Gati in Theory and Practice

by G. Srinivasu | 2015 | 88,445 words

This page relates ‘Nritta as a division of Angika-abhinaya’ 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.

Nṛtta as a division of Āṅgika-abhinaya

Expression through physical body can be classified into:

  1. śākha (gestural)
  2. aṅkura (indicative) and
  3. nṛtta (dance based on karaṇas and aṅgahāras).

Śākha literally means branch and it represents mainly the action of the arms and hands. Aṅkura literally means sprout and when the idea is indicated through the limbs, it is aṅkura. So it represents the facial expressions and at times hand gestures.

Bharata refers aṅkura as the representation of inner feelings expressed skillfully without employing sūca, the action which preceeds speech.

hṛdayastho nirvacanairaṅgābhinayaḥ kṛto nipuṇasādhyaḥ |
sūcavitpattikṛto vijñeyastvaṅkurābhinayaḥ ||[1]

Saṅgītaratnākara says śākhā refers to various hand movements and aṅkura refers to movements based on the meaning of the text recited.

tatra śākheti vikhyātā vicitrā karavartanā |
aṅkuro bhūtavākyārthamupajīvya pravartitaḥ ||[2]

Bharata mentions in the chapter of vākya vidhāna that only a few words in a kāvya denote sūcī (indication) and aṅkura (sprouting of feeling and expression). Abhinava adds that the word denotes sūcī and on hearing the word, the expression of the heroine forms the aṅkura. So, aṅkura can be taken as mild expressions of the face along with emotions.[3]

When the idea is communicated with dance movements, it is nṛtta. Here the vākyārtha can only be communicated. So, āṃgika abhinaya can be done directly through hand gestures, indicated through facial expression and danced as nṛtta.

While hands are engaged in action the meaning of the text should be shown by eyes.

yatra vyagrāvubhau hastau tatra dṛṣṭisamanvitaḥ |[4]

Thus, nṛtta can be considered as one of the branch or element of āṅgika abhinaya.

Abhinava says,

“What kāvya (words) cannot express can be embellished with songs”.

yattu kāvyena noktaṃsyāttadgītena prasādhayet |[5]

Raghavan opines,

“The action parts of the face is called following same imagery, “sprout” (aṅkura) when with the spoken words imbedded within oneself like seeds, the actions show themselves as above sprouts on different parts of the face. Sometimes actions precedes the words, in this case the facial expression is called advance indication (sūca)[6]

Prayogaphala of nṛtta

Expression through the body plays an important role in enacting the dramas. These elements of āṃgika abhinaya can be applied in the enactment of gati or gait of the characters in a drama. Here the action of the aṅgas and upāṅgas, cāris, nṛtta hastas and karaṇas, maṇḍalas play an important role in performance of the gaits of the characters. These acting techniques are the highlights of the productions. The study of the chapters of the Nāṭyaśāstra dealing with āṅgika abhinaya will lead to betterment of the performance of the dramas.

Abhinava says,

All these karaṇas, piṇḍis, recakas and aṅgahāras are to be incorporated in tāṇḍava in order to please the Gods.

yā kāciddevatetyucyate tasyāḥ paścānnṛttena paritoṣaṇaṃ kāryam |[7]

He also quotes Nandīmata

recitākhyoṅgahāro yo dvidhā tena hyaśeṣataḥ |
tuṣyanti devatāstena tāṇḍave taṃ niyojayet ||[8]

The dṛṣṭa prayoga of nṛtta is pleasing to the sahṛdaya and the adṛṣṭa prayoga is pleasing to the devatas.

Footnotes and references:




Saṅgīta-ratnāvalī VII.35,36.









Ibid. com.p.171.

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