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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Eighteen

Lakshana Granthas Continued

Continued from Part Seventeen

12. Nartana-nirnaya of Pundarika Vittala – Part Two

 

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Nartana-nirnaya

The central theme or the focal point of the Nartana-nirnaya is the Nartaka, the Dancer and his performance (Nartana); and, all the other participants – the Taladhari (Cymbal player), Mrudangi (Drummer) and the Gayaka (Singer) – are ancillary to that. And, even the Nataka (Drama) is said to be a mere device to showcase his excellence.

The efficacy of the Nartana , the dance, is determined (Nirnaya) by the performances, the combined excellence and coordination  of  the Dancer (Nartaka) and his troupe (Vrnda), consisting the Singer (Gayaka), the Cymbalist (Tala-dhari), the Mrdangam-player (Mrdangi), flute-player (Mukhari), and the Dance-composer (Nattuva). These components, together, are the determinants (Nirnaya-kari) of the Dance (Nartana); hence the title of the text is Nartana-nirnaya.

shantalamag

The text Nartana-nirnaya is, at times , called as Nartaka-nirnaya , which some scholars opine is also quite appropriate; because , its principal  subject is the Nartaka (dancer); while the Taladhari (cymbal player); the Mrdangi (Mrdangam player), and the Gayaka (singer)  merely support  the Nartaka  as ancillaries.

nartaka

Thus, in a Dance performance, the Nartaka is the most important performer. The next to him, in importance, is the Gayaka, the singer. He is followed, in the diminishing order of importance, by the Mrdangam player and the Taladhari.

Bharatnatyam Music Player

The Nartana-nirnaya comprises four Chapters (Prakarana) each devoted to a type of participant, Viz., Taladhari (Cymbal player); Mrudangi (Mrdangam player); Gayaka (Singer); and, the Nartaka (Dancer). Thus the treatise focuses on the role of the artists involved in presentation of a Dance performance.

But, the very heart of a dance performance is the Nartaka, the Dancer. The other supporting artists supplement the Dance performance, by way of rhythm (Nattuvanga, Taala and Mrudanga); Melody (Raga); and Lyrics (Prabandha). The final Chapter is the very heart of the text; while the earlier three Chapters are about the infrastructural or ancillary support to the Dancer.

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At the beginning of the first Chapter, the author declares his plan to write on five topics:  Taala (rhythm); Vadya (instrumental music); Gita (vocal music); Nartana (Dance), and Natya (Drama) – NN. 1.3.

nartananirnaya

However, for some reason, he did not write the fifth Chapter, relating to Natya. The text of the Nartana-nirnaya, as it has come down to us, has only four Chapters, ending with the Prakarana on Nartana, the Dance.

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The text begins with a set of 34 verses, written in a variety of metres, in praise of the Moughal Emperor Akbar and his ancestors.

Nartana-nirnaya is characteristically different from other works on performing Arts, in regard to the arrangement of the subject-wise chapters; the Divisions and Sub-divisions; organization of the supporting material and exposition.

The Nartana –nirnaya adopts a logical, coherent and a consistent approach in the arrangement and depiction of its subject.

Each Chapter contains considerable, original, conceptual and descriptive matter. Even where it is largely indebted to earlier authorities, it achieves a remarkable degree of ingenuity, clarity by judicious aesthetic arrangement of its topics.

peacock

Sopana-marga

The four Chapters of the text are arranged in what is known as Sopana-marga (or arohana-krama), in the ascending order of importance of the subject matter, like climbing up the stairs. Such a method of exposition; and, the arrangement of its subjects is said to be unique to Nartana-nirnaya.

Accordingly, the Chapter on Taladhari (the Cymbal-player), the one who keeps time and beats (Tala and Jati), appears first; and, is prior to the one on the Mrdangin (Mrdamgam player). And, Chapter on Mrdanga precedes the one on Gayaka.  Finally the performance of the Nartaka (the Nartana) ; and, the Dance, in general (Nrtta) are discussed in the Fourth Chapter.

Following such scheme of arrangement, each chapter (beginning with that of the Cymbal-player) leads on to the next Chapter, which deals with the more important aspect of Dance.  Here, the first two Chapters are concerned with the auxiliary of Dancing, viz., the rhythmic content (Nattuvanga, Tala and Mrdanga); the next (third) Chapter deals with the melodic content (Raga) and the lyrics of the song (Prabandha). The final and the most important Chapter is about Nartaka and Nartana.

The first Chapter, consisting of 260 verses, is on Taladhari, the Cymbal player, who provides rhythm; and, the second Chapter, in 116 verses, is on Mrdangam, the drums.

The Mrdangam and the Tala (Cymbal) provide the rhythm and time-units in terms of Tala and Laya. Of these two, the former is more important; because, his performance is more visible to the spectators – prekshitamukha (NN.2.7a). The Mrdangam player, in a sense, is the leader of the percussion instruments; and, the other percussion instruments look up to him for the lead. He is assigned 116 Slokas. The Chapter on Mrdangam follows that on the Tala.

But, the size of the Chapter on Taladhari is more than twice that on Mrdanga. That is merely because; the former includes about 144 slokas on Marga and Desi Talas and Tala-pratyayas.  Otherwise, both the chapters are almost equal in extant – 127 and 118 Slokas respectively

The next in importance of the  dance performance, is devoted to the Gayaka, who provides the textual and melodic framework for the Dance, in the form of the words, their content and the music (He is assigned 578 Slokas , in two segments concerning Raga , the melody (234 Slokas) and the Prabandha , the text (344 Slokas).

flute player

The role of the flute-player (Mukhari), who just follows the singer and provides the ambiance; but, has no independent function in the dance recital; is described in just 38 Slokas in the Chapter on Dance.

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Eventually, following the hierarchical arrangement of the components of Dance , proceeding in the successive stages of importance, the earlier three Chapters lead to the Fourth and Final Chapter which deals with the most important component of Dance, the Dancer, the Nartaka, himself, the central figure of the performance.

The fourth Chapter, the largest one, having 913 verses, is devoted to Nartaka and his performance. This Chapter starts by defining Nartana, a term used by the author to mean Dance, in general. The Dancer’s (Nartaka) performance is presented in its two aspects: Nartana (dance in general combined with Abhinaya-237 Slokas); and, the Nrtta (pure dance- 676 Slokas).

Here again, the Nartana is said to comprise three kinds: Natya, Nrtya and Nrtta (Natyam Nrtyam Nrttam iti trividham tat prakirtitam); of which, the last is again divided into three types: Visama (difficult, acrobatic), Vikata (hideous) and Laghu (light).

Natya, as the wise explain, is adorned with a narration, teaching, Vritti, Bhava and Rasa; and, is complete with four kinds of Abhinayas (NN.4.3-4)

Nrtya is Dance that is beautiful in all its four components and delighting the hearts of the spectators.

Nrtta is that which provides aesthetic pleasure enjoyed by the people; it is resplendent and spectacular in all its aspects (Angas) through the display of the movements (Vikshepa) of the hands, feet etc., although it is bereft of the Abhinaya –element (NN.4.5-6)

All the types are defined; and, the author reproduces in the first ten verses of the Nartana-Adhikarana, the Sangita-ratnakara’s view that Nrtya and Nrtta may both have varieties of Tandava and Lasya.

Nartananirnaya contents

Outline

Each Prakarana (Chapter) of Nartana-Nirnaya gives, at its commencement, a summary of its content. Further, Each Prakarana begins with a definition of the respective performer, in terms of his function, merits and defects.  It then proceeds to describe and discuss the materials of the performance medium; the techniques; and, the forms of compositional repertoire.

