards the end through the introduction of the heroic sentiment (Vira- rasa), on the triumphant return of the hero and the description of his exploits.

Thus, the Prasthanaka has two Acts, divided into four scenes. It mainly uses delicate movements, with occasional vigorous passages, such as the gait of an elephant, which stands for the idea of journeying abroad.

The exit after each scene is named as an Apasara. Raja Bhoja explanation is marked by four Apasaras.

*Ragini Patamanjari

  1. Kavya

The Uparupakas are also described as Raga-kavya or Kavya, the narrative depictions with predominance of Music; and, are thus, distinguished from other minor plays. Apart from that, it should also have a well constructed plot, which exemplifies a brilliant hero and a young heroine, employing joyful speeches.

Raja Bhoja refers to an Uparupaka set to a single Raga as Kavya; and, the one which is set to several Ragas as Chitra-kavya, employing varieties of Tala and Laya. He also provides the technical details regarding Matra (notes) of the Ragas that are involved, as also of the Tala and Laya (time units, rhythm). The Raga-Kavyas, which essentially depict various modes and phases of Srngara, Hasya and Lasya, adopt the Kaisiki Vrtti in their presentation.

Raga Deepak

  1. Bhana (Suddha, Citra and Samkirna

There is much confusion about the term Bhana. It might mean a major type of Drama (Rupaka), which is a sort of satirical monologue; else, it might be a minor type of drama (Uparupaka) that employs bold, vigorous body movements and loud instrumental music, with irregular beats.

The Uparupaka Bhana is not a purely musical composition; and, not a pure Nrtya-prabandha (dance sequence), either. Raja Bhoja observes that it is chiefly characterised by a feature borrowed from the Bhana of the Dasarupaka class viz. Akasa-bhasita, where the sole actor on the stage assumes the roles of many characters; and, carries on conversation with himself, as if he is talking to the air.  It is a type of monologue; an imaginary conversation. It has also elements of song and music; but the person who sings mixes the songs with speech (gayana-saha-uktika). And, he also dances.

Thus, the Uparupaka Bhana is a mixture dance and speech. Raja Bhoja regards the Bhana- Uparupaka as a difficult type of Dance; and, classifies it into three categories: Shuddha (pure); Sankirna (mixed); and, Chitra.

 It is Shuddha when the language used in the Bhana is Sanskrit; it is Sankirna when Sanskrit is mixed with Prakrit; and, it is Chitra when many languages are used.

A Shuddha Bhana is interspersed by seven Visramas, interludes; and, each Visrama has a distinct type of music.

There are other three varieties of Bhana: It is Uddhata when the plot deals with violence and the depiction is noisy, and dance is vigorous (uddhata-karana-prayah). It is Lalita when the plot is charming; and, Lalito-ddhata when the plot shows action mixed with elements of Srngara.

  1. Bhanika

After the time of Bharata, there developed two minor dramatic types, Bhana and Bhanika. The latter was distinguished with style of rendering in Kaisiki Vrtti, associated with Srngara Rasa.

Raja Bhoja also says that the Uparupaka Bhanika is similar to Bhana; but, its movements are delicate, with Lasyanga, rendered in eloquent Bharati Vrtti and in graceful Kaisiki Vrtti. Here the swift movements like jumps, twists and swaying of limbs above the knee level (Divya-caris) are not to be used. Only the Lalita-Karanas, the gentle, delicate and graceful movements are to be used. Unlike in the Bhana, the women can participate, sing and dance in the Bhanika. And, sometimes, the musicians speak and sing alternatively (gayana-saha-vacana).

Regarding the plot of the Bhanika, it is concerned mostly with the pious Hari-charitra (the Krishna lore), set to traditional meters (Varna, Matra etc). Its heroine is noble; and, the hero is calm and collected (Manda). The plot is structured as having an introductory part (Mukha), interludes (Sandhi) and conclusion (Nirvaha). And, its rendering style is Bharati and Kaisiki Vrttis.

goshti

  1. Gosthi

Raja Bhoja was the first writer to include Gosthi in his list of Uparupakas. According to him, the purpose of Gosthi is to show the young Krishna sporting with cowherds and milkmaids. The Gosthi, therefore, involves a number of performers, both male and female; and, is full of songs and dances. It is performed in the Kaisiki Vrtti, with a predominance of Srngara.

The theme or story is imaginatively conceived and developed. It is a small story, structured in three segments: Mukha (opening); Pratimukha (follow up); and Nirvaha (conclusion).

*

  1. Hallisaka

The Uparupakas were broadly classified according to the dance-situations that were involved; and, the Rasas, the emotions, they projected. Among the Uparupakas, the RasakaHallisakaNarttanaka, Chalika and Samyalasya gave importance to Nrtta, the pure dance movements, in their performance. And, Natika, Sattaka, Prakaranika and Trotaka (Totaka) gave prominence to emotional aspects and to Abhinaya.

Accordingly, the Hallisaka is a type of group dance with rhythmic movements; and, it seems to be the earlier form of the Maharas or Rasa-Lila, which the Srimamad Bhagavatha celebrates with love and divine ecstasy, in five Chapters from 29 to 33 of its Tenth Canto (Dashama-skanda) titled as ‘Rasa-panca-adhyayi’. The Natyashastra classifies such group dances under the Pindibandhas,

Hallisaka is basically, an Nrtta, in which eight or sixteen dancers participate. There is rhythmic movement with Dance-like steps, performed to the tune and beats of a song. There is not much scope for Abhinaya in such type of dances.

Vatsyayana (earlier to second century BCE), motions Hallisaka as one of the Uparupakas which, which were watched by men and women of taste.

Abhinavagupta describes Hallisaka as a dance; and, places it under the category of minor musical or dance dramas, characterized by Vachica-bhinaya (verbal acting) that mainly employs singing and dancing.

During the later times, the Hallisaka came to be regarded not merely as a dance-form, but also as a Uparupaka, a minor type of dance Drama, with emphasis on rhythm and music.

Bhavaprakasana treats Hallisaka as a play of one or two acts, which employs Geya-Lasya (charming songs) in Kaisiki Vrtti rhythm; and, also using some of the technical features of drama.

Hallisaka is said to be similar to Rasaka. And, Raja Bhoja mentions that Hallisaka becomes Rasaka, when danced to a definite Tala, which implies that Rasaka was primarily a type of pure Dance (Nrtta).   The Nataka-lakshana-kosa of Sagaranandin also describes Rasaka as a one-act play, using a variety of languages and five characters. It calls for delicate movements and forceful emotions (masrno-udatta-bhava-bhusitam).

Raja Bhoja equates Hallisaka with Rasa-Lila dance performed by Gopis to different Talas – the Krida-rasaka of the Gopis. He mentions Pindibandhas or group dances as a necessary feature of this type.

Bhoja seems to take Hallisaka primarily as a dance; although he places it under Padartha-abhinaya-atmaka-preksya-prabandhas, the Uparupaka as dance presentations, where the meanings of the words are illustrated with expressive gestures.

Maidens Performing The Ecstatic Dance

  1. Nartananka

Nartananka is an Uparupaka which uses delicate and graceful movements to express Bhava (emotions); and, in which the dancer articulates the meaning of the words of the lyrics of the song through expressive gestures. The Nartananka is said to have four varieties: Samya, Lasya, Chalika and Dvipadi.

Raja Bhoja mentions: where in an assembly, a female dancer performs in a relaxed graceful tempo to act out the meaning of the word, it is Nartananka , which comprises Samya, Lasya, Chalika and Dvipadi .

Samya is understood as Lasya-Nrtta, a delightful dance; and also as Tala (time-unit)- Sangita-samya, that is central to dance of the semi-divine beings, the Kinnaras and Gandharvas.

Lasya is the gentle and lovely graceful aspect. And, as per Bhoja, the graceful quality of Lasya is inherent in Srngara Rasa.

Chalika or Chalita is described as a dance form, which creates Vira (Heroic) and Srngara Rasas, through the use of Tandava and Lasya movements

Dvipadi is taken as a musical composition; and, also as metre or tempo (Laya) of a character’s gait (Gati).  

*

  1. Preksanaka, Prenkhanaka:

Preksanaka, literally ‘a play to be seen’, refers to an Uparupaka or a one-act play. Preksanaka is mainly of the Padartha-abhinaya variety, with predominance of vigorous display through gestures and movements Angika-abhinaya (Nrtta).

 Bhoja says that spectacles such as the Kama-dahana (immolation of Kama, the Eros) are characteristic of the Preksanaka presentations. And, he illustrates the Preksanaka by giving example of Kama-dahana. The language used in this variety of Uparupaka would usually be Prakrit, preferably the Suraseni.

Kama_Shiva

  1. Rasaka

Rasaka is mentioned in almost every early text. It is treated both as a Dance- drama; and, also as a mere Dance. Raja Bhoja treats it, primarily, as a form of Dance of the Nrtta type, presenting attractive brisk rhythmic limb movements (Padartha-abhinayatmaka-Preksya-prabandha).

The Pindibandhas, or group dances performed by eight or more pairs of men women, playing with colored sticks (Danda-rasaka) are said a feature of this type of Uparupakas. There is much sing and dancing in rhythmic steps; but not much speech and Abhinaya. This type is also known as the Krida-rasaka of the Gopis, where the Gopis play the Rasa with Sri Krishna.

Technically, Rasaka is treated as a Pindibandha of the Latha variety of Lasya, which is related to Srngara-rasa, portraying love and other softer, graceful aspects; and, is divided into three classes: Danda-rasaka; Mandala-rasaka; and, Natya-rasaka. It is predominated by rhythmic limb movements to the beat of drums (Tala-vadya) and songs. Here, Danda-rasaka is said to a type of group dance performed with coloured sticks (as in the Dandiaras of the present-day); the Mandala-rasaka, involves formation of clusters or patterns; and, the Natya-rasaka is pure dance performed to a song.

[The term Pindibandha is no longer in use either in dance literature or in dance performances. And, Sukumara-prayoga (for Lasya) is not a category of dance but merely a mode of presentation]

 All the three are described as Desi Nrttas, the dances of regional type, that are free flowing and spontaneous; not regulated by strict set of rules (Anibaddha) .

*rasa mandal

  1. Natya-rasaka

Natya-rasaka, to which Raja Bhoja gives Carcari as its alternative name, is described as a springtime-dance performed by a group of female dancers, singing sweet songs in Raga Vasantha, weaving various patterns and designs, clapping hands,  while they dance around in circles, as in the Pindibandhas.  It is a kind of ensemble dance, resembling the Rasa-Lila of the Gopis. 

[The Sanskrit dictionary describes the term Carcari as festive sports, merriment with singing.]

Natya-rasaka employs number of graceful, fluid and charming movements, the Lasyanga (according to some as many as ten), and a variety of rhythms and tempo (Laya).

The term Natyarasaka suggests some kind of dramatic content; but, the description shows it as a dance form. In a similar manner, Rasaka and Hallisaka, which are actually dance types of the Nrtta class, are described as dramas.

Vasant raga

 In the Next Part , we shall move on to another text.

vishnu with lakshmi

Continued

In

The Next Part

References and Sources

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Ten

Continued from Part Nine

Lakshana Granthas – continued

5, Abhinavabharati

 

Illustration of Abhinava Gupta by Elke Avis

The Natyaveda-Vivritti, more famously celebrated as Abhinava-bharati is the most well known commentary by Abhinavagupta on the Natyashastra of Bharata.  It is one among the handful of commentaries that are as renowned, if not more, as the texts on which they commented upon. Abhinavagupta illumines and interprets the text of Bharata at many levels: conceptual, structural and technical. He comments, practically, on its every aspect; and his commentary is a companion volume to Bharata’s text.

The earliest surviving commentary on the Natyashastra is the Abhinavabharati by Abhinavagupta. It was followed by the works of commentators like Saradatanaya (12th century), Sarangadeva (13th century) and Kallinatha (16th century). However, Abhinavabharati is regarded as the most authoritative commentary on Natyashastra ; because, Abhinavagupta provides not only his own illuminating observations and interpretations, but also gives wide range of information about the works of the scholars earlier to his period , most of which are now lost.

Abhinavagupta, who lived in Kashmir by about the late tenth and early eleventh century, was a visionary endowed with incisive intellectual powers of a philosopher who combined in himself the experiences of a mystic and a Tantric. He was equipped with extraordinary skills of a commentator and an art critic

Abhinavagupta dealt with almost every important aspect of Indian aesthetics in his two commentaries – Kavya-loka-locana (called, in short, as Locana, a commentary on the Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana); and, the Abhinavabharati (a detailed commentary on the Natyashastra of Bharata).

These are the two well known aesthetic works of Abhinavagupta; for which he is celebrated as the principal exponent of aesthetic theory (Rasa-vada). In his Locana, he firmly established the concept of Vyanjana -Vritti or Dhvani or the suggestive power of the words as the best form of poetic expression. And, the Abhinavabharati is the best guide to understand Bharata

These two commentaries influenced and guided the subsequent generations of authors and critics; especially in regard to the aesthetic experience (Rasanubhava). No succeeding writer or commentator could ignore Abhinavagupta’s commentary; and his discussions on two crucial chapters of the Natyashastra namely, the Sixth and the Seventh on Rasa and Bhava.

His work came to be recognized as a text of indisputable authority (Pramana grantha); and, was regarded as the standard work, not only on Music and Dance, but also on poetics (Almkara shastra) as well. Hemachandra in his Kavyanusasana; Ramachandra and Gunachandra in their Natyadarpana; Kallinatha in his commentary on the Sangita-ratnakara; and, Saradatanaya in his Bhava-prakasana, very often refer to Abhinavagupta.  The chapter on Dance in Sarangadeva’s Sangita-ratnakara is almost entirely based on Abhinava’s work. And, similar is the case with Jaya Senapati’s Nrttaratnavalli. The noted scholar Dr. V Raghavan, therefore, remarked: ‘So what is often taken today as the influence of the Natyashastra in these texts is in reality the influence of Abhinavagupta.’

*

Between the time of Bharata and the Eleventh century , many commentaries on Natyashastra were written ; and, many other independent treatise on dramatics were composed by several authors such as Kohala, Rahula, Dattila, Harsha, Nandikesvara , Varattikakara and others . But, those works are no longer extant, except for a few verses cited in the later texts on Drama, Dancing and Music.

And, many scholars who hailed from the region of Kashmir; and, who preceded Abhinavagupta, had also produced brilliant commentaries on Poetics , Music and Dramaturgy , with special reference to Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Nayika Nayaka’s and construction and presentation of drama with its varieties. Among those scholars were Bhattalollata, Udbhata, Shankuka, Bhattanayaka and Kirtidhara, as mentioned in Sangita-ratnakara.

 But, sadly, all those works are no longer extant; except for a few verses cited in the later texts on Drama, Dancing and Music.

It is only through the efforts of Abhinavagupta that the works of all those masters can only be partially reconstructed through references to them in his Abhinavabharati. Further, Abhinavagupta also brought to light and breathed life into ancient and forgotten scholarship of fine rhetoricians Bhamaha, Dandin and Rajashekhara.

It is through Abhinavagupta’s quotations from Kohala, whose work is occasionally referred to in the Natyashastra, that one can reconstruct some of the changes that took place in the intervening period between his time and that of Bharata’s.

And, in regard to Dance, since a number of works on dancing that were  known to have been written after Bharata are now lost, it is difficult to follow the discussions  concerning the developments in the field  of Dancing that took place during the early period of its evolution , without the aid of Abhinavabharati.

Abhinavagupta also drew upon the later authors to explain the application of the rules and principles of Natya. For instance; he quotes from Ratnavali of Sri Harsha (7th century); Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana (8th century); as also cites examples from Tapaas-vatsa-rajam of Ananga Harsa Amataraja  (8th century) and Krtyaravanam .

In addition, Abhinavagupta introduced many improvements and new thoughts into the system of Sanskrit literary criticism, which have been accepted by all the later writes and commentators, beginning with Mammata Bhatta in the eleventh century and ending with Jagannatha Pandita in the 17th century

The  Abhinavabharati thus serves as a bridge between the world of the ancient and forgotten wisdom and the scholarship of the succeeding generations. And, Abhinavagupta himself said that he wrote the commentary in order to save and perpetuate the ancient tradition.

Evam anyad api ūhyam iti an-upayogyāt samasta na likhitam āgama-bhrasa-rakanāya tu di nirupitā

abhinavabharati

The Abhinavabharati, though basically a commentary on and a companion volume to Bharata’s Natyashastra, is, for all purposes, an independent work in its own right. It, again, is a detailed exposition on various subjects such as: drama, dance, poetry, music, art, prosody and also aesthetics with reference to Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka (820-890). Abhinavagupta comments on a range of subjects, at different levels. He cites and discusses the views of many ancient authorities who wrote on drama, dance, music etc. He illustrates the principles and its application in Natya, through examples taken from well-known Dramatic works.

Abhinavagupta not only expands on Bharata, but also interprets him in the light of his own experience and knowledge; and, also with references to the then current practices. And, at many places, he differs from Bharata; and, introduces concepts and practices that were not present during Bharata’s time. For instance; the concept of minor dramas was absent in the Natyashastra. But, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, speaks of minor categories of drama (Uparupakas); and calls them as Nrtta-kavya and Raga-kavya. These were the type of plays where the narration through Dance and Music is prominent.  

Similarly, Abhinavagupta provides the details of several dance forms that are mentioned but not described in the Natyashastra. For instance; he describes Bhadrasana, one of the group dances termed Pindibandha by Bharata but not described by him- piṇḍīnā vividhā yoniryantra bhadrāsana tathā NS.4. 290

Abhinavagupta, thus, comments, practically, on every aspect of Natyashastra. Further, he brings in the concepts of his School pratyabhijna, while interpreting Bharata’s text.

The works of the later writers (such as: Mammata, Hemachandra, Saradatanaya and others) clearly bear the influence of Abhinavagupta.

[Dr. Mandakranta Bose, who examined the text critically, observes: Even though his commentary is illuminating in general, there are places where his explanations are not enough to visualize the movements he describes. Since the edited text is often corrupt, the task of understanding is even harder. The movements are sometimes unclear and impossible to reproduce. However, as the single extant commentary on Bharata’s seminal text, Abhinavagupta’s work has exerted great influence on subsequent writers on dance, drama and on Alamkara as well.]

*

The importance of Abhinavagupta’s work can hardly be overstated. And, Abhinavabharati is the best guide to understand Bharata. The learned scholar Dr. K Krishnamoorthy in his Indian Literary Theories (1985) writes:

If Bharata is the father figure hallowed by the tradition, and revered by all the later writers; Abhinavagupta is the sole interpreter to us of not only Bharata’s thoughts, but also of the writers of those authors over several centuries ,  between the time of Bharata and Abhinavagupta, since he sums up all the traditions of various Schools and enlivens it by his own illuminating and original thinking.

His work is the only source for all the accumulated knowledge of on the subject in the golden age of Indian history. There is perhaps no other single work in the wide range of literary, technical and philosophical treatise that matches the Abhinavabharati. Such is the incandescent lustre of the far- flung genius of Abhinavagupta.

If Bharata is the Panini of the Indian theatrical lore, then Abhinavagupta is his Patanjali. His work is not a mere commentary; but, often an original dissertation.

Abinavagupta - Version 3

The Abhinava-bharati follows the Natyashastra, chapter by chapter, except for the Seventh, the Eighth, and the Thirty-third to Thirty-seventh.

Abhinavagupta’s text ends with Chapter Thirty-seven while most of the other versions of the text end with the Thirty-sixth. At the commencement of his commentary, Abhinavagupta mentions that the Natyashastra of Bharata consists Thirty-six Chapters. Thereafter, at the beginning of each successive Chapter of his commentary, he praises the deity representing the corresponding Tattva, beginning with Bhumi or Prithi, the principle of Earth. And, the last Chapter of his commentary, that is the Thirty-seventh, commences with salutations to Anuttara, the Supreme Reality beyond which there is nothing, therefore, free from all limitations – Na vidyate uttaram prana prati vacorupam yatra. And, Anuttara is Parama Shiva, the Absolute, the primal source of all existence.

[The 36 Tattvas as per Kashmir Shaiva philosophy are : Five Physical Elements or Mahabhuta (Prithvi, Jala, Agni, Vayu and Akasha); Five sensations or Tanmatras (Rupa, Sparsha , Rasa, Gandha, and Sabda); Five sense organs or Jnanedriyas (Upastha, Payu, Pada, Pani and Vac); Five Sense experiences (Grahana, Tvacha, Rasana, Chakshu, and Srotra); Three mental functions (Manas, Ahamkara and Buddhi); Prakrti; Purusha; Six limited individual experiences (Niyati, Kala, Raga, Vidya, Kala and Maya); Five Tattvas of Universal experience (Shudda vidya, Isvara, Sadashiva , Shakthi and Shiva)- please check here  and then go to page 25 of the Book (page 36  of PDF document).]

The reason for the extension of the number in Abhinava-bharati seems to be that the Shaiva Siddantha recognizes Thirty-six Tattvas (principles); and  when that is extended, the  Thirty-seventh  is said to represent the concept of Anuttara (the ultimate or nothing beyond) a doctrine of the Pratyabhijna System of philosophy propounded by Utpaladeva the Parama-guru (the teacher’s teacher) of Abhinavagupta

Of the thirty-seven Chapters in the Natyashastra; about twelve Chapters are related to Dance. They are the Chapter numbers: 4, 5, 8-13, 19, 21, 22, 25 and 31.

[Please click here for volumes of Natyashastra with commentary of Abhinavabharati: For Volume One by Dr. K .Krishnamoorthy; For Volume Two by Pandit M. Ramakrishna Kavi; and, Volume Three by Pandit M. Ramakrishna Kavi.]

Umasadashivamurti

As regards the Angikabhinaya, Abhinavagupta, generally, follows Bharata, rather closely.

In the Fourth Chapter of his commentary, Abhinavagupta deals with the definition and the division of 108 Karanas which constitute the fundamental dancing poses.

