Dr Gowthami Kandrapeta
There are several styles of music and Carnatic music has been prominent among them. Carnatic music has its origin and development in South India. In India, culture including classical music is believed to be a divine art form. Music is considered to be Nadabrahman. The rich cultural heritage of music in India can be seen from the fact that Sama Veda is believed to have laid the foundation for Indian classical music. Samaveda consists of hymns from the Rigveda, set to musical tunes and would be rendered using three to seven musical notes during Vedic yajnas. Indian classical music emanated as a genre of South Asian music and by the sixteenth century evolved into two distinct forms – Hindusthani music and Carnatic music. Carnatic music is distinguished from Hindusthani music in the features that the Carnatic performances are short and composition-based. The roots of Indian performing arts, both music and dance, can be found in the ancient treatise, Natya Sashta, the authorship of which is attributed to Bharata Muni. Indian music traditions, including Carnatic, are largely based on the 13th-century Sanskrit text Sangeeta-Ratnakara of Sarangadeva.
India has been the home of a rich cultural heritage and performing arts, particularly music, poetry and dance flourished. The roots of Indian performing arts, both music and dance, can be found in the ancient treatise, Natya Sastra, the authorship of which is attributed to Bharata Muni. Indian performing arts, have flourished mainly based on tradition. Tradition is something that has been “used by people in a particular group, family, etc for a period of time” and includes “beliefs, behaviour etc. passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past”. Indian scenario was characterized by the oral tradition of learning and teaching and the existence of a teacher-disciple system (Guru-sisya parampara). In Indian tradition, artistic creation was primarily a means of realizing a Universal Being. Creation was a spiritual exercise. The artist intuitively knows the truth and transmits it to the audience through his art. Aesthetic experience was considered secondary to this experience of absolute bliss. Aesthetics and religion came under the realm of spirituality. Reverence to the guru was an essential ingredient in the Indian tradition. Tanjore Quartet (who re-structured the Bharatanatyam) carried forward the tradition they got from their guru and also established innovation and improvisation. This article delves of Bharatanatyam as an intrinsically inclusive Performing art, The work is based on the study of palm leaves, library sources and interviews with experts in the field.
Bharatanatyam is a popular dance form, it flourished by the name of Sadir in the temples of Chola Nadu (Ancient Tamilnadu). Temple dancers or Devadasis used to perform during temple rituals and special occasions. Sadir was mostly patronized and financed by the temple Dharmakarthas and Mirasidars. This system was in practice until the early 20th century when strong protests against the devadasi system (anti-Natch) led to it being outlawed. The dance form has since transformed with the reduction of erotic symbolisms and movements evolving to the current form of Bharatanatyam.
The Highest place among all the fine arts has been given to Dance. Vishnudharmottara Purana an Ancient treatise, says that “Art conduces to fulfilling the aims of life, whose ultimate aim is Release (Moksha)… the king desires to learn the whole meaning of Art, but is told that he must first know the theory of Dancing… [the king] shall neither being by studying music and song for without knowledge of all the arts, their effect in space and time cannot fully be understood nor their purpose be achieved”.
Bharatanatyam is closely linked with emotions. It resembles a perfect harmony between classical music and bodily movement. Its objective can be summed up as the creation of different moods in the minds of the spectators. The concept of Abhinaya evolved, whereby through suggestion, the thoughts and feelings of characters about their causes and effects were communicated. An uncanny impression is transmitted to the spectators by remarkable modes of progression. The Abhinaya Darpana (mirror of gesture) states that
Yato Hasta Stato Drusti Yato Drusti Stato Manaha |
Yato Mnaha Stato Bhava Yato Bhava Stato Rasaha ||
“Wherever the hands go, there the eyes should follow. Wherever the eyes go, there the mind, wherever the mind goes, there the feeling, wherever the feeling goes, there the mood (rasa) or flavour is found”.
Bharatanatyam comprises two main components, the first one is Nritta (the technical aspect) and the second one is Abhinaya (the emotional aspect). Nritta uses body movements without any meaning to convey. Most of the movements of the Angas (limbs) have been described in Bharata’s Natyashastra which is the earliest codification of Indian dance, drama and music. Abhinaya uses a combination of codified hand gestures and facial expressions, sometimes stylized, otherwise natural, to transform the written script into dance. Ritualistic gestures, known as Mudras, indicate gestures in dancing and in acting. A Mudra is a very artistic representation of holding the hands and fingers to indicate a particular meaning. Abhinaya is most effective when the accompanying music is modulating according to the mood and movement of the dance. The combination of Nritta and Abhinaya is Nritya, or dance, that includes body movement together with the portrayal of emotions. In practice, it is the expression of words by the different parts of the body including major and minor limbs as well as subsidiary limbs. Without expression, the hand Movements and gestures alone will be unable to bring forth the exact meaning of the situation. For example, anger and love can share the same hand gesture. To distinguish between the two, the facial expression must differ.
