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Nayak And Nayikas in Kathak

An important feature of the Nritya aspect of Kathak dance is the Nayak-Nayika Bheda, or the distinction between the male and the female characters. Read more...

Readers are enclouraged to read the following link on our website which has illustrations of how various Nayeeks are depicted in Kathak.

Types of Nayikas

Gauri Jog explains types of female characters in Kathak Bharatnatyam dance such as Vasakasajja, Svadhinabhartrika, Kalabantarita, Virahotkanthita, Khandita, Vipralabdha etc

Kathak Exponent Gauri Jog depicting VirahotkanthitaThe most essential quality of a dancer is his or her natural appearance. One's individual or god-gifted appearance can undoubtedly be made more beautiful and attractive by make up, dress and ornaments. Natural appearance of a dancer is the keynote of his success. Natural appearance or handsomeness or prettiness by birth does not only mean fair complexion, but healthy, proportionate, well-built, attractive body. Beautiful nose, lips, eyes, face, height, teeth, fingers etc are the basic ingredients of a beautiful physique. Ordinary height, thin lips, big eyes, long and thin fingers etc. are the characteristic feature of a handsome body.

A beautiful body is not the criterion of a dancer. He or she should be healthy and free from any disease. Dancing is a good exercise for health. So an unhealthy dancer is unable to do the strenuous exercise meant for dancing. Hence the second quality of a dancer is healthy body.

Besides good appearance and healthy body the dancer should have training from a good teacher. The dancer's guru must be a proficient dancer and an expert trainer. The dancer's success largely depends on his or her dancing education received from a good teacher.

The dancer must do Riaz, or constant practice of the art, or whatever he or she has learnt from his or her guru. Laya plays a prominent part in Nritya. So a dancer should be Layadaar, that is to say, he or she should not commit any mistake in rhythm and time beats, for which he or she has to practice regularly with the help of tabla and pakhawaj.

A dancer, in addition, should not be addicted to any intoxication. Introxicated dancer is apt to lose his or her established fame.

The dancer should also be self-confident, and should have reliance on his or her training and knowledge of dancing, attained after vigorous labor. A dancer, when he or she loses confidence on the stage is invariably booed and derided by the onlookers.

The Parhant system or the practice of reciting bols by the dancer on the stage with claps on the time beats is traditional. Good recitation conveys clearly the intricacies of the bols to the audience. A dancer's recitation should be forceful and attractive.

The Sanskrit treatises on literature and dance have drawn a number of distinctions between male and female characters according to their respective attitudes and temperaments. This distinction is known as Nayak-Nayika Bheda. The earliest work giving a reference to this distinction is undoubtedly Bharata's Natra Shasrta (2nd century A.D., it was composed in the last quarter of the 10th century A.D. during the reign of Munja, Vaakpatiraja II, the king of Malwa). Later on, scholars gave much more importance and discussed at great length the Nayak-Nayika Bheda in literature and dramaturgy. During the Moghul period, an account of the licentious characters of the Muslim kings, Nawabs and chiefs, unhealthy elements were introduced in the female roles, prompting the literatures to incorporate certain coquettish sentiments and amorous writings in their works. These writers also took the help of certain old books and apparently wrongly attributed an improper meaning to them. They cited Kalidasa's Kumar Sambhawom and Jaideva's Git Govinda, without actually realizing their spiritual, devotional and artistic qualities.

The significant and major limb of Kathak possesses Rasa and Bhava which have close bearing on the Nayak-Nayika temperaments.Gauri Jog showing Nayika Proshitabhartrika

Man has been divided into three categories, according to his qualities and temperaments and those three divisions are Uttam (best), Madhyam (mediocre) and Adham, (base). An Uttam person speaks the truth, behaves well, is learned, large and kind hearted, ready to sacrifice comfort and pleasures, reserved by nature, always eager to help others and can control his senses. Madhyam persons are well-behaved, clever, and experts in arts and crafts. The last category includes persons of low types, wicked, mischievous, ill-mannered, deceitful, angry, jealous, proud, passionate sinful, negligent, harmful and men of evil design.

According to religion there are three types of Nayaks, Pati, Upapati and Vaishik. Pati or a married husband, has been divided into five classes :- Anakul (favorable), Dakshin (clever and dextrous, Dhrishta (impertinent), Shatha (dishonest) and Anabhigna (inexperienced). Upapati or a paramour has been divided into two classes. Those who are Vaak Chatur or cunning in talks and Kriya Chatur or cunning in action. Vaishik or a person who makes elopement with a prostitute has been classified in two groups : rnaani and proshit: proud and staying in a foreign country respectively.