Abhinavagupta explains: Karana is indeed the harmonious combination (sam-militam) of Gati (movement of feet), Sthanaka (stance), Cari (foot position) and Nrtta-hastha (hand-gestures)

Gatau tu Caryah / purvakaye tu Gatau Nrttahastha drusta-yashcha / sthithau pathakadyaha tena Gati-Sthithi – sam-militam Karanam

As regards Gati (gait) , Abhinavagupta also mentions that in the Nrtta though the Gati could generally follow the Natyadharmi, one should also keep in view the context of the times, the situation (desham, kalam) and the prevalent practices

Cari, Mandala prasangasya chitta-vrttitvad Gati viniyoga meva pratijanite/ Gatisha prakrutim rasa-avastham desham kalam cha apekshya vakthavya prati purusha abhidanath

According to Abhinavagupta, Karaa is action (Kriyā Karaam); and, as the very life (jivitam) of Ntta, the pure dance movements. It is a Kriya, an act which starts from a given place and terminates after reaching the proper one. It involves both the static and dynamic aspects: pose (Sthiti) and movement (Gati).

And that is why, he says, Karaa is called as ‘Ntta Karaa’. Such throws (kepa) of the limbs must be guided by a sense of beauty and grace (vilasa-ksepasya). A Karana has to be intellectually and spiritually satisfying. The word nttasya in Bharata’s definition is meant to emphasize this aspect of dance.

Kriya karanam. Kasya kriya. nrttasya gatranam vilasakhepasya heyopadeya visaya kriya adibhyaf; vyatirikta ya tatkriya karanam itya artha.

According to him, the Sthanaka (posture), Cari (foot-position) and Nrtta-hastha (hand-movements) can be compared to subject (kartru-pada), object (Karma-pada) and verb (Kriya-pada) in a meaningful sentence; while the resultant Karana could be compared to a sentence.

As regards Recakas (circular movement of a limb), Abhinavagupta says: it is through the Recakas that the Karanas and the Angaharas derive their beauty and grace. He gives some guidelines to be observed while performing a Recaka of the foot (Pada-recaka) , neck (Griva-recaka) and the hands (Hastha-recaka) .

According to him; while performing the Recaka of the foot one should pay attention to the movements of the big toe; in the Recaka of the hands one should perform Hamsa-paksha Hastha in quick circular movements; and, in the Recaka of the neck one should execute it with slow graceful movements.

Padayoreva chalanam na cha parnir bhutayor antar bahisha sannatam namanonna manavyamsitam gamanam Angustasya cha /Hasthareva chalanam Hamsapakshayo paryayena dhruta bramanam/ Grivayastu Recitatvam vidhuta brantata//

After the discussion of Karanas, Abhinavagupta deals with the definition and division of Angaharas, which are made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13). Abhinavagupta explains Agahāra as the process of ‘sending the limbs of the body from a given position to the other proper one (Angavikshepa). And, such Angavikshepa is said to be a dominant feature of the Nrtta. And, that term stands for graceful composition of limbs (gatram vilasena-kshepaha). Thus, the Angaharas, basicallyare Nrtta movements, the Angika-abhinaya, involving six Angas or segments of the body.

caari-bheda

Abhinavagupta comments on seven divisions of Nrtta. The first three are to be used in independent Laukika dance, for the satisfaction of the deities. The last four are employed in the preliminaries.

Abhinavagupta classifies Nrtta into two broad Groups; the first group having three types; and, the second having four types.  Thus, the Nrtta, in all, is classified by Abhinavagupta into seven types.

The First Group belongs to the pure Nrtta type; whereas, the Second Group relates to of what came to be known as Nrtya, which involves Abhinaya. Abhinavagupta, in his explanations, did not, however, use the term Nrtya.

The First Group of Nrtta that Abhinavagupta formulated has the three types: (1) Shuddha-Nrtta; (2) Gitakad-abhinayao-nmukha-Nrtta; and, (3) Vadya –Talanusari Nrtta.

Here, Shuddha, that is, pure or abstract dance; the Gitakad-abhinay-onmukha is a dance that expresses the meaning of a song; and, the Vadya-talanusari is a dance that follows instrumental music and rhythm.

The Second Group of Nrtta has four types: (1) Uddhata Nrtta ;(2) Masrana-Nrtta; (3) Misra Uddhata Nrtta; and,(4)  Misar-Masarna Nrtta.

And, here, the Uddhata is a vigorous dance; the Masrana is a dance with delicate and graceful movements (Sukumara); the Misra Uddhata Nrtta is a vigorous dance mixed with delicate movements; and, the Misar-Masarna Nrtta is a delicate dance mixed with vigorous movements.

Since many of these dances in the Second group were expressive, they required Abhinaya or interpretative movements. Such dances, then, fall into the category that later became known as Nrtya. Abhinavagupta, however, does not use the term Nrtya, perhaps because Bharata spoke only of Nrtta; and, had not used the term Nrtya.

peacock

The commentary on the Fifth Chapter expands on Bharata’s description of the preliminaries of the performance of the play and remarks on theatrical terms like Purvaranga, Naandi, and Dhruva etc.

The subject of Dhruva, which is the song to be sung in the course of the play, is discussed in detail.  Natyashastra (NS: 32.32) explained the Dhruva Gana as the well composed songs that are steadfast (Dhruva) in  the principles of Pada  (words),  Varna  (syllables) and Chhandas (meter)

Natyashastra had devoted one entire and a lengthy chapter (Chapter 32) to discuss the Dhruva songs. That was because; the songs formed an essential ingredient of the play. And, Bharata said:  without songs, the Drama is incapable of providing joy (NS. 32. 482): Just as a well-built dwelling house (citraniveśana) does not become beautiful and provide a pleasant ambiance without any colour; so also a Drama without any songs does not provide much joy.

Abhinavagupta, accordingly, deals with the Dhruva songs, in fair detail. He explains that the Dhruva songs help to enhance the artistic sense of the important themes that occur in various situations in a play.

 While commenting on the term Dhruva, Abhinavagupta  explains that these types of songs were called Dhruva ( = standpoint; locus of reference)  because in it, the Vakya (sentence), Varna (syllables) , Alamkara (grace notes), Yatis (succession of rhythm patterns) , Panyah (use or non-use of drums) and Laya (beats) were  harmoniously fixed ( Dhruvam) in relation to each other – (anyonya sambandha) .

Vakya –Varna–Alamkara yatyaha -panayo-layah I   Dhruvam-anyonya sambandha yasmath smada Dhruva smrutah II

He further says, the composition (pada samuha) structured as per a rule (niyatah) and that which supports (adhara) singing could be called Dhruva (Dhruvah- Gitya-adhara niyatah pada –samuha).

At another place, Abhinavagupta explains Dhruva as the basis or the support (adhara) on which the song rests. Abhinavagupta says: just as the painting is supported by wall, the Dhruva song is supported by Pada (word). And, Pada in turn is supported by, the Chhandas (meter) – (Abhinavagupta: NS.32.8).

Thus, in the Dhruva Gana, the words of the song are regulated by Chhandas. And, the words are then set to appropriate tunes and Taala-s.

peacock

The Sixth Chapter is described as Rasadhyaya; because it mainly deals with concept and the theories of Rasa, the aesthetic pleasure, the essence of all Art experience. Though this Chapter is not directly related to Dance, we may take a brief look at it; because, this Chapter is considered as one of the very important Chapters in the Natyashastra ; and also because , Abhinavagupta discussed the various aspects of the Rasa-doctrine (Rasa-siddantha) in great detail.  And, in the process, he dealt with almost every important facet of Indian aesthetics. Abhinavagupta’s contribution to the revision of Indian aesthetics is truly outstanding.

In this Chapter, Abhinavagupta interprets, mainly, eleven elements of the Natya. They are: Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Dharmi, Vrtti, Pravrtti, Siddhi, Svara, Atodya, Gana and Ranga. Among these, the Rasa is regarded as one of the most important theoretical aspects of the Natyashastra. According to Bharata, Rasa is the sum and substance of all Art- expressions; and, no sense proceeds without RasaNa hi rasādte kaścid artha pravartate (prose passage after verse 31, in Chapter Six).

The Natyashastra asserts that the goal of any Art form is to invoke Rasa, the aesthetic enjoyment in the mind and heart of the cultured spectator (sumanasa prekakā or Sahrudaya). And, such enjoyment is an emotional or an intellectual experienceāsvādayanti manasā tasman nāya- rasā sm (N.S.6.33).

The Chapters Six and Seven in the Natyashastra have been the mainstay of the Rasa concept in all traditional literature, dance and theatre arts in India. Bharata says that which can be relished – like the taste of food – is RasaRasyate anena iti rasaha (asvadayatva). Though the term Rasa is associated with palate, it is equally well applicable to the delight afforded by all forms of Art; and, the pleasure that people derive from their art experience. It is literally the activity of savouring an emotion in its full flavour. The term might also be taken to mean the essence of human feelings.

[The Rasa-doctrine is also relevant to classical dance, particularly since its performance is pervaded by emotion; and, its presentation, in varied graceful and meaningful forms (Abhinaya), attempts to express those emotions. Further, the Rasa-principle also provides a philosophical framework for explaining the fundamentals of an aesthetic experience; and, how it relates to the human psychological processes.]

The famous Rasa sutra or the basic formula to invoke Rasa, as stated in the Nātyashāstra, is: vibhāva anubhāva vyabbhicāri samyogāt rasa nispattih (prose passage after verse 31, in Chapter Six).

Here, the Vibhāva represents the causes, while Anubhāva is the manifestation or the performance of its effect communicated through the Abhinaya.  The more important Vibhāva and Anubhāva are those that invoke the Sthāyi-bhāva, or the principle emotion at the moment of the performance. The Sthayi-bhava combines and transforms all other Bhavas; and, integrates them with itself.

Thus, the Rasa-sutra states that the Vibhāva, Anubhāva, and Sanchari or the Vyabhicāri-bhāvas coming together (samyogād) with the Sthayi-bhava result in Rasa (rasa nispattih).

Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, initially takes a review of the explanations given by the previous authorities and scholars; then sums them up; and, later provides his own comments and explanations. He remarks that he is formulating his own theories on the foundation laid by others; and, his views are only an improvement on what has been said by the earlier interpreters.

Abhinavagupta begins by explaining his view of aesthetics and its nature. Then goes on to state how that aesthetic experience is created. During the process, he comments on Bharata’s concepts and categories of Rasa and Sthayi-bhava, the dominant emotive states, and of Sattvika, the involuntary bodily reflexesHe also examines Bharata’s other concepts of Vibhava, Anubhava and vyabhichari (Sanchari) bhavas and their subcategories Uddipana (stimulantand Aalambana (ancillaries).

Abhinavagupta comments on these concepts in the light of Shaiva Pratyabhijna philosophyand explains the process of One becoming many and returning to the state of repose (vishranthi)). He also brings in the elements of Abhivyakti (an expression that suggests release from ignorance, resulting in Camatkara); and Dhvani (aesthetic-suggestions) as expounded by Anandavardhana (820-890) in his Dhvanyaloka.

 [At places, Abhinavagupta uses the term Samvitti, in place of Rasa, as a synonym. He also uses the term Visranti to denote the state of aesthetic experience, which is a state of complete repose. These terms (Samvitti and vishranthi) are used in the Shaiva Pratyabhijna philosophy to represent Ananda, the absolute bliss. And, Abhivyakti is also a term of that branch of philosophy.]

For Abhinavagupta, soaked in sublime principles of Shaiva Siddantha, the aesthetic experience is Ananda, the unique bliss. He regards such aesthetic experience as different from any ordinary experience; and, as a subjective realization. It is Alukika (out of the ordinary world), he said, and is akin to mystic experience. That experience occurs in a flash as of a lightening; it is a Chamatkara, the state of blissful aesthetic experience. It is free from earthly limitations; and, is self luminous (svaprakasha). It is Ananda; a direct experience; a state of pure and undefiled joy. This Rasa-ananda, he says, is almost to be equivalent to the philosophic bliss (Brahma-ananda)

Abhinavagupta interpreted Rasa as a ‘stream of consciousness’ (Caitanya-Vahini) that is not restricted by time and place.

Sa ca rasana na pramanya vyaparo na kara kavya aparah svayam tu na apramanikah /

As regards poetic experience, according to Abhinavagupta, its Rasa is in understanding (rasana ca bodha-rupaiva) the essential inner meaning of Kavyatatkavyartho rasah. It is realized by the cultured reader with empathy (Sahrdaya) who has a clear perspective – Adhikari catra vimala pratibhana sahrdayah. He states that the poet’s experience is the seed of poetry; the poem he composes is the tree; and, the reader’s experience is the fruit of the tree

Tadevam mulam bijasthaniyat kavigatah rasah; Kavirhi samajikatulya eva tatah vrksa sthaniyam kavyam tatra puspadi-sthaniyo abhinayadinata-vyaparah; tatra phala-sthaniyah; samajika-rasa-asvadah tena rasa-maya-meva visvam.

According to Abhinavagupta, a real work of art, in addition to possessing emotive charge carries a strong sense of suggestion (Dhvani) and the potential to produce various meanings (Artha). It can communicate through suggestions and evoke layers of meanings and emotions.

A true aesthetic object, Abhinavagupta declares, not merely stimulates the senses but also ignites the imagination of the viewer. With that, the spectator is transported to a world of his own creation. That experience sets the individual free from the confines of place, time and ego (self); and elevates him to the level of universal experience.  It is liberating experience. Thus art is not mundane; it is Alaukika in its nature.

Abhinavagupta also talks about Sadharanikarana, the generalization. He points out that while enjoying the aesthetic experience, the mind of the spectator is liberated from the obstacles caused by the ego and other disturbances. Thus transported from the limited to the realm of the general and universal, we are capable of experiencing Nirvada, or blissfulness. In such aesthetic process, we are transported to a trans-personal level. This is a process of de-individual or universal – the Sadharanikarana.

*

 He then goes on to expand the scope and content of the Rasa spectrum by adding the ninth Rasa to the eight enumerated by Bharata: and, to establish the Shantha-rasa, the Rasa of tranquility and peace, as the most significant Rasa.

Abhinavagupta considered Shantha Rasa (peace, tranquillity) – where there is no duality of sorrow or happiness; or of hatred or envy; and, where there is equanimity towards all beings – as being not merely an additional Rasa; but, as the highest virtue of all Rasas. It is one attribute, he said, that permeates everything else; and, in to which everything moves back to reside (hridaya_vishranthi). 

na yatra dukha na sukha na dveo nāpi matsara sama sarveu bhūteu sa śānta prathito rasa

Following Abhinavagupta, the theory of Nine-Rasas, the Navarasa, became universally acceptable in all branches of Indian aesthetics. And, Shantha Rasa has come to be regarded as the Rasa of Rasas.

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The Eighth Chapter discusses the detailed description of the fourfold Abhinaya (Angika, Satvika, Vachika and Aaharya). These relate to physical representations through the use of various gestures and postures. That is followed by the descriptions of the expressions the movements of the head, glances, action with pupils, the eye-lids, the eyebrows, the nose and Nostrils, cheeks, lower-lip, neck; and through the colours of the face.

It also deals with two types of Angika-abhinaya. The first one analyses the movement of the principal and subsidiary limbs (Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga); and, the second deals with the combination of these primary movements such as Caris and Mandala. The topics in Chapter Eight are directly connected with the general discussions in the first five Chapters and therefore, the eighth Chapter could be considered as the continuation of the first five Chapters

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The commentaries on Chapter Nine to Twelve of the Natyashastra provide abundant details on the Angikabhinaya. But, Abhinavagupta does not offer any fresh or additional information on the subject; although his comments help us to visualize the required body movements.

In Chapter Nine, the Angikabhinaya, various expressions produced by the gestures and movements of the hands (Hastha) and the limbs are discussed. Here, he details 24 kinds of single-hand gestures (Asamyukta-hasta-bheda); 13 kinds of gestures devised by the combination of both the hands (Samyukta hasta bheda); and, 27 kinds of Nrtta-hasthas, gestures in pure Dance movements.

He explains the Abhinaya-hasthas (expressive gestures through hands) as the indicators of the inner thoughts and emotions. He says; while inner feelings, thoughts etc., are the causes (Vibhava), their manifestations through Abhinaya, the expressions through hand-gestures (Abhinaya-hasthas) is Anubhāva. The two together, in combination with the Sthayi-bhava (dominant mood or sentiment) produce Rasa.

As regards the movements of the arms (Bahu), Abhinavagupta says, with the numerous circular movements (vaichitrena bahu paryayayena) of the arms in different speeds, combined with various hand and wrist positions, can generate innumerable Hastha gestures:

Yetheshu karaneshu chatushra drutha Madhya vilambitadi vaichitrena bahu paryayayena cha samasthani yojina yada niyujyante tada patha vartanadi shatasaharenyvam ta brthani

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The tenth Chapter of the commentary deals with the actions and movements of actions related with chest, sides, belly, waist, thighs, shanks and feet. In all these descriptions, Abhinavagupta, generally, follows Bharata.

Here, while dealing with Angika-abhinaya related to the actions of the feet (Cari-vidhana), Abhinavagupta enumerates and defines thirty-two kinds of Caris, of which sixteen are termed Bhaumi (ground) and the other sixteen are called Akasiki (aerial).The Caris are considered as the most important single unit of movement in the Nrtta technique.

Further, as many as forty Sthanas or standing postures are discussed under six category of static postures along with their applications. They are: Vaisnava, Samapada, Vaisakha, Mandala, Alidha and Pratyalidha, which are used variously.

There are also the descriptions of four types of Nyayas   (Bharata, Sattvata, Varsaganya and Kaisika). These are the ways of regulating (niyante)  how the various  weapons are to be handled while staging a fight on the stage; and, how the actors move about on the stage using various Caris and Angaharas (combinations of Caris and Karanas)

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The Eleventh Chapter of Abhinavabharati interprets Mandala-vikalpanam, which are more complicated movements of the legs involving combinations of Caris. These Mandals are again classified into two categories:  Akasa-mandala (aerial, having ten varieties); and,   Bhu-mamandala (ground, having eight varieties).

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The Chapter Twelve of the commentary describes different types of gaits (Gati) to be adopted by various types of characters in different contexts and in different states (Bhavas). It mentions the different gaits for men, women, the stout, the intoxicated, the Jester etc. It also enumerates the Gatis or gaits suitable for Kings and superior characters as also for middling characters. The walking styles for women of various classes are also described.

Abhinavagupta quotes the ancient authority Kohala while discussing the Gatis; and suggests specific Taalas and Layas (beats and tempo) that are suitable for each type of character depending upon the context.

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Chapters Twenty-one and Twenty-two provide detailed descriptions of Aharya-bhinaya (use of costumes, stage properties and other external aids which are essential both to dance and drama); Samanyabhinaya and Chitrabhinaya (general and special histrionic expressions).

While dealing with Aharya-bhinaya, Abhinavagupta stresses the importance of Aharya among other Abhinayas. He details the different types of costumes of various characters of different classes; the various types of dresses which should be used in dramatic representation; the makeup of different characters ; and , the stage settings (Nepathya). He also mentions the details of the ornaments suitable for men and women; making up the face and other limbs with grease paints etc; the use of natural and subsidiary colours; appliance of false hair; wearing of masks etc. These details help us to understand the technicalities of stage presentation as practiced in the Eleventh century.

*

Then Abhinavagupta describes the physical, natural, involuntary graces in women, men; twelve forms of voice expression; eight varieties of heroines in love (Astavidha Nayikas); ten kinds of Kama-avasthas (states of being in love) ; the acting of various types of women in love ; and, the general exclusions on the stage

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At the beginning of twenty-fifth chapter of Abhinavagupta’s commentary, there is the explanation of Citra-abhinaya.

While the Samanya-abhinaya is the harmonious use of four kinds of Abhinayas; the Citra-abhinaya applies only to the special representation of various objects and ideas. The latter is employed for indicating morning, sunset etc. Seasons, birds, animals, demons, celestials, expression in soliloquies, aside etc. In addition, Abhinavagupta mentions the representation of some other objects and ideas like God Skanda, Goddess Sarasvati etc. according to the view of Kohala and others.

Abhinavagupta remarks; whether it is Samanya-abhinaya or Chitra-abhinaya, what is more important is the ardent practice (Shikshitum abhyasitam) and the state of mind of the performer (Chitt-vrtti pradanam).

Shikshitum abhyasitam va prayoktam drustam va, chitta-vrtti pradanam chedam natyamiti tadeva vakyum nyayam

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In Chapter Thirty-one, Abhinavagupta discusses Taala (time units); Laya (rhythm or tempo); the qualities of singer and instrumentalists; and delicate, graceful dance (Lasya)

According to him, Taala is the foundation of music and also of dance. He says the Taalas are of two types, Tryasra and Caturasra.  He explains three kinds of Laya (tempo) – Druta (slow), Madhya (medium) and Vilambita (fast).  He also explains Kala as the measure of time in the musical sphere. He interprets the Margas of rhythm which are of three kinds – Citra, Vrtti and Daksina.

Abhinavagupta interprets Lasya as a form of graceful dance. Lasya is the term that Abhinavagupta uses to indicate the Sukumara-prayoga of the Natyashastra. There, the Sukumara-prayoga meant a graceful dance with delicate movements (Angaharas). And, Sukumara-prayoga did not mean a feminine style of dancing, as was interpreted later. Such distinctions, as between masculine and feminine dances, were not made in the Natyashastra.

Abhinavagupta seemed to be following the contemporary usage of the term Lasya to mean a feminine style of dancing.

 He also used the term Masrana-Nrtta to indicate the softer type of dance (Lasya) aligned with Srngara, Karuna Rasas and so on. This, he described, as the feminine type of dance.

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Abhinavagupta’s commentary ends with chapter Thirty-seven. There is a narration (Guhya-tattva-kathana) of the mythical account of how King Nahusha encouraged Bharata to promulgate Natyaveda on the earth.  

This final Chapter praises the Anuttara-marga (or Anupaya-marga) as the highest and the best method (upaya) to attain liberation – tato pi paramam jnanam upayadi-vivarjitam…Anuttaram.

