Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Gati performed in Lasyangas’ 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.

Bharata says aṅgas of lāsya (dance) can be made use of in nāṭakas. They are performed individually by a dancer (like in bhāṇa) in a delicate manner. Lāsya should be familiar, having imaginary ideas like prakaraṇa and different moods.

Lāsyāṅgas, which are the ancillaries of lāsya, are ten as enumerated by Bharata. They are:

  1. geyapada,
  2. sthitapāṭhya,
  3. āsīna,
  4. puṣpagaṇḍhikā,
  5. pracchedaka,
  6. trimūḍhaka,
  7. saindavaka,
  8. dvimūḍhaka,
  9. uttamottamaka and
  10. uktaprayukta.[1]

Bharata describes the performance of lāsyāṅgas under daśarūpaka and the tāla chapters. These can be brought under the kaiśikīvṛtti, which involves graceful movements of the body, song and dance sequences, and based on śṛṅgāra rasa. Abhinava says lāsya, a graceful form of dance that involves music also, happens to be a part of the sukumāra variety of dramas.[2]

These are performed by a single dancer and are ekāhārya like bhāṇa. They are applied in nāṭikas, as they are music and dance based, along with kaiśikī vṛtti. Mālavikāgnimitra which is termed as nāṭika by scholars like Raghavan, has some references of lāsyāṅgas.[3]

Abhinavagupta considers lāsya as a separate dance form of the graceful style, connected with Parvati, which with its ten forms is part of the pūrvaraṅga of the sukumāra variety of dramas. This is explained at length in his commentary on the tālādhyaya, where also Bharata describes the lāsya in connection with laya.[4]

Bharata says in the tāla chapter, “It is defined as ‘lāsya’ because of its lasanas hining nature and it relates to women and men. It could be pertaining to a single idea or based on several ideas.[5]

Here, it is connected with performances in pūrvaraṅga and is based on movements and tāla. Bharata enumerates the tāla, vṛtta, pāṇī, etc. for all the lāsyaṅgas and so the gaits should be performed based on these elements.

In geyapada as in plays like bhāṇa after the āsārita the upohana is done with three parivartanas. Paridhānaka is to be performed with the cācapuṭa tāla of two kalās followed by the parivartana. In a parivartana, the passage for men should be used first, and it should be in three sentences to be followed by another for women, which has four sentences. Thus, here the gati is based on the parivartanas on the stage, which are in the form of worshipping the dik-pālas. As it is connected with pūrvaraṅga, the aṅgahāras can be performed. Abhinava adds that both uddhata and sukumāra will be used in this.

Sthitapāṭhya should have one or two verses and it should be sung in consonance with the tāla called caccatpuṭa in pañcapāṇī.

The nartakī performs the bhūmi cārīs in standing position after entering.

pañcapāṇinā caccatpuṭena vā gīyamāne abhinayanṛttabhyāṃ vā yojayet |
anantaramavasānaṃ tadarthanirvahaṇaṃ kāryaṃ |
drutalayena dvikalena pañcapāṇinā gātavyaṃ nartitavyam |
praviśya sthitayaiva bhūcārīsthayā nartakyā paṭhyate'treti sthitapāṭhyam |[6]

Āsīnapāṭhya is recited in tṛyaśratāla, sitting position.

Abhinava says the nṛtta and abhinaya can be employed in this.

tasyāśca nṛttabhinayādiprayogaḥ |

However, we can use the nṛtta hastas and abhinaya hastas along with mukhaja abhinaya and āsana sthānas and karaṇas.

Puṣpagaṇḍikā should be in samavṛtta with four sannipāta and cañcatpuṭa tāla. For each pada there should be music and dance.

The two vṛttas for this are khañja and narkuṭa.

pāde pāde tu tasyeṣṭaṃ vādyaṃ nṛttaṃ tathaiva ca |
ataścānye smṛtaṃ vṛtte khañjanarku ṭasaṃjñite |[7]

The actions should be befitting a masculine feel and the conclusion should be with aviddhācārī with bold steps and expressive aṅgahāras. The śirṣaka for this must be pañcapāṇī. Abhinava says after each line suṣkākṣara should be sung along with varieties of instruments and dance. This is like raṅgadvāra and nandi.[8]

Pracchedaka consists of three limbs namely prakrīḍita, toṭaka and nārācaka.

It represents the dance relating to a heroine and having dressed up with proper ornaments she steps into sportive dance expressing various feelings like helā etc.

nṛttaṃ prāsādakrīḍārthaṃ helādibhiralaṅkṛtam |[9]

Abhinava feels that this comes under cārī variety of pūrvaraṅga which is based on sṛṅgāra rasa.

In trimūḍha, which is in caccatpuṭa tāla, the sentences should be delivered with emotions befitting a male with a dramatic manner. Abhinava opines that it should be performed with not so lenghthy uddhata aṅgahāras, which are suitable for men. Saindhavaka is in prākṛt language and should have musical accompaniments and songs. Here there should not be any text and thus there is more scope for nṛtta gati. In dvimūḍhaka the tāla is cañcatpuṭa. It should represent a variety of meaning and it is of masculine nature. This can be represented by uddhata cārīs. Uttamottamaka should have embellishments of helā. Uktapratyukta abounds in anger and pleasure. All these lāsyaṅgas can be performed with suitable cārīs, maṇḍalas, karaṇas and aṅgahāras.

Abhinava gives references for these lāsyaṅgas under daśarūpaka chapter. Malayāvatī singing to the accompaniment of vīnā in act one of Nāgānanda comes under geyapada. Sāgarika’s words expressing her longing and loverlornness in act two of Ratnāvalī, is sthitapāṭhya. Āsīna can be identified in act three where the king is introduced as seated and gesticulating love sickness and expressing the mood of a longing lover wishing to attain his object. These can be enacted with proper sthānas and gatis.

Bharata says, that singer or that drummer who does not know the principles of the time-measure does not measure who does not know the principle of time-measure does not deserve the name and hence one should get proficiency in tāla.

Footnotes and references:


Nāṭyaśāstra XX.127,128.




Sanskrit Drama–Its Aesthetics and Production. V. Raghavan.p.168


Nāṭyaśāstra XXXI. 335 -367


Ibid.XXXI. 331.


Ibid XXXI. com. p.271.


Ibid. XXXI.


Ibid. XXXI. com.p.272.


Ibid.XXXI. 350.

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