Gati in Theory and Practice

by G. Srinivasu | 2015 | 88,445 words

This page relates ‘Elements of Angika-abhinaya in Natyashastra’ 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.

Elements of Āṅgika-abhinaya in Nāṭyaśāstra

Āṅgika abhinaya is the gestural representation where the idea is conveyed through body movements.

Āṅgika is of three kinds;

  1. śarīra (related to limbs),
  2. mukhaja (related to face) and
  3. ceṣṭākṛta (movements of the whole body).[1]

This is based on śākha (hands), aṅgas (major limbs) and upāṅgas (minor limbs). Actions related to limbs can be mainly by hand gestures. The facial mode of representation (mukhaja abhinaya) can be used for depicting various states and sentiments (bhāvas and rasas). The actions involving the whole body are to be understood as ceṣṭākṛta. The physical expression does not specify the movement of the hands or face alone but the whole human body.

Therefore, it is the interpretation and external expression of the eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes, facial features, gestures and movements of all other limbs, which are beautiful by themselves and harmoniously combine into a lovelier whole as mirrored in the artist’s mind and which will be a language as marvellous and expressive as the human language.

1. Aṅga

Bharata classifies the whole body as aṅga (major limbs) and upāṅga (minor limbs). The major limbs of the body are head, hands, chest, sides, waist and feet.

tasya śirohastoraḥ pārśvakaṭīpādataḥ ṣaḍaṅgāni |[2]

There are more ancilliary limbs of the body such as neck, arms, belly, thighs, and shanks and so on. The actions of the head are of thirteen varieties. Abhinaya hastas are classified as asamyuta hastas (single hand gestures) and samyuta hastas (combined hand gestures). Single hand gestures are of twenty-four and combined hand gestures are of thirteen types. Other than this, there are five hand positions, twenty hand movements, four wrist movements and ten arm movements. The chest, sides, waist and feet, each of them have five actions. Actions of all these limbs of the body come under the category of sārīra.

2. Upāṅga

The minor limbs of the face are eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, cheeks and chin.

netrabhrūnāsādharakapolacibukānyupāṅgāni ||[3]

The movements of the minor limbs of the face are also enumerated in the Nāṭyaśāstra. The glances (dṛṣṭi) relating to bhāvas are eight and the glances (dṛṣṭi) relating to the rasas are also eight. The glances relating to sañcāri bhāvas (transitory feelings) are twenty in number, which should be used appropriately as given and explained by Bharata. The movement of pupils (tāra) are of nine types. The types of glances (dṛṣṭi) are of eight, which are based on the position of the pupils and rasa delineation. The actions of eyelids (puṭa) are nine, which should be used in depicting the bhāva and rasa. The actions of the eyebrows (bhrū) are of seven varieties. The actions of nose (nāsikā) are of six varieties. The movements of cheek (gaṇḍa) are of six varieties. The movements of lips (adhara) are of six varieties. The actions of chin (cibuka) are of seven varieties that are a combined action of teeth, lips and tongue.

The facial activities are of six and facial colours are of four varieties. Facial colour is very important for depicting rasas. Though, the actions of the limbs and ancillary hands are performed well, it would be ineffective without the sāttvika bhāva which is the facial colour. The actions of the neck are of nine kinds. Thus, the mukhaja aspect of abhinaya is based on all reactions of various limbs of the face.

The actions of the ancilliary limbs of the body such as neck (grīvā) are nine, arms (bāhu) are ten, the belly (udara) is of three, thighs (ūru) are five, and shanks (jaṅghā) are five as enumerated by Bharata, but these are not named as pratyaṅgas by him.

3. Sthāna

Sthānas are stances of the body, which are the basic positions from which the movements are activated. Bharata attributes these to the stances of Gods. He enumerates six varieties of sthānas for men and three for women. He also gives six sitting postures and six reclining postures.[4]

4. Nṛttahasta

Nṛtta hastas are hand movements used in dance. They are of thirty varieties according to Bharata. Four hasta karaṇas (wrist movements) are used in these nṛtta hastas.