[The exception to this rule is the Chapter Nartana-adhikarana (4.1). Its summary is given at the beginning of Chapter Three at 3.1 and 3.2, thus treating both the Adhikaranas as a single Chapter. ]

Separate lists of the contents for the Tala, Raga, Prabandha, Pratyanga-abhinaya, compositional structural elements etc., are given in the respective Adhikaranas, before taking up their definitions, descriptions or discussions

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The contents of treatise

Taladhari Prakarana

Manjeera

Pundarika Vittala commences his treatise with a prayer to his favorite deity (Ista-Devata) Sri Krishna, the most sublime of the Dancers, sporting the divine Rasa Dance (NN. 1.1.-3. Mangala charanam):

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I bow to that my Lord Sri Krishna, who is the final recourse (Upetu) of all devotees (Yati) for bestowing liberation (Moksha) ; one who is the abode of all classes of mortals; and, one who is immersed in the Rasa Dance  . With that Lord residing in my heart, I shall proceed to narrate the Nartana-nirnaya.

prayer

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At the commencement of his treatise – Chapter One – Taladhari Prakarana – Pundarika Vittala states that the roles assigned to the Taladhari (Cymbal player); the Mrudangi (Mrdamgam player); the Gayaka (singer), the Nartaka (Dancer); as also the substance of the play, form the components of Nartana-nirnaya (NN.1.3)

Then, he says: I shall describes these five elements of Nartana, in an ascending order, starting with the Cymbal player.

nartananirnaya cnotent sloka

The opening Chapter on Taladhari is divided into the following thematic clusters:  the player; his instrument, which is the Cymbal; his stance; performing techniques, varities of the instrumental compositions (Tala- Tala pratyaya tala sadhana) etc. It also lists:

  • The desired qualities of the Cymbal bearer;
  • Paatas (sound syllables) of percussion instruments;
  • Desi Talas
  • Alamkaras, Kavita , likewise the ten sancharas ; performing postures; the method of performing on the Cymbals –Stuti-sabda
  • The composition named Gajara; then Ota; Vakya-sruti bhushana, patachali ; then rudrabhushana , panchadathu
  • Sudakarma (compositions) ; Yati and other Prabandhas , Prahelicas (percussive conundrums), Talas, and other devices ( exact knowledge of them)

As regards the merits (Guna) of the Taladhari, it is said:

  • He should be handsome; having pleasant contours; and, assume an attractive posture while playing.
  • He should be an expert in percussive –instrumental syllables, skilful in string the Cymbals,
  • He should be well conversant with Yati, Prasa, Tala and tempo (Laya). He should have sound knowledge of Graha , such as Sama , specialized in performing soft and harsh ( percussive) syllables; light of hands ( dextrous in playing the Cymbals)
  • He should have adequate skill in picking up in picking up (Graha), in resting (Moksha) during Nattuvanga, corresponding to the vocalized syllables. Similarly, he should be an expert in ten Sancaras, having adequate stamina, and intense attentiveness
  • He should be skilled in Desi Talas; have the capacity to create aesthetic appeal, ability to please and win over the spectators.

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Mrdangi Prakarana

mrdanga Siva

And, the Chapter on Mrdangam is also similarly treated. It enumerates the merits (Guna) and defects (Dosha) of the Mrdangam player; his appropriate stance; techniques in use of fingers, palms; varieties of instrumental compositions; repertoire for accompanying Dance performances ; the merits and defects of his own  performance etc.

The topics described here cover:

  • Varieties of Mrudanga –players called Bharika;
  • Merits and defects of the Mrdangam player;
  • Descriptions of the Mrdanga;
  • Hasta-paatas ; drum syllables;
  • Mrudanga vadana karma – methods of playing the Mrdanga ( concert repertoire); and,
  • performing stance and style of the Mrdangam player

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Gayaka Prakarana

gayaka

The Chapter on Gayaka, the singer, has two segments (Adhikaranas) : one dealing with the melodic aspects (Raga-adhikarana); and, the other with the lyrics and varieties of its compositions (Prabandha-adhikarana).

Gayaka Prakarana – Raga-adhikarana

The first segment (Raga-adhikarana) commences with the definition of the singer;  the role and the importance of the singer in a Dance performance ; his merits and defects; modes of singing; ways of rendering melodic elements in a song – Ragalapa; establishing a Raga.

Here, it is said; the true singer is one who is proficient in Shudda and Chayalaga (Ragas and Prabandhas); one who understands the Murchana, Grama and Tana; and, one who possess profound knowledge of Tala; and , sings with aesthetic delight   – Ranjaka Gitam (NN.2.1).

shuddha

Pundarika lists the merits (Guna) of a singer

  • He should be an expert in Graha and Moksha – competently following and managing  the beginning and end of  the song in Laya and Tala
  • Conversant (Alapti-kovida) is various kinds of Alapti, Sravaka (melodious and heard even from a distance), Sampradayika (traditional);
  • Specialist in bringing out the delicate nuances (Dhvani) of Ragas and Prabandhas , in pleasing and well cultured (Ayatta-kanthavan) sweet and rich voice (Susarira) even while rendering in high( loud) or low ( soft) tone –Savadhanaka; with inflexion curvature  in tone (Kaku); and, skilled in employing
  • Understands and follows closely the Dancer’s movements and the appropriate vocal support the situation needs.
  • Thorough familiarity with both the Marga and Desi Music

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As regards the merits of a song (Gita-guna), they are said to be ten : Vyakta (clarity in the combination of syllables); Purna (complete in all its limbs and Gamaka); Prasanna (readily intelligible); Sukumara (tender , soft); Alamkritam ( endowed with poetic beauty); Sama (evenness in the distribution of the rhythm and pitch); Surakta ( in harmony with the sounds of the Veena); Slakhna (smoothness in the movement from low, middle and high pitches ; and slow and fast tempo);  Vikrasta ( high , distinctly audible); and , Madhura ( sweet, graceful and highly pleasing) – (NN.2.229-230)

vyaktapurna

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The desired qualities of a composer are said to be: through knowledge of Grammar (Vyakarana), figures of speech (Alamkara); prosody (Chhandas); diction, style and a vast and rich vocabulary.

He should have the capacity to compose different varieties of songs; and, have the skill to set the words to match with the music.(NN.2.338)

shabda

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Then, the text moves on to lay down the framework or the structure of the melodic content, the tone-curvatures (Kaku) of the Raga-alapa. That is followed by the varieties of the Alapti, establishing the nature and the mood of the Raga; the lists of the Raga and the descriptions of the Raga, and the descriptions of the Raga-raginis and Ragaputras that are commonly used; their descriptions; appropriate tones and curvatures while rendering the words of the song bringing out its delicate nuances etc.

In this section, Pundarika Vittala largely follows Sarangadeva while enumerating the merits and defects of a Singer , in the matter of presenting various elements  of music and their  facets such as : Nada- Sthana; Sruti; Svara, Grama, Murchana; Tana ; Prastara, Varna; Alamkara; Gamaka; Alapti etc.  That is followed by an exposition on the Ragas; their descriptions and classifications. Here, Pundarika discusses in detail the characteristics of the Raga-families such as: Shudda-bhiravi; Hindola; Desikara; Sriraga; Shuddha-nata; and Nata-narayana;

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Gayaka Prakarana –Prabandha-adhikarana

The segment on Prabandha (Prabandha-adhikarana) – musical compositions following the definitions prescribed for Desi Ragas – deals with two aspects of the song: word (Mathu) and the Music (Dhathu). It is also called as Gana. (NN.3.1)

The segment on Prabandha (Prabandha-adhikarana) – musical compositions following the definitions prescribed for Desi Ragas – deals with two aspects of the song: word (Mathu) and the Music (Dhathu). It is also called as Gana. (NN.3.1)

dhatu matu

Its word-content (Vasthu or Mathu) is analysed into syllabic structures. There is also a mention of the fruits that may accrue to the performer and the patron form their use.

And, the musical content (Dhatu) consists of Raga and Tala. The former is treated in the preceding Raga-Adhikarana; and the latter in the very first Chapter (Taladhari Prakarana); because, it is essential to dance, music and also to song.

