Gati in Theory and Practice

by G. Srinivasu | 2015 | 88,445 words

This page relates ‘Gati—Etymological meaning and description’ 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.

Gati—Etymological meaning and description

Gati is the movement of the actor through which the character and situation is established on the stage. Gati refers to the gait, which comes from the root-word gam-gach–to move or to go. Gamana means moving or walking, a synonym of gait. Hence, gati represents the way the actor moves on the stage. Abhinava says, though the uses of aṅgas and upāṅgas starting from the head to feet based on the exposition of rasas and bhāvas are given separately, Bharata enumerates the combination of its uses in these gaits or movements performed by the cāris and maṇḍalas, which influences the cittavṛtti.[1] Gati can be dance—in dance movements and walk—in drama sequences. As soon as a person enters the stage, his character of the drama can be judged by the spectator from his gait. The character should first enter the stage, so the starting action is gati and then he or she can perform the expression in sthiti (static) or gati (dynamic). When the actions are performed or the songs are danced, the actor cannot stay in a single place, he has to move around and cover the stage. Though the gait involves mainly the movement of the legs, hands and facial expressions also come under gati, when the actor represents the mental caliber of the character through his gait. Therefore, the actor should be proficient in all abhinayas especially āṅgika. These are the features of gati in drama. At times, the drama also has dance segments. In dance, gati relates to the movement of the leg in unison with the rhythm. Here the gati is always dance–like, based on the rules of nāṭyadharmī[2] and thus involves time measure. Thus, gati can be placed in nāṭya as a stylized walk, in nṛtta and nṛtya as dance movements. Therefore, gati becomes an integral part of dance and drama.

Bharata says nāṭya is anukaraṇa, that which re-presents the activities of the people in the world. When a person plays a role of a man, a woman or a bird or an animal, he should walk around the stage with that particular movement to represent that character, in other words the actor should imitate the actions of the happenings.

Gati depends upon the character, situation, sentiment, place, time, and so on.

Abhinava says,

gatiśca prakṛtiṃ rasamavasthāṃ deśaṃ kālaṃ cāpekṣya vakta vyā pratipuruṣamabhidhānāt ||[3]

The gait can be presented on stage in a natural way or a stylized way. Sometimes the actor has to imagine a mountain on the stage and climb on it with a particular gait or he has move around with steps on the stage making the audience feel as though his gait is on the aerial sphere. The mood or the property for the scene is created by the gait of the actor. It involves movement of the aṅgas, upāṅgas and pratyāṅgas of the whole body. There are cāris and karaṇas referred by Bharata and these movements form the gait for all the actors. Gati, if taken as walk it relates to cāri and if taken as movement it relates to karaṇa. These movements can be performed repeatedly so that the character moves from one place to another. The maṇḍalas are sequential movements, which can be used in fight. Aṅgahāras are sequential movements, which are of uddhata (forceful) and sukumāra (graceful). The uddhata aṅgahāras can be used in vīra and raudra rasa and sukumāra in sṛṅgāra rasa. Thus, gati plays an important role in the delineation of rasa.

Gati is based on the rhythmic aspect of tāla also. Abhinava says,

‘The action of hands is tāla.’

hastayoḥ kriyaiva tāla iti sāmānya lakṣaṇam | tale bhava iti kṛtvā |[4]

Time measured with the beating of palm is tāla. Tāla is very important because there is nothing without tāla.

gītaṃ vādyaṃ ca nṛttaṃ ca sarvaṃ tāle pratiṣṭitaṃ | na tālena vinā gītaṃ na vādyaṃ tāla varjitaṃ | na nṛttaṃ tālahīnaṃ syādrañjakassa tato mataḥ ||[5]

He also adds the importance of tāla. The latter ‘ta’ denotes tāṇḍava and lord Śiva as it is performed by him. Latter ‘la’ denotes lāsya and goddess Śakti as it is performed by her.

Tāla is thus named because of the union of Śiva and Śakti.

na tālena vinā kiñcittasmāttalasya mukhyatā |
takārastāṇḍavaḥ proktolakāro lāsyamucyate ||[6]

These vocal and instrumental music are the essential arts on which the other arts like dance, drama, etc. are based on.

Other than this, gati can also be used in dance movements. Here the gait of the dancer is more stylized and it brings a visual impact in the spectator. These gaits are mainly used for covering the stage and it brings out the utsāha bhāva in the dancer. Gati is a culmination of the action of the whole body through a combination of the elements of āṅgika and sāttvika abhinaya. Hence, gati forms the basic element of nāṭya, nṛtta and nṛtya.

Footnotes and references:








S.T.R. VI.IX.1,4.


Ibid. VI.IX.2,3.

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