Of the four forms of performance

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Detail Study Of Natyashastra, Specially Dance Related Chapters And Sangita Ratnakar

Module 18 Angika Abhinaya As Per Ns

The first of the various forms of performance mentioned by Bharat Muni is Angik Abhinaya / आंगगक अभिनय. For the correct manner of portrayal of any performance/enactment, one needs to have the right tools. One can say that the major resource/tool for staging any play/drama is the human body. In fact, for performing arts and sports disciplines such as yoga, gymnastics, exercising, etc., one needs a human body to perform them. It is not easy to depict the life of humans on stage because during the portrayal, one may need some particular tools, equipment, etc. which are impossible to exhibit on stage. In such situations, the bodily gestures, movements and performance offer assistance. Only through a focused and composed mind can we mould our body in different imaginary circumstances and deliver a physical performance. Of the four forms of performance -- the one delivered using bodily gestures and movements is referred to as angika abhinaya.

The Anubhavas / अनुिाव which represent physical reactions to an emotional experience are rendered in stage performance through physical manifestation and varied movements of the body. This is angika abhinaya and is treated rather fully and minutely in the Natyashastra, because the visual impact in a dramatic spectacle in



forcefully conveyed by the gestures and movements of an actor playing a role on the stage.

The angika abhinaya is a necessary part also in a dance performance and some training in dance modes was essential for an actor, at least in the performance of Sanskrit plays, for carrying out certain types of abhinaya. It is likely that the Natyashastra entered into a detailed description of this aspect of histrionics to serve the needs both of an actor as well as a dancer.

Angika abhinaya has many aspects. But for purpose of drama it is broadly classified into three categories.

a. Mukhaja /मुखजा: facial expression

b. Sharir /शरीर : involving the limbs of the body

c. Chestakruta / चेस्टकृत: effected through physical actions and movements.


The mukhaja type of angika abhinaya involves the various movements of the major limbs, the head and the minor body parts such as eyes, nose, cheeks lower lip, chin, teeth, face and neck along with the meanings and mental states emotions expressed by them.

The eyes also include the movements of pupils, eyelids, eyebrows as well as various glances and gazes. The color of the face is also considered as a part of mukhaja abhinaya.




The sharira type of abhinaya involves various positions gestures of single hand, combined or the joined hands and dance hands. These hand-poses are connected with mental stats and are also to be used to express certain things and ideas. They acquire a symbolic value and significance when they pertain to dramatic context and also in a pure dance mode. The sharira type of abhinaya also includes the movements of the limbs such as the chest, the sides, the belly, the waist, the thighs, the shanks, the feet and various minor limbs such as the knees and other parts of the legs and as well as the meanings and mental states /emotions expressed by these limbs.


The chestakruta type of angika abhinaya includes the combined movements of all the major and minor limbs of the body which are of two kinds (a) the gait, and (b) the dance movements that involve various types of gaits suitable for different characters in a play, their seated postures and lying-down postures. These are all expressive of various mental states and emotions. The dance movements include 108 types of karanas, various angophora rechaka pindibandha bhedyaka (रेचक, पऩण्डीबन्ध, िेद्यक) , and akashiki / आकाशीकी and bhumiki / िौभम charis which are useful for both the actors and the dancers.

The chestakruta has three aspects: sakha, ankura and nrtta. Bharata defines sakha as an abhinaya which is rendered by all the limbs, head, face, thighs, shank, hands and feet, each acting in an ordered succession, ankura arises out of sucaabhinaya; suca is suggestive abhinaya which precedes a dramatic speech; and ankura is such abhinaya preceding acting or pantomime. Nrtta is a very technical



abhinaya and includes the use of karanas and angaharas, which are fully described in Natyashastra chapter IV. Karana is defined as the combined movement of hands and feet. Two nrittakarana / नृत्तकरण make one matraka / मातृका; and two, three or four matrakas make an angahara /अन्गहार.