That is why Prabandha follows Raga and Tala; and, precedes Nartana

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The Prabandha, here, is first analyzed into melodic and structural elements; and, is classified through them. Pundarika discusses the Six Angas (components) of a Prabandha: Svara (seven musical notes); Birudu (laudatory phrases); Pada (one that expresses meaning); Tenaka (tena-tena sounds); Paata (instrumental sounds); and, Tala (time-units).  It is explained; among these Angas; Tena and Pada are the eyes; Paata and Birudu are the hands; and, Tala and Svara constitute the feet of a Prabandha. The Tena (tena-tena) sounds are the manifestations of auspiciousness (Mangala-kara)- (NN.3.10)

talasvarau

Here, Pundarika Vittala, supplements his explanations with illustrations from the contemporary materials derived from various regions/provinces.

Then, the ancient Prabandhas – textually and orally transmitted – are listed and described. As with the Tala, the Raga, and the Dance forms; the author concludes the topic with the description of the contemporary material taken from different parts of the country. The Chapter concludes with an account of the merits and defects of the song rendering and the music composition.

Here, again, Pundarika Vittala follows Sarangadeva and Kallinatha, while describing the varieties of Prabandhas and their characteristics, in terms of their structure and textual elements. He cites with illustrations, 75 types of Prabandhas spread over:  8 of Shuddha Suda class, 24 of Alikrama, 36 of Viprakirna, and 7 of Salaga Suda variety. Pundarika Vittala provides explanations for their applications in different parts of song –composition.

In the process, he describes eleven Prabandhas that were unique to the traditions of Karnataka:  Chandraprakasha; Suryaprakasha; Navaratna; Vira-srngara; Rudraprakasha; Ranaranga; Dasavatara; Sarabhalila; Caturanga; Rtuprakasha; and, Srngarahara.

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Nartana-prakarana

adavu harini

The Chapter titled Nartana-prakarana is highly relevant to Dancing. And, it is the most important Chapter of the text; and, it is, in fact, the prime factor of the treatise, as it provides the very basis or the cause of its title Nartana-nirnaya.

This Chapter accounts for almost half the size of the text.  And, it is devoted to Nartana, which is presented in two Adhikaranas:  one, dealing with Nartana, the dance form endowed with emotive content, the representational art of dancing, giving expression to emotions through Abhinaya ; and other, with Nrtta which provides aesthetic experience derived from pure form of Dance through disposition, movement and configuration of the various parts of the human body,  employed as a communicative instrument to give a form to its expressions. Here also, Pundarika, largely, follows the explanations provided by previous authorities; such as   Bharata, Abhinavagupta, Kallinatha and Sarangadeva.

Nartaka Prakarana – Nartana_ Adhikarana

This Adhikarana relating to performance of dance – Nartana-prakarana – also deals with the persons involved in the presentation of Dance, such as: Nartaka, Patra, Nartaki, the supporting instrumentalists, the Patron, the audience (Sabha-sada) etc., their merits and defects.

Next, the orchestra in which only the flutist and the flute are discussed, since the other members , viz., Taladhari, Mrdangin, and Gayaka are already discussed in the previous Chapters

Also in the list are the dance-hall, the characteristics of a good dancer, Rekha or the lines created by the movements of the body, the Lasyangas or features of Lasya, Sausthava or standing without any movement, Citrakalasa or concluding movement, Mudra or natural grace, Pramana or harmony, the audience, the person presiding, sitting arrangements, the troupe of musicians, the flute, the entrance of a dancer and various dance-sequences. The actual discussions of these topics are in verses 245 to 656.  Most of the material comes either from the Natyashastra or the Sangita-ratnakara.

While enumerating the desired qualities (Guna) of a Nartaka (Dancer), it is said; he should have a thorough knowledge of all the four forms of Abhinaya;  the requisite skill in maintaining Laya, Tala and Yati; the knowledge of Graha and Moksha; and, above all should have humility, the keen desire to learn and the attractive grace to win the hearts of the spectators.. Besides these, a Dancer of merit should have the capacity to follow vocal and instrumental music; ability to express Rasa and Bhava articulately. (NN.3.325-327)

Then the text goes on to enumerate the items of the dance recital: the opening dance item, entry of the dancer (Mukhacali, including Pushpanjali and various Gatis-strides); Nanadi Slokas invoking the blessings of the gods; the kinds of Urupa, Dhavada, Kvada, Laaga and Bhramari.

Finally the contemporary dance forms from various regions (Desi) are enumerated. These include the dance forms originating from various regions: Sabda, Svarabhinaya, Svaramantha, Gita, Cindu, Dharu, Dhruvapada, Jakkadi and Raasa.

Some of these are classified under Bandhanrtta, the group dances with complex configurations and formations.

These are also of the Anibaddha type, the graceful, simple dances, not restricted by the regimen of the rules etc.

Under Bandha-nrtta, Pundarika includes Mukhacali; Urupa; Dhuvada; Vidulagava; Sabdacali; (also discussed as Sabda-nrtta); Sabda-prabandha; Svara-mantha; Gitapra-bandha; Cindu; Dharu and Dhruv-apada. Their descriptions in verses 668 to 874 show them to be highly structured dance pieces. A group of five Bhramaris is also discussed (in Verses 794 to 98) inserted between the discussions on Vidulagava and Sabda-nrtta.

Next, Anibandha dance is discussed in verses 875 to 898 with its forms given, namely, Namavall; Yati; different Neris; kaivartana; Rnuru, Talariipaka; Gundala; Kamala; Natajanuka; Mandi; Mudupa; Murandari; Kudupa; Tiryakarana; Lavani and Vatu. These have fewer details compared to the discussion of the Bandh-anrttas.

At the end of these descriptions the author refers to these sequences as Anibandha – Urupas, evidently using the term Urupa to denote a broad category of dance. The term Urupa is described in only two works:  in this text; and, in a later work, the Sangita-makaranda of the scholar Vedasuri.

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Abhinaya

Like most works before it, the Nartana-nirnaya also discusses the various types of Abhinaya (that which carries the intent or meaning of the performance to the spectator), namely, Angika-abhinaya, Sattvika-abhinaya and Aharya-abhinaya; and in doing so it follows the Natyashastra as interpreted in the Sangita-ratnakara.

Generally, the representation of meaning – descriptive and representational – is called Abhinaya; and, it is accomplished in four modes: verbal (Vacika), body-movements (Angika), emotional (Sattvika), and costumes as well as make up (Aharya). But in the Nartana-nirnaya, the Vacika, is not discussed; because, it is not much employed in Nartana.  Similarly, there is not much discussion on Aharya.

In verses 11 to 206, Abhinaya is discussed, with the Sattvika, and Angika types of Abhinaya described in detail. The Citrabhinaya is then described in verses 207 to 238.

The Dance is presented through idealistic and dramatized mode of communication (Natya-dharmi) following the theatrical conventions, in preference to the realistic, day-to-day expressions (Loka-dharmi). These two Dharmis together constitute Chitrabhinaya (special representation).

The external objects are suggested through appropriate gestures (Bahya-vastu-anukarani). And, the implicit and symbolic representations are presented through Chitta-vrtti-arpika.

Krishna Holding a Flute and Dancing on a Lotus

Nartaka Prakarana – Nrtta _adhikarana

The segment (Adhikarana) on Nrtta deals with the abstract aesthetic movements and configuration of various body parts. It is virtually about the Grammar of Dance. . It describes the Nrtta element of Dancing with reference to the special configuration of the static and moving elements of the Dance, such as: Sthanaka, Karana, Angahara, Cari, Hasta, Angri, Recaka, Vartana etc., with reference to the appropriate Anga or Pratyanga.

Anga-Pratyanga

According to Natyashastra, for the purpose of Dance, the human body may be divided into six major members or Angas: the head; the trunk; the Arms and the legs together with their respective subdivisions or minor members (Pratyangas). For instance; the Pratyangas of the head are: eyebrows, eyes (eyelashes and eyeballs); nose (nostrils); cheeks, chin, teeth, as also facial colour. Similarly, the Pratyangas of the Arms are: the shoulders; elbows; forearm; wrists; palms (back of the hand); and fingers.

The Nrtta-adhikarana may be treated as the Grammar portion of Nartana-nirnaya where the various movements of the Angas and Pratyangas are comparable to the alphabets, the word formations, phrases, clauses and sentences (in which the conjunctions, prepositions and syntactical rules or conventions are invoked).