Nritta, can be divided into Cari, Karana, Nrittahastas and Mandala. One leg movement is called Cari. The movement of two legs is known as Karana, the combination of 4 to 9 karanas is called Angahara, and the combination of 4 to 5 Nrittahastas constitutes a Mandala. The main Technique of Nritta for dance rests on the study of the ‘Adavus’. The word Adavu is derived from Telugu language ‘adu’, meaning beat of the foot. Dr Kanaka Rele defined Adavu in her book “Handbook of Indian Classical Dance Technology” as “The basic rhythmic unit of dance within a specific tempo and structure that involves composite movements pertaining to Nrtta”.
According to Dr. Padma Subramanyam in an interview with Sruthi Magazine, the Adavu structure is followed by oral tradition. The Adavu counting depends on the guru’s style and contribution. The surprising thing is Sage Bharatamuni, the author of Natya Sastra, has not mentioned anything about Adavu in his book. However, he mentioned about 108 Karanas (simultaneous movement of hands and feet) in the fourth chapter. Karanas are combinations of four elements, Sthanas (Specific Posture), Caris (the cumulative movement of the feet, shanks, thighs and hips), Mandalas (position of Standing) and Nrtta Hasthas (Hand gestures employed in pure dance). The combination of these four elements, (Sthanas, Caris, Mandalas, Nrtta Hastas) is Adavu. This system is followed by an oral tradition, known as Sollukattu. Each Adavu is identified by a rhythmic phrase.
Maratha King Tulaja-I, the famous author of ‘Sangeeta Saramrutha’, a Sanskrit text which is an exceptional disquisition on music. Apart from music, this book also contains a separate chapter on dance as ‘Nritta Prakaranam’, which describes the qualities of Naty Mandapam, Sabhanayaka and Patras. Srama Vidhi is another section, which contains the Telugu and Tamil terms of the Sanskrit Adavus or dance units. He derived ‘Adavu’ in Telugu, ‘Adithal’ in Tamil, and ‘Kuttanam’ in Sanskrit. He states in one sloka, the names of Adavus in his Sangeeta Saramrutha (Shramavidhi).
Vilambadi Prabhedena Tadevavartate Punah Udaharanam:|
Theyyathai iti Nikhaya Parshnimekaikam Prithakpadena Tadanam||
Sa Patakakaranvitam syat Khanatapadakuttanam|
This description of the Tattadavu provides a Sanskrit equivalent Sama Kuttanam, Kannatha Paada Kuttanam (Kudichimettadavu), Parswa Kuttanam (Nattadavu), Santadya Parswa Kuttanam (Tattu mettadavu) and Mrudhu Sparsanam.
The Tanjore Quartet Chinnayya, Ponnayya, Sivanadam and Vadivelu, produced a precise Sollukattu (vocabulary) for the Adavus (technique). This adavu system was developed for beginners, which was similar to Saralisavaras of Karnatic music. They also improvised and developed the model of the pattern of present-day Bharatanayam. For this dance recital (Margam) they contributed many compositions. The repertoire ((Margam) consists of Melaparapti, Pushpanjali, Alarippu, Jatiswaram, Sabdam, Varnam, Padam, Javali and Tillana.
For this Bharatanatya repertoire, they composed many number of items like many Jathiswarams, 20 Sabdams in Misra Chapu Talam, 50 Varnams in Roopakam and Adi Talam, and 15 Swarajathis. For each Varnam and Swarajathi there were Sahityam in Tamizh or Tamil, Sanskrit and Telugu. They have also composed 10 Dwadasha Ragamalikai consisting of 12 ragas, also numerous Padams, Javalis and Thillanas. According to the present situation, Padams and Javalis of Tanjore Quartetes are not popular when compared to Padavarnams, Jatiswarams, Swarajatis and Tillanas. Hence in all respects, Tanjore Quartette were the front ranker in the systematisation of the present-day Bharatanatyam. Religiously following this graceful dance with devotional and optimistic aspects pertaining to growth, enhancement, enrichment and existence to keep alive our traditions and cultures and preserve our richly woven heritage. Therefore, this dance form has to be preserved at any cost.