Bharata’s elaborate description of angika abhinaya suggests that in a dramatic spectacle, natural and realistic acting will be used wherever possible. But where imagination must aid make-believe, stylized and suggestive abhinaya will have to be used. That is why certain poses, hand-gestures, chari and mandala movements and special gaits are prescribed. They are symbolic but also quite suggestive to those who have the knowledge of the technique.

According to Abhinaya Darpana

Chaturdahbhinayastatra Angikornirdeshit l चतुधधाभबनमस्तधत्रअंगीकोर्नादेभित

Abhinaya Darpan-39

According to the book Nartanabhinaya by Ratnakar, of the four forms of performance, the one delivered using bodily gestures and movements is referred to as angika abhinaya.

Chaturdharbhinayastatraangikodarshito matt l चतुधधाभबनमस्तधत्रअंगीकोदभिातोभत्त

Sangeet Ratnakar-Nartanabhinaya/20



According to Naatyadarpana, angika abhinaya is the process in which the performers use their body parts and accessories to familiarize the audience/society about the effects of actions.

Karmanongrupangeschevsaakshaadbhaavanmangnikll कभाणोन्ग्रूऩंगेस्चेवसधऺधदबधवन्ग्भंगगक ||

Natya Darpan -3/50

Angika abhinaya is the performance presented by the body or its parts. According to Natyashastra, angika abhinaya can be presented by using many parts of the body. Bharat identifies the parts as Shaakha, Anga, Pratyanga and Upanga. There are three forms of angika abhinaya --Shariraj, Mukhaj and Chestaakrut, all of which can be presented using Shaakha, Ang and Upaang.

Trividhistavangikogneyashaririomukhjastatha l

Tathachestaakrutaschaevashakhangnopangsanyuktll त्रत्रववगधस्तवंगीकोग्नेमिरययौभुख्जधस्तथध |

तथधचेष्टधकृतधसचैवषधखधन्ग्गोऩधन्ग्ग्सधन्ग्मुक्त ||

Natyashastra 8/11

Before knowing about these three forms of angika abhinaya we should know about the different parts of the body:



1) Anga / अंग: The main parts of the body are known as Anga.

Natyashastra identifies them as the following six: Head, both Hands, both Feet, Vaksha or the chest region, Katti or the waist and Parshava or the armpit. Other experts add Greeva (neck) to this as well.

2) Pratyanga /प्रत्यंग: The parts that connect the main parts of the body are Pratyanga. These too are of six types: the Shoulders, the Arms, the Spine, the Midriff, the Thighs and the Abdomen.

Some experts also consider the Neck, Knees and Elbows in this.

3) Upaanga / उऩांग: Smaller constituent parts of the body are called Upaanga. They are different according to each body part. Mainly the Upaanga exist on the head/ face, hands and legs, because the waist, chest and armpit are complete on their own. There cannot be an Upaanga for these.

a. Head/face: eyes, eyebrows, eyelids, pupils, nose, cheeks, chin, jaw, face, lips, teeth and tongue.

b. Hands: elbow, wrist, fingers, palms c. Legs: soles, heel, paws and toes

Angika abhinaya has been given the foremost rank in the domain of performance by those expert in the Shastras. According to Natyashastra and other texts, angika abhinaya comprises three forms:

1) Shariraj: According to Natyashastra, the performance depicted using anga, pratyaanga, upaanga is Shariraj.

2) Mukhaj: Performance delivered by suing only the face and the associated upaanga is called Mukhaj.



3) Chestaakrut: By gestures relating to posture, positioning or in other words, moving from one place to other on stage or by performing some laborious activity on stage is Chestaakrut Abhinaya.

Apart from these Natyashastra also mentions Shaakha / शाखा, Nrutt / नृत and Ankur / अंकुर. According to Acharya Bharat, Angika Abhinaya was Shaakha, any form of communicative/indicative physical gestures/actions performed before one says something as Soochna / सुचना or Soochyaabhinaya or Ankur. A complete performance using body gestures and hands is called Nrutt. According to ancient sage, dramatics, Nrutt and Nritya (dance) are three forms of performing arts based on Abhinaya (performance). Nrutt and Nritya are completely Angika Abhinaya with subtle traces of other Abhinaya. In normal language, these two forms constitute modern day Dance genre.