However, Pundarika Vittala does not classify the movements of the limbs as those specifically pertaining either to Anga, Upanga or Pratyanga.  But, in verses 239 to 244, where he lists his topics of discussion, he mentions the movements of the parts of the body which, in his view, are of importance. These include the movements of the head, the eyes, the eyebrows, the arms, the hand-gestures and other actions of the hands, the waist and the feet. He also discusses the function of the colour of the face. The list further includes more complicated movements generated from the combination of the movements of the parts of the body, such as the Sthanas or postures; Caris or the movements of one leg; Karanas or dance-units ; and, the  Recakas or oscillating movements.

However, instead of following the usual practice of reproducing the descriptions of the 108 Karanas and the 32 Angaharas details as given in the Natyashastra and the Sangita-ratnakara, the Nartana-nirnaya selects only 16 of the Karanas as those needed in Bandh-anrtya, of which it describes several varieties. The text then proceeds to describe the distinctive features of the various kinds of Anibandha-nrtya. From these descriptions of dance compositions there emerge striking similarities with the classical dance styles of the present time, such as Kathak and Odissi.  Thus, Nartana-nirnaya may thus be regarded as the link between the older and present day traditions of classical Indian dancing

The Nartana-nirnaya is therefore regarded as a major work that throws light on the origins of some of the dance forms – particularly Kathak and Odissi – that are prevalent today.

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Nartana-nirnaya describes in Pratyanga-abhinaya, 19 movements of the head (Shiro-bedha); 36 of eyes (Akshi-bedha); 7 of eyebrows (Bhru-bedha); 4 complexions (Mukha-raga); 16 movements of the arms (Bahu-bedha); 6 of the hips (Kati-bedha); and, 13 of the feet (Anghri-bedha).

These correspond, in name and number, to the enumerations made in Sangita-ratnakara.  But, Pundarika Vittala offers a slightly different set of applications of these Pratyangas.

This is also true of Recaka; Karakarana; Calaka; Hasta-pracara; and, Karakarma.

Nartana-nirnaya has adopted from the Sangita-ratnakara all of the 6 Purusha Sthanakas; but, only 3 of the 7 Stri Sthanakas (excepting the Gatagata, Valita, Motita and Vinivartita)

As regards the Desi-sthanakas, except the Parsni-parsvagata; Eka-prasvagata; Eka-janugata; and, Pravarta are included.

Among the 9 Upavista- sthanakas, the Utkata-sthana has been omitted. It has also omitted all the Supta-stanakas.  Thus, in all, Pundarika selects only 27 among the 51 Sthanakas enumerated in the Sangita-ratnakara.

Again, Sangita-ratnakara describes 86 Caris, classified into 16 Bhumya (touching the ground); 16 Akasha (Aerial); and, 35 Desi Bhumya and 19 Desi Akasha Caris.

But, Nartana-nirnaya gives only 84 of these under Bhumya and Akasha divisions; but , not classified as Marga or Desi Caris.

As regards the Hasthas ( the hands) , as against the 24 single Hasthas (Asamyukta), 13 combined Hasthas (Samyukta) and 30 Nrtta Hasthas ( 67) of Sangita-ratnakara, the Nartana-nirnaya adds 38 more single Hasthas; 17 combined Hasthas; and 32 Nrtta Hasthas

Pundarika Vittala describes only 16 Karanas among the 108 given by Sarangadeva. According to Pundarika, it is only these 16 Karanas that are useful in performing Bhanda-nrtya, structured Dance forms.

Generally, Pundarika follows the descriptions given in the Natyashastra and the Sangita-ratnakara, in regard to the depictions of the Sthanakas, Caris, Hasthas and the Karanas. But, his treatment of these subjects differs, considerably, from that of the others.

Finally, Pundarika Vittala ends the work with two more dance sequences, Jakkadi and Rasa, which he includes under Anibandha dance (875 to 912).

Throughout these descriptions the terms Nrtta and Nrtya are used interchangeably.

*

Rasa-nrtya

krishna dance

Pundarika Vittala had commenced his treatise Nartana-nirnaya with an invocation to his Lord Sri Krishna; and, appropriately, he ends his treatise submitting his prayers to Sri Krishna, the very heart and essence of Rasa Dance.

prayer

And; he concludes the Nartana-nirnaya with a description of Rasa Dance – Rasa-nrtya (NN. verses 664 -672)  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 spring season, celebrating the Vasantha festival.

As the Muraja and other musical instruments play, the pairs of four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two or sixteen pairs of players (Patra) of men young men and women dance in rhythm ; following the Tala and Laya; ; holding in their hand coloured sticks of sixteen Angulas in length, bound with gold and other metals at both ends; perform delightful Caris and Bhramaris; moving around in circles; weaving amazing geometric patterns (mandalibhuya); singing delightfully; then it is called as the most fascinating Dandarasa

And, the same dance performed without sticks is Rasa-nrtya.

**

Upasamhara

The last four verses of the Fourth Chapter contain Pundarika’s concluding remarks (Upasamhara) ; his observations on the general state of Dance; his efforts to bring clarity into a rather muddled practices; and, a final prayer. He says:

The theory and practices (Lakshya-Lakshana) Dance which had become ambiguous (Sandignam) and had shrunk (Sangata) because of the blind traditions has been rescued and rendered simpler by the efforts of Pundarika Vittala.

I have composed this treatise (Sangita), which is much varied in both the aspects of theory and practice of Dance; and is much simpler and easy to follow; in order to please (ruchyartham) Emperor Akbar. May this bring great joy to the hearts of you all, my friends (Suhadam Hrdaye Sukham Bhuyath).

By studying (Drstva) this excellent (Lokottara), varied (Bahutara-bhedam) , beautiful (Sundara)  Nartana-nirnaya, composed by Pandari Vitthala; as also by judicious use of the Art of Sangita as prevailing, may the learned scholars (Pandita) become the Gurus of the new-age and guide along the right path the aspirants desirous of learning and become experts  (Chatura, Agrinam)  in the Arts of Tala, Mrdanga, Singing (Gana), flute playing (Vamsa), and Dancing (Nrtya).

Thus ends the Fourth Chapter entitled Nartaka-Prakarana in Nartana-nirnaya composed by Pandarika Vittala of the auspicious Karnataka region (Karnata-jatiya).

upasamhara

krishna-raas-leela-

 

Sources and References

The primary source on which I have depended upon is Nartana-nirnaya (in three volumes) edited and commented upon by the renowned scholar Prof. Dr. R. Satyanarayana. For Volume Three ; please click here

 For Volume One :please click here

For more on Nartana- nirnaya and other texts on Dance forms ; as also  for the details of the few mentioned here , please do read  Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paper ( The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition

Also refer to Pundarika Vittala by Dr. Padma Rajagopal

(https://sg.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/60012);

And to Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis

ALL IMAGES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Seventeen

Lakshana Granthas Continued

Continued from Part Sixteen

12. Nartana-nirnaya of Pundarika Vittala – Part One

dance posedance

Intro…

In the textual traditions of the Indian Dancing, the Natyashastra; the Brihad-desi and the Sangita-ratnakara are regarded as seminal works; both in regard to the theory and to the practice of Dance, in its various forms. The Nartana-nirnaya of Pundarika Vittala, coming almost four hundred years after Sangita-ratnakara, is another major work

The Nartana-nirnaya is considered a highly significant and an influential text of its period (sixteen-seventeenth century); and, is classed along with the Sangita-ratnakara of Sarangadeva in regard to the quality, the range and the depth of its discussion; and, also in regard to the extent of influence it exerted on the theory and practice of Dancing of the later periods.

The Sangita-ratnakara, in a concise form, had earlier summarized the changes that took place in the field of Sangita (Gita, Vadya and Nrtta) between the time of Bharata and the thirteenth century. In the process, it provided a theoretical basis and a textual authority for further discussions on the theories and practice (Lakshana-Lakshya) of Music and Dance.

