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Abhinaya is the main technique used in Natya. Abhi means towards and ni or Naya is the root meaning to
carry. Thus as the meaning implies the dancer through the vehicle of Abhinaya has to reach out to the
spectators. It is an inseparable component of Natya.
Lets see how Natya is related to Abhinaya. Natya has got six elements namely:
1. Nritta (Pure dance)
2. Geeta (Song
3. Abhinaya (Gestures)
4. Tala (Rhythm)
5. Bhava (Emotions)
6. Rasa (sentiment)
Natyshastra says that Abhinaya is the art of exhibiting the meaning of what one depicts. The dancer
has an enormous resource bank toCOMMUNICATE a story, an idea, an emotion. She uses her body,
her limbs, hands, face, 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 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 Dhrishtihi
Yatho Dhrishtisto Manaha
Yatho Manatato Bhavaha
Yatho Bhavastato Rasaha
It says
Where the Hands go, the Eyes should follow
Where the Eyes go, the Mind should follow

Where the Mind goes, the Emotions are generated

Where the Emotions are generated, Sentiment arises.
A good dancer needs to evoke the sentiment of the audience by following the essence of this verse. I feel
it not only applies to Dance, but also to every actions of our daily life. It means that if our heart is
present where our head and hands are working the outcome would be outstanding. Just give it a

Further Abhinaya is divided into


Angikabhinaya (Bodily gestures),

2. Vachikabhinaya (verbal like song),

3. Aaharyabhinaya (ornamental description)
4. Sattvikaabhinaya (depiction of mental state of mind )
Before we move on to the explanation of different Abhinayas I would like to share a popular shloka
(poetic verse) in praise of lord Shiva who is said to be the embodiment of these four Abhinayas. The
dancing Avatar of Lord Shiva is called the Nataraja (The king of Dance).
Angikam Bhuvanam Yasya
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:
Angikabhinaya, Vachikabhinaya, Aharyaabhinaya, Sattvikabhinaya.
1.Angika Abhinaya 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 certain meaning. Hasta
Abhinaya is an important aspect of Angika. Here body is divided into three major parts the Anga,
Pratyanga and Upanga.
1.The six Angas are Siras (head), Hasta (hand), Vaksas (chest), Parsva (sides), Katitata (hips), Pada
(leg). Some consider Griva (neck) to be the seventh.

2.There are six Pratyangas Skandha (shoulders), Bahu (arms), Prstha (back), Udara (stomatch),
Uru(calves), Jangha (shanks). Some consider Manibandha (wrist), Kurpara (elbows) and Janu (knees)
also as Pratyanga.
3.There are twelve Upangas or minor parts of the Siras or face which are important for Mukharaga or
facial expression. These are Drsti(eyes), Bhru (eye-brows), Puta (pupil), Kapola (cheek), Nasika
(nose), Adhara (jaws), lips, teeth, tongue, chin and face.
2. Vachika Abhinaya is the expression through speech. It is done with the help literature such as
poems and dramatics. The Natyashastra writes in detail about the different meters in poetry, strong and
week 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 a very
important role in creating the mood and emotion of the song. It is also very important in bringing out
proper tala while dancing.

3. The Aharya aspect of Abhinaya involves the make-up and costumes, ornaments, use of specific
colours, hair-styles as well as dress code for particular characters. Aharya also includes the stage props
and decor. A bharatanatyam costume involves its typical dress
which is either the Payjama style or the Sari style. The ornaments used are the 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 orGOLD and stones), waist belt,
and Chilangai or the Gungroos (the bells tied to the feet), flowers for the hair.
Compared to other classical dances Kathakali gives a lot of importance to Aharya. In Kathakali, a
symbolic use of costumes and make-up is made to create a larger than life image in order to project the
magnificent characters of the epics like Mahabharata. In Kathakali theatre, dominant colours of makeup like green, black, red are used symbolically to show different types of characters. 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 mentioned as the fourth kind of Abhinaya which is the most important aspect
of Abhinaya. Sattva in sanskrit means Pure or real. Thus this kind of Abhinaya can be interpreted as
one that is real and natural. They are very subtle feelings that we experience (like horripilation,
perspiration or tears etc) . It can be expressed only if it is really heart felt. Sattvika Abhinaya are the
feelings created in the mind that are externally projected by Angika and Vachika. This Abhinaya is also
called as Psycho-Physical representation by some writers. Lets see what are the different Sattvika
Abhinayas And its importance.
There are eight Sattvika Abhinayas
1. Stambha means Motionless or numbness because of a shock
2. Swedha is perspiration
3. Romancha is Horripilation . It is experienced when mind is excited and hair on the body stand
4. Ashru is to be in tears

5. Vepathu is Shivering
6. Pralaya to faint out of shock
7. Vaivarnya is a change of skin complexion like to be Red in Anger .
8. Swarabhaga is change in the voice tone due to over emotions.
All the eight Sattvikas mentioned are not actually bhavas or emotions but they are a sort of reactions
seen usually at a height of an emotional experience. For example perspiration and tears cannot be
enacted like the other bhavas of anger or sorrow. These reaction follow a particular emotion. If we are
very happy or too depressed, tears flow. Sometimes we also experience change in the voice tone (as
unable to speak with joy). It is easy to experience Sattvikas in real life but to express them in the unreal
world of Natya requires total concentration, knowledge of human mind and technical skill on the part of
the actor or Dancer. Thus Sattvika can be called the physical reaction of the mind motivated by acute
emotions, which requires the actor to be one with the character. Without Sattvika, Angika and Vacika
Abhinaya will become lifeless and ineffective.