Bharata also concluded his work with the Benediction:

What more should I say? Let there be  peace and plenty  on this Earth ; and let it be free from famine and diseases, for all times. Let there be peace and prosperity among all beings and humans; and, let the Ruler protect thus the entire earth.

ki cānyat samprapūrā bhavatu vasumatī, naṣṭa-durbhika-rogā śāntir go brāhmaānā bhavatu , narapati pātu pthvī samagrām NS.37.31

Nātyaśāstram sampūram

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storehouse-consciousness

In the next part we shall move on to other texts dealing with Dance and its several aspects

 

Continued

In

Part Eleven

References and Sources

  1. Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition by Dr Mandakranta Bose
  2. Abhinavabharati – Chapter Three
  3. The Natyashastra
  4. Natyashastra and Rasa
  5. Abhinavagupta’s philosophy of Rasa
  6. Abhinavagupta 
  7. Abhinavabharati

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

 

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Dance forms of India

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Uparupakas

Bharata, in his Natyashastra, discussed, in main, the Rupakas, the major forms of the Drama; and, the two genre of Dance formats – Tandava and Sukumara. His concern seemed to be, primarily, with the forms and styles that were dominant in the art-tradition of his time; and, particularly those that had the potential to display various modes of representations and to evoke Rasas. For him, the aspect of Rasa was central to the Drama.

Of the eleven essential elements of the Drama that he names, Rasa is of paramount importance; and deriving that Rasa is the objective of a theatrical performance. The other ten elements – from Bhava to Ranga – are the contributing factors for the production of the Rasa

rasā bhāvā hy abhinayā dharmī vtti pravttaya / siddhi svarā astathātodya gāna ragaś ca sagraha // BhN_6.10 //

Bharata, similarly, even in regard to Dance, described only those dance forms that he considered to be artistically well cultivated; leaving out the regional and popular varieties. In the process, Bharata did not deal with the many peripheral styles.

The Drama, a Drshya-Kavya, was formally known as Rupaka. Abhinavagupta explains Rupam as that which is seen by the eyes; and, therefore, the works containing such matter is Rupani or Rupaka. And, Dhananjaya in his Dasarupaka (ten forms of Drama)  explains :  it is called a Rupaka or a representation because of the acts put on by the actors (abhinaya)  by assuming (rupakam tat samaropad)  the forms of various characters  such as gods or kings  and men and women. And, it is called a show because of the fact it is seen (rupam drsyatayocyate). Thus, Drama is the reproduction of a situation (Avastha-anikrtir natyam), in a visible form (rupa),  in the person of the actors. Dhanika in his commentary , explains that the terms Natyam, Rupam and Rupakam can be treated as synonymous.

The Drama was classified into two types: Major (Rupaka) and Minor (Upa-Rupaka).

Under the Rupakas (major types of Drama) Bharata mentioned ten of its forms (Dasadhaiva). Of the ten, he discussed, in fair detail, only two forms –Nataka and Prakarana. Because, he considered that these two alone fulfilled all those requirements that were necessary for Rupaka (major type). According to Bharata, these two major forms alone depict varieties of situations, made up of all the four modes or styles (Vrttis) and representations. And, they alone could lend enough scope for display of Rasas (Rasapradhana or Rasabhinaya or vakya-artha-abhinaya). In contrast, the other eight forms of Rupakas deal with limited themes and rather narrow subjects; and, are also incapable of presenting a spectrum of Rasas. 

In the process, Bharata did not also discuss about the minor forms of the drama, the Uparupakas or Natyabhedas. These were a minor class of dramatic works, distinct from the major works; and, did not satisfy all the classic, dramatic requirements prescribed for a Rupaka or Nataka proper. Such minor class of plays (Uparupakas) handled only a segment of a theme or story (Vastu); and, not its full extent. It did not also, perhaps, employ all the four Abhinayas, in their entirety.

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By the time of Abhinavagupta (Ca.11th century), the Dance had diversified into many more forms than were known during the time of Bharata. However, he mentions that even those innovative forms, indeed, continued to be rooted in the basic concepts laid down in the Natyashastra. And, in fact, he often cites idioms of dancing from such new categories, in order to illustrate Bharata’s concepts.

For instance; Abhinavagupta explains the nature of the delicate Sukumara Prayoga and of the gentle Kaisiki Vrtti, with reference to examples taken from Nrtta-kavya or Nrtya-prabandhas or Ragakavyas – musical compositions or narrative plays (classified under Uparupakas) beautified with  the elements of dance and music; and, which could be presented through expressive Abhinaya.

Abhinavagupta remarks; though the concept of minor dramas is absent in the Natyashastra, it is those minor classes of plays – Uparupakas, par excellence – in their varied forms, adorned with rich, melodious music, as also with graceful and delicate dance movements, which grew into becoming the main stay of the contemporary dance- scene.

Thus, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, did mention the Upa-rupakas; but, he did neither define its essentials nor did he explain its features. He merely called them as Nrtta-kavya and Raga-kavya; meaning, the type of plays that are rendered through song, dance and interpreted through Abhinaya. In that context, Abhinavagupta mentions some plays of Uparupaka variety. He names them as: Dombika, Bhana, Prasthana, Sidgaka, Bhinika, Ramakrida, Hallisaka, and Rasaka. These minor dramatic works were of the nature of dance-drama, where the elements of music and dance were dominant.  But, Abhinavagupta had not discussed about those musical varieties.

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Perhaps, the earliest reference to Uparupaka occurs in the Kama-sutras of Vatsyayana (earlier to second century BCE), which presents a guide to a virtuous and gracious living. Here, Vatsyayana mentions Uparupaka type of plays, such as Hallisaka, Natyarasaka and Preksanaka, which were watched by men and women of taste.

Rajashekara (8th-9th century) calls his Prakrit play Karpuramanjari, as a Sattaka type of Uparupaka. He explains that the play in question was not a Nataka, but resembled a Natika (a minor form of Drama). It was a single-Act play (ekankika); and, it did not contain the usual theatrical scenes such as: the pravesakas (entry-scenes) and viskambhakas (intermediary or connecting scenes). Here, in the Sattaka type of Uparupaka, music and dance were the principal mediums of expression. Even a major part of its spoken dialogues (Vachika) was rendered in musical form. And, the story of the play was composed by stringing together series narrative songs.

Bharata had also mentioned that  in a well rendered play, the song, dance,  action and. word follow one another in an unbroken flow; presenting a seamless spectacle as if there is neither an end nor a beginning , just as wheel of fire  (Alata chakra).

eva gāna ca vādya ca nāya ca vividhā aśrayam / alāta-cakra pratima kartavyayayoktbhi // BhN_28.7 //

That, in a way, sums up the characteristic nature of the dance-drama type of Uparupakas. Here, the stylized Natya-dharmi mode of depiction is dominant. And, even when Vachikabinaya is used, the emphasis is more on the Abhinaya rendered through gestures to the accompaniment of song and music; than on speech.

Such Uparupakas, while narrating an episode or a story, did use the elements of the Nrtta (abstract dance movements) along with the Abhinaya of the Nrtya. They were, thus, a specific form of Natya–  (Natyabheda) . They also provided ample scope for display of Bhavas and for evoking Rasa.

[ As Dr. Sunil Kothari observes in his research paper :

The technical distinction which Natyashastra makes between Rupakas and Uparupakas is that while the former presents a full profile of a Rasa with other Rasas as its accessories.  Further, in the Rupaka a full story was presented through all the dramatic requirements and resources fully employed. But in the Uparupaka only a fragment was depicted. And, even when a full theme was handled all the complements of the stage were not present; the Uparupaka lacked one or  the other or more of the four Abhinayas; thus, minimizing the scope for naturalistic features Lokadharmi and resorting increasingly to the resources of Natyadharmi.

Whereas this is true of several other forms of Uparupakas, it is not true of the dance-drama forms. They used all the elements of the Abhinayas; and,also  provided scope for display of Bhavas and for evoking Rasa.]

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Coming together of the Marga and Desi traditions

By about the twelfth century, the classic Sanskrit Drama, in its major format, the Nataka, began to gradually decline. And, over a period, it almost faded away.

Though the Sanskrit theatrical tradition was tapering out, it did continue in the forms of minor or one-act plays – Uparupakas – mainly in regional languages, with a major input of dance and songs; but, with just an adequate stress on Abhinaya (acting) and Sahitya (script). These forms of dance-dramas were gaining ground.

The texts of the later period commenting on Natya and Alankara-shastra (poetics) could hardly afford to ignore the Uparupakas which were steadily gaining popularity. And, many scholars did formally recognize the Uparupaka class of dramatic works; codified their features; and assigned them a place within the framework of theory , as Nrtya-prabandhas.

By about the twelfth century, the differences as also the relationship between the Nrtta (pure dance) and Nrtya (Nrtta with Abhinaya) were clearly established. And, those dance formats, in combination with music, were suitably applied and integrated into the performance of the dance dramas.

Among the authors of the later period, Raja Bhoja ((10-11th century), Saradatanaya (12-13th century) and Vishvanatha (14-15th century) dealt at length with the Uparupakas. Raja Bhoja in his Srngaraprakasa discusses twelve types of Uparupakas; Saradatanaya in his Bhavaprakasa describes twenty-one forms of Uparupakas and also provides a gist of several definitions as given by the previous authorities ; and, Vishvanatha in his Sahityadarpana discusses in detail eighteen types of Uparupakas, with examples

For a detailed discussion on  the types of Uparupakas: please click here. And, go to pages 189 and onward for descriptions of those forms.

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Such staged dramatic texts (Nrtta-kavya or Raga-kavya), narrating a story, composed of songs, set to music with instrumental accompaniment; and, choreographed with dance movements, came to be known by different names such as: Natyabheda (in Avaloka of Dhanika); Geyarupaka (in Kavyanusasana of Hemacandra): Nrtyarupakas or, simply as the ‘other plays’ anyani rupakani (as by Ramacandra and Gunacandra), in which music and dance dominate.

The period between the eleventh and the fifteenth centuries was a very highly significant phase in the evolution and development of Art in its varied dimensions. It was during this period that Dance, as Nrtya, gained recognition as an independent Art-form. And, Dance was no longer treated as a mere adjunct to drama. Similarly, vocal (Gita) and instrumental (Vadya) also began to flourish on their own.

The Dancing in India evolved by assimilating new forms and techniques; and, by moving away from its early dependence on Drama. In the process, it also widened its aesthetic scope beyond decorative grace; and, enlarged its content or repertoire to encompass depiction of emotional narrative themes. Now, the beauty of form walked in-hand with the richness of the lyrics and, with the depth of its emotional content; resulting in the growth of a complex art form.

During the period which spans the eleventh to the sixteenth century, many excellent works on Dance and music were written; and, new trends in Dancing were set. Now, many texts, exclusively devoted to Dance came into being (Say, Sangitaratnakara of Sarangadeva – Chapter seven;  the Nrtya-ratna-kosa of Maharana Kumbha ; the Nrttaratnavali of Jaya Senapati; Nartananirnaya of Pundarika Vittala).

The texts of this period , though rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, did recognize and discuss Dance-forms and styles whose technique and structure differed from the Marga class described by Bharata- During this period, the emphasis of the texts shifted away from Natyashastra’s Marga tradition ; and, moved towards the styles known , generically, as Desi , regional or improvised.

It was during this period that Uparupakas developed into a common ground where the classical Natya of the Shastra (Marga) met the regional (Desi) forms of Dance of easy movements; allowing more freedom and greater degree of improvisation, within the given framework. It was here that the sophisticated fused with the folk forms.

The noted scholar Dr. Raghavan, therefore, described the Uparupaka as the golden link (svarna-setu) or common ground where the classical met the popular; and, where the sophisticated took the folk forms.

This period was also marked by the efforts to codify the less acknowledged, but popular forms; and, assign them a place within the framework of theory.

In the process, the theories of Dance adopted the terms and principles that were prevalent in the Kavya, poetics. Those dance forms which adhered to the established regulations and conventions; and, which had a definite structure were termed and classified as Nibaddha. And, those free-flowing dance forms, which were spontaneous, unregulated, unstructured and not bound by any rules, were treated as Anibaddha. Such unfettered dance-forms were not restricted by the requirements of Taala and such other disciplinesand, it did not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya). Sarangadeva defines Anibaddha as that which is not bound or as that which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva).

The Anibaddha also meant allowing the dancer considerable latitude in devising body movements that best suited the aesthetic and emotional content of the theme.; And , it also  made room for enterprise to come up with fresh idioms of expressions.

At the same time, the texts, such as the Sangita-samayasara, the Sangitaratnakara and the Nartananirnaya, suggested body movements as that of  simulating the quiver of a drop of water on a lotus leaf, or the trembling of a flame etc.

Such process of reorganization  and innovation covered not only the well regulated dance forms ; but, it  also  extended even to  the individual and   the group dances like Daṇḍaras, Raslīlā and other folk dances of similar nature, some of which have survived as dramatic group presentations.

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Dr. Mandakranta Bose in her Movement and Mimesis concludes : Our study of technique also shows that present day classical dancing in India is grounded more directly in the tradition recorded in the later dance manuals, especially the Nartananirnaya , than in the older tradition of the Natyashastra. This suggests that those styles which had marginal existence in Bharata’s time not only came to be admitted into the mainstream of dancing, but eventually became the dominant current. The evolutionary process is therefore one of dynamic growth rather than a static survival. Through the comparative analysis of the concepts and technique of dancing the present study attempts to mark the milestones of that process

As Dr. Sunil Kothari also observes in Part One of his research Paper  : the minor forms that were not specifically described by Bharata came into fore during the later periods. And, they have contributed greatly in the evolution of the dance concepts; and, in shaping and enriching the various dance forms, in their distinct regional milieu; as we see in contemporary India.

Dance-Drama

Dance-dramas

Dance and music have always formed an integral part of Sanskrit drama. But, it was the Uparupakas – minor class of drama- based in music and dance movements that eventually gave rise to the now living traditions such as KuchipudiBhagavata-Mela-Natakas, Yaksha-gana and Kuravanji    dance dramas.  Such forms of  Uparupakas  are very attractive formats, with the elements of the music and dance being predominant. And, most of them are based in dances accompanied by soulful songs, interpreting the emotional contents of the song through Abhinaya or gestures.

The Uparupakas also marked the emergence of dance-drama along with the solo exposition as a credible format of Dancing. Since then, dance-drama has come to stay and flourish side by side with the solo dance forms.

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The key element of the musical dramas was delighting in the spectacle of presentation and the emotions displayed by the characters on display. Their themes were crafted around Raga and Kavya elements, which dealt with the characters, themes, plots, emotional situations rooted mainly in Srngara (lovely and graceful) and Bhakthi (devotion) Rasas. The Uparupakas were, therefore, said to be Bhavatmaka or dependent on emotions.

The Uparupakas were broadly classified according to the dance-situations that were involved and the Rasas, the emotions, they projected. Among the Uparupakas, the Rasaka, Hallisaka, Narttanaka, Chalika and Samyalasya gave importance to Nrtta, the pure dance movements, in their performance. And, Natika, Sattaka, Prakaranika and Trotaka (Totaka) gave prominence to emotional aspects and to Abhinaya.

‘The Lovers Radha and Krishna in a Palm Grove’; miniature painting from the ‘Tehri Garhwal’ <i>Gita ­Govinda</i> (Song of the Cowherds), Punjab Hills, kingdom of Kangra or Guler, circa 1775–1780

Gita-Govinda

The most celebrated of the Raga-kavyas, Chitra-kavyas or Nrtya-prabandhas is the Gita-Govinda composed by Sri Jayadeva Goswami (about 1150 A.D), who was a court poet of the King Lakshmana of the Bengal region (12th century). It is the most renowned and the best loved among all the Raga-kavyas of the Prabandha class. Gita-Govinda occupies a preeminent position in the history of both the Indian music and dance.

The Gita-Govinda is a Khanda-Kavya, confined to description of some episodes. It comes under the Prabandha class of Kavyas. Jayadeva at the commencement of his Khanda-kavya states that he is composing a Prabandha Kavya (Etam karoti Jayadeva kavih prabandham). The Ashtapadi (eight footed) is a  Dvi-dhatu  Prabandha,  i.e. consisting two sections (Dhatu):  Udgraha and Dhruva.

from the Gita Govinda

This sublime Sringara-mahakavya, lovingly describes the emotive sports of Sri Radha, the Mahabhava – highly idealized personification Love and Beauty; and, Krishna the eternal lover (Sri Radha-Krishna-Lila).

Gita Govinda is the most enchanting collection of twelve chapters (Sarga). And, each Sarga commences with soulful a Sloka followed by one or two songs arranged in couplets. These songs are known as Giti, Prabandha or Ashtapadi, since twenty-four of such (but not all) employ eight couplets. Sri Jayadeva himself calls them as sweet and delicate Padavali-s (Madhura komala padavalim).

The Gita Govinda, permeated with intensely devotional and delicate Madhura Bhakthi, was one of the inspirations of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprbhu who was steeped in Krishna-bhakthi; and, it is now the primary text of the Gaudiya Vaishnava School of Bengal.

The popularity enjoyed by Gita Govinda is amazing. Each region and each language of India embraced it to its heart, with love and devotion; adopted it as its own; sang in its own chosen Raga; and, interpreted it in its own dance form.

The Gita Govinda also served as an inspiration or as a model for creation of dance-dramas, elaborating on parallel themes, in different parts of the country, in different languages. For instance; the dance sequences composed in the traditions of Kuchipudi of Andhra; the compositions of Sri Sankaradeva of Assam; Umapati of Bihar; Bhagavata Mela Natakas of the South; Yaksaganas of Karnataka ; and, Krsnattam and Kathakali of the Malayalam areas – were all inspired by the Gita-Govinda.

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Nauka Charitam

And, Sri Thyagaraja (1767- 1847) is said to have composed three musical dramas  (Geya-Nataka). Of these, only two namely: Prahlada-Bhakti-Vijayam and Nauka Charitam are available. But, the third – Sita Rama Vijayam – is sadly lost.

Nauka Charitam, mostly a product of Sri Thyagaraja’s imagination, improvising on an incident briefly mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, comprises twenty-one Daru songs set in thirteen Ragas (some of which follow folk tunes) . Its theme extols the virtue of absolute surrender to the Lord with Love and devotion. Nauka Charitam lends itself beautifully well for production of a Dance-drama.

Dances

Regional Dance forms

By about the sixteenth century, the Nrtya-prabandhas, set free from the confines of the Drama, began to flourish and to evolve further, by assimilating new forms, more creative modes of expression and techniques. In the process, their aesthetic scope grew beyond mere decorative postures. They refined their skills to communicate the emotive content of the lyrics, more effectively. Beauty of form was blended with meaningful expressions (Abhinaya). The Uparupakas having developed into a complex Dance-form came to occupy a central position within the contemporary world of Art.

Even in this format, the dance element continued to be divided into Nrtta and Natya on the one hand; and, into Tandava and Lasya on the other. Another significant factor was that even though the Dance was mainly based in the theoretical principles of the Natyashastra; yet, in practice, it inculcated styles and techniques that were peculiar to each region. In each of those regions, the Dance practitioners also developed their own local vocabulary. These gave rise to distinctive dance forms and technical terms.

Each of such derivative forms formulated a tradition of its own; such as Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, and Kuchipudi and so on. And, each of those eminent dance forms rooted in its own regional and cultural background; anchored in its own philosophy and outlook, developed its own idioms of expressions.

There are also certain factors that are common to all those diverse types of dance forms. These, in brief, are : prominence to the narration of the theme;  the dominance of Natya-dharmi; performing to  the appropriate music, Laya (tempo) and Taala (time-units, beats) ; employment of all the four Abhinayas in varying degrees; in making a distinction between the Nrtta and the Nrtya, and maintaining their distinctive features while executing  the respective elements in the performance; taking care to see that the Nrtta aspect, particularly the individual dance movements and postures, are  governed by the special techniques developed by each school of Dance; and, recognition of both the  Ekaharya (solo – where a single dancer enacts the role of several characters) and Anekaharya (where several actors participate  to enact their respective role)  modes of presentation.

Yet, these Dance-forms have successfully retained their identity; and, have carried it forward to the present time.

kathak4

Kathak

As regards Kathak, its history as a performing art has to be viewed in the larger context of the history of the Dance forms of the North India. Kathak, in its earlier form had a long association with temple-dance. But, with the advent of Mughal rule; and with the influence it exerted on Indian life and culture, Kathak dance was remodeled into a different form.

For instance; it is said, by the time of Akbar (16th century), the Persian art and music had vastly influenced the cultural life of India, particularly the milieu surrounding the Mughal court. According to Pundarika Vitthala (Nartana-nirnaya), who had the opportunity to watch, appreciate and enjoy excellent presentations of the Persian oriented dance and music, the restructured Dance form of Kathak, was born out of the fusion of classical Natya with the dance of the Yavanas, (meaning, the Persians), which took place in the context of the cultural life of the Mughal inner court, during the time of Akbar.

Kathak, in its early period, had not only a special, unique manner of dancing, with its own phrases of Nrtta and Abhinaya; but it also had its own distinct structure of performance and philosophy. But, During the Mughal period, it became a source of recreation for those seeking escape from the day-to-day annoyances. Its purpose, then, was to provide sheer pleasure, entertainment and amusement. Thus with the advent of the Mughal rule there was a definite shift in its content as also in its emphasis. And, the elements of devotion, worship etc., that were there in its traditional form went into background. It acquired the epithet of Nautch.

Thereafter, with the fall of the Mughals, Kathak, somehow, managed to survive by shaping itself into a fine expression of a dance form aiming to please its newly acquired patrons, the rulers of small native states. It then branched into Gharanas named after the court that supported it ; like Lucknow Gharana , Jaipur GharanaRampur Gharana etc. (For more, please do refer to Kathak, Indian Classical Dance Art by Sunil Kothari )

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Kathak , which follows Nartanasarvasva , has a unique feature of taal-prastuti (a systematic elaboration of a time-cycle of a chosen number of beats) that is not found in any other classical Indian dance-forms. It has also a distinct way of presenting the syllables and Bols used in the text of the songs. The variations of these Dance-forms are also recognized by their nature, even in case their style is classical, folk, or modern.

And since the post-Independence days, happily, the classical Kathak is rediscovering itself. It is liberated from the confines of the past feudalistic court associations. The framework and outlook of the present-day classical Kathak is chaste – aesthetically and spiritually.