Bharata in his Natya Shatra has enumerated five types of men with regard to their love affairs (Kamitantra) in chapter 25 (Slokas 53-63). Bharata says that with reference to their dealings (lit. application) with women, they are of five types such as "excellent" (chatur, lit. clever), "Superior" (Uttama), "Midling" (Madhyama), "inferior" (Adhama) and "too old" (Sampravriddlm). (Slokas 53 and 54).

A man is known to be "excellent", when he is sympathetic, able to endure hardship, skilled in pacifying anger in connection with love, expert in sexual acts and is honest. (Sloka 55)

A man is to be known as superior, when he does not do anything displeasing, is exalted (Dhirodaatta), sweet tongued, dignified and knows thoroughly the mysteries of (human) feelings (lit. heart). One who is sweet (in manners), munificent and feels love, but is not overcome by passion, and when insulted by a woman gets disgusted with her, is (to be known as) a "superior" man. (Slokas 56 and 57).

A man who takes in every way the (emotional) states of a woman with calmness and is disgusted with her on discovering any fault of her, is to be known as "middling" (Sloka 58).

A man who makes a gift in proper time, does not have much anger even when he is insulted, but on discovering her art of deceit gets disgusted with a woman, is to be known as middling (Sloka 59).

A man who shamelessly approaches a woman with a steadfast love even when she has insulted him and loves her more strongly in spite of a friend's advice to the contrary even when he has come to know of her deceit is to be known as "inferior" (Slokas 60 and 61).

A man who does not care for fear or anger, is foolish, naturally inclined to women, obdurate, shameless in acts of love, rough in love-quarrels (and) in striking connected therewith, a laughing stock (lit. plaything) of women is to be known as "too old" (Slokas 62 and 63).

In accordance with habits and attitudes a Nayak has been divided in four classes. Dhiroddhata, Dhirodaatta, Dhirlatita and Dhirprashanta.

Dhiroddhata Nayaks are proud, jealous, and dishonest, like Ravana, Kansa etc. Dhirodaatta Nayaks are never overcome by grief and anger. They are reserved, of firm conviction, modest and calm. Rama, Buddha etc. are the best examples of Dhirodaatta Nayaks. Generally Rajas come under the third classification of Nayak, which is Dhirlatita, and these characters are lovers of art, easy going, who want comfort, and are mild-tempered. Dhirprashanta Nayaks belong to the high and noble caste and social status. They are Brahmins and Vaishyas. They are endowed with Satwik (pure and noble) qualities and are of calm temperament.

There are eight ingredients of Satwik quality are : Sobha (luster), Vilas (luxury), Madhurya (sweet or joy), Gambhirya (serious), Sthairrya (calm), Tej (valor), Lalitya (graceful) and Audaarya (munificence).

Regarding the Nayikas, Bharata in his Natya Shastra has enumerated various types of women and heroines, viz., women of divine, Asura, Gandharva, Rakshasa, Naga, Pishacha, Yaksha types, women of various birds, snakes and animal types, and women of high family, home-maids and courtesans. He has also mentioned eight kinds of heroines in chapter XXIV of his treatise.

Nayika-Bheda has been determined by the social relationship of the different categories of women, which in old days sometimes called religious (Dharma-Bheda) relationship between man and woman. If the social contact is established by a conventional marriage, the Nayika is Swakiya: if it is against it, she is Parakiya, or belonging to others; and it is by the needs of profession, she is Samanya or a public woman.

Bharata essentially divides women into Vaishya, Kusaja and Preshya, which correspond to Samanya, Swakiya and Parakiya respectively. On the other hand, parallel to the Nayak Bheda he has given four Nayikas.

Swakiya Nayika is a chaste and modest lady, and is devoted to her husband. She dances for the pleasure of her husband, so her dance performance is limited to her husband only. Swakiya is of three kinds according to age :- Mugdha, Madhya and Praudha. It is futher divided into eight sub-divisions, viz.. Jyeshtha Kanishtha, Smarandha, Garhtarunya, Samastaratikovida Bhavonnata, Daravira and Aakraantanayaka. Mugdha Nayika is an adolescent woman who is tender both in limbs and temperamentally, as she is an inexperienced woman. She is simple and is easily pleased. She is seldom angry.

