Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Description of Gati as in Sangitamuktavali’ 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 as in Saṅgītamuktāvalī

Devanācārya, author of Saṅgītamuktāvalī deals with gaits based on rasa, bhāva and gaits based on nṛtta. So, according to him gati can be seen in nāṭya and nṛtta. He explains that the gati is relevant for the eight rasas.[1]


In the sentiment of love, one should perform with caturaśra and sama, straight body with limbs properly stretched, and it should be attractive with smiling glances, and beautiful with vilāsa.

caturaśrā samā hṛdyā savilāsā'tiśobhanā |
gatiḥ śṛṅgāriṇī proktākaṭākṣasmitasaṃyutā ||[2]


Gait in vīra should be gambheera, forceful with the foot raised and kept apart and as if going to the war.


Gait in karuṇa is with straight and watery eyes and with soft footsteps in samapāda movements.


Gait in wonder is with the foot moving here and there, raised, straight and bloomed eyes with pupils in center.

itastataḥ pādā tathotkṣepasamākulā |
vikāsitākṣiyuktāca madhyāsau cādbhutā sthitā ||[3]


Gait in the sentiment of hāsya is different from other actions, done by Vidūṣaka with aṅga and upāṅga actions which provoke laughter.


Gait in bhayānaka is with eyes showing fear, looking front, back, and steps ready to run.


Gait in Raudra is fierce, uncontrollable, knitting brows, fearing the onlooker, with cārīs like atikrāntā and ūrdhvajānu.

atyutkaṭā ca sāṭopā raudrī bhrukuṭibhīṣaṇā |
atikrāntorvvajānubhyāṃ kṛtā bhītikarī matā ||[4]


Gait in Bībhatsa is with bent a foot with just few steps some kept apart and some kept crooked.

Devanacārya describes the gaits for the eight sthāyī bhāvas and corresponding rasas. He adds that the gaits for the other sañcāri (vyabhicāri) bhāvas are similar to these. He does not include śānta as the ninth rasa, according to him there are only eight rasas. Here we can see clearly that these gaits have expressions of face also, and these come under āṅgika combined with sāttvika abhinaya. These descriptions given by the author have more clarity and they are practiced in present day dance and drama traditions.

Nṛttagati which goes along with lakṣya is that which encompasses different cārīs, variety of laya, tāla and has a beautiful and attractive form.

punarnṛttagatiṃ cāpi vakṣye lakṣyānusārataḥ |
nānācārīsamāyuktānānārūpamanoharā ||[5]

Thus, the author admits that these gatis were in practice during that time.

-) Ṛju—is straight walk that can be in front, back or side.

-) Vakra—is a serpentine movement

-) Sācī—is the gait which represents sideward (pārśvacārā) movements

-) Koṇa—is the gait covering corner to corner movements

-) Śṛṅkhalāsaṅgiṇī—is when the actors move connected with each other like a chain.

-) Svastika—is gait, which has crossed movements.

muhuḥ svastikayogena gatiḥ svastikacāriṇī |[6]

-) Vakrakoṇā (Tiraścīnā)-is reaching the corner with serpentine movement.

bhujaṅgagatireva syātkoṇāḥ vakrakoṇakāḥ ||[7]

-) Pārśvacārā—is moving towards sides.

-) Maṇḍalī—is moving in a circular way. maṇḍalī maṇḍalākārā ||[8]

-) Ardhamaṇḍalī—is a gait in semicircular form.

tvaṃcārdhācārdhamaṇḍalī ||[9]

-) Tṛyaśra—is gait in form of triangle.

-) Caturaśra—is gait in form of a square.

-) Nāgabandha—is moving here and there.

-) Āviddha svastika—is throwing of leg inside and crossed.

-) Pārśvadarśinī—is looking to the sides and walking.

krameṇa darśayetpārśve sānvarthā pārśvadarśinī ||[10]

-) Paribhramaṇacāriṇī—is circular turns.

-) Vyākīrṇā is—preading out the legs like leaps on all sides.

-) Khañjikā—is walking like a lame person.

-) Madākrāntā—is gait in intoxication.

madaskhalanayogena madākrāntā gatirmatā |[11]

-) Sampuṭacārinī—is walking in semicircle.

Devanacārya says gatis are broadly classified into twenty varieties, which come under sāmānya gati and there can be many more, in particular gait of a chariot, elephant, horse, mṛga, siṃha, daṃṣṭri, mayūra, haṃsa, matsya, and so on, which are known as viśeṣagatis pecial gaits. These are to be performed as per the situation in three layas and thus all varieties have three variations.

He also adds that the gait of women should be vilāsa and komala and that of men should be gambhīra and uddhata.

strīṇāṃ tu gatayaḥ proktāḥ savilāsāḥ sakomalāḥ |
gambhīrāścoddhatāścāpi puṃsāṃ tu gatayaḥ smṛtāḥ ||[12]

However, the author has not included the explanations on the gait related to animals and birds. Many of these are seen in Bharatanāṭya and other classical and folk dance forms even today.

Footnotes and references:


SM.V.233 -242.























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