Odissi

Odissi

In contrast; the classic Odissi was, essentially, a temple-dance, enacting a devotional poem. It is steeped in devotion; and, in the concepts of spirituality of the Vaishnava tradition. It is performed as a way of submitting ones service (seva) to Lord Jagannath. Odissi is a lyrical form of dance with subtlety as its keynote. It is known for its fluidity and grace. Its sculpture-like poses are executed with harmony of line and movement. Odissi has developed its own vocabulary of foot positions, head movements, eye movements, body positions, hand gestures, rhythmic footwork, turns and spins.

Odissi, again, is based in the principles of the Natyashastra. It also follows other texts such as Abhinaya Chandrika of Mahesvara Mahapatra and Abhinaya Darpana of Nandlkesvara. Dr. Mandakranta Bose opines that the techniques of Odissi are also derived from the Nartananirnaya of Pundarika Vittala.

The Odissi also observes the traditional formats of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya, in their distinct forms.

The initial items, following soon after the invocation , the Mangalacharana, and Pushpanjali, are in the fast-paced, rhythmic pure dance movements of Nrtta class, known as Battu or Battu Nrtta. That is followed by Pallavi rendering in varied tempos.

The Nrtya segment of the Odissi is more elaborate. It consists narration of a theme; the interpretation of the words and sentences of the lyrics of the song; illustrating with grace Abhinaya articulated through elegant Bhavas, gestures and facial and eye expressions. Odissi is renowned for fluid, eloquent and gracefully charming movements and postures. The songs of Nrtya are, generally, in adoration of Vishnu, as Lord Jagannath. Apart from that, the Astapadis selected from Jayadeva Kavi’s Gita Govinda are the most popular numbers in it’s Nrtya repertoire. These soulful dance recitals celebrate the divine Love of Sri Radha and the eternal Lover Sri Krishna.

The Natya segment of a Odissi performance relates narration of a theme selected from the mythology, epic or a celebrated Kavya.

Kuchipudi

Kuchipudi

Similarly, Kuchipudi, the dance-drama  of the coastal Andhra Pradesh, is regarded as a religious art of the Vaishnava tradition, devoted to Lord Krishna (Bhama kalapam), where the dancer-actor narrates a story, conveying a spiritual message through expressive gestures, graceful body-movements and rhythmic footwork. In fact, a Kuchipudi performance commences with the recitation of the auspicious slokas extracted from Vedic texts; consecration of the stage with sprinkling of holy water (punyavachana); and , offering Puja to the Ranga Adidevata , the chief deity on the stage. That is followed by dance-offering to Ganapathi; prayers submitted to Goddess Tripurasundari, and to the Guru; and Naandi-stotra by the Sutradhara, the stage manager. The Kuchipudi Natyam is usually performed by a group or in some cases by a solo dancer who enacts, through dance movements, the roles of several characters.  The performance concludes with Mangalam, the benedictory verses; and, offering Aarati to gods.

The repertoire of Kuchipudi also follows three performance categories of dance forms; namely, Nrtta (Nrutham), Nrtya (Nruthiyam) and Natya (Natyam).  Here, ‘Nrtta’ is a technical performance where the dancer presents pure dance movements with stress on speed, form, pattern, range and rhythmic aspects without interpretive aspects. In ‘Nrtya’ the dancer-actor communicates a story, spiritual themes particularly on Lord Krishna through expressive gestures and slower body movements harmonized with musical notes thus engrossing the audience with the emotions and themes of the act. ‘Natyam’ is usually performed by a group or in some cases by a solo dancer who maintains certain body movements for specific characters of the play which is communicated through dance-acting.

(For more, please check Indian Classical Dances : Kuchipudi Dance )

manipuri4

Manipuri

Manipuri , of Eastern India, is a classical dance form narrating themes rooted in the Vaishnava Bhakthi tradition, depicting the Love between Sri Radha and Lord Krishna  , mainly through the re-enactment of the sublime  ‘Raas Lila’. It is also fused with the pre-Vaishnava tradition of Lai Haraoba and Thang-ta, which add variety and vibrancy to its repertoire of movements. Here, again, dance and music are interwoven with rituals and religious practices.

It is said; the repertoire and basic play of this dance form revolves around different seasons. The traditional style of this art form incorporates graceful, gentle and lyrical movements. The fundamental dance movement of Raas dances of Manipur is Chari or Chali.

Manipuri dances are performed thrice in autumn from August to November; and, once in spring sometime around March-April, all on full moon nights. While Vasanta Raas is scheduled in spring when Holi, the festival of colours is celebrated, the other dances are scheduled around post-harvest festivals like Diwali.

The themes of the songs and plays comprise of Love and association of Radha and Krishna in company of the Gopis namely, Sudevi, Rangadevi, Lalita, Indurekha, Tungavidya, Vishakha, Champaklata and Chitra. One composition and dance sequence is dedicated for each of the Gopis; while the longest sequence is devoted to Radha and Krishna.

The dance drama is performed through excellent display of expressions, hand gestures and body language. Acrobatic and vigorous dance movements are also displayed by Manipuri dancers in certain plays.

Mohiniattam2

Mohiniattam

The Mohiniattam, a classical dance form that evolved in Kerala, is said to have been derived from the dance performed by Mohini, a female Avatar of Vishnu. It, again, is a temple-dance; but, with a predominance of graceful and gentle Lasya movements. The Mohiniattam dancers follow- among other manuals – the Balarama -bharatam as their guidebook.

Mohiniattam also comprises all the three elements of Nrtta (pure dance movements); Nrtya (narrating a theme with Abhinaya); and, Natya (enacting a play, usually by a group).

A performance of a Mohiniattam includes sequences commencing with invocation or Cholkettu; and then on to Jatisvaram, Varnam, Padam, Tillana, Shlokam and Saptam. Thus, Mohiniattam is aligned to what came to be known as Bharatanatya.

Its songs are composed with mixture (Manipravala) of Sanskrit and Malayalam words.

Traditionally, Mohiniattam is performed by a single dancer who enacts the roles of the other characters that feature in the lyrics of the song (Ekaharya Abhinaya). Of late, Mohiniattam is also performed as group dance.

dance forms333

Dance forms

All these dance-forms, including Kathak, though they are basically individual performances, they are also enacted as group dances.

What is common to all these classical dances is that their roots are in religion, mythology and devotional stories. Central to these dances is the Nayika, the gentle heroine, who symbolizes the soul of the devotee. The spirit of Bhakthi permeates these dance forms. And, their traditions have been carried forward under the Guru-shishya –parampara, with each generation passing on to the next, with earnestness,  the knowledge, skill and the philosophy of its School.

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The Dance forms, such as, Kathak, Odissi or Kuchipudi narrate a story or an episode  chosen from an Epic or mythology. Etymologically, the term Kathak is related to Katha, the art of storytelling. The Western ballet also tells a story. But there are some significant differences between these Dance forms, with regard to their nature and the manners in which they are danced. For example; classical Ballet is performed as a group dance , where different dancers play different roles or characters to build a story. This story is performed as a dance-drama, where various scenes unfold one after the other.

And, another is that unlike in the western dance, the Indian Dances are not set to leaps and gliding movements in the air. It strives to achieve a perfect pose that can be frozen in time. Its technique depends on the skillful management of time (Taala), in order to achieve a series of perfect poses.

In contrast to ballet; the Kathak and other classical dance forms are, traditionally, solo dance-performances. Its dancer enacts all the roles or characters involved in the story (Ekaharya). Here, the story is presented mainly with the help of Abhinaya that involves facial expressions and meaningful hand-gestures. Apart from telling a story, the dancer will have to meticulously follow the rhythmic patterns (Taal) as required by the lyrics and also the sol-fa and other dance syllables rendered in varying speeds (Laya).

Similarly, the Varnams and Padams in the Bharata Natyam are, usually, presented as solo performances.  While presenting the theme of the song that is to be interpreted, the dancer skillfully assumes (Natyadharmi) the role of  several characters (ekaharya) that figure in the lyrics, with appropriate Sancari- bhavas; say, the roles of the Nayika (heroine), her friend/assistant (Sakhi) or of the Nayaka (hero)’. This is achieved through a series of  variations of Angikabhinaya, in which each word of the poetry is interpreted in as many different innovative ways as possible.

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Another significant point is that the present-day dance forms like Kathak, Odissi etc., are more related to medieval texts like Nartananirnaya than to the ancient manuals. This, in another way, could be taken to mean that certain dance-forms, which were marginalized in the Natyashastra, found a new life and due recognition as one among classical Dances of India. This again emphasizes the dynamic nature of Art, which rejuvenates and re-invents itself all the time.

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Influence of Nartana-nirnaya

Now, as regards the historical significance of Nartana-nirnaya; many scholars, after a deep study of the text, have observed that there is enough evidence to conclude that the text marks the origin of two major styles of India today, namely, Kathak and Odissi. Dr.   Mandakranta Bose, the much respected scholar and authority on the principles and practices of the performing arts of India, also concurs that such connection seems highly plausible. The text was part of the same cultural world of the Mughal court that nurtured Kathak.

Dr. Bose, in her work, Movement and Mimesis: the Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition , points out that several technical terms used in Nartana-nirnaya match those used in Kathak today. And she goes on to say:

When we look closely at the technique of the dance described under the Anibandha category, we begin to see certain striking similarities with the technique of Kathak. One cannot say that the style described in the Nartana-nirnaya matches Kathak in every detail.  But one may certainly view that style as the precursor to Kathak; but the descriptions and the similarities in their techniques clearly show it to be the same as what we know today as Kathak.

The Nartana-nirnaya seems, thus, to be the proper textual source for Kathak. This claim becomes stronger still on examining points of technique.

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As regards Odissi, Dr. Bose observes that the Bandha-nrtta as practiced in the Odissi style is very similar to the descriptions given in the Nartana-nirnaya.  And, the basic standing postures prescribed in the Odissi style: Chauka and Tribhangi are the two main basic stances in Odissi. Chahka is a stable-wide stance, with weight of the body distributed equally on both the sides; and, the heels facing the centre. It is said to be a masculine posture.  Tribanghi, is a graceful feminine posture, with the body bent in three-ways). These are comparable to vaisakha-sthana and Agra-tala-sanchara-pada of the Nartana-nirnaya.  Further, some acrobatic postures still in use are: danda-paksam, lalata-tilakam and nisumbhitam (the foot raised up to the level of forehead), and several others are found both in Odissi and in Chau dance of Mayurbhanj region of OrissaFurther, there is in the Nartana-nirnaya, the description of a dance called Batu involving difficult poses; and it is very similar to the Batunrtta, a particularly difficult dance in the repertory of Odissi.

Nayana dutta

Bharatanatya

The School of Nrtya that is prevalent in South India is Bharata-natya. It has gained ground through the efforts of some dedicated stalwarts.

During the period of national movement for attaining India’s independence, there was a revival and resurgence of Dance forms; and re-assertion of its values.

With the advent of the Maestro Uday Shankar; and with the efforts of the aesthetes like Rabindranath Tagore, Poet Vallathol of Kerala and Rukmini Devi and E. Krishna lyer of Kalakshetra at Adyar, the ancient form of dance (Marga), as in Bharata’s  Natyashastra, was re-established, by renaming it as Bharata-Natyam.

Along with that, the other classical dance forms like, Kathak, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Manipuri were also revived.

[Smt. Tanjore Balasaraswati, also known as T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984), the celebrated exponent of Bharata-natyam, who expanded the performance of this dance form beyond the precincts of the temples where it was traditionally performed; re-established it; and, made it famous in different parts of India and many parts of the world, writes:

The greatest blessing of Bharata-natyam is its ability to control the mind. Most of us are incapable of single-minded contemplation even when actions are abandoned. On the other hand, in Bharata-natyam , actions are not avoided; there is much to do but it is the harmony of various actions that results in the concentration we seek.

The burden of action is forgotten in the pleasant charm of the art. The feet keeping to time, hands expressing gesture, the eye following the hand with expression, the ear listening to the dance master’s music, and the dancer’s own singing-by harmonizing these five elements the mind achieves concentration and attains clarity in the very richness of participation.

The inner feeling of the dancer is the sixth sense which harnesses these five mental and mechanical elements to create the experience and enjoyment of beauty.

It is the spark which gives the dancer her sense of spiritual freedom in the midst of the constraints and discipline of the dance. The yogi achieves serenity through concentration that comes from discipline. The dancer brings together her feet, hands, eyes, ears and singing into a fusion which transforms the serenity of the yogi into a torrent of beauty.

The spectator, who is absorbed in intently watching this, has his mind freed of distractions and feels a great sense of clarity. In their shared involvement, the dancer and the spectator are both released from the weight of worldly life, and experience the divine joy of the art with a sense of total freedom.

To experience this rare rapture, a dancer has only to submit herself willingly to discipline. It will be difficult in the beginning to conform to the demands and discipline of rhythm and melody and to the norms and codes of the tradition. But if she humbly submits to the greatness of this art, soon enough she will find joy in that discipline; and she will realize that discipline makes her free in the joyful realm of the art.]

fine-arts3

Dance – Today and Tomorrow

Moving from temple to theater was a huge, a gigantic leap. During the last seventy-five years there have been tremendous changes in the arena of Dance, in terms of structure, content, theme, presentation techniques, teaching methods and so on. As it stepped into the open society and reached out to larger numbers of spectators, the well equipped huge auditoriums and theaters having excellent lighting and sound facilities and other means of technical support etc., also came up. With this, the reach of the Art expanded significantly. Now, not merely the well informed connoisseurs, but also the uninitiated audience began to have access to witness and enjoy Art performances. This has  been a very healthy and a robust development.

Up to the early 20th century, the songs to which dances were composed were exclusively those rich in Srngara bhava. In the post-independence India, the dance themes were diversified to depict subjects other than the usual mythological and religious themes and of a heroine pining for her hero.

This shift played an important role in prompting the dancers to re-think and seek new directions in Indian dance and its thematic content. The Dancers with imagination and with the ability to reflect upon the present-day issues, began to experiment; to innovate dance-expressions; to create new movements using space, different levels; and, to develop an impressive array of dance vocabulary.

In India, Dance has always been an activity associated with socially, culturally and ritually sanctioned practices. And, the present period is the age resurgence of Indian classical dancing, freed from its past associations. The youth who pursue classical dance are the educated middle class, both in India and elsewhere. Today Indian dances have crossed national borders; and, the exponents of Dancing in the Indian Diaspora have been  extending their dance horizons,  wherever they are.

In today’s world, the classical dance is an icon of high-art. It is also the representation of India’s preserved history, tradition and culture. It is a part of understanding our cultural heritage. The classical Dance as a specialized performing art draws fewer males than females. It, somehow, is essentially the domain of the females It is, therefore, the women who, mostly, have carried forward this form of traditional art.

These are interesting and vibrant days for Indian classical Dance in its varied forms. With that, it has to face new challenges; and, has to address itself to new questions. It has to look within to review the techniques, the structural principles and to reassess the internal strength of its traditional forms. And, it has also to look forward and project its future path; to explore new horizons. It has to gain power and strength to carry forward the various Dance forms; and, at the same time have the tenacity to preserve the purity of the essential principles of the classical Dance. It has to find resilient ways to reflect the contemporary progressive values; and, continue to be relevant to the society and the world we live in. And, at the same time, it has to devise safeguards to protect the Art against the dangers of the rampant commercialization, which might affect the standards and the quality of the classical dance forms. It is the shared responsibility of the Gurus, the learners and the art connoisseurs. And, it is indeed a very tall order.

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Commencing from the next part, we shall briefly discuss each of the significant texts that defined the nature and practice of Dancing in India. We may, as always, start with Natyashastra; and, thereafter go to other texts, following their chronological order.

Nataraja big

 

Continued

In

Part Six

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

 Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya

B. During the Post- Bharata period

Bharata Natyam

Intro…

The commentators of the middle period (say, around the tenth century and thereafter) interpreted some of the fundamental terms of the Natyashastra in a manner that was considerably different from perhaps what Bharata meant. They also brought in many concepts that were not envisaged by Bharata.

Just to recapitulate:

As per Natyashastra,

: – the Nrtta was pure dance. It was not a subsidiary or an auxiliary to Natya. It was an independent Art-form, which was performed mainly in the Purvaranga, before the commencement of the play proper, as praise offering to gods (Deva-stuti).

: – The Tandava was described as Nrtta (pure dance); and, it was not necessarily aggressive; nor was it performed only by men.

[The Tandava in the Natyashastra did not convey the sense of Uddhata (Vigorous). Further, the Tandava or Nrtta of the Natyashastra was in no way related to what later came to be known as Tandava-nrtta.]

: – The graceful dance (Sukumara-prayoga) with delicate, graceful (Madhura) movements (Angaharas) performed by Devi Parvathi (which Abhinavagupta named as Lasya) was not in contrast to Shiva’s Tandava. It was her own Dance.

[Sukumara-prayoga (or Lasya) did not mean a feminine style of dancing, as was interpreted later. Such distinctions, as between masculine and feminine dances, were not made in the Natyashastra.]

: – During the time of Bharata, there was no clear theoretical division of Dance into Tandava and what, later, came to be known as Lasya. They merely referred to the nature of the physical movements. And, the term Lasya, per se , does not also appear in Natyashastra, though the concept of the element of grace and beauty did exist; and, was named as Sukumara or Madhura.

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But, during the Post-Bharata period, especially in the medieval times:

: – Nrtta was classified into Tandava and Lasya types. And, here, Tandava was described as forceful (Uddhata Angaharas), the fast paced furious Tandava Nrtta.

And Tandava Nrtta came to be idealized as an extremely angry and destructive type of dance.

: – Sukumara Prayoga was renamed as Lasya, the soft or delicate (Lalita) form of dance.

: – And, the two, were said to be related to masculine and feminine dancers; saying that Tandava is for men, while Lasya is for women.

[But, the Natyashastra had not made such distinctions. There, the dance movements were guided by mental and emotional states of the character. The principle for classification of dance movements was Guna, the quality and the nature of the feeling of the character (not gender).]

: – Although Bharata created a new and more expressive form of Dance form by combining the dance elements of the Nrtta with the Abhinayas, he had not assigned it a name. He did not also define the newly crafted Art-form.

But, in the later periods, it came to be known and celebrated as Nrtya. (The term Nrtya, as such, does not appear in the Natyashastra, though its conceptual essence was very much there.)

: – Further, certain new concepts which, of course could not have been there during the time of Bharata, also came into the vocabulary of Dance. Now the Dance and its forms came to be classified into categories, such as: Marga (pure or classical) and Desi (regional or improvised); and, as Nibaddha (structured) and Anibaddha (unstructured or free-flowing).

: – Another significant development was the steady drift away from the dance that Bharata talked about. Number of regional elements and techniques entered into the stream. And, that gave rise to many Dance –forms, in different regions of the country; each with its own ethos and techniques of presentation.

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With this background, let’s take a look the statements made by some authors and commentators of the Post –Bharata period.

dance poses

Nrtta in the medieval period

Abhinavagupta

Abhinavagupta (11th century) in his Abhinavabharati, a detailed commentary on the Natyashastra, brought in many concepts and practices that were not present during the time of Bharata.  He also discussed matters related to the Art of Dancing, keeping in view the practices prevailing during his time.  He also tried to interpret the Natyashastra in the light of his own experience and knowledge; as also according to the principles of his philosophical School.

And, many times, he differed from Bharata. And, in addition, he introduced many new factors. Abhinavagupta provided the details of dance forms that were not mentioned in the Natyasastra. For instance, Abhinavagupta speaks of minor categories of drama (uparupakas), such as nrtta-kavya and raga-kavya – the plays based mainly in dance or in music. The nature of such minor dramas was not specifically  discussed in the  Natyashastra

Abhinavagupta provided his own interpretations to such fundamental terms as Nrtta, Abhinaya etc.

Though Nrtta was later described by Dhananjaya and Dhanika, as one that is bereft of meaning or emotion (Bhava and Rasa) or even of Abhinaya; and, that it can only be a decorative Angikabhinaya element that beautifies the dance presentation (Shobahetu), Abhinavagupta asserted that Nrtta is capable of expressing meaning (Artha). His view prevailed in the subsequent periods.

Further, Abhinavagupta asserted that Nrtta is an integral part of the Drama (Natya). The Nrtta elements can be used both in the Purvaranga (preliminaries before the commencement of the play) and in the sequences within the Drama. He cites some instances where Karanas (the basic units of the Nrtta) are employed. He mentions: In Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaa’s Veī Samhāra, the actor playing the role of Aśvatthāman enters with the Sūci Viddha (needle-pierced) and Ūrdhvajānu (uplifted foot) Karaas. In Kalidāsa’s Vikramorvaśīyam, the hero Purūravas enters with the Alapallava and Sūci Karaas. Garua enters with Garua-plutam; Rāvaa’s entry is with Vaiśākha Recitam. In Svapna Vāsavadatta, Vatsarāja enters with Sambhrānta karana.

And, certain situations (say, those involving Srngara or Raudra) do need appropriate postures (Karanas) to illustrate the emotional states of the character.

Abhinavagupta’s influence has been profound and pervasive. Succeeding generations of writers on Natya were guided by his concepts and theories of Rasa, Bhava, aesthetics and dramaturgy.

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Abhinavagupta, in a very elaborate manner, classifies Nrtta into two groups. The First group has three varieties; and, the Second has four. Thus, there are, in all, seven classifications.

In his rather complicated classifications and their protracted explanations of the Nrtta, Abhinavagupta brings in the elements Abhinayas, in its varying degrees.

The Nrtta types in his First Group have no Abhinaya. The Nrttas in the Second Group involve some element of Abhinaya (therefore, are aligned to what could be called as Nrtya). Here, the Abhinaya is classified into two types.

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Dr. KM Varma in his scholarly and highly well researched work ‘Natya, Nrtta and Nrtya: their meaning and relation (pages 17-19) analyzes these seven classifications of Nrtta, in the light of Abhinavagupta’s hypothesis of two types of Abhinaya. And, he builds up the relationships among Nrtta (dance), Gana (song) and Vadya (musical instruments).

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Abhinavagupta explains Abhinaya , broadly, as a process where the performer brings into his mind the meaning and the sentiment of the words of the song; and, puts it forth through facial expressions, movement of the limbs and such other means.

