Gati in Theory and Practice

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

This page relates ‘Observations in Post-Bharata works’ 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.

Observations in Post-Bharata works

The element of gati is seen in works like Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa, Nṛttaratnāvali, Saṅgītamuktāvali, Bharatārṇava, Abhinayadarpaṇa and others. Though there are more than twenty-five Sanskrit texts on nāṭya related topics, only five or six directly deal with the concept of gati, the gait. Works like Saṅgītaratnākara,[1] Saṅgīta Makaranda,[2] Nṛtyādyāya,[3] etc. deals with some cāris related to gaits.

1. Gati in nāṭya is dramatised dance

The dramas that come under the nāṭya variety consist of movements such as walks on the stage to represent various moods and locales other than the entry and exit of characters. The gaits are also used to represent the fights and combats. All these can be performed by cārīs, karaṇas, and their combinations. Thus, gati is based on bhāvas and rasas. This type of description is seen in Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa and Saṅgītamuktāvali.

2. Gati in nṛtta comprises of tāla and laya

Saṅgīta Muktāvali refers to gati in rasa and nṛtta i.e. abstract dance. These elements of gati in nṛtta can be utilized in stage choreographies. They are based on formation of circles, diagonal lines, zig-zag walks and straight lines. Nṛttaratnāvali also gives a variety of gaits based on rhythm. 17

3. Gati in nṛtya is communicative dance with tāla and laya

The combination of nṛtta with mukhaja and sāttvika abhinaya is nṛtya. So, when these gatis are performed along with rhythm and expressions then they become nṛtyagati. Abhinayadarpaṇa details the gaits as the walks of animals. Gati given in Bharatārṇava can be brought under nṛtya gati because it has gaits based on tāṇḍava and lāsya. 18

4. Gati is essential element in rūpaka and uparūpaka

The rūpakas are based on the vṛttis or styles[4] and the vṛttis like kaiśikī and ārabhaṭī have more body movements. These are performed by suitable cāris and karaṇas in sukumāra and uddhāta prayogas. The uparūpakas are mostly dance dramas or even dances, which form a part in dramas. The varieties of nāṭika, troṭaka, saṭṭaka and so on have many graceful dance movements in the kaiśikī style. lalitābhinayātmiketi kaiśikīyaṃ baddhetyarthaḥ |[5] In these forms the gait itself is performed as dance. There are many patterns like circular, straight and diagonal lines in which, the uparūpakas like rāsaka, nāṭyarāsaka, daṇḍarāsaka and many more are performed. Thus, the elements of choreography with coordinated movements are an essential feature in uparūpakas.

Footnotes and references:


Infra 1.3.12.


Infra 1.3.23.


Infra 1.3.20.


Infra.XVIII. com.p.298.


Infra.XVIII. com.p.320.

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