Abhinaya Darpana, a compendium based on Angika Abhinaya has Acharya Nandikeshwar / आचायय नंदीकेश्वर saying that dance has to be such that it is a harmonious union of song, performance, rhythm and emotion. Using hand gestures, expressions and eye movements and feet moving rhythmically to the beats, the song’s literal words can be brought to life. While engaged in a dance performance, the eyes should follow wherever the hands are pointing at. And the mind should be focused where the eyesight is fixed at. The emotions should emanate the mood of the mind. With the expression of emotion, the dance performance will achieve its ultimate goal and ensure audience interest.



Aasayealambyedgeethasteynaarthpradashyeyt l

Chakshubhyaandarshayadbhaavpaadambhyataalamaacharetll Yatohastaastodrishtiryatodrishtistato mana l

Yatomanastatobhaavoyatobhaavastato rasa ll आसधमेआरम्ब्मेदगीतस्तेय्नधथाप्रदश्मेय्त

चक्िुभ्मधन्ग्दिाय्दबधवऩधदभभ्मधतधरभआचयेत मतोहस्तस्ततोदृष्ष्टमातोदृष्टीस्ततोभन


Abhinaya Darpana- 36-37

This way we can see that by using different parts of the body, we can achieve exhibition of Angika Abhinaya whether it be in dramatics or dance, nrutt or nritya. In the ancient texts related specifically to dramatics, the different parts of the body are attributed some indicative forms or actions, which will be explained in detail.

First of all we focus on an important part of the human body, the Shir or the head. Without the different actions of the head, presentation of dance wouldn’t be so easy. While dancing, we need to look up and down, left and right, sideways, in all directions, front and behind. To do so, there are some exercises and actions mentioned in the Natyashastra known as Shirobheda /भशरोिेद. These are as follows:



According to Mukhaj Abhinaya mentioned in the Natyashastra there are 13 Shirobhinaya including Aakampit / अकम्पऩत, Kampit / कम्पऩत, Dhoot / धूत, Vidhoot / पवधुत, Parivahit / ऩररवाहहत, Aadhoot / आधूत, Avadhoot / अवधूत, Anchit / अंगचत, Nihanchit / ननहंगचत, Paravrutt / ऩरावृत्त, Adhdhogat /अघोगत and Lalit /ऱभऱत.

Akampitakampit cha dhootvidhootmev cha l अकष्म्बऩतधकष्म्बऩत च धूतववधुतभेव च |

Parivaahitmaadhootamvadhoottathachintamll ऩरयवधहीतभधधूतभवधूत्तथगचंतभ ||

Nihachintparavruttamutkshiptamchaapyaghootagam l र्नहधगचन्ग्त्प्रवृत्तधभुक्षऺप्तंचधप्मघुतगभ |

Lellitchetivigneyamtrayodahsvindhshirll रेल्रीतचेतीववग्नेमधम्बत्रमोदष््स्वन्ग्धभिय ||

Natyashastra -8/17-18

It is said that the eyes are a mirror to the mind of the human. Even if we don’t believe this saying, one can see that in the dance performances, the experts and exponents have paid most importance to the enactment through the eyes. Through the eyes, it is easy for one to express emotions. No performance can be called complete if it has the absence of enactment through the eyes.



Therefore, it is important to know the various sub-forms of eye- enactments.

According to the Mukhaj Abhinaya in Natyashastra, there are 36 types of eye enactments, classified under Rasa / रस (emotive), Sthyayi Bhaava / स्थायी िाव (fixed) and Sanchaari / संचारी

(communicative). According to Rasaja Drishti one can express loneliness, fear, humor, compassion, anger, valor and disgust.

Sthyayi Bhaavja Drishti / स्थायी िावजा हिम्टट denotes suspicion, wellness, kindness, cruelty, enlightenment, horror, curiosity and awe. Sanchari Bhaavaja Drishti / संचारर िावजा िम्टट conveys emptiness, corruption, coyness, tranquility, doubt, poisoning, bashfulness, liveliness, compunction, youthfulness, adolescence, innocence, anxiety, desire, disappearance, stress, intoxication, comprehending and others.