And, he classifies the Abhinaya into two distinct types.

Of the two types of Abhinayas; in the First one, the performer follows the general trend, without going into details; and, in the Second type, the performer interprets every word and every sentence of the song.

Here, in his classifications of the Nrtta, Abhinavagupta introduces into Nrtta many new factors that were not there earlier. For instance; he brings into the definition of Nrtta the elements of  Artha and Abhinaya (in varying degrees); the variations of Tandava (vigorous) and Lasya (soft) ; the concept of male and female forms of Nrtta ; and Rasas , the sentiments or emotions they express.

Thus, the concept and the content of the Nrtta, as in the Natyashastra, is almost entirely abandoned; thoroughly overhauled; and, given a totally new perspective and disposition.  In short; the Nrtta, here, is far faraway from its ancestor in the Natyashastra.  It is not the same.

[ The First Group belongs to the pure Nrtta type ; whereas, the Second Group relates to of what came to be known as Nrtya. Abhinavagupta, in his explanations, did not, however, use the term Nrtya.]

The First Group of Nrtta that Abhinavagupta formulated has the three types: (1) Shudda-Nrtta; (2) Gitakad-abhinayaonmukha –Nrtta; and, (3) Gana-Vadya –Talanusaii Nrtta.

Of these, the First one, Shuddha Nrtta, which consists Angaharas and Recakas, is the sort of Nrtta that is related to the Purvaranga, as in the Natyashastra.

The Second in this Group is Gitakad-abhinayaonmukha- Nrtta. Here, the performer’s physical movements are guided by the general trend or the broad sense of the song. But, she/he does not pay attention to the specific details of the song; such as, the meaning of each words and sentence of the song.

The Third in this Group; the Gana-Vadya –Talanusari Nrtta is similar to the earlier one; but, here the instruments (Vadya), songs (Gitam) and rhythm (Taala) are the leading factors. Here also, the performer follows the general trend of the song without going into its details.

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The Second Group has four types: (1) Uddhata Nrtta ;(2) Masrana-Nrtta; (3) Misra Uddhata Nrtta; and,(4)  Misar-Masarna Nrtta.

All these four types do require Abhinaya (as in the Nrtya). Here in the Second Group, the Abhinaya, according to Abhinavagupta, is the action of the performer in sending forth (abhi) or  bringing the meaning of the song into his own mind and expressing it through the movement of  limbs , conveying  the sense of every word and every detail of the song or the  composition.

The First type in this Second Group, the Uddhata Nrtta is a furious dance with display of vigorous movements (Tandava) ; it is associated with Veera and Roudra Rasas. This is a masculine type of dance.

The Second type in this Group, Masrana-Nrtta is the softer type of dance (Lasya) aligned with Srngara, Karuna and so on. This is the feminine type of dance

The Third type Misra Uddhata Nrtta, in the main, is same as Uddhata; but, is mixed with the movements of the Masrana (Lasya) variety

And, the Fourth type in the Second Group, Misar- Masarna Nrtta is again a Masarna Nrtta, with emphasis on lighter; but, mixed with some elements of Uddhata

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Dhananjaya

Dhananjaya perhaps belonged to the same region and to the same period in which Abhinavagupta lived.  By the time of Dhananjaya (Ca. eleventh Century), the meaning and the application of the terms Nrtta, Tandava and Lasya had all changed a great deal. Further, by then, the Natya and Nrtya had taken the center stage.

Dhananjaya, in his Dasarupaka, treats Nrtta, mainly, in its comparison with Nrtya.

Dhananjaya explains Nrtta, as dance, with emphasis on smart looking (shobhahetu) limb-movements, in tune with rhythm and tempo (nrttam tala-laya-asrayam). But, in itself, it is devoid of meaningful content; and, is valued for its mere visual beauty of body movements (gatrasya viksepaha). Nrtta is not an interpretive or expressive dance (though the dancer might perhaps wear pleasant smile on her face).

The Nrtta, according to Dhananjaya, does not also involve the elements of meaning or emotion (Bhava and Rasa) or Abhinaya (Abhinaya-sunya); nor does it evoke a mood or a sentiment (Rasa). It is one of the specific technical elements (Angikabhinaya) that beautify the dance presentation.

[Bharata had used the term Nrtta to denote dancing, in general. But, in the medieval period, the meaning of Nrtta was narrowed down to mean a mere decorative aid. It was just an aspect of the whole body of Dancing.]

As compared to Nrtta, Dhananjaya says, the Nrtya, principally, is the display of various aesthetic moods (Bhava) or emotional states (Bhava-asrayam nrtyam). The Angavikshepa, the throwing of limbs is, however, common to both Nrtta and Nrtya.

But, Nrtya, through its appropriate gestures, facial expressions and limb-movements, gives life and form to the meaning and the sensitivity of the individual words and the sentences of the song (Abhinaya-pada-artha-abhinayatmaka).

[Nandikeshvara (Abhinayadarpana.1-56) similarly distinguished Nrtya from Nrtta, thus: Bhava-abhinaya-hinam tu nrittamitya-abhidhyate;| Rasabhava-vyanjana adi yuktam nrityam ity uchyate]

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Of these two, the Nrtya having emotional content is classified by Dhananjaya under Marga (the classic or pristine form of dance), a representation of the classic form of dance; while, Nrtta, with its stress, mainly, on rhythm and tempo, is classified under Desi, perhaps representing the popular regional or improvised dance form – (Adyam padartha-abhinayo Margo Desi tatha param).

Under each of these (Nrtya and Nrtta), Dhananjaya, again makes a two-fold division, as: Lasya, the graceful, gentle fluid and pleasing dance; and, Tandava, the vigorous, energetic, brisk and invigorating movements (lasya-tandava-rupena natakad-dyupa-karakam).

These are the dance-types that are performed during the course of the play, depending upon the nature/need of a sequence in the play.

Thus, Tandava, unlike in Natyashastra, is not necessarily a dance performed as a praise-offering to gods, in the Purvaranga, the preliminaries, before the commencement of the play. On the other hand, it is used in the play to depict aggressive tendencies (Uddhata) and their manifestations. Similar is the case with Lasya, the gentle dance (Lalita).

The distinction between Uddhata and Lalita also suggests a difference  between the masculine and feminine modes of expression; because of their physical characteristics, and also because of their association with a male and a female deity. In due course, the term Lasya came to mean a feminine style of dancing, which lends grace to stage actions.

[Following Dhananjaya, Sarangadeva also mentions that Nrtta and Nrtya can both be of two kinds: Tandava and Lasya (SR.7.28). Tandava requires Uddhata (forceful); and, Lasya requires  Lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29-30). He identifies Tandava as Shiva’s dance; and, Lasya as Parvati’s.]

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According to Dhananjaya, Natya comprises both Nrtta and Nrtya. It is mentioned; that in Natya, the Nrtya is sometimes useful in expressing the Bhava introduced through the topic (Avantara-padartha), while Nrtta is useful as a beautifying factor that pleases the eye (Shobha-hetuvena)

Dhananjaya explains Natya as an Art-form that is based in Rasa- Natyam rasam-ashrayam (DR.I. 9). It gives expressions to the inner or true meaning of the lyrics through dance gestures – vakyartha-abhinayatmaka.

Thus, Natya delightfully brings together and presents in a very highly expressive, attractive visual and auditory form, the import of the lyrics (sahitya), the nuances of its emotional content to the accompaniment of soulful music and rhythmic patterns (tala-laya), along with attractive postures and stances.

[Later, Pundarika Vittala (sixteenth century), in his work (Nartana-nirnaya), following Sarangadeva, uses the term Nartana, generally, to mean ‘Dance’, Pundarika said that by Nartana he meant it to be a general class-name for Dance. And, the term Nartana would cover the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. The last (Nrtta) would again be subdivided into three other types: visama (acrobatic); vikata (absurd); and, Laghu (light), identified respectively as rope-dancing, a comic dance, and a dance based on easy Karanas.]

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Dhanika says that Nrtya is Pada-artha-abhinayatmaka; and, Natya is Vakya-artha-abhinayatmaka

It is explained that the terms Pada (word) and Vakya (sentence) should not be taken in their ordinary sense. These have to be seen in relation that the words have with the sentence, of which they are a part.

Here, Pada-artha, word-meanings, is to be taken as Bhavas. And, Vakya-artha is to be understood as Rasa, which is produced by the combination of the Bhavas; just as a sentence is made up of several words.

In other words; the relation between Bhava and Rasa was said to be similar to that which exists between the word and the sentence.   It was said; Vakyartha stands for Rasa, which is similar to the sentence; and, Padartha stands for Bhava, which is similar to the word.

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Following that, attempts were made to differentiate Nrtya and Natya on the basis of Bhava and Rasa.

In the process, Nrtya was equated with Padartha-abhinaya; and, Natya with Vakhyartha-abhinaya. And, in effect, according to Dhananjaya, it meant that Nrtya is rooted in Bhava (Nrtyam bhavashrayam); and, Natya in the Rasa (Rasashrayam Natyam). Thus, Nrtya is related to Bhava alone; and, Natya is related to Rasa alone.

Even in the later times, the authorities like Vipradasa (Ca. fourteenth century).  Rana Kumbha (fifteenth century) continued to go by the definitions provided by Dhananjaya/Dhanika; but, with slight modifications.

For instance; Rana Kumbha in his Nrtya-ratna-kosa explains Nrtta as made up of combination of Karanas and Angaharas (Karanam angaharani caiva Nrttam); Nrtya as Rasa (Nrtya sabdena ca Rasam punaha); and, Natya as Abhinaya (Natyena abhinayam). The Nrtya is classified as Marga; and, Nrtta as Desi.

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Thus, according the medieval theories, Nrtta is all about beauty of form perceived by the eye; Nrtya expresses Bhava; and, Natya expresses Rasa.

But, such definitions and their import do not seem to be quite correct, at least in certain vital aspects.

Bhava and Rasa, even according to Bharata are intimately related. As Bharata had said; there cannot be Rasa without Bhavas; and vice versa – Na Bhavahino iti Raso; Na Bhavao Rasavargitah.

Na bhāvahīno’sti Raso; Na Bhāvo rasavarjita parasparaktā siddhi-stayor abhinaye bhavet NS.6.36

Apart from textual references, it is common experience that Rasa, the aesthetic pleasure, is evoked by both the Nrtya and the Natya. And, Bhava and Rasa are essential to both the Nrtya and the Natya.

And, therefore, to say that Nrtya is only about Bhava; and Natya is only about Rasa would be incorrect. The aim of both Nrtya and Natya is to provide Rasa; and, for which Bahavas are essential.  The expressions of Bhava are crucial to all the Art forms; as they contribute to the creation of Rasa enjoyed by the viewers, both in a general and auxiliary way (Samanya-guna-yogena).  Abhinavagupta argued on similar lines (though he did not use the term Nrtya, in particular).

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And, similarly, Dhananjaya’s views on Nrtta and other issues were criticized by the later scholars.

To start with, it was mentioned that the concepts of the Natyashastra have to be understood in the light of the theoretical principles in which they are based. And, Dhananjaya’s view of Nrtta was restrictive, since it did not take many of its aspects into consideration.

Dismissing Dhananjaya’s classification of Nrtta as Desi, it was argued: the Nrtta as defined by Bharata is a proper art; a pure dance form, where the dancers need to be trained under competent Masters. Nrtta was meant to be performed during the Purvaranga as a prayer offering (Deva stuti). It was dear to gods (atyartham iṣṭa devānā).

Further, it was pointed out that Bharata’s phrase sobham janayati merely suggests that Nrtta is a beautifying factor; and, that does not mean Nrtta is auxiliary to Natya. The Nrtta is  independent, chaste and classical.

Marga, by Dhananjaya’s own definition, is an Art that is created by the Masters; while, Desi is that which is practiced by people of different regions, according to their taste.  And, therefore, to designate Nrtta as Desi is illogical; because, Nrtta as taught by Tandu to  Bharata was in indeed of the Marga class.

It was argued by the  scholars of the later period  that Dhananjaya’s statements do not project a fair view; because: Nrtta, which precedes Natya, in reality, is an art par excellence, which  can suggest meaning and evoke Rasa.

It was, therefore, indicated that it makes more sense to go by the concepts themselves, than be led only by the etymological explanations of the terms.

It was also said that Dhananjaya could have made a distinction between the Nrtta of the Purvaranga; and, the Nrtta type of group dances performed on happy cultural and social occasions. The dancers, here, do not need much training. And, there are also no restrictions with regard either to the mode of its dance or to the place of its performance. Only, such latter type of regional dances could have been classified as the popular Desi; and, not the entire Nrtta, as a class.

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It was pointed out that Dhananjaya’s interpretation of Tandava as made of vigorous (Uddhata) Angaharas ; and Lasya as made of soft (Sukumara or Madhura) Angaharas , was not in accordance with the tenets of the Natyashastra.

Further, under, the interpretation provided by Dhananjaya, Nrtta was classified depending on the nature of the physical movements. It seemed that vigorous Tandava and soft Lasya were related to masculine and feminine dancers, respectively; suggesting that Tandava is for men, while Lasya is for women. But, the Nrtta in the Natyashastra did not envisage such discrimination.

Again, such an interpretation also suggests a distinction and between masculine and feminine modes of expression. And, that led to mistaking the term Lasya to mean a feminine style of dancing, which lends grace to stage actions.

It was argued that the dissimilarity of vigorous or soft is purely relative.  And, they are mere assumptions. It doesn’t make much sense to insist that women should be soft and gentle, even when they are angry or furious; and, men should be aggressive even when they are in grief or in love. It is also wrong to state that Lasya should be performed only by women; and Tandava is exclusively for men. The real principle for classification should be Guna, the quality and the nature of the feeling (but, not gender).

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Next;   Dhananjaya’s  statements asserting that Nrtta is devoid of Bhava and Rasa (Rasa Bhava vihinam tu Nrttam itya abhijayate); and, Nrtta is only a technical element (Angikabhinaya) that helps to smarten the dance presentation; and it lacks the element of Abhinaya (laya tala matrapekso angaviksepo abhinaya sunyayh), were also refuted. And, downgrading Nrtta to an inferior (Adhama) position was also rejected.

Saradatanaya (1175 -1250 AD) in his Bhavaprakasana, disagreed with the views of Dhananjaya; and asserted that   Nrtta, the pure dance, is rooted in Rasa (Nrttam rasa-ahrayam). Saradatanaya’s definition meant that Nrtta not only beautifies a presentation, but is also capable of generating Rasa.

Further, Abhinavagupta, while dealing with Karanas, which are the basic units of Dance and classified under the Nrtta, emphasized that Karanas are capable of suggesting meanings.

Abhinavagupta opined that Kaisiki-vrtti, which is the medium or the style to depict Srngara, essentially requires Nrtta. Because, he says, Nrtta is the source that provides Valana, Vartana and other movements or stances. Further, he says that Nrtta as a beautifying factor helps to fill or cover up the gaps in the physical movements (chidra-chadana); and, to maintain continuity in action (alata-chakra-pratimata). And, therefore, Nrtta, like Nrtya and Natya, is capable of giving forth Rasa, although it is non representational.

Further, the statements such as ‘Nrtta is devoid of Bhava and Rasa’ (rasabhava-vihinam tu Nrttam itya abhijayate) were dismissed as being   rather harsh and unimaginative. That is because; Nrtta is an Art-form that provides the idioms and metaphors of beauty to  Nrtya , Natya and Shilpa. And, over the centuries, the Karanas of the Nrtta have inspired creation of wondrous sculptures with their visual beauty (Shobha), their distinctive poses and geometrical constructions. And, they do invoke certain admiration and pleasure (Rasa) in the hearts of the viewers. Same thing can be said about the basic dance poses and dynamic postures.

Dancing (Nrtta) and sculpture (Shilpa)   have much in common. They both share same system of measures and proportions in presenting human forms, as symbols capable of evoking states of being (Bhava).

Thus every figure of Indian sculpture is, like every pose and gesture in Indian dancing, highly symbolic; and, each figure has a particular evocative quality. The technique by which the artist can present the soul or the spirit of subject in a visible form, are guided by the same set of principles.

Just as the Indian dancer aims at attaining the perfect pose, the moment of perfect balance(Sama), after a series of movement in time, so too, does the Indian sculptor try to capture the movement of the figure through the perfection of rhythm and line.

The fundamental principles of Tala (measure) and Bhanga (posture) based on the concept of the Sutra (median) and (proportions) in Dance are similar to the ones in sculpture.

Further, the division of the human form into the various Anga and the Upanga in both the arts is made on the basis of the bone structure, the joints of the body rather than on the muscles of the human body:

It is said; indeed, the Nrtta technique can be better understood if one understands the concept of the Sutras and Mana of the Shilpa. .

[As compared to the restricted understanding of Nrtta by the medieval authors, the present-day acceptance and application of Nrtta is more comprehensive and highly useful. In the Bharatanatya and other classical dances of India, Nrtta forms an essential part of the dance performance, its structure; as also, in its training methods. That is because; Nrtta as per Bharata and also Nandikeshvara, is built of wide-ranging varieties of Karanas (Angavikshepa), which are the basic units. These are rooted in well thought out logical principles and geometric forms. And, they do invoke aesthetic pleasure (Rasa). Therefore, Karanas are ingrained into Nrtya.

Karanas are, thus, essential to the Grammar and structure of Nrtya in Bharatanatya and in other forms.  Going further back; Caris , which could be called as well knit ‘steps’ , is an alphabet of the Nrtta as also of  Natya. And, therefore, Nrtta is more relevant today, than it was in the days of Bharata. It has  received a special treatment from the point of view of choreography.]

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Natya

The Natyashastra employs Natya as a generic term, which broadly covers drama, dance and music. Bharata’s Natya could also be understood as drama. And Ntta and other dance elements was one of the constituents that provided elegance to the theatrical presentations. It does not treat dance as a separate category of Art-form.

The Natyashastra (6.10) provides a comprehensive framework of the Natya, in a pellet form, as the harmonious combination (sagraha) of the various essential components that contribute towards the successful production of a play.

He mentions the eleven elements that constitute the Natya (Drama). These are: Rasa (sentiment); Bhava (states); Abhinaya (representation or acting); Dharmi (styles of presentation);Vrtti (styles of depiction); Siddhi (attainment of the purpose); Svara (musical notes); Atodya (orchestra or instrumental music); Gana (songs); and Ranga ( stage) .

Bharata later explains, of the eleven, Rasa is of paramount importance; and deriving that Rasa is the objective of a theatrical performance. The other ten elements – from Bhava to Ranga – are the contributing factors for the production of the Rasa,.

Rasā bhāvā hya abhinayā dharmī vtti pravttaya  siddhi svarās tathā atodyaṃ gāna ragaś ca sagraha  6.10

At another place, Bharata, in a nutshell, provides a sort of definition of Natya, which could be understood as Drama (Rupaka).

Bharata explains: when the experiences of the everyday world, mingled with pleasure and pain both, are conveyed through different Abhinayas such as, speech, gestures, costume, makeup, ornaments etc – (Angika, Sattvika, Vachika, and Aharya Abhinayas) –   it is called Natya. (NS 1.119)

yo’ya  svabhāvo lokasya sukha dukha samanvita  som gādya abhinaya ityopeto nātyam ity abhidhīyate  NS.4. 119

Bharata explained that object of the Natya  was to show men and women the proper way to live, a way in which one could live and behave, so that one might become a still better person.

“A play shows your actions and emotions. Neither gods nor demons are depicted as always good or always evil. Actually, the ways of the world as represented here are not only of the gods but also of yours. It teaches you good advice (upadisati); it gives you enlightenment and also entertainment. It provides peace of mind to those who afflicted with miseries, sorrow, grief or fatigue. There is no art, no knowledge, no yoga, and no action that is not found in Natya.”  (Natya-Shastra 1: 106-07; 112-16)

na tajjñāna na tacchilpa na sā vidyā na sā kalā  nāsau yogo na tatkarma nāye’smin yanna dśyate Ns.1. 116

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Generally speaking, Bharata not only takes the experience of the individual human beings, but that of the world as a whole; and, considers Natya as the effective means of communicating those experiences. Included in this, are the elements of speech, poetry, music, dance and all those factors that lend beauty and grace to a theatrical performance. For Bharata, Natya is the very epitome of life.

According to Bharata, Natya is the experiences of the world when it is represented on the stage, in order to provide enjoyment and instruction, by means of acts of communication, which a person does not normally employ in the everyday life. The presentation of the play is dominated by the stylized modes of presentation (NatyaDharmi).

In other words, just the fact of one’s experiences in the world, as ordinarily noted or observed during the course of life, is not Natya.  It becomes Natya only when it is communicated through the means of Abhinayas and representation; and, presented on the stage.

The Abhinaya, on the stage, is expressed through Mano-vak-kaya (mind, voice and body), in terms of Sattvika, Vachika and Angika abhinaya-s. These are supported by Aharya (the costumes and stage props), the fourth element. Thus Abhinaya covers not only the movements of face and limbs; but, it also encompasses all the other elements and modes of supportive expressions.

The successful production (Siddhi) of a play  (Natya) enacted on the stage (Ranga) involves various  elements of the components of  the actors’ gestures, actions (bhava) and speech ; bringing forth (abhinaya) their intent (Artha), through the medium of theatrical (Natya-dharmi) and common (Loka-dharmi) practices; in four styles of representations (Vritti-s) in their four regional variations (pravrttis) ; with the aid of  captivating dances and melodious songs  accompanied by instrumental music (svara-gana-adyota).

Such well enacted Abhinayas induce in the minds and hearts of the Sahrudaya the sense (Artha) that is conducive for evoking proper Rasa. Without Abhinaya there is no drama; and, no Natya without representation

Bharata’s definition of Natya covers all these factors; and holds good even in the present day.

[Abhinavagupta also makes a distinction between the world of drama (Nātyadharmī) and the real but ordinary life (Lokadharmī). In the artistic process, where presentations are made with the aid of various kinds of dramatic features such as Abhinayas and synthetic creationswe are moving from the gross  and un-stylized movements of  daily life to more subtle forms of expressions and experiences; we move from individualized experiences to general representations (sadharanikarana) ; and, from multiplicity to unity.]