The Nartana-nirnaya, following the Sangita-ratnakara, laid the foundation for further several interesting and radical changes that later took place in the practice of the Art forms, especially the Dance.  At the same time, it set aside, many theories and practices that had become obsolete. Thus, the Nartana-nirnaya went beyond the Sangita-ratnakara.

In a similar manner, the Nartana-nirnaya went beyond the Natyashastra.  Like most of the works prior to its time, the Nartana-nirnaya too discusses various types of Abhinaya (Angika-abhinaya, Sattvika-abhinaya and, Aharya-abhinaya) according to Natyashastra, as interpreted in the Sangitaratnakara. However, instead of merely following or reproducing the Natyashastra‘s descriptions of the 108 karanas and the 32 Angaharas, the Nartana-nirnaya selects only 16 of the karanas as representing the essential characteristics of a Bandha-nrtya, a well regulated Dance-form.

 In contrast to that, the text then goes on to describe the distinctive features of the various kinds of Anibandha-nrtya , the free flowing , innovative dance sequences. The Nartana-nirnaya thus covers both the pristine (Marga) as also the improvised, spontaneous regional (Desi) dances, which are now a part of the ’classical dances’ of today.

All the types are defined; and, the author reproduces in the first ten verses, the Sangita-ratnakara’s view that Nrtya and Nrtta may both have varieties of Tandava and Lasya.

To sum up; apart from its deep concern for preserving the past traditions, Nartana-nirnaya presents a clear picture of the state of Arts during the contemporary times. It also introduces many new elements, components, techniques and terms into the theory and practice of Dancing. Thus, the Nartana-nirnaya not only encapsulates its past and its contemporary scene; but also serves as a guide and an inspiration for the Dance forms to follow. Therefore, the Nartana-nirnaya could be said to  a path –finder; and a golden link (svarna-setu) that brings together the older and present day traditions of classical Indian dancing.

dance-Collage

Background

The Nartana-nirnaya comes about four hundred years after Sangita-ratnakara. This period between these two texts was marked by several interesting and rather radical changes and transformations that were taking place in India, in the field of Arts.

The Nartana-nirnaya was composed in the sixteenth century, while Pundarika Vitthala (or Pandari Vitthala) was in the service of the Mughal Court.   Pundarika Vitthala, a versatile artist, scholar and an author, had the opportunity to witness and experience the diverse regional traditions of India as also the newer practices derived from Persia. Pundarika Vittala mentions that he wrote the Nartana-nirnaya, concerning music and dance, at the suggestion of Emperor Akbar, to cater to his taste – Akbara-nrupa rucyartham idam krutam (NN.4.2.675)

Akbar nrupae icchartha bhuloke sangitam / krutamidam bahu tara bhedam sah-hrudam hrdaye sukam bhuyath // N N 53 b //.

In the world, this simple Sangita is created with a lot of varieties in order to please the king Akbar. May it please the heart of the goodhearted ones.

The Royal Courts of Raja Man Singh, Raja Madhav Singh and Akbar provided the forum for interaction between the North and South Indian traditions on one hand; and, between Indian and Persian practices on the other. This surely was an interesting period when diverse streams of Art came together and fused into enterprising new forms; and, therefore, it is aptly termed as the watershed period of Indian Music and Dancing.

This was a vibrant period in the development of Music and Dance, in general. It was during this period that the standardization of Ragas, their classification into major groups (Melas) based on the structure of their notes (Svras); theoretical principles interpreted in terms of the position of the frets on the Vina (Vina-mela); ten types of Tala ( time-units)

Thus, the Nartana-nirnaya came into being in a fascinating, invigorating and an altogether different ambiance, providing opportunities and a forum for interaction between the different Schools of the North and the South; as also between the Indian (Desi) and Persian (Yavana) practices.  Each of its Chapters reveals flashes of originality, innovation and ingenuity in adopting the newer, contemporary trends and practices into the traditional formats.

Though it is primarily based in the Natyashastra and the commentaries of Sarangadeva and Kallinatha, it, in essence, is an original treatise on Indian Music and Dancing. The Nartana-nirnaya is, therefore, regarded as an authoritative and a creative text. As regards Music, it set new trends into motion by bringing together the best in the Karnataka Sangita, Hindustani Music and the Persian Music.  And in dance, it brought into the fold of what could be called Classical Dance, the techniques of Persian Dance as also the idioms of folk dancing.

dance_mh39mj84

**

The subject matter central to Nartana-nirnaya is Dancing. The technical details of Dance as detailed in the Nartana-nirnaya are an important source for reconstructing the history of Indian music and dance during the middle period. This was also the time when the old practices were fading out and new concepts were stepping in. For instance, by the time of Pundarika Vittala, the 108 Karanas were reduced to sixteen. At the same time, dance formats such as Jakkini, Raasa nrtya were finding place among traditional type of Dances.

dance shakthidance rasasdance yamini

In his work, Pundarika Vitthala does not confine only to the traditional dances of India and Persia; but, he also describes the various dance traditions of the different regions of India that were practiced during his time. The information he provides on regional dance forms is quite specific, in the sense that he points to the part/s of India from where the particular style originated, the language of the accompanying songs and the modes its presentation. The Nartana-nirnaya is, therefore, an invaluable treasure house on the state of regional dance forms as they existed in the sixteenth century India

dance forms333

NatyaNrtya and Nrtta

While explaining the title of his work (Nartana-nirnaya); and, the use of the term Nartana, generally, to mean ‘Dance’, Pundarika said that by Nartana he meant it to be a general class name for Dance. And, that the term Natrana would cover the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. The last (Nrtta) would again be subdivided into three other types:  visama (acrobatic), vikata (ludicrous) and laghu (light and graceful), identified respectively as rope-dancing, a comic dance, and a dance based on easy karanas.

Thus, it seems, while Nartana stood for the general class name; the other three were its sub-divisions.

As regards the definition of these terms, Pundarika said he would be adopting those offered by Sarangadeva (11th century).

And, Sarangadeva had, in turn, followed the explanations given by the earlier writers like Somesvara, Dhananjaya and such others (perhaps Nadikesvara too?)

According to those explanations, generally (although there were some slight variations among them):

Natya: refers to an Art form that gives forth Rasa (ultimate aesthetic enjoyment); and, 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.

Nrtya:  is 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

Nrtta: is the display of smart looking (shobhahetu) limb movementsin tune with attractive and catchy Taala (rhythm) and Laya (tempo) – Nrttam Taala Laya ashrayam (DR.I. 9). But, in itself, it is devoid of meaningful content; and, is valued for its mere visual beauty of body movements (gatrasya viksepaha).

*

Nandikeshvara (Abhinayadarpana-1. 15-16) had earlier distinguished Nrtya from Nrtta, thus:

Bhavabhinaya-hinam tu nrittamitya-abhidhyate | Rasabhava-vyanjana adi yuktam nrityam ity uchyate

And, Sarangadeva said that Nrtya and Nrtta can both be of two kinds –Tandava and Lasya (SR. 7. 28); and, while Tandava is uddhata (vigorous), the Lasya is of Lalita (delicate) movements (SR. 7. 29- 30).

But, Pundarika, 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.

Nrtta Nrtya Natya

Marga-Desi  / BhaddhaAnibhaddha 

But, the more significant theoretical aspect of Nartana-nirnaya is the adoption of the two sets of concepts to classify the Dance forms.

Pundarika adopts Marga and Desi class concepts into the Lakshana and Lakshya   (theory and practice) of Dance, for classifying its forms.  

And then, he introduces a novel feature (hitherto not tried by anyone else); which is the principles of Bhaddha (structured) and Anibhaddha (neither bound nor structured) for stratifying the dance forms into two separate classes.

(1) Marga and Desi

Pundarika carried forward the practice of the earlier scholar-writers who distinguished the dance forms along the lines of Marga and Desi. The term Marga (literally ‘of the way’ or ‘path’) refers to those arts that adhere to codified rules; while Desi is understood as the unregulated regional variations.   