Kandtabhayanakahasyaakarunachadbhutaatatha l कन्ग््तधबमधनकधहस्मधकरुणधचद्भूतधतथध |

Roudriveera cha bibhatsaavigneyarasadrushtatall यौद्रीवीयध च त्रफबत्सधववघ्नेय्रधसदृस्ततध ||

Snigdhahrushta cha deena cha krudhadadrupttabhayaanvita l ष्स्नग्धधह्रुश्तध च दीनध च क्रुधधदधरुप्त्तधबमधष्न्ग्वतध |

Jugupitavismita cha sthayimaveshudrushtataya l जुगुवऩतधववष्स्भतध ब स्थधर्मभवेिुदृष्टतधतमध |



Shunya cha malinachaevshrantalajjanvitatathall

िुन्ग्म च भैनधचेव्श्रधरज्जष्न्ग्वत्तथध ||

Glaana cha shankittachaevvishannamukulatatha l ग्रधनध च संककत्तधचेष्व्श्विन्ग्नभुकुरतथध |

Kunchitachabhiptta cha jihwasalalitatatha l कुंगचतधचधभबप्त्तध च ष्ज्वधसरभरतधतथध |

Aakekaravikosha cha trasta cha madirathathall आकेकववाकोषध च त्रस्त च भददयधतथध ||

Shattrishaddrishtyo hot taasudatyampratishthatamll

िष्त्त्रिध्दद्रश्त्मो होत तधसुदधत्मभप्रर्तष्स्थतभ ||

Natyashastra -8/40-44

Taraputbruva is mentioned in Natyashastra as under Taraputbruvankarmgadatomeinnibodhat l

तयऩुतभ्रूवनकभागदधतोभिन्ग्नीफोधधत |

Barman valanpaatashchalansampraveshanamll फभान वधरधन्ग्ऩधतधश्चधरनसम्बप्रवेिधनधभ ||

Vivartanamsamrudhattanihkaamprakrutamtatha l वववतानभसिुधधत्तधर्न्कधभप्रकृतंतथध |




ऩुतंतभानडरधव्रुष्त्तस्तधमाब्रधभणधभसभृतभ ||

Aetaninavakarmanitaarakarmdwijyottammall एतधर्ननधवधकधभार्नतधयधकभा्ववज्मोत्तं ||

Natyashastra – 8/ 98-99 Taara karma (pupils) are used with assistance from Put (eyelids) and Bruva (eyelashes). Using these one can convey roaming, opinion, reaction, destruction, walking, consensus, behavior, referring, analyzing and other actions. Acharya Bharat has also mentioned about least eye usage activities as well. According to Acharya Bharata, equanimity, honesty, compliance, amazement, observation, analyzing, reflecting, and analyzing are all revealed through the eyes.

Put karma / ऩूट कमय : Acharya Bharata, in Natyashastra, has mentioned about Put karma while introducing Tara, which are nine in number – equanimity, appearance, disappearance, delivery, dejection, vibrant, swift, suffering and charity.

Naraganosasyanugantamputkarmanibodhata l नधयधगधनोसस्मनुगंतधम्बऩुतकभार्नफोधतध |

Unmeshachanimeshachaprasutamkunchitsamamll उन्ग्भेषचधर्नभेिधचधप्रसुतभकुंगचतसभभ ||

Vivartitamprasfuritpihitamsavitaditamll वववधर्तातभप्रस्पुरयतष्प्ऩदहतम्बससववतधडडतं ||

Natyashastra 8/111-112



Bruhkarma - there are seven types of Bruhkarma (eyebrow movements) mentioned in the Natyashastra – utaksyep, paatan, bruhkuti, chatur, kunchit, rechitandsahaj

Karyanugatmasyevbruhvao karma nibodhat l कधमधानुगत्भस्मेव्श्ब्रुहवधओ कभा र्नफोधत |

Utkshyepahapatananchaevbrukutichaturantathall उत्ऺमेऩहधऩतनधनचैव्श्भ्रुकृटीचतुनतधथध ||

Kunchitanrechitanchaevsahajanchetisaptadahll कुंगचतयेगचत्नचैवसहजनचेतीसऩतधदधह ||

Natyashastra- 8/119-120

Nasakarma- Natyashastra mentions six types of nasa karma – nataa, manda, vikrushta, sochchavasa, vikunita, swabhaviki.

Ityevam cha bruvoproktannasakarmanibodhit l इत्मेवं च ब्रुवोप्रोक्तन्ग्नसकभार्नफोगधत |

Nataamandavikrushta cha cochchavasathvikunita l नधतधभंदधववकृष्ट च कोच्चवस्थववकुर्नत्त |

Swabhavikachetibuddheyahashadviddhanaasikasmrutall स्वबधववकचेतीफुद्धेमधहिध्ववद्धनधभसकस्भृतध ||

Natyashastra- 8/130-131



Gandakarma – ganda (forehead) karma are mentioned in Natyashastra- Kshaam, pull, ghurna, kampit, sam.

Kshaam, fullam cha ghurnachakampitakunchitamsamamll

ऺधभ, पुल्रभ च घुनधाचकष्म्बऩतधकुंगचतभसधभभ ||

Shavidhgandamuddishtamasyalakshanmuchyatey l

िधववधधगंदधभुदिश्तधभधस्मरऺन्ग्भुच्मते |

Natyashastra – 8/137

Adhar karma –Natyashastra mentions six types of adhar karma- vivartan, kampan, visarg, viniguhan, sandashtakand samudaga.

Vivartanankampan cha visargaveniguhanam l वववताननकंऩन च ववसगावेनीगुहनभ |

Sandashtakamsamudag cha shatkarmanyadharasyatull संदष्टकभसभुदधग च षटकभान्ग्मधयधस्मतु ||

Natyashastra -8/142-143

Oshtakarma- Natyashastra mentions oshtakarma as under – vikunan, vivart, vepan,pampan, vinishkam, visarg, pravesh, viniguhan, sandashtak, dwijeydarsht, samudag, sahaj, unnati.



Vikunanvivartastuvepankampansmrutamll ववकुनधष्न्ग्ववतास्तुवेऩंकम्बऩनस्भृतं ||

Vinishkarmovisargastupraveshoviniguhanam l ववर्नश्कधभोवीसगधास्तुप्रवेिोववनीगुहनभ |

Sandashtakdwijeydarshtsamudangsahajonnatill संदष््क्ववजेन्ग्द्रष्टसभुदंदसहधजोंनधर्तल्र |

Natyashastra- 8/143-144

Chibuk karma- Natyashastra mentions six types of chibuk karma - kuttan, khandan, chin, chukkit, lohit, sam.

Ityoshthkarmanyuktaanichibukasyanibodhit l इत्मोष््कभान्ग्मुक्तधनीगचफुक्ष्मधर्नफोगधत |

Kattanakhandan chin chukkitlohitsamamll कत्तधनधखंदन छीन चुष्क्कत्रोदहत्सभभ ||

Dashtanchadantakriyachibukamtvihlakshyatey | दश्तधन्ग्च्दंतधकक्रमधगचफुकभतवव्रधक्ष्मते |

Natyashastra 8-/147-48

In Natyashastra, the greeva or neck is not classified either as an anga, pratyanga or upaanga. But it is important to discuss its



different forms. Some scholars count the neck as a pratyanga. In dance, delicate neck movements are indicative of adoration, feeling of love, grace and beauty. Therefore, it can be said that forms of neck movements are an important form of Angika Abhinaya.

Natyashastra mentions nine forms of greevakarma – sama, nata, unnata, tryasta, rechita, kunchita, anchita, vaitaand nivrutta.

