Abhinaya – The medium of Aesthetic communication

by Sonali on May 17, 2012

tulasiramachandra bharatanatyamThe word “Abhinaya” is derived from the root phrase “Ni”, which means to conduct or carry, with the preposition “abhi” meaning towards. According to conventional shlokas, the root “Ni” with the preposition abhi, gives the word Abhinaya, whcih means to carry the performance towards the audience.

Abhinaya consists of the musical accompaniment which includes poetry, lyrical or narrative, which is set to music and rhythm.

There are 2 ways of Abhinaya – Natyadharmi and Lokadharmi. Natyadharmi is dramatic whereas lokadharmi is realistic in nature. In Natyadharmi form dancer follows the rules of the stage, for instance, use of dance and drama or walking in a dramatic or appealing way etc. Lokadharmi has no drama invpolved, it is performed by simple acting and with the natural demeanour.Use of expressions is not profound.

Lord Shiva is praised as the representation of the 4 types of Abhinaya in the following shloka:

“Angikam bhuvanam yasya,
Vachikam sarva vangmayam,
Aharyam chandra taradi,
Tam vande satvikam sivam.”

Meaning of Shloka:

“We bow to Him the kindhearted One
Whose arms are the world,
Whose song and poetry are the essence of all languages,
Whose costume is the moon and the stars…”

The description of the NATARAJA :

He holds the drum of creation in his right hand indicating a new awakening
He holds fire in his left hand indicating destruction of all the odds
His right hand is raised for blessings and he points the other left hand to his left foot, which has crushed the demon Muyalaka who indicates ignorance.
There are 4 kinds of Abhinaya:

  •  Angika Abhinaya : It comprises of the various physical expressions.The six main body parts are called as angas.

They are as follows :
In Angika Abhinaya above mentioned body parts are used.

  •  Vachika Abhinaya:Vachika Abhinaya is the abhinaya of speech, jesture and emotions.It comprises of the Four Vrittis. They are as follows:

Bharati Vritti : This is the style in which prominence is given to speeches made in Sanskrit.
Sattvati Vritti: Sattvati Vritti is supported by the quality of Sattva [vigour] and where there is nyaya [justice] and good  behaviour, where there is enthusiasm of joy and it is devoid of shoka [sorrow] is Sattvati Vritti.
 Kaisiki Vritti: This vritti is one where the artists are  mostly wemen, wearing colourful costumes in a charming way and where they dance with lots of music and the story is of love and joy.

Arabhati Vritti: Here, one finds daring[of a wrong kind] in the form of deceit, fraud, falsehood etc.

  • Aharya Abhinaya: It is performed by wearing garlands, ornaments and costumes on different parts of the body according to custom and tradition.Ear rings, girdles and arm bands, anklets and necklaces are the 4th type .
  •  Satvika Abhinaya:It is the most important yet the most difficult mode of expression.”SAT” means mind.It is the outcome of the phsycological state of mind.An important aspect is characterisation, wherein the dancer must feel various situations and mentally get involved in them.

These basic techniques of Abhinaya are uniformly applicable to all styles of Indian Classical Dance. The movements vary and the fundamental postures are different and distinctive.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. TulasiRamachandra May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm

write up on Abhinaya is good, has prilimnary informations ,usefull to the practitioners.
Body language is very important aspect for ‘abhinaya’ which is refined only by an exhaustive study and practice of ‘angikabhinaya’. The usage of major and minor limbs combined with ‘satvikabhinaya’ can depict the necessary expression hidden in a given lyrics ,situation or an incident.
This type of teaching should be given from the primary level to the students.


sonali May 18, 2012 at 5:57 am

Thanks for the insightful response. I will try to expand the concept of Body Language and Abhinaya further.


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