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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Eleven

Continued From Part Ten

Lakshana Granthas – continued

6.Abhinaya Darpana

abhinaya555

The Abhinaya Darpana, a comprehensive text describing various gestures, postures and movements in Dance is ascribed to Nandikeshvara. However, the identity of this Nandikeshvara; his period; and, the other works associated with him are much debated. It is very likely that were many persons during the ancient periods that went by the name of Nandikeshvara. And, quite a few of them seemed to have been scholars, who were well versed in the theoretical principles of Dance, Music and other branches of knowledge.

Two works on dancing are traditionally attributed to Nandikesvara: the Abhinaya Darpana and the Bharatarnava. But, the question whether they were written by the same Nandikesvara is again debated. It, however, looks doubtful; because, the contents of the two texts differ, a great deal. Further, the date of the Bharatarnava is also not decided.

The edition of Bharatarnava, which available in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research InstitutePune, is said to be a larger work, having 998 verses spread over 15 Chapters. And, in addition, it has an Appendix (Parisista) consisting of 251 verses. The scholarly opinion deems it prudent to assume that the Abhinaya Darpana and the Bharatarnava were authored by two different persons who, perhaps, lived during different periods. We shall briefly talk about Bharatarnava in the next part.

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The date of the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeshvara is rather uncertain. The scholars tend to place it in or close to the medieval period; because, it divides dance into three branches: Natya, Nrtta and Nrtya. But, such distinctions did not come about until about the twelfth century, just prior to the time of Sangita-ratnakara  (13th century). Also, the Abhinay Darpana views Tandava and Lasya as forms of masculine and feminine dancing, which again was an approach that was adopted during the medieval times.

Though Nandikesvara acknowledges the importance of all four kinds of Abhinayas, in his work Abhinaya Darpana, he focuses, almost exclusively, on the Angika-abhinaya – gestures, postures and movements of the hands, feet and other limbs, in Dance.

Abhinaya literally means carrying forward towards the spectator. The Angika-abhinaya or gestures is an essential part of the dance-language. It is that which expresses Bhavas (states) by means of bodily gestures and movements (Angika), in Nrtya. Abhinaya also includes elements of Vachika and Sattvika, which are meant for suggesting actions thoughts and emotional states of the character (Bhaved abhinayo vasthanukarana). And, the other element of the Abhinaya is Aharya, the costumes, makeup of the performers as also other accessories on the stage.

Angika-abhinaya, in Drama and Dance, uses artistic gestures, regulated by the character’s bearing, walk and movements of features and limbs. It follows the stylized Natyadharmi mode of depiction.

Nandikesvara’s primary concern in his work is Angika-abhinaya; and, he presents a detailed analysis of various kinds of gestures, postures, movements, their symbolic meanings and their applications in Dance. In addition, he also cautions which of the gestures or movements may not be used in a given context. But, at the same time, Nandikesvara takes care to ensure that the Abhinaya aspect is not entirely overlooked.

The Abhinaya-Darpana deals, predominantly, with the Angikabhinaya (body movements) or Gesture-language of the Nrtta class; and, is a text that is used extensively by the Bharatanatya dancers. It describes Angikabhinaya, composed by the combination of the movements of the Angas (major limbs- the head, neck, torso and the waist); the Upangas (minor limbs – the eyes, the eyebrows, the nose, the lower lip, the cheeks and the chin); the Pratayangas  (neck, stomach, thighs, knees back and shoulders, etc) ; and, the expressions on the countenance. The text specifies, when the Anga moves, Pratyanga and Upanga also move accordingly. The text also suggests how such movements and expressions should be put to use in a dance sequence.

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The Abhinaya Darpana is widely used as a practical reliable guide by the performing artists, the teachers and the learners alike, in order to hone and refine the technique of Angika- abhinaya. The Bharatanatya, as it is taught and practiced today, is closely associated with Abhinava Darpana, which it regards as a sort of comprehensive training manual or a part of the curriculum on the techniques of dance, body movements, postures etc., especially related to the Nrtta aspects of Dance performance.

Nrtta is Angikabhinaya, which is pure and abstract dance, with stylized beautiful movements of limbs, neck, head, hands; feet etc., performed to music and especially to rhythm. Here, the Hastas (Nrtta-hastas) are not intended to convey any particular meaning; and, they do not also communicate a Bhava or a Rasa; but, they do contribute to the grace and beauty that the Dance offers. Nrtta, as Angikabhinaya, is much more than a decorative element; it, indeed, is a specific and technical aspect of a perfect dance performance.

Nrtya signifies an Art that combines in itself the beautiful movements of Nrtta (Angikabhinaya) with meaningful expressive eloquent gestures of Hastas, to convey thoughts, emotions and also to indicate objects (Abhinaya).

Though the gestures of the Abhinaya Darpana are primarily related to Nrtta, its repertoire of Hasta, Mukhaja, and Caris etc can very well be adopted (Viniyoga) to the Abhinaya aspects in narrative depiction of a theme through dance movements, providing expressive interpretations of the various shades of the meaning of the words, sentences of the song (Sahitya), bringing out its emotional content. The Nrtya, in the present day, is the very epitome, symbol and the soul of chaste classical Dance. And, Nrtta plays a very large part in that aesthetic Art expression.

The emphasis on Angikabhinaya in Nrtta requires the dancer to be in a fit physical condition, in order to be able to execute all the dance movements with grace and agility; especially during the sparkling Nrtta items according to the Laya (tempo) and Taala (beat).

According to the text, the perfect posture that is, Anga-sausthava, which helps in balancing the inter relationship between the body and the mind, is the central component for dance; and, is most important for ease in the execution and carriage. For instance; the Anga-sausthava awareness demands that the performer hold her head steady; look straight ahead with a level gaze; with shoulders pushed back (not raised artificially); and, to open out the chest so that back is erect. The arms are spread out parallel to the ground; and, the stomach with the pelvic bone is pushed in.

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Nandikeshvara’s Abhinaya Darpana is a comprehensive text (laghu grantha) with only 324 verses. As compared to the Natyashastra, the Abhinaya Darpana is written in a much simpler style. It focuses mainly on the Angika Abhinaya aspect; and, presents its subject in an orderly fashion. Here, Nandikesvara enumerates the various gestures, postures and movements related to the different limbs, separately, under three broad categories; Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga. He merely catalogues these independent gestures movements etc., with a brief note on their possible applications. The Natyashastra, on the other hand, follows the synthetic as also the analytical method. It not only enumerates different limb-movements, but also suggests their combinations in the form of Karanas, Recakas and Angaharas.

The Abhinaya Darpana often refers to Bharata-shastra (not the Natyashastra); and also to the Chapters Eight and Nine of the Natyashastra, dealing with Angika Abhinaya (gestures)

Shiva tandava -Shri SRajam

After submitting a prayer to Lord Shiva through the famous prayer-verse (Dhyana-sloka), the introductory part (verses 1-48), moves onto other subjects:

Angikam Bhuvanam sloka

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

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

At the outset, the author establishes the importance of Abhinaya; and briefly discusses the characteristics of its four kinds. This whole opening section takes up only forty verses; and, the rest are devoted to describing the movements of the individual parts of the body, which, according to the author, are of vital importance for a performance. Then the author instructs the performer to begin the performance with various stylized body movements.

The introductory portion (1-48)  covers such matters as :  the origin of NatyaNatyopatti (1-7); tribute to lore and knowledge of NatyaNatya Prashamsha (7-11); the variety of Dances (Natana); the occasions for performing dances ; and the definitions of terms Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya – Natana-bedha (11-16); required qualifications of various persons involved with dance performance, including the audience  (17-23); the desired qualifications and virtues of the dancer (23-30); and, the details of the preliminaries, Purvaranga (31-37)

[The text explains the term Nrtta as a dance which is void of  Bhava (moods) and Abhinaya (representations) – Bhava-Abhinaya-hinam tu Nrtta ity abhijayate ; the Nrtya as that which embodies Rasa, Bhava and suggestion- Rasa-Bhava-Vyanjana-adi  yuktam Nrtya ity abhijayate ; and, the Natya as dancing used in a drama (Nataka) combined with the original plot – yetan Nrtyam maharaja-sabhayam kalpayet sada.]

Describing the desired attributes of a dancer (Patra) the text mentions (AD.23-25): she, Nartaki,  should be slender; neither stout nor very thin; be neither very tall nor short; very lovely, beautiful, young, having beautiful large eyes, possessing a happy countenance, and round breasts; self-confident, witty, pleasing and splendidly dressed; dexterous in handling the critical passages  ; knowing well when to begin a dance and when to end it; able to perform to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music, properly  keeping with the Tala (beats and rhythm).