Abhinavagupta , in the context of Dance, explains Abhinaya as a process , where the performer brings into his mind the meaning and the sentiment of the words of the song; and, puts it forth through facial expressions, movement of the limbs and such other means. And, Abhinaya is the act of communication of an idea, a thought or the phase of an emotion or sentiment that one is experiencing.

 [It is explained that acting, in a sense, means to behave like someone else. And, it is not reality; because, it is not related to the actual life of the person who is acting. But, at the same time, it is not mimicry or imitation. Abhinaya should be understood as the actor’s effort to communicate and to convey the mental and emotional states of the character; and, its experiences. Abhinaya is bringing forth the Artha, the sense of the things, into the minds of the Sahrudayas. ]

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Nrtya

Bharata used the term Nrtta to denote dance; and, the term Nrtya does not appear in the Natyashastra. Abhinavagupta also, adhering to the terminologies of the Natyashastra, avoids using the term Nrtya , as such.  He consistently uses the term Nrtta, while referring to Dance. Similar was the case with the authors earlier to his period. They also had not used the term Nrtya.

Further, in some editions of Natyashastra where the word Nrtya crept in, it is taken as a later insertion (unintended or otherwise) by the manuscript-copier (scribes).

That does not mean that the essence of Dance (with which we are now familiar as Nrtya) did not exist; or, was not yet created in the epoch of Natyashastra.

It only means that the specific term Nrtya was not then in currency.  According to some scholars, the term Nrtta along with Abhinaya covered what we now call Nrtya, as evidenced from some verses of the Abhinavabharati.

According to Abhinavagupta, it was Bharata who designed and created an Art form, which would adorn the Natya, by combining the dance element of the Nrtta and the Abhinayas. But, for some reason, Bharata did not see a need to assign a name to the resultant art form.

And, Bharata, in his characteristic way, puts it as if the suggestion came to him from Shiva, who had advised Brahma the ways to utilize the Nrtta in the Natya. Here, Shiva had said : you can very well communicate (Abhinayasi), by use of Nrtta (made beautiful by Angaharas consisting different Karanas), the things (Artha) out of which the songs are composed; the songs that are sung in the Purvaranga.

mayāpīda smta ntya sandhyākāleu ntyatā nānā karaa sayuktair agahārair vibhūitam4.13 pūrvaraga vidhā vasmistvayā samyak prayojyatām vardhamāna akayogeu gītevāsāriteu ca 4.14 mahāgīteu caivā arthān samyagevā abhineyasi yaścāya pūrvaragastu tvayā śuddha prayojita NS. 4. 15

That is to say; on taking the hint from Shiva’s statement, Bharata worked out the details of combining Nrtta with Abhinaya; and, that led to the birth of a new Art form – the Nrtya. The term Abhinaya, here, stands for the act of communication.

Sarangadeva in his Sangitaratnakara, says that by combining the Angikabhinaya of Nrtta with the Abhinayas (Satttvica, Angika, Vachika and Aharya abhinayas) the Nrtya was created – Angikabhinayai reva Bhavaneva vyanakti, yat, tan Nrtyam.

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The statement that the combination of Nrtta and Abhinaya resulted in Nrtya, at the suggestion of Shiva, was supported by Abhinavagupta through two verses, which he ascribes to Kohala.

The quoted verses say:  In the past, on one evening (Sandhya), Narada was dancing in front of Shiva. And Narada then sang a song celebrating the victory of Shiva over the demon Tripura. And, Shiva, having been pleased with the song, began to dance; enacting (Abhinaya) the theme of the song. Later, Shiva asked Tandu to combine (yojana) the Tandava (meaning, Nrtta) with Abhinaya used in that dance.

Sandhyayam nrtyaha Shamboh bhakty-agre, Naradah pura gaavan Triporonmatham taccita stavata gitake cakra abhinayam pritas tatas Tandum ca so abravit natyokta abhinayenedam vats yojya Tandavam

Shiva’s Nrtta included Karanas and Angaharas. Yet; Shiva said that one can communicate through Nrtta when used in Natya.

Now, what does that mean?   It might perhaps mean that if Nrtta is performed with a given intention, following a method, then it might convey a meaning.

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Dr. KM Varma in his scholarly and highly analytical work ‘Natya, Nrtta and Nrtya: their meaning and relation’, argues (page 32) that Nrtta came first; then Natya. And later, when Abhinaya was added to Nrtta, the idea of Nrtya emerged.

Thus, he says, Nrtta and Nrtya came into being at the suggestion of Shiva. But, both these forms were propagated by Tandu.

Though Bharata is responsible for the emergence of Nrtya, it did not receive special nomenclature or individual treatment in the Natyashastra. Bharata continued to treat it as Nrtta.

Although it developed to full extent soon after the time of Bharata,  the theoreticians and commentators until about the tenth century continued to follow Bharata; and, avoided using the term Nrtya, though they did describe its essential features, nature and techniques by use of other terms.

But, when the combination of Nrtta and Abhinaya, evolved, developed and prospered as an independent, well recognized, dance form; and, became so popular (prasiddha) , the latter authors could not afford to avoid the term Nrtya. And, Nrtya, eventually, became a part of the Grammar of the Dance.

The hypothetical question since when the term came into popular use is much debated. Many point out that though the term Nrtya was not employed by the commentators of the medieval period, it somehow, was in popular usage as early as in the fifth century.

That argument is supported by the fact that Amarasimha (fifth century), in his lexicon Amarakosa, while defining Nartana, included within its meaning, Nrtya as a synonym: ṇḍava naanaya lāsya ntya ca nartane (1.7.427).  That suggests; as early as in the fifth century Nrtya was well known; and, was in common use. And, the lexicographer could not avoid including the term Nrtya in his work. But, it is not clear when it actually acquired its name.

abhinaya555

Sarangadeva explains Nrtya as a means of putting forth different aesthetic moods or bhava (bhavahetu orbhavashraya) or giving expression to individual words of the song through appropriate gestures and/or facial expressions – pada-artha-abhinayatmaka.

The key ingredient in the Nrtya is the elaborate gesture-language, Abhinaya (lit., to bring near; that is, to present before the eyes), the meaning (Artha) and the emotion (Bhava) of the lyrics. It is the harmonious combination of striking poses, eloquent gestures, lucid facial expressions, various glances, and meaningful movements of the hands, fingers and feet.

Though the performance of an Nrtya is tied with the interpretation of a lyric (sahitya) depicting a theme (prasanga), it combines in itself the expressive Abhinaya; and the stances, poses, postures and movements, of the pure Dance (Nrtta).  The Nrtya is regarded as the soul of any Dance-style. The Abhinaya and Nrtta elements it portrays demand the skill, grace and ingenuity of a well trained talented Dancer.

[The Abhinaya Darpana describing the qualities of a good dancer says: A dancer must have the inherent sensibility which can be enhanced by training. Agility, steadiness, sense of line, practice in circular movement, a sharp and steady eye, effortlessness, memory, devotion, clarity of speech, sense of music – these ten are the essential qualities of a dancer.

Javaha Sthiratwam Rekha cha /27/ Bhramari Drishti Shramaha; Medha Shraddha Vacho Geetham; Paatra pranaa Dasa Smruthaha/Ab. Da.28/]

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Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya – their mutual relations

Sarangadeva remarks, when you take a broader view, Ntta is not distant from Nrtya; and, both of these are essential to Natya.  Thus, Dance, in both of its aspects (Nrtya and Natya), was a vital presence of Nrtta. All the three are interrelated.

The Āgika abhinaya or physical expressions, in both Nrtya and Natya, includes the  Ntta elements. But, Āgika abhinaya is of greater importance in the Nrtya.

The Nrtta is an integral part of the Nrtya; but, it also has its presence in the Natya. Thus, Nrtta has constructive relations with Nrtya as also with Natya. The three, in some measures, are bound together.

*

Nrtta and Natya

Bharata defines Nrtta and Natya on the basis of their techniques; and, their relevance. And, the two Art-forms were discussed independent of each other.

As between Nrtta and Natya, the former was said to be older. And Nrtta, which earlier was a pure dance performed in the Purvaranga as Deva stuti, later became a part of the Natya. The influence of Nrtta on Natya is more delicate.

Nrtta and Nrtya

And, when the dance elements of the Nrtta were combined with the Abhinayas – with its dance movements interpreting the meaning and sentiments of the words in the lyrics – it was transformed into a most delightful art form – the Nrtya. With this, the dance, in general, came to be known as Nrtya.

Though some texts continued to carry on theoretical discussions on Nrtta (pure dance-like movements) and Nrtya (the dance proper) as if they were two totally distinct dance-idioms; the two, in fact, are very intimately related. And, the defining characteristics (lakhaa) of Nrtta and Nrtya are the same.

But, Pundarika Vitthala, in his Nartana-nirnaya, throughout, uses the terms  Nrtta  and Nrtya  interchangeably, perhaps, because, both those dance forms involved, in some measure, the elements of Abhinaya or interpretative movements conveying a meaning (Artha). He was following the explanations put forth by Abhinavagupta. 

As Dr Kapila Vatsyayan observes, in the contemporary Indian dance scene, with the exploration of geometrical space at floor level and choreographic patterns, the elements of Nrtta, pure dance and Abhinaya, expression-full dance (Nrtya) are close-knit, cohesive.

The Indian classical dance of today, has, over a period, evolved its own Grammar and constructed its own devices. The Nrtta element too has changed greatly from what it meant during the days of Bharata. Its structure and style which are based in different units of Nrtta movements are well adopted into Bharatanatya in the form of Adavus etc.

Thus, in the later periods, particularly in the modern period, Nrtta became an essential ingredient of the Nrtya, in displaying its various stances, postures and movements.

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Natya and Nrtya

As regards, Natya and Nrtya; the Natya is a deliberate art; and, Nrtya is representational art. The object of both the forms is to provide Rasa.  

The principles which govern the techniques of both the Natya (Sanskrit Drama) and the classical Nrtya are the same. Their ways of stylized modes of presentation (NatyaDharmi); and, the manners of depiction (Vrtti); the techniques of acting (Abhinaya); and, appearances in costumes and make-up (Aharya) are regulated by the same set of principles of the dramaturgy and its stage –presentation.

Even after Nrtya emerged as an independent Art-form, the later writers on the treatise dealing with the Nrtya and its varied forms, (either exclusively or otherwise), adopted the same set of norms and principles that once governed the Natya of the Natyashastra. The techniques of Dance continued to be discussed in terms of the various elements of Dharmis, the Vrittis and Abhinaya as prescribed by Bharata.

The tya-dharmi mode of dance was woven into the play-presentation. The sequences in the Drama were staged through the actors singing, speaking and dancing in their roles. The static and dynamic Ntta karaas were utilized as idioms to portray various emotional states. The Natya , in its production, made use of the  four-fold Dance phrases of body-movements (āgika); speech delivery (vācika); studied involuntary reaction (sāttvika); as also of costumes, make-up and scenery (āhārya).

Thus, in a way of speaking, the two – the Nrtya (Dance proper along with its Nrtta element) and Natya (Sanskrit Drama) – continue to be bound together, in one way or the other.

*

Both Nrtya and Natya make use of all the four kinds of Abhinayas. And, difference between Natya and Nrtya, is in their modes of using the different degrees of the elements of the Abhinayas.

The entire sphere of presentation in an Nrtya is predominated by Natya-dharmi, graceful gesticulations, stylized aesthetic suggestive expressions. There is no attempt to present things as they actually are. And, in the Nrtya that we know, those principles and conventions are being followed, even to this day, in their pristine form.

In Nrtya, its every movement should follow the Laya and Tala. It is said; the Nrtya inherits this quality from the Angika-abhinaya of the Nrtta. The Nrtya involves Gatra-vikshepa ‘throwing’ or movement of the limbs, to dance. And, almost throughout its performance, Nrtya is accompanied by music, the most enchanting of the art forms.

Nrtya is basically Drshya or Prekshya, a spectacle mainly having visual appeal. Though the performer follows the lyrics of the song, she does not actually sing; but, only provides the lip-movement while interpreting its words and sentences.

Many elements of Nrtta and Natya were absorbed into Natya. And, Nrtya, for a period, became a parallel form of Drama. But, in the Natya, the elements of Nrtya are incidental to its dance sequences. Dance as a part of dramaturgy was employed as an ornamental overlay upon a theatrical presentation.

In contrast to the Nrtya, the facial and body movements in Natya are slight or subtle – Kincit-chalana. Here, the speech (Vachika) is dominant; and, therefore, the need for Sattvikabhinaya  and the vrttis (styles of dialouge delivery) is greater, for communicating the mental and emotional states of the characters in the play. Further, unlike in Nrtya, the actors on the stage do actually sing.  Thus, in the Natya, both the visual and the audio are highly essential.

Thus, the Natya or Drama has an advantage over poetry, music and dance. Apart from bringing in the embellishment of spectacular the visual effects (Rupaka or Drishya-kavya), it has the power of music and speech.

*

In the later periods, Natya became rather stagnant; but, the Nrtya made rapid strides. While Natya was fading ; and, losing its universal appeal,  the Nrtya and its forms were evolving and developing swiftly as the most delightful and most engaging Art forms, popular among  all sections of the society.

In the process of its growth, Nrtya widened its scope and content by innovating and assimilating a range of stylistic variations; and, by moving away from its early dependence on Drama. Now, Nrtya is no longer an adjunct or accessory to Natya. It has also widened its aesthetic scope, beyond decorative grace to encompass emotive communication (Rasa) and narrative variations. It has evolved into a full-fledged system, a self-governing complex Art form; and, has established its identity. And, it has continued as highly popular classical dance form.

lasya (1)

Bharatanatya

The School of Nrtya that is prevalent in South India is the Bharata-natya.

In the initial years, there were debates raising questions concerning the name assigned to this Dance form, which, basically, is Nrtya. Many asked, why should it be called Bharata-natya; and, why not Bharata-nrtya.

In reply; explanations were offered to clarify that the suffix ‘Natya’ also stands for ‘Nrtya’, in its technical sense.  The arguments made out said  that as per the past authorities like Kumbha Rana and Vipradasa (fifteenth century), the term ‘Natya’ could also be used to denote ‘Nrtya’. Later, Pundarika Vittala (sixteenth century), in his work (Nartana-nirnaya), following the lead given by Sarangadeva, said that Nartana, a general class-name for Dance, covered the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. And, much before that Amarasimha, as early as in the fifth century, had equated ‘Natya’, among other terms, with ‘Nrtya’.

But, there are no explanations anywhere as to when and why that equation was arrived at. The only other plausible explanation is that it might have come about by way of popular usage. But, in any case, since this form of dancing was created by Bharata, to name it as Bharatanatya, is truly justifiable.  As per Dr. Ananada Coomaraswamy,’ Indian acting and dancing, is a deliberate art; and, the same word, Natya, covers both those ideas. ‘

Thus, the Nrtya, known now as Bharatanatya is surely a continuation of the form and tradition of the Marga class of dance that was promoted by Bharata; although over the period, some elements have entered into it. Yet; no other School of Nrtya has a closer relationship with Natyashastra than Bharatanatya.

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The Bharatanatya of today is such a refined form of Dance which has brought within its ambit the formats of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya. This School of Art can be explained in almost every respect by Bharata’s theories. And, it follows Bharata’s techniques to a large extent.  It also contains the beauty of form as in the Nrtta. It excels in the aesthetic presentation of form and geometrical beauty; and in the richness of in variety of movements as no other dance form does. It has the gentle power of expression to communicate ideas and emotions through Abhinaya, as in Nrtya. It can also present a narrative theme as in Natya, where the dancer enacts the roles of varieties of characters (Ekaharya Abhinaya or Ekaharya Lasyanga)

Depending upon the nature of the dance item that is being presented, its balance in terms of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya varies. But, in general, the dominant aspect of Bharatanatya is Nrtya.

As regards its practice, Bharatanatya draws upon its tradition persevered and passed on from generation to generation in orally transmitted and highly codified manuals (Shastra). Though it is, essentially, rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, it has also adopted many features and techniques from the regional dance traditions; and, has thus enlarged its repertoire and acquired many dimensions.

Though the emphasis is on the adherence to and to preserving the purity of the tradition; and, its continuation, it also has brought in some innovative techniques and refreshing modes of expression, in tune with the advancing times. These could be called as ‘context-sensitive interactions’

The difference between Bharatanatya and other Dance forms like Kathakali, Manipuri and others is mainly in the use of their Abhinayas and techniques. They all belong to the Nrtya class. Each has its own stylized manner of bringing out the essential meaning of the song. Each is delightful in its own way. The coexistence of multiple streams of Dance forms has surely enriched the Indian Art scene.

abhinaya

The way ahead…

Having said that; let me add that Bharatanatya, as an art, is a dynamic process. It needs to be rejuvenating and reinventing itself all the time. And, it should not stagnate. Though its theories are rooted in the Natyashastra of Bharata, in its practice, it derives its curriculum from several other texts. Most of those texts were written before the seventeenth century.  And, that makes it essential for Bharatanatya to innovate and look for newer modes and idioms of expressions; and, also try to move away, at least for a limited extent, from the traditional mythological themes.

All the Art forms that are practiced today cannot be explained only on the basis of Natyashastra; nor is it necessary to do so. Art need not always be confined to Bharata’s techniques. Even in the case of Bharatanatya, the theory as detailed in Natyashastra needs to be studied in the light of the current practices. And, that might, hopefully provide us an insight; and, suggest improved techniques, in order to rationalize and bring it closer to today’s environment.

If the dance forms that are practiced today have to come into their own, these should be explained on a rational basis.  It seems much attention is paid to the literal interpretation of the old texts. And, too much philosophizing is another factor. But, Art has its own philosophy, outlook and appeal; although many try to inject their own pet philosophy into the Arts.

If the Art has to be alive it has to be relevant to the times we live in; and, has to reach further levels of the society.

We are in the age of reconstruction. There many problems and issues – old and new-,  including commercialization, that need to be resolved. The ancient theories would not do for all our present needs and problems. A detailed study of present practices without always being tied down to the ancient theoretical works seems advisable.  What is needed is continuity with change. Both the ancient and the modern Art-forms and techniques need to be studied with equal earnestness.

kadagola

In the next part, we shall briefly talk about various classical Dance forms of India, such as Kathak, Odissi, kathakali and Manipuri.

dance forms

Continued

 In

Part Five

 

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Three

Continued from Part Two 

 Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya

shiva_dancing_for_parvati

Intro.

As it has been said very often; the Natyashastra is the earliest available text of Indian Dancing traditions. It combines in itself the fundamentals of the principles, practices and techniques of Dance. it thus serves as the principal text of the Dance. And, therefore, the influence exerted by it on the growth and development of all Dance-forms, has been deep and vast.  The Natyashastra, an authoritative text to which the Masters and learners alike turn to, seeking instructions, guidance, and inspiration, is central to any discussion on classical Dance. And, therefore, no discussion on classical Dance is complete without referring to the concepts  of the  Natyashastra.

[Having said that; let me also mention that in the context of Dance , as it is practiced in the present day, besides Natyashastra , several other texts are followed. The Natyashastra provides the earliest theoretical framework; but, the practice of Dance  and the techniques of dancing were  molded and improved by many texts of the later periods. What we have today is the culmination of several textual traditions and their practices. We shall come to those aspects later in the series.]

Because of the position that Natyashastra occupies in the evolution of the Arts and its forms, it would help to try to understand the early concepts and their relationships to Dance. And, thereafter, we may follow the unfolding and transformation of those concepts acquiring different meanings and applications; as also the emergence of new terms and art-forms, during the later times.

In that context, we may, in particular, discuss the three terms; their derivation; their manifestation and transformation; as also the mutual relations among the three. In the process, we may also look at the related concepts; and their evolution over the centuries. The three terms that I am referring to are the Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya, which are fundamental to most of the Dance formats.

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As regards the  other texts that discuss the theories, practices and techniques of Dancing, there are no significant works between the period of Bharata and that of Abhinavagupta and Dhananjaya (eleventh century). Even if any were there, none has come down to us. But during this period, the dance and its concepts had changed significantly. And, the manuscript editions of the Natyashastra had also undergone alterations.

Over the different periods, the concepts of Natyashastra, along with that of its basic terms such as Nrtta, Natya etc., came to be interpreted in number of amazingly different ways, depending, largely, upon the attitudes and the approach of the authors coming from diverse backgrounds and following varied regional cultural practices. It is a labyrinth, a virtual maze, in which one can easily get lost.

It would, therefore, hopefully, make sense if we try to understand these terms in the context of each period that spans the course of the long history of Dancing in India, instead of trying to take an overall or summary view.

In the following pages, let us try to understand these terms and their applications in relation to the  concepts and the techniques of dancing, as it emerged in various stages, during the three phases of Indian Art history: the period of the  Natyashastra of Bharata; the theories and commentaries by the authors of the medieval period; and, dance as practiced in the present-day.

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Before we get into the specifics, let’s briefly talk about Dance in general, within the context of Natyashastra.

Bharata’s Natyashastra represents the first known stage of Indian Art-history where the diverse elements of arts, literature, music, dance, stage management and cosmetics etc., combined harmoniously, to fruitfully produce an enjoyable play. 

It is quite possible that the authors prior to the time of Bharata did speak of Dance; its forms and practices.  But, it was, primarily, Bharata who recognized the communicative power of Dance; and, laid down its concepts.

Bharata described what he considered to be the most cultivated dance styles, which formed the core of the dominant art-practice (prayoga) in his time, the Drama.

The framework within which Bharata describes Dance is, largely, related to Drama. And, his primary interest seemed to be to explore the ways to enhance the beauty of a dramatic presentation. Thus, Dance in association with music was treated as an ornamental overlay upon Drama.  As Nandikesvara said, the Dance should have songs (gitam). And, the song must be sung, displaying (pradarshayet) the meaning (Artha) and emotions (Bhavam) of the lyrics through the gestures of the hands (hastenatha); shown through the eyes (chakshuryo darshaved); and, in tune with rhythm and corresponding foot-work (padabhyam talam-achareth).

