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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Five

Continued from Part Four

Dance forms of India

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Uparupakas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance-Drama

Dance-dramas

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

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

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

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

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

Gita-Govinda

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

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

from the Gita Govinda

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

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

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

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

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

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Nauka Charitam

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

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

Dances

Regional Dance forms

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

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

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

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

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

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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 )

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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.

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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.

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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.

 *

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.

*

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.

*

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.

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Bharatanatya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

***

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

Nataraja big

 

Continued

In

Part Six

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

 Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya

B. During the Post- Bharata period

Bharata Natyam

Intro…

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

Just to recapitulate:

As per Natyashastra,

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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Nrtta in the medieval period

Abhinavagupta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

*

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

*

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

And, he classifies the Abhinaya into two distinct types.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dhananjaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

**

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Natya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nrtya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya – their mutual relations

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

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

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

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Nrtta and Natya

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

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

Nrtta and Nrtya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Natya and Nrtya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In contrast to the Nrtya, the facial and body movements in Natya are slight or subtle – Kincit-chalana. Here, the speech (Vachika) is dominant; and, therefore, the need for Sattvikabhinaya  and the vrttis (styles of dialouge delivery) is greater, for communicating the mental and emotional states of the characters in the play. Further, unlike in Nrtya, the actors on the stage do actually sing.  Thus, in the Natya, both the visual and the audio are highly essential.

Thus, the Natya or Drama has an advantage over poetry, music and dance. Apart from bringing in the embellishment of spectacular the visual effects (Rupaka or Drishya-kavya), it has the power of music and speech.

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In the later periods, Natya became rather stagnant; but, the Nrtya made rapid strides. While Natya was fading ; and, losing its universal appeal,  the Nrtya and its forms were evolving and developing swiftly as the most delightful and most engaging Art forms, popular among  all sections of the society.

In the process of its growth, Nrtya widened its scope and content by innovating and assimilating a range of stylistic variations; and, by moving away from its early dependence on Drama. Now, Nrtya is no longer an adjunct or accessory to Natya. It has also widened its aesthetic scope, beyond decorative grace to encompass emotive communication (Rasa) and narrative variations. It has evolved into a full-fledged system, a self-governing complex Art form; and, has established its identity. And, it has continued as highly popular classical dance form.

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Bharatanatya

The School of Nrtya that is prevalent in South India is the Bharata-natya.

In the initial years, there were debates raising questions concerning the name assigned to this Dance form, which, basically, is Nrtya. Many asked, why should it be called Bharata-natya; and, why not Bharata-nrtya.

In reply; explanations were offered to clarify that the suffix ‘Natya’ also stands for ‘Nrtya’, in its technical sense.  The arguments made out said  that as per the past authorities like Kumbha Rana and Vipradasa (fifteenth century), the term ‘Natya’ could also be used to denote ‘Nrtya’. Later, Pundarika Vittala (sixteenth century), in his work (Nartana-nirnaya), following the lead given by Sarangadeva, said that Nartana, a general class-name for Dance, covered the three forms of Dance: NatyaNrtya and Nrtta. And, much before that Amarasimha, as early as in the fifth century, had equated ‘Natya’, among other terms, with ‘Nrtya’.

But, there are no explanations anywhere as to when and why that equation was arrived at. The only other plausible explanation is that it might have come about by way of popular usage. But, in any case, since this form of dancing was created by Bharata, to name it as Bharatanatya, is truly justifiable.  As per Dr. Ananada Coomaraswamy,’ Indian acting and dancing, is a deliberate art; and, the same word, Natya, covers both those ideas. ‘

Thus, the Nrtya, known now as Bharatanatya is surely a continuation of the form and tradition of the Marga class of dance that was promoted by Bharata; although over the period, some elements have entered into it. Yet; no other School of Nrtya has a closer relationship with Natyashastra than Bharatanatya.

*

The Bharatanatya of today is such a refined form of Dance which has brought within its ambit the formats of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya. This School of Art can be explained in almost every respect by Bharata’s theories. And, it follows Bharata’s techniques to a large extent.  It also contains the beauty of form as in the Nrtta. It excels in the aesthetic presentation of form and geometrical beauty; and in the richness of in variety of movements as no other dance form does. It has the gentle power of expression to communicate ideas and emotions through Abhinaya, as in Nrtya. It can also present a narrative theme as in Natya, where the dancer enacts the roles of varieties of characters (Ekaharya Abhinaya or Ekaharya Lasyanga)

Depending upon the nature of the dance item that is being presented, its balance in terms of Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya varies. But, in general, the dominant aspect of Bharatanatya is Nrtya.

As regards its practice, Bharatanatya draws upon its tradition persevered and passed on from generation to generation in orally transmitted and highly codified manuals (Shastra). Though it is, essentially, rooted in the principles of Natyashastra, it has also adopted many features and techniques from the regional dance traditions; and, has thus enlarged its repertoire and acquired many dimensions.

Though the emphasis is on the adherence to and to preserving the purity of the tradition; and, its continuation, it also has brought in some innovative techniques and refreshing modes of expression, in tune with the advancing times. These could be called as ‘context-sensitive interactions’

The difference between Bharatanatya and other Dance forms like Kathakali, Manipuri and others is mainly in the use of their Abhinayas and techniques. They all belong to the Nrtya class. Each has its own stylized manner of bringing out the essential meaning of the song. Each is delightful in its own way. The coexistence of multiple streams of Dance forms has surely enriched the Indian Art scene.

abhinaya

The way ahead…

Having said that; let me add that Bharatanatya, as an art, is a dynamic process. It needs to be rejuvenating and reinventing itself all the time. And, it should not stagnate. Though its theories are rooted in the Natyashastra of Bharata, in its practice, it derives its curriculum from several other texts. Most of those texts were written before the seventeenth century.  And, that makes it essential for Bharatanatya to innovate and look for newer modes and idioms of expressions; and, also try to move away, at least for a limited extent, from the traditional mythological themes.

All the Art forms that are practiced today cannot be explained only on the basis of Natyashastra; nor is it necessary to do so. Art need not always be confined to Bharata’s techniques. Even in the case of Bharatanatya, the theory as detailed in Natyashastra needs to be studied in the light of the current practices. And, that might, hopefully provide us an insight; and, suggest improved techniques, in order to rationalize and bring it closer to today’s environment.

If the dance forms that are practiced today have to come into their own, these should be explained on a rational basis.  It seems much attention is paid to the literal interpretation of the old texts. And, too much philosophizing is another factor. But, Art has its own philosophy, outlook and appeal; although many try to inject their own pet philosophy into the Arts.

If the Art has to be alive it has to be relevant to the times we live in; and, has to reach further levels of the society.

We are in the age of reconstruction. There many problems and issues – old and new-,  including commercialization, that need to be resolved. The ancient theories would not do for all our present needs and problems. A detailed study of present practices without always being tied down to the ancient theoretical works seems advisable.  What is needed is continuity with change. Both the ancient and the modern Art-forms and techniques need to be studied with equal earnestness.

kadagola

In the next part, we shall briefly talk about various classical Dance forms of India, such as Kathak, Odissi, kathakali and Manipuri.

dance forms

Continued

 In

Part Five

 

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Three

Continued from Part Two 

 Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya

shiva_dancing_for_parvati

Intro.

As it has been said very often; the Natyashastra is the earliest available text of Indian Dancing traditions. It combines in itself the fundamentals of the principles, practices and techniques of Dance. it thus serves as the principal text of the Dance. And, therefore, the influence exerted by it on the growth and development of all Dance-forms, has been deep and vast.  The Natyashastra, an authoritative text to which the Masters and learners alike turn to, seeking instructions, guidance, and inspiration, is central to any discussion on classical Dance. And, therefore, no discussion on classical Dance is complete without referring to the concepts  of the  Natyashastra.

[Having said that; let me also mention that in the context of Dance , as it is practiced in the present day, besides Natyashastra , several other texts are followed. The Natyashastra provides the earliest theoretical framework; but, the practice of Dance  and the techniques of dancing were  molded and improved by many texts of the later periods. What we have today is the culmination of several textual traditions and their practices. We shall come to those aspects later in the series.]

Because of the position that Natyashastra occupies in the evolution of the Arts and its forms, it would help to try to understand the early concepts and their relationships to Dance. And, thereafter, we may follow the unfolding and transformation of those concepts acquiring different meanings and applications; as also the emergence of new terms and art-forms, during the later times.

In that context, we may, in particular, discuss the three terms; their derivation; their manifestation and transformation; as also the mutual relations among the three. In the process, we may also look at the related concepts; and their evolution over the centuries. The three terms that I am referring to are the Nrtta, Natya and Nrtya, which are fundamental to most of the Dance formats.

 *

As regards the  other texts that discuss the theories, practices and techniques of Dancing, there are no significant works between the period of Bharata and that of Abhinavagupta and Dhananjaya (eleventh century). Even if any were there, none has come down to us. But during this period, the dance and its concepts had changed significantly. And, the manuscript editions of the Natyashastra had also undergone alterations.

Over the different periods, the concepts of Natyashastra, along with that of its basic terms such as Nrtta, Natya etc., came to be interpreted in number of amazingly different ways, depending, largely, upon the attitudes and the approach of the authors coming from diverse backgrounds and following varied regional cultural practices. It is a labyrinth, a virtual maze, in which one can easily get lost.

It would, therefore, hopefully, make sense if we try to understand these terms in the context of each period that spans the course of the long history of Dancing in India, instead of trying to take an overall or summary view.

In the following pages, let us try to understand these terms and their applications in relation to the  concepts and the techniques of dancing, as it emerged in various stages, during the three phases of Indian Art history: the period of the  Natyashastra of Bharata; the theories and commentaries by the authors of the medieval period; and, dance as practiced in the present-day.

**

Before we get into the specifics, let’s briefly talk about Dance in general, within the context of Natyashastra.

Bharata’s Natyashastra represents the first known stage of Indian Art-history where the diverse elements of arts, literature, music, dance, stage management and cosmetics etc., combined harmoniously, to fruitfully produce an enjoyable play. 

It is quite possible that the authors prior to the time of Bharata did speak of Dance; its forms and practices.  But, it was, primarily, Bharata who recognized the communicative power of Dance; and, laid down its concepts.

Bharata described what he considered to be the most cultivated dance styles, which formed the core of the dominant art-practice (prayoga) in his time, the Drama.

The framework within which Bharata describes Dance is, largely, related to Drama. And, his primary interest seemed to be to explore the ways to enhance the beauty of a dramatic presentation. Thus, Dance in association with music was treated as an ornamental overlay upon Drama.  As Nandikesvara said, the Dance should have songs (gitam). And, the song must be sung, displaying (pradarshayet) the meaning (Artha) and emotions (Bhavam) of the lyrics through the gestures of the hands (hastenatha); shown through the eyes (chakshuryo darshaved); and, in tune with rhythm and corresponding foot-work (padabhyam talam-achareth).

Asyena alambaved gitam, hastena artha pradarshayet/chakshuryo darshaved bhavam, padabhyam talam-achareth (Ab.Da.36)

Dance, at that stage, was an ancillary part (Anga) or one of the ingredients that lent elegance and grace to theatrical performance; and, it was not yet an independent art-form, by itself. Bharata , at that stage, is credited with  devising a more creative Dance-form , which was adorned with elegant, evocative and graceful body-movements; performed in unison with attractive rhythm and enthralling music; in order to effectively interpret and illustrate the lyrics of a song; and, also to depict the emotional content of a dramatic sequence.But, he had not assigned it a name.

It was only in the later times, when the concepts and descriptions provided by Bharata were adopted and improved upon, that Dance gained the status of a self-regulating, independent specialized form of art, as Nrtya.

*

The scholars opine that in the evolution of Dance, first comes Nrtta; then Natya; and, later Nrtya appeared. Here, Nrtta is said to be pure dance; while Nrtya emerged when Abhinayas of four types (Angika; Vachika; Sattvika; and Aharya) were combined with Nrtta. And, Natya included both these (Nrtta and Nrtya), even while the speech and the songs remained prominent. Thus, Natya comprises all the three features – Dance, music and speech (song) – which are very essential for the production and enactment of Drama.

To put the entire series of developments, in the context of Natyashastra, in a summary form:

Nrtta, as described in Natyashastra, had been in practice even during the very ancient times. The Nrtta, according to Bharata, was a dance form created by Shiva; and, which, he taught to his disciple Tandu.  It seems to have been older than Natya

Natya too goes back to the very distant past. Even by the time of Bharata, say by   about the fourth to second century BCE, Natya was already a highly developed and accomplished Art. It was regarded as the best; and, also as the culmination of all Art forms. Though Nrtta was older, Natya was not derived from it. Both the Nrtta and the Natya had independent origins; and, developed independent of each other. And, later too, the two ran on parallel lines.

It was during Bharata’s time that Nrtta was integrated into Natya. Even though the two came together, they never merged into each other. And, up to the present-day they have retained their identity; and, run parallel in ways peculiar to them. (Even in a Bharatanatya performance the treatment and presentation of the Nrtta is different from that of the rest.)

 By combining Nrtta, the pure Dance, with the Abhinaya of Natya, a new form of Dance viz., the Nrtya came into being. Bharata is credited with this creative, innovative act of bringing together two of the most enjoyable Art forms (Bhartopajanaka). But, it developed to its full extant only after the time of Bharata.

But, at the time of Bharata, that resultant new-art was not assigned a separate name; nor was it then classified into Tandava and Lasya types.  In fact, the terms Nrtya and Lasya do not appear either in the Natyashastra or in its early commentaries. It was only during the later times that Nrtya gained an independent recognition as an expressive, eloquent representational Art, which projects human experiences, with amazing fluidity and grace.

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

With this general backdrop, let’s go further.

Hamsa 4

A. Nrtta in Natyasahastra

Nrtta

Initially, Bharata, in the fourth Chapter of the Natyashastra, titled Tandava Lakshanam, deals with the Dance. The term that he used to denote Dance was Nrtta (pure dancing or limb movements, not associated with any particular emotion, Bhava).

The Nrtta comprised two varieties of Dances (Nrtta-prayoga) : The Tandava and Sukumara. The Tandava was not necessarily aggressive; nor danced only by men. And, the gentler, graceful form of dance was Sukumara-prayoga

And, in the context of Drama, both of these were said to refer to the physical structure of dance movements. And, both were performed during the preliminaries before the commencement of the play – Purvaranga – while offering prayers to the deities, Deva-stuti   ; and, not in the drama per se.

Mayāpīdam smta ntta sandhyākāleu Ntttā nānā karaa sayuktai raga hārair vibhūitam 4.13

Pūrva-raga-vidhā avasmistvayā samyak prayojyatām vardhamāna kayogeu gītevāsāriteu ca 4.14

The Dance performed during the Purvaranga was accompanied by vocal and instrumental music. It is said; the songs that were sung during the Purvaranga were of the Marga class- sacred, somber and well regulated (Niyata). Such Marga songs were in praise of Shiva (Shiva-stuti). Bharata explains Marga or Gandharva as the Music dear to gods (atyartham iṣṭa devānā), giving great pleasure to Gandharvas; and, therefore it is called Gandharva.

Atyartham iṣṭa devānā tathā prīti-kara puna | gandharvāā ca yasmād dhi tasmād gāndharvam ucyate – NS Ch. 28, 9

shiva dance

Almost the entire Chapter Four of Natyashastra is devoted to Nrtta. That is because, the term that Bharata generally used to symbolize  Dance, was Nrtta.  And, the Nrtta, Bharata said, was created to give expression to beauty and grace – śobhā prajanayediti Ntta pravartitam (NS.4.264). The Nrtta is visual art. The term Nrtta, in the context of the Natyashastra, is explained by Abhinavagupta as (Angavikshepa), the graceful composition of the limbs – gatram vilasena kshepaha.

The Nrtta stands for pure, abstract and beautiful dance, performed in tune with the rhythm and tempo, to the accompaniment of vocal and instrumental music.

The Nrtta performed during the Purvaranga was not as an auxiliary to Natya. And, therefore, Nrtta was considered to be independent and complete by itself.

Nrtta is described in terms of the motion of the limbs; the beauty of its form; the balanced geometrical structure; creative use of space; and rhythm (time). It gives form to the formless.  Here, the body speaks its own language; an expression of the self. It delights the eye with its posture, rhythm and synchronized movements of the dancer’s body.

Nrtta is the spontaneous rhythmic movement of different parts of the body (Angas, Upangas and Pratyangas). Nrtta is also associated with the surrounding nature and its beauty. For instance; Shiva does his Nrtta in the evening, before sun set, (Sandhyayam nrtyaha Shamboh) surrounded by the salubrious shining snow peaks of the Himalayas, while he is in the company of Devi Parvathi and his Ganas.

It is said; the sense of Nrtta is ingrained in the nature. For instance; the peacocks burst into simple rhythmic movements at the sight of rain-bearing clouds; and, the waves in the sea swing in ebb and flow as the full moon rises up in a clear cloudless night.

Nrtta is a kind of architecture. It is an Art-form whose life is the beauty of its form. But, Nrtta was not meant for giving forth meaningful expressions. It did not look for a purpose; not even of narrating a theme.

Thus, Nrtta could be understood as a metaphor of Dance made of coordinated movement of hands and feet (Cari and Karana or dance units or postures), in a single graceful flow.  Nrtta is useful for its beautiful visual appeal; as that which pleases the eye (Shobha hetuvena).

...

Tandava

shiva tandava

And, Tandava is said to be the Nrtta that Shiva taught to his disciple Tandu (Tando rayam Tandavah).  It was composed by combining the circular movement of a limb (Recaka) and the sequence of dance movements (KaranasAngaharas) . It is not clear  how these movements were utilized.

The term Tandava could also be understood as Bharata’s term for Nrtta , the Dance (Nrtta-prayoga) – Nrtta-prayoga sṛṣṭo ya sa Tāṇḍava iti smta. NS.4.261. And, Tandava is often used as a synonym for Nrtta.

[Abhinavagupta, in his typical style, provides a totally different sort of explanation to the term Tandava. According to him, the term ṇḍava is derived from the sounds like ‘Tando; tam-tam’, produced by the accompanying Damaru shaped drums. It follows the manner, in Grammar (vyākaraa), of naming an object, based on the sound it produces – śabda-anukti.  For instance; Yaska, in his Nirukta (318) had mentioned that a kaka (crow) is so called, because of the sound it makes – kāka, iti Śabda, anuktis, tad idam, śakunisu bahulam.

Abhinavagupta also mentions that the Bhaṇḍam (percussion instruments), which produce sounds like ‘Bhan, Than’ etc., are important for the performance of the Ntta.]

*

And, in regard to the Drama, the Tandava,  a form of Nrtta, is performed before the commencement of the play, as a prayer-offering to gods (Deva stuti). It is a dance that creates beauty of form; and, is submitted to gods, just as one offers flowers (pushpanjali).

The Tandava, at this stage, did not necessarily mean a violent dance; nor was it performed only by men.

According to Bharata, the Tandava Nrtta, during Purvaranga, iperformed to accompaniment of appropriate songs and drums. And, it is composed of Recakas, Angaharas and the Pindibandhas; (NS. 4. 259-61).

Recakā Agahārāśca Piṇḍībandhā tasthaiva ca 4.259 sṛṣṭvā bhagavatā dattās Taṇḍave munaye tadā tenāpi hi tata samyag-gāna-bhāṇḍa-samanvita 4.260 Ntta-prayoga sṛṣṭo ya sa Tāṇḍava iti smta 4.261

[Please also check this link http://www.tarrdaniel.com/documents/Yoga-Yogacara/nata_yoga.html ]

Sukumara

devi lasya.

And , Sukumara Prayoga is the tender and graceful type of dance performed by the Devi Parvathi.

It is said; Shiva’s Tandava dance comprising Angaharas and Recakas inspired Devi Parvathi to perform her own type of dance, adorned with graceful and delicate movements (sukumara-prayoga) – (Sukumāra-prayogeṇa Nṛttam caiva Pārvatīm –NS.4.250). 

Recakair-agahāraiś ca Ntyanta vīkya Sakaram 249 Sukumāra-prayogea Ntyantī caiva Pārvatīm (NS. 4. 249-50)

Parvathi ‘s  dance was also adorned with graceful gestures – Recakas and Angaharas. But, her dance cannot be construed as s counterpart to Tandava. It was her own form of Dance.

*

Abhinavagupta explains; the Angaharas of Parvathi’s Dance was rich in loveliness and subtle beauty (Lalitha Angahara); celebrating the erotic sentiment, Sṛṅgāra, the love that binds male and female – (Sukumāra-prayogaśca śṛṅgāra-rasa-sambhavaḥ – NS.4.269). Her Dance was bedecked with emotion; and, was full of meaning (Abhinaya prāptyartham arthānā tajjñair abhinaya kta NS.4. 261).

Yattu śṛṅgāra sabaddha gāna strī puruā aśrayam Devī ktair agahārair lalitais tat prayojayet NS.4. 312

Abhinavagupta says; the fruit (phala) of the gentle dance is that it pleases the Goddess (Devī); and that of ṇḍava is that it pleases Shiva who is with Soma. He also mentions that while performing the dance-gestures (abhinaya) for Puṣhpāñjali, the dancer’s looks must not be diverted towards the audience. That is because; that dance-offering is not addressed to the spectators. Therefore, it must be performed looking into one’s own soul.

*

[ We need to remember that the Tandava and the Sukumara, the pure types of Dances, were discussed by Bharata in the context of the purvaranga, not in that of drama proper (yaścāya pūrva-ragastu tvayā śuddha prayojita – NS.4. 15). And, such a Purvaranga was called Chitra (Citro nāma bhaviyati); Chitra meant diagrams/formations. These dances , at that stage , were not associated with expression of emotions.

However, Abhinavagupta, in his commentary, at many places, interprets Natyashastra in the light of contemporary concepts and practices. He also introduces certain ideas and terms that were not present during the time of Bharata.

For instance; during the time of Bharata, there was no clear theoretical division of Dance into Tandava and Sukumara. And, the term Lasya, which in the later period meant gentle, delicate and graceful, does not also appear in Natyashastra. But, the concept of the element of grace and beauty did exist; and, was named as Sukumara-prayoga.

The Tandava as described in the Natyashastra was Nrtta (pure dance); and, it was not necessarily aggressive; though Abhinavagupta interpreted Tandava as Uddhata (vigorous). But, in the Natyashastra, Tandava does not convey the sense of Uddhata.

Similarly, though Tandava is mentioned as Nrtta; it, in no way, refers to, or is related to furious dance, which in the present-day goes by the name Tandava-nrtta

Abhinavagupta states that Lasya (which term he uses to substitute Sukumara-prayoga), the graceful dance with delicate, graceful movements , performed by Devi Parvathi was in contrast to Shiva’s forceful (Uddhata Angaharas) and fast paced Tandava Nrtta. But, nether term Lasya, nor such distinctions or contrasts are mentioned in the Natyashastra.

Both Tandava and Sukumara come under Nrtta – the pure Dance, devoid of meaning and emotion. But, Abhinavagupta describes the Sukumara of Devi as being ‘bedecked with emotion and full of meaning’.

Abhinavagupta also brings in the notion of relating Tandava and Sukumara to male (Purusha) and female (Stri) dances. But, such gender-based associations were not mentioned in the Natyashastra.]