The concepts of Marga and Desi were originally introduced into Music by Matanga in his Brhaddeshi (around seventh or eighth century) to distinguish the pure and well-structured Music (Marga) from the innovative regional melodies (Desi).

As regards the dance forms; by about the eleventh century, Somesvara adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the then existing Dance forms. Later, around the same time, Sarangadeva, in his Sangita-ratnakara, systematically presented the Marga and Desi forms as distinct styles of dance. 

Here, in these texts, the classical style, that is the one codified by Bharata in the Natyashastra; and, acknowledged by tradition   as the core of classical art, was regarded as the Marga.  The Nrtya, for instance, was classified under Marga form of dance.

The regional and popular dance styles, with easy movements, that allowed more freedom, greater improvisation, within the given framework, were classified under Desi. The Nrtta, for instance, was treated as a Desi form of dance.

Pundarika Vitthala, in his Nartana-nirnaya, also adopted the Marga-Desi classification to categorize the different dance forms. Nartana-nirnaya describes several entirely new dance forms that were popular during its time.

*

(2) Bhaddha  and Anibhaddha

The Nartana-nirnaya marks a major conceptual departure, primarily by following the structural principle of classifying Dance forms into two divisions: namely, Bandha, or styles that rigidly adhered to set rules of composition; and Anibandha, styles that did not do so and allowed innovations by the dancer. The texts of the earlier period, including Sangita-ratnakara, followed the approach of the Natyashastra. But, in the post-Nartananirnaya period, the classification of Dance forms along the lines of Bandha and Anibandha became part of their conceptual framework.

*

Matanga had earlier classified Music  into two classes –Nibhadda and Anibhadda –  the one that is regulated and structured with Dhatus (elements) ; and , the other  that is not structured (un-bound).

According to Matanga’s classification:  Anibaddha Gita is free flowing music that is not restricted by Taala; it is also   free from disciplines of Chhandas (meter) and Matra (syllables); and, it does not also need the support of compositions woven with meaningful words (Pada or Sahitya).

In fact, neither Taala, nor Grammar, nor lyrics – has a role to play in the Anibaddha Samgita. Sarangadeva explains Anibaddha as Aalapa, which is not bound or which lacks rules (bandha-hinatva) – Alapir bandha-hinatvad Anibaddham itirita (Sangitaratnakara: 4.5).

And the Nibaddha Gita, in comparison, is a rendering of a pre-composed structured musical composition that is governed by Chhandas and Taala; and has words (meaningful or otherwise); as also has a definite beginning and an end. In short; it is a composition (like Prabandha, Giti, and Kriti etc.)

peacock3

Pundarika was the first scholar to apply the Nibaddha – Anibhaddha type of classification to Dance forms. That is to say; almost 1500 years after these terms came into use in music, Pundarika Vitthala’s work applied them to Dance forms, in order to segregate well-structured dance forms from rather free flowing regional dances.

While both parts followed certain rules of structure and of exposition, Anibaddha was comparatively loose in its construction since it was free of the regimen of Taala.  The Anibandha-nrttas are, thus, flexible in both form and content, within the broadly specified aesthetic frameworks.

Dr. Mandakranta Bose observes:

It would seem that the Anibandha-nrttas were unlike any other dance pieces described in the literature before the Nartana-nirnaya.   The Anibandha-nrttas seemed to be short dance-sequences, using which a dancer could choreograph her own piece. Thus, they have the same function in the dancer’s choreographic design as the karanas of the Marga tradition. But, their structural principle is entirely different from that of karanas, in that they are entirely flexible as to their components and structure while karanas are of course rigidly set structures.

*

Roughly, it would seem the Bandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there already were prescribed formats and rules ; while, the Anibandha-nrttas denoted dances for which there were none or minimal.

A traditional Bhaddha-nrtta was more rigorously constructed, bound as it was by the constraining patterns of Taala; and, was performed by dancers who were appropriately trained; and, who could interpret a composition perfectlyexecuting all the movements in detail and precisely as per the prescribed sequence.

Pundarika grouped under the Bandha-nrtta class, those dances that were characterized by yati, tala, laya, sthana, Cari and hasta etc. as prescribed in the ShastrasHe enumerated twelve varieties; and, described in detail their specific movements, their structured sequences, including karanas (N2V.43a-45b)

*

All the other dance forms were drought under Anibandha Dance form. The principle of Anibaddha allowed the dancer a considerable degree of freedom, encouraging her to search for and to create, through her ingenuity, novel aesthetic expressions. This was a major departure from the regimen that required the dancer to rigorously follow the prescriptions of the texts. The opportunities to come up with artistic innovations, within the framework of the tradition, helped to infuse enterprise and vitality into dance performances. The dance became more alive.

In the Nartana- nirnaya, the Anibandha dances are described in two parts; the first consisting of twenty-one Anibandha-urupas (denoting a broad category of dance sequences formed with the karanas); and, the second, consisting two Anibandha-nrtyas. Of the two, some of the Anibandha-nrtyas come from Persia. And the other is Raasa, which includes the form called Dandarasa, the group dances associated with Lord Krishna and the Gopis (NN. 53a-b). Raasa is the only dance recorded by Pundarika which seems to have continued over centuries and is found even today in at least two regions of India, Gujarat and Manipur.

rasa mandal

*

Fresh perspective

Though the Natyashastra continued to be the authoritative source book, which lays down the basic principles of the performing arts; and, identifies the range of body movements that constitute dancing, in the later times, many works on dancing followed the Nartana-nirnaya’s approach to the categories of dance; and, that eventually became part of their conceptual framework.

The emphasis of the later texts tended to shift away from the Marga of the Natyashastra; but, lean towards the newer forms of Desi Dances with their improvised techniques and structural principles. Apart from increase in the varieties of regional dance forms, a number of manuals in regional languages began to appear. These regional texts provide a glimpse of the state of Dance as was practiced in different regions.

Dr. Mandakranta Bose observes:

Bharata’s account represented only a small part of the total body of dance styles of the time. When new styles became prominent in the medieval period they had to be included in the descriptions of dancing. Such a widening of frontiers meant a great increment of technical description in the texts.

The distinction between the Natyashastra and the later texts is not merely one of detail. Of greater significance is the fact that unlike the Natyashastra, the later texts recognize different styles. These are distinct from the one described by Bharata, the main path or Marga tradition of dancing. The later texts concern themselves more and more with other styles, known, generically, as Desi, whose technique and structural principles are sufficiently different from the style described by Bharata…

Thus, the evolution of Indian Dance system is a dynamic process that absorbed new elements and techniques without compromising its basic tenets. It, thus, demonstrates the time-honored Indian principle of growth: continuity along with change.

peacock3

Historical significance

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, in her very well researched paper (The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition )  stresses the historical importance and relevance of Nartana-nirnaya; and , states   :  This text  offers us a major breakthrough in understanding both the evolution and the continuity of the art of dance;  because , it enables us to reconstruct the styles prevalent at a transitional period in the cultural history of India.

Thus, Nartana-nirnaya serves as a bridge that spans between the older and present-day traditions of classical Indian dancing.

gtsk69h

It was during this period, the Persian influence, through the Mughal Court , entered into Indian dancing, giving rise to a new style of  Dance form, the Kathak.  This period was also marked by the emergence of the Dance forms that were not specifically mentioned in the Natyashastra – the Uparupakas. This genre of musical dance dramas not only came to be admitted into the mainstream of dancing, but also eventually became the dominant type of performing art, giving rise dance forms such as Odissi, Kuchipudi etc.

Dr. Bose also concurs that such connection seems highly plausible. The text, according to her, was part of the cultural world of the Mughal court that nurtured Kathak. She points out that several technical terms used in Nartana-nirnaya match those used in Kathak today. And she goes on to say:

One important contribution of the Nartana-nirnaya is the evidence we may draw from it to establish firmly the time of the origin of two major styles of India today, namely, Kathak and Odissi. There has always been some controversy about the evolution of these two styles. Dance historians in general are agreed that while the roots of Kathak go back to ancient Hindu culture, its present form is derived from dancing styles imported by Mughal rulers. There is no doubt that Kathak did absorb some Persian influence, but the case for that influence is overstated. This can be easily seen by comparing the detailed descriptions found in the Nartana-nirnaya with the movements of Kathak. The style described in the Nartana-nirnaya is, of course, not termed Kathak, a name that came into use much later, but the descriptions clearly show it to be the same as what we know today as Kathak.