Tanvi rupavathi shyama peenonnata-payodhara / pragalbha sarasa kantha Kushala graham-mokshayo /vishala-locana gita-vadya-tala anuvartani // paradarya-bhusha samapanna prasanna-mukha –pankaja / yevam vidha gunopeta Nartaki samudirita // AD.23-25 //

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

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

[A version of the Abhinaya Darpana makes a mention of the ‘outer-life of a dancer’ (Patrasya bahir pranah): : the drum; cymbals of a good tone; the flute; the chorus; the drone (Sruti); the lute (Veena); the bells, and a male singer (Gayaka) of renown.]

As a part of her preparation, the dancer should offer her respects to the well-shaped dainty (Surupa) little (Sukshma) ankle-bells (Kinkini) made of bronze (Kamsya-racita), giving pleasant sounds (Susvara), with insignia of the presiding star-deities (Nakshatra-devata), and tied together with an indigo string (Nila-sutrena). Before wearing the anklet-bells, the dancer should reverently touch her forehead and eyes with them; and repeat a brief prayer (AD. Kinkini-lakshanam, 29-30)

As regards the positioning of the dancer on the stage, the Abhinaya Darpana (AD.21-22) specifies : the dancer (Patra) should place herself at the centre of the stage; next to her should be the best male-dancer (Nata); on to her right should stand the cymbalist (Taladhari); she should be flanked on either side by the drummers (Mrdanga-players); between them and behind stand the group of chorus-singers (Gitakarah) ; and , the one who keeps the Sruti (drone) a little behind them. Each of those, thus well ordered, should take their positions on the stage.

Ranga-madhya sthithe Patre , tat sameepe Natottamah / Dakshine Taladhari cha, parshva dvandve  Mrudangakau / tayor-madhye Gitakari, Sruti-kara stahdintake// Yevam thistetah kramernava natyadau Ranga-mandale/

After having completed the Purvaranga and offering flowers (Pushpanjali) the Dancer should commence her performance of the Nrtya. The Abhinaya Darpana etches a lovely picture of the Dancer as she commences her performance with a soulful, melodious song. It says: Her throat full of song; her hands expressing the meaning of the lyrics; her eyes and glances full of expression (Bhava); and, her feet dancing to the rhythm (Taala), thus she enters the stage.

Khantaanyat Lambayat Geetam; Hastena Artha Pradarshayet; Chakshubhyam Darshayat Bhavam; Padabhyam Tala Acherait ॥ AD. 36 

That is followed by the famous verse that instructs: ‘Where the hand goes, there the eyes should follow; where the eyes are, there the mind should follow; where the mind is, there the expression should be brought out; where there is expression, there the Rasa will manifest.’

Yato Hasta tato Drushti; Yato Drushti tato Manaha; Yato Manaha tato Bhavaha; Yato Bhava tato Rasaha  AD.37

This famous dictum is followed in all the Schools of dancing, while performing Abhinaya.

[The Natyashastra also includes a similar verse. It instructs that even when there is verbal acting (Vacica-abhinaya) the gaze (Dristi) should be directed to points at which the hand gestures are moving (tattad dṛṣṭi vilokanai); and, there should be proper punctuation  so that the meaning may be clearly expressed. The intention is to enhance the appeal and total effect so that the language and the hand gestures support each other; and, become more eloquent.

yatra vyagrāvubhau hastau tattad dṛṣṭivilokanai   vācakābhinaya kuryādvirāmairtha darśakai  NS.9. 181 ]

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The text then briefly describes (in verses 38-42) the four kinds of Abhinayas: Angika (of various body-parts); Vachika (of speech), Aharya (of costumes, makeup etc); and, Sattvika (involuntary bodily reactions)

Then in verses 42-49, it describes the three broad elements of the Angika. Here, it mentions that it is called Angika because it is expressed through the segments categorized in three ways: Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga.

The text mentions (42-43); the Angas are six: head, hands, chest, sides, waist and feet. It says, some others include neck in this category

And, it says (42-45) the Pratyangas are also six; and, these include shoulder-blades; arms; back; belly, thigh; and shanks. It is also mentioned that some other include three more under this category: wrists, elbow and knees; and, sometimes also the neck

The Upangas , the minor limbs are said to include (verses 45-49) eyes, eyebrows; eyeballs; cheeks; nose; jaw; lips; teeth; tongue; chin and face. And, sometimes shoulder is as also considered as a Upanga. Thus, the Upangas in the head are twelve in number.

And, when an Anga (major limb) moves, the Pratyanga and Upanga also move, in coordination.

[The classifications of the Angas, Pratyangas and Upangas in the Abhinaya Darpana, broadly follow that in the Natyashastra. But, the numbers of elements in each category, as listed in either text, vary.

According to Natyashastra:

1) Anga: The main parts of the body are known as Anga. The Natyashastra identifies them as the following six: head, hands, feet, Vaksha or the chest region, Kati or the waist and Parshava or the sides. Some experts add Griva (neck) to this as well.

2) Pratyanga: The parts that connect the main parts of the body are Pratyanga. These too are of six types: the shoulders, the arms, the spine, the midriff, the thighs and the abdomen. Some experts also consider the neck, knees and elbows in this

3) Upanga: Smaller constituent parts of the body are called Upanga. They are different according to each body part. Mainly the Upanga exist on the head/ face, hands and legs, because the waist, chest and sides are complete on their own. There cannot be an Upanga for these.]

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The text then goes into the enumeration of the Gestures, Postures and Gaits. Along with that, it also provides the description of each feature and its applications (Viniyoga).

The Abhinaya Darpana lists nine gestures of the head; eight of the eyes; four of the neck; twenty-eight of one hand plus four additional gestures; twenty-three of both hands; gestures to represent gods; the ten Avatars of Vishnu; the different classes of people; the various relations; gestures of hands for dance in general; and, the method of moving hands in dance, and the nine planetary deities.

The Abhinaya Darpana also describes, in detail, the postures and gaits, as the body moves in dance, especially on the feet. The carriage of the dancer’s body with the different movements as codified is presented as Mandalas or Sthanakas which are sixteen modes of standing and resting, Utplavanas are the leaps, the Bhramaris or pirouettes, and finally, the Caris and the Gatis.

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Gestures

 The Abhinaya Darpana details the following kinds of gestures

  1. Nine kinds of gestures of head- Shirobedha (49-65)
  2. Eight gestures (glances) of the eyes –Dristibedha (66-79)
  3. Four gestures of the neck- Grivabedha (79-87)
  4. Twenty-eight gesture by one hand – Asamyukta-hastha (87-165) and four additional gestures (166-172)
  5. Twenty-three gestures by combination of both the hands-Samyukta-hastha (172-203)
  6. Gestures representing gods – Devahastha (204-215)
  7. Gestures representing Avatars of Vishnu- Dashavatara hastha (216-225)
  8. Gestures representing different class of people – Chaturjatiya-hastha (226-231)
  9. Gestures for representing various relations- Bandhava-hastha (231-244)
  10. Gestures of hand for dance in general; and the method of moving hands in dance –Nrttahastha (244-249)
  11. Gestures for representing nine planetary deities-Navagraha-hastha (250-258)

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Postures and Gaits:

After treating the gestures, the Abhinaya Darpana deals with the   postures and various movements of the body (259-332)

Depending on the carriage of the body and its various movements that characterize a person, the following postures, and movements of the body in relation to feet (Padabedha – 259) are indicated;

  1. Mandala and Sthanakas or sixteen modes of standing and resting (260-282)
  2. Utplavanas or leaping movements of five kinds (282-289)
  3. Bhramaris or flight movements of seven kinds (298-332)
  4. Caris (Caribedha) and Gatis (Gatibedha) or eighteen kinds of gaits (298-332)

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As regards the application (viniyoga) of these gestures it is said:

Mandalas, Utplavanas, Bhramaris, Caris and Gatis according to their relation to one another are, indeed, endless in their number and variety. Their uses in Dance and Drama are to be learnt from Shastras, the tradition of the School and through the favor of good people and not otherwise (322-324)

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Gestures of the head – Shirobedha

Head and neck 1

According to Natyashastra (Ch.8) there are thirteen gestures of the head (Shirobedha); while Abhinaya Darpana has only nine: Sama; Udvahita; Adhomukha; Alolita; Dhuta; Kampita; Paravrtta; Utksipta and Parivahita.

Among these, five gestures carry the same names in both the works (Dhuta, Kampita, Parivahita, Paravrtta and Utksipta); besides, the names of two gestures agree partially (Udvahita and Alolita)

As regards the head-gestures: Adhomukha, Alolita (or Lolita), Dhuta, Kampita, Paravrtta and Parivahita, they are defined in both the works in a similar manner. As regards their applications also, the two works offer similar explanations.

Besides, the definition of Udvahita in Angika Abhinaya is similar to that of Utkispta of Natyashastra.

