Gati in Theory and Practice

by Dr. Sujatha Mohan | 2015 | 88,445 words

This essay studies the Theory and Practice of Gati: A Sanskrit technical term translated to “gait” which refers to the “movement of a character on the stage”, as commonly employed in ancient Indian Theatrics and the Dramatic arts, also known as Natya-shastra. This thesis explores the history and evolution of Gati and also investigates how the vario...


Pranams to my Gurus who have enlightened me throughout my career and to what I am today. I feel honoured and happy to work on this topic “Gati in theory and practice”, which has been my long time passion. After completing a dissertation on “Dance -from Sanskrit Sources”, for my M.Phil., twenty years back, I was very much interested in studying the Nāṭyaśāstra. As I had acquired Master’s in both Sanskrit and Bharatanāṭyam -Classical dance, I was keen in a research giving importance to both Literature and Art. As a performer, teacher and choreographer of the art form of Bharatanṛṭyam for more than three decades, I thought I would be able to do justice to this work. In this thesis, which is an interdisciplinary study, an attempt has been made to explain the technical as well as practical aspects of Gati pertaining to Nāṭya Nṛtta and Nṛtya. Nāṭyaśāstra is an encyclopaedic work on theatrical aspects. The mārga technique of gati given by Bharata is explained along with the deśī works and the evolution of gati is analysed. Though gati is an important aspect of nāṭya it has not been applied in the present day forms properly. Thus an attempt is made to revive the application of gati in regional form of nrtya-natakam.

Nāṭya forms the foundation for analysing the gatis. A proper understanding of the essential terms is necessary to further this research. Therefore, this research furnishes various references to the terms connected with Nāṭya and its connection with gati and finally the process of application of gati in nāṭya. Many of the dṛśyakāvyas are based on Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra.  Though almost all the concepts of gati are covered in this work, importance is given to the āṅgika and sāttvika abhinaya, which form the base for rūpakas. Thus the aspects dealt with in this thesis are rūpaka based rather than kāvya based.

Many scholars have written commentaries, translations and explanatory notes on dramas. Works on alaṅkāra such as Daśarūpaka, Sāhityadarpaṇa, etc. have been frequently quoted by them but Bharata’s work being more authentic and foremost on alaṅkāraśāstra came to limelight much later. The commentaries on the dramas deal mostly with the rūpaka, alaṅkāra and rasa aspects, but less of abhinaya and gati aspect.

In this research, features of āṅgika abhinaya are highlighted. Verses and sequences related to gati, found in dramas are quoted wherever they are found appropriate. Though many instances can be given from the dramatists works, due to brevity only important ones are chosen. Verses from Nāṭyaśāstra are quoted and are connected with that of dṛśya kāvyas. Thus in this study, Nāṭyaśāstra forms the source for gati in dance and drama aspects of dṛśya kāvyas.

The references are given at the end of each chapter as per superscript numbers given in the thesis. In some places the ślokas are quoted. For brevity, at places, only parts of relevant part of quotations are given. The Sanskrit words are transliterated and dia-critical marks are added. English translations of M.R. Kale, Dr. N.P.Unni and other eminent scholars have been made use of wherever necessary. An Appendix and a Bibliography are furnished at the end of the project.

I have visited the temples of South India, studied and collected photographs of the dance sculptures in the temples. Other than these, some photos from books referred to are also given. Illustrations like pictures and charts are given in the appendix of the project in order to give a visual effect.

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