Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Gaits relevant for sentiments’ 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.

Gaits relevant for sentiments

1. Gait in śṛṅgāra rasa

The gait appropriate to an ordinary lover should be adopted by the actor and entrance to the stage should be made as if one is on own way to meet the lady-messenger. Everything related to the heroine should be conveyed through abhinaya to the audience. The actor should wear gaudy cloths, smear unguents on his body as also sweet scents, incenses and powders. He should also decorate himself with garlands with sweet smelling flowers.

The movements should be graceful and at ease and his steps in atikrānta should be is tune with the tāla and laya.

gacchet salalitaiḥ pādairatikrāntasthitaistathā |[1]

There should be synchronization between the movements of the hands and feet which are to be understood as when lifting up of hands is to be done the foot has to fall and vice versa. This is similar to atikrānta karaṇa.[2]

A secret lover is to walk along with the lady servant as his guide. He dismisses his assistant and servants and puts out the lamp. He wears only less ornaments and suitable cloths. It can be like dark cloth in darkness and white cloths in moonlight night. He moves along with the woman with slow and silent steps. He is apprehensive on hearing the sounds. His movements should be furtive and cautious looking around at the slightest noise. His limbs should shiver and he falters in his steps frequently.

Abhinava explains the gait in sentiment of love. Led by the lady messenger the lover should follow her anxiously with expressive face and śṛṅgāra related vyabhicāri bhāvas, songs sung with action of all the limbs of the body. In śṛṅgāra, other related bhāvas should also be exhibited. His love can be indicated through sugandha, alaṅkāra, and the like. The gait of the secret lover who is uttama in nature should be lalita, vilāsa, sauṣṭava, caturaśra, vilambita laya, caturaśra tālas.[3]

The gait can be fast and light with shivering body, when he doubts if he is seen by someone. The gait should be in praskhalana.[4] The gati of a vipralambha nāyikā will be like the gait in karuṇa. The researcher feels that the karaṇa called skhalita can be used.[5] This description of gait in love seems to be common for both men and women lovers. As we see in many verses, where abhisārika nāyikā walks to see her lover wearing fewer jewels and goes out at night in search of her lover.

2. Gait in raudra rasa

The sentiment, which is permanently noticed in Daityas and Rākṣasas, is raudra. The sentiment of raudra is divided into three:

  1. nepatya-raudra,
  2. aṅga-raudra and
  3. svabhāvaja-raudra.

The nepathya-raudra is characterized by body with blood dripping down; face moisture with blood and hands holding pieces of meat and flesh. The aṅga-raudra is characterized by a demon with many hands, many faces and many weapons and a huge and tall body. The example of svabhāva-raudra is one with red-eyes, tawny hairs, black body, harsh voice, cruel behavior and habitually abusive.

Such characters should have a gait raising the feet for four tālas and stepping at the same distance of three tālas.

catustālāntarotkṣiptaiḥ pādaistvantarapātitaiḥ ||
gatirevaṃ prakartavyā teṣāṃ ye cāpi tadvidhāḥ |[6]

This explanation is similar to the action of karaṇa pārśvakrānta.[7] Abhinava says tāla is kāla in this situation; rising of the leg should be slow and the placement should be in fast tempo.

3. Gait in bībhatsa rasa

The gait to suggest the sentiment of bībhatsa is to be employed in gruesome grounds like a cremation ground or a battlefield cluttered up with remnants.

In certain places, one should put one’s steps wide apart, jumping often as in the eḍakākrīḍita cāri, which comprises of short and long jumps.

kvacidāsannatatitaiḥ vikṛṣṭapatitaiḥ kvacit ||
elakākrīḍitaiḥ pādairuparyupari pātitaiḥ |[8]

4. Gait in vīra rasa

The gait in the sentiment of vīra should consist of movements like the flourish of the feet, swift movements like running about, jumping and so on. One should make use of the cāris like pārśvakrānta, druta āviddha and sūcividdha.

The footsteps may be adopted with relevance to kalā and kāla suitable to the cāris involved.

pārśvakrāntaidrutāviddhaiḥ sūcīvidhaistathaiva ca |
kalākālagataiḥ pādairāvege yojayed gatim ||[9]

Abhinava says, in vīragati, syanditā and apasyanditā cāris can be used. Syanditā cārī is pushing forward the body towards right and apasyandita is towards left.[10]

5. Gait in adbhuta rasa

In the sentiment of wonder and in suggesting the emotion of joy the gait should be with a flourish of the feet in swift and short steps.

6. Gait in hāsya rasa

In the sentiment of hāsya, the gait should be with a flourish of the feet as in swift and short steps and similar other gaits should be adopted. Abhinava adds that for uttama characters it can be in their own way but madhyama and adhama it is as defined.

7. Gait in karuṇa rasa

In the sentiment of karuṇa the actor should assume a stance and shed tears. His limbs should suggest extreme fatigue and hands move up and down without flourish. He weeps rather loud.

In a fresh tragedy, the movement should be of one and a half mātra in duration.

gacchettathādhyardhikayā pratyagrāpriyasaṃśraye ||[11]

This should be assigned to women and men of low caliber. In the case of superior person, the gait should be bold and they should shed tears looking up and down with deep sighs. It should not be graceful and there are no rigid rules.

Those who are proficient in the working of the human mind should evolve the gait suitable for the middle type of characters in the sentiment of karuṇa. The loss of a dear one should be shown by beating the chest, showing the laziness, and lack of interest in anything due to excessive sorrow. The foot should not be raised too much in the gait of such person. In the movement of one who has been beaten thoroughly, the body and limbs should drop down. He should walk with a tottering step and with a slow gait. Abhinava adds, the gait can be due to poverty or insult and should be with bent chest as in ābhugna.

8. Gait in bhayānaka rasa

The experts should formulate suitable gaits for women and low people as others who have no fortitude, when they are frightened. The eyes become wide open and tremulous; and the head trembles. Furtive looks on both sides out of fear, movement with tottering and jumping steps and hands assuming the pose of kapota hasta, a quivering body and dry lips characterize the gait.

Such a person should walk with faltering steps.

visphārite cale netre vidhutaṃ ca śirastathā ||
bhayasaṃyuktayā dṛṣṭyā pārśvayośca vilokanaiḥ |
drutaiścūrṇapadaiścaiva baddhvā hastaṃ kapotakam ||
pravīpitaśarīraśca śuṣkoṣṭhaskhalitaṃ vrajet |[12]

This gait is to be adopted when one is threatened or frightened or when one sees a dreadful scene or hears a terrible sound. This is applicable to women also. In the case of men, they should restore their fortitude every now and then. Sometimes one has to stretch one’s feet, jump or put down one’s step one after another in quick succession. The hands also should be in tune with the steps in showing the gait of the frightened one. Abhinava adds that in war while enemies come from behind, men should not be frightened and they should show their courage now and then. Gait may be comparatively slow in vīra than in raudra. Vīra and bībhatsa suits uttama characters.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid. XII.43.






Ibid. IV.147.




Ibid. IV.123.











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