Bharata says these nṛtta hastas can be used in nṛtta karaṇas and while depicting the meaning patāka hasta, etc. are to be used.

karaṇe tu prayoktavyo nṛttahasto viśeṣataḥ |
tathārthābhinaye caiva patākāyāḥ prayoktṛbhiḥ ||[5]

5. Cārī

The simultaneous movement of the limbs such as foot, shank, thigh and waist is referred to as Cārī.

evaṃ pādasya jaṅghāyā ūroḥ kaṭ yāstathaiva ca |
samānakaraṇācceṣṭā cārīti parikīrtitā ||[6]

Bharata enumerates sixteen bhūmi cāris (earthly movements) and sixteen akāśa cāris (aerial movements). A combination of two cāris is called karaṇa (this is different from the nṛtta karaṇa movements of the whole body), a group of karaṇas forms a khaṇḍa and three or four khaṇḍas make a maṇḍalas. Nāṭya is completely dependent on cārī, and no move can be made without the performance of cārī.[7]

6. Maṇḍala

Maṇḍalas are leg movements, which arise out of a combination of the cāris.[8] They are of two types, earthly and aerial. Both the maṇḍalas have ten varieties each, which are used in depicting gaits, fighting sequences and personal combats. Therefore, when the fighting sequence is performed in a dance, the actors have to move with cāris and maṇḍalas in tune with the music.

7. Karaṇa

Karaṇa is defined as the simultaneous movements of hands and feet in dancing

hastapādasamāyogo nṛttasya karaṇaṃ bhavet |[9]

The leg movements are called cāris and the hand movements are called nṛtta hastas and the stances of the body are called sthānas, and when they are combined together they form a karaṇa. Therefore, a karaṇa is taken as the movement of the whole body. These dance units, called karaṇas, are 108 in number as enlisted by Bharata.

8. Aṅgahāra

Aṅgahāra is a combination of karaṇas.[10] Two karaṇas make one mātṛkā and two, three or four mātṛkās will make up one aṅgahāra. Three karaṇas will make a kalāpaka, four a ṣaṇḍaka and five a saṅghātaka. Thus, the aṅgahāras consists of six, seven, eight or nine karaṇas. There are thirty-two aṅgahāras according to Bharata. Abhinava adds, aṅganirvartyohāro'ṅgahāraḥ |

9. Recaka

The term recaka (recita) means moving a limb separately in a circular motion or in any other manner. This movement beautifies the dance by the subtle movements of the limbs. Among the recakas, first is that of the foot (pāda), then the waist (kaṭī), then the hand (hasta) and the last is that of the neck (grīva).[11] These recakas are not spiral movements of the whole body. These are movements of the limbs, which enhances the beauty of the karaṇas and aṅgahāras. These recakas connect one movement with another. The recita movement of the neck and waist, vyāvartita and parivartita of hands and udghaṭṭita of feet can be used as recakas.

10. Piṇḍībandha

Piṇḍībandhas are the group formations of dancers. The piṇḍī attached to the different gods and goddesses are named after their own banners. The origin of piṇḍī is of three fold namely yantr (which strings together) bhadrāsana (positions taken by dancers) and śikṣāyoga (exercises based on karaṇas and aṅgahāras)[12] The piṇḍī are of four varieties: piṇḍī (lump), śrṅkhalikā (cluster or chain), latābandha (together like a creeper) and bhedyaka (group formation of dancers where-in individuals cannot be identified)[13]

Abhinavagupta states that the devatās are to be satisfied through nṛtta consisting of piṇḍīs. The aṅga prayoga should represent the god’s vāhana, āyudha and a like. He also gives examples quoting the verse from Ratnāvali Pādagrasthitayā—if performed, as nṛtta with talapuṣpapuṭa karaṇa the Goddess will be pleased.

The 64th karaṇa nisthambhita should be performed for representing the tilaka mark, nikuṭṭita karaṇa represents triśūlā piṇḍī, and garuḍapluta karaṇa denotes the gait of Garuḍa. Gaṅgāvataraṇa karaṇa can be used for depicting dhārā piṇḍī and nāgāpasarpita for bhogapiṇḍī.[14]

Footnotes and references:












Ibid.X. 1.


Supra Chapter. 2.5.














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