Dancers of Bharatnatyam play the roles of Nayika Bhava, Ashtanayika Bhavas, Nayaka Bhava, Pati, Upapatni, Vaisika, Daasi, Sakhi etc. There are some other characters also, which are played by the dancers.
1. The Nayika (Heroine) Bhava: The shastras have classified the basic mental status of woman, the Nayika, into eight divisions, called Ashtanayika bhavas. These divisions portray the heroine in different situations; express different feelings, sentiments & reactions.
The Ashtanayika Bhavas:
Abhisarika - She is the one who boldly goes out to meet her lover.
Kalahantarika - She is the one who is repenting her hastiness in quarrelling with her lover, which has resulted in their seperation.
Khandita - She is the one who is angry with her lover for causing disappointments.
Proshitapathika - She is the one who is suffering in the absence of her beloved, who is away on a long journey.
Swadheenapathika - She is the one who is proud of her husbands or beloved's love and loyalty.
Vasakasajjika - She is the one who is preparing for the arrival of her beloved, by decorating herself and her surroundings, to provide a pleasant welcome to her lover.
Virahotkantita - She is the one who is separated from her lover & is yearning for reunion.
Vipralabda - She is the one who is disappointed that her lover has not turned up at the tryst as he promised.
Other classifications of the Nayika bhava:
Mugdha - Inexperienced in love.
Madhya - Partly Experienced in love.
Pragalbha - Matured in the art of love
Sweeya - Married & faithful to her husband.
Parakeeya - Married but in love with another man.
Samanya - A free woman, who truly belongs to any man for a price.
Jyeshta - The preferred one.
Kanishta - The other woman.
Uttama - Self-controlled & tolerant.
Madhyama - Literally the middle one, who gives as she gets.
Adhama - Literally the low one, who has no self-restraint.
The Companion to the Nayika plays an important role in any padam, javali or Ashtapadi. This Companion is the one to whom the Nayika will convey her feelings, she is the one who will take the message, if any, from the nayika to the nayaka, she is the one who will sort out the differences between the nayika & the nayaka. This companion is usuallly a girl who is close to the Nayika.
Classification of the Companion is as follows:
Daasi - Servant
Sakhi - Friend
Kaaroo - Woman from a lower caste
Chatriya - Step Sister
Prativamshini - Neighbour
Lindini - Saint
Shilpani - Artist
Swaa - Nayika herself as a messenger
2. The Nayaka Bhava
Just like the heroines, the moods and emotions of the hero are also classified into different divisions. The main division is
Dheerodaatta eg. Lord Rama
Dheeroddhata eg. Demon Ravana
Dheeralalita eg. Vatsaraaja
Dheerashanta eg. Buddha
The Other Classifications:
Pati - Married & faithful to his wife.
Upapati - Married but in love with another woman.
Vaisika - One who pays & enjoys women.
Further Nayaka Classifications:
Anukoola - Faithful to the Woman. eg. Lord Rama
Dakshina - Loves all his wives or women. eg. Arjuna
Drishta - When rejected pleads to be accepted by his woman. eg. Vaali
Shatha - The deceitful one. eg. Lord Krishna
The Nayaka experiences most of the ashtanayika bhavas also though the depiction of ashtanayika is more than the nayaka. Nayakas Companion plays an important role too.
In the ancient scriptures, a professional dancer was called "patra". The AbhinayaDarpana has a sloka that describes Patra Prana Dasha Smrutaha- the ten essential qualitiess of the professional dancer:
Rekhacha (graceful lines)
Bhramari(balance in pirouettes)
Shramaha (hard work)
Vacho (good speech)
Geetam (singing ability)
Bharathanatyam is an attempt to embody the divine beauty, charm, rhythms and symbols that exist in heaven. Bharathanatyam is a means of spiritual elevation both for the dancer and the audience.
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