NataYoga10-12

Recaka, Karana and Angahara

As mentioned earlier, according to Bharata, the Tandava Nrtta, performed to the accompaniment of appropriate songs and drum-beats, is composed of Recakas, Angaharas and the Pindibandhas – (Recakā Agahārāśca Piṇḍībandhā tasthaiva caNS. 4. 259-61). The Tandava, at this stage, as said earlier, did not necessarily mean a violent dance; nor was it performed only by men.

Recaka

Here, Recaka (derived from Recita, relating to limbs) is understood as the extending movements of the feet (pāda), waist (kai), hands (hasta) and neck (grīva or kanta):  pāda-recaka eka syat dvitīya kai-recaka kararecakas tritīyas tu caturta kaṇṭha-recakaḥ (NS.4. 248). The Recakas are said to be separate  movements; and, are not parts of Karanas or Cari.

Movement of the feet from one side to the other with faltering or unsteady gaits as also of other types of feet movement is called Pada-recaka. Rising up, stretching up and turning round the waist as well as drawing it back characterize the Kati-recaka. Throwing up,putting forward, throwing sideways, swinging round and drawing back of the hands are called Hasta-recaka. Raising up, lowering, and bending the neck sideways to left and right or such other movements form the Kanta-recaka.

In each of the four varieties of major joint movements, the limb is moved or turned from one position to another. These four basic oscillating movements, which lend grace and elegance to the postures, are regarded as fundamental to dancing.

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

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

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

 *

It is said; on entering the stage, with flowers in her hands (pupāñjali-dharā bhūtvā praviśed raga-maṇtapam), the female dancer should be in vaisakha sthana (posture) ; and , perform all the four Recakas (those of feet, waist, hands and neck) – vaiśākha-sthāna-keneha sarva-recaka-cāriī ॥ 274॥

And, only then , she should go round the stage scattering flowers , in submission to gods. After bowing to gods, she should perform her Abhinaya .

pupāñjali visjyātha ragapīha parītya ca 275 praamya devatābhyaś ca tato abhinayam-ācaret 276

Abhinavagupta also says, the Recakas are basically related to tender graceful movements, where music is prominent (Sukumara-Samgita-Vadya pradanene cha prayoga esham)

*

Somehow, there is not much discussion about Recaka in the major texts. Kallinātha, the commentator, merely states that Recakas form part of the Agahāras; and, is useful in adjusting the Taala (time units).

Hamsa 4

Karanas

According to the Natyashastra, the Nrtta is Angahara, which is made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13)

And, Karana is defined by Bharata as the perfect combination of the hands and feet – Hasta-pada samyoga Nrttasya Karanam bhavet (NS.4.30). The Karanas are classified under Nrtta.

And, the Karanas are themselves made up of Sthanas (static postures), Caris and Nrtta-hastas (movement of the feet and the hands). It involves both the aspects: movement and position.

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

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

According to him, the Sthanaka, Cari and Nrtta-hastha can be compared to subject (kartru-pada), object (Karma-pada) and verb (Kriya-pada) in a meaningful sentence.

*

Thus, Karaa is not a mere pose, a stance or a posture that is isolated and frozen in time. Karaa is the stylized synthesis of Sthiti (a fixed position-static) and Gati (motion-dynamic). That is to say; a Karana made of Sthanas, Caris and Nrtttahastas is a dynamic process.  It is an aesthetically appealing, well coordinated movement of the hands and feet, capturing an image of beauty and grace .

A Karana functions as a fundamental unit of dance. It is a technical component, which helps to provide a structural framework, on which dance movements and formations are built and developed,

Bharata enumerates 108 types of Karanas in the Fourth Chapter of the Natyashastra. He devotes a two-line verse (Karika) to each of the Karanas, mentioning the associated hand gestures (hastas), foot movements (Caris), and body positions (Mandalas).

Abhinavagupta explains Karaa as action (Kriyā Karaam); and, as the very life (jivitam) of Ntta. It is a Kriya, an act which starts from a given place and terminates after reaching the proper one. It involves both the static and dynamic aspects: pose (Sthiti) and movement (Gati). And that is why, he says, Karaa is called as ‘Ntta Karaa’.

In the Karanas, the balance, equipoise, the ease, is the key. The movement of each limb must be in relation with that of the other, which is either following it in the same direction or is playing as the counterpart in the other direction. The flow must be fluid and harmonious. Every Karana is well thought out; and, is complete by itself.

Nrtta is the art that solely depends on the form. Its purpose is to achieve beauty in forms. That is the reason; Karana is defined as the perfect composition of the entire body. Unless each and every Karana is individually illustrated, it might not be possible to point out whether it is perfect; and whether all the elements that are required for that Karana are present.

karana (1)

Abhinavagupta explains; Karana is different from the actions of normal life (Lokadharmi). And, it is not a mere placement, replacement or displacement. Such throws (kepa) of the limbs must be guided by a sense of beauty and grace (vilasa-ksepasya). Hence, Karana is a free movement of limbs in a pleasing, unbroken flow (ekā kriyā). That is why, though the Karaa is defined ‘kriyā karaam’, Abhinavagupta says: a Karana has to be intellectually and spiritually satisfying. The word nttasya in Bharata’s definition is meant to emphasize this aspect of dance.

Pūrva-ketre sayoga-tyāgena samucita ketrāntara-prapti-paryantatayā ekā kriyā tattaranmityamartha

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As said earlier; Karaa was defined by Bharata as ‘hasta-pāda-sayoga nttasya karaa bhavet’ (BhN_4.30); meaning that the combination of hand and foot movements in dance (Ntta) are called Karaa.  

Abhinavagupta explains that ‘hasta’ and ‘pāda’, here, do not denote merely the hand and foot. But, hasta implies all actions pertaining to the upper part (Purva-kaya) of the body (Anga); and, it’s Shākhā-aga (branches, the various movements of the hands – Kara varhana), and Upāga (subsidiaries like the eyebrows, the nose, the lower lip, the cheeks and the chin etc).

Similarly, pāda stands for all actions of the lower limbs of the body (Apara-kaya); such as sides, waist, thighs, trunk and feet.

Thus, Karana involves the movement of the feet (pada karmani); shifting of a single foot (Cari) and postures of the legs (Sthana), along with hand gestures (hastas– single as also combined Nrtta gestures).

And, all the actions of the hands and feet must be suitably and coherently combined with those of the waist, sides, thighs, chest and back – Hasta, pada samyogaha  Nrtta Karanam bhavet.

That is to say; when the Anga moves, the Pratyanga and Upanga also move accordingly. The flow of the movement (gatravikshepa) should be such that the entire body is involved in the curves and bends.

hastau śiras-sannata ca gagāvataraa tviti / yāni sthānāni yāścāryo vyāyāme kathitāni tu // BhN_4.169 // ādapracārastveā tu karaānāmaya bhavet / ye cāpi ntta hastāstu gaditā nttakarmai // BhN_4.170 //

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There is an elaborate discussion on two important features of a Karana execution: (1) Sausthava (keeping different limbs in their proper position) – about which Bharata says that the whole beauty of Nrtta rests on the Sausthava , so the performer never shines unless he pays attention to this – Shobha sarvaiva nityam hi Sausthavam; and, (2) Chaturasrya (square composition of the body, mainly in relation to the chest) – about which Abhinavagupta remarks that the very vital principle (jivitam)  of the body, in dance, is based on  its square position (Chaturasrya-mulam Nrttena  angasya jivitam), and adds that the very object of Sausthava is to attain a perfect Chaturasrya ,

This again emphasizes that Nrtta rests on the notion of formal-beauty, which is achieved through the perfect composition of the whole body. This involves not merely the geometrical values, but also the balance and harmony among the body parts.

While commenting on the Karaas, Abhinavagupta says that such static elements within the dynamics of the Karaas are useful in dance, not only as factors that beautify the presentation , but also as mediums of expression for communicating the meaning of the lyrics through vākyā-arthā-abhinaya (actions interpreting the meanings of its sentences). According to him, the Karanas are not mere physical actions; they can give form to ideas and thoughts. He opines that Nrtta can produce Bhavas. And, Nrtta, in reality, is Art par excellence.

While commenting on the fifteenth Karaa (the Svastika), Abhinavagupta asserts that every Karaa is capable of conveying a certain idea (Artha) or a thought, at least in a very subtle way. (But, such notions of associating Karanas with representation are not found in the Natyashastra.)

Sarangadeva in his Sangitaratnakara (Chapter 7, Nrttakarana, verses 548-49) also defines the Nrtta Karana as a beautiful (vilasena) combination of the actions (kriya) of the hands (Kara), feet (pada) etc., appropriate to the Rasa it intends to evoke.

Nrttakarana

Thus, while many of the 108-karanas are primarily associated with stylized movements, some Ntta Karaas are used, also, to express various emotions; going beyond the conventional Nrtta format. And, the depiction of such Karanas is a dynamic process. There is scope for innovation and experimentation.

For instance; while explaining the 10th Karana – the Ardha-nikuttaka karana (placing one hand on the shoulder; striking it with outstretched fingers; and then striking the ground with one of the heels) – which employs ancita (curve) of the hands, Abhinavagupta mentions that Sankuka’s description was different from that of Bharata; and, cannot be accepted. Further, he says; this Karana can be performed in two or more different ways; and, therefore, concludes that the performer has some degree of freedom in interpreting a Karana.

He mentions that a Karana can be performed both in the sitting posture and by moving about on a stage by employing Nrtta-hastas (hand postures) and Drsti (glances) – Tatravastane karakayopayogi sthanakam. Gatau tu caryah; purvakaye to gatanau Nrtta-hasta Drstaya ca

And, again, along with his explanation of the 66th Karaa (Atikranta moving forward with each foot treading alternatively with a flourish and swing), he states that wherever the use of the Karaa is not specifically stated, it is left to the imagination of the performer.

[In the later times, Karanas came to be described as the means to convey a meaning (Artha) or a pattern, such as: svastikarcita or mandala-svastika. But, in the Natyashastra, the Nrtta or the Karanas are not associated with such representations.]

And, in the later times, the idioms and phrases (Karanas and Angahara) of these dances, as also the ways of expressing the intent and meaning (Abhinaya) of a situation or of a lyric, were adopted into the play-proper, as also into various Dance forms; thus , enhancing the quality of those art-forms.

It is said; even during the course of the play , one should adopt the physical movements – Uddhata Angaharas of Tandava, created by Shiva, while depicting action in fighting scenes. And, for rendering love-scenes, one should adopt the Sukumara Angaharas created by the Devi.

Since the Karanas epitomize the beauty of form; and, symbolize the concept of aesthetics, they served as models for the artist; and, inspired them to create sculptures of lasting beauty. The sculptors (Shilpis) regarded the Karanas as the vital breath (Prana) of their Art. The much admired Indian sculptures are, indeed, the frozen forms of Karanas. The linear measurements or the deviation from the vertical median (Brahma Sutra); the stances; and, iconometry of the Indian sculptures are all rooted in the Karanas of the Nrtta, the idiom of visual delight. These wondrous sculptures, poems in stone, continue to fascinate and do evoke admiration and pleasure (Rasa) in the hearts of the viewers.

[Please do not fail to read the Doctoral thesis on the Dance imagery in south Indian temples : study of the 108-karana sculptures, prepared by Dr. Bindu S. Shankar]

And, in the present-day dance curriculum, the Karanas are used as the phrases or the basic units of the dance structure.   Nrtta is taught as a combination of basic dance motions called Adavus for which there is a corresponding pattern of phonetic syllables. The Adavus of Bharatanatya are based in limb movements, postures, hand gestures and geometry as in the Karanas; though the Adavus might differ from Karanas, in their execution.

Adavus are regarded as the building blocks of Bharatanatya. Different combinations of Adavus create varieties of body movements.

[The Adavus (smallest units of dance patterns) are composed as dance-modulations (Nrtta), where all the movements relate to the vertical median (Brahma-sutra) on the one hand; and to the stable equipoise, fixed position of one-half of the dancer’s body, on the other. The Adavus are, thus, primary units of movements, where the position of the feet (Sthana), posture of our standing (Mandala), walking movements (Cari), gestures of the hands (Nrtta hasthas) and other limbs of the body together form a precise dance pattern. It is said; there are about ten or more basic types of Adavus (Dasha-vidha); and, more number of variations could be formed de pending on the School of Dancing (Bani).]

adavus2-16b3d

Agahāra

Nrtta in Natyashastra is of Angaharas, which are made of Karanas – Nānā Karaa sayuktair Agahārair vibhūitam (NS.4.13)

Abhinavagupta explains Agahāra as the process of sending the limbs of the body from a given position to the other proper one (Angavikshepa). It could also be taken to mean, twisting and bending of the limbs in a graceful manner.

And, such Angavikshepa is said to be a dominant feature of the Nrtta. And, as mentioned earlier, that term stands for graceful composition of limbs (gatram vilasena kshepaha). Thus, the Angaharas, basically, are Nrtta movements, the Angika-abhinaya, involving six Angas or segments of the body.

Abhinavagupta relates Angavikshepa to the Angaharas; and says, they could be taken, almost, as synonyms . But, they are not the same.

The Angaharas along with Recakas and Karanas constitute the essential aspects of the Nrtta; especially in the in the Purvaranga, and at times on the stage, as a part of the prelude (Naandi),  by female dancers dressed as goddesses – nikrāntāsu ca sarvāsu nartakīsu tata param 5. 156.  Bharata lists 32 Angaharas in verses 19 to 26 of Chapter Four.

[Towards the end of his comments on the 32 Angaharas, Abhinavagupta mentions that these could be produced in separate two sets of 16 each. One set of sixteen could be performed as a part of the Purvanga; and, the other set of sixteen after lifting the curtain, in full view of the spectators. While on the stage, four female dancers could perform four Angaharas each. Eight of them could be in Trisra Taala and the other eight in Chatursra Taala (Trysratalakah sodasa Esam; caturasra sryastav avantaratah).]

A Karana, as said earlier, is a basic unit of dance, constructed of well coordinated static postures and dynamic movements. The Nrtta technique consists in constructing a series of short compositions, by using the Karanas.

The Natyashastra mentions that a unit of two Karanas makes one Matrka; three Karanas makes one Kalapaka; four Karanas make a Sandaka; and, five Karanas make one Samghataka.  Thus, it says, The Angaharas consist of six, seven, eight or nine Karanas.

A meaningful combination of six to nine Karanas is said to constitute an Angahara, which could be called as a basic dance sequence (abhirvā saptabhirvāpi aṣṭabhir navabhis tathākaraairiha sayuktā agahārā prakīrtāḥ – NS.4.33).

It is said; the Angahara is like a garland where the selected Karanas (like flowers) are strung together, weaving a delightful pattern. It is basically a visual delight (prekshaniya).

Angahara is, thus, a dance sequence composed of uninterrupted series of Karanas. Such combination of Karanas cannot be done randomly; but, it should follow a method. That is because; the nature of an Angahāra is defined by the appropriate arrangement (yojana) or the order of the occurrence of its constituent Karaas. Out of the 108, say, six to nine suitable Karanas are, therefore, selected and strung together in various permutations to form a meaningful Angahara sequences or a Dance segment. Chapter Four (verses 31 to 55) of the Natyashastra describes 32 selected Angaharas, to choose from.

[Pundarika Vittala, the author of Nartana -nirnaya , mentions that by his time, the sixteenth century, the 108 Karanas had , in effect , been reduced to sixteen.] 

Abhinavagupta, while explaining the fourth Angahara (the Apaviddha) remarks that even the best of the theoreticians (Lakshnakaro) cannot rationally and adequately explain the sequence of Karanas that should occur in an Angahara. Hence, whatever sequence is given by authorities should not be taken as final. The performers should go by their experience and intuition. The choreographer / performer, therefore, enjoy a certain degree of freedom in composing an Angahara sequence.

Nahi susiksitopi lakshnakaro vakyanam pratipadam laksanam keutum saknoti / Asya pascadidam prayojyamiti jnapitena kincid atmaano yojana ca samhita karya / Niyeimanamagre vak ityuktam /

Though Angaharas and Karanas have much in common, the two are not said to be the same. The Angaharas are not mere the sum or totality of Karanas. Each possesses a distinctive character of its own. The Angaharas are distinct from Karanas. That is the reason Bharata says: Nana karaa sayuktān vyākhyāsyāmi sarecakān (NS.4.19)

The Angaharas, though mainly made up of Karanas, also need Recakas, which are the stylized movements of four limbs: neck (griva), hands (hasta), waist (kati) and feet (carana). The Recakas fulfill two purposes. One, it provides beauty and grace to the presentation; and, two, it ensures a smooth and seamless movement in such a way as to adjust the entire Angahara to the given Tala.

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Thus, in short, the Dance choreography of Nrtta is the series of body-movements, composed of Angaharas. The Angaharas in turn are made of appropriate Karanas. And, the Karanas are themselves made up of Caris, Nrtta-hastas and Sthanas. 

Nrtta, as articulated by Bharata, is of the Marga class. And, according to Abhinavagupta, it is capable of evoking Rasa, although it is non-representational.

padmakarana2

Which is the basic unit of Nrtta..?

Now, we have in sequence Caris; Nrttahastas; Sthanas; Karanas and Angaharas.

And, Abhinavagupta questions, which of these should be considered as the basic unit of Nrtta. He says the combination of two karanas, called Nrtta-matrka (Nrtta alphabet) is the basic unit of Nrtta; because, until the two Karanas are performed, you will not get the sense that you are dancing (Nrttyati).

But, that view was disputed by the later scholars. They counter questioned why only two Karanas; why not three or four or more.

They point out that the components of a Karana; like Caris; Nrtta-hastas; Sthanas, by themselves, individually cannot convey the sense of the Nrtta. They argued that Karana is, indeed, the factor, that characterizes Nrtta, which is built up by the clever arrangement of its patterns, just as in architecture. That form of beauty is achieved through the perfect geometrical qualities and harmonious composition of various body-parts. The sense of balance, ease and poise is the key. Therefore, a well thought out Karana, which is complete by itself, is regarded as the basic unit of Nrtta.

dance pose

Bharatanatya

Eventually, the Karanas, Angaharas and Nrtta, all, form part of Nrtya, the expressive dance. And, a Dance form like Bharatanatya is not complete without adaptation of the Nrtta techniques.

Bharatanatya is a composite Dance form, which brings together Nrtta, Nrtya and Natya formats. It draws its references (apart from Natyashastra) from various other texts of regional nature. Besides, it has developed its own specialized forms.

The Indian classical dance of today (Bharatanatya) has, over a period, evolved its own Grammar; and, has constructed its own devices. Its Nrtta element too has changed greatly from what it meant during the days of Bharata. Its structure and style is based in different units of movements, postures, and hand gestures such as Adavus etc., which are the combination of steps and gestures artistically woven into Nrtta sequences.

The basic Nrtta items in the Bharatanatya repertoire are the Alarippu (invocation); Jatiswaram (perhaps a successor of Yati Nrtta, where the Jati patterns are interspersed with appropriate Svara); and , Tillana (brisk, short rhythmic passages presented towards the close of the performance

Such Nrtta items in a Bharatanatya performance are dominated by the technique of the Angikabhinaya, which is defined as acting by means of body movements.

[ Alarippu

Alarippu is a dance invocation, which , at the same time, executes a series of pure Dance movements (Nrtta) following rhythmic patterns. It is an ideal introduction or prologue to a Dance performance. It commences with perfect repose, a well balanced poise (Sama-bhanga). Then, the individual movements of the neck, the shoulders, and the arms follow. And, next is the Ardha-mandali (the flexed position of the knees) and the full Mandali.  Thus, the Alarippu introduces the movements of the major limbs (Anga) and the minor limbs (Upanga) , in their simple formations. The dancer, thus, is able to check on her limb-movements; attaining positions of perfect  balance; and, the ease of her performance. The Alarippu sets the Dancer and the Dance performance to take off with eloquence and composure.

Jatisvaram

The Jatisvaram, which follows the Alarippu, is also a dance form of the Nrtta class. It properly introduces the music element into the dance. The Jatisvaram follows the rules of the Svara-jati , in its musical structure. And, it consists three movements: the Pallavi, the Anu-pallavi and the Charanam. The music of the Jatisvaram is distinguished from the musical composition called Gita (song) ; as also from the Varnam , which is a complex composition. In the Jatisvaram, the music is not composed of meaningful words. But, here, the series of sol-fa passages (Svaras) are very highly important. A Jatisvaram composition is set to five Jatis (time-units) of metrical – cyclic patterns (Taala) – say, of 3,4,5,7,9. The basic Taala cycle guides the dancer; and she weaves different types of rhythmic patterns, in terms of the primary units of the dance (the Adavus).

The execution of Jatisvaram is based on the principle of repetition of the musical notes (Svara) of the melody, set to a given Taala. Following that principle, the dancer weaves a variety of dance-patterns.

Thus, what is pure Svara in music becomes pure dance (Nrtta) modulation in the Jatisvaram. The dancer and the musician may begin together on the first note of the melody; and, synchronize to return to the first beat of the Taala cycle; or, the dancer may begin the dance-pattern on the third beat, and yet may synchronize at the end of the phrase of the melodic line. But, the variety of punctuations and combinations within the Jatisvaram format are truly countless. It is up to the ingenuity, the skill and imagination of the dancer to weave as many complex patterns as she is capable of.

Tillana

Tillana is a rhythmic dance that is generally performed towards the end of a concert. A Tillana uses Taala-like phrases in the Pallavi and Anupallavi, and lyrics in the Charanam. It  is predominantly a rhythmic composition.

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Varnam

The Varnam is a highly interesting and complex composition in the Karnataka Samgita. And, when adopted into Dance-form, Varnam is transformed into the richest composition in Bharatanatya. The Varnam, either in music or dance, is a finely crafted exquisite works of art; and, it gives full scope to the musician and also to the dancer to display ones knowledge, skill and expertise.

And , in Dance , its alternating passages of Sahitya (lyrics) and Svaras (notes of the melody) gives scope to the dancer to perform both the Nrtya (dance with Abhinaya) and Nrtta (pure dance movements) aspects. In its performance, a Varnam employs all the three tempos. The movement of a Varnam, which is crisp and tightly knit, is strictly controlled; and, it’s rendering demands discipline and skill. It also calls for complete understanding between the singer and the dancer; and also for the dancer’s ability to interpret not only the words (Sahitya) but also the musical notes (Svaras) as per the requisite time units (Taala). The dancer presents, in varied ways, through Angika-abhinaya the dance elements, which the singer brings forth through the rendering of the Svaras]

Hamsa 4

The Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikeshvara is widely used by the teachers and learners of Bharatanatya. The text is concerned mainly with the descriptions and applications of Angikabhinaya in dance. These are body movements composed by combining the movements of body parts; such as: Angas (major limbs); Upangas (minor limbs), and Pratayangas (smaller parts like fingers, etc).

[The Abhinaya Darpana (Chapter 8, Angika Abhinaya Pages: 47 to71) lists, in great detail, the following kinds of body movements under Angika-abhinaya. And, these are followed by the students and the teachers of Bharatanatya.

Shirobheda (movements of the head); Dristibheda (movements of the eyes); Grivabheda (movements of the neck); Asamyukta-hasta (gestures of one hand); Samyukta-hasta (gestures by both hands together); Padabheda (standing postures with Hasta); Sthanaka (Simple standing posture); Utplavana (jumps); Chari-s (different ways of walking, or moving of feet/soles); and, Gati-s (different ways of walking)

In addition, there are other kinds of movements and activities of various parts of the body that are important to Nrtta.]

