The Mirror of Gesture (abhinaya-darpana)

by Ananda Coomaraswamy | 1917 | 16,981 words | ISBN-13: 9788121500210

This is the English translation of the Abhinaya-darpana by Nandikeshvara: an encyclopedic manual of the art of gesticulation. It belongs to a wide range of literature known as Natya-shastra: the ancient Indian art of dramatic performance, theatrics, dance and music. The Abhinaya Darpana is an abridgement of the Bharatarnava, a much larger exposit...

Chapter 2 - Natya, Nritta, and Nritya

The sages speak of Nāṭya, Nṛtta, and Nṛtya. Nāṭya is dancing used in a drama (nāṭaka) combined with the original plot. Nṛtta is that form of dance which is void of flavour (rasa) and mood (bhāva). Nṛtya is that form of dance which possesses flavour, mood, and suggestion (rasa, bhāva, vyañjanā etc.), and the like. There is a twofold division of these three, Lāsya and Tāṇḍava. Lāsya dancing is very sweet, Tāṇḍava dancing is violent.

Nāṭya and Nṛtya should be seen especially at festivals. Nṛtya at coronations, celebrations, processions of men or gods, marriages, reunion of friends, entry into towns or houses, the birth of children, and all auspicious occasions, by those who desire fortune. Brahmā has derived instrumental music, gesture, song, and flavour respectively from the Ṛg, Yajur, Sāma, and Atharva Vedas, and has made these Laws of Dancing which yield fulfilment of the Four Ends of Life, and are means to overcome misfortune, hurt, affliction, disappointment, and regret, and yield therewith more delight than even Brahma-bliss. Nṛtya should be seen by a royal audience in the courts of kings.

 

NOTES:

Nṛtta and Nṛtya constitute dancing as a separate art. The ordinary performance of a nācnī (nautch-girl, bayadère) consists of alternate Nṛtya and Nṛtta, the former consisting of set dances with some special subject, and accompanied by varied gesture, the latter merely moving to and fro, marking time with the feet, and so forth. Nṛtta is here dismissed with a merely negative definition, as the object of the Abhinaya Darpaṇa is to explain how to express by gesture definite themes.

According to Dhanaṃjaya (“Daśarūpa” I, 14) speaking of Nṛtya and Nṛtta, “the former, gesture-with-meaning is high (mārga), the latter popular (deśī).”

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