Head and neck 2

[The Abhinaya Darpana does not discuss actions related to certain Anga– features, such as: Chest; sides; and, Waist.]

Angas

Gestures of the Eyes (Glances) – Dristibedha

eyes 01

According to Natyashastra (Ch.8. 101 onward), there are three classes of Eye-gestures (Dristibedha) : (1) Glances for expressing eight Rasas; (2) Glances for expressing Sthayi bhavas ; and, (3) the Glances for expressing Sanchari-bhavas.

Each of these of the categories in (1) and (2) have in turn eight varieties each; while (3) has twenty varieties. Thus, in all, the Natyashastra describes thirty-six types of eye-glances (Dristibedha), along with their applications (Viniyoga).

But, in Abhinaya Darpana (Dristibedha66-79) the treatment of the Eye-gestures is not so elaborate. It only enumerates only eight of eye-gestures; Sama; Alokita; Saci; Pralokita; Nimilita; Ullokita; Anuvrtta and Avalokita.

But, in fact, these eight are listed in the Natyashastra as eight additional types of eyeball positions (Taraka karma)

Samam Alokitam Saachi pralokita Nimility Ullokita-anuvritte cha tatha chaiva-avalokitam  Ithyashtho drishthi bhedaha syu kirtitah purvasuribhi

Apart from this, the Abhinaya Darpana does not mention other Eye-gestures.

eyes02

[The Abhinaya Darpana does not also discuss actions related to certain Upanga-features, such as: eye-brows; eye-lids; pupils; cheeks; nose (nostrils); lips; cheeks; chin; mouth; and facial colors.]

Upanga

Neck gestures (Grivabedha)

The neck-movement is very important in Dance; because the movements of the head and the face pivot around it.

Gestures of the neck are all to follow the gestures of the head; and, the head gestures are also reflected in those of the neck. And, in this manner, Bharata enumerates and describes the gestures of the head and the connected minor limbs (Upanga) and their uses.

 The Natyashastra (Ch.8.164) enumerates nine kinds of neck-gestures- Grivabedha: Sama, Nata, Unnata, Tryasra, Recita, Kuncita, Ancita, Vahita and Vivarta.

While the Abhinaya Darpana (Grivabedha79-87) gives only four kinds: Sundari, Tirascina, Parivartita and Prakampita.

And, the two enumerations do not have common names.

[The Abhinaya Darpana does not discuss actions related to certain Prtyanga –elements such as: Thighs; Shanks; Belly; and Back (spine).]

Pratyanga.jpg

Hand- gestures (Hastha-bedha)

It is said; the Indian classical dance the joints, rather than the muscles, play an important role.  The Hastha (hand-gestures) generated through the movement of the wrists and the fingers are a portal of an entire language system articulated through animated gestures. They are like the words in a poem. It is around such Hasthas verities denoting suggestive Dance-expressions; the appropriate gestures are composed to covey thoughts and emotions, and to indicate objects.

Though both the Natyashastra and the Abhinaya Darpana classify the hand-gestures into three categories, they differ in regard to the number in each class; as well as in their definition; and, also in their uses.

In fact, Bharata devotes the entire Chapter Nine  to Hasthas and their uses in the Natya (hastā-dīnāpravakyāmi karma Nātya-prayojakam – NS.9.3)

 

Asamyuktahastas

Single-hand gestures (Asamyukta-hastha):

For illustrations of the Hasthas –Please click here

single-hand gestures0001

 

According to Natyashastra (Ch.9), there are twenty-four gestures in this class, while in Abhinaya Darpana; their number is twenty-eight. In both the works, twenty-two gestures have common names. Their descriptions are also similar.

On a review, one finds that the definitions of the following thirteen gestures are similar, in both the works:

Pathaka; Tripathaka; Ardhachandra; Arala; Sukatunda; Musti; Shikara; Padmakosa; Sarpasiras; Mrigasira;  Catura; Bhramara and Mukula

The following gestures have certain common aspects in their application. The number of such common aspects differs from one gesture to another;

Pathaka (2); Tripathaka (2); Ardhachandra; Musti (1); Katakamukha (4); Padmakosa (3); Sarpasiras (5) and Mukula (2)

Except in these cases, the Viniyoga, the applications of the other gestures vary.

 

The definitions of the following gestures differ in both the works:

Kartarimukha; Katamukha; Kapitta; Suci; Kangula; Alapadma (Alapallava); Hamsapaksa;   Sadamsa; and Tamracuda

 

The following hand-gestures of the Natyashastra are subdivided according to their Viniyoga; and special instructions are given on how such subdivisions are to be used in different groups: Pathaka, Tripathaka, Arala, Sucimukha,Catura and Sadamsa

 

samyuktahastas

Combined- hand-gestures (Samyukta-hastha):

For illustrations of the Hasthas – please click here

Double-handgestures

 

 

 

 

The Natyashastra (Ch.9) names thirteen gestures;

while Abhinaya Darpana gives twenty-three

On a comparison of the two sets of combined-hand-gestures given both the texts, one finds:

The following gestures in both the works have almost the same descriptions and uses: Anjali; Kapota; Karkata; and ushpaputa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Hasthas not mentioned in the Natyashastra:

The Abhinaya Darpana mentions certain classes of Hand-gestures (Hasthas) that were not mentioned in the Natyashastra. It is said; these are meant aid dramatic representations and sculpting the images of the deities

:- Hasthas representing deities – Devahastha (204-215) – lists sixteen gods and goddesses-(Brahma; Shiva; Vishnu; Sarasvathi; Parvathi; Lakshmi; Ganesha; Kartikeya;  Manmatha; Indra; Agni ; Yama; Nirrti; Varuna; Vayu and Kubera)

:- Hasthas representing  ten Avatars of Vishnu- Dashavatara hastha  (216-225) – (Matsya; Kurma; Varaha; Nrsimha; Vamana; Parasurama; Ramachandra; Balarama; Krishna  and Kalki)

:-Hasthas representing different class of people – Chaturjatiya-hastha (226-231)

:-Hasthas representing various relatives – Bandhava-hastha (231-244 ); and

: – Hasthas representing nine planetary deities –Navagraha-hastha (250-258)

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Nrtta-hastha:

According to Natyashastra (Ch.9.173) there are twenty-seven Nrtta-hasthas; and, they are not the same as the single-hand or the combined-hand gestures.(Another version lists thirty Nrtta-hasthas).

But the number of Nrtta-hastha in Abhinaya Darpana is thirteen; and, they are not different from the single-hand or the combined-hand gestures. Those names are repeated here.

Among the thirteen listed in the Abhinaya Darpana, six single-hand-gestures (Pathaka, Tripathaka, Shikara, Kapitta, Alapadma and Hamsasya) are the same as the single-hand gestures carrying the same name in the Natyashastra. And, the other seven combined-hand gestures (Anjali, Svastika, Dola, Kataka-vardhana, Sakara, Pasa and Kilaka) are the same as the combined –hand gestures of the same name in the Natyashastra.

Thus, overall, the total number of hand-gestures related to Dance in Natyashastra is sixty-four; and, that in Abhinaya Darpana is fifty-one.

And, one version of the Abhinaya Darpana  (page 47) states: there are as many meanings as there are hand-gestures (Hasthas). Their usage is to be regulated by their literal meaning, category, gender, and suitability. Only so much can be said in an abridged form. Those following careful research; and, those who are acquainted with the ways of displaying the Bhavas in various should use the hands with due care, after consulting the texts, as may be required, and the teachers.

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Feet in Dance

Padabhedha2

The Abhinaya Darpana in its verses 259-260, mentions Mandala (postures); Utplavana (leaps); Bhramari (flights or turns) and Cari or Padacari (gait) as postures and movements related to feet.

These refer to the carriage of the dancer’s body with the different movements codified, that is presented as Mandalas or Sthanakas which are sixteen modes of standing and resting. The Utplavanas are the leaps; the Bhramaris or pirouettes; and finally, the Caris and the Gatis.

But, in this text, the descriptions of the feet movements are not accompanied by their Viniyogas. The explanation provided by the scholars is that the Mandalas, Utplavanas, Bhramaris etc., are to be applied according to their relation to one another; and, these are, indeed, endless in number and variety.

Another feature of this text is that in describing the basic hand-gestures and the eye-movements, the author follows the Natyashastra. But, his treatment of the movements of the feet is his own. He also includes some new gestures, not found in other texts.

*

The Abhinaya Darpana does not specifically discuss movements of the feet. It factors the whole leg, from thighs to toes, as a single Pada-bheda outlining the actions like standing, walking, roaming, and jumping. In its discussion of the jumps (utplavanas), spiral movements or turns (Bhramaris) and the different types of walking Caris and Padacari, it utilizes the various positions of the feet, as described in the Natyashastra.