[The following well known verses said to be of the Abhinaya Darpana are very often quoted

Khantaanyat Lambayat Geetam; Hastena Artha Pradakshayat; Chakshubhyam Darshayat Bhavom; Padabhyam Tala Acherait

Keep your throat full of song; Let your hands bring out the meaning; May your glance be full of expression, While your feet maintain the rhythm

Yato Hasta tato Drushti; Yato Drushti tato Manaha; Yato Manaha tato Bhavaha; Yato Bhava tato Rasaha

Where the hand goes, there the eyes should follow; Where the eyes are, there the mind should follow; Where the mind is, there the expression should be brought out; Where there is  expression , there the Rasa will manifest.]

Hamsa 4

Pindlbandhas

Pindlbandhas (Pindi = cluster or lump) are basically group dances that constitute a distinct phase of the preliminaries (purvaranga) to a play. According to Bharata, the Pindlbandhas were patterned after the dance performed by Shiva along with his Ganas and disciples such as Nandi and Bhadramukha. The purpose of performing the Pindlbandhas, before the commencement of the play proper, was to please the gods; and, to invoke their blessings.

After the exit of the dancer who performed the Pushpanjali (flower offering to gods), The Pindis are danced , by another set of women, to the accompaniment of songs and instrumental music –  anyāścā anukrameātha piṇḍī badhnanti yā striyaḥ- ॥ 279॥

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While describing the physical structure and composition of the Pindibandhas; and the various types of clusters and patterns formed by its dancers, Bharata mentions four types of Pindibandhas that were performed during his time: Pindi (Gulma-lump-like formation); Latha (entwined creeper or net like formation, where dancers put their arms around each other); Srinkhalika (chain like formation by holding each other’s hands); and, Bhedyaka (where the dancers break away from the group and perform individual numbers).

piṇḍī śṛṅkhalikā caiva latābandho’tha bhedyaka piṇḍībandhastu piṇḍatvādgulma śṛṅkhalikā bhavet 288

In short; the Pindibandha is the technique of group formations; and, weaving patterns. Abhinavagupta describes it as ‘piṇḍī ādhāra agādi saghāta,’- a collection of all those basic elements which make a composite whole. It is called Pindibandha, because it draws in all other aspects; and, ties them together. He also states that Agahāras form the core of the Pindibandhas.

 It is said; each variation of a cluster-formation (Pindi) was dedicated to and named after a god or a goddess, who was denoted by the weapons, vehicles, insignia or emblems associated with that deity; and, her/his glory was celebrated through the formation created by the dancers.

Abhinavagupta also explains Pindibandha as the term which refers to the insignia or weapon etc; and, which reminds one of the divinity or concept associated with it.

Pindi adhara-angadi sanghatah; taya badhyate buddhau pravesyate tanu-bhavena sakalaya va vyoma-adaviti pindibandha akrti-visesah

(For instance: Īśvara piṇḍī for Īśvara; Sihavāhinī for Caṇḍikā; Śikhī piṇḍī for Kumar and so on).


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Abhinavagupta explains that in the Pindibandha, the  dancers coming together, can combine in two ways : as  Sajatiya , in which the two dancers would appear as two lotuses from a common stalk;  or as Vijatiya,  in which one dancer will remain in one pose like the swan and the other will be in a different pose to give the effect of lotus with stalk, held by the swan-lady. And, in the gulma-srnkhalika formation, three women would combine; and in the Latha, creeper like formation, four women would combine.

Bharata provides a list of such Pindis in verses 253-258 of Chapter Four. Bharata states that in order to be able to create such auspicious diagrams/formations (citra), in an appropriate manner, the dancers need to undergo systematic training (śikāyogas tathā caiva prayoktavya prayoktbhiḥ – NS.4.291)

The presentation of the preliminaries seemed to be quite an elaborate affair, with the participation of singers, drummers, and groups of dancers.

Tikuli art

The most celebrated type of the Pindibandha Nrtta is, of course, is the Rasalila that Sri Krishna performed with the Goips amidst the mango and Kadamba groves along the banks of the gentle flowing Yamuna under resplendent full moon of the Sharad-ritu.

Srimamad Bhagavatha sings the glory and joy of Rasa-Lila with love and divine ecstasy, in five Chapters from 29 to 33 of the Tenth Canto (Dashama-skanda) titled as ‘Rasa-panca-adhyayi’. (Harivamsa also describes this dance; but, calls it as Hallisaka)

“That night beautified by the autumnal moon (sharad indu), the almighty Lord having seen the night rendered delightful with the blooming of autumnal jasmines  sported with  the Gopis, while he played on his flute melodious tunes and songs captivating the hearts of the Gopis.

Then having stationed himself between every two of these damsels the Lord of all Yoga, commenced in that circle of the Gopis the festive dance known as Rasa-Lila. Then that ring of dancers was filled with the sounds of bracelets, bangles and the kinkinis of the damsels. While they sang sweet and melodious songs filled with love, the Gopis gesticulated with their hands to express various Bhavas of the Srngara-rasa.

With their measured steps, with the movements of their hands, with their smiles, with the graceful and amorous contraction of their eyebrows, with their dancing bodies, their moving locks of hair covering their foreheads with drops of perspiration trickling down tneir gentle cheeks  and with the knots of their hair loosened, Gopis began to sing. The music of their song filled the Universe.”

Rasa Lila – from Vishnu Purana

The Raasa Dance of today is the re-enactment of Krishna’s celestial Rasa-Lila. It is a Pindibandha type of  dance performed by a well coordinated group of eight, sixteen or thirty two men and women , alternatively positioned, holding each other’s hands; forming a circle (Mandala); going round in rhythmic steps  , singing songs of love made of soft and sweet sounding words; clapping each other’s hands rhythmically; and,  throwing gentle looks at each other (bhrubhanga vikasita). Laya and Taala in combination with vocal and instrumental music play an important role in the Rasa dance.

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The direct descendants of the Rasa-Lila Pindibandhas described in the Puranas  are the many types of folk and other types of group in many parts of India :  Raslīlā, Daṇḍaras, Kummi, Perani, Kolāṭṭam and similar other dances. The most famous of them all is the Maha-Rasa of Manipur, performed with the singing of the verses of Srimad Bhagavata.

manipur-ras-lila-

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[When you take an overview, you can see that during the time of Bharata, Nrtta meant a Marga class of dance. And, Tandava and Sukumara were also of the Nrtta type. Though the connotation of those terms has since changed vastly, their underlying principles are relevant even to this day.

In the textual tradition, the framework devised by Bharata continued to be followed by the later authors, in principle, for classification and descriptions of several of dance forms – (even though Nrtta and Nrtya were no longer confined to Drama –Natya). The norms laid down by Bharata were treated as the standard or the criterion (Marga, Nibaddha), in comparison with regional (Desi) other types of improvised (Anibaddha) dance forms, in their discussions. The regional dance-forms , despite their specialized formats,  were primarily based in the basic principles of Natyashastra.

This amazing continuity in the tradition of the Natyashastra is preserved in all the Indian classical Dance forms.]

lotus-flower-and-bud

In the next Part we will talk about Nrtta, Natya and Nritya as they were understood, interpreted and commented upon in the Post-Bharata period, i.e., the medieval times and in the present-day.

Continued

 In

Part Four

References and sources

All images are from the Internet

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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The Guptavati and Navarna Mantra – Part Two

Continued from Part One

Sri+Maha+Shodashi+at+Bhaskara+Prakasha+Ashram

As mentioned earlier, Bhāskararāya Makhin was essentially a Shakta; and was also an ardent Sri Vidya Upasaka. He adopted the Tantra approach in his spiritual pursuit. And, in his Guptavati, he reveres Devi Mahatmya as a mantra of the Devi, embodying her divine presence.

The Tantra School recognizes Vac as the embodiment of the Shakthi. It is the bridge between the physical and the formless Reality. Bhāskararāya approaches the text of the Devi Mahatmya as “the mantra whose form is a multitude of verses (ślokas), consisting of three episodes (caritas), each one describing the glory of one of the three different aspects of the Supreme Goddess – Maha-Kali, Mahālakṣhmī and Maha-Sarasvathi.

[The term Mantra is explained as mananat trayate mantrah; the contemplation of which liberates. It is the harmonious and powerful union of mind (Manas) and word (Vac). It is the living sound, transcending beyond the mental plane. , its relevance is in its inherent Shakthi. Its subtle sounds attempt to visualize the un-differentiated divine principle. Mantra is beyond intellect. Its inner essence has to be grasped in humility, earnestness and faith.

Mantra is said to connect, in a very special way, the objective and subjective aspects of reality. The Mantra, in its sublime form, is rooted in pure consciousness. The Shaiva text Shiva Sutra describes Mantras as the unity of Vac and consciousness: Vac-chittam (ārādhakasya citta ca mantras tad dharma yogataShiva Sutra: 2.1). It is the living sound, transcending beyond the mental plane; the indistinct or undefined speech (anirukta) having immense potential.  In its next stage, it unites harmoniously with the mind. Here, it is union of mind (Manas) and word (Vac).  That is followed by the Mantra repeated in the silence of one’s heart (tushnim). The silent form of mantra is said to be superior to the whispered (upamasu) utterance.

If an idol or a Yantra is the material (Sthula) form of the Goddess, the Mantra is her subtle form (Sukshma-rupa). And, beyond that is the Para, the contemplation, absorption into the very essence of the Devi. And, that leads to the realization (Anubhava) of the bliss (Ananda) of one’s identity with her (Pratyabhijna).

It is said; when one utters a deity’s Mantra, one is not naming the deity, but is evoking its power as a means to open oneself to it. It is said; mantra gives expression to the identity of the name (abhidana) with the object of contemplation (abhideya). Therefore, some describe mantra as a catalyst that’ allows the potential to become a reality’. It is both the means (upaya) and the end (upeya).

The reverse is said to be the process of Japa (reciting or muttering the mantra). It moves from Vaikhari through Madhyamā towards Pashyanti and ideally, and in very cases, to Para vac.

Ordinarily, Japa starts in Vaikhari form (vocal, muttering). The efficacy of the Japa does depend on the will, the dedication and the attentiveness of the person performing the Japa. After long years of constant practice, done with devotion and commitment, an extraordinary thing happens. Now, the Japa no longer depends on the will or the state of activity of the practitioner. It seeps into his consciousness; and, it goes on automatically, ceaselessly and inwardly without any effort of the person, whether he is awake or asleep. Such instinctive and continuous recitation is called Ajapa-japa. When this proceeds for a long-time, it is said; the consciousness moves upward (uccharana) and becomes one with the object of her or his devotion.

The term Ajapa-japa is also explained in another manner. A person exhales with the sound ‘Sa’; and, she/he inhales with the sound ‘Ha’. This virtually becomes Ham-sa mantra (I am He; I am Shiva). A person is said to inhale and exhale 21,600 times during a day and night. Thus, the Hamsa mantra is repeated (Japa) by everyone, each day, continuously, spontaneously without any effort, with every round of breathing in and out. And, this also is called Ajapa-japa.]

Devi

Bhāskararāya asserts that the Goddess is present in every word and every sound of the Devi Mahatmya; and, the recitations of these words can reveal her. Thus, he reveres the Devi Mahatmya as a great Mantra-maya scripture, as also an esoteric text on Yoga Shastra and Sri Vidya.

The Devi Mahatmya is treated like a Vedic hymn, rik or a mantra.  Each of its episodes (charita) is associated with a Rishi (the sage who visualised it), a Chhandas (its meter), a presiding deity (pradhna-devata), and viniyoga (for japa). For instance; for the first episode (Prathama-charita), the Rishi is Brahma; the Devata is Mahakali; the Chhandas is Garyatri; its Shakthi is Nanda; its Bija is Raktha-dantika; and its Viniyoga is securing the grace of Sri Mahalakshmi. The first Chapter is compared to Rig-Veda.

asya śrī prathama caritrasya brahmā ṛṣi mahākālī devatā gāyatrī chanda nandā śakti raktadantikā bījam agnis tattvam । gveda svarūpam śrī mahā kālī prītyarthe prathama caritra jape  viniyoga

Further, it is said that every sloka of the Devi-Mahatmya is a Mantra by itself.  And, the whole text is treated like one Maha mantra.

For instance; the opening sloka of the Devi Mahatmya: “Savarnih suryatanayo yo manuh Kathyate-shtamah” is ordinarily taken to mean “Listen to the story of the king who is the eighth Manu”. But, Sri Swami Krishnananda explains, it is in fact a mantra; and its Tantric interpretation is: “Now, I shall describe to you the glory of Hreem“. The Swami explains; Ha is the eighth letter from among: Ya, Ra, La, Va, Sya, Sha, Sa, and Ha. And add to that ‘Ram’ the Bija of Agni and one hook to make ‘Hreem’. Here, Hreem is the Bija-mantra of Devi; and, is equivalent to Pranava mantra Om

[It is said; the first three Slokas of Saptashati give out in code, the Navarna Mantra: o namaścaṇḍikāyai || o ai mārkaṇḍeya uvāca ॥]

Bhaskararaya concludes just as there is no difference between the cause (karana) and the effect (karya); between the object signified (Vachya) and the word which signifies (Vachaka); and between Brahman and the universe ((Brahmani jagat ithyartha, abedho iti seshaha), similarly this Vidya (Devi Mahatmya) of the Devi is identical with her.

Devi

The narration of the Devi Mahatmya is interwoven with four elegant Stutis, hymns. While the majority of the verses in the text are in the simpler Anushtup Chhandas, the Stutis are composed in more elegant Chhandas such as Gayatri, Vasantatilaka and Upajati, creating graceful, complex, supple rhythmic patterns when sung with fervour, gusto and reverence.

These four Stutis celebrate the glory and splendour of the auspicious Devi in all her aspects. These sweet, powerful and uplifting hymns are not only devotional and poetic, but are also philosophical and sublime. Bhaskararaya Makhin regards these hymns as Sruti-s (revealed wisdom), the exalted revealed (Drsta) knowledge, equalling the Vedas (apaurueya), rather than as constructed, the Krta by humans.

Bhaskararaya, in his Guptavati, offers comments on 224 out of the 579 verses of the Devi Mahatmya.  The most commented Chapters of the Devi Mahatmya are:  5, 4, 12, 11 and 1, in that order.  These are the Chapters that contain the four celebrated hymns and also the instructions for reciting the Devi Mahatmya.

The four hymns are: 

  • (1) Brahma-stuti (DM. 1.73-87) starting with tva svāhā tva svadhā tva hi vaakāra svarātmikā;
  • (2) the Sakaradi-stuti (DM.4.2-27) starting with śakrādaya suragaā nihate’tivīrye; 
  • (3) the Aparajita-stuti (DM.5.9-82) starting with namo devyai mahādevyai śivāyai satata nama ; and,
  • (4) the Narayani-stuti (DM.11. 3-35) starting with Devi prapannārtihare prasīda. 

 [The Brahma-stuti (DM.1.73-87) also known as the Tantrika Ratri Suktam, establishes the Divine Mother’s ultimate transcendence and her identity her as the creator and sustainer and the dissolver of the Universe. She is all compassing source of the good and the evil, alike; both radiant splendour and terrifying darkness. And yet, she ultimately is the ineffable bliss beyond all duality.

In the longest and most eloquent of the Devi Mahatmya’s four hymns, richly detailed Sakaradi-stuti (DM.4.3-27) Indra and other gods praise Durga’s supremacy and transcendence. Her purpose is to preserve the moral order, and to that end she appears as ’good fortune in the dwelling of the virtuous; and, misfortune in the house of the wicked’, granting abundant blessings and subduing misconduct (DM.4.5). ‘Every intent on benevolence towards all’ (sarvo-upakāra-karaāya sadārdracittā DM.4.17), she reveals even her vast destructive power as ultimately compassionate, for in slaying those enemies of the world who ‘may have committed enough evil to keep them long in torment’ (kurvantu nāma narakāya cirāya pāpam – DM.4.18) , she redeems them with the purifying touch of her weapons so that they ‘may attain the higher worlds’ (lokānprayāntu ripavo’pi hi śastrapūtā/ ittha matirbhavati tevahiteu sādhvī –DM.4.19).

The Devas, distressed that the Asuras have re-grouped and once again overturned the world-order, invoke the Devi in a magnificent hymn, the Aparajita-stuti or Tantrika Devi Suktam, the twenty slokas beginning with ‘ya devi sarva bhuteshu , praise to the invincible Goddess , which celebrates her immanent presence in the Universe as the consciousness that manifests in all beings (yā devī sarvabhūteu cetanetya abhidhīyate) . Thereupon the Devi appears on the banks of the Ganga. Her radiant manifestation emerging from the body of Parvathi embodies the Guna of Sattva, the pure energy of light and peace. Later, She takes on multiple and varied forms in the course of the battle with the Asuras.

The final hymn, the Narayani-stuti (DM.11.3-35) lauds the Devi in her universal, omnipresent aspect and also in the diverse expressions of her powers .Thereupon, the Devi assures to protect all existence and to intervene whenever evil arises.]

These hymns describe the nature and character of the Goddess in spiritual terms:

Bhāskararāya identifies Chaṇḍikā-Mahālakṣhmī with the hymn of the fifth chapter Aparajita-stuti; and, her three forms (Mahākālī, Mahālakṣhmī, and Mahāsarasvatī ) with one of the other three hymns each.

Chandikasrimahalakshm

In his introduction to the Guptavati, Bhāskararāya emphasises the role of mantras that produce power when properly employed. Therefore, he focuses, particularly, on the Navarna mantra, apart from the Devi Mahatmya, which itself is regarded as a Maha Mantra.

 The Navarna Mantra or Navakshari mantra, also known as Chamunda Mantra or Chandi Mantra is the basic mantra of the Sri Durga Saptashati recitation. It is also one of the principal (mula) mantras in Shakthi worship, apart from the Shodasi mantra of the Sri Vidya. There is the faith that one who practices the Navakshari mantra with great devotion will attain liberation and the state of highest bliss -(Vicche Navārnak’ornah syān-mahad’ānanda-dāyakah)

According to the Navakshari mantra nivechanam (p24) : Its Rishi is Markandeya;  Its Chhandas is Jagati; Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvathi are its Devathas; Hram is its Bija ; Hrim is its Shakthi; Hrum is its Kilaka; and, securing the grace (prasada siddhi) of Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvathi is its Viniyoga.

Asya Sri Navakshari Maha-mantrasya / Markandeya Rishihi / Jagati Chhandah / Durga Lakshmi Sarasvathi Devata  //  Hram Beejam / Hrim Shakthihi / Hrum Kilakam  //  Durga Lakshmi Sarasvathi Prasada Sidhyarthe  Jape Viniyogaha //

And, Navarna or Navakshari mantra is chanted as an integral part (Anga) of Chandiparayanam, which is performed while reciting (Purashcharana) the Devi Mahatmya. There is also a practice of the reciting of Durga Saptashati as a part of Navarna Purashcharana. Thus, the Saptashati and the Navarna are mutually related (angangi nyaya).

sriyantra220006

In the Sri Vidya tradition, the Panchadasi (Pancha-dasakshari) and the Shodasi are the cardinal and exclusive (rahasya) Mantras. The Panchadasi mantra of very potent fifteen letters or syllables (Bijakshara) composed of three segments (kūa) is indeed the very heart of the Sri Vidya Upasana.

Its three as are:

  • Vāgbhava kū of five bīja-s (ka – e – ī – la- hrī,   ह्रीं);
  • Madhya or kamaraja kūa  of six bīja-s (ha – sa – ka – ha – la – hrī,   ह्रीं ) ; and,
  • the śhakti kūa  of four bīja-s  (sa – ka – la – hrī ह्रीं ).

The mantra is composed of a series of individual Bija-akshara (syllables), each having its own identify and association; and, each representing a certain aspect of the Goddess. But, when these Bija-aksharas are taken together, they manifest the subtle form (Sukshmarupa) of the Mother Goddess.

This fifteen lettered Pancha-dasakshari mantra is revered as the verbal form of the Mother Goddess. By adding   to it the secret syllable ś (श्रीं) it is transformed into the sixteen lettered Shodasi mantra. The Bijakshara śrī (श्रीं) is regarded as the original form of the Mother Goddess Sri.

The mantra which till then was dormant becomes explicit by adding śrī (श्रीं); and, the knowledge of her is celebrated as Sri Vidya. It is with this Vidya of Shodasi mantra that the Mother Goddess is worshiped through the Sri Chakra. It is said; this mantra is known as Ṣhoaśī or Shodasa-kala-vidya, because each of its sixteen Bījas represents a phase (kalā) of the moon. It is also said; the verbal expression of her Vidya is the Shodasi mantra; and, its visual expression is the Sri Yantra (Sri Chakra). And, the two are essentially the same.

The Navarna (also known as Navakshari and Chandi Gayatri) mantra of nine syllables is closely related to the extended Maha-shodasi mantra of twenty eight bīja-s of Sri Lalitha tradition. Both are Navarna; as they are worshiped in nine levels (Navaavarana), where the Devi is worshipped in her nine forms. It is described as a mantra that grants the highest bliss – mahad-ananda dayakah.

[The Mahāṣoḍaśī mantra is actually not sixteen; but , it is a set of six kutas ( sections) :(1)  srim, hrim, klim , aim sauh  ; (2) aum hrim srim ; (3) ka e i la hrim ; (4) ha sa ka ha la hrim ; (5) sa ka la hrim ; and, (6) sauh aim klim hrim srim . Thus Mahāṣoḍaśī has twenty eight bīja-s.]

deviHome

While Sri is the presiding deity of the Sri Vidya; Chandi is the Goddess of the Chandi Vidya. There is also a view which asserts that the Chandi Vidya is the older tradition and, the Sri Vidya is its refined form.  In some places (for instance, in Kanchi), both Chandi Navarna and Sri Vidya worship procedures are followed.

Bhāskararāya, a dedicated Sri Vidya Upasaka, in his Guptavati equates Chandi with the Supreme Goddess Devi who indeed is the Brahman, the Supreme non-dual reality. He regards the Chandi Vidya as the Navarna Vidya, which corresponds to the Vidya of Sri Lalitha.

navarna mantra

The Navārna-mantra (Śrī Chaṇḍi Navākṣharī Mantra) is composed of the following syllables:   Om aiṁ hrīṁ klīṁ cāmuṇḍāyai vicce  ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे ॥ 

The syllables of the Navārna mantra are taken from the first line of the Mahāṣoḍaśī mantra —   śrī – hrī – klī – ai – sau ( श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः)

The Shakthas have an immense faith that Navarna mantra has the power to bestow liberation (Mukti).

Bhaskararaya mentions that this mantra has been explained in one of the Shaktha Upanishads the Devī-Atharva-Śira-Upaniṣhad  (Devi Upanishad) from which he quotes the first verse “I am of the very same form (Svarupini) of the Brahman’. I am an aspect of Brahma. From me this Universe, in form of Prakriti and Purusha, is generated; which is both void and non-void.

sābravīt- aha brahmasvarūpiī  matta praktipuruātmaka jagat  śūnya cāśūnyam ca

I am both bliss and non-bliss. I am knowledge and non-knowledge. I am Brahma and non-Brahma (the non-manifest state called A-Brahma). I am the five primordial principles and non-principles. I am the whole perceived Universe.

aham ānandā qnānandau  aha vijñānāvijñāne  aha brahmā brahmaī veditavye  aha pañcabhūtānyapañcabhūtāni  ahamakhila jagat 3

The Devi Upanishad or Devi Atharvashirsha Upanishad explains the Navarna mantra Om ai hrī klī cāmuṇḍāyai vicce:

  • 1. Om – the Pranava Mantra represents the Nirguna Brahman
  • 2. Aim – is the Vakbija the seed sound of Mahasarasvathi—the knowledge that is consciousness. – Chit;
  • 3. Hreem –the Maya Bija the sound of Mahalakshmi – the all pervasive existence. —Sat;
  • 4. Kleem – is the Kamabeeja the seed sound of Mahakali – the all consuming delight – Ananda;
  • 5. Chamunda – the slayer of the demons Chanda and Munda, representing passion and anger ;
  • 6. Yai– the one who grants boons;
  • 7. Vicce– in the body of knowledge, in the perception of consciousness.

The Chit, Sat and Ananda are involved in the creation in physical, vital, and mental aspects – as Anna, Prana and Manas. They all are integrated into Chamunda Devi.

[The meaning of the Navarna mantra is said to be : ‘O the Supreme Spirit Mahasarasvathi, O the purest and most propitious Mahalakshmi, O embodiment of joy Mahakali, to achieve the highest state of knowledge we constantly meditate upon You. O Goddess Chandika who embodies the three formed Mahasarasvathi-Mahalakshmi-Mahakali, obeisance to you! Please break open the tightened knot of ignorance and liberate us’]

māyā brahmasūstasmāt aṣṭha vaktrasamanvitam / suryo ̕vāma śrotra bindu sayukta ṣṭātttīyaka । nārāyaena samiśro vāyuścādharayuk tataḥ / vicce  navārako ̕ra syānmahadānandadāyaka 20

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Bhaskararaya explains: Even Brahma and the other Devas do not know her real form; and, therefore, she is called Ajñeya. We do not find its limit, so she is called Ananta. We cannot find the meaning, so she is called Alakshya. Her birth is not known, so she is called Aja. She is found everywhere, so she is called Eka, the One. She has taken up all the various forms, so she is called Naika. Because of this she is called these various names.

yasyā svarūpa brahmādayo na jānanti tasmāducyate ajñeyā 

yasyā anto na labhyate tasmāducyate anantā  yasyā lakya nopalakyate tasmāducyate alakyā 

yasyā janana nopalabhyate tasmāducyate ajā  ekaiva sarvatra vartate tasmāducyate ekā 

ekaiva viśvarūpiī tasmāducyate naikā  ata evocyate ajñeyānantālakyājaikā naiketi 23

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 As regards the Mantra aspect of the text, Bhaskararaya, following the Sri Vidya tradition, regards the Navarna mantra as the subtle form (sukshmarupa) of the Goddess.   For Bhaskararaya, the Bijaksharas of the mantra are the more accessible forms of the Goddess’s ultimate form as Brahman.

Bhaskararaya analyses the Navarna-mantra, dedicated to the Great Goddess Chamunda, syllable-by-syllable, beginning with Chamundayai. He explains that the power of the mantra is particularly associated with the recitation of the name Chamunda.

In his introduction to the Guptavati, Bhaskararaya explains the etymology of the name Chamunda. Here, he differs from the explanation provided in chapter seven of the Devi Mahatmya.

According to the text of the Devi Mahatmya, Kali is celebrated as Chamunda after she overpowers and beheads Chanda and Munda.

śiraścaṇḍasya kālī ca ghītvā muṇḍameva ca prāha pracaṇḍā aṭṭahāsa miśra mabhyetya caṇḍikām 7.23॥

The Devi, then, declares that since Kali presented her with the heads of these two demons, she would henceforth be renowned in the world as Chamunda – cāmuṇḍeti tato loke khyātā Devī bhaviyasi .Thereafter in the text, Kali and Chamunda become synonyms.

Yasmāc-Caṇḍa ca Muṇḍa ca ghītvā tvamupāgatā  Cāmuṇḍeti tato loke khyātā Devī bhaviyasi  7.27

Bhaskararaya Makhin, however, interprets the term Chamunda, differently, as: ‘chamum, ‘army’ and lati, ‘eats’; meaning that Chamunda is literally ‘she who eats armies’—a reference to Kali as Chamunda who drinks the blood of the army of the demon Raktabija.

jaghāna raktabīja ta cāmuṇḍā apītaśoitam sa papāta mahīpṛṣṭhe śastra saghasam āhata 8.61

He then proceeds in his comments on the mantra by elaborating on the first three syllables (Bijakshara): Aim, Hrim, and Klim, by resolving the complex expressions into simpler or more basic ones: marked by analytical reasoning. He brings into the discussion the concepts and the symbolisms of the Sri Vidya traditions.

Here, he explains; the Mahadevi Chamunda, in her integrated form (Samasti) is of the nature of the Brahman- Brahma-svarupini. And, the three Bijaksharas in the Navarna-mantra symbolize the diversified (Vyasti) form of the Devi:  as Aim (ऐं) for Mahalakshmi; and, Hrim (ह्रीं) and Kilm (क्लीं) for Mahasarasvathi and Mahakali, respectively. And again, the essential nature of the Devi as Sat-Chit-Ananda (being, consciousness, and bliss) is associated with each of her forms: Mahalakshmi (Sat); Mahasarasvathi (Chit); and Mahakali (Ananda).

Again, it is said, these three goddesses are the presiding deities of the three Episodes of the Devi Mahatmya, while the text itself is the body of the Devi Chamunda, the Mahadevi. Thus, the divisions and the Chapters of the Devi Mahatmya are but visible (Sakara) the constituents (anga) of the Devi Chamunda, who herself is beyond attributes (Brahma-svarupini).

Thus, Bhaskararaya relates the Vyasti goddess, their corresponding Bijamantras, their symbolisms and sounds, to the most subtle, secretive aspect of the Supreme Goddess. As regards the Vyasti goddess, he follows the explanations given in the Devi Upanishad. But, as said earlier, he differs on its explanation of the term Chamunda.

Here, the Mahadevi Chamunda, in her integrated form (Samasti) is of the nature of the Brahman- Brahma-svarupini. She combines in herself her other diversified (Vyasti) forms of Mahalakshmi (Aim); Mahasarasvathi (Hrim); and, Mahakali (Kilm). 

Shakti

Bhaskararaya, however, offers a rather lengthy explanation on the final term of the Navarna mantra:’ vicce’.

He points out that the term vicce , at first instance, might look as though it is untranslatable. But, one would appreciate its significance when its etymology is correctly understood.

Bhaskararaya begins his explanation of vicce, by equating it with the Sanskrit word ‘manch’—meaning ‘to grow’ or ‘to move’. He remarks; though the term vicce is rather unusual, yet it has been in use in the Shakta tantric tradition. For instance, he says, the mantra of Bhagamalini, the second of the sixteen Nityas, reads ‘Amogham chaiva vichcham cha tatheshim klinna devatam’. The import of the mantra is said to be:  the goddess symbolized by the Bija-akshara Klim is resplendent and unfailingly liberates (vichcham) the devotee.

[In the Sri Vidya tradition, the sixteen guardian deities, named as Nityas, who form the entourage, of the Devi, are identified with the phases of the moon (Chandra-kalaa); and each Nitya corresponds to a day (tithi) or the aspect of the moon during the fortnight. The sixteen Nityas are: Kameshvari, Bhagamalini, Nityaklinna, Bherunda, Vahnivasini, Mahavajeshvari, Dooti, Tvarita, Kulasundari, Nitya, Nilapataka, Vijaya, Sarvamangala, Jwalamalinika and Chitra]

Regarding the etymology of the term vicce, Bhaskararaya explains that it originated within the Dravidian language group; and, was later adopted into the Sanskrit vocabulary. He also mentions that importing terms from other languages (bhasha-mishrana) is not unusual; and, has been in practice since the ancient times.  He explains that many of the terms that are used in   Navarna and Bhagamalini mantras are well recognised in Southern languages like Kannada (karnatabhasha), Tamil (Dravidabhasha) and Telugu (Andhrabhasha).

The scholars surmise that Bhaskararaya might have related the term vicce with the Tamil word vichchu/i or vittu/i, meaning ‘to sow’ or ‘to spread’, which has the same connotation as his Sanskrit gloss manch, meaning ‘to grow’ or ‘to move’. They cite another obscure word ‘Puruchi’, which occurs only two times in the Rig-Veda   .  The term Puruchi’, here, suggests the meaning of ‘Foremost or abundant‘, which carries a similar meaning in the Tamil language.

 [śata jīvantu śarada purūcīr antar mtyu dadhatām parvatena || RV_10,018.04c|| and aśvinā pari vām ia purūcīr īyur gīrbhir yatamānā amdhrā | RV_3,058.08a||]

Bhaskararaya, then concludes that in the context of the Navarna mantra, vicce signifies ‘liberation’; and, could be taken as a synonym for the Sanskrit term mochayati – ‘to cause to be liberated’. And, when the term vicce, in the Navarna mantra, is combined with Goddess Chamunda (Chamunda-visheshanam), it gives forth the meaning that Chamunda is, indeed, the resplendent Goddess who ‘causes her devotee to be liberated.

He says that through the Navarna Mantra we invoke the Supreme Goddess and her varied powers; and, pray to her to come into our lives to fulfil our material and spiritual desires with ease (Sri Sundari sevana tatparanam / Bhogascha mokshascha karastaeva).

Thus, for Bhaskararaya, the Navarna is not only a powerful mantra that protects the devotee; but, is also a means to attain liberation (moksha-sadhana).

**

 The learned scholar Caleb Simmons, in his article, observes:

Bhaskararaya, in the Guptavati, provides a remarkable explanation of the mantra, ritual value of sounds and syllables, and etymology that elucidates our understanding of the relationship between mantra and meaning in which the secret and semantic are coterminous

According to Bhaskararaya, to understand meaning in mantra we must expand our understanding of ‘meaning’ as a category to include not only normative, semantic, and discursive meaning, but to include the hidden meaning of a mantra that contains a truth only perceivable through the direct insight of the initiated practitioner….

Through his introduction to the Guptavati, Bhaskararaya incorporates the Sri Vidya perspective of corresponding realities into a theory of meaning and mantra in which discursive (rational) meaning and the hidden meaning are simultaneously individual but ultimately the same.

Durga saptashathi

Salutation to you, O Devi Nārāyaī, who abides as intelligence in the hearts of all beings; and, who grants happiness and liberation, with what words, however excellent, can I praise you?

sarvasya buddhi rūpea janasya hdi sasthite svargāpavargade devi nārāyai namo’stu te 11.8

sarvabhūtā yadā devī bhuktimukti pradāyinī । tvaṃ stutā stutaye kā vā bhavantu paramoktayaḥ ॥ 11.7॥

the_devi_is_venerated

twin roses

Sources and References

http://www.advaitaashrama.org/Content/pb/2016/012016.pdf

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/69521/13/13_chapter%205.pdf

http://yigalbronner.huji.ac.il/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/South-Meets-North.pdf

http://www.vedicastrologer.org/mantras/chandi/chandi_inner_meaning.pdf

https://www.kamakotimandali.com/srividya/bhaskara.html

http://studerende.au.dk/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/Fri_Opgave.pdf

http://navratri.sahajayogaonline.com/images/devi-atharvashirsha.pdf

http://www.aghori.it/devi_atharvashirsha_eng.htm

http://www.kamakotimandali.com/blog/index.php?s=guptavati&advm=&advy=&cat=

http://www.aghori.it/devi_atharvashirsha_eng.htm

Varivasya -rahasya

The secret of the three cities by Douglas R Brooks

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Posted by on March 1, 2018 in Devi, Guptavati, Tantra

 

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The Guptavati and Navarna Mantra – Part One

Chamundi

The Devi Mahatmya dated somewhere around the fourth- fifth century , also  renowned as Durga SaptasatiDurgapāhaChandi, Chandipāha and Chandi Saptashati,  composed as a long poem of about  seven hundred verses (Saptashathi) , is the  most revered scripture of the Shaktha tradition.

 Devi Mahatmya celebrates the glory and splendour of the auspicious Supreme Goddess – the Maha Devi. Chaṇḍī or Chaṇḍīka, the name by which the Supreme Goddess is referred to in Devi Mahatmya.  The text commences with salutation to Chandi: oṃ namaścaṇḍikāyai; Om̃ jaya tvaṃ devi Cāmuṇḍe jaya bhūtāpa hāriṇi [In the Devi Mahatmya, the names: Chandi, Chandika, Ambika and Durga are synonymous].

[ Amarakosa , the Sanskrit lexicon gives as many as twenty-three synonyms for the Devi: (1.1.88)  umā, kātyāyanī, gaurī , kālī , haimavatīśvarī ; (1.1.89) śivā , bhavānī, rudrāṇī , śarvāṇī,  sarvamaṅgalā; (1.1.90) aparṇā,  pārvatī,  durgā , mṛḍānī,  caṇḍikā, ambikā (1.1.91) āryā, dākṣāyaṇī,  caiva girijā , menakātmajā , (1.1.92) karmamoṭī , tu cāmuṇḍā , carmamuṇḍā , tu carcikā.]

The text adulates Maha Devi as the greatest warrior; and rejoices Devi as Chandi the destroyer of evil and its tendencies. She is the protector of the world; and, she does so from time to time by assuming various forms. She is also Ambika the mother who shelters and nurtures; and, also Durga the goddess who saves us from all sorts of miseries and difficulties (Duritha-nivarini). And, it is She who, just as a boat, ferries the devotees across oceans of existence (Bhava-Tarini). Her splendour and beauty is sung   and exalted by countless other names and forms.

The Goddess is celebrated in various manners (lalapanti) as: joyous (madantika); proud (manini); auspicious (mangala); and; prosperous (shubhaga). And, she is beautiful (sundari) and pure (shuddhamata); as also modest (lajja), intelligent (matistu), satisfied (tripta) and She is thriving (pusta), wealthy (lakshmirupa) and extremely lovely (lalitha)

Madantika manini mangala ca shibhaga ca sa sundari shuddhamati / lajja matistu-stirists ca pusta lakshmi rupa lalitha lalapanti //

The Shaktha tradition reveres the Divine Mother as the Universal Creative Power, the All Pervading source of change within and identical to the changeless reality, Brahman. The Devi Mahatmya is the celebration of the limitless powers and the splendour of the Mother Goddess. It affirms its faith that   the ultimate power and authority in the Universe reside in Devi. She encompasses and overrides everything in the Universe. She is the ultimate reality. The Devi Mahatmya asserts its faith that her Ultimate reality is really the ultimate; and it is not merely feminine.

hm63

Over the centuries, innumerable commentaries have been written on the Devi Mahatmya. Of these, the two are highly recognized; and, are very often quoted.

One;  The Nageshi  , is written by Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa / Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa / Nāgoji Dīkita (1678-1755?) , a erudite scholar, grammarian and philosopher who is said to have  lived at a place , then  called as  Śṛṅgaverapura , in the upper region of the Ganga, near Vārāasī. He is described as the grandson of the famous Grammarian, Bhaṭṭoji Dīkita (late 16th–17th century), author of the Siddhānta-Kaumudīa celebrated commentary on the Ashtadhyayi of Panini.  His text re-arranges the Sūtras of Pāini under appropriate heads; and, renders it easier to follow. The work was later edited in three (madhya, laghu and Sara) abridged versions (Laghu-kaumudi) by his student Varadarāja, reducing the number of rules to 723 (from 3,959 of Pāini).

Sri+Bhasurananda+Natha

The other is the Guptavati (implying the hidden knowledge or path), an authoritative commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, by Bhāskararāya Makhin (1690–1785-?), (Bhasuranantha Natha), son of Konnamamba and Gambhiraraya of Vishvamitra gotra, an encyclopaedic author (of about 52 works on a wide range of subjects); well versed in Vedic and Tantric traditions; the celebrated authority on the philosophy and practice of Tantra; and, especially on the Sri Vidya Upasana.  His writing is marked by refreshing directness and precision. Though his dates are rather uncertain, it is generally assumed that his writing-career lasted from the beginning of the 18th century, till about 1768.

The two scholars – Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya – might perhaps have been contemporaries, sharing, for the most of their life, the same time-span. While Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa lived in the region of the Ganga on the North; Bhāskararāya, later in his life, settled down on the banks of the Cauvery in the South.

But, it appears that Bhaskararaya had his Upanayana in Varanasi. And, he also had his early education in Varanasi under the scholar Narasimha-dhvarin. There is also a mention of Bhaskararaya having participated in a debate conducted at Varanasi; and, also of having performed there the Soma Yajna and such other Yajnas. Further, a  copy of the manuscript of Avaidika-adarśana-sagraha, a compendium ascribed to the great scholar Gaṅgādhara Vājapeyin, (said to be Bhaskararaya’s teacher ?) preserved in the Sarasvati Mahal Library at Tanjore, is said to have been prepared by Bhāskararāya. The copied manuscript mentions , at the end, that it was written down by Bhaskararaya ,  a resident of Varanasi (likhitam etat kāśī –vāsi-Bhāskararāyea).

Further, by about the closing decades of the sixteenth century, Varanasi had developed into a powerful intellectual centre, drawing into its bosom erudite scholars, jurists, Grammarians etc., learned in various disciplines; and, also those who produced voluminous innovative texts of authority (niraya). Kashi, the city of lights, was the home of the Mother Annapurna, who sheltered and nurtured (annadātryā) aspiring, ardent students who came to her from every part of the subcontinent, right from its southern tip at Rama-sethu to the snowy slopes of the Himalayas-(āsetubandhataam ā ca tuāraśailād), seeking knowledge and freedom from delusion (Jnana-vairagya siddhartham).  It is, therefore, likely that in such an invigorating academic environment, where many scholars lived, thrived (āvasad asau vārāasīm ddhimān) and debated, the two intellectuals – Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya – had met and interacted.

The Guptavati is said to have been completed by Bhaskararaya, in Pramoda-nama Saka Samvatsara 1797 (that is, about 1740-41 CE) , during the latter part of his life, while he was at Chidambaram. Further, Bhaskararaya has quoted in his Guptavati and Manjusha a work relating to Grammar, at least on two occasions, extracts from Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa’s commentary on the Devi Mahatmya. It would therefore, appear that Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa’s commentary was composed much earlier. And, it is also likely that Bhaskararaya might have been, slightly, the younger of the two.

Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya were both Advaitins by tradition; and, were followers of Sri Shankaracharya Parampara, the non-dualist Advaita philosophy. And, both had enormous reverence towards the Jagadguru Sri Adi Sankaracharya.

tripurasundariBhāskararāya was a firm believer in the doctrine of Advaita (Advaita siddantha); and, was also proficient in all branches of learning. But, his religious philosophy was based in the Ratna-traya-prakshika of Sri Appayya Dikshita (1520–1593), which upheld the Shiva-Shakthi combine as the Absolute. Bhāskararāya, however, was essentially a Shakta following the Kaula-sampradaya. And yet, he frequently quoted from the works of Sri Sankara; and, revered him as the very incarnation of Sri Dakshinamurti, the Universal Teacher.

Though Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa and Bhāskararāya were both Advaitins, they differed in their orientation towards the Advaita doctrine. Nāgoji Bhaṭṭa, in his commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, adopted the Vivarta Vada of the Advaita School, in order to explain the emanation of the Devi and her varied forms. And, Bhāskararāya adopted the alternate view, that of the Parinama Vada (particularly, Shakthi Parinama Vada) , to explain the myriad forms of the Devi and Her manifestation in all the existence. It is said; their commentaries on the Devi Mahatmya are recognized by these two distinct approaches.

jupiterfig5

[The relation between the cause and effect is one of the basic problems discussed among the Indian thinkers.  And, in fact, the divisions among the Indian theories of causation are based on this factor.

To put it simply: There are two major theories of causation in the Indian philosophies. The one known as the A-satkarya-vada propounds that the effect exists independent of its cause. And, when something new occurs, it is distinctly different. It is a view held by the Buddhists and the Nyaya-Vaisesika School.

*

Against this position, the Satkarya-vada asserts that the effects pre-exist in their cause. The effect is nothing but the extension of the cause itself, albeit seen in different form and mode. An effect must be of the same nature as the cause; they have the same basis. A cloth may only be made out of yarn (not out of milk); and, curds may be made out of milk (rather than out of yarn), etc.

There are no effects without causes. Everything in nature has a cause of its own, This is the view held by the Schools of Advaita and Samkhya.

[ The Nyaya, while objecting to the theory of Satkaryavada , argued:  if cause and effect are taken to be not different from each other, will it not then create  self contradictory situation. Let’s say when a cloth is torn and reduced to threads, will you still keep calling it a cloth? Will those shreds serve the same purpose as the cloth? And, do you still maintain that the cloth and the torn threads are identical?  Well then, according to your theory, if the cloth and the threads would mean that the same object, will it not amount to saying that the object is produced and destroyed, at the same time. Is it not absurd?

The Nyaya pointed out that one has to go by the utility or the usefulness of the object. In which case, the cause would be different from the effect. You have just seen that the cloth (effect) serves a useful purpose for a man; whereas, the threads cannot fulfil that purpose. This proves that cause and effect are two distinct entities.

Vachaspathi Misra, who argued for Samkhya, refuted the argument of the Nyaya by citing the example of a tortoise and its limbs .He said: the  limbs of a tortoise appear or disappear; folding and unfolding. That does not mean the limbs are produced or destroyed by the tortoise. Similarly the pots and crowns are not different from clay or gold. It is not produced or destroyed. Actually, there is no ‘Production’ of what is non-existent; nor is there a destruction of what is existent. The nature of the Tortoise is not altered  by expanding or contracting its limbs. Similarly, pots and crowns are not different from their cause clay and gold.

From the standpoint of the useful purpose of a thing he says that through threads do not serve the purpose of covering or cold, yet after combining the threads it is still possible to weave them into a cloth; and serve the same purpose.

Vachaspati Misra gives the instance of the trees and the forest. And says, their relation is similar to that of the yarn and the cloth.]

***

In other words: the argument, here, is that an effect either derives its essence from its cause; or, it does not. The Satkaryavada is the theory of the pre-existence of the effect in the cause; and, A-satkaryavada is the theory of the non-existence of the effect in the cause before its production.

The A-satkaryavada is divided into Arambhavada advocated by Nyaya-Vaisesika and the Mimamsa Schools; and the Patityasamutpada followed by Buddhism.

And, the main exponents of Satkaryavada were Samkhya-Yoga and Vedanta. The Jaina theory took a middle course, which   is often called as Sad-Asatkaryavada.

As regards the Satkaryavada, there are again two branches: Vivartavada and Parinamavada.

 (1) The Vivarta-vada regards the effect as the mere appearance (Vivarta) or a superimposition of the effect over the cause. This School argues that the ultimate reality is unchanging; and, all kinds of differences that one sees are only apparent and illusory. It is the view advocated by Kevala Advaita Vedanta followers of Sri Sankara.

