Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Description of Gati in Abhinayadarpana’ 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.

Description of Gati in Abhinayadarpaṇa

Nandikeśvara, author of Abhinayadarpaṇa, which is comparatively a later text, deals with varieties of gaits based on the movements of birds, animals and human. The gatis are almost different from those of Nāṭyaśāstra. The author has written nearly sixty-five verses based on the feet movements along with their uses. He classifies them as maṇḍalas, utplavana, bhramarī and pādacārīkā. Maṇḍalas are ten in number and some of these such as sthānaka, ālīḍha and prayālīḍha are similar to the sthānas of the Nāṭyaśāstra. However, they are not connected with the maṇḍalas of the Nāṭyaśāstra that are used as gait in fighting sequences. He again classifies the simple standing postures called sthānaka as six namely samapāda, ekapāda, nāgabandha, aindra, garuḍa and brahma. Except for samapāda others are different from the sthānas given in Nāṭyaśāstra.

Utplavana is defined as leaps and is of five types. Here the author has described some leaps such as that of horse - aśvotplavana and alagotplavana. Bhramarī is the whirling movement and it is of seven varieties. Floor and air related spiral movements are described where garuḍa bhramarī is explained by the author as one variety. Other than these, all are beautiful bouncing (utplavana) and spiral (bhramarī) movements can be employed in nṛttagati i.e. the movement or gait in dance.

Pādacārīka is a variety where the author brings in various cārī and gati movements. These movements can be used for walking in dance and drama.

These are of eight varieties.

ādautucalanaṃ proktaṃpaścāccaṅkramaṇaṃ tathā |
saraṇaṃ veginīcaiva kuṭṭanaṃ ca tataḥparam ||
luṭhitaṃ lolitaṃ caiva tatoviṣamasañcaraḥ |
cārībhedā'mīaṣṭauproktābharatavedibhiḥ ||[1]


Walking normally, taking a foot from its natural place and keeping it forward is calana.

svasthanāt svasya pādasya calanāccalanaṃ bhavet ||[2]


A gait made by two feet carefully raised up and thrown sideways alternately, as a leap is caṅkramaṇa.


Moving like leeches by joining one heel with another at every step holding patāka hands is saraṇa.


Walking swiftly, running on the heels, toes or by the entire sole, and holding alapadma and tripatāka hands alternatively is veginī.


Pounding or striking the earth with the heel or the forepart of a foot or the entire sole, is called kuṭṭana.


Performing kuṭṭana or pounding with the legs crossed in svastika posture is called luṭhita.


After performing kuṭṭana if a foot slowly moved without touching the earth it is called lolita.


Keeping the left foot to the right side of the right one, and the right foot to the left side of the left one alternately while walking it is called viṣamasañcaraḥ.

veṣṭayitvā dakṣiṇena vāmaṃ vāmena dakṣiṇam |
krameṇa pādaṃ vinyasya bhaved viṣamasañcaraḥ ||[3]

Here it has to be understood that the cārī is a method of moving which is to be performed in general and gati describes the gait of a particular bird, animal or human. So, these cārīs can be used for depicting the gati. For example, saraṇa cārī can be used for bhujaṅgī gati. These cārīs can also be identified in aḍavus of bharatanāṭya.

athātragatibhedānāṃ lakṣaṇaṃ vakṣyate kramāt |
haṃsīmayūrī ca mṛgīgajalīlāturaṅgiṇī ||
siṃhībhujaṅgīmaṇḍū kīgatirvīrā ca mānavī |
daśautā gatayo jñeyā nāṭyaśāstraviśāradaiḥ ||[4]

Haṃsī gati

One foot should be placed after another slowly at a distance of half a cubit and bending on both the sides alternatively and carrying kapittha with both hands, will resemble the gait of a female swan.

parivartya tanuṃ pārśvaṃ vitastyantaritaṃ śanaiḥ |
ekaikaṃ tat padaṃ nyasa kapitthaṃ karayorvahan |
haṃsavadgamanaṃ yattu sā haṃsī gatirīritā ||[5]

Though the author has enlisted the asaṃyuta abhinaya hasta for haṃsa like haṃsāsya and haṃsapakṣa he doesn’t use those gestures here.

Mayūrī gati

The gait of a peacock is to be performed by standing on toes with kapittha in both the hands and to move both the knees alternately. This again does not mention the use of mayūra hasta that had been given by the author himself as a hand gesture depicting peacock.

Mṛgī gati

Running forward or sideward like a deer with tripatāka on both hands will be known as the gait of a deer.

mṛgavad gamanaṃ vegāt tripapākakarau vahan |
purataḥ pārśvayoścaiva yānaṃ mṛgagatirbhavet ||[6]

Nandikeśvara has also given an abhinaya hasta called mṛgaśīrṣa, which denotes the head of a deer, but that is not used here. From this, it is understood that the mṛgī is shown with mṛgaśīrṣahasta but when mṛga or deer is to be acted by an actor he should jump with two tripatāka hastas as horns.

Gajalīlā gati

To walk slowly with samapāda feet with hands holding patāka on both sides is to be the gait of an elephant.This patākahasta can be used to depict the ears of the elephant.

Turaṅgiṇī gati

Right foot should be raised and jumps should be made in quick succession and left hand śikhara and right patāka are the gestures to be used in the gait of a horse. Generally, in practice this gait is done with two patāka hastas.

Siṃhī gati

Standing on toes and jumping forward swiftly with śikhara held in both the hands will be the gait of a lion. Here the author had not suggested the siṃhamukha hasta.

pādāgrābhyāṃ bhuvi sthitvā pura utplutya vegataḥ |
karābhyāṃ śikharaṃ dhṛtvā yānaṃ mṛgagatirbhavet ||[7]

Bhujaṅgī gati

Tripatākahasta should be held on both the sides and the gait should be as in siṃha gati and it is said to be the movement of a snake. Here if it is taken as moving forward swiftly, then it should be understood in connection with the forward plunge of the snake.

Maṇḍūkī gati

If one holds śikhara with both hands and steps almost like a lion, it is said to be gait of a frog.

Vīrā gati

Coming from a distance holding śikhara with the left hand and patāka with the right one will be called the heroic gait.


When the left hand is on the waist and the right holds kaṭakāmukha in a circular movement it is called the human gait.

It can be understood that the abhinaya hastas, which are used to depict these animals and birds, are not used here and instead the actual movements are performed with the whole body. For example, mṛgīgati does not use the mṛgaśīrṣa hasta instead, the jumps are performed with tripatāka hasta, which resembles the horns of the deer. Thus, these gaits can be utilized in dance and dramas accordingly, based on the explanations given in the śāstras.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid. 301


Ibid. 308


Ibid. 384–385


Ibid. 311.


Ibid. 313.


Ibid. 317.

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