In contrast, the Chapter Eleven of the shorter version (from pages 197 to 206) of the Natyashastra is devoted to Cari, the most important single unit of movement in the Nrtta technique as enunciated by Bharata. The Caris are movements using one foot; and, are used both in Dance and Drama. Thirty two kinds of Caris are defined; of these sixteen are termed Bhaumi (ground) – verses 13 to 28; and, the other sixteen are called Akasiki (aerial) – verses 29 to 49.

One of the explanations adduced justifying the brief treatment of Caris in the Abhinaya Darpana (verses 323-324) is:  the mutual relations of the Caris, Mandalas, Utplavanas, Brhramaris etc., are endless in number and variety. Their uses in dance and drama are to be learnt from the practices and tradition of the School, under the guidance of a wise teacher.

A similar advice is tendered with regard to the applications of the Hasthas (on page 47).

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Mandala

Mandalas are complicated movements of the legs involving combinations of Caris. According to NatyashastraChapter Twelve , see pages 207 to 212)), Mandalas are twenty in number; and, are again divided into two classes: Bhuma (earthly, ground) and Akasika (aerial).

The Abhinaya Darpana, however, names only ten Mandalas (Mandala-bedha); and, all are of the same class (260-261) : Sthanaka ; Ayata ; Alidha ; Pratyalidha ; Prenkhana ; Prerita ; Svastika; Motita ; Samasuci ; and , Parsvasuci

The names of the Mandalas in the two works differ.

*

Any special position of the body which is motionless is called Sthana, stance. The Abhinaya Darpana lists six such Stanakas (274-275): Sampada; Ekapada; Nagabandha; Aindra; Garuda; and, Brahma. The Natyashastra treats the subject of Sthanas in greater detail. It mentions as many as forty Sthanas or standing postures, under six categories of static postures along with their applications.

Utplavana (leaps) are of five kinds (282-283): Alaga; Kartari; Asva; Motita; and, Krpalga.

Bhramari (flights or turns) are seven (289-291); and are the same as in the Natyashastra: Utpluta; Cakra; Garuda; Ekapada; Kuncita; Akasha; and Anga.

Gati (gaits): the gaits or the walking styles (Gati) are said to be of eight kinds: Calana; Sankramana; Sarana; Vegini; Kuttana; Luhita; Lolita; and Visrama.

The treatment of the Gatis (gatipracāra) in the Natyashastra is much more elaborate. It describes Gatis or gaits, suitable for different types of characters, such as the Kings and superior characters as also for middling characters. Walking styles for women of various classes are also described.  Natyashastra mentions that the gaits are to be executed in – slow, medium and quick – tempos (Kaalas), according to the nature of 45 different characters.

**

Cari

The Abhinaya Darpana (298-308) treats Caris and Gatis alike. They are not differentiated, as in the Natyashastra.

The Caris are movements using one foot; and, are used both in Dance and Drama. The Natyashastra (Ch.9.10) lists thirty-two Caris, divided into two groups of sixteen each: the Bhuma (earthly, ground) and Akasika (aerial). Cari is that activity where in the various beautiful movements of the hands, feet calves, thighs and the hip are kept in mutual concordance, in a single flow.

The Abhinaya Darpana, however, gives eight kinds of Cari; and they all are of the same class. There are no divisions here.  And, the listing of the feet movements is not accompanied by their Viniyoga-s: Calana; Sankramana; Sarana; Vegini; Kuttana; Luthita; Lolita; Visrama.

The names of the Caris in Abhinaya Darpana are the same as that of the Gatis (gaits) it enumerates.

The names of the Caris in the two texts- Abhinaya Darpana and Natyashastra- also differ.

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

The Abhinaya Darpana does not, however, mention Nyayas.]

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Obviously, there is vast difference between the Natyashastra and the Abhinaya Darpana in their approach to and in the treatment of Angika-abhinaya.

The Natyashastra is the primary text. It lays down the theoretical principles; enumerates the gestures and postures to give a form to its concepts; and, also provides practical examples of their applications. The explanations in the Natyashastra seem to be based on a study of actual performances; and, on a detailed analysis of the actual dance movements.

It not merely enumerates the individual dance-gestures, but also suggests how those elements could be combined to form graceful and meaningful dance movements like Karanas and Angaharas, forming a sequence of completed action. Since the entire process was involved with production of Drama; and, its presentation before enlightened spectators, it appears the complete sequences of movements were carefully studied, structurally analyzed to ensure a correct presentation finally  emerged , as envisaged by the choreographer.

Thus the approach of the Natyashastra was broad based, covering the theoretical, analytical and practical aspects of Dance and its varied gestures, stances and movements.

The Abhinaya Darpana, in contrast, does not delve much into the theoretical aspects of Dance movements. Its focus is mainly on Angika-abhinaya, the gestures, postures and movements of the limbs and parts of the three major segments of the body. It enumerates in a comprehensive, codified and systematic manner the actions of a limb, in isolation; and, suggests the means to its application. The Abhinaya Darpana trains a dancer in the basic movements.

It does not try to combine those various dance-elements, in order to present a seamless, graceful and meaningful sequence of actions. It is said; the Abhinaya Darpana is like a practical, working manual, a tool of communication. It is up to the teachers and learners to make a good use of the material it provides to choreograph charming, enjoyable and expressive dance sequences. The various individual gestures, stances and movements that the text catalogs are like words (Padas); and, they have to be employed with skill and imagination to form countless verities of meaningful sentences (Vakya). The uses of the Dance-elements that the text provides have to be studied diligently and practiced earnestly under the guidance of a well informed and experienced teacher.

There are elaborate descriptions of movements  that are neatly categorized and presented. For example; ten movements of the head, fifteen ways to move the eyeballs and two ways to turn the knee-joint indicate the several combinations available to the conscious and imaginative dancer and teacher to create their dance sequences.

*

The scholar Raghavabhatta, in his Arthadyotanika (1886), a commentary on the play Abhijanana Sakuntala of the poet Kalidasa, compares the Abhinaya Darpana to Grammar of dance movements. The text suggests various hand and body gestures. But, the skill, he says, resides in combining those elements to compose a beautiful and graceful, meaningful presentation. Raghavabhatta, in his commentary, suggests choreographic patterns for depicting certain actions that take place in the play. For instance:

:- Watering the plants (Vrksha sincana) : first show Nalina and padmakosa hands, palms downwards, then raise them to the shoulder; slightly bend the body with Avadhuta head position and Adhomukha face looking down; with Padmakosa hands downwards to suggest ‘ pouring out’.

In the Nalina-padmakosa, the dancer’s hands are crossed; the palms turned down; but not touching, but not touching; turned a little backward, and made to resemble Padmakosa (lotus bud). To move the Nalina-padmakosa hands downwards is said to be ‘ pouring out

: – Plucking the flower (pushpa-vachayana): hold the left hand horizontally in Uttana Arala; the right hand taken side-ways in Hamsasya extended forward at the side. The left hand here represents a basket; and, the imaginary flowers are plucked with the right hand and transferred to the left.

:- Make up (Prasadana) : putting Tilaka mark on the forehead with ring finger of the Tripathaka hand; wearing the garland with Paranmukha and Sandasmsa (right and left) hands; putting on Tatakas (ornaments of upper arms) and earrings with two Bhramara hands ; painting lac-dye on the feet with Kartari-mukha hands ; and, wearing a ring with Hamsasya and Cyuta-sadamsa hands.

:- Attack by the bee (Bhrama badha): move the head quickly to and fro with the Vidura head; the Kampita lips are quivering and turned down; while the Tripathaka hands are held unsteadily against the face, palms inward.

: – Despair (Visada): with the Dhuta head and the Vinasana eye.

: – Obstacles in walking (Gati-bhanga) with Urudhrta Cari

: – Coming down from a high place (Avatarana); with Gangavatarana

: – Mounting a Chariot (Rathadi-rohana) with Urdhvajanu Cari; “the knees are to be raised, the leg being bent and lifted, so that the knee is level with the chest, and there held; and then the same is done with the other foot.”

*

Similarly, the classic dance forms of India developed various dance movements by adopting the idioms and phrases from the basic ‘Grammar’ of the Abhinaya Darpana. For instance; the Bharatanatya derived the Araimandi as the basic dance position from the Ardha-mandala or Ayata, which is defined in the Abhinaya Darpana as: “standing in Chaturasra, bending the knees slightly and obliquely and keeping a distance of Vitasati between the two feet “(A.D 263).

Vitastrya antaritau paadau  krutva tu chatursrakau . Tiryak kunchita janubhyam sthithirayath mandalam //AD.263 //

On the same principle, the Kathak developed Sampada; in Odissi it was Chauk; and, in Manipuri the Agratala.

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The Abhinaya Darpana occupies a unique position in the literature of classical Indian dance. Unlike in the case of other ancient texts ,  the Abhinaya Darpana is a text that is regularly consulted , even in the present-day,  by the practicing artists and the students, regularly, as a part of the learning process.  It is a practical text that is very much alive.