The Vivarta Vada affirms that the changeless Brahman is the substratum (adhishthana), the primary cause of all existence; and, everything is pervaded by the Brahman. And, the Brahman, the Absolute, is indivisible; and, there is nothing outside Brahman. But, it says that in the relative world, the things might look diverse and distinct because of the effects of the Maya or the superimposition (Adhyasa) of the relative (vyavaharika) over the Absolute (para_marthika). Such apparent (vivarta) distinctions as one finds in the world are not real; but, are mere appearances. That is to say; the world that we know in our day-to-day experience (Vyavaharika) is only relatively real; and, it is subject to contradictions. It is only a make-believe appearance of the Absolute Reality (Paramarthika), which is infinite, beyond all distinctions and attributes (Guna). The appearance of the world as if it is distinct or real is a distortion or false apprehension of the Reality (Maya).

(2) The other, Parinamavada or Vikaravada, regards the effect as the actual transformation of the underlying cause. It believes that through a causal process, change actually occurs; and, the cause takes the shape of effect. That is to say; a cloth, in effect, is not different from its cause, the threads. This argument is advocated by Samkhya and Yoga.

The Samkhya School explains the process of evolution or unfolding of the primary cause, the Prakrti through the principle of Parinama Vada. The Tantra follows the Samkhya ideology.

A branch of the Vedanta School, which follows the Parinama Vada, is also based in the faith that an effect exists in its cause in un-manifested form before it is revealed. The effect is always related to its cause. Accordingly, the Brahman, the Ultimate reality, the substratum of all existence is the primary cause. The Universe as we experience is a transformation (Parinama) of that Brahman; and, it is real. While Brahman is the cause; the Universe, its transformation is the effect. And, the effect is as real as its cause.

According to this School, the primary cause potentially contains in it, all the effects as its Shakthi (power). At its will, the potential or the un-manifest (A-Vyakta) transforms into the manifest (Vyakta). Thus, what is called as creation is nothing but the manifestation of what was already present, in a seed-form, as un-manifest.  Thus, the world, as the effect, has arisen from the supreme Reality; and, it cannot be unreal.]

jupiterfig5

Thus, both the Vivarta Vada and the Parinama Vada subscribe to the view that all finite things emanated from one infinite substance; and that substance is Brahman .  That (Tat) Brahman is both the material and the efficient cause of the entire universe. And, from the Absolute point of perspective view there is nothing but Brahman; everything is Brahman. There is nothing outside the Omnipresent Brahman.

But,   there is a subtle metaphysical difference between the two points of view. And, it was only during the post-Sankara period of the Advaita Vedanta that   the dichotomy of the Vivarta and Parinama Vada came to fore.

Nagoji Bhatta followed the Advaita School, which asserted that all this existence is mere appearance (Vivarta) of the One as many; and, what we experience is the superimposition of the relative over the Absolute. 

Bhaskararaya, also an Advaitin, had the faith that there is but one Reality. But, as a follower of the Tantra, he adopted the Parinama-Vada which saw the effect as the transformation of the cause; and, as being real. In this respect he was closer to Samkhya.

goddess_bhagavati

However, Bhaskararaya took a broader view. Though he was mainly a follower of the Parinamavada, from the point of view of metaphysics, Bhaskararaya had immense respect for the Kevala-advaita of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada.

In his Varivasya Rahasya, which in its 167 slokas discusses the worship-details according to the Shakta Agamas, Bhaskararaya expresses the view that tough there might be metaphysical difference between the two Schools; it would be foolish to treat them as opposing camps. They are just two points of view of the same Reality.

In all his works, Bhaskararaya invokes the blessings of Sri Sankara with deep reverence and devotion. He points out that Sri Sankara himself does not oppose Parinamavada , as he does not reject the effects as unreal (1.4.26 and 2.1.14); but, does speaks in favour of the Parinamavada in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya (praktiś ca pratijñā dṛṣṭāntā anuparodhāt: 1-4-23) and also in Saundaryalahari.  (According to Bhaskararaya, Saundaryalahari is a composition of Sri Sankara**; and, Parinamavada is at the heart of it – tvayi parinatayam (35), a recourse to meditation on Saguna-brahman). Further, Bhaskararaya, in his Varivasya Rahasya, does not oppose Vivarta Vada; and, agrees with the views expressed in `Vakya Shuddhi’, a work of  the Kevala-advaita School.

Thus, Bhāskararāya was endowed with a broader all-comprising vision of the Divinity. And, therefore, it might not be appropriate to pigeonhole him into a particular slot.

** sa jayati mahan prakasho yasmin druishte na druishyate kimapi |
kathamiva tasmin jnate sarvam vijnatamuchyate vede ||

triple_devi

Further, Bhaskararaya, as an ardent devotee of Sri Vidya, adopted the Shakthi Parinama Vada, which regards the Supreme Mother, the Shakthi as the Brahman, who transforms (Parinama) herself into manifold Universe. The Devi as Shakthi appears in her three fold appearance as Iccha (will), Kriya (action) and Jnana (knowledge). She is Tripura Sundari who is represented in her Sakara, the manifest form, as the Sri Chakra, protecting all who submit to her (sriyate sarvair iti).

The Devi is Tripureshwari, the Supreme ruler of the Universe. Here, Tripura denotes the totality (Samvit) of the Universe in its three-folds – Sthula (gross), Suksma (subtle) and Para (transcendent).

Bhaskararaya follows the dictum that any apparent diversity essentially pre-supposes an underlying unity (abedha-purvaka hi bhedah). Thus, for Bhaskararaya, the Samasti the aggregate and Vyasti the separate are essentially not different. They merely are the un-manifest (A-yaktha) and the manifest (Vyaktha) forms of the one Supreme Reality, the Devi. And, Her multiple forms should not be taken as secondary or diminished form of reality. The ultimate is ever the Ultimate.

She is the Absolute, unchanging and also evolving, at once. The Devi declares: My manifestation in creation is only another facet of my existence, which involves no duality, in the same way as waves surging up in the ocean remain the same water. Therefore, there is the faith that in whatever form a particular goddess appears, even if she is known by different names, it is in reality only her, the Supreme Śhakthi.

Bhaskararaya repeatedly asserts that all those varied forms represent the ‘true’ un-manifested ultimate reality of the Devi. All forms of the goddess are different avenues to her. He explains; such multiple manifestation of ultimate reality within the concrete and abstract realities is central to the Sri Vidya doctrine and its practice.

lalitha-devi-painting

For instance ; in the Sri Vidya tradition, the other goddesses are regarded as the manifestations of  the  varied aspects of  the Supreme deity  , Lalitha Tripurasundari, the beneficent  (soumya), extraordinarily lovely (Lalitha)   Mother  who rules over all the three levels of existence in the Universe.

Thus, for Bhaskararaya, rooted in the Shakta philosophy and the Srividya, all the varied forms of the Goddess are but the diverse aspects and manifestations of the same Reality, the Devi. And, he recognizes the ultimate Reality, in its integrated form (Samasti), as the Mula Prakrti, Mahālakṣhmī or Chandi or Brahman, the One who transforms into many. He cites a line from Soundarya-lahari (97) and declares that ‘the deity named Chandi is the highest Brahman’; ‘She is the Queen through whom the crown is inherited’. From the Absolute unity, Mahālakṣhmī evolves into innumerable elements of the world as we perceive it.

The quoted verse prays that one may receive Devi’s grace, have the vision of her Supreme form, achieve self-realization, and enjoy the sweetness of Supreme Brahman, which She indeed is

girāmāhurdevī druhia- ghiī-māgamavido /  hare patnī padmā hara-sahacarī-madritanayām

turīyā kāpi tva duradhi-gamani-asīma-mahimā/  mahāmāyā viśva bhramayasi parabrahma-mahii 97

devi mahishamardini

The   Tantra ideology asserts that the Chandi, the Brahman, is both One and many; the universe is an emanation of that sublime principle; and it is real, not Maya. The Tantra seeks to realize that truth which is already there. And, it regards action (karma) and knowledge (jnana) as complementing each other.  It believes that the best possible manner for attaining liberation (mukthi) is through the harmonious combination (samuchchaya) of knowledge (jnana) and action (karma) along with sincere dedication and devotion (Bhakti). The culmination of its practice (upasana) is the direct experience (Anubhava) of bliss (ananda) realizing one’s identity with the Supreme Goddess Mahadevi (pratyabhijna).

Though, at the outset, the Tantra adopts the duality of the Samkhya; yet, in its application , it attempts to reunite the dichotomy of the material and efficient elements. In contrast to the classical Samkhya-yoga model, in which the Yogi achieves isolation (Kevala) of Purusha, the Tantra attempts to reunite Purusha and Prakriti as Shiva and Shakthi. Here, the Shakthi is the Supreme Reality. She is One and many; pervading the universe in and out.  Thus Tantra recognizes (pratyabhijna) the unity of the creator and the creation.  That relation is symbolically represented by Sri Yantra.

The entire concept seems to follow a certain pattern:  of One (Brahman); two (Shiva and Shakthi); three (Sat, chit and ananda); and four (when all the three are absorbed in the fourth; which is reuniting of the individual adept and the Absolute). A similar pattern is laid out in Mandukya Upanishad where the three levels of consciousness culminate in the fourth, the Turiya. Similarly, the three levels of speech (Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari) dissolve into the fourth state of the transcendent Para (Sabda Brahman)/

Yantra_mahalaxmi

Chaṇḍī or Chaṇḍīka is the name by which the Supreme Goddess is referred to in Devi Mahatmya. Bhaskararaya, in his Guptavati, the commentary on the Devi Mahatmya, asserts that Devi as Chandika is indeed the Brahman, the Supreme non-dual reality. She is Samvit, the pure intelligence, which is self-luminous (Prakasha); and, is unaffected by the limitations of time, space and causality (Desha, Kaala, Karana). She is also Vimarsa, the unrestrained (Svatantrya) power of action (Shakthi).  The relation between these two principles is said to be like that of the lamp and its light; the knower and the known. Vimarsa is explained as the principle of ‘illumination’ (Prakasha) becoming aware of its own self (Ahamta).

The two aspects (Prakasha and Vimarsa) – Shiva and Shakthi – constitute one integral whole – the Para-Samvit, the Supreme essence of all existence, represented by Bindu, the dimensionless point. The Devi, Maha Tripura Sundari, as Samvitti (pure conscious energy), is symbolized by Bindu, in the ninth enclosure (Bindu-chakra Avarana or Sarva-ananda-maya chakra), at the heart of the Sri Chakra.

[The Bindu at the heart of the Sri Chakra is technically described in terms of three elements or qualities: Nada, Bindu and Kala. Here, Nada refers to the sound in its primordial sense, which is the un-articulated essence which precedes the three subsequent levels of speech- (Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari). Nada is the supreme Para Vac, equated with the latent Sabda Brahman, which is the substratum of all sound-principles manifest in the universe.

As regards the Bindu, it is used in a variety of contexts, to indicate different types of forms and properties. When Bindu is mentioned in the context of the Nada, it generally, indicates the permanent or the static element that underlies the emerging form of sound. It is the basis for expansion (prapancha) that assumes the physical shape of sounds and the Beejaksharas of the Sri Chakra.

Kala is the third aspect of the Bindu at the centre of the Sri Chakra. It indicates the inherent capacity of the One to assume many forms.]

Chandi

Bhaskararaya attempts to reconcile and harmonize various viewpoints of  Kevala Advaita; Parinamavada; Samkhya-Yoga; Tantra; and, Beda-abedha of Bhaskara, the Vedantin. The doctrine of Difference in identity (avikara-parinama-vada) believes that the creation, as it were, is the transformation (Parinama) of the Absolute Brahman; and again, the Absolute is both identical and different from the diverse universe (Bedha-abedha). Brahman is identical with the diverse manifest world, because it is both the material and efficient cause. And, it is different in as much as the world (prapancha), essentially, is the transformation of One into many.

In his Guptavati, Bhaskararaya brings together the dualism of the Samkhya with the non-dualism of the Advaita, by regarding the Devi as Prakrti and the Ultimate Reality which transforms into all this existence. The Goddess transcends dualism. The Guptavati teaches that the Goddess is at once, one and many. Everything is made of her; She is present in every particle; and, yet she is only one. Bhāskararāya writes of the Supreme divine – both as beyond this world, and also as manifest within it as a deity and the energy that propels it.

Devi44

The Devi declares

I am of the nature of Brahman. From me this Universe, both void and non-void, is generated in form of Prakrti and Purusha.

Sabvarit Aham Brahma-svarupini / mattah prakrti-purusha-atmakanam jagat / sunyam ca sunyam //

I am both bliss and non-bliss. I am knowledge and non-knowledge. I am Brahma and non-Brahma. The five primordial principles and non-principles is myself. I am the whole perceived Universe.

Aham ananda-anandau / Aham vijnana- avijnanau / Aham Brama-abrahmani viditavye / Aham pancha –bhuta-anya-panchabhutani / Aham Akhilam jagat //

I am Veda (knowledge about Brahma) and non-knowledge. I am learning and ignorance. I am unborn and also born. I am up, down and in the middle.

vedo ̕hamavedo ̕ham vidyā aham avidyāham ajāham anajāham  adhaścord hva ca tiryakcāham 4

The secret teaching (Guptavati) of the Devi Mahatmya is that the Goddess pervades everything that exists; be it good or bad.  Because the reality is veiled by Māyā, we tend to perceive things as opposites: good and evil; sacred and profane; etc. But, the Truth is that there is no real duality – everything is Her.

srimahalakshm

Bhāskararāya, an Advaitin and also a Tantra Sadhaka, fuses the dualist representation with the monist principle.  He asserts that the absolute reality of the universe Brahman, as Mahālakṣhmī, evolves into many. He asserts that the Absolute Mahālakṣhmī can take the nature of Chaṇḍikā, as Chaṇḍikā-Mahālakṣhmī.

The Devi Mahatmya adores Mahālakṣhmī as Devi in her universal form as Shakthi, in highly abstract philosophical terms. She is the primordial energy (Prakrti), the primary cause (sarva-sadhya). She is both devoid of form (nirakara) and filled with forms (sakara).   She is beyond all forms and Gunas, but, assumes varied forms to create and operate the world. The Devi is Lakshya-alakshya-svarupini, the one with and also the one without the attributes. She is at once, immanent and transcendent. She is the form of the formless (Sunyasya-akara). She is both manifest (jadathmika) and un-manifest (Arupa). She is the essence of all things (Sarvamayi; Sarva sattva mayi). She creates and governs all existence (Isvari), and is known by various names (nana-abhidana-brut). She is the Mother of the worlds (Jagadamba) and sustains the worlds (Jagad-dhatri). The universe is her sphere of activity (nityaiva sā jaganmūrtistayā sarvamida tatam).  Everything in the universe is a minute expression her inscrutable power (Yoga Maya). She is the ultimate goal of yoga. 

Thus, in the Devi Mahatmya, Mahālakṣhmī is the primordial aggregate energy (Samasti) manifesting in distinct terms (Vyasti) as Maha-Sarasvathi, Mahālakṣhmī and Maha-Kali.

According to Bhaskararaya, Chaṇḍikā-Mahālakṣhmī, the Absolute principle, verily, is devoid of form (nirakara); not ordinarily perceptible (alakshya); and , without attributes (nirguna) ; yet, she is characterized by the three Gunas (triguna); and , she pervades through her three representations (avatars).

Bhāskararāya explains: the Absolute, Mahālakṣhmī, can take the nature of Chaṇḍikā. And, the Chaṇḍikā – Mahālakṣhmī, the primordial energy, the Turiya (the highest or the fourth), assumes those three distinct forms. And, each is identified with a Guna (tendency): Mahālakṣhmī (rajas), Mahākālī (tamas) and Mahāsarasvatī (sattva).  And, She appears as three aspects of existence as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the reality, consciousness and experience. Although they are represented as three distinct images, they are virtually one (a-bhinna); and, this is true not only for the three Goddesses, but also for all other forms of the Maha Devi, the Supreme Goddess.

In the Sri Vidya tradition, the Bija (seed) Mantra Hrim, equivalent to the Pranava Om, represents the Supreme reality, the Great Goddess. It is said; just as the tree, the flowers, and the fruit, emerge from the seed, so also do the three different aspects of the Devi-namely; Mahākālī, Mahālakṣhmī, and Mahāsarasvatī – emerge from the Maha Bija mantra , Hrim.

According to Bhāskararāya, at one level, Mahālakṣhmī is the highest Brahman. On the second level, Mahālakṣhmī is the deity Chaṇḍikā manifesting the Guas. Then, on the third level, there is a Mahālakṣhmī as one of the three aggregate forms (i.e. one of the Guas).

As Sat, Mahālakṣhmī is the power of coordination (sandhini). She is Vama, the left aspect, who is the power of action (kriya) that is causation. She is Lakshmi goddess of plenty, and fortune.

As Chit Mahālakṣhmī is the power of understanding (samvit). She is the power of will (iccha), and of the flow knowledge. She is Sarasvathi, the goddess of learning.

As Ananda, Mahālakṣhmī is the power of delight (ahladini-shakthi). She is the fierce (Raudri). She is the power of cognition, of realization, of transcendent knowledge; and the destroyer of illusions. She is also Durga, the one beyond reach.

The Creation arises from Her triple form of Shakthi; the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra took shape to create, preserve and dissolve the universe.

***

In the next part we shall talk of the mantra aspect, with particular reference to the Devi Mahatmya and the Navarna mantra.

Durga Killing the Buffalo Demon, 19th century

lotus offering

 

Continued

In

The part Two

Sources and References

http://www.advaitaashrama.org/Content/pb/2016/012016.pdf

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/69521/13/13_chapter%205.pdf

http://yigalbronner.huji.ac.il/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/South-Meets-North.pdf

http://www.vedicastrologer.org/mantras/chandi/chandi_inner_meaning.pdf

https://www.kamakotimandali.com/srividya/bhaskara.html

http://studerende.au.dk/fileadmin/_migrated/content_uploads/Fri_Opgave.pdf

http://navratri.sahajayogaonline.com/images/devi-atharvashirsha.pdf

http://www.aghori.it/devi_atharvashirsha_eng.htm

http://www.kamakotimandali.com/blog/index.php?s=guptavati&advm=&advy=&cat=

http://www.aghori.it/devi_atharvashirsha_eng.htm

The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism

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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Eleven

Continued from Part ten

 

Para vac

According to Abhinavagupta

As mentioned in the previous Part, it is explained that the process of manifestation of speech, like that of the Universe, takes place in four stages. First, in the undifferentiated substratum of thought an intention appears. This first impulse, the self-radiant consciousness (Sva-prakasha-chaitanya) is Para-vac (the voice beyond). Thereafter, this intention takes a shape. We can visualize the idea (Pashyanthi-vac) though it is yet to acquire a verbal form. It is the first sprout of an invisible seed; but, yet searching for words to give expression to the intention. This is the second stage in the manifestation of the idea. Then, the potential sound, the vehicle of the thought, materializes, finding   words suitable to express the idea. This transformation of an idea into words, in the silence of the mind, is the third stage. It is the intermediary stage (Madhyama-vac) between un-manifest and manifest. The fourth stage being manifestation of the till then non-vocal verbalized ideas into perceptible sounds. It is the stage where the ideas are transmitted to others through articulated audible syllables (Vaikhari-vak).  These four stages are the four forms of the word.

In this part, let’s talk about the theories expounded and the explanations offered by two of the great thinkers – Abhinavagupta and Bhartrhari – on the subject of different levels of speech or awareness.

While Bhartrhari regards levels of speech as three (Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari), Abhinavagupta discusses on four levels (Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari).

Some scholars have tried to reconcile that seeming difference between the stance of the two scholars  by explaining that Bhartrhari’s concept of the speech-principle Sabda-tattva or Sabda-brahman the fundamental basis of the all existence, virtually equates to Para Vac , the Supreme Consciousness adored by Abhinavagupta. In this connection, they remind of a passage in Bhartrhari’s Vritti on his Vakyapadiya where the description of Paśyantī Vac  is followed by a subtle hint at a para paśyantī – rūpam, which they take it as pointing towards  Abhinavagupta ‘s   Parā Vāc.

Let’s briefly take a look at the theories expounded by Abhinavagupta on various stages of language, speech and consciousness.

Abhinavagupta22

Abhinavagupta Acharya (Ca. 950 to 1020 C.E) the great philosopher, mystic and a true sadhaka, was the intellectual and a spiritual descendant of Somananda the founder of the Pratyabhijna School of Kashmiri Shaiva monism.  He was a many sided genius; a visionary endowed with incisive intellectual powers of a philosopher who combined in himself the experiences of a spiritualist and a Tantric. He was a prolific writer on Philosophy, Tantra, Aesthetics, Natya, Music and a variety of other subjects. His work Tantraloka in which he expounds Anuttara Trika, the ‘most excellent’ form of Trika Shaivism (Nara- Shakthi- Shivatmakam Trikam)  is regarded as his magnum opus. It is a sort of an encyclopedia on Tantra – its philosophy, symbolism and practices etc.

Abhinavagupta was also a scholar-commentator par excellence, equipped with extraordinary skills of an art critic.  Among his notable commentaries are: the Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vimarśini and its detailed version Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both being commentaries on Isvara-Pratyabhijña – kārikā and vtti (Recognition of Shiva as self) by Utpaladeva or Utpalācārya (early 10th century), an earlier philosopher of the Pratyabhijñā Darśhana School. And, Abhinavagupta’s Paratrisika-Laghuvritti (also known as the Anuttara-tattva-vimarsini) and its expanded form Parātrīśikā–vivarana a commentary on Parātrīśikā also known as the Trikasūtra (a seminal text on Kashmiri Shaivism) – which is based in the concluding portion of the Rudra-yamala-tantra – is held in high esteem.

And, his work Abhinavabharati though famed as a commentary on  Bharata’s  Natyasastra  is,  for all purposes, an independent treatise on aesthetics in Indian dance, poetry, music and art; and , it helps in understanding Bharata and also a number of other scholars and the concepts they had put forth. The Abhinavabharati along with his other two works – Isvara pratyabhijna Vimarshini and Dhvanyaloka Lochana – are highly significant works in the field of Indian aesthetics.

 [For more on Abhinavagupta, please click here]

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Generally speaking, the Tantra-s of all tendencies deal with the nature of Vac and its manifestations. But, the tradition to which Abhinavagupta belonged – namely the Bhairava Tantra, and in particular to the Kula and Trika Tantras –  differs from the others in that it bestows greater importance to the nature and to the role of Vac.  It views Vac (language) at its highest level as identical with the Supreme Reality.

Abhinavagupta’s ideas and concepts with regard to language are based in the scriptures of his School and in his philosophy of language. Abhinavagupta’s speculations on the nature, on the levels of Vāc and its manifestations are, therefore, some of the important aspects of all his works. They run like a thread that ties together the diverse aspects of Abhinavagupta’s vast body of works.  The speculations on Vac also interweave his views on the religious and philosophical traditions that he expounds.

According to the Pratyabhijna School, Shiva is the Ultimate Reality; and, the individual and Shiva are essentially one. The concept of Pratyabhijna refers to self-awareness (parämarsa); to the way of recognition and realization of that identity. It firmly asserts that the state of Shiva-consciousness is already there; you have to realize that; and, nothing else. As Abhinavagupta puts it: Moksha or liberation is nothing but the awareness of one’s own true nature – Moksho hi nama naivathyah sva-rupa-pratanam hi tat.

