Types of Nayikas in Kathak

Since most of the songs, thumris and ghazals dwell on the state of a Nayika, they depict the yearnings of nayikas and their state of mind vis-à-vis their lovers. The Natyashastra refers to the ten stages of love, which are shown by a dancer portraying the Nayika in love. In Kathak whether it is performed by male dancers or female dancers, the Nayika depiction follows the Natyashastra tradition. Of course, it is colored by the Ritikalin Sahitya (literature) which provides innumerable songs in which the various states of the Nayