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Jyothi Venkatachalam




Natyashastra says that Abhinaya is the art of �exhibiting the meaning of what one depicts.� The dancer has an enormous resource bank to communicate a story, an idea and an emotion. She uses her body, her limbs, hands, face and eyes to express her ideas. The dancer has to draw the audience into her world. The shores reached by both the viewer and the dancer are described as the experience of �Rasa,� which is compared to a spiritual experience. The main purpose of dance is to evoke Rasa, which means sentiment or flavor among the audience. 

Abhinaya Darpanam of Nandikeshwara says:

Yatho Hastato Dhrishtihihttp://bharatanatyam.files.wordpress.com/2007/11/abhi2.jpg
Yatho Dhrishtisto Manaha
Yatho Manatato Bhavaha
Yatho Bhavastato Rasaha


It means:

Where the Hands go, let the Eyes follow
Where the Eyes go, let the Mind follow
Where the Mind goes, there is Emotion.

In the Abinayadarpanam written by Nandikesvara, there is a slokam in praise of lord Shiva who is said to be the embodiment of these four Abhinayas. The dancing form of Lord Shiva is called the Nataraja.

Angikam Bhuvanam Yasyahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/9798015@N06/2079346381/
Vachikam Sarva Vangmayam
Aaharyam Chandra Taradi
TamVande Sattvikam Shivam


It means:


We bow to Him the benevolent One
Whose limbs are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all language,
Whose costume is the moon and the stars �


So, you can see that the four types of Abhinaya are mentioned in the shloka above. They are:

Angik abhinaya, Vachik abhinaya, Aharya abhinaya, Sattvik abhinaya.

1. Angika Abhinaya is the use of gestures. It involves expressing the meaning of the song or lyrics using different body parts. In Natyashastra, Angika is a detailed study of all the possible gestures, postures and movements of each and every part of the body. Angikabhinaya uses the total body to express a certain meaning. Hasta Abhinaya is an important aspect of Angika. Here body is divided into three major parts: the Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga.


The major limbs are called Pratyangas and the minor limbs are referred to as Upangas. The major limbs that are used while dancing are the head, hands, chest, waist and feet. These in turn automatically use the minor limbs such as fingers, elbows, toes etc. In classical dancing, every part of the body is important and plays a major role in carrying or conveying the meaning of a song to the audience.

2. Vachika Abhinaya is the expression through speech. It is done with the help of literature such as poems and dramatics. There is nothing beyond words. Words are at the beginning and end of all things. The Natyashastra writes in detail about the different meters in poetry, strong and weak points of poetic writing and diction. It also talks about figures of speech. Natyshastra says that words spoken during a natya should be full of suggested meaning. The dialogues delivered or the song sung gives only some ideas, which have to be expanded by Angika Abhinaya. Musical notes play an important role in creating the mood and emotion of the song. The singer gives the main expression to the words of each song while the dancer expresses the meaning. It is also important in bringing out proper tala while dancing. The bells on the dancer�s feet create rhythm through sound.


3. Aharya Abhinaya: The Aharya aspect of Abhinaya involves the makeup and costumes, ornaments, use of specific colors, hairstyles as well as dress code for particular characters. Aharya also includes the stage props and decor. A bharatanatyam costume involves its typical dress
http://www.flickr.com/photos/9798015@N06/2104830265/which is either the Pajama style or the Sari style. The ornaments used are the forehead set (Netti chutti, Chandra, surya), Jumki (earrings), Mattal (ear chain), Nose rings (mukutti), bangles (Hasta Kadakam), Necklace (a chokerand a long necklace which is of pearls or gold and stones), waist belt and Chilangai or the Gungroos (the bells tied to the feet), flowers for the hair.


Among all the classical dances, Kathakali gives a lot of importance to Aharya. In Kathakali, a symbolic use of costumes and makeup is made to create a larger than life image to project the magnificent characters of the epics such as Mahabharata. In Kathakali theater, dominant colors of makeup like green, black, red are used symbolically to show different types of characters and their temperament. As the moon illuminates the darkness of the night, so will abhinaya of the body, if used in combination with the different hues of the face, be twice as beautiful. Says Bharata, a person adorned with different costumes and colors takes on the behavior of the costume he wears. It must be noted that Aharya is the only external vehicle other than body used in Abhinaya, and this, too, is sometimes replaced by Angika.