Abhinavagupta, while explaining this school of recognition, says, man is not a mere speck of dust; but is an immense force, embodying a comprehensive consciousness; and, is capable of manifesting , through his mind and body, limitless powers of knowledge and action (Jnana Shakthi and Kriya Shakthi).

According to the Tantras of Kashmir Shaiva tradition, which recapture the ancient doctrine of Sphota, the manifestation of all existence is viewed as the expression of Shiva (visarga-shakthi) occurring on four levels. These represent the process of Srsti or outward movement or descending or proceeding from the most sublime to the ordinary. It is said; such four levels of evolution correspond with the four levels of consciousness or the four levels in the unfolding (unmesa) of speech (Vac).

Just as a Samkalpa (a pure thought) has to pass through several stages before it actually manifests as a concrete creative force, so also the Vac has to pass through several stages before it is finally audible at the gross level as Sabda (sound). Each level of Vac corresponds to a different level of existence. Our experience of Vac depends upon the refinement of our consciousness.

Abhinavagupta , a master of the Pratyabhijna School of philosophy, accepted four different stages in the evolution of Sabda Brahman , originating from Para.

The latent, un-spoken, un-manifest, silent thought (Para) unfolds itself in the next three stages as pashyanti (thought visualized), Madhyamā (intermediate)   and Vaikhari (explicit) speech).

Though the speech (Vac) is seen to manifest in varied levels and forms, it essentially is said to be the transformation (Vivarta) of Para Vac, the Supreme consciousness (Cit),   which is harboured within Shiva in an undifferentiated (abheda) unlimited  form (Swatrantya).

 *

Abhinavagupta describes Parā vāk as a luminous vibration (sphurattā) of pure consciousness in an undifferentiated state (paramam vyomam). While Shiva is pure consciousness (Prakasha); Devi is the awareness of this pure light (Vimarsha). It is highly idealized; and, is akin to a most fabulous diamond that is also aware of its own lustre and beauty. The two – Prakasha and Vimarsha – are never apart. The two together are manifest in the wonder and joy (Chamatkara) of Para vac. And, there is no knowledge, no awareness, which is not connected with a form of Para vac.

The Devi, as Parā Vāc, the vital energy (prana shakthi) that vibrates (spanda) is regarded as the foundation of all languages, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions; and, is, therefore, the seat of consciousness (cit, samvid). Consciousness, thus, is inseparable from the Word, because it is alive.

Vac (speech), he says, is a form of expression of consciousness. And, he argues, there could be no speech without consciousness. However, Consciousness does not directly act upon the principle of speech; but, it operates through intermediary stages as also upon organs and breath to deliver speech.

Thus, Vac is indeed both speech and consciousness (chetana), as all actions and powers are grounded in Vac. Abhinavagupta says: Someone may hear another person speak, but if his awareness is obscured, he is unable to understand what has been said. He might hear the sounds made by the speaker (outer layer of speech); but, he would not be able to grasp its meaning (the inner essence – antar-abhiläpa)).

 **

Abhinavagupta explains the process of evolution (Vimarsa) of speech in terms of consciousness, mind and cognitive activity (such as knowing, perceiving, reasoning, understanding and expressing).

In his Īśvara-pratyabhijñā-viti-vimarśinī  Abhinavagupta says: the group of sounds (Sabda-rasi) is the Supreme Lord himself; and, Devi as the array of alphabets (Matraka)   is his power (Shakthi) .

iha tāvat parameśvara śabdarāśi, śaktir asya bhinnābhinnarūpā mātkādevī, vargāṣṭaka rudraśaktyaṣṭaka pañcāśad varā pañcāśad rudraśaktaya

Abhinavagupta says: “When She (Parā vāc) is differentiating then she is known in three terms as Pašhyantī, Madhyamā, and Vaikharī.” The Kashmir Shaiva tradition, thus, identifies the Supreme Word, the Para Vac with the power of the supreme consciousness, Cit of Shiva – that is Devi the Shakthi.

*

According to Abhinavagupta, the Vac proceeds from the creative consciousness pulsations (spanda) of the Devi as Para-Vac, the most subtle and silent form of speech-consciousness. And then, it moves on, in stages, to more cognizable forms: Pashyanti (Vak-shakthi , going forth as seeing , ready to create in which there is no difference between Vachya– object and Vachaka – word); Madhyamā ( the sabda in its subtle form as existing in the anthahkarana or antarbhittï prior to manifestation); and ,  Vaikhari (articulated as gross physical speech). This is a process of Srsti or outward movement or descending proceeds from the most sublime to the mundane.

It is said; the gross aspect (sthūla) of nāda is called ‘sound’; while the subtle (sūkma) aspect is made of thought (cintāmaya bhavet); and, the aspect that is devoid of thought (cintayā rahita) is called Para, the one beyond

Sthūlam śabda iti prokta sūkma cintāmaya bhavet | cintayā rahita yat tu tat para parikīrtitam |

[This is similar to the structure and the principle of Sri Chakra where the consciousness or the energy proceeds from the Bindu at its centre to the outward material forms.

The Bindu or dot in the innermost triangle of the Sri Chakra represents the potential of the non-dual Shiva-Shakti. When this potential separates into Prakasha and Vimarsha it is materializes into Nada, the sound principle.]

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There are also other interpretations of the four stages in the evolution of Vac.

:-It is also said; the stages of Para, Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari correspond to our four states of consciousness – Turiya (the transcendental state); Sushupti  (dreamless state);  Swapna  (dreaming state), and Jagrut (wakeful state).

Thus, Para represents the transcendental consciousness, Pashyanti represents the intellectual consciousness, Madhyamā represents the mental consciousness, and Vaikhari represents the physical consciousness. Our ability to experience different levels depends upon the elevation of our consciousness.

:-The three lower forms of speech viz. Pashyanthi, Madhyama and Vaikhari which correspond to intention, formulation and expression are said to represent iccha-shakthi (power of intent or will), jnana-shakthi (power of knowledge) and kriya-shakthi (power of action) of the Devi .These three are construed as the three sides of the triangle at the centre of which is the dot-point (bindu) representing the undifferentiated notion Para-vac. The triangle with the Bindu at its centre suggests the idea of Isvara the divinity conceived as Sabda-Brahman.

Rāmakantha (aka Rājānaka Rāma; Ca. 950 CE) in his commentary (Vritti) on Spandakārikā, explains, “The speech is indeed an action, the mediating part of the Word is made of knowledge, the will is its visionary part, which is subtle and is common essence in all [of them].”

Vaikharikā nāma kriyā jñānamayī bhavati madhyamā vāk/ Icchā puna pašyant ī sūkmā sarvāsā samarasā vtti/ /

 :-According to the Yoga School, the Para stage manifests in the Karanabindu in Muladhara chakra; and then it passes through Manipura and Anahata chakras that denote Pashyanti and Madhyama states of sound. And, its final expression or Vaikhari takes place in Vishudhi chakra.

The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad explains thus: “The Vac which sprouts in Para gives forth leaves in Pashyanti; buds forth in Madhyamā, and blossoms in Vaikhari.”

:-The Tantra worships Devi as Parā Vāc who creates, sustains and dissolves the universe. She is the Kuṇḍalinī Śkakthi – the serpent power residing in the human body in the subtle form coiling around the Mūladhāra Chakra

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According to Abhinavagupta, the Para Vac is always present and pervades all the levels of speech; and, is indeed present on all the levels from the highest to the lowest. By its projection, it creates the flash of pašyantī vāc, the intellectual form; and finally the articulate form, the Vaikhari. He also says that without Her (parā vāk), darkness and unconsciousness, would prevail.

pašyantyādi dašasv api vastuto vyavasthitā tayā vinā / pašyantyādiu aprakāšatāpattyā jaJaā-prasagāt /

 “Everything (sarvasarvātmaiva); stones, trees, birds, human beings, gods, demons and so on, is but the Para Vac present in everything and is, identical with the Supreme Lord.”

 ata eva sarve pāšāa-taru-tirya-manuya-deva-rudra-kevali -mantratadīša- tanmahešādikā ekaiva parābhaṭṭārikā-bhūmi sarva-sarvātmanaiva paramešvara- rūpeāste

Thus, the entire process of evolution of Vac is a series of movements from the centre of Reality to the periphery, in successive forms of Para-Vani.  Abhinavagupta states: Shiva as Para is manifested in all the stages, from the highest to the lowest, right up to the gross sound through his Shakthi; and, he remains undivided (avibhaga vedanatmaka bindu rupataya).

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To put the entire discussion in a summary form:

:- According to the explanations provided here: Para is the highest manifestation of Vac. Para and Pashyanti are inaudible; they are beyond the range of the physical ear; and so is Madhyama which is an internal dialogue.

Thus, it is said, there are three stages in the manifestation of Vac: Para (highest); Sukshma (subtle – Pashyanti and Madhyama); and, Sthula (gross – Vaikhari)

Para, the transcendent sound, is beyond the perception of the senses; and, it is all pervading and all encompassing. Para is pure intention. It is un-manifest. One could say, it is the sound of one’s soul, a state of soundless sound. It exists within all of us. All mantras, infinite syllables, words, and sentences exist within Para in the form of vibration (Spanda) in a potential form.

Para-Vani or Para Vac, the Supreme Word, which is non-dual  (abeda) and  identified with  Supreme consciousness, often referred to as Sabda Brahma, is present in all  the subsequent stages; in  all the states of experiences and expressions  as Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari.

*

:-  Pashyanti , which also means the visual image of the word, is the first stage of Speech. It is the intuitive and initial vision; the stage preceding mental and verbal expression.  

Paśyantī is prior to sprouting of the language or ‘verbalization’, still potent and yet to unfold. Pasyanti, says Abhinavagupta, is the first moment of cognition, the moment where one is still wishing to know rather than truly knowing. 

In Pashyanti (Vak-shakthi, going forth as seeing, ready to create) there is no difference between Vachya – object and Vachaka – word. The duality of subject-object relation does not exist here. Pashyanti is indivisible and without inner-sequence; meaning that the origin and destination of speech are one, without the intervention of mental constructs (Vikalpa). Paśyantī is the state of Nirvikalpa.

It is the power of intent or will (Icchāśakti) that acts in Paśhyantī state. And yet, it carries within itself the potentials of the power of cognition, jñāna šhakthi, and the power of action, kriyā šhakthi.

*

:- Madhyama is an intellectual process, during which the speaker becomes aware of the word as it arises and takes form within him; and, grasps it. Madhyama vac is a sequenced but a pre-vocal thought, Here, the sound is nada; and, is in a wave or a vibratory (spandana) form.

Madhyamā is the intermediate stage (madhyabhūmi) of thinking. It is the stage at which the sabda in its subtle form exists in the anthahkarana (the internal faculty or the psychological process, including mind and emotions) prior to manifestation) as thought process or deliberation (chintana) which acts as the arena for sorting out various options or forms of discursive thought (vikalpa) and choosing the appropriate form of expression to be put out.

The seat of Madhyamā, according to Abhinavagupta, is intellect, buddhi. Madhyamā represents conception and internal articulation of the word- content. Madhyamā is the stage of Jñānaśakti where knowledge (bodha) or the intellect is dominant. It is the stage in which the word and its meaning are grasped in a subject-object relationship; and, where it gains silent expressions in an internal-dialogue.

*

:- And, finally, Vaikhari Vac is sequenced and verbalized speech, set in motion according to the will of the person who speaks. For this purpose, he employs sentences comprising words uttered in a sequence. The word itself comprises letters or syllables (varnas) that follow one after the other.

Vaikhari is the articulated speech, which in a waveform reaches the ears and the intellect of the listener. Vaikhari is the physical form of nada that is heard and apprehended by the listener. It gives expression to subtler forms of vac.

The Vaikhari (which is related to the body) is the manifestation of Vac as gross physical speech of the ordinary tangible world of names and forms. Vaikharī represents the power of action Kriyāśakti. This is the plane at which the Vac gains a bodily- form and expression. Until this final stage, the word is still a mental or an intellectual event. Now, the articulated word comes out in succession; and, gives substance and forms to ones thoughts. Vaikharī is the final stage of communication, where the word is externalized and rendered into audible sounds (prākta dhvani).

There are further differences, on this plane, between a clear and loud pronunciation (Saghosha) and a one whispered in low voice (aghosha), almost a sotto voce. Both are fully articulated; what distinguishes them is that the former can be heard by others and the latter is not.

*

That is to say; Vac originates in consciousness; and, then, it moves on, in stages, to more cognizable forms : as Pashyanti, the vision of what is to follow; then as Madhyama the intermediate stage between the vision and the actual; and , finally as Vaikhari the articulated , fragmented, conventional level of everyday vocal expressions.

Thus, the urge to communicate or the spontaneous evolution of Para, Pashyanti into Vaikhari epitomizes, in miniature, the act of One becoming Many; and the subtle energy transforming into a less- subtle matter. Thus, the speech, each time, is an enactment in miniature of the progression of the One into Many; and the absorption of the Many into One as it merges into the intellect of the listener.

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While on Abhinavagupta, we may speak briefly about the ways he illustrates the relation that exists between Shiva, Devi and the human individual, by employing the Sanskrit Grammar as a prop.

In the alphabetical chart of the Sanskrit language, A () is the first letter and Ha (ह) is the last letter. These two, between them, encompass the collection of all the other letters of the alphabets (Matrka).

Here, the vowels (Bija – the seed) are identified with Shiva; and, the consonants are wombs (yoni), identified with Shakthi. The intertwined vowels and consonants (Malini) in a language are the union of Shiva and Shakthi.

[ In the Traika tradition, the letters are arranged as per two schemes: Matrka and Malini. Here, Matrka is the mother principle, the phonetic creative energy. Malini is Devi who wears the garland (mala) of fifty letters of the alphabet.

The main difference between the Matrka and Malini is in the arrangement of letters. In Matrka , the letters are arranged in regular order ; that is , the vowels come first followed by consonants in a serial order. In Malini, the arrangement of letters is irregular. Here, the vowels and consonants are mixed and irregular; there is no definite order in their arrangement. While Matrkas are compared to individual flowers, the Malini is the garland skillfully woven from those colourful flowers.]

According to Abhinavagupta, word is a symbol (sanketa). The four stages of Vac: Para, Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari represent the four stages of evolution and also of absorption ascent or descent from the undifferentiated to the gross.

Abhinavagupta then takes up the word AHAM (meaning ‘I’ or I-consciousness or Aham-bhava) for discussion. He interprets AHAM (अहं) as representing the four stages of evolution from the undifferentiated to the gross (Sristi); and, also of absorption (Samhara) back into the primordial source. In a way, these also correspond to the four stages of Vac: Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama – and Vaikhari.

*

He explains that the first letter of that word – A () – represents the pure consciousness Prakasha or Shiva or Anuttara, the absolute, the primal source of all existence. It also symbolizes the initial emergence of all the other letters; the development of the languages.

And, Ha (ह) is the final letter of the alphabet-chart; and, it represents the point of completion when all the letters have emerged. Ha symbolizes Vimarsha or Shakthi, the Devi. The nasal sound (anusvāra) which is produced by placing a dot or Bindu on ‘Ha(हं) symbolises the union of Shiva and Shakthi in their potent state.

The Bindu (◦) or the dimension-less point is also said to represent the subtle vibration of the life-force (Jiva-kala) in the process of creation. Bindu symbolises the union of Shiva and Shakthi in their potent state (Shiva-Shakthi-mithuna-pinda). It stands at the threshold of creation or the stream of emanation held within Shiva.  It is the pivot around which the cycle of energies from A to Ha rotate. Bindu also is also said to symbolize in the infinite nature (aparimitha-bhava) of AHAM.

*

 

As regards and the final letter M (ह्म) of  the sound AHAM ( written as a dot placed above the letter which precedes)  , providing the final nasal sound, it comes at the end of the vowel series, but before the consonants. It is therefore called Anusvara – that which follows the Svaras (vowels). And, it represents the individual soul (Purusha).

*

Abhinavagupta interprets AHAM as composed of Shiva; the Shakthi; and the Purusha – as the natural innate mantra the Para vac.

In the process of expansion (Sristi), Shiva, representing the eternal Anuttara, which is the natural, primal sound A () , the life of the entire range of letter-energies (sakala-kala-jaala-jivana –bhutah) , assumes the form of Ha’ (हं) the symbol of Shakthi; and, then he expands into Bindu (◦) symbolizing phenomenal world (Nara rupena).

Thus, AHAM is the combine of Shiva-Shakthi that manifests as the world we experience. Here, Shakthi is the creative power of Shiva; and it is through Shakthi that Shiva emerges as the material world of human experience. AHAM , therefore, represents the state in which all the elements of experience, in the inner and the outer worlds, are fully displayed. Thus, Shakthi is the creative medium that bridges Nara (human) with Shiva.

**

At another level, Abhinavagupta explains: The emergence (Visarga) of Shakthi takes place within Aham.  She proceeds from A which symbolizes unity or non-dual state (Abedha). Shakthi as symbolized by Ha represents duality or diversity (bedha); and, the dot (anusvara or bindu) on Ha symbolizes bedha-abeda – that is, unity transforming into diversity. The Anusvara indicates the manifestation of Shiva through Shakthi ; yet he remains perfect (undivided) – Avi-bhaga-vedanatmaka  bindu rupataya.

These three stages of expansion are known as Para visarga; Apara visarga; and Para-apara visarga.

Here, Para is the Supreme state, the Absolute (Shiva) ; Para-apara is the intermediate stage of Shakthi, who is identical with Shiva and also different; she is duality emerging out of the undifferentiated; and, Apara is the duality that is commonly experienced in the world.

Aham (अहं), in short, according to Abhinavagupta, encapsulates the process of evolution from the undifferentiated Absolute (Shiva) to the duality of the world, passing through the intermediate stage of Bheda- abeda, the threshold of creation, the Shakthi. All through such stages of seeming  duality , Shiva remains undivided (avibhaga vedanatmaka bindu rupataya).

The same principle underlines the transformation, in stages, of the supreme word Para Vac the Supreme Word, which is non-dual and identified with Supreme consciousness, into the articulate gross sound Vaikhari.

**

[ Abhinavagupta in his Paratrisika Vivarana says :  In all the dealings , whatever happens , whether it is a matter of knowledge (jnana) or action (kriya) – all of that arises in the fourth state (turyabhuvi) , that is in the Para-vac in an undifferentiated  (gatabhedam ) way. In Pashyanti which is the initial field in the order of succession (kramabhujisu) there is only a germ of difference. In Madhyamā, the distinction between jneya (the object of knowledge) and karya (action) appears inwardly, for a clear-cut succession or order is not possible at this stage (sphuta-kramayoge).

Moreover , Pashyanti and Madhyamā fully relying on Para which is ever present and from which there is no distinct distinction of these (bhrsam param abhedato adhyasa)  (later ) regards that stage as if past like a mad man or one who has got up from sleep.

*

Abhinavagupta in his Para-trisika Varnana explains and illustrates the Tantric idiom ‘sarvam sarvatmakam’: everything is related to everything else. The saying implies that the universe is not chaotic ; but , is an inter-related system. The highest principle is related to the lowest (Shiva to the gross material object) .

Abhinavagupta illustrates this relation by resorting to play on the letters in the Sanskrit alphabets, and  the tattvas or the principles of reality.

He says “ the first is the state of Pasu , the bound individual; the second is the state of jivanmukta or of the Pathi , the Lord himself  for : khechari –samata is the highest  state of Shiva both in life and in liberation”- tad evaṃ khecarī sāmyam eva mokṣaḥ . Khechari is the Shakthi moving in free space (kha) , which is an image of consciousness. Khechari-samaya is described as the state of harmony and identity with the Divine I-consciousness-Akritrima-aham-vimarsha —  yena jñātamātreṇa khecarīsāmyam uktanayena]

**

[Again , on a play of letters , Abhinavagupta states the three pronouns I (aham ) , you (tvam ) and he/she/it (sah)  are a part of the triadic structure of the Reality (sarvam traika-rupam eva ) and they are to be related to nara (he or it ) , Shakthi (you) and Shiva (I). The three again are related to three levels of Apara, Parapara and Para (the lowest or the objective; the intermediate; and,  the transcendent level). But, since the trinity is neither rigid nor static; but , is a fluid system of relations where one can be transformed into another,   the lower can be assumed to be the higher . And, all types of interaction among the tree levels is possible.

For instance, the third person, which may even be a life-less object, if it is addressed personally might become ‘you’ and thus assume the Shakthi-nature of the second person you,’ Mountain’. Similarly, the same object in third person can be transformed into first person ‘I’. Take for instance when Krishna declares in the Bhagavad-Gita ‘Among the mountains, I am Meru’.

And, a person or ‘I’ addressing another person or ‘you’ experiences a kind of fusion with the ‘I’ of his self with the ‘I’ of the listener. That common or the shared feeling of ‘I’ binds the two together in delight (chamatkara) and release (svatantra) from the isolation of limited self. Here, communication brings about close association or union  in the same Ahambhava.

The pure, unbound ‘I’ is Shiva who is self-luminous consciousness. The notion of ‘you’, the second person, though indicative of ‘separateness’, is actually similar to that of  ‘I’. Therefore, both ‘you’ and ‘I’ are described as genderless.

Abhinavagupta presents several examples to show how the three grammatical ‘persons’ are interrelated and merge into each other. This he does in order to explain how everything, even the inert object, is related to the absolute –“I’ consciousness of Shiva.

Even the ‘numbers’ – singular, dual and plural – are related to the three principles of Traika : singular being Shiva; the dual being Shakthi ; and, nara , the multiplicity of the objective world. The merging of the many (anekam – plurality) into unity (eka)  of Shiva  signifies release from bondage (anekam ekadha krtva ko no muchtyata bandhat : Ksts )

This is how Abhinavagupta analyzes grammatical structures to explain the relatedness as also the essential unity in creation. As he says: the rules of Grammar reflect consciousness; and , there is no speech which does not reach the heart directly (Ksts).

**

In another play on words, Abhinavagupta turns Aham backwards into Maha; and, interprets it to mean the withdrawal (Samhara) or absorption of the material existence into the primordial state. Here again, in MAHA, the letter Ma stands for individual; Ha for Shakthi; and, A for Shiva (Anuttara the ultimate source).

In the reverse movement (Parivartya – turning back or returning to the origin), Ma the individual (Nara) is absorbed into Shakthi (Ha) which enters back into the Anuttara the primal source the Shiva (A).  That is; in the process of withdrawal, all external objects come to rest or finally repose in the ultimate Anuttata aspect (Aham-bhava) of Shiva.

Thus the two states of expansion (sristi) and withdrawal (samhara) are pictured by two mantras Aham and Maha.

In both the cases, Shakthi is the medium. In Aham, it is through Shakthi that Shiva manifests as multiplicity. And, in Maha, Shakthi, again, is the medium through which the manifestation is absorbed back into Shiva. She, like the breath, brings out the inner into the outer; and again, draws back the outside into within. That is the reason Shakthi is often called the entrance to Shiva philosophy (Shaivi mukham ihocyate).

**

In short : 

In the process of expansion, the eternal Anuttara, Shiva is the form of ‘A’ which is the natural, primal sound, the life of the entire range of letter-energies (sakala-kala-jaala-jivana –bhutah) .  He, in the process of expansion ,assumes ‘ha’ form (the symbol of Shakthi) , for expansion (visarga) is the form of ‘ha’ , the kundalini-shakti ; and then he expands into a dot symbolizing objective phenomenon (nara rupena) and indicative of the entire expansion of Shakthi ( entire manifestation) with Bhairava .