Asyena alambaved gitam, hastena artha pradarshayet/chakshuryo darshaved bhavam, padabhyam talam-achareth (Ab.Da.36)

Dance, at that stage, was an ancillary part (Anga) or one of the ingredients that lent elegance and grace to theatrical performance; and, it was not yet an independent art-form, by itself. Bharata , at that stage, is credited with  devising a more creative Dance-form , which was adorned with elegant, evocative and graceful body-movements; performed in unison with attractive rhythm and enthralling music; in order to effectively interpret and illustrate the lyrics of a song; and, also to depict the emotional content of a dramatic sequence.But, he had not assigned it a name.

It was only in the later times, when the concepts and descriptions provided by Bharata were adopted and improved upon, that Dance gained the status of a self-regulating, independent specialized form of art, as Nrtya.

*

The scholars opine that in the evolution of Dance, first comes Nrtta; then Natya; and, later Nrtya appeared. Here, Nrtta is said to be pure dance; while Nrtya emerged when Abhinayas of four types (Angika; Vachika; Sattvika; and Aharya) were combined with Nrtta. And, Natya included both these (Nrtta and Nrtya), even while the speech and the songs remained prominent. Thus, Natya comprises all the three features – Dance, music and speech (song) – which are very essential for the production and enactment of Drama.

To put the entire series of developments, in the context of Natyashastra, in a summary form:

Nrtta, as described in Natyashastra, had been in practice even during the very ancient times. The Nrtta, according to Bharata, was a dance form created by Shiva; and, which, he taught to his disciple Tandu.  It seems to have been older than Natya

Natya too goes back to the very distant past. Even by the time of Bharata, say by   about the fourth to second century BCE, Natya was already a highly developed and accomplished Art. It was regarded as the best; and, also as the culmination of all Art forms. Though Nrtta was older, Natya was not derived from it. Both the Nrtta and the Natya had independent origins; and, developed independent of each other. And, later too, the two ran on parallel lines.

It was during Bharata’s time that Nrtta was integrated into Natya. Even though the two came together, they never merged into each other. And, up to the present-day they have retained their identity; and, run parallel in ways peculiar to them. (Even in a Bharatanatya performance the treatment and presentation of the Nrtta is different from that of the rest.)

 By combining Nrtta, the pure Dance, with the Abhinaya of Natya, a new form of Dance viz., the Nrtya came into being. Bharata is credited with this creative, innovative act of bringing together two of the most enjoyable Art forms (Bhartopajanaka). But, it developed to its full extant only after the time of Bharata.

But, at the time of Bharata, that resultant new-art was not assigned a separate name; nor was it then classified into Tandava and Lasya types.  In fact, the terms Nrtya and Lasya do not appear either in the Natyashastra or in its early commentaries. It was only during the later times that Nrtya gained an independent recognition as an expressive, eloquent representational Art, which projects human experiences, with amazing fluidity and grace.

Nrtya, a blend of two well studied, well developed and well codified Art forms – the dance of Nrtta and Abhinayas of Natya – over a period, advanced  vibrantly, imbibing on its way numerous novel features; and, soon became hugely popular among all classes of the society. It gained recognition as the most delightful Art-form; and in particular, as the most admired phrase or form of Dance.

With this general backdrop, let’s go further.

Hamsa 4

A. Nrtta in Natyasahastra

Nrtta

Initially, Bharata, in the fourth Chapter of the Natyashastra, titled Tandava Lakshanam, deals with the Dance. The term that he used to denote Dance was Nrtta (pure dancing or limb movements, not associated with any particular emotion, Bhava).

The Nrtta comprised two varieties of Dances (Nrtta-prayoga) : The Tandava and Sukumara. The Tandava was not necessarily aggressive; nor danced only by men. And, the gentler, graceful form of dance was Sukumara-prayoga

And, in the context of Drama, both of these were said to refer to the physical structure of dance movements. And, both were performed during the preliminaries before the commencement of the play – Purvaranga – while offering prayers to the deities, Deva-stuti   ; and, not in the drama per se.

Mayāpīdam smta ntta sandhyākāleu Ntttā nānā karaa sayuktai raga hārair vibhūitam 4.13

Pūrva-raga-vidhā avasmistvayā samyak prayojyatām vardhamāna kayogeu gītevāsāriteu ca 4.14

The Dance performed during the Purvaranga was accompanied by vocal and instrumental music. It is said; the songs that were sung during the Purvaranga were of the Marga class- sacred, somber and well regulated (Niyata). Such Marga songs were in praise of Shiva (Shiva-stuti). Bharata explains Marga or Gandharva as the Music dear to gods (atyartham iṣṭa devānā), giving great pleasure to Gandharvas; and, therefore it is called Gandharva.

Atyartham iṣṭa devānā tathā prīti-kara puna | gandharvāā ca yasmād dhi tasmād gāndharvam ucyate – NS Ch. 28, 9

shiva dance

Almost the entire Chapter Four of Natyashastra is devoted to Nrtta. That is because, the term that Bharata generally used to symbolize  Dance, was Nrtta.  And, the Nrtta, Bharata said, was created to give expression to beauty and grace – śobhā prajanayediti Ntta pravartitam (NS.4.264). The Nrtta is visual art. The term Nrtta, in the context of the Natyashastra, is explained by Abhinavagupta as (Angavikshepa), the graceful composition of the limbs – gatram vilasena kshepaha.

The Nrtta stands for pure, abstract and beautiful dance, performed in tune with the rhythm and tempo, to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music.

The Nrtta performed during the Purvaranga was not as an auxiliary to Natya. And, therefore, Nrtta was considered to be independent and complete by itself.

Nrtta is described in terms of the motion of the limbs; the beauty of its form; the balanced geometrical structure; creative use of space; and rhythm (time). It gives form to the formless.  Here, the body speaks its own language; an expression of the self. It delights the eye with its posture, rhythm and synchronized movements of the dancer’s body.

Nrtta is the spontaneous rhythmic movement of different parts of the body (Angas, Upangas and Pratyangas). Nrtta is also associated with the surrounding nature and its beauty. For instance; Shiva does his Nrtta in the evening, before sun set, (Sandhyayam nrtyaha Shamboh) surrounded by the salubrious shining snow peaks of the Himalayas, while he is in the company of Devi Parvathi and his Ganas.

It is said; the sense of Nrtta is ingrained in the nature. For instance; the peacocks burst into simple rhythmic movements at the sight of rain-bearing clouds; and, the waves in the sea swing in ebb and flow as the full moon rises up in a clear cloudless night.

Nrtta is a kind of architecture. It is an Art-form whose life is the beauty of its form. But, Nrtta was not meant for giving forth meaningful expressions. It did not look for a purpose; not even of narrating a theme.

Thus, Nrtta could be understood as a metaphor of Dance made of coordinated movement of hands and feet (Cari and Karana or dance units or postures), in a single graceful flow.  Nrtta is useful for its beautiful visual appeal; as that which pleases the eye (Shobha hetuvena).

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Tandava

shiva tandava

And, Tandava is said to be the Nrtta that Shiva taught to his disciple Tandu (Tando rayam Tandavah).  It was composed by combining the circular movement of a limb (Recaka) and the sequence of dance movements (KaranasAngaharas) . It is not clear  how these movements were utilized.

The term Tandava could also be understood as Bharata’s term for Nrtta , the Dance (Nrtta-prayoga) – Nrtta-prayoga sṛṣṭo ya sa Tāṇḍava iti smta. NS.4.261. And, Tandava is often used as a synonym for Nrtta.

[Abhinavagupta, in his typical style, provides a totally different sort of explanation to the term Tandava. According to him, the term ṇḍava is derived from the sounds like ‘Tando; tam-tam’, produced by the accompanying Damaru shaped drums. It follows the manner, in Grammar (vyākaraa), of naming an object, based on the sound it produces – śabda-anukti.  For instance; Yaska, in his Nirukta (318) had mentioned that a kaka (crow) is so called, because of the sound it makes – kāka, iti Śabda, anuktis, tad idam, śakunisu bahulam.

Abhinavagupta also mentions that the Bhaṇḍam (percussion instruments), which produce sounds like ‘Bhan, Than’ etc., are important for the performance of the Ntta.]

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And, in regard to the Drama, the Tandava,  a form of Nrtta, is performed before the commencement of the play, as a prayer-offering to gods (Deva stuti). It is a dance that creates beauty of form; and, is submitted to gods, just as one offers flowers (pushpanjali).

The Tandava, at this stage, did not necessarily mean a violent dance; nor was it performed only by men.

According to Bharata, the Tandava Nrtta, during Purvaranga, iperformed to accompaniment of appropriate songs and drums. And, it is composed of Recakas, Angaharas and the Pindibandhas; (NS. 4. 259-61).

Recakā Agahārāśca Piṇḍībandhā tasthaiva ca 4.259 sṛṣṭvā bhagavatā dattās Taṇḍave munaye tadā tenāpi hi tata samyag-gāna-bhāṇḍa-samanvita 4.260 Ntta-prayoga sṛṣṭo ya sa Tāṇḍava iti smta 4.261

[Please also check this link http://www.tarrdaniel.com/documents/Yoga-Yogacara/nata_yoga.html ]

Sukumara

devi lasya.

And , Sukumara Prayoga is the tender and graceful type of dance performed by the Devi Parvathi.

It is said; Shiva’s Tandava dance comprising Angaharas and Recakas inspired Devi Parvathi to perform her own type of dance, adorned with graceful and delicate movements (sukumara-prayoga) – (Sukumāra-prayogeṇa Nṛttam caiva Pārvatīm –NS.4.250). 

Recakair-agahāraiś ca Ntyanta vīkya Sakaram 249 Sukumāra-prayogea Ntyantī caiva Pārvatīm (NS. 4. 249-50)

Parvathi ‘s  dance was also adorned with graceful gestures – Recakas and Angaharas. But, her dance cannot be construed as s counterpart to Tandava. It was her own form of Dance.

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Abhinavagupta explains; the Angaharas of Parvathi’s Dance was rich in loveliness and subtle beauty (Lalitha Angahara); celebrating the erotic sentiment, Sṛṅgāra, the love that binds male and female – (Sukumāra-prayogaśca śṛṅgāra-rasa-sambhavaḥ – NS.4.269). Her Dance was bedecked with emotion; and, was full of meaning (Abhinaya prāptyartham arthānā tajjñair abhinaya kta NS.4. 261).

Yattu śṛṅgāra sabaddha gāna strī puruā aśrayam Devī ktair agahārair lalitais tat prayojayet NS.4. 312

Abhinavagupta says; the fruit (phala) of the gentle dance is that it pleases the Goddess (Devī); and that of ṇḍava is that it pleases Shiva who is with Soma. He also mentions that while performing the dance-gestures (abhinaya) for Puṣhpāñjali, the dancer’s looks must not be diverted towards the audience. That is because; that dance-offering is not addressed to the spectators. Therefore, it must be performed looking into one’s own soul.

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[ We need to remember that the Tandava and the Sukumara, the pure types of Dances, were discussed by Bharata in the context of the purvaranga, not in that of drama proper (yaścāya pūrva-ragastu tvayā śuddha prayojita – NS.4. 15). And, such a Purvaranga was called Chitra (Citro nāma bhaviyati); Chitra meant diagrams/formations. These dances , at that stage , were not associated with expression of emotions.

However, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, at many places, interprets Natyashastra in the light of contemporary concepts and practices. He also introduces certain ideas and terms that were not present during the time of Bharata.

For instance; during the time of Bharata, there was no clear theoretical division of Dance into Tandava and Sukumara. And, the term Lasya, which in the later period meant gentle, delicate and graceful, does not also appear in Natyashastra. But, the concept of the element of grace and beauty did exist; and, was named as Sukumara-prayoga.

The Tandava as described in the Natyashastra was Nrtta (pure dance); and, it was not necessarily aggressive; though Abhinavagupta interpreted Tandava as Uddhata (vigorous). But, in the Natyashastra, Tandava does not convey the sense of Uddhata.

Similarly, though Tandava is mentioned as Nrtta; it, in no way, refers to, or is related to furious dance, which in the present-day goes by the name Tandava-nrtta

Abhinavagupta states that Lasya (which term he uses to substitute Sukumara-prayoga), the graceful dance with delicate, graceful movements , performed by Devi Parvathi was in contrast to Shiva’s forceful (Uddhata Angaharas) and fast paced Tandava Nrtta. But, nether term Lasya, nor such distinctions or contrasts are mentioned in the Natyashastra.

Both Tandava and Sukumara come under Nrtta – the pure Dance, devoid of meaning and emotion. But, Abhinavagupta describes the Sukumara of Devi as being ‘bedecked with emotion and full of meaning’.

Abhinavagupta also brings in the notion of relating Tandava and Sukumara to male (Purusha) and female (Stri) dances. But, such gender-based associations were not mentioned in the Natyashastra.]

NataYoga10-12

Recaka, Karana and Angahara

As mentioned earlier, according to Bharata, the Tandava Nrtta, performed to the accompaniment of appropriate songs and drum-beats, is composed of Recakas, Angaharas and the Pindibandhas – (Recakā Agahārāśca Piṇḍībandhā tasthaiva caNS. 4. 259-61). The Tandava, at this stage, as said earlier, did not necessarily mean a violent dance; nor was it performed only by men.

Recaka

Here, Recaka (derived from Recita, relating to limbs) is understood as the extending movements of the feet (pāda), waist (kai), hands (hasta) and neck (grīva or kanta):  pāda-recaka eka syat dvitīya kai-recaka kararecakas tritīyas tu caturta kaṇṭha-recakaḥ (NS.4. 248). The Recakas are said to be separate  movements; and, are not parts of Karanas or Cari.

Movement of the feet from one side to the other with faltering or unsteady gaits as also of other types of feet movement is called Pada-recaka. Rising up, stretching up and turning round the waist as well as drawing it back characterize the Kati-recaka. Throwing up,putting forward, throwing sideways, swinging round and drawing back of the hands are called Hasta-recaka. Raising up, lowering, and bending the neck sideways to left and right or such other movements form the Kanta-recaka.

In each of the four varieties of major joint movements, the limb is moved or turned from one position to another. These four basic oscillating movements, which lend grace and elegance to the postures, are regarded as fundamental to dancing.

Abhinavagupta also says; it is through the Recakas that the Karanas and the Angaharas derive their beauty and grace. He gives some guidelines to be observed while performing a Recaka of the foot (Pada-recaka) , neck (Griva-recaka) and the hands (Hastha-recaka) .

According to him; while performing the Recaka of the foot one should pay attention to the movements of the big toe; in the Recaka of the hands one should perform  Hamsa-paksha Hastha in quick circular movements; and, in the Recaka of the neck one should execute it with slow graceful movements.

Padayoreva chalanam na cha parnir bhutayor antar bahisha sannatam namanonna manavyamsitam gamanam Angustasya cha /Hasthareva chalanam Hamsapakshayo paryayena dhruta bramanam/ Grivayastu Recitatvam vidhuta brantata//

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It is said; on entering the stage, with flowers in her hands (pupāñjali-dharā bhūtvā praviśed raga-maṇtapam), the female dancer should be in vaisakha sthana (posture) ; and , perform all the four Recakas (those of feet, waist, hands and neck) – vaiśākha-sthāna-keneha sarva-recaka-cāriī ॥ 274॥

And, only then , she should go round the stage scattering flowers , in submission to gods. After bowing to gods, she should perform her Abhinaya .

pupāñjali visjyātha ragapīha parītya ca 275 praamya devatābhyaś ca tato abhinayam-ācaret 276

Abhinavagupta also says, the Recakas are basically related to tender graceful movements, where music is prominent (Sukumara-Samgita-Vadya pradanene cha prayoga esham)

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Somehow, there is not much discussion about Recaka in the major texts. Kallinātha, the commentator, merely states that Recakas form part of the Agahāras; and, is useful in adjusting the Taala (time units).

Hamsa 4

Karanas

According to the Natyashastra, the Nrtta is Angahara, which is made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13)

And, Karana is defined by Bharata as the perfect combination of the hands and feet – Hasta-pada samyoga Nrttasya Karanam bhavet (NS.4.30). The Karanas are classified under Nrtta.

And, the Karanas are themselves made up of Sthanas (static postures), Caris and Nrtta-hastas (movement of the feet and the hands). It involves both the aspects: movement and position.

Abhinavagupta also explains; Karana is indeed the harmonious combination (sam-militam) of Gati (movement of feet), Sthanaka (stance), Cari (foot position) and Nrtta-hastha (hand-gestures)

Gatau tu Caryah / purvakaye tu Gatau Nrttahastha drusta-yashcha / sthithau pathakadyaha tena Gati-Sthithi – sam-militam Karanam

According to him, the Sthanaka, Cari and Nrtta-hastha can be compared to subject (kartru-pada), object (Karma-pada) and verb (Kriya-pada) in a meaningful sentence.

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Thus, Karaa is not a mere pose, a stance or a posture that is isolated and frozen in time. Karaa is the stylized synthesis of Sthiti (a fixed position-static) and Gati (motion-dynamic). That is to say; a Karana made of Sthanas, Caris and Nrtttahastas is a dynamic process.  It is an aesthetically appealing, well coordinated movement of the hands and feet, capturing an image of beauty and grace .

A Karana functions as a fundamental unit of dance. It is a technical component, which helps to provide a structural framework, on which dance movements and formations are built and developed,

Bharata enumerates 108 types of Karanas in the Fourth Chapter of the Natyashastra. He devotes a two-line verse (Karika) to each of the Karanas, mentioning the associated hand gestures (hastas), foot movements (Caris), and body positions (Mandalas).

Abhinavagupta explains Karaa as action (Kriyā Karaam); and, as the very life (jivitam) of Ntta. It is a Kriya, an act which starts from a given place and terminates after reaching the proper one. It involves both the static and dynamic aspects: pose (Sthiti) and movement (Gati). And that is why, he says, Karaa is called as ‘Ntta Karaa’.

In the Karanas, the balance, equipoise, the ease, is the key. The movement of each limb must be in relation with that of the other, which is either following it in the same direction or is playing as the counterpart in the other direction. The flow must be fluid and harmonious. Every Karana is well thought out; and, is complete by itself.

Nrtta is the art that solely depends on the form. Its purpose is to achieve beauty in forms. That is the reason; Karana is defined as the perfect composition of the entire body. Unless each and every Karana is individually illustrated, it might not be possible to point out whether it is perfect; and whether all the elements that are required for that Karana are present.

karana (1)

Abhinavagupta explains; Karana is different from the actions of normal life (Lokadharmi). And, it is not a mere placement, replacement or displacement. Such throws (kepa) of the limbs must be guided by a sense of beauty and grace (vilasa-ksepasya). Hence, Karana is a free movement of limbs in a pleasing, unbroken flow (ekā kriyā). That is why, though the Karaa is defined ‘kriyā karaam’, Abhinavagupta says: a Karana has to be intellectually and spiritually satisfying. The word nttasya in Bharata’s definition is meant to emphasize this aspect of dance.

Pūrva-ketre sayoga-tyāgena samucita ketrāntara-prapti-paryantatayā ekā kriyā tattaranmityamartha

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As said earlier; Karaa was defined by Bharata as ‘hasta-pāda-sayoga nttasya karaa bhavet’ (BhN_4.30); meaning that the combination of hand and foot movements in dance (Ntta) are called Karaa.  

Abhinavagupta explains that ‘hasta’ and ‘pāda’, here, do not denote merely the hand and foot. But, hasta implies all actions pertaining to the upper part (Purva-kaya) of the body (Anga); and, it’s Shākhā-aga (branches, the various movements of the hands – Kara varhana), and Upāga (subsidiaries like the eyebrows, the nose, the lower lip, the cheeks and the chin etc).

Similarly, pāda stands for all actions of the lower limbs of the body (Apara-kaya); such as sides, waist, thighs, trunk and feet.

Thus, Karana involves the movement of the feet (pada karmani); shifting of a single foot (Cari) and postures of the legs (Sthana), along with hand gestures (hastas– single as also combined Nrtta gestures).

And, all the actions of the hands and feet must be suitably and coherently combined with those of the waist, sides, thighs, chest and back – Hasta, pada samyogaha  Nrtta Karanam bhavet.

That is to say; when the Anga moves, the Pratyanga and Upanga also move accordingly. The flow of the movement (gatravikshepa) should be such that the entire body is involved in the curves and bends.

hastau śiras-sannata ca gagāvataraa tviti / yāni sthānāni yāścāryo vyāyāme kathitāni tu // BhN_4.169 // ādapracārastveā tu karaānāmaya bhavet / ye cāpi ntta hastāstu gaditā nttakarmai // BhN_4.170 //

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There is an elaborate discussion on two important features of a Karana execution: (1) Sausthava (keeping different limbs in their proper position) – about which Bharata says that the whole beauty of Nrtta rests on the Sausthava , so the performer never shines unless he pays attention to this – Shobha sarvaiva nityam hi Sausthavam; and, (2) Chaturasrya (square composition of the body, mainly in relation to the chest) – about which Abhinavagupta remarks that the very vital principle (jivitam)  of the body, in dance, is based on  its square position (Chaturasrya-mulam Nrttena  angasya jivitam), and adds that the very object of Sausthava is to attain a perfect Chaturasrya ,

This again emphasizes that Nrtta rests on the notion of formal-beauty, which is achieved through the perfect composition of the whole body. This involves not merely the geometrical values, but also the balance and harmony among the body parts.

While commenting on the Karaas, Abhinavagupta says that such static elements within the dynamics of the Karaas are useful in dance, not only as factors that beautify the presentation , but also as mediums of expression for communicating the meaning of the lyrics through vākyā-arthā-abhinaya (actions interpreting the meanings of its sentences). According to him, the Karanas are not mere physical actions; they can give form to ideas and thoughts. He opines that Nrtta can produce Bhavas. And, Nrtta, in reality, is Art par excellence.

While commenting on the fifteenth Karaa (the Svastika), Abhinavagupta asserts that every Karaa is capable of conveying a certain idea (Artha) or a thought, at least in a very subtle way. (But, such notions of associating Karanas with representation are not found in the Natyashastra.)

Sarangadeva in his Sangitaratnakara (Chapter 7, Nrttakarana, verses 548-49) also defines the Nrtta Karana as a beautiful (vilasena) combination of the actions (kriya) of the hands (Kara), feet (pada) etc., appropriate to the Rasa it intends to evoke.

Nrttakarana

Thus, while many of the 108-karanas are primarily associated with stylized movements, some Ntta Karaas are used, also, to express various emotions; going beyond the conventional Nrtta format. And, the depiction of such Karanas is a dynamic process. There is scope for innovation and experimentation.

For instance; while explaining the 10th Karana – the Ardha-nikuttaka karana (placing one hand on the shoulder; striking it with outstretched fingers; and then striking the ground with one of the heels) – which employs ancita (curve) of the hands, Abhinavagupta mentions that Sankuka’s description was different from that of Bharata; and, cannot be accepted. Further, he says; this Karana can be performed in two or more different ways; and, therefore, concludes that the performer has some degree of freedom in interpreting a Karana.

He mentions that a Karana can be performed both in the sitting posture and by moving about on a stage by employing Nrtta-hastas (hand postures) and Drsti (glances) – Tatravastane karakayopayogi sthanakam. Gatau tu caryah; purvakaye to gatanau Nrtta-hasta Drstaya ca

And, again, along with his explanation of the 66th Karaa (Atikranta moving forward with each foot treading alternatively with a flourish and swing), he states that wherever the use of the Karaa is not specifically stated, it is left to the imagination of the performer.

[In the later times, Karanas came to be described as the means to convey a meaning (Artha) or a pattern, such as: svastikarcita or mandala-svastika. But, in the Natyashastra, the Nrtta or the Karanas are not associated with such representations.]

And, in the later times, the idioms and phrases (Karanas and Angahara) of these dances, as also the ways of expressing the intent and meaning (Abhinaya) of a situation or of a lyric, were adopted into the play-proper, as also into various Dance forms; thus , enhancing the quality of those art-forms.

It is said; even during the course of the play , one should adopt the physical movements – Uddhata Angaharas of Tandava, created by Shiva, while depicting action in fighting scenes. And, for rendering love-scenes, one should adopt the Sukumara Angaharas created by the Devi.

Since the Karanas epitomize the beauty of form; and, symbolize the concept of aesthetics, they served as models for the artist; and, inspired them to create sculptures of lasting beauty. The sculptors (Shilpis) regarded the Karanas as the vital breath (Prana) of their Art. The much admired Indian sculptures are, indeed, the frozen forms of Karanas. The linear measurements or the deviation from the vertical median (Brahma Sutra); the stances; and, iconometry of the Indian sculptures are all rooted in the Karanas of the Nrtta, the idiom of visual delight. These wondrous sculptures, poems in stone, continue to fascinate and do evoke admiration and pleasure (Rasa) in the hearts of the viewers.

[Please do not fail to read the Doctoral thesis on the Dance imagery in south Indian temples : study of the 108-karana sculptures, prepared by Dr. Bindu S. Shankar]

And, in the present-day dance curriculum, the Karanas are used as the phrases or the basic units of the dance structure.   Nrtta is taught as a combination of basic dance motions called Adavus for which there is a corresponding pattern of phonetic syllables. The Adavus of Bharatanatya are based in limb movements, postures, hand gestures and geometry as in the Karanas; though the Adavus might differ from Karanas, in their execution.

Adavus are regarded as the building blocks of Bharatanatya. Different combinations of Adavus create varieties of body movements.

[The Adavus (smallest units of dance patterns) are composed as dance-modulations (Nrtta), where all the movements relate to the vertical median (Brahma-sutra) on the one hand; and to the stable equipoise, fixed position of one-half of the dancer’s body, on the other. The Adavus are, thus, primary units of movements, where the position of the feet (Sthana), posture of our standing (Mandala), walking movements (Cari), gestures of the hands (Nrtta hasthas) and other limbs of the body together form a precise dance pattern. It is said; there are about ten or more basic types of Adavus (Dasha-vidha); and, more number of variations could be formed de pending on the School of Dancing (Bani).]

adavus2-16b3d

Agahāra

Nrtta in Natyashastra is of Angaharas, which are made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13)

Abhinavagupta explains Agahāra as the process of sending the limbs of the body from a given position to the other proper one (Angavikshepa). It could also be taken to mean, twisting and bending of the limbs in a graceful manner.

And, such Angavikshepa is said to be a dominant feature of the Nrtta. And, as mentioned earlier, that term stands for graceful composition of limbs (gatram vilasena kshepaha). Thus, the Angaharas, basically, are Nrtta movements, the Angika-abhinaya, involving six Angas or segments of the body.

Abhinavagupta relates Angavikshepa to the Angaharas; and says, they could be taken, almost, as synonyms . But, they are not the same.

The Angaharas along with Recakas and Karanas constitute the essential aspects of the Nrtta; especially in the in the Purvaranga, and at times on the stage, as a part of the prelude (Naandi),  by female dancers dressed as goddesses – nikrāntāsu ca sarvāsu nartakīsu tata param 5. 156.  Bharata lists 32 Angaharas in verses 19 to 26 of Chapter Four.

[Towards the end of his comments on the 32 Angaharas, Abhinavagupta mentions that these could be produced in separate two sets of 16 each. One set of sixteen could be performed as a part of the Purvanga; and, the other set of sixteen after lifting the curtain, in full view of the spectators. While on the stage, four female dancers could perform four Angaharas each. Eight of them could be in Trisra Taala and the other eight in Chatursra Taala (Trysratalakah sodasa Esam; caturasra sryastav avantaratah).]

A Karana, as said earlier, is a basic unit of dance, constructed of well coordinated static postures and dynamic movements. The Nrtta technique consists in constructing a series of short compositions, by using the Karanas.

The Natyashastra mentions that a unit of two Karanas makes one Matrka; three Karanas makes one Kalapaka; four Karanas make a Sandaka; and, five Karanas make one Samghataka.  Thus, it says, The Angaharas consist of six, seven, eight or nine Karanas.

A meaningful combination of six to nine Karanas is said to constitute an Angahara, which could be called as a basic dance sequence (abhirvā saptabhirvāpi aṣṭabhir navabhis tathākaraairiha sayuktā agahārā prakīrtāḥ – NS.4.33).

It is said; the Angahara is like a garland where the selected Karanas (like flowers) are strung together, weaving a delightful pattern. It is basically a visual delight (prekshaniya).

Angahara is, thus, a dance sequence composed of uninterrupted series of Karanas. Such combination of Karanas cannot be done randomly; but, it should follow a method. That is because; the nature of an Angahāra is defined by the appropriate arrangement (yojana) or the order of the occurrence of its constituent Karaas. Out of the 108, say, six to nine suitable Karanas are, therefore, selected and strung together in various permutations to form a meaningful Angahara sequences or a Dance segment. Chapter Four (verses 31 to 55) of the Natyashastra describes 32 selected Angaharas, to choose from.

[Pundarika Vittala, the author of Nartana -nirnaya , mentions that by his time, the sixteenth century, the 108 Karanas had , in effect , been reduced to sixteen.] 

Abhinavagupta, while explaining the fourth Angahara (the Apaviddha) remarks that even the best of the theoreticians (Lakshnakaro) cannot rationally and adequately explain the sequence of Karanas that should occur in an Angahara. Hence, whatever sequence is given by authorities should not be taken as final. The performers should go by their experience and intuition. The choreographer / performer, therefore, enjoy a certain degree of freedom in composing an Angahara sequence.

Nahi susiksitopi lakshnakaro vakyanam pratipadam laksanam keutum saknoti / Asya pascadidam prayojyamiti jnapitena kincid atmaano yojana ca samhita karya / Niyeimanamagre vak ityuktam /

Though Angaharas and Karanas have much in common, the two are not said to be the same. The Angaharas are not mere the sum or totality of Karanas. Each possesses a distinctive character of its own. The Angaharas are distinct from Karanas. That is the reason Bharata says: Nana karaa sayuktān vyākhyāsyāmi sarecakān (NS.4.19)

The Angaharas, though mainly made up of Karanas, also need Recakas, which are the stylized movements of four limbs: neck (griva), hands (hasta), waist (kati) and feet (carana). The Recakas fulfill two purposes. One, it provides beauty and grace to the presentation; and, two, it ensures a smooth and seamless movement in such a way as to adjust the entire Angahara to the given Tala.

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Thus, in short, the Dance choreography of Nrtta is the series of body-movements, composed of Angaharas. The Angaharas in turn are made of appropriate Karanas. And, the Karanas are themselves made up of Caris, Nrtta-hastas and Sthanas. 

Nrtta, as articulated by Bharata, is of the Marga class. And, according to Abhinavagupta, it is capable of evoking Rasa, although it is non-representational.

padmakarana2

Which is the basic unit of Nrtta..?

Now, we have in sequence Caris; Nrttahastas; Sthanas; Karanas and Angaharas.

And, Abhinavagupta questions, which of these should be considered as the basic unit of Nrtta. He says the combination of two karanas, called Nrtta-matrka (Nrtta alphabet) is the basic unit of Nrtta; because, until the two Karanas are performed, you will not get the sense that you are dancing (Nrttyati).

But, that view was disputed by the later scholars. They counter questioned why only two Karanas; why not three or four or more.

They point out that the components of a Karana; like Caris; Nrtta-hastas; Sthanas, by themselves, individually cannot convey the sense of the Nrtta. They argued that Karana is, indeed, the factor, that characterizes Nrtta, which is built up by the clever arrangement of its patterns, just as in architecture. That form of beauty is achieved through the perfect geometrical qualities and harmonious composition of various body-parts. The sense of balance, ease and poise is the key. Therefore, a well thought out Karana, which is complete by itself, is regarded as the basic unit of Nrtta.

dance pose

Bharatanatya

Eventually, the Karanas, Angaharas and Nrtta, all, form part of Nrtya, the expressive dance. And, a Dance form like Bharatanatya is not complete without adaptation of the Nrtta techniques.

Bharatanatya is a composite Dance form, which brings together Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya formats. It draws its references (apart from Natyashastra) from various other texts of regional nature. Besides, it has developed its own specialized forms.

The Indian classical dance of today (Bharatanatya) has, over a period, evolved its own Grammar; and, has constructed its own devices. Its Nrtta element too has changed greatly from what it meant during the days of Bharata. Its structure and style is based in different units of movements, postures, and hand gestures such as Adavus etc., which are the combination of steps and gestures artistically woven into Nrtta sequences.

The basic Nrtta items in the Bharatanatya repertoire are the Alarippu (invocation); Jatiswaram (perhaps a successor of Yati Nrtta, where the Jati patterns are interspersed with appropriate Svara); and , Tillana (brisk, short rhythmic passages presented towards the close of the performance

Such Nrtta items in a Bharatanatya performance are dominated by the technique of the Angikabhinaya, which is defined as acting by means of body movements.

[ Alarippu

Alarippu is a dance invocation, which , at the same time, executes a series of pure Dance movements (Nrtta) following rhythmic patterns. It is an ideal introduction or prologue to a Dance performance. It commences with perfect repose, a well balanced poise (Sama-bhanga). Then, the individual movements of the neck, the shoulders, and the arms follow. And, next is the Ardha-mandali (the flexed position of the knees) and the full Mandali.  Thus, the Alarippu introduces the movements of the major limbs (Anga) and the minor limbs (Upanga) , in their simple formations. The dancer, thus, is able to check on her limb-movements; attaining positions of perfect  balance; and, the ease of her performance. The Alarippu sets the Dancer and the Dance performance to take off with eloquence and composure.

Jatisvaram

The Jatisvaram, which follows the Alarippu, is also a dance form of the Nrtta class. It properly introduces the music element into the dance. The Jatisvaram follows the rules of the Svara-jati , in its musical structure. And, it consists three movements: the Pallavi, the Anu-pallavi and the Charanam. The music of the Jatisvaram is distinguished from the musical composition called Gita (song) ; as also from the Varnam , which is a complex composition. In the Jatisvaram, the music is not composed of meaningful words. But, here, the series of sol-fa passages (Svaras) are very highly important. A Jatisvaram composition is set to five Jatis (time-units) of metrical – cyclic patterns (Taala) – say, of 3,4,5,7,9. The basic Taala cycle guides the dancer; and she weaves different types of rhythmic patterns, in terms of the primary units of the dance (the Adavus).

The execution of Jatisvaram is based on the principle of repetition of the musical notes (Svara) of the melody, set to a given Taala. Following that principle, the dancer weaves a variety of dance-patterns.

Thus, what is pure Svara in music becomes pure dance (Nrtta) modulation in the Jatisvaram. The dancer and the musician may begin together on the first note of the melody; and, synchronize to return to the first beat of the Taala cycle; or, the dancer may begin the dance-pattern on the third beat, and yet may synchronize at the end of the phrase of the melodic line. But, the variety of punctuations and combinations within the Jatisvaram format are truly countless. It is up to the ingenuity, the skill and imagination of the dancer to weave as many complex patterns as she is capable of.

Tillana

Tillana is a rhythmic dance that is generally performed towards the end of a concert. A Tillana uses Taala-like phrases in the Pallavi and Anupallavi, and lyrics in the Charanam. It  is predominantly a rhythmic composition.

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Varnam

The Varnam is a highly interesting and complex composition in the Karnataka Samgita. And, when adopted into Dance-form, Varnam is transformed into the richest composition in Bharatanatya. The Varnam, either in music or dance, is a finely crafted exquisite works of art; and, it gives full scope to the musician and also to the dancer to display ones knowledge, skill and expertise.

And , in Dance , its alternating passages of Sahitya (lyrics) and Svaras (notes of the melody) gives scope to the dancer to perform both the Nrtya (dance with Abhinaya) and Nrtta (pure dance movements) aspects. In its performance, a Varnam employs all the three tempos. The movement of a Varnam, which is crisp and tightly knit, is strictly controlled; and, it’s rendering demands discipline and skill. It also calls for complete understanding between the singer and the dancer; and also for the dancer’s ability to interpret not only the words (Sahitya) but also the musical notes (Svaras) as per the requisite time units (Taala). The dancer presents, in varied ways, through Angika-abhinaya the dance elements, which the singer brings forth through the rendering of the Svaras]

Hamsa 4

The Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeshvara is widely used by the teachers and learners of Bharatanatya. The text is concerned mainly with the descriptions and applications of Angikabhinaya in dance. These are body movements composed by combining the movements of body parts; such as: Angas (major limbs); Upangas (minor limbs), and Pratayangas (smaller parts like fingers, etc).

[The Abhinaya Darpana (Chapter 8, Angika Abhinaya Pages: 47 to71) lists, in great detail, the following kinds of body movements under Angika-abhinaya. And, these are followed by the students and the teachers of Bharatanatya.

Shirobheda (movements of the head); Dristibheda (movements of the eyes); Grivabheda (movements of the neck); Asamyukta-hasta (gestures of one hand); Samyukta-hasta (gestures by both hands together); Padabheda (standing postures with Hasta); Sthanaka (Simple standing posture); Utplavana (jumps); Chari-s (different ways of walking, or moving of feet/soles); and, Gati-s (different ways of walking)

In addition, there are other kinds of movements and activities of various parts of the body that are important to Nrtta.]

[The following well known verses said to be of the Abhinaya Darpana are very often quoted

Khantaanyat Lambayat Geetam; Hastena Artha Pradakshayat; Chakshubhyam Darshayat Bhavom; Padabhyam Tala Acherait

Keep your throat full of song; Let your hands bring out the meaning; May your glance be full of expression, While your feet maintain the rhythm

Yato Hasta tato Drushti; Yato Drushti tato Manaha; Yato Manaha tato Bhavaha; Yato Bhava tato Rasaha

Where the hand goes, there the eyes should follow; Where the eyes are, there the mind should follow; Where the mind is, there the expression should be brought out; Where there is  expression , there the Rasa will manifest.]

Hamsa 4

Pindlbandhas

Pindlbandhas (Pindi = cluster or lump) are basically group dances that constitute a distinct phase of the preliminaries (purvaranga) to a play. According to Bharata, the Pindlbandhas were patterned after the dance performed by Shiva along with his Ganas and disciples such as Nandi and Bhadramukha. The purpose of performing the Pindlbandhas, before the commencement of the play proper, was to please the gods; and, to invoke their blessings.

After the exit of the dancer who performed the Pushpanjali (flower offering to gods), The Pindis are danced , by another set of women, to the accompaniment of songs and instrumental music –  anyāścā anukrameātha piṇḍī badhnanti yā striyaḥ- ॥ 279॥

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While describing the physical structure and composition of the Pindibandhas; and the various types of clusters and patterns formed by its dancers, Bharata mentions four types of Pindibandhas that were performed during his time: Pindi (Gulma-lump-like formation); Latha (entwined creeper or net like formation, where dancers put their arms around each other); Srinkhalika (chain like formation by holding each other’s hands); and, Bhedyaka (where the dancers break away from the group and perform individual numbers).

piṇḍī śṛṅkhalikā caiva latābandho’tha bhedyaka piṇḍībandhastu piṇḍatvādgulma śṛṅkhalikā bhavet 288

In short; the Pindibandha is the technique of group formations; and, weaving patterns. Abhinavagupta describes it as ‘piṇḍī ādhāra agādi saghāta,’- a collection of all those basic elements which make a composite whole. It is called Pindibandha, because it draws in all other aspects; and, ties them together. He also states that Agahāras form the core of the Pindibandhas.

 It is said; each variation of a cluster-formation (Pindi) was dedicated to and named after a god or a goddess, who was denoted by the weapons, vehicles, insignia or emblems associated with that deity; and, her/his glory was celebrated through the formation created by the dancers.

Abhinavagupta also explains Pindibandha as the term which refers to the insignia or weapon etc; and, which reminds one of the divinity or concept associated with it.

Pindi adhara-angadi sanghatah; taya badhyate buddhau pravesyate tanu-bhavena sakalaya va vyoma-adaviti pindibandha akrti-visesah

(For instance: Īśvara piṇḍī for Īśvara; Sihavāhinī for Caṇḍikā; Śikhī piṇḍī for Kumar and so on).


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Abhinavagupta explains that in the Pindibandha, the  dancers coming together, can combine in two ways : as  Sajatiya , in which the two dancers would appear as two lotuses from a common stalk;  or as Vijatiya,  in which one dancer will remain in one pose like the swan and the other will be in a different pose to give the effect of lotus with stalk, held by the swan-lady. And, in the gulma-srnkhalika formation, three women would combine; and in the Latha, creeper like formation, four women would combine.

Bharata provides a list of such Pindis in verses 253-258 of Chapter Four. Bharata states that in order to be able to create such auspicious diagrams/formations (citra), in an appropriate manner, the dancers need to undergo systematic training (śikāyogas tathā caiva prayoktavya prayoktbhiḥ – NS.4.291)

The presentation of the preliminaries seemed to be quite an elaborate affair, with the participation of singers, drummers, and groups of dancers.

Tikuli art

The most celebrated type of the Pindibandha Nrtta is, of course, is the Rasalila that Sri Krishna performed with the Goips amidst the mango and Kadamba groves along the banks of the gentle flowing Yamuna under resplendent full moon of the Sharad-ritu.

Srimamad Bhagavatha sings the glory and joy of Rasa-Lila with love and divine ecstasy, in five Chapters from 29 to 33 of the Tenth Canto (Dashama-skanda) titled as ‘Rasa-panca-adhyayi’. (Harivamsa also describes this dance; but, calls it as Hallisaka)

“That night beautified by the autumnal moon (sharad indu), the almighty Lord having seen the night rendered delightful with the blooming of autumnal jasmines  sported with  the Gopis, while he played on his flute melodious tunes and songs captivating the hearts of the Gopis.

Then having stationed himself between every two of these damsels the Lord of all Yoga, commenced in that circle of the Gopis the festive dance known as Rasa-Lila. Then that ring of dancers was filled with the sounds of bracelets, bangles and the kinkinis of the damsels. While they sang sweet and melodious songs filled with love, the Gopis gesticulated with their hands to express various Bhavas of the Srngara-rasa.

With their measured steps, with the movements of their hands, with their smiles, with the graceful and amorous contraction of their eyebrows, with their dancing bodies, their moving locks of hair covering their foreheads with drops of perspiration trickling down tneir gentle cheeks  and with the knots of their hair loosened, Gopis began to sing. The music of their song filled the Universe.”

Rasa Lila – from Vishnu Purana

The Raasa Dance of today is the re-enactment of Krishna’s celestial Rasa-Lila. It is a Pindibandha type of  dance performed by a well coordinated group of eight, sixteen or thirty two men and women , alternatively positioned, holding each other’s hands; forming a circle (Mandala); going round in rhythmic steps  , singing songs of love made of soft and sweet sounding words; clapping each other’s hands rhythmically; and,  throwing gentle looks at each other (bhrubhanga vikasita). Laya and Taala in combination with vocal and instrumental music play an important role in the Rasa dance.

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The direct descendants of the Rasa-Lila Pindibandhas described in the Puranas  are the many types of folk and other types of group in many parts of India :  Raslīlā, Daṇḍaras, Kummi, Perani, Kolāṭṭam and similar other dances. The most famous of them all is the Maha-Rasa of Manipur, performed with the singing of the verses of Srimad Bhagavata.

manipur-ras-lila-

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[When you take an overview, you can see that during the time of Bharata, Nrtta meant a Marga class of dance. And, Tandava and Sukumara were also of the Nrtta type. Though the connotation of those terms has since changed vastly, their underlying principles are relevant even to this day.

In the textual tradition, the framework devised by Bharata continued to be followed by the later authors, in principle, for classification and descriptions of several of dance forms – (even though Nrtta and Nrtya were no longer confined to Drama –Natya). The norms laid down by Bharata were treated as the standard or the criterion (Marga, Nibaddha), in comparison with regional (Desi) other types of improvised (Anibaddha) dance forms, in their discussions. The regional dance-forms , despite their specialized formats,  were primarily based in the basic principles of Natyashastra.

This amazing continuity in the tradition of the Natyashastra is preserved in all the Indian classical Dance forms.]

lotus-flower-and-bud

In the next Part we will talk about Nrtta, Natya and Nritya as they were understood, interpreted and commented upon in the Post-Bharata period, i.e., the medieval times and in the present-day.

Continued

 In

Part Four

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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