Abhipurvastu Nin Dhatu Rabhimukhyartha Nirnaye |
Yasmat Prayogam nayati Tasmadabhinaya Smrutaha||
Vibhavayati Yasmaca Nnardhanvi Prayogata|
Shakangopanga Samyuktha Sthasma Abhinaya Smruthaha||
The Abinaya is an aspect of supper dramatic expression to imaginative perfection. A Sanskrit term, ‘Abhinaya’ literally means, “to carry towards” (the prefix ‘abhi’ means ‘towards’ and the root ‘ni’ means ‘to carry’). Thus carrying an idea towards the spectator or in short to educate is “Abhinaya“. ‘Abhinaya Darpanam’ mentions that the actors educate the spectator by stimulating in him the latent possibility of aesthetic experience. Thus, Abhinaya is necessarily a representation, which is able to suggest or present the psychological status of characters in a dramatic representation or in dance.
Schwartz Susan mentioned about Abhinaya, “Abhinaya is the drama of dance”. The artist projects this drama as bhava. The audience experiences rasa as a result. Rasa is not a personal sentiment, but an individual expression employed as a vehicle of communication.
Abhinaya is not just performing the actions but carrying out gestures or actions, expressions in such a way that the spectators receive the aesthetic pleasure out of it and enjoy it. Abhinaya has also been defined as “movements for suggesting Rasa and Bhaava (psychological state)”. For this reason, the word Abhinaya, may be said to disclose to the spectators the beauty or manifold pleasurable aspects of the play by means of words, gestures and costumes.
Abhinaya has three branches and four elements, three branches are Shka-Anga-Upanga, which fulfil thematic and dramatic expression. Angikabhinaya is giving gestures or expression through the body, Vachikabhinayam is expression through speech, song or conversation. Aaharyabhinayam, is an expression through decoration, ornament, garments and hand properties, and the fourth is an important element which includes followed by every artist Satwikabhinayam, is an expression through philosophic or mental or the influence mind. The artist expresses the major elements of life “Mano-Vakk-Kaya” (Mental-Spech-Physical). All the worldly life constitute of the above elements, thus the artist learnt ‘Trividhabhinaya’, Angika-Vachika-Satwika, when the artist comes on to the stage has to express them with a certain decoration and devices. Therefore, Aaharya places an important role in giving perfection to the thrividabhinaya. Hence these are known as ‘Caturvidabhinaya’.
The first attraction after the curtain wave off is the appearance of artist, sighted by the audience, through that of Aaharyabhinaya, that only the audience can guess, what role he/she going to portray’s like Rama, Krishna etc, This makes Aaharya the first attraction for the audience. Later during the performance, the body movements and physical expressions reveal the significance of his/her role. Next is the speech or narratives, which fulfil the communication. In all these Abhinayas the central theme of the performance depends on the Satwikabhinaya, which explains the physical theme of the performance, the importance of Satwikabhinaya was expressed with an example of dance performance by Nandikeshwara, “Yato Hasta Stato… Bhava Stato Rasaha || Not only his vision but also his mind has to be concentrated on the hand, not only his hand vision and mind that his total body has to be expressive. All the elements get the impression of the audience to a message, which is philosophical. Therefore, the artist should concentrate on all elements with the following four Abinayas, which are.
Angiko Vaciko Tadwaharyah Satwiko Aparah|
Caturdhabhinayah Tatra Cangiko Angaih Nidarsitah||
Vacaviracitah Kavya Nataka disu Vacikha|
Aharyo Hara Keyura Veshadibhiralamkrtah||
Satwika Bhavaih Bhavajnena Vibhavitah|n
“Abhinaya is four fold, Aangika (Physical), Vaachika (Verbal), Aaharya (Dress, make-up), Satwika (Temperamental-inner feelings)”.