Thus , the expansion is in the form of Aham or I , The return or the withdrawal is in the form of Maha.

This the great secret , this is the source of the emergence of the universe. And , also by the delight emanating from the union of the two  Shiva and Shakthi .

**

Abhinavagupta remarks: this is the great secret (Etad Guhyam Mahaguhyam); this is the source of the emergence of the universe; and, this is the withdrawal of the mundane into the sublime Absolute. And, this also celebrates the wonder and delight (Chamatkara) emanating from the union of the two Shiva and Shakthi.

[Abhinavagupta’s system is named Visesha-shastra the secret knowledge as compared to Samanya –shastra  , the basic teachings  of Shaiva siddantha.]

***

[ In all the voluminous and complex writings of Abhinavagupta, the symbolism of Heart (Hrudaya) plays an important role. He perhaps meant it to denote ‘the central point or the essence’. His religious vision is explained through the symbol of heart, at three levels – the ultimate reality, the method and the experience. The first; the Heart, that is, the ultimate nature (anuttara – there is nothing beyond) of all reality, is Shiva. The second is the methods and techniques employed (Sambhavopaya) to realize that ultimate reality.  And, the third is   to bring that ideal into ones experience.

The Heart here refers, in his words ‘to an experience that moves the heart (hrudaya-angami-bhuta). He calls the third, the state of realization as Bhairavatva, the state of the Bhairava. He explains through the symbolism of Heart to denote   the ecstatic light of consciousness as ‘Bhaira-agni-viliptam’, engulfed by the light of Bhairava that blazes and flames continuously. Sometimes, he uses the term ‘nigalita’ melted or dissolved in the purifying fire-pit the yajna–vedi of Bhairava. He presents the essential nurture (svabhava) of Bhairava as the  self-illuminating (svaprakasha) light of consciousness (Prakasha).  And, Bhairava is the core phenomenon (Heart – Hrudaya) and the ultimate goal of all spiritual Sadhanas.

When we use the term ‘understanding’, we also need to keep in view the sense in which Abhinavagupta used the term.  He makes a distinction between the understanding that is purely intellectual and the one that is truly experienced. The latter is the Heart of one’s Sadhana.

The Heart of Abhinavagupta is that a religious vision is not merely intellectual, emotional or imagined. But, it is an experience that is at once pulsating, powerful and transforming our very existence.

The Triadic Heart of Siva by Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega]

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In the next part let’s see the explanations and the discussions provided by Bhartrhari on the various levels of the language (Vac).

 

Continued

In the

 Next Part

Sources and References

Abhinavagupta and the word: some thoughts By Raffaele Torella

Sanskrit terms for Language and Speech

http://www.universityofhumanunity.org/biblios/Terms%20of%20Word%20and%20Language.pdf

The Four levels of Speech in Tantra

Bettina Baeumer -Second Lecture – Some Fundamental Conceptions of Tantra http://www.utpaladeva.in/fileadmin/bettina.baeumer/docs/Bir_2011/Second_Lecture.pdf

 Sphota theory of Bhartrhari

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/31822/8/08_chapter%202.pdf

The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 edited by Harold G. Coward, K. Kunjunni Raja, Karl H Potter

Culture and Consciousness: Literature Regained by William S. Haney

ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

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Virabhadra, the auspicious hero

1.1. Virabhadra the auspicious hero raging like flaming fire is Shiva‘s ferocious instrument for destruction of ignorance, ritualism and dogma. Virabhadra, the Great Warrior,is the sublimation of Shiva’s impatience and anger; the embodiment of his resolute might; and is therefore regarded an aspect of Shiva in blazing mood burning down delusion and falsehood (samhara –murti).

1.2. It is said; Shiva represents pure-consciousness (jnana shakthi); Devi is the creative energy, the thought within his consciousness, the will to intend an act (itccha shakthi); and Virabhadra is the power of action (kriya-shakthi) the determined might to transform that will into an act. Virabhadra, the action-hero,    personifies implicit faith, absolute devotion and reverence as also the ruthless efficiency in carrying out the command of his creator.

1.3. Virabhadra also symbolizes the sharp incisive power of discrimination, potent in each of us, to sever  attachments to conceited values, misplaced faith and the routines that we all run through thoughtlessly. He points out to our adulation of that which should not be esteemed; and to our neglect of that which ought to be valued. Virabhadra’s message is to open our heart, to embrace everything that life has given us, without fear or prejudice. Virabhadra destroys in order to save.

Daksha – Shiva – Uma

2.1. The origin and the relevance of Virabhadra have to be appreciated in the context of the running feud between Daksha and Shiva spread over many eons, manvantara.   The two mighty personages represent two different realities, two divergent faiths, two separate streams of understanding and two opposed world orders.

2.2. Daksha meaning ‘able, competent, skilled ‘in performing rituals, is rooted in the propriety and the relevance of elaborate rituals; and in their techniques as prescribed in the scriptures. He is also a great believer in the organized  hierarchy of gods and the proper order of apportioning the oblation among various levels of gods. He is one of the Prajapatis and is sometimes regarded as their chief. He is charged with the responsibility of ensuring perpetuation of life on earth, as also the richness and dignity in life. He is a very prominent person of the established order; and, in fact, is at its very core. Daksha holding the office of Prajapathi was a lawgiver who formulated rules for conduct of behaviour in the society and norms for the orderly working of the society along the well respected traditional lines. The world order as envisaged by Daksha defined the precise role and conduct not merely of humans but of gods as well. He expected from all, reverence to his self and obedience to his law.  He would not tolerate subversive bunch of renegades who had scant regard for the social dignity and decorum. Daksha therefore represents the matter-of-fact logical mode of thinking, the way in which most of us would like to lead our lives.

2.3. Shiva, in contrast, was beyond the pale of normal society; and stood for everything that Daksha dreaded. Shiva was a Vratya, and the most distinguished among them, Ekavratya, an unorthodox hermit, who lived by his own rules, not always acceptable to traditional society. He refused to conform to the ways of the world.

3.1. Vratyas  were a community of dissenters, social rebels and ascetics living under a set of strange religious vows (Vrata). They totally rejected the Vedic rites and rituals. Vratyas followed their own cult-rules and practices; and did not care either for the rituals or for initiations (adhikshitah); and not at all for celibacy (Na hi brahmacharyam charanthi).They did not engage themselves in agriculture (Na krshim) or in trade (Na vanijyam).They behaved as if they were possessed (gandharva grithaha) or drunk or just mad. They roamed about the countryside and lived among the warriors, herdsmen and farmers. They were worshippers of Rudra, Isana or Mahadeva; and yet were regarded irreligious. In the words of Shri DSamapth, they were the ‘freethinkers who gave a very time and space based approach to the issues; and, were the initial social scientists with rationality as the anchor’.

3.2. Shiva, Rudra the wild one, like a true Vratya, wandered among cremation grounds with a rowdy bunch of renegades consuming intoxicants forbidden in polite society and slept amidst the warmth of burning funeral pyres. He sang and danced whenever and wherever he wanted to with little heed to decorum and protocol. Shiva refused to indulge in any social rule having pretentions of respect.  He had no home, no possessions, no family, no vocation; he was a drifter, ritually impure, unsuitable for married life.

4.1. Uma was the daughter of Himavat (Uma Haimavathi) by Menaka or Mena [In this version she is not related to Daksha]; she was desperately in love with Shiva but had a hard time persuading him to marry her. Shiva narrated all his disqualifications that failed to make him a dependable householder. Despite that, Uma followed Shiva wherever he went, over hills, across desolate plains and dense forests and through cremation grounds. Shiva at first ignored Uma. He barely acknowledged her.  Uma finally told her reluctant lover, “It is for the good of both of us.You are incomplete without me and I am incomplete without you. I do not ask for anything, but you. I accept you for what you are, not deterred by what you do not have…I would like to observe with you”. Shiva could no longer be without his loving consort.

5.1. Daksha Prajapathi’s intense dislike of Shiva was because the latter was a vagrant, a tramp who had neither commitments nor sense of values in life. Daksha called  Shiva – a Kapalin having neither father nor mother, impure , incorrigible and proud abolisher of rites and demolisher of barriers who roams about in dreadful cemeteries, attended by hosts of ghosts and sprites, like a madman, naked, with disheveled hair, wearing a garland of skulls and ornaments of bones of the dead, pretending to be Siva (auspicious), but in reality is   a- Siva (inauspicious), insane, leader of the insane Bhutas (spirits), the wicked hearted whose nature is essentially darkness.’Let this Bhava (Siva), lowest of the gods, never, at the worship of the gods, receive any portion along with the gods Indra, Upendra (Vishnu), and others’.

5.2. Uma’s perception of Shiva is of a different kind. It is non-judgmental absolute faith and intense love. There are no words to describe it otherwise. It obviously is unwise. But, that foolish wisdom is a precious gift of grace received in humility of mind and simplicity of heart; an un-bounded loving energy that transforms the world more effectively than the rhetoric. But, that rarely happens.

6.1. The Daksha – Shiva conflict is more along the traditional lines, It is between establishment and anti-establishment. It occurs in every generation and all the time. It is the conflict between normal learning and intuitional understanding; between the conventional point of view and the transcendental experience; and between the man of the world and the one who has cast off all concerns and obligations.

6.2. The Indian traditions, for some reason, have always regarded content-less intuitional understanding and recognition of ‘what Is’ as being far superior to belief systems or a schools of thought. Our ancients always asserted that the immediate experience ( sakshat aparoksha) which liberates is truly superior to  the  intellectual knowledge of scriptures, rites and rituals.  They explained it as the sort of experience that leads to the true understanding of the problems of being and becoming; that which aids to cross over all sorrows (shokasya param trayathi); and to realize one’s true identity. It is beyond the understanding of the intellect; it is experience (we shall return to this theme a little later).

6.3. The Daksha –Shiva conflict enacts the theme of limited formal learning giving place to expansive intuitional understanding. This theme manifests in life, in all ages, in various forms. The ego fears for its death, so it refuses to surrender to the heart. But, it eventually does give in.  The old sage Parashara wryly remarks “in every age Daksha and the rest are born and are again destroyed.”

6.4. The emergence of Virabhadra as Shiva’s instrument for destruction of Daksha’s small ’ego’ and for awakening of true understanding in him occurs when Daksha was born as the son of Prachetas and Marisha; and was designated as Prajapathi in age of Vaivasvata Manu.

Daksha yajna

7.1. The performance of the magnificent and most elaborate Brahaspathi – savana – yajna by Daksha Prajapathi must have been a highly significant event in the very ancient past. The Daksha story became a ground for fertile epic imagination. Countless versions of the event were described elaborately in various Puranas, epics and folk legends; each version, of course, bending the event to champion its own pet theme.

By all accounts, ‘Daksha’s sacrifice’ shook the old world and brought in a new world order. Shorn of prejudices and rhetoric, the legend indicates that Rudra-Shiva an unorthodox god stormed his way into the world of established order, secured there a prominent undisputed status among all gods and claimed a fair share of esteem and oblations that were due to him. It also amply demonstrates the futility and irrelevance of mere scriptural learning, rituals and sacrifices; and upholds the way of right-understanding as the means to liberation from all sorrows.

7.2. But the germ of the story seems to be in the Taittiriya Samhita(2.6.8) , where the gods, excluded Rudra from a sacrifice; and he pierced the sacrifice with an arrow; thereafter a ‘well offered yajna (svista)’ was submitted to Rudra. Gopatha Brahmana too carries a similar story where Prajapathi deprived Rudra of his share in the Yajna; then Rudra pierced the Yajna (prasitra) and gained his share. In these brief references, there is no mention of Daksha by name; and Rudra gains his share of the Yajna by force. There, of course, is no Virabhadra.

7.3. There is another reference to Shiva and Daksha in Ramayana. The King Janaka describes the great bow Shiva Dhanus as the one wielded by Shiva when he threatened to destroy Daksha’s Yajna    because Devas had not offered Shiva a portion of the oblations. In this version of the legend also there is no mention of Rudra commissioning Virabhadra, or anyone else, to destroy the sacrifice or put the gods to flight. He is simply said to wound the gods with his bow.

8.1. All these references indicate that Shiva ( it is not clear if he was the same as the Rudra of the Rig Veda) who perhaps was  at the periphery was determined to break into the world of Vedic rituals , to be recognized as one of the major gods and to secure a fair portion of the Yajna because of the esteem associated with it.

8.2. The later epic –poets strung together these references; and spun amazingly elaborate and divergent tales around Shiva – Daksha Prajapathi conflict. The various Puranas were structured, basically, in two levels. One, Daksha and Shiva were projected as two opposite poles in the society; Daksha representing the establishment and Shiva the anti – establishment and everything that Daksha hated.

Uma the Devi was the gracious link of love that connected the two opposing worlds.

The other was the determination of the Devas to continue to keep Shiva out of the Vedic fold and to refuse him recognition within its orthodox framework by denying him a share of the Yajna; and Shiva’s repeated, determined and forceful efforts to secure the esteem which he thought was due to him. He does eventually succeed not merely in gaining acceptance but also in becoming the premier god in the Vedic pantheon revered with fair share of the Yajna oblations. Along with that, the Pashupathas stood to gain some   recognition within the Vedic fold, though it was conceded very reluctantly.

8.3. In addition, two other minor themes run through the narrations: One is the element of Shiva –Vishnu rivalry; and the other is the efforts of the Shaktha cult to use the events at Daksha-yajna in order to relate the origins of its Shakthi peethas and to base its legends.

8.4. There is however a dichotomy in these narrations; and it is not adequately explained. The followers of Shiva, mainly the Pashupathas, did not seem to have faith or respect for the Vedic rituals and their efficacy. Yet, they fight very hard, even by violence, to secure their leader a fair share in the Yajna and to see him established in the hierarchy of the Devas. And, eventually they agreed to become a part of the very Yajna which they set out to destroy.

8.5. In any case, several Puranas together have  woven a very complicated  ( at times confusing ) maze of  stories  involving assumed traditional proprieties, their alleged breach, disputed claims, divided loyalties and prejudices for and against Shiva or Vishnu; and, an undecided stand on the efficacy of Vedic rituals.

Narrations in Vayu Purana

9.1. Of the several versions of the Daksha Yajna, the narrations in Vayu Purana, perhaps the oldest of the extant puranas and in Mahabharata are restrained and comparatively brief. They describe, in substance, the waste of food and drinks stored for the Yajna and the burning of the Yajna.  Here, Devi is presented, without a preamble, as Parvathi or Uma daughter of Himavat (Uma Haimavathi) by Menaka or Mena . In this version she is not related to Daksha; she does not also visit the Yajna; and she does not die (out of grief at the insult directed at her husband).There are no references in these versions to the previous conflicts or the enmity that existed between Daksha and Shiva. Here, Shiva’s anger is directed not so much against Daksha as against the unfair arrangement devised by the Devas to deprive him of a share of the Yajna. He wills Yajna to be disrupted; but he does not command Virabhadra to kill Daksha. Shiva left to himself, perhaps, would have accepted the position as it were but for Devi who felt slighted and did not want to see her husband belittled by other gods.

9.2. Here, Uma is terribly unhappy that her husband is not invited to a great Yajna where all other gods participate joyously. And she anxiously enquirers why he does not proceed to the Yajna; what holds him back? Mahadeva replied ‘This is the contrivance that in all sacrifices no portion should be assigned to me’. Devi is filled with ‘deep sorrow and trembling’ and is hardly able to restrain as her husband ‘of unsurpassed splendor, glory and power’ is excluded from share of oblations. Then, after prodding from Parvathi, Shiva says “O queen of the gods, behold whom I shall create for the purpose of claiming my share of the oblation in the yajna”.

10.1. He then creates Virabhadra from his mouth . In these versions; there is no beheading of either the Yajna who assumed the form of a deer or of Daksha. There is also no mention of beating up and mutilating various gods and sages assembled at the Yajna. Daksha at the end realizes his folly and submits to Shiva who pardons and grants him salvation. Yajna is concluded successfully. All ends well.

Lets us briefly go over the narrations as provided in Vayu Purana  and Mahabharata- Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva.[ The following is extracted from  Prof.Wilson’s   translation of Vayu-Purana ] We can later have a brief look at the variations of the legend  as depicted in other Puranas.

Virabhadra

10.2. “ Having spoken thus to his beloved the mighty Mahadeva created out of his mouth a most magnificent and frightening being glowing like the fire of fate (kaala-agni); a divine being with thousand heads , thousand eyes , thousand feet , thousand arms , wielding a thousand clubs, thousand shafts ; holding the shankha , chakra, mace, bearing a blazing bow and battle axe; fierce and terrible shining with dreadful splendour; decorated with crescent moon; clothed in tiger skin; dripping with blood; having a capacious stomach and a vast mouth armed with sharp protruding formidable tusks; his tongue was lightening; his hands brandished thunderbolt; flames streamed from his hair; a necklace of pearls wound around his neck; a garland of flames descended from his breast; radiant with lustre he glowed brilliantly like the final-fire of destruction that consumes all existence.

Four tremendous tusks projected from his wide mouth extending from ear to ear; he was of vast bulk, vast strength a mighty war god and destroyer of universe and like a vast fig-tree in spread, shining like a hundred moons at once; fierce as the fire of love; sharp white teeth and mighty fierceness , vigour, activity and courage; glowing like a thousand fiery suns at the end of the world; like a thousand undimmed moons; in bulk like Himadri , Kailasa and Meru or Mandara with all its gleaming herbs ; bright as the sun at the end of ages; of irresistible power; beautiful aspects; irascible with lowered eyes and a countenance of burning sun; clothed in the hide of elephant and lion and girdle of snakes; wearing a turban on the head, moon in his brows.

10.3. Sometimes savage; sometimes benign; having a chaplet of flowers on his head; anointed with various fragrant perfumes adorned with variety of ornaments and many designs of jewels; wearing a heavy garland of karnikara flowers and rolling his eyes in rage.

cakra nālīkanārāca istomaraiḥ khaḍga mudgaraiḥ / vatsa dantaistathā bhallaiḥ karṇikāraiśca śobhanaiḥ // RKV_48.55 /

evaṃ na śakyate hantuṃ dānavo vividhāyudhaiḥ / tadā jvālā-karālāś-ca khaḍga-nārācatomarāḥ // RKV_48.56 //

Sometimes he danced wildly , sometimes he sang out aloud, sometimes he wept out uncontrollably; sometimes he spoke gently sweetly , meditated intensely; he was endowed with faculties of wisdom, dispassion , power, penance, truth, endurance , fortitude and self-knowledge.

10.4. Virabhadra of Rudra-manohara –rupa, of terrifying and the same time heart-warming form, born of Shiva’s potent mouth (Va.p.30.122) was thus like Purusha of Rig Veda of immense strength and splendour, a great being with a huge body the size of any mountain, ablaze and adorned with crescent moon.

10.5. His monstrous exterior disguised his true nature of vibrancy – full of wisdom, detachment, sovereignty, asceticism, truth, patientince, fortitude, lordship and self knowledge (Va.p.30.125-136).He greatly resembled Shiva whose emanation he was.

11.1. The mighty Virabhadra knelt down upon the ground in respect and raising his hands on to his head in reverence addressed Mahadeva “Sovereign of gods, Command me! What is it you desire me to do?” Mahadeva charged Virabhadra to “destroy the yajna of Daksha”

11.2. Then the powerful Virabhadra having heard of the pleasure of his Lord bowed down his head to the feet of his Master and jumping out like a lion loosed from shackles he rushed to despoil the Yajna of Daksha. The wrath of Devi took the form of the fearful Rudrakali. She accompanied Virabhadra with all her train to witness the destruction.

2.1. Virabhadra then created from the pores of his skin powerful demigods the Ganas the attenders on Rudra, of equal valour and strength, who poured out in hundreds and thousands. Then, a loud and confused clamour filled the air and heavens with dread. The mountains tottered , the earth shook, the winds roared wildly, the depths of the oceans were disturbed; the fires lost their radiance and the sun grew pale; the panels of the firmaments shone not; neither did the stars give light; Rishis  ceased their hymns; and gods and demons alike were muted; thick darkness enveloped the sky like blankets.

12.2. Virabhadra and his Ganas set out in chariots drawn by ten thousand lions. Among his bodyguards were Sixty-four groups of Yoginis, Shakhini, Dakhini, along with Bhutas, Pramathas (churn spirits) guhyaka (guardian of hidden treasures), Bhiravas, kshetrapalas and other types of spirits and fiends.

13.1. In the meantime, Dadhichi, one of the sages assembled at the Yajna is distressed when he learns that Rudra had not been invited. He queries Daksha, “Why do you not offer homage to the god who is the lord of life?” and remarks “The man who worships what ought not to be worshipped or pays not reverence where reverence is due , is guilty, most assuredly , of heinous sin”. To which, Daksha laughs and replies “I have already many Rudras present, armed with tridents, wearing braided hair, and existing in eleven forms. I recognize no other Mahadeva”. Dadhichi offended by Daksha’s reply walks out of the Yajna warning it would not be completed.

Destruction of the Yajna

14.1. Then the gloom emerged fearful and numerous hideous forms, shouting aloud frightening battle cries instantly broke and overturned the sacrificial altar and danced amidst the oblations. Running wildly hither and thither like hurricanes they tossed about the implements and vessels of the yajna. The piles of the wood and the beverages stocked for the Devas like little mountains; the rivers of milk; the banks of curds and butter; the sands of honey, buttermilk and sugar; the mounds of condiments and spices of every flavor; the undulating knolls of flesh and other vandals ; the mounds of celestial liquor , pastes and confections which had been prepared; these the spirits of wrath devoured with glee . Then falling upon the assembled Devas the vast and furious Rudras mocked and insulted the nymphs and quickly put an end to the Yajna.

14.2. His sacrifice being destroyed, Daksha overcome with terror and utterly broken in spirit fell upon the ground. The multitude of the assembled Devas in disarray cried out helplessly “O Rudras have pity on us thy servants; o lord dismiss thy anger”. They all pleaded “Declare who you are. Which Deva are you”.

Virabhadra shouted back “I am not a Deva or an Aditya; nor I come here for enjoyment; nor am I curious to see the various Devas. Know you all that I am here to destroy the despicable Yajna of Daksha; I am Virabhadra springing forth from the wrath of Rudra; Bhadra kali who sprang from the anger of Devi is sent here with her multitudes of spirits to destroy the yajna. Take refuge you all Devas and Rishis at the feet of Rudra the lord of Uma; f or better is the anger of Rudra than the blessing of the Devas (ymram Icrodho ‘pi devasya vara-danam na chanyatah)”.

14.3. Suppressing his vital airs – prana and apana- and taking a position of meditation, Daksha tried fixing his thoughts .Then god of gods, Mahadeva appeared out of the sacrificial altar resplendent as thousand suns , smiled upon him and said “Daksha your Yajna has been destroyed through the sacred knowledge. I am well pleased with you. What shall I do for you?”

14.4. Then Daksha frightened, distressed and alarmed fell on his four , his eyes suffused with tears and hands raised over his brows in reverence and submission pleaded with the mighty Lord ” If you are pleased with me , have mercy on me , confer me this boon, this is the blessing I beseech of you, all these provisions that have been prepared with much effort and time , which now have been eaten , drunken and destroyed by hosts may not have been prepared in vain”. “So be it” said the merciful lord. Whereupon the relieved Daksha fell upon the feet of Mahadeva and burst into hymns,  celebrating one thousand and eight names of the lord.”

