Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Gati in classical dance form of Odissi’ 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 in classical dance form of Oḍissi

[Full title: Deśī forms of Orissa (1): Gati in classical dance form of Oḍissi]

The regions in and around Odisha come under the Oḍhramāgadhī pravṛtti as based on the Nāṭyaśāstra. Many works on dance and music were written in Sanskrit from around fifteenth century to eighteenth century. Some important notable works are abhinaya chandrika, saṅgītakaumudhi, nāṭyamanorama, saṅgītanarayana and Abhinayadarpana prakasa. The practice of the dance forms were mainly based on these literary works or it can be noted that based on the practice these works were written. The classical dance style Oḍissi originated as a temple dance, which was born in the temples of Oḍisha. The temple dancers were called maharis. This name is derived from the word mahānārī. They were considered auspicious and great during the period when these temple dances were offered as offerings by these dancers. The practice of odissi is mainly based on the work known as nāṭyamanorama. It also gives the description of the regional folk arts of Odisha.

After the Mahari tradition declined the Gothipua tradition started. This was the name given to the boys, who were dressed up as girls. The uniqueness was the acrobatic nature seen in the actions of these boys. Some of the karaṇas of the Nāṭyaśāstra such as śakaṭāsya, gaṅgāvataraṇa, cakramaṇḍala and lalāṭatilaka, are performed by these gothipuas. The folk dances prevailing in Orissa have the bandha (acrobatic poses) which are used in bandhanṛtya. These gothipuas performed the bandhanṛtya in festivals like jhulajatras.[1]

The basic stances seen in oḍissi are samabhaṅga, (straight) ābhaṅga, (one side slightly bent) tribhaṅga (three deflections) and chouk (a squarish stance). Chouk is more symmetrical and tribhanga is balanced but asymmetrical. The four pāda varieties are samapāda (sama), kuṃhapāda, (ayathamaṇḍala), dhanupāda (svastika) and mahāpāda.[2] The feet variations are sama, viṣama, ghaṭita, sūcī and agratala. The footwork movements (agratala and añcitapāda) are performed in these stances. The mardithapāda is used when the feet is brushed on the floor and moved in circular movements. Balancing in one leg as in vriścikapāda or ūrdhajānu is seen. The cārīs of the Nāṭyaśāstra are similar to the chālī of Oḍhramāgadhī region. The cārīs such as nūpurapādikā, baddhā, ākṣiptā, atikrāntā, udvṛttā, and āviddhā are seen in the movements of Oḍissi. Karaṇas like vṛścika, kaṭisama, mayūralalita, gajakrīḍita and garuḍapluta are used for the gait such as moving in water, flight of a bird, movement of an elephant, etc. Generally the gait on the stage is by the añcita and the agratalapāda. The walk is with sūcī and agratalapāda, which is also known as siripaṭi in post-Bharata’s works.[3]

The svastikapāda is called dhanupāda. The back agratala thump is called as prishtadhanupāda. Spiral movements are called bhramarīs and utpluta jumps are called utha in Odissi. The swirling movements are performed in clockwise and anticlockwise directions. The peacock gait is performed with walking forward with crossed legs as in urudvṛtta and mayūralalitha karaṇas of the Nāṭyaśāstra. The deer jump is performed with the hariṇapluta karaṇa of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Actions of animals and birds are performed with chālis seen in the post Bharata texts. The sculpture like poses, such as holding the mirror, which is called darpaṇi and posing at ease with lalitahasta as in udvṛttākaraṇa of are seen in many sculptures of Konarak temple. The special movements of moving the torso to the sides, front and back in a very graceful manner is based on the pārśva and uraḥ movements known as prasārita and ābhugna. These are the gait identified in the dance repertoire of Oḍissi.

Covering the space on the stage is performed with ēkapāda and dvipāda cāris and the gait is performed forward and backward circular diagonal and in spiral movements.[4] Bhumis are the ways of covering the space like gatis. Sitting postures are called baitha and standing are called sthānaka. Walking is cali and running is burha. Bhasa is shifting weight or swaying the body. The uthas are the jump a like utplutas of the Nāṭyaśāstra and the bhaumaris are the bhramarīs.

Mīnadhaṇḍi are semi-circular gaits where the lower half of the leg (calf) is mainly used to cover the space. Bartula and Ghera are circular movements where the smaller concentric circles gradually become bigger concentric circles Thus, the smaller circles are expanded as bigger circles. Dvimukha are gaits performed with complete extension of both the legs. The pādabedhas of odissi are not only feet but also the whole leg like cārīs[5] of Nāṭyaśāstra.

The repertoire of Oḍissi starts with raṅgmañchpraveśa followed by maṅgalācharan. The entry of the dancer starts with samabhaṅga and the walk is in ābhaṅga, which is similar to the baddhācārī of the Nāṭyaśāstra. The dancer comes to the centre of the stage with the puṣpāñjali hasta and offers salutations to the god Jagannatha. Maṅgalācharan is similar to the puṣpāñjali and pūrvaraṅga of the Nāṭyaśāstra. The dancer begins with the bhūmipranā. She executes steps based on the rhythmic syllables performed by the percussion instruments. Dancer enters to the centre of the stage with proper śloka performed on vighnarāja. After that with the añjalīhasta, the dancer moves around the stage by offering salutation to the eight directions and greeting the audience. For this, only rhythmic syllables are recited by the percussionist who also recites the bhols.

Baṭunṛtya is the basic pose of the dancer holding vīnā, maddala and mañjira. The rhythmic steps are performed in these poses, which are performed in chouka position. Baṭunṛtya starts in chouka position in a slow rhythm and gradually the rhythm increases and the dancer performs a series of cārīs, bhaṅgis and karaṇas. Thus, the gati in baṭunṛtya is based on the rhythmic instruments. Finally, the item is ended with abhinaya piece. The nṛtta technique begins with chouka position and the tempo slowly increases with intricate feet movements.

Pallavi has movements according to the svara and tāla patterns. When it is performed in slow speed it is called ālāp. It can be performed in medium or fast tempo. The name pallavi means sprouting that is the tāla patterns are elaborated. This is similar to vardhamāna of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Pure nṛtta reflects the rāga and melody and here too the tempo gradually increases towards the end. There might be one or two pallavis interspersed between interpretative dances. Pallavi has expressive elements in sṛṅgārapallavi, (joy and shy) taraṅgapallavi (waves of the sea), mokṣya is the concluding piece, which is performed in fast tempo accompanied by bhols or mnemonic syllables, along with the percussion instrument pakhwaj. Cāris like adhyardhikā, utsyanditā and karaṇas similar udvṛttā, janitā, avahittaka are seen in this style.

Footnotes and references:


Indian Classical DanceKapila Vatsyayan p.37.






Indian Classical Dance–Kapila Vatsyayan p.37.



Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: