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The Nritta[Part I]


The word “Nritta” comes from the root “Nata”. Bharata, Saradatanaya and Kumbhakarna have defined Nritta as one which is composed of Karana-s and Angahara-s. It has been also described as one of the components of Angika Abhinaya, Ankura, Shakha and Nritta. Abhinava Gupta regards Nritta as co-ordination of Hasta and paada kriya. What Abhinava Gupta means by Hasta and Paada kriya is the upper half from the waist and lower half from the waist.

Dhananjaya states that Nritta is talalayaashrit. Dhanik goes one step ahead and says that Nritta is devoid of Abhinaya. It is this definition that we follow today. Bharata had recognized the pure and the interpretative element in dance because when the muni-s question him that when Nritta doesn’t show the meaning or is not interpretative then what is the purpose of Nritta? Bharata says that Nritta adds beauty and grace to the whole presentation.

Nritta-Tandava and Lasya
Bharata hasn’t made the distinction of tandava and lasya according to what males or females do. Bharata uses the word Lasya in context of Lasyanga-s which are fully interpretative. Where the heroine who is in love expresses her state of mind and emotions. But in the later treatises Lasyanga was linked to a female dancer and it was more related to the angika and nritta performed by a female dancer.


In the Natyasastra the dance taught by Siva’s disciple has been termed as Tandava. Abhinava Gupta states that “Tandavam iti sarvam nrittamucyate“. Thus Abhinava Gupta means Tandava and Nritta are synonymous. He further divides them into Sukumara and Uddhata. He also states that Sukumara may have some Uddhata element and Uddhata may have some Sukumara element. Abhinava Gupta has also laid out the seven stages for the development of Nritta.

These are :

  • Shuddha Nritta which embraces Karana and Angahara or which only uses gatraviksep.
  • One which interprets the meaning of the song.
  • Nritta which involves following the music- vocal , instrumental and with percussion.
  • Uddhat Nritta or only the virile element.
  • Sukumara Nritta or the delicate element
  • Uddhat misra or where the virile is the primary and the delicate is the secondary element.
  • Sukumar misra where the delicate is the primary element and the virile is the secondary element.

Saradatanaya states that “ Nritta is one which is executed by Karana-s and Angahara-s “. He doesn’t explicitly state that Tandava and Lasya are a part of Nritta. The Gita which contains Uddhata Karana, Angahara with the Arabhati vritti is “Tandava”. No other treatise tries to include the vritti-s while explaining the elements of Nritta. He divides the Tandava into Chanda, Ucchanda and Prachanda. He defines Lasya as the Gita which contains lalit angahara in lalit laya infused with the Kaishiki vritti. Sarangdeva is very clear as to what Nritta is and what could be its divisions and it’s types. He says Nritta is movements of various parts of the body which is not suggestive of any particular meaning. He divides this into two elements Tandava and Lasya. He again makes a threefold division on the basis of its execution .

Vishama - This term embraces all the movements of the acrobats.

Vikata -This includes cross dressing as well as imitating the behavior of opposite sex.

Laghu - It embraces the execution of Karana-s and Angahara-s.

But it is Nandikeshvara who makes a compact and unique classification that covers all the aspects of Nritta present in our ancient treatises. He divides it into two - Tandava and Lasya and again further making a division of these into two - Margi and Deshi Nritta. Under the margi category of Lasya is Shuddha Lasya. Nandikeshvara doesn’t define what is Shuddha Lasya and directly lays down the deshi types. The deshi type has been classified into five types. These look more like the popular forms prevalent in those times.

Perani - The dancer paints his whole body white, with hairs untied and wearing the dancing bells on his knees. It has been specifically stated that he should make delicate movements and therefore it has been included in the Lasya and not Tandava element. Perani has following steps for its performance.
Gharghara - This is the performance relating to the sounding of the dancing bells. It involves the various types of stamping foot movements to sound the dancing bells.
Vishama Lakshana - This includes the performance of acrobatic movements. Sarangdeva has also termed as the movements of an acrobat as Vishama.
Bhavashraya Lakshana - Interpreting the song.
Kavicar Laksana - Praising the Nayaka in the Geeta.
Kundali–Gondali, again a deshi form has been called as Kundali . Where the Perani was performed by male dancer and Gondali is performed by a female dancer. Gondali seems to be a much refined form than Perani . In the beginning Dhruva , Salag and Sudaga prabandha-s are sung. Then the instruments are played , which is termed as Melapaka and the dancer then plays an instrument called Trivali . When the dancer doesn’t sing or play instruments it has been termed as Mukagondali.

Where Perani and Gondali mostly performed as solo, there were group presentations also which have been recorded. Prenkhani and Dandalasya are examples of folk forms.

Prenkhani – It includes Karan-s, Bhramari-s, Cari-s and such virile steps in a circular form. They walk on ropes, play with knifes and various arms. People of Kollatika tribe perform this Nritta . But it is Nandikeshvara who makes a compact and unique classification that covers all the aspects of Nritta present in our ancient treatises.
Dandalasya – It is like the Raas played in Gujarat, where women in groups play with wooden sticks.
Kalashalasya - In Jayamangal tala the Kalas dance is performed which includes ‘garudapluta Karana’ and ‘edakakridita cari’

Web Source: http://www.nadanam.com/articles/a_nritta.htm

Kalakendra.com : May 13, 2006, 1:13 pm