Karya tatra dvidha nrttam bhandakam ca nibhandakam / gatyadi niyamayur yuktam bhankam nrtta mucchyate ; anibhaddam tvaniyamaad..

*

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; because, 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….

[The renowned Dancer Smt. Maya Rao in her article “The Hastas in Kathak”, observes

In Kathak, the body as a whole is visualized as the prime medium of expression. For instance; if the dancer intends to represent the moon, not only will his hands show the Ardha-chandra Hasta, but his body will also bend in an arch to suggest the idea of a crescent moon.

The same approach to elaborating and dramatizing basic movements is found in the Nartana-nirnaya. The description of a dance called Lavani includes an almost identical movement in which the dancer bends her body from her waist in Ardha-chandra.

*

Two of the most distinctive movements of Kathak are Chakkars and Tatkars. A Chakkar is a rapidly spinning movement while a Tatkar means to stamp on the ground with one foot or both; and, marking the rhythm with ankle bells. Chakkar can be identified as the Chakra-bhramari mentioned in the Nartana-nirnaya, which describes it as a spinning movement (NN. 47b).

It is true that the Bhramaris were known long before the time of the Nartana-nirnaya.  Bharata referred to them; but did not give them the prominence that they later received in the Nartana-nirnaya. The revolving movements are of course integral to all dance styles; but, in classical styles, other than Kathak, the movements are never fast enough, nor sustained enough to achieve the aesthetic form that a Chakkar creates in Kathak. It is the speed of revolution that sets it apart and it is precisely this element of fast spinning, comparable to that of the pirouette that we find in the description of Chakra-bhramaris in the Nartana-nirnaya.

In its discussion of revolving movements the Nartana-nirnaya also describes Tirapa-bhramari. [NN 47b: Revolving obliquely with both the legs after crossing them is Tirapa-bhramari]. A similar movement termed as Tirapa is used in Kathak as well.

*

As for the Tatkar, it clearly corresponds with the Gharghara, of which details are given in both Nartana-nirnaya and Sangita-ratnakara.

 (NN. 50a) Where striking the ground to make the sound of the ankle bells,  it is known as Gharghara.

 (NN.52b-53a) Where the song is sung by the dancer in the language of the Yavana, holding her veil, words uttered with kalla etc. and Gajara etc. ;  and beautified with Ahahga, the dance should be performed being adorned with various three Layas. When this dance is performed with soft movements adorned by Bhramaris , where the Kriya (keeping time with hands) is done with sounded beat in accordance with the difference between Dhruva and Samya, that dance, which is devoid of effort and action, is known as Jakkadi. Thus, the song sung by the experts from Persia using Udgraha, Svaras etc. and in vernacular is known as Jakkadi which is the favourite of the Yavanas.

This Dace sequence is an almost exact description of the Ghungat-gat, one of the best known compositions in Kathak.

The Nartana-nirnaya describes a certain Anibandha-nrtta as follows:

(NN. 52b) Where [the dancer] contracts one of her toes with the big toe extended, shakes her shank after extending it with various quick [movements] and with Gharghar is [that is, tinkling her ankle bells] it is known as Kudupa.

Precisely this action can be recognized today in Kathak when the dancer beats a fast tattoo on the ground to create rhythmic sounds with her ankle-bells.

*

Further, in Kathak ,  Yati or the rhythmic arrangement of the tempo is divided into five categories, sama, srotagata, gopucchika, pipilika and mrdangi. The Nartananirnaya lists the same types of yatis similar in every detail, although it includes a sixth type, kharjurika . Another term, kuvada, used in Kathak to denote the climax of a complex rhythmic pattern is also found in the Nartana-nirnaya.

 *

Such  similarities offer good reason to believe that the style described in the Nartananirnaya was something very much like Kathak, since it required musical elements similar to those needed for Kathak. The argument becomes even more persuasive when we examine the specifics of the dance technique. But first let us briefly consider the typical characteristics of Kathak as known today

The correspondence between Kathak and Anibandha-nrtta is important not only for discovering the roots of Kathak but also for understanding the value that came to be attached to improvisation in medieval times. In contrast with the prescriptive nature of the descriptions found in the earlier texts, those in the Nartana-nirnaya and its contemporaries allow the dancer more structural flexibility while retaining the basic movements described by Bharata and his successors.]

 kathak-classical-festival-1539181385

As regards Odissi, Dr. Bose observes:

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. (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.  Tribhangi, 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 that are 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.

(NN. 53a) When the performer revolves touching the ground either with both the knees or with both the legs describing a circle [while her] back is bent [backwards] with her hands in lata then it is known as batu [and its] movement is like [moving] in the orbit of the sun.

This sequence is one of the twelve urupas described in the Nartananirnaya. Urupas are sequences formed with the karanas prescribed for bandhanrtta and are danced to specified varieties of yati, tala and laya. Specific sthana, cari and hand gestures characterize them. Using these twelve urupas a dancer can reconstruct a composition as described in the Nartananirnaya, which will not be far from what we see being performed by artists today. In Odissi we do find similar compositions. Such close correspondences are now proving to be of particular interest to many dancers and teachers who are trying to reconstruct older dance  forms by following the Sanskrit manuals.

*

Again, there is a correspondence between Odissi and the movements described in the Nartana-nirnaya.  The Text  describes the use of hand gestures to express seven principal musical notes (Svaras) . Each note, according to the author, is a correlative of a bird or an animal, which is represented by hand gestures, as the following passage explains:

 (NN. 20b) Peacock, rain bird, goat, heron, cuckoo, frog and elephant are the seven (notes starting with) Shadja etc that should be recited in order. [Sa=Mayura (peacock); Ri = Chatak (rain bird); Ga=Chag (goat); Ma= Krauncha (heron); Pa=Kokila (cuckoo); Dha = Dadur (frog); and , Ni= Gaja; elephant ].

Indiandance_1600x897

 

Pundarika Vittala

Before we move on to a brief discussion on the structure and contents of the Nartana-nirnaya, let’s take a look at its author: Pundarika Vittala, a renowned a musician-scholar.

Pundarika Vittala (16th century) describes himself as a person hailing from Karnataka – Karnata Desiya – born in the village of Sathanur, situated near the Shivaganga Hills (about 50KMs from Bangalore).

Karnate Shivaganga abhidana giri nikate, Satanur-hrudaye yo gramasta janma pravarasunikarath Jamadagni yo asmita vamsa

He refers to his father as Vitthalarya (Vitthalayya) of Jamadagni Gotra – (Tarta Vitthalaryo bhavad amitaya sa sadgunakhya; tat suno ragachandrodaya iti bhaja-SC.3, 57)

He gives his mother’s name as Demaka (RJ.2.77) (Demaka janani-nijasuta Vittalakrta Ragamanjarike yam)

The shrine of Vitthala-raya-swami located about ten KMs from the town of Magadi is believed to be family deity (Kula-devata)

*

Pundarika Vittala was a remarkable link between the Art traditions of the South and of the North. After moving away from his native country, Pundarika Vittala settled down in the North, initially under the patronage of Muslim King Burhan Khan  in Anandavalli  (near Nasik) in the district of Khandesh. He then moved on to other Royal Courts in the Western and North India.

He was an expert in what is today known as Karnataka Sangita, Hindustani Music, Dancing, Lexicography and Dramaturgy. He later got familiar with Persian Music. He describes North Indian Music forms such as Dhrupad, Jakkari and Raasa etc. He wrote a series of books concerning Music of North India. He exhibits a broader view of the contemporary Arts and their practices in various regions of the country.