…and thereafter

15.1. The story, though it highlights vandalism and destruction, it is, in essence, the glorification of Shiva as the Supreme Lord. He destroyed the sacrifice from which the Devas had excluded him; and having destroyed it he made it the whole again and won his share. After the destruction of the Yajna the Devas lost their creative power. It is said; the Devas did not fully understand Mahadeva the great god, ferocious and kind at the same time; ruthless at one time, kind and benevolent at another; a demon and an ascetic. That is the pristine nature of Shiva.

15.2. As the Devas praised Shiva they all Pashus were relieved of their bonds and Shiva became their Lord Pashupathi. He gave back to each god his of creative power and understanding (Varaha Purana 21.78-82;33,25-28; and Mbh .10.18.22-23) . The gods recognized Shiva as the lord of the knowledge that liberates – Pashupathi.

15.1. In substance, the event was primarily a solemn Vedic event to which all important persons of that age were invited. Daksha who performed the yajna appeared a follower of Vishnu; and obviously there were many others who were not. A participant, perhaps a follower of the Pashpatha School which dominated the mountain areas, points out the lapse in not inviting Shiva and suggests that could be rectified by more equitable representation. Daksha annoyed at that, spurns the suggestion. But eventually Daksha learns his lesson the hard way; and submits to the strength of the Pahupathas .It was the triumph of Pashpatha; but then thereafter they seemed to soften their stern stand.

15.2.  In one of the Versions of the event, Nandisvara, an ardent follower of Mahadeva very strongly condemns Vedic rituals as also those who believe in it : ” let him, from a desire of vulgar pleasures, practice the round of ceremonies, with an understanding degraded by Vedic prescriptions. Forgetting the nature of soul, with a mind which contemplates other things, let Daksha continue to exist in this world of  ceremonial ignorance. Let the enemies of Rudra whose minds are disturbed by the flowery words of the Veda, become deluded! Let those Brahmans, eating all sorts of food, professing knowledge and practicing austerities and ceremonies merely for subsistence, delighting in riches and in corporeal and sensual enjoyments, wander about as beggars! “

15.3. The sage Bhrigu  spokesperson of the orthodox who were present at the sacrifice launched a counter attack and cursed the Pashupathas : ‘Let those who practice the rites of Bhava (Mahadeva)  having lost their purity, deluded in understanding, wearing matted hair, and ashes and bones, let them undergo the initiation of Shiva, in which spirituous liquor is the deity ”. The Pashupathas that Bhrigu described might be the forerunner of the Naga Sadhus of all weird appearances who throng the Kumbha Mela.

Aghori and Kanphata Yogi

 

6.1. As if to justify Brighu’s curse, the Pashupathas and various schools of Avadhutas emerged strongly after the Daksha –yajna episode. And, despite their heretical stand they gained acceptance within the Vedic traditions as the essence of the most sublime spiritual wisdom. For instance, the classical texts Avadhuta –GitaAstavakra -Gita and similar other texts celebrate the glory of one who has no use for social etiquette, not bound by any dharma, never knows any mantra in Vedic meter or any ritual; and having renounced all, he moves about naked, roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed; perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

These extreme schools decried scriptural learning: There are no divine scriptures, no imperative religious practices; there are no gods, no classes or races of men, No stages of life, no superior or inferior; there’s nothing but Brahman, the supreme Reality. He is the embodiment of detachment and spiritual wisdom.

[ It is said; Pashupathas should be viewed as distinct from Kapalikas who practice extreme forms of Tantra. The Pashupathas are said to be inspired by wisdom and shun hideous ritual-practices.]

16.2. Shakthas who along with Pashupathas perhaps had strong presence in the mountain regions emerged stronger after the Daksha-yajna. The Daksha-Yajna  lore provided them a base for building their  legends and temple -chains of Shakthi Pithas .These legends grew rapidly ; and the Pithas associated with Devi’s organs and ornaments  soon grew from four to one hundred and eight. The lists of Shakthi Pithas varied from text to text and from region to region. And, eventually, Shakthas too moved into the inner circle of the tradition through various forms of Tantra and Sri Vidya; and laid claim in the Vedic rituals. Later, the cults of Shiva and Devi drew close to each other ; and their merger was symbolized by Shiva-Shakthi, Ardha-narishwara formed by two halves- one each of Shiva and Devi . On a metaphysical level it was the union of the active and passive principles in the universe.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar

17.1. A branch of the Pashupatha cult spread to the South India in its moderate form. It came to be celebrated as the sublime and mysterious Siddha tradition of South. The Siddha is one who has attained flawless identity with reality.

17.2. I cannot resist mentioning here the  remarkable Karaikkal Ammaiyar (sixth century) the forerunner of the Siddha tradition  in the South  and who  in the prime of her youth abandoned the respectable life of a traditional dutiful wife  and chose to embrace  extreme asceticism of unswerving devotion to Shiva in his terrible Bhairava form.

This amazing woman was born as Punitavathi into an affluent trading family in the coastal town of Karaikkal, Tamil Nadu. She had to give-up her home, hearth and husband because of rupture in her domestic life. Punitavathi rejected the social and domestic world of conventions and obligations. She then took shelter in the cremation ground as one of Shiva’s Gana, an adoring ghoulish attendant. Punitavathi beseeched Shiva to divest her of the burden of her flesh asking only that she watch him dance into eternity. It is said; a miracle occurred:  In place of the young woman stood an emaciated hag. She even began to look like an emaciated frightening attendant of Bhirava haunting the cremation ground. Known from henceforth as Mother of Karaikkal (Karaikkal Ammaiyar) she came to regard the cremation ground as the truly beautiful place of liberation and the ideal abode to dwell in peace with the Lord of Universe. From then on she wrote poetry in praise of Shiva.

The ground is damp with liquid marrow–
Skeletal ghouls with sunken eyes
jostle and elbow–
looking furtively around them
extinguishing the fires
with gleeful hearts
they eat half-burned corpses–
There, in that menacing forest
holding fire in his hand
dances our beautiful lord.

(Vidya Dehejia, Antal and Her Path of Love:  Poems of a Woman Saint from South India, 1990)

Seated Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar Chola period, 12th century;Metropolitan Museum of Art

This image portrays her not as a fearsome figure but as a once-beautiful woman who has lost her flesh. Her calm, smiling face expresses her inner peace while she blissfully plays her cymbals and sings to the glory of Shiva.

17.3. Ammaiyar in her poetry asserts that to know Shiva, ones state in life or ones gender is irrelevant; but one should truly transcend the limitations of ordinary human awareness and should give up a life rooted in conventions, attachments and rituals.  She does not talk of temples, worship, rituals etc; and she criticizes those who vainly attempt to know Shiva through hallow rituals.

Liberation from cycle of rebirth and to attain the nature of Shiva is the aim of Shaiva-siddantha. Ammaiyar exhorts devotees to meditate in intense devotion   on Shiva the ultimate truth and the only means to salvation.

17.4. Through her powerful poetry, Karaikkal Ammaiyar proclaims that the horrific cremation ground is indeed the cosmos; and the terrifying form of Shiva performing his dance of destruction is really the most sublime and blissful expression  of the Lord. She makes the terrible look beautiful. Ammiyar asks one to go  beyond terror and revulsion associated with the dreadful cremation ground ;  to regard it  as the theater of Shiva’s dance of life and death ;  and as  the sacred grove of liberation from this world. It is where one overcomes fear of death and the fear of losing attachments.   She explains cremation ground as the state of one’s mind, as the space in ones heart where the ego and ignorance are burnt to ashes over which Shiva dances in delight the dance of destruction. She urges the seeker to revere Shiva as the beautiful embodiment of the rhythm of life, as the destroyer of our illusions, as the conqueror of death, as pure consciousness and the ultimate sovereign of the universe.

In the cemetery where you hear crackling noises
And the white pearls fall out of the tall bamboo,
The ghouls with frizzy hair and drooping bodies,
Shouting with wide-open mouths,
Come together and feast on the corpses.
 
In the big, threatening cremation ground,
When The Lord dances,
The Daughter of the Mountain watches Him,
In astonishment.
 (Tiruvalankattu mutta tirupatikam, 2.8)
*

17.5. Kariakkal Ammaiyar’s poetry is filled with vivid images of Shiva as the heroic god whose grace rescues his devotees from sorrows of the world. Bones are a central liberation motif in Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry. Shiva adorns himself with a garland of bones he finds in the cremation ground.

Ghouls with flaming mouths and rolling, fiery eyes,

Going around, doing the tunankai dance,
Running and dancing in the terrifying forest,
Draw out a burning corpse from the fire and eat the flesh
*

17.6. Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s extreme asceticism (Pashupatha) portrays the state where the seekers strived, in body and spirit, to be Shiva the terrible Bhairava residing   in the cremation ground. Ammaiyar’s way of life and her teachings represent the early phase of Tamil Shaiva tradition before it transformed into a temple-based orthodoxy. It is said; because of its extreme views, Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry is not normally sung in Shiva temples today along with the devotional hymns of the Tevaram poets.

Think of our Lord all the time

One who shines like a leaping golden flame;
With complexion of setting sun and of a smoldering fire.
Think of Our Father with the gleaming throat,
Who wanders around with the strong ghouls
His lotus-like body smeared with ash and garlanded with
Snakes and bones of others.
Happily Dances at night in the fire
With the kalal jangling and the anklets tinkling
His body cool with Ganga on his head,
A moonbeam in his long matted hair
A radiant flame in his beautiful hand
 His streaming hair flying in all eight directions.
 
All those who do not understand that he is the real Truth,
Have seen only his ghoul form.
But those who take refuge in him with wisdom
Will not be born here in this world in a body with bones.
*

[For more on Karaikkal Ammiaiyar, please read The Anatomy of Devotion: The Life and Poetry of Karaikkal Ammaiyar   by Professor Elaine Craddock; Department of Religion and Philosophy; Southwestern University, TX]

*

The other Versions of Daksha Yajna legend

18.1. As mentioned earlier, the legend as narrated in Vayu Purana is simpler and more restrained. The story however gets complicated and more violent in other Puranas.  For instance, in Kurma Purana, Sati is described as the daughter of Daksha prajapathi who is unhappy with Shiva his son-in-law because Daksha thought Shiva did not offer him the respect he deserved. And when Sati his daughter visits him next, Daksha abuses Shiva and turns Sati out of his house. Sati in deep sorrow and anguish gives up her life. Shiva on hearing the horrible news curses Daksha. Shiva then did penance and obtained Sati again reborn as Parvathi daughter of Parvatha-raja. She also undertook penance to obtain Shiva as her husband. It is in her next birth that the much talked about Yajna takes place. The Linga, Matsya, Skanda, Padma and Bhagavatha puranas mention of disputes between the daughter and her father in greater detail and say that Sati put an end to herself out of devotion and love to her husband.

It is only in Kasi kanda, a long poem, forming a part of the Skanda Purana that Sati throws herself into fire. This could be an improvement over Vayu purana and other versions.

18.2. The exploits of Virabhadra and his Ganas are more particularly described in the Linga, Skanda and Bhagavata puranas. Here, on hearing of the death of Sati, Shiva enraged produced out his wrath a terrible form of Virabhadra and asked him to destroy Daksha’s Yajna. Bhagavata Purana adds a more picturesque creation of Virabhadra (4.5.3).Shiva pulls out locks of matted hair and strikes against the mountain rocks. However, In Kurma purana it is the Devi who requests Shiva to create Virabhadra. According to Mahabharata, Virabhadra was born out of Shiva’s brow (Mbh.12.274.36-38)

18.3. The destruction and violence are particularly described in these texts.  Indra is knocked down and trampled upon; Yama has his shaft broken ; Saraswathi and Maitra have their noses cutoff ; Mitra or Bhaga has his eyes pulled out; Pusan has his teeth thrust down his throat ;Chandra is pummeled; Agni’s hands are cut off ;Bhrigu loses his beard ;the Brahmanas are pelted with stone; Prajapathi is beaten up; and all Devas and semi Devas run through the swords, struck with trident or pierced with arrows.

Harivamsa mentions that the Ganas made a hideous clamour and others furiously shouted, when Yajna began to fly up to heavens in the shape of a deer; and Virabhadra cut of its head which then settled in the heavens as the star Mriga-shira.

Shiva Purana mentions that Virabhadra pulled out Daksha who was hiding behind the altar, cut off his head and threw it into the sacrificial fire pit, the last sacrificial offering (Sp.2.2.37-61).Another version mentions that Virabhadra gave the severed head to Mahakali who played with it. Later, it is said, at Shiva’s instructions the gods put the head of the sacrificial goat on the decapitated body of Daksha. Shiva glanced at the goat head and Daksha came alive, as if waking from a deep sleep.

In another version Daksha’s sacrifice was destroyed by Shiva himself; and he danced the dance of death in the evening (Ns.4.234)

18.4. The Vayu Purana does not mention of the conflict between Shiva and Vishnu or the fight of Vishnu with Virabhadra .In the Linga purana , Vishnu’s head is severed and his head is thrown into the sky. The Kurma purana is less irreverent towards Vishnu; it mentions about Vishnu’s conflict with Virabhadra but Brahma intervenes and separates the contestants. The Kasi Kanda of the Skanda Purana describes Vishnu as defeated and at the mercy of Virabhadra .But Virabhadra is directed from heavens not to destroy Vishnu .

According to Hari Vamsa , a fight ensued between Vishnu and Shiva during which Vishnu grasped Shiva’s throat and caused black rings marks (suggesting it was not by poision he consumed after the churning of the ocean).

18.5. In every version of the legend a  reconciliation takes place between Daksha and Shiva at the end. Daksha free from malice invites Shiva to preside over the Yajna and sings his praise. But each Purana bends the Daksha Yajna legend to suit its own pet theme and to further its cause.

Virabhadra Iconography

19.1. Virabhadra is described as great warrior and one the trusted generals of Shiva. He is also the protector of sages. The puranas attribute to Virabhadra number of exploits against demons and the benevolent acts performed for protection of the holy ones. As an auspicious god, Virabhadra is worshipped greatly in Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra regions where numbers of temples are dedicated to Virabhadra.

19.2. The images of Virabhadra appear in the temples of ninth and tenth centuries   sculpted in the deva koshta (niches) figures of gods on the temple walls. In the earlier period they appear as four armed images. And later they expand into eight armed or  ten armed images of Virabhadra holding khadga, shula, parashu, dhamaru, bow and arrow etc .

19.3. The cult of Virabhadra – the ferocious and formidable aspect of Shiva- was popular among the warriors of the Vijaynagar period. Virabhadra was the mascot, the war- cry and the inspiration of the armies and fighting forces of Vijaynagar.The Virabhadra temples proliferated in the Vijayanagar region mainly in Karnataka, Andhra and southern parts of Maharashtra.

20.1. The awe-inspiring form of Virabhadra is described in various Puranas narrating the tale of Daksha Yajna. His description narrated in Vayu Purana is highly picturesque (as can be seen from the earlier paragraphs).The Shilpa – texts too provide the iconographic features of Virabhadra. But, these relate to worship-worthy images installed in temples. Let’s briefly see a couple of such details.

20.2. The Silpasangraha mentions three varieties of Vlrabhadra (viz. sattva, tamasa and rajasa) with two, four or eight arms. All are dark in color and fierce looking. The Seated figures of Vlrabhadra are called Yoga-Vlra, his standing figures, Bhoga- Vlra and those in a walking posture, Vlra-Vira.

In the first, Vlrabhadra holds a sword and shield and is seated  in sukhasana with one leg folded on the pedestal and the other hanging down.

In the second posture he exhibits the bow and arrow, sword and khetaka. On the leg is worn the anklet of heroes. The head is adorned with a crown, in the middle of which is represented a linga. A garland of skulls-munda mala –  decorates the neck. On the right side is the image of Daksha with folded arms.

In the Vira- Vlra figures, Vlrabhadra holds the trident (shula), sword (khadga), arrow (bana) and the deer (mriga) on the right side and the skull (kapala), shield (khetaka), bow (dhanus) and the goad (gadha) on the left.

In the form of Shiva as Dakshinamurti ,Bhikshatanamurti or Virabhadra , he is depicted as a wandering mandicant.

In his Digambara Form, his body is adorned with many snakes  ( bhujanga-gana-bhushana ) and his third eye is awesome. His eye brows are knit in anger and his hair is spread out  like flames ( Jvala-kesa ). His body is smeared with the and he carries a Gada ( Club ) and Trishula ( Trident ).

In Sapta-Matrka Panels, Virabhadra is in the right end and Ganapathi is in the left end flanking the Seven Mother Goddesses in between.

Avarana krama for Maha prasada Vidya described in the Krama Tantra (a tantra of the Shaiva School) mentions in its tenth avarana (enclosure) various forms of Virabhadra: Chaturbhuja Virabhadra; Ashtabhuja Virabhadra; Dashabhuja Virabhadra; Rana Virabhadra; Shodashabhuja Virabhadra; Dwatrimshadbhuja Virabhadra; Aghora Virabhadra

20.3. The Pancharatragama describes Vlrabhadra as dark in color, having three eyes and holding in- his four arms a sword, arrow, bow and club.He wears a garland of skulls and has sandals on his feet. A yellow garment is tied round his loins.

20.4. Karanagama  describes Virabhadra as one who redeems our Sins, relieves all our sufferings, and mentions  that the image of Virabhadra-murti should have four arms, three eyes, head covered with unruly mass of hair (jata-bhara) emitting flashes of lightening and fire, side tusks, wearing garlands of skulls, bells and scorpions. His face should be red blazing like fire, with an angry and fearsome countenance.His neck is blue.  A snake should form his yajnopavitha .He should be  adorned with beautiful anklets, heavy footwear. He should be dressed in tight shorts – a sort of knickers. His four hands should carry a broad sword (khadga), shield (khetaka), the bow (dhanus) and arrows (bana).

20.5. Sritattvanidhi,an amazing iconographic treatise of the 19th century commissioned by the then Maharaja of Mysore Sri Krisharaja Wodeyar III (1794 – 1868) mentions that Virabhadra-murti should have four arms, three eyes, terrifying face with fierce side tusks.He should hold in his right hands a broadsword (khadga) and an arrow (bana); and in his left a bow (dhanus) and a mace (gadha).He should be adorned with garlands of skulls, costumes of a warrior and thick footwear. On to the  left of Virabhadra a figure of Bhadra Kali should be depicted. And, on his right a figure of Daksha with a goat-head with horns should be standing with folded hands (anjali –mudra).

20.6. Virabhadra is also depicted with ten arms ; three of the five arms on the right holding an arrow (bana), axe (parashu) and sword (khadga) .In his hands on the left he holds a mace (musala), a bow (dhanus),a lasso (pasha) , a shield (khetaka) and another long sword.The Shilparatna describes him as having eight hands and riding on vetala  (a demon) surrounded by his ganas (nija gana sahita).His complexion is white and is fearsome.   His disheveled hair is flying like wild fire; and he is clad in tiger skin. He stamps on Daksha symbolizing suppression of dogma and ignorance.

Dhyana-Shloka of Virabhadra

21. In the Dhyana shlokas of Virabhadra is virtually the Shiva. He is described as having white complexion, holding a mriga (deer), veena etc and adorned with snakes.

 Following are some of such Dhyana slokas.

21.1. Svethangam Sesha Bhushangam Khadga Veena dharam Subham /
Drutakrishnamrigam veeram Shaardhoolajidhavasam //
Arthonmeelita Netram dham Trinetramcha Jadataram /
Suganthi Pushpamalam Sri Veerabhadram Namamyaham //

I worship the White complexioned Virabhadra, with half closed eyes along with the third eye in his forehead, his matted hair locked as Jatamakuta. He is   adorned with snake- ornaments, tiger skin and garlands of fragrant flowers; holding  an  antelope.

21.2. Shannetram Trimugam Bheemam Kalamegha Samaprabham /
Udharsijvalanam Neelaghatram Shatbhahu Shobinam //
Banapatrasi Soolekshu Chapa Khadga dharam Subham /
Bhoothapretadhi Dhamanm dushtarati vinasanam /
Meru vasam Mahesam tam Veerabhadram Namamyaham //

I worship the Black complexioned Virabhadra in a Fierce form with three faces, six eyes, his hair-locks flaming as fire. His six arms hold Banapatra (arrow-case), sword, trishula, bow, arrow; and he blesses all who worship him. He tames and controls Bhutas and Pretas (demons and goblins), and destroys the evil and dwells forever in the Hill of Meru.

21.3  Chaturbhujam trinetram cha Jatamakuta manditham /
Saravabharana samyuktham swethavarnam vrushadvjam //
Soolam cha abhaya Hastham cha dakshinedhu karatvayam
Gadha varadha hastham cha Vama parshvey karathvayam //
Swetha Padmasanasoonam Vatavriksha Samasritam /
Veerabhadram Ithikyadam Brahmi roopam dhadha shrnu //

(Dhyana-Shloka  in Amsumadbeda-agama)

I worship the White complexioned Lord Virabhadra with four arms, three eyes, Jatamakutam, adorned with ornaments  , sporting a flag carrying a nandi image .In his right he holds  Trisula and gestures  Abhaya mudra ; and in his left he has a gadha and gestures Varadha mudra. He is sitting under the vata Tree, on a White Lotus seat…

21.4. Marakata Manineelam Kinginee Jalamaalam /
Prakasita Mugameesam Bhanu Soma-Aagni Netram ://
Hariharamasikedatraya Kradhandakra Hastham /
Vidhudharam ahi Bhusham Veerbhadram Namami : //

I worship Lord Veerabhadra, of Blue-Black complexion, in a fierce looking form of Shiva with the Sun, Moon and Agni as three eyes representing the Vibhuti of both Shiva and Vishnu,  wearing the crescent Moon in his hair , Serpent garlands , ornaments  of bells, and holding the sword, shield and club.

21.5. Akasha-Virabhadra Mantra :-

Kalarudra Rushihi /Jagadhee Chandaha /Veerabhadra Devata / Vam Beejam / Hoom Shakthihi /

21.6. Mula Mantra:

O Namo Veerabhadraya Vairi Vamsha Nivinasaya Sarvaloka Bayankaraya Beema Veshaya Hoom Phat Vijaya Vijaya Hreem Hoom Phat Svaha ׀

Veerabhadra

I bow down to Lord Virabhadra who is as fierce as Yama at the end of Kalpa

and whose terrible laughter causes the worlds to tremble,

for destroying my fears in crossing the terrible ocean of sorrows

— Amogha Sadashiva kavacha

 

References and sources

The original Daksha saga by Klaus Klostermaier

The Presence of Siva  By Stella Kramrisch

Genealogy of the South-Indian gods: a manual of the mythology and religion … By Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg,

The Horse-sacrifice of the Prajapati Daksha Kisari Mohan Ganguli  Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCLXXXIV.The Mahabharata  translated by

The Anatomy of Devotion: The Life and Poetry of Karaikkal Ammaiyar

Professor Elaine Craddock; Department of Religion and PhilosophySouthwestern University, TX

http://chinthamani-griha.blogspot.com/2007/01/veera-bhadra-murthy.html

All images are from internet 

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Iconography, Indian Philosophy

 

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