The expression and themes of a performer with physical rather than body movements, is called Angikabhinayam, Due to the expression of the body the organs were divided into three types, Anga (Head, Hands, Chest, Waist, Bottom, Legs and Neck) Pratyanga (Shoulders, Arms, Stomach, Thighs, Knees, Wrist, Elbow, and Ankles) Upaanga (Sight, Eyebrow, Eyelids, Eyeballs, Cheeks, Nose, Gum, Lower lip, Teeth, Tongue, Chin, Face, Heels, Fingers, Feet and palms)
Vachika is the body of the dance. Sometimes Vakku (speech) gives the total impression of the dance. Thus, the Vachika is the fundamental part of the performance, the other three abhinayas (Angika, Aharya, Satwika) are explained through the performer’s body. The Vachika (Speech) comes from the Vocalist, but the speech or Vachika gives total control and life to the performance. Also, Sage Bharata mentioned in the 19th chapter of his Natya Sastra Ethivrutam (Vachika) is the Body of Natya. Vachika is the speech, that links the other abhinayas for example, a dance performance without song and speech, a drama without dialogue is unexplained. In some performances the loss of speech or infrastructure and other supporting things, like electricity drama or dance are not watchable. Vachikabhinya is eleven types. Bashabedamulu, Vyakarnam, Chandassu, Lakshanamu, Alamkaramulu, Gunamulu, Doshanamu, Samabhudhividanamu, Namavidanamu, Viramam, Kakuswarm and Vyamjanam.
The word ‘Satwika’ stems that is from the Sanskrit word “Satwa” (purity), it is a synthesis of a man’s mental status of sorrow, joy, moody, arrogant, peace, grace, etc, to express all these feelings on stage, the required status is called Satwa or Satwika. As Sage Bharatamuni defined in Natya Sastra, the activities of humans are either joy or sorrow, and are the centre of the world. When they are expressed in physical and mental moods (Angikabhinaya), it is called Natyam.
When Satwika is sleeping rather than resting or in a buried status it is called ‘Avyoktarupa’. Sometimes a man’s mind may not be in his control, that stage is called ‘Anyamanastha’. When a man’s mind is in his own control, he acquires control over all the senses, at that stage of ‘Paripoornamanskta’ or Shwoca. The man acts according to his mental control not to the mood or happenings around him. When the performer is in the Avyaktaswabava, he would bring Rasasidhi to the performance, so satwa is the linchpin to natya. The abhinaya, which is involve with satwa, is called Satwikabinaya. The 6th chapter of Bharata’s Natya Sastra explains that
Rasa bhava abhinaya : dharmee vritipravritaya:/
Sidhi: swarastathodyam gaanam ragnyascha sangraha://
Natya Sastra is a composition of Rasa, Bhava, Abhinaya, Dharmi, Vrtti, Pravrtti, Siddi, Swara, Athodya, Gana, and Ragas. Among them, the first priority is given to Rasas. The term Rasa means “taste or enjoy”, fluid, alcoholic, juice, or liquids of a fragrance or taste. In the Bharatas Natyasastra, he propounded eight Rasas, Srungara (erotic), Hasya (comic), Karuna (pathetic), Roudra (furious), Veera (heroic), Bhayanaka (terrible), Bibhatsa (odious), Adbhta (marvellous) later Santa (peace) was also added according to the sthayibavas. The satisfaction of senses and moods is important for a dance performance, because when somebody dances with certain theme, that should reflect in their dance and the audience should feel what they are doing. It is important on the part of audience to acquire rasa sidihi, because it shows how much they have grasped or felt according to the performance of artist. If the audience fail to reach to that, grab raped attention of the audience. The Rasa sidhi is equal to that of eating a delicious meal with all curries. The performance of an artist also should produce navarasa in the audience’s mind and hearts.
This dance form as a pure offering of art at the feet of the divinity is considered the best path to reach the almighty and attain true wisdom. To enable man to attain the supreme and gain valuable knowledge, this intimate relationship between religion and dance has necessitated their co-existence. Due to this synergistic relationship, dance for centuries with its religious fervour has been nurtured, within the seared precents of the temple. So, this pure form of dance (art) symbolises true values, our rich traditions and cultures, attaining spiritual knowledge and being close to the supreme, showcases the path of discipline, virtues, potential, coordination, grace and charm with a hue of colours, bringing out emotions beautifully, cultivating patience, developing an understanding with the surroundings, feeling close to nature, providing valuable messages through Natya and fascinating and gorgeous facial expressions.
Therefore, this dance form signifying the enrichment of our priceless values and principles should flourish more and reach one and all, attaining great height and leading a path to success.
Dr Gowthami Kandrapeta
Ph.D. in Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam Teacher cum Performer
Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre
Embassy of India, Kathmandu.