Dhanajaya Gupta in his book has elaborated the age-group classification. He mentions in his "Dasarupa", Vayomugdha, Kamamugdha, Rativama and Kopansvadu for Mugdha Nayika', Yauvanavati and Karnavati for Madhya-Nayika; Garhayanvana, Bhava-Pragalbha and 'Rati-Pragalbha for Pragalbha Nayika.

In works of the principles of Sanskrit literature, Vishwanath has made further sub-divisions of Nayikas, the number of whose Alankaras has been increased from ten to eighteen. According to him Mugdha Nayika is of five kinds:- Prathama vatirna-Yanyoma, Prathama-Vatirna Madana Vihara, Rati-Vama, Manmrudu and Samadhik Lajjawati.

Madhya Nayika has been classified into five categories: Vichitra Sutra, Praruda-Ismara, Praruda-Yauvana, Ista-Pragalbha Vachana and Madhyama-Vradita.

Pragalbha Nayika has six voriations :- Ismarandha, Garha-Tarunya, Samasta-rata-kovida. Bhavonnata, Darvrida and Akratta.

According to Bhanudatta, which provides a foundation to Hindi Nayika Bheda, a Mugdha Nayika has been divided in three forms, viz., Anukrit Yauvana, Navorha and Vipralabdha-Navorha; Pragalbha Nayika in two, viz, Rati-Prita and Anandat Sumoha; whereas Madhya Nayika has no division.

Vishwanath has further considered only two kinds of Nayikas: Parakiya or Parodha and Kanyaka. Bramha Bhatta has given six types of Parodha and many more sub-divisions.

Madhya Nayika is an experienced woman who is well-versed in Shringara Shastra. Madhya Nayika has been sub-divided in seven more groups viz., Madhya-Dhira, who takes pleasure in making her husband repentant for committing an offence or error; Madhya-Dhira-Dhira, who shedding tears, makes her husband repentant for committing an offence or error; Madhya-Adhira, who makes her husband repentant for committing an offence or error by means of expressing harsh words and anger, Anya-Surat-Dukkhita, Garvita (Rupa garvita, Prem garvita and Maanavat), Yauvanavati and Kamavati.

Pragalbha Nayika is always proud of her youth and is well-versed in Shringara Shastra. She is ever watchful to make her body look pretty. Like a Madhya-Nayika, Pragalbha-Nayika has three main sub-divisions, viz., Pragalbha-Dhira, who conceals her anger and on the contrary exhibits too much formality through her sweet words. She is not keen in love making. Pragalbha-Dhira Dhira, who chastises the hero by means of her sarcastic remarks, and Pragalbha-Adhira, who angrily remarks the Nayak and also gives him trouble. The other sub-divisions of Praudha or Pragalbha are Ratiprita, Ananda sammohita, Surata Dukkhita, Garvita (Rupagarvita, Premgarvita and Maanavati), Garha yauvana, Bhava-Pragalbha and Ratl-Pragalbha.

There are two more sub-divisions in addition to the above mentioned ones, and those are Jyeshtha and Kanishtha. Jyeshlha is one, who receives much more attention and love from her husband, and Kanishtha gets less care. Mugdha has always got one character or Rupa, so she has no sub-division.

Parakiya Nayika has two main types, viz., Uurha and Anurha. Uurha is a married woman and Anurha is a spinster. Parakiya has the following sub-divisions : Udbuddha, Udbudhita, Surata Gupta (Bhuuta-surata-Sangopana, Vartman-Surata-Sangopana, Bhavishya-surata Sangopana (Guarded in past, present and futures) Vidagdha (adroit) Vachan Vidagdha, Kriya Vidagdha (by her speech and action). Lakshita (showing love openly) He-tu-Lakshita, Surata Lakshita, Kulata (unchaste) Anushayana (regretting for not being able to keep assignments with lovers (Sangeta vighathana, or Prathamanushayana, Bhavi Sanketanashta or Dmtiyanushayana, Ramanagmana or Tritiya-nushayana) Mohita (delighted).

Samanya Nayika is a courtezan, who is clever in arts, courageous and shrewd. She expresses false love for wealth, and mercilessly drives away the Nayak from her house after fleecing out money from him. Sometimes a courtesan cherishes true love for the Nayak.

Samanya Nayika has three main divisions :- Janani Adhina (under the tutelage of mother), Swatantrata (independent) and Niyama (regular).