It not only has helped to preserve the Art of Dancing by imparting instructions to the learners (siyebhyaśca tadanyebhya); but, has also helped in spreading the performing Art through its practice (prayacchāma  prayogata). It is a framework of principles of praxis or practice. Its efficacy lies in the practice of Dance; and, in providing inspiration for reconstructing innovative Dance-expressions by experimentation (prayoga); and, by combining, with skill and imagination, the varieties of gestures, stances and movements of Angikabhinaya that it has enumerated so systematically. Thus, the Abhinaya Darpana is at once, a Sadhana shastra and a Prayoga shastra.

Nirgita

 

In the next part, we shall briefly talk about Bharatarnava; and, then move on to other texts.

Continued

In

The Next Part

 

References and Sources

  1. Nandikesvara’s Abhinayadarpanam by Prof. Manmohan Ghosh
  2. The Mirror of Gesture by Ananda Coomaraswamy and Gopala Kristnayya Duggirala
  3. Natyashastra and Abhinaya Darpana
  4. Nritta in Bharatanatyam
  5. The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition by Dr. Mandakranta Bose
  6. Dance imagery in South Indian temples: study by Dr. Bindu S. Shankar

ALL IMAGES AND TABLES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Seven

Continued from Part Six

Lakshana-granthas

1. Natyashastra –continued

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The Nrtta, the dance in its abstract form, is mainly discussed in the Natyashastra. And, Dance, in general, is treated as a factor that lends beauty to a theatrical presentation. Bharata projects Dancing as an Art consisting of beautiful body movements that delight the eye. It is performed to rhythm and to the accompanying songs or instrumental music or both.

Chapters 4 and 5 of Natyashastra are of special significance to the study of Dance, as they introduce many concepts that are fundamental to Dancing, such as: Nrtta, Tandava, Sukumara (meaning Lasya), Pindibandha and Abhinaya. Apart from that, the basic units of Dance such as, Caris, Recakas and Karanas; and, primary Dance sequence Angaharas are also fully described here.  And, the Chapters 6 and 7 carry on extensive discussion on Abhinaya.

As can be seen from the Chapters mentioned above, Bharata, apart from Nrtta, also gave much importance to Angikabhinaya, where individual limb-movements convey the meaning (Artha) and emotions (Bhava) through appropriate gestures. Although such Angikabhinayas are used both in the Drama and Dance; it is, in fact, in the Dancing that they are more widely used, with eloquence and flourish (Natyadharmi).

It is obvious that Bharata had recognized the importance of Abhinaya, both in Drama and in Dancing. He introduces the related concept in Chapter Four, which principally deals with Dance. There, he uses the term Abhinaya broadly to indicate expressive movements of the body, as comprising actions appropriate to match the content of the accompanying song. Thereafter, he follows up the topic in many other Chapters, in more than 670 verses, explaining its theoretical principles, its categories and its applications in various contexts.

In a way of speaking, one can say that the Natyashastra is structured in four broad sections, each based in one of the four Abhinayas.

The Sattvika-abhinaya (that which is conveyed by the effort of the mind) and Angika-abhinaya (body-movements and gestures to suggest a meaning) are discussed in Chapters 8 to 13. Bharata describes Sattvika-abhinaya in the Chapter 8 dealing with Bhava and Angika-abhinaya. And the discussion is continued in the next few chapters where he offers detailed descriptions for executing the movements of each part and limb of the body, which has the potential to inspire beauty; to express feelings, emotions; and, to give form to ideas.

The Vachika-abhinaya (conveying the intent through speech or songs) is detailed in Chapters 14 to 20.

The Aharya (concerning costume, makeup and decor etc.,) is in Chapter 21.

Again, Satvika-abhinaya and Samanya-abhinaya, detailing the general rules pertaining to dancing, in particular, are given in Chapter 22.

The Citra-abhinaya, the special (viśea) modes of representations to indicate subtle or abstract elements in nature, inner feelings etc., are discussed in Chapter 25.

[The Samanya-abhinaya is the harmonious use of four kinds of Abhinayas; and, Citra-abhinaya applies only to the special representation of various objects and ideas.

At first, the instructions are given about the representation of five qualities (guna)of senses viz. sound (sabda), touch (sparsa), form (rupa), taste (rasa) and smell (gandha), through gestures according to their experiences (Anubhavas) and natural expressions. Then come the representation of particular objects. The various gestures and expressions are prescribed for the representation of Bhavas including Sthayi-bhavas occurring in different Rasas. The Abhinaya to show sky, morning, night, evening, day, deep darkness, the moon-light, the smoke, the fire and different seasons follow.

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

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

*

When you take an overview , you find that it is the principle of the two modes (dharmi) of presentation, Natya (the stylized) or Loka (the realistic); the different types of Vrittis (style), namely the Kaisiki (the graceful), Sattvati (the grand),  Arabhati (the energetic) and Bharati (the verbal); the full play of the four types of Abhinaya (acting) namely : Angika (gestures or movement), Vacika (the spoken word), Aharya (costume, make-up, stage props etc.) and Sattvika (relating to state of emotion) – are the broad principles which govern the structure of Indian drama and its  presentations. The same principles and techniques are extended to Dance also.

It is these principles, along with other related ones, such as –  the concept of Bahya (external) and Abhyantara (inner) acting; of Pravrtti (local usage); of Samanya-abhinaya  (basic representation) and  Citra-abhinaya  (special representation) technique – , which  are common to Drama as also to Dance.

We talked about Nrtta, Tandava, Sukumara-prayoga and Pindibandha, in the earlier Parts of this series.

We may now get to know some specific concepts, terms and techniques used in the Natyashastra, in regard to Abhinaya.

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Dharmi-s

Before getting into the specifics of the Abhinaya, let’s briefly talk about the Dharmi-s and the Vrtti-s, denoting the modes of depiction and styles of presentation.

Bharata in Chapter 13 discusses two divisions of Abhinaya: the Natya-dharmi and Loka-dharmi modes of presentation on the stage. Here, Natyadharmi could, almost, be understood as stylized or idealized theatrical mode of presentation. And, Lokadharmi is the realistic or the day-to-day common way of staging in the play.

dharmī yā dvividhā proktā mayā pūrva dvijottamā laukikī nāyadharmī ca tayor vakyāmi lakaam NS.13.69

These concepts were mentioned by Bharata, primarily, in the context of the Drama.

He meant Lokadharmi, as the ways of the world and the activity of common people, where one speaks, gesticulates and acts in a natural manner, as in ones daily life. The characters behave and speak naturally, as common people normally do, according to their professions and their standing in the society; without playful flourish of the limbs or stylized gaits and postures. It also means the ordinary presentation of objects on the stage. Abhinavagupta also explains Lokadharmi in a similar manner :

Yada kaviryatha vrttam vasthu matram varnathi natascha prayamke na tu svabuddhi-krutam ranjana vaichitram tatranu praveshayam sada tavanna kavya-bhagah prayoga-bhagascha Loka-dharmashraye atotra-dharmi

And, Natyadharmi, which follows the theatrical conventions, is the idealistic, stylized mode of acting through traditional gestures and symbolisms, considered more artistic than realistic. One could say that Natyadharmi is poetic and imaginative in its nature, following a codified manner of presenting actions, expressions and emotions, as per the time-honored conventions of the theatre. Here, in this mode, the artist enjoys a greater degree of freedom to display her or his virtuosity; and, in taking something from natural life and rendering it in an elegant ingenious stylized way. The Natyadharmi encourages innovations, endowing the play with beauty associated with the performing Arts. Abhinavagupta also says :

Sarva alamkara samyojana yuktam , yatra purusho ns svarupe thistathi , api tu stri bala-ashrati prayojyah purusho yatra na svrupastha , api tu striyah prayujyate tan Natyadharmi

Thus, the Natyadharmi is a theatrical presentation that is decisively deviated from realism. Bharata gives instances of Natyadharmi mode in a play:

If it contains speech, activity , beings and states of extraordinary kind ; and, if it requires acting with playful flourish of limbs ; and, if it possesses  characteristics of dance, where the delivery of speech follows the theatrical conventions; and , if it is dependent on emotions, it is then called Natyadharmi – (NS.13.71-72).

 If a character, instead of simply walking, dances along or moves with graceful steps and deliberate swing of the limbs, it is then Natyadharmi – (NS.13.79).

If the ordinary human joys and sorrows are represented by special or exaggerated gestures, it is then Natyadharmi – (NS.13. 80).

If an actor plays a female role or an actress dons a male role (asvastha-puruā), it is then Natyadharmi – (NS.13.74).

