Gati in Theory and Practice

by G. Srinivasu | 2015 | 88,445 words

This page relates ‘Literature review—Technical treatises on Natya (Introduction)’ of the study on the Theory and Practice of Gati (“gait”) which refers to the “movement of a character on the stage”, commonly employed (as a Sanskrit technical term) 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 various Gatis are employed in regional performance traditions.

Literature review—Technical treatises on Nāṭya (Introduction)

Technical treatises on theatre art works were written describing the technicalities of drama, dance and music starting from pre-Christian eras. The evolution of this art form and their regional variations can be understood from these works. Bharata structured the knowledge of nāṭya, which is considered as a Veda, as a text called Nāṭyaśāstra. However, there were references to dance and drama from the Vedic period, Bharata was the first person to formulate nāṭya as a śāstra. The Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata happens to be the earliest and foremost among the works on nāṭya. Sāśtra is that which codifies the already extant art during that period. Later many works on nāṭya were written.

The Nāṭyaśāstra is an extensive work on all the aspects on theatre, namely drama, dance and music. Though this śāstra codifies the learning of this art, it is learnt only through Guru Parampara. Even Bharata himself says that he had learnt this art from Brahmā and Maheśvara and later on from Taṇḍu who is the attendant of Lord Śiva. Scholars date the Nāṭyaśāstra from 2nd century B. C.E. to 2nd century C.E. This work has influenced many scholars. Considering Bharata as their Guru, many they have written books on nāṭya, nṛtta, saṅgīta and allied arts. Generally, the scholars follow their preceptors while writing a book and add their opinion based on the practice of the art form.

The content of the Nāṭyaśāstra pervades the whole of India and South-East Asia. This is proved by the sculptures on technicalities of dance found in these places. Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra has been the source for many other Sanskrit works on dance and music. This is considered a detailed work on the mārga technique in dance and the later works explains the deśī elements of dance, prevailing in their region and period.

After Bharata, scholars brought out their own works based on the Nāṭyaśāstra. Some were commentaries on Nāṭyaśāstra. Many works were written on saṅgīta have a few chapters on dance. However, many scholars adhere to Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra, concentrating on a particular aspect of the whole work. The special features in these works are commendable.

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