4. Sattvika Abhinaya is fourth kind of Abhinay, which is endowed with quality of purity. It depicts the state of mind, which has been caused by a natural emotion as expressed in art. There are eight Sattvika Abhinayas. They are:


Sthamba: Joy, fear, anger, intoxication, surprise and despair. Shown by immobility

Sveda: Grief, weariness, anger, fear heat, exhaustion and disease or sickness. Shown or depicted by fanning, wiping off perspiration.

Romancha: Touch, cold, joy, fear and heat. Depicted by acting as though the hairs are standing on end.

Svarabheda: Through broken, choking voice the emotion of fear, anger, joy and diseases is depicted.

Vepathu: My actions showing throbbing and shaking the emotion of fear, joy, cold, touch and old age is symbolized or expressed.

Vaivarnya: It is caused by anger, cold, fear exertion, fatigue and heat. This is depicted by the dancer changing the color of the face and pressure on the pulse and weakness of the limbs.

Ashru: It is caused by happiness, indignation, smoke yawning and sorrow. This is shown by rubbing the eyes and shedding tears.

Pralaya: This is caused by swoon, sleep, injury, weariness and surprise. It is depicted by falling on the ground.


The verse from the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna sees his kinsmen ready for the Great War and says �My limbs fail, my mouth is parched, my body quivers, my hair stands on end in horror, my bow slips from my hands and my whole body is burning. Oh Krishna, How can I kill my own people?� is an excellent example of Sattvika Bhava.


Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at [email protected]





�Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy� � Beethoven.  �Music gives a soul to the Universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything� � Plato. 

Sensitivity to sound and a taste for tunefulness are some of the hallmarks of a true Indian musical aesthete. For a handful of masterful musicians, music is most certainly a way of life. They live and breathe music and view the world through a sensual aura of melody. What makes a musician tick is the fact that he or she is able to weave melodic rhapsodies that can create a mood, evoke an emotion or foster a feeling in the listener and also himself/herself.  This is indeed the uniqueness of a good Indian classical instrumentalist or vocalist. Since languages may be seen as barriers, the words here really do not seem to matter. Music is a universal language and it transcends all barriers.

How does the mind of a musician get to work to sing/play, perform, practice or teach any melody? How is a certain mood or atmosphere constructed?  Many of us may be familiar with the fact that Indian classical music is a highly sophisticated and evolved system that has progressed and blossomed through millennia based on �Raagdhari music� or �Raaga� centric music. The raaga or melodic entity is the basis on which musical structures are constructed and then adorned with improvisation and composition. There are numerous ragas in our music based on the �sapta-swaras� (seven basic notes), 22 different microtones (shrutis) and several theoretical and scientific laws as well as nature and divinity-inspired aesthetics.

These ragas have formed, flowered and followed myriad musicians through centuries of resonant tides. Raaga is the language of Indian classical music and that is how music is taught, learnt, practiced and performed. The arrangement of notes is eclectic. In Indian music, �Sur� is Almighty. Sur or Swara or Swar means a musical note. But Sur also means tunefulness � a note produced in the proper pitch, proper scale, correct natural placement and exact microtone � nothing more, nothing less! Tunefulness means everything and Sur is indeed the ultimate truth. Chastity of Sur is held in the highest esteem by the true practitioners of Indian music and even by any ear that is attuned to Indian music. The downside is once your ear, brain and heart are honed to Sur, you are hard to please.

India has colossal musical stalwarts, living legends and also a bright younger brood that are ever faithful to this burgeoning and flourishing art form. It continues an age-old unabated flow and commands a great and influential presence throughout the world. It can be heard from serene Indian classical music concerts and recordings to devotional and light music to old and new Bollywood music to fusion and world music and even audible in Hollywood musical sensibilities.

When you listen to a raaga rendition, for example Multani by the maestro Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the purity of Sur and the harmonic arrangement of notes are at once evident. The improvisation within the structural framework of raaga Multani comes across in various vignettes of creativity. The masterful phrasing and fast �taans� (note oscillations) are breathtaking.

You may attend a live sitar performance by the inimitable instrumentalist Pandit Ravi Shankar. The intimate interaction with the audience, however large, is the key. There is at once an exploration of inner happiness or �Ananda,� which forces undivided attention from and full participation of the audience.

The spiritual component of Indian classical music is its most alluring and transformational aspect. When we for instance listen to Pandit Jasraj�s ornamental, pleasing entreaties to the High Heavens above, spiritual elevation is unavoidable.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. She regularly performs at musical venues, both in India and the United States. She has three album releases to her credit. The artist has worked as a music critic and feature writer for The Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at [email protected]





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