While in the Court of Burhan Khan of Khandesh, at Anandavalli, during 1560-1570, Pundarika Vittala wrote his famous work – Sad-raga-chandodaya – having three Chapters titled as: Svara-prasada, Svara-mela prasada, and Aalapi-prasada.  It is a very extensive text, covering almost all the aspects of Music. In this work, Pundarika deals with both the Southern and Northern systems of Ragas ; and, classifies them under nineteen Thats or parent scale, viz.: Mukhari, Malava-gaula, Sri, Suddha-natta, Desaki, Karnata-gauda, Kedara, Hijeja, Hamir, Kamode, Todi, Abhiri, Suddha-varati, Suddha-ramakri, Devakri, Saranga, Kalyana, Hindola and Nada-Ramakri.

In this text, Pundarika Vittala introduced; and, almost adopted Ramamatya’s system of 19 Melas (as in his Svara-mela-kalanidhi) to the North Indian Music. He was, perhaps, the first Musicologist to undertake such an exercise. Out of these nineteen original (Mela) Ragas, he attributes five of them to their respective derivative forms (janya-raga). But, he changed the names and scales of several Melas.

Of the 19 Melas listed by Pundarika Vittala, 11 are identical with those mentioned by Ramamatya:  Mukhari, Malavagaula, Sri, Shuddhanata, Desaksi, Karnatagaula, Kedaragaula, Abhiri, Shuddhavarali, Shuddharamakri and Nadanamakri. As regards the other eight Melas either their notes are different or their names as well as their names are different (few of them have only one note different).  For instance; Ramamatya‘s Hejuri becomes Pundarika’s Hijeja. Similarly Vasanthabhairavi becomes Todi; and, Saranganata becomes Saranga.

*

His next treatise named Ragamala, was probably, written under the patronage of the Jaipur princes, Madho Singh and Man Singh Kacchwas. It is believed; Ragamala  was written during 1576 for one Kapila muni (Srimath Kapilamuniyarthe  kriyate Raga –maalikah) ,

Here, Pundarika Vittala classifies the Ragas (Raga-Ragini Parivara) under six male Ragas. And, attributes to each Male raga, five Raginis – ‘spouses’ (bharyyas) and five ‘sons’ (Raga putra) — totalling 66 Ragas. He also gives the details related to their Svaras, such as:  graha, amsa, nyasa etc.  He also explains the Raga structures in terms of:  nada, sruti, svara, sthana, grama, murchana, tana, etc.

In all, he covers six Male Ragas – with five Raginis and five Putra (sons) for each Male Raga- totaling 66 Ragas.

 *

Later, when he moved to the court of the Prince Madhavasimha and Manasimha who ruled from Jaipur as the feudatory of Akbar, Pundarika Vittala wrote his third treatise:  Raga Manjari 

In his writings, Pundarika Vittala carried forward the work of Gopala Nayaka (14th century) of grafting Karnataka music on to the newly evolving North Indian music.  Raga Manjari shows a further leaning towards North Indian Music, although the set of twenty Melas is the same as in his earlier Sad-raga-chandrodaya. He adopts the typical North Indian classification of Ragas as: Male (Purusha), female (Stri) and infant (Putra) Ragas.

But the interesting feature of this work is the recognition of as many as sixteen Persian melodies; and, relating them to the Indian Ragas by their nearest equivalents.

(1) Rahayi – Deva-gandhara (2) Mahur – Saranga (3) Desh – Ahanga (4) Suhaya – Kedara (5) Huseni – Jijavanta (6) Yaman – Kalyana (7) Deshkar – Vakhrej (8) Devangyo – Devagandhara-Mushakakya (9) Kanara – Nishavara (10) Jangula – Bangala (11) Vara – Malhara (12) Danasya – Irak (13) Sarparda – Bilaval (15) Malave – Muslik (16) Asavari – Hijjeja

Most probably, these imported melodies had already secured a place in the then current Indian music of the North; and, the author only confirmed the practice by including them in his work and by indicating their characters by assigning them to their places in relation to the Indian models.

According to the great  Scholar Pundit VN Bhatkhande, it distinctly shows that Pundarika Vittala had come into contact with the music and musicians of North India , perhaps   in  Delhi or Agra, because the names of Ragas  he mentions , like Chanri, Gowdi, Musali, Iraq, Bakharej, Yemen, Husaini,  and  Tirban  distinctly belong to that region.

.**

However, the fame of Pundarika Vitthala rests mainly on Nartana-nirnaya concerning Dance and dramaturgy, composed, in the sixteenth century, while he was in the service of Emperor Akbar.

Posthumous_portrait_of_Mughal_Empreror_Akbar

By the time of Akbar, the Persian art and music had vastly influenced the cultural life of India, particularly the milieu surrounding the Mughal court. Though the regional traditions did exist, the Persian tradition was the dominant one.

Pundarika Vitthala, while in the Mughal Court, had the opportunity to watch, to appreciate and to enjoy excellent presentations of the Persian oriented dances and music. He also had the privilege of discussing varied issues related to Art with the Persian scholars and connoisseurs attached to the Royal Court. 

The Nartana-nirnaya, an authentic text on dance and dramaturgy, written in a variety of metres (chhandas), has four chapters, one each on, rhythm (259 verses); drum (116 verses); vocal music (579 verses); and, on Dance (the largest, with 916 verses).

And, at the outset, Pundarika states that along with the various regional styles of dancing he would be describing the dance of the Yavanas, (meaning, the Persians). Pundarika Vitthala, with great sensitivity, lays down a framework for bringing about structural changes in the fields of Indian Music and dance.

The Nartana-nirnaya is indeed a major work that throws light on the origins of some of the dance forms – particularly Kathak and Oddisi – that are prevalent today. But, it is sad that Nartana-nirnaya has not received the level of attention and depth of study that it rightly deserves.

**

In the next part, let’s take a look at the structure and the contents , in brief, of the Nartana-nirnaya.

theme

Continued

In the

Next Part

 

Sources and References

The primary source on which I have depended upon is Nartana-nirnaya (in three volumes) edited and commented upon by the renowned scholar Prof. Dr. R. Satyanarayana. For Volume One, please click here. For Volume three please click here.

For Volume One :please click here

For more on Nartana- nirnaya and other texts on Dance forms ; as also  for the details of the few mentioned here , please do read  Dr. Mandakranta Bose’s research  paperThe Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition

Also refer to Pundarika Vittala by Dr. Padma Rajagopal

(https://sg.inflibnet.ac.in/handle/10603/60012);

And to Musicological Literature by Emmie te Nijenhuis

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

ashtalakshmi2 (1)

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.

*

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, Sattaka 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.

[Though the Natyashastra had not specified  the varieties of Uparupakas, in the later times their numbers varied according to the whim of each author. For instance; Abhinavagupta refers to nine types of Uparupakas; Dhanika mentions seven types as being Natya-bheda (varieties of dance forms) ; Sahityadarpana mentions eighteen types; Natyadarpana recognizes only thirteen of these eighteen types, because they were said to be the only ones that were mentioned by the Vruddhas (the elders) or Chirantanas (ancient ones) ; Raja Bhoja refers to twelve types; but, the largest number seems to have been listed in Bhavaprakasana , which mentions as many as twenty Uparupakas , including Natika, Prakaranika, Sattaka, Trotaka etc., which are almost as good as the Nataka .

The fact that there was no unanimity among various authors either in the numbers or in the definition of the Uparupakas, merely suggests that this from of Rupaka was evolving all the time; improving; and, continuously  undergoing changes and modifications in their nature and form, aiming to attain a near-perfect musical dance format. 

It is explained the prefix ‘Upa‘ should not be taken to mean ‘minor’ ; but, it should be understood as referring to the types that are ‘very near’ to the Rupakas, but, having a preponderance of dance and music.]

**

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 or Javanika); 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. It is composed in the graceful Kaisiki Vrtti; and, have an abundance of Adbhuta Rasa (wonder and amazement). 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.]

madhubani

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.

fine-arts1

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 hand-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. It was also here that the folk forms sublimated into classical form.

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.

Dance_theatre_7

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 :

:- the prominence accorded 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 an appropriate manner ;

:- 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.

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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.

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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