If after appearing in a role, one assumes a different role in the same play on account of his being an expert in both the cases or being the sole actor available for both the roles, it is known as an instance of Natyadharmi – (NS. 13.77).

If as per the theatrical practice, a character is not supposed to hear what the character standing next is uttering; or, if a character is supposed to hear what the other character has not uttered at all, it is also called Natyadharmi – (NS.13.75).

If objects like a hill, conveyance, aerial-car, shield, armor, weapon or banner-staff are made to appear on the stage in human form, it is known as an instance of Natyadharmi – (NS 13.76).

*

A dance performance is dominated by Natyadharmi. It is in the aspect of Abhinaya that Natyadharmi is abundant in Dance. The poetry, lyrical or narrative elements, set to music and rhythm, are interpreted by the dancer in varieties of manners, employing various shades of Sanchari-bhavas of the Sthayi-bhava that is on display. This is achieved through a series of variations of the Angikabhinaya, where each word of the poetry is interpreted in as many different ways as possible (Padartha-abhinaya).

Here, a dancer assumes the roles of several characters without change of dress or costume (Ekaharya), giving expressions to their actions, emotions and their state of being.

Natyadharmi does not mean imitation. No attempt is made to present things as they are. Instead, the dancer endows her performance with creative, innovative and artistic suggestions. The dancer attempts to represent the entire range of human emotions and experiences through stylized gestures. Even the tears have to be shown through the characteristic suggestive gesticulations, as per the Natyadharmi mode.

*

 Vrtti

Bharata regards the Vrttis or the Styles as one among the most important constituent elements of the play. In fact, he considers the Vrttis as the mother of all poetic works – sarveāmeva kāvyānāṃ-mātkā vttaya sm(NS.18.4). In a play, the Vrtti stands for the ways of rendering a scene; or, the acting styles and the use of language, diction that different characters adopt in a scene, depending upon the nature or the Bhava that is peculiar to that character.

The Vrttis are said to be of four kinds (vrttis caturdha): Kaisiki; Sattvati; Arabhati; and, Bharati.

The Kaisiki-vrtti (graceful style) which characterizes the tender  Lasyanga  associated  with expressions of love, dance, song as also with charming costumes and delicate actions portrayed with care, mostly by women,   is most suited to Srngara-rasa (tatra kaisiki gita-nrtya-vilasadyair mrduh srngara- cestitaih ).

The Sattvati Vrtti (flamboyant style) is a rather gaudy style of expressing ones emotions with excessive body-movement; exuberant expressions of joy; and, underplaying mellow or sorrow moods. It is a way of expressing ones emotions (mano-vyapara) through too many words.

The Arabhati-vrtti is a loud, rather noisy and energetic style. It is a powerful exhibition of one’s anger, valour, bordering on false-pride, by screaming, shouting, particularly, in tumultuous scenes with overwhelming tension, disturbance and violence.  It involves furious physical movements (kaya-vyapara).

And, the Bharati-vrtti is mainly related to a scene where the speech or dialogue delivery is its prominent feature.  But, generally, the Bharati-vrtti, related to eloquence, is of importance in all the situations (vrttih sarvatra bharati).

*

In regard to Dance and Dance-dramas, the Vrtti that is most suitable for its depiction is the Kaisiki Vrtti. It is used both in the Nrtta and the Nrtya portions of a dance performance.

Kaisiki Vrtti is most appropriate to dance and to the dance-dramas on account of the attractive costumes worn by dramatis personae, particularly the women; and also because of the Lasya and Srngara aspects that permeate its theme. It is also suitable for Hasya, for display of humor.

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Abhinaya

It is said; in the Indian dance, the different parts of the human body are like notes (Svara) of the music in a given Raga. The movements of the minor limbs (Upanga), like the eyebrows, eyelids, eyeballs, nose, lips, chin and mouth ; and their precise execution are the most essential aspects of the Abhinaya. Similarly, the movements of the major limbs (Anga), like the head, chest, waist hips, thigh and feet; and their postures are the essential elements of the Nrtta, pure Dance. Then, there are the Pratyangas, such as the neck, the elbows, the shanks and the knees , which are used in the Abhinaya as also in the Nrtta.

Perfect balance and poise is the key to Indian Dancing. In fact, all its Dance movements emerge from this point of perfect stillness. All movements start from the Sama-bhanga posture (equipoise of stance with an equal distribution of weight). And, again, all the movements return to the Sama-bhanga.

The knee, pelvis, and the shoulder joints constitute the key points from which the movements emerge in the lower and upper limbs. The neck joint is the pivot around which the movements of the head and face revolve.

The classification of body movements, in the Indian texts, is broadly categorized into those of the major and minor limbs; and, the second as the combination of the primary movements into small modulations known as Caris, Mandalas and Karanas. Each of these is governed by its own set of rules .

Indian Dancer, like the musician, uses the body-movements to evoke particular emotive states (Bhavas) through pure Dance sequences (Nrtta) ; and, through interpretation (Abhinaya) of the words of the poem or a theme, following  the characteristic Natyadharmi mode of presentation.  In either case, the musical element determines the composition and depiction of the dance. The pure Dance sequences (Nrtta) follow the patterns of the melody, rhythms and tempo of the music. And, the Abhinaya follows the nature (Sthayi-bhava) and content of the lyrics (Sahitya) ; and , interprets it accordingly by use of series of transitory states (Sanchari-bhava) and various  other innovative gestures and expressions.

**

Angikabhinaya

Bharata, commencing with the Chapter Eight, describes four types of Abhinaya; the art of illustrating the meaning (Artha or Bhava) of different things, and conveying ones experiences, which are capable of evoking Rasa. The Abhinaya is of four kinds:  Angika (gestures); Vachika (words); Aharya (costumes, makeup and supporting aids); and Sattvika (emotional dispositions).

āgiko vācikaścaiva hy āhārya sāttvikastathā jñeyastv abhinayo viprā caturdhā parikalpita NS.8. 9

Here, Āgika (आङ्गिक) – ‘physical representation’- consists of the use of various gestures and postures of which the tyaśhāstra gives elaborate descriptions. Different limbs have been named and their manifold gestures and movements described, with various significance attached to each one of them.

The Angika-abhinaya involves different parts of the body:

1) Anga / अंग: The main parts of the body are known as Anga. The Natyashastra identifies them as the following six: head, hands, feet, Vaksha or the chest region, Kati or the waist and Parshava or the sides. Some experts add Griva (neck) to this as well.

2) Pratyanga / प्रत्यंग: The parts that connect the main parts of the body are Pratyanga. These too are of six types: the shoulders, the arms, the spine, the midriff, the thighs and the abdomen. Some experts also consider the neck, knees and elbows in this

3) Upanga / उऩांग: Smaller constituent parts of the body are called Upaanga. They are different according to each body part. Mainly the Upaanga exist on the head/ face, hands and legs, because the waist, chest and sides are complete on their own. There cannot be an Upanga for these.

  • Head/ face: eyes, eyebrows, eyelids, pupils, nose, cheeks, chin, jaw, face, lips, teeth and tongue.
  • Hands: elbow, wrist, fingers, palms
  • Legs: soles, heel, paws and toes

*

The Aṅgikābhinaya (आङ्गिकाभिनय), the illustrative expression through gestures, postures, movements of part of the body (angapratyanga and upanga), limbs and gait, is said to be of three types; that by use of: the Śākhā (‘branch’- various movements of the hand); the Akura (‘sprout’-movements of the hand supplementing the main idea); and, the Ntta (dance movements, made up of Karaas and Agahāras).

Asya śākhā ca ntta ca tathaivā akura eva ca-NS.8.14 Agikastu bhavecchākhā hyakura sūcanā bhavet agahāra-vinipanna ntta tu karaāśrayam NS. 8.15

The subject of Angikabhinaya is elaborated under three broad categories:  Mukhaja (those emanating from the face and its different parts (Upanga) such as eyes, eyebrows, chin, nose etc); Sarira (the limbs – Anga, Pratyanga, Upanga); and, Kshetra (the entire body) including the Anga and Upanga, by use of gestures relating to posture, positioning or actions involving  movements  from one place to other on stage .

Trividhas tva āgiko dyneya śārīro mukhajas tathā tathā ceṣṭākta-ścaiva śākhā-ago-upāga-sayuta NS.8.11

[In today’s practice and teaching of Bharatanatya, besides the Natyashastra, it is the Abhinaya Darpana that is mainly used.]

[Throughout the discussion of the Anga and the Upanga in the Natyashastra, we find that Bharata first states the movements which are physically possible, and,  then  enumerates the use (viniyoga) to which they can be put in Angikabhinaya , in order to represent the dominant and transitory states (Sthayi and Vyabhicari Bhava).

For instance; he first indicates the glances (Drsti) corresponding to the sentiments (Rasa), then the glances according to the dominant states (Sthayi bhava), and then the glances corresponding to the transitory states (Vyabhicari bhava). And, the movements of the eyeball (Tara) are analysed in a similar manner.

The Natyashastra gives us two types of classification of movements. There is first the analysis of different parts of the human body from the point of view of the possibility of movement.  It, then, analyzes, in great detail, the movements of major and minor limbs, in the context of the combinations of these primary movements such as Cari, Mandala, Karana, Angahara, etc.

It classifies the human body-parts into Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga (as detailed above). The hands (Hasta) are the only parts of the body that are used both for Nrtta and in the Abhinaya; and, these are treated separately.

In the case of other parts of the body, the movement of the particular part is described first; and this is followed by its Viniyoga (uses), which contributes to the Abhinaya technique. This, is particularly true in the case of the movements of the minor limbs, especially facial (Mukhaja) ones, like those of the eyebrows, eyeballs, eyelid, chin, nose, lips, etc. And, in the case of the thighs, waist, side and chest; they are discussed, primarily, from the point of view of Nrtta.

On the basis on these movements, of the separate parts of the human body, Bharata discusses and analyzes the fundamental units of movement.

In the Indian traditions, it is believed, that particularly in Dance, the movement of each single limb of the human body has a corresponding emotional quality, which is analogous to the emotional expression of Sruti and Svara in music. And, in Dance, every gesture and movement of eyes, eyeballs, eyebrows, eyelids, nose, cheeks, lower lips, chin, mouth, neck, chest, breast, sides, belly, waist, thigh, shank, knee, feet and hands, thus assumes significance.

This language of gestures finds its complete articulation in the Hasta-abhinaya, where practically all the permutations and combinations of the fingers, palm and the writs have been worked out ; and each hand-pose (Hasta) has been employed as words are in a language.

Thus, the Nrtta and the Abhinaya portion of dancing employs the entire human form to speak a language of movement through which a Sthayi bhava can be presented and a sentiment, a mood, Rasa is evoked.

In the process; the Dance, almost, does away with the Vacika-abhinaya (speech); instead, it employs only music and song for the narration of its theme; and for presentation of the Sthayi-bhava  .

But, the manner in which the dance builds up the Sthayi-bhava is very similar to that is employed in the Drama (Natya). Both make use of the representation of the determinants (Vibhava); the consequent (Anubhava); and, the transitory states (Vyabhicari bhava). But in the case of Dance, the emphasis is more on the Vyabhicari-bhava or the Sanchari-bhava. And, the dominant state is represented by portraying through a series of gestures the transitory states of the particular dominant state.]

A. MUKHAJA

Bharata mentions that the Dramatic performance, in its entirety, relates to the postures and movements of the limbs, including the six major and the six minor ones. The six major limbs (Anga) are: the head, hands, chest, sides, waist and feet. And, the six minor limbs (Upanga) are: the eyes, eyebrows, nose, lower lip and chin (NS.8.12-13).

The Upanga, the Mukhaja (expressions relating to the face) is subdivided into its parts, like eyebrows, eyelids, eyeballs, nose, lips, chin and mouth.

In dance and dance-dramas, Abhinaya, the gestures reflected on the face are, indeed, the principal means of expressing, portraying and conveying a range of varieties of states, emotions and suggestions, giving forth the appropriate Rasa– (Mukhaje abhinaye, nānā bhāva rasāśraye- NS.8.16).

Head and neck 1

 Head (Siras) – Shirobheda

The text, in verses 17 to 37, of Chapter Eight , then goes to elaborately enumerate the thirteen kinds of the gestures of the head; and its uses (Viniyoga) :  Akampita, Kampita, Dhuta, Vidhuta, Parivahita, Udvahita, Avadhuta, Ancita, Nihanchita, Paravratta, Utkipta, Adhogata and Parilolita.

śirasa prathama karma gadato me nibodhat 8.16 ākampita kampita ca dhūta vidhuta meva ca parivāhitam ādhūtam avadhūta tathā añcitam 8.17

The movements of head include Akampita (up and down slow movements), which suggest giving a hint, teaching, questioning, addressing and also imparting instructions. Similarly, Kampita suggests a brisk movement of the head, with a vigorous shake. It is meant to indicate a range of moods and states, such as:  anger, argument, understanding, asserting, threatening, sickness and intolerance. Dhuta is slow movement of the head, to indicate unwillingness, sadness etc.; while, is the quick movement, as when one is attacked by cold, fever. Parivahita is when the head is turned to two sides to demonstrate surprise, intolerance, concealing or in playful mood; while, Udvahita is when the face turned upward once, in pride. Avadhuta is when the head is turned down, for communicating, beckoning one to come near or invoking a deity; while Ancita is when the head slightly bent on one side , as in sickness , intoxication etc. Nihancita is two shoulders are raised up with the head on one side, as by women in pride or play or jest. Paravrtta is when the face is turned round, as while turning round and looking back. Utkipta is when the face is slightly raised, as in looking at lofty objects. And, Parilolita is when the head is moving in all the sides, as in fainting, sickness, drowsiness or while possessed. Please click here for illustrations.

These movements of the head should be supported by the appropriate expressions of the other minor limbs like eyes, eye-brows, eyeballs, nose, lower lip and chin, in order to enhance the overall impact.

After describing the thirteen kinds of movements of head for its various uses, Bharata adds:  ‘Besides these there are many other gestures of the head, which are based on popular usage (ju-svabhāva-sasthāna). These are to be used, according to their nature (svabhāvajam) in the popular practice’.

 

Head and neck 2

Eyes

In the Abhinaya, the eyes play an extremely important role. The eyes, in fact, are widows to the soul of the dancer.  They are like a mirror to the mind. The eyes register the bhavas and speak an eloquent language, without resorting to the act of speaking.

Glances – Dṛṣṭī- lakaam

Bharata enumerates the nature of as many as 36 types of glances (trayodaśa-vidhaṃ; dṛṣṭīnāmiha lakaam NS.8 .39The glances (Rasa-Dristi) are described in detail In terms of the muscular movements of the eyeballs, eyelids and the eyebrows which indicate certain Rasa or Bhava

He starts with listing those expressions that relate to the production of eight Rasas: Kanta, Bhayanaka, Hasya, Karuna, Adbhuta, Raudri, Vira and Bibhatsa.

kāntā bhayānakā hāsyā karuā cādbhutā tathā raudro vīrā ca bībhatsā vijñeyā rasadṛṣṭaya NS.8. 40

*

Bharata then provides another list of eight types of glances that relate to the mood or the state of mind in the main theme that is being depicted (Sthayi-bhavas) : Snigdha, Harsha, Dina, Krodha Dipta, Bhayanvita, Jugupsita and  Vismita.

snigdhā hṛṣṭā ca dīnā ca kruddhā dptā bhayānvitā jugupsitā vismitā ca sthāyibhāveu  dṛṣṭaya NS.8.41

The remaining twenty types of glances refer to the transitory moods (vyabhicari bnavas), aptly corresponding to each of the dominant bhavas (Sthayi-bhavas). These are listed as:

Vacant (Sunya), pale (Malina), tired (Sranta), bashful (Lajjanvita),  lazy(Glana) , apprehensive (Sankita), despair (Vishanna), sleepy, dreaming (Mukula) , contracted (Kunchita), distressed (Abhitapa), crooked as in stupor or love (Jihma), recollecting or recalling (Vitarikta), in joy of smell or touch-half open side glances  (Ardha-mukta), confused (Vibranta), disturbed (Vipluta),  half shut (Akekara), fully open (Vikosa) , frightened (Trasta)  and intoxicated (Madira)

śūnyā ca malinā caiva  śrāntā lajjānvitā tathā glānā  ca  śakitā caiva viaṇṇā mukulā tathā 42 kuñcitā cābhitaptā ca jihmā salalitā  tathā  vitarkitārdhamukulā vibhrāntā viluptā tathā 43 ākekarā  vikośā ca trastā ca madirā  tathā 44

[The Vishnudharmottara also mentions that  of these thirty-six:  first nine refer to the Rasa (nine Rasas , including Shanta); another nine to the Sthayibhavaa (the dominant states);  and,  the remaining eighteen correspond closely to the Vyabhicari-bhavas (transitory states)]

*

The first sixteen types of  glances are described in great detail;  in terms of the movement of eyeballs, eyelids and the eyebrows; and, occasionally, with reference to the colour of the eyes.

The Drstis (glances), including the movement of the eyeballs, the iris and the pupil of the eye, the eyelids and the eye brows form an important part of the Abhinaya technique of Indian dance, dance-drama and drama.  And, this is particularly so in the Angikabhinaya element of the dance, where speech is not used. Instead, various ideas, the states of the mind and body, as also the emotions, are most effectively conveyed through expressions of the eyes and other facial features.