There are further ten varieties of Samanya Nayika in accordance with their condition and behavior

  1. Swadhinpatika (Mugdha Swadhin Patika, Madhya Swadhin Patika, Praudha Swadhin Patika, Parakiya Swadhin Patika). Swadhinpatika is always very happy, because her husband stays with her, remains under her control and serves her.
  2. Vasaksajja (Mugdha Vasksajja, Madhya Vasaksajja, Praudha Vasaksajja and Parakiya Vasaksajja) Nayika waits with expectation and happiness for the arrival of her husband after fully dressed up and ornamented.
  3. Virahotkanthita (Mugdha Virahotkanthita, Madhya Virahotkanthita, Praudha Virahotkanthita, Parakiya Virahotkanthita) is unhappy as her husband never arrives in time.
  4. Khandita (Mugdha khandita, Madhya Khandita, Praudha khandita, Parakiya khandita). Nayika is one who is jealous on surmising that her lover is attached to any other woman.
  5. Kalahantarita (Mugdha Kalahantarita Madhy Kalahantarita, Praudha Kalahantarita Parakiya Kalaliaiitarita) woman does not take care of her husband as a sequel to quarrel but feels remorse.
  6. Vipralabdha (Mugdha Vipralabdha, Madhya Vipralabdha. Praudha Vipralabdha, Parakiya Vipralabdha) Nayika goes to meet her husband at a particular spot, but not finding him, she becomes dejected.
  7. Proshitpatika (Mugdha Proshitpatika, Madhya Proshitpatika, Praudha Proshitpatika, Parakiya Proshitpatika) is one whose husband is abroad.
  8. Abhisarika (Mugdha Abhisarika, Madhya Abhisarika, Praudha Abhisarika, Parakiya Abhisarika, Shuklabhisarika, Krishnabhisarika, Divabhisarika), who goes to her lover being blind with youth and who calls him.
  9. Pravatsyatpatika (Mugdna Pravatsyatpatika, Madhya Pravatsyatpatika, Praudha Pravatsyatpatika Parakiya Pravatsyatpatika) is one who is worried to hear the news of her husband who is about to leave for foreign countries.
  10. Agatpatika (Mugdha Agatpatika, Madhya Agatpatika, Praudha Agatpatika, Parakia Agatpatika) is happy on listening to the news of the return of her husband from another place.

Nayikas have again been divided according to nature. Those are Uttama, Madhyama and Adhama. Uttama is a well-wisher of her husband forever. Madhyama responds to the wishes of one, other than her husband, proficient in coquetry and suddenly becomes angry and all of a sudden again laughs with glee. Adhama is mischievous, wicked, harsh tongued, full of anger, and always goes against her husband.

Divisions have also been made of the Nayikas in accordance with their appearance. (1) Padmini (Pretty looking with less hair on the body, and one who has taste for the fine arts), (2) Chitrani (modest, humorous, one who loves music, one with middle stature, nose like the Til flower and eyes like the blue lotus), (2) Shankhini (thin bodied, immodest, proud, angry, and whose neck has wrinkles like a cone shell) and (4) Hastini (flabby, body full of hair, wrathful, violent and who walks like an elephant, moving the head up and down).

All the above mentioned classifications of the Nayaks provide a fundamental basis of the Ashtha (eight) Nayikas in Kathak dancing according to Avastha or situations which determine the mental state. A single Nayika may experience different situations from time to time; so a Kathak dancer has to make expositions of the Nayika Bhedas very cautiously adhering to the codified regulations, determining the period, time, attitude and psychological bent of mind of this spectator and the social set up, being packed by appropriate instrumental and vocal music.

The following are the Asta Nayikas:-

  1. Swadhinpatika (contended)
  2. Khandita (disconsolate at being betrayed by her husband or love)
  3. Abhisarika (one who reaches an appointed spot to meet her love)
  4. Kalantarita (one who has quarreled with the love and is repentant)
  5. Vipralabdha (one who is disgraced by the lover unresponsive of signals)
  6. Proshita-Patita (one whose husband is abroad, and is distressed at his absence)
  7. Vasakasajja (one who adorns herself with ornaments etc. waiting for her love)
  8. Virahotakanthita (frustrated by the non-arrival of the her love at the appointed time)

Nayikas have again been divided determining their nature in three groups, which are (I) Divya or having godly qualities, Adivya or having qualities of an average woman, and (3) Divyadivya or possessing godly qualities which are expected in any nice human being.