Samanatonnatatryastarechitakunchitanchita l सभनधतोन्ग्नधतधत्र्मस्तधयेगचतधकुंगचतंगचत |

Valita cha nivrutta cha greevanavvidyarthamll वभरत च र्नवृत्त च रीवधनष्व्श्व्मथं ||

Natyashastra 8-172-173

It is imperative to use one’s hands in doing any work. Therefore, it is needless to say how important hand gestures are in any dance performance. Either to portray a person, indicate a thing or to use it for a purpose, we use hands and hand gestures in hand-dramatics or Hasta Abhinaya. The ancient texts refer it as ‘Hasta’ but today we know it as ‘Mudra’ or ‘Hasta Mudra’. They are classified in two categories – Asammyukta / असंयुक्त (performed using one hand only) hast and Samyukta /संयुक्त (performed using both hands).

Natyashastra classifies pataka, tripataka, kartarimukha, ardhachandra, aralashukatunda, mushti, shikhar, kappitha, khatakamukh, suchasya, padmakosha, sarpashirsha, mrugshirsh,



kangul, alapadma, chatur, bramara, hansasya, hansapakshaka, sandesh, mukul, urnanabh and tambrachuda as 24 asanyukta hasta and 13 sanyukta hasta as anjali, kapot, karkata, swastika, khatakavardhaman, utsanga, nishadha, dola, pushpaputa, makara, gajadant, avahitta and vardhaman.

Natyashastra -9/4-7; Natyashastra -9/8-10

Paadbhedo or different actions of the feet has a marked difference of explanation between Abhinaya Darpana and other ancient texts.

Abhinaya Darpana factors the whole leg, from thighs to toes, as a single Paadbheda outlining the actions like standing, walking, roaming, jumping. Natyashastra, Bharatarnav, Sangeetaratnakara explaining the different actions of the leg differently for each part of the leg. Other texts follow Natyashastra’s technique to observe the movements in this manner. Without these different actions, the dance is incomplete. so we mention only a few significant paadbheda:

Bharatmuni, in Natyashastra, classifies foot movements in five types – udghattit, sam, agratalsanchar, anchitandkunchit.

Udghattitsamaschaevtathagratalasancharah l उ्घष्त्तत्सभधसचैव्श्तथधरतधरधसंचधय: |

Anchitahkunchiteschaevpaadahpanchvidhsmrutahall अष्न्ग्चत्कुंगचतेस्चैव्श्ऩधदहऩनचववध्सस्भृत् ||

Natyashastra -9/266



All of these are main body parts in relation to a dance performance.

According to Vishnudharmottar Purana, it is mentioned that an artist or sculptor needs to know the fundamentals of dance art form because in his creations he is going to highlight the precise mudras/gestures of dance. It can be easily understood how vital the knowledge of these to a dancer or danseuse is. As explained earlier, all the forms indicate different articles. In all the ancient texts, there is mention of the traits and the mode of doing the process and their correct usage.

Every action performed on stage indicates our ancient stories, our prevailing environment and society’s elements. Sometimes these aspects can be portrayed easily on stage, like bow, arrow and other weapons. But one cannot show large-sized elements such as mountains, palace, jungle, etc. as they are larger than the stage.

Here, the presenter either uses the backdrop curtain as an indicator or uses some smaller props to indicate the same. Still if it is not possible to portray, then the performer relies on the bodily gestures and actions to portray the elements.

Mainly, these gestures are handier while performing a dance than a dramatic performance. Because the dancer and danseuse are portraying multiple roles, and during this time it is not possible to hold any prop or accessory permanently in one’s hands. For example, if the character is portraying both Lord Rama and Sita then the performers cannot hold a bow physically as he has to interchange between the two roles. Therefore, the performer will use shikhara / भशखर and kapittha / कपऩत्थ hand gestures to indicate learning the art



of archery. Similarly, the performer can portray big elements such as palace, mountains and jungles by use of hand gestures.

The features, usage etc. of the different forms of Angika Abhinaya are mentioned likewise in ancient texts. Using these, one can achieve successful exhibition in a dance, nrutt and dramatic performance. An appropriate knowledge and expertise of Angika Abhinaya is the true identity of an able dancer/danseuse. If the physical appearance is weak or flawed, then the dance will not be interesting. This form of flawed dance knowledge will not be successful. Therefore Angika Abhinaya’s complete and correct knowledge is compulsory for each and every danseuse.





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