The Mukhaja-abhinaya has, therefore, been accorded a very significant role in the conventions and techniques of Indian dance traditions. And, Natyashastra devotes as many as 56 verses of Chapter Eight (from verse 39 to verse 95) to describe, in detail, various types of glances and their applications in dramatic and dance situations.

**

Eyes-Eyeballs (Tara)

Bharata says the eyeballs (Tara) can express gestures of nine kinds (Verses 8.95-102): Bhramana (moving round) Valana (turning obliquely), Patana (relaxing), Calana (trembling), Sampravesana (drawing inside), Vivartana (turning sideways), Samudvrtta (rising up), Niskramana (going out) and Prakrta (natural).

Tārayor bhramaa valana gamana tryasra pātana srastatā tathā calana kampana jñeya praveśo’ntapraveśanam NS. 8.100

The eyeball movements (Taraka karma) may be either with reference to the object of perception or without It, which suggest the positions of the eyeballs in different parts of the eye. Up and down or circular movements of the eyeballs are possible.

Bharata also mentions about the use of such eyeball-movements. For instance; Bhramana, Valana and Samudvrtta are used in the heroic (Vira) and furious (Raudra) Rasas. And, Vivartana is used in erotic (Srngara) situations. And, so on.

eyes 01

Bharata, next, enumerates eight additional types of eyeball positions, their appearances and their uses (verses 8. 103-108): Sama (level, at rest), Saci (sidelong, covered by eyelashes), Anuvrtta (probing), Alokita (eyes wide open and his eyes looking around), Vilokita (looking round or looking back) , Pralokita (carefully looking, turning from side to side),  Ullokita (looking up) and Avalokita (looking down towards the ground). This classification is according to the object of perception. These are all utilized to express states (Bhavas) and emotions (Rasas).

Samam Alokitam Saachi pralokita Nimility  Ullokita-anuvritte cha tatha chaiva-avalokitam  Ithyashtho drishthi bhedaha syu kirtitah purvasuribhi

eyes02

[ The Abhinaya Darpana does not enumerate the movements of the eyeballs. But, it talks, in detail, about Dristi.]

The position and the movement of the eyeball, according to Bharata do help in explicitly project the Bhavas and the Rasas. Please click here for illustration.

*

Eyes-eyelids (Puta)

 Bharata, then, goes on to discuss the eyelids (Puta) – verses 108-115; and eyebrows (Bhru) –verses 116 to125; their movements and uses.

The gestures of the eyelids follow the movements of eyeballs. They are:  Unmesa (opening, separating the eyelids), Nimesa (closing, bringing together), Prasrta (expanding widely), Kuncita (contracting the eyelids), Sama (level, natural), Vivartita (rising up), Sphurita (throbbing eyelids), Pihita (resting, closed) and Vitadita (driven, struck accidently).

unmeaśca nimeaśca prasta kuñcita samam 111 vivartita sa sphurita pihita savitāitam NS.8. 112

Then, the applications (Viniyogam) of the eyelid-movements are explained. For instance; while in anger, the eyelids rise up (Vivartita), close (Nimesa) and open widely (Unmesa).And, in joy and wonder, the eyelids expand (Prastra). On seeing an undesired object, the eyelids contract (Kuncita). And, so on.

*

Eyes- Eyebrows (Bhru)

The gestures of the eye-brows (Bhru) are described in Verses 116-125 of Chapter Eight. Its movements are to be harmonized with those of the eye-balls (Tara) and eyelids (Puta).

The artistic movements of the eyebrows are said to be seven in number: Utksepa (rising simultaneously or one after another); Patana (lowering simultaneously or one after another); Bhrukuti (knitting); Catura (clever, extending in a pleasing manner), Kuncita (contracting, bending one by one or together); Recita (rising one in an amorous way); and, Sahaja (natural).  

utkepa pātanaścaiva bhrukuī catura bhruvo 119kuñcita recita caiva sahaja ceti saptadhā NS.8.120

As regards the use or the application of the eyebrow movements (verses 121-125), it is said: Utksepa (rising) is used to show anger, deliberation, passion, playfulness. While in seeing and hearing only one eyebrow is raised; but, in surprise, joy and violent anger both the eyebrows are raised up. Patana is for show of envy, disgust etc. And, Catura is for display of love; and, to indicate playful mood, pleasing object or pleasing touch. And so on.

Bharata Natyam.33jpg

Nose (Nasa), cheeks (Ganda), lower lips (Adhara) and chin (Cibuka)

That is followed by descriptions of

:- Six types of gestures of the nose (Nasa) or nostrils  and its uses, viniyojanam : Nata; Manda; Vikrta;Suchavas; Vikunita; and, Svabhaviki (verses 126-132);

:- Six kinds of cheeks (Ganda) and its uses :  Kamsa (dropping); Pulla (blown); Purna (full); Kampita (trembling); Kunchitaka (contracted); Sama or Prakata (natural) – (verses 127-132) ;

:- Six kinds of gestures of the lower lips (Adhara) and their uses : Vivartana (narrowing); Kampa (quavering); Visarga (protruding); Vighuna (concealing); Samugda (contracting) and Svabhavaja (natural movement)- (verses 137-142); and,

:- Seven kinds of gestures of the chin (Cibuka)- with combined actions of the teeth, lips and the tongue –  and its uses : Kuttam (biting with force); Khandana (pressing together); Chinna (lower and upper row of teeth meeting closely); Cukkita (opening wide);  and Samata (wide) – (verses 143-149).

These gestures are then talked about in relation to the teeth, the lips and the tongue.

[Natyashastra does not describe; and, it does not even mention the movements of the tongue – Jihva.  However in dance and also dance-drama traditions in depiction of Lord Narasimha, the tongue is often stuck out by the dancer.

Similarly, the Natyashastra doesn’t also analyze movements of the knee (janu), the anklets (gulpha) and the toes of the feet, which is done by other texts ]

 

Bharata Natyam.22jpg

 

Mouth (Mukha)

The movements of the mouth (Mukha) are also enumerated in verses 149 to 157 of Chapter Eight. In verses 157 to 165, four types of the colours of the face (Mukha-raga) are mentioned. These are the natural (Svabhavika); bright and delightful (Prasanna); reddish (Raktha); and, dark (Shyama).

Svābhāvika prasannaś ca rakta śyāmo artha saśraya svābhāvikastu kartavya svabhāvā-abhinayāśraya  NS.8.163

The natural colour indicate ordinary state; the bright face is indicative of love, joy, wonder and laughter; the reddish face may indicate an intoxicated state or grieving in sorrow; and. The dark face is for representing terrible (Bhayanaka) and odious (Bhibhatsa) Rasas.

The colours of the face deemed suitable for representation of corresponding Bhavas and Rasas, should go with every gestures of the eye (glance), the eyebrow and the mouth.  All these together project the requisite Bhava, to properly evoke its associated Rasa.

**

Neck (Griva)

And, that is followed by the descriptions of nine types of neck (Griva) movements and their uses (verses 166 to 173). These are : Sama (natural , straight as  in meditation); Nata ( face bent down, as while wearing an ornament or putting arms around another neck); Unnata (neck turned high, looking up) Tryasra (neck turned sideways , as while lifting a weight); Recita (shaking of neck , as while churning or in dance); Kunchita (head bent down , as in protecting ones neck); Vahita (face turned sideways , or turning the neck and looking behind); and, Vivrtta ( looking ahead , as while walking towards ones seat).

samā nato-unnatā tryasrā recitā kuñcitāñcitā 171 vahitā ca vivttā ca grīvā  nava vidhā rthata .. 172

These nine movements suggest posture that is suitable for the state of being (Bhava) of the character. For instance; Unnata neck position with the face up turned is used in looking up; the Tryasra position has neck with the face turned sideways; and, it suggests as if one is carrying a weight or is in sorrow. The neck gestures are also associated with the social status of the concerned persons.

The neck-movement is very important in Dance; because the movements of the head and the face pivot around it.

Gestures of the neck are all to follow the gestures of the head; and, the head gestures are also reflected in those of the neck. And, in this manner, Bharata enumerates and describes the gestures of the head and the connected minor limbs (upanga) and their uses.

Bharata says, he would discuss the other elements of Angikabhinaya in the next Chapter.

śirasa karmaa karma grīvāyā sampravartate ityetal lakaa prokta śīro-upāga samāśrayam agakarmāi śeāi gadato me nibodhata  ॥NS.8.179

dance pose444

We shall continue with the Angikabhinaya in the next part also, where we may take a look at the Hastha (hand gestures) and Sarira (the limbs; and, Kshetra (the entire body) including the Anga and Upanga.

Continued

In

Part Eight

 

References and Sources

  1. Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition

 By Dr Mandakranta Bose

  1. Theory and Technique by Dr. Sunil Kothari

ALL PICTURES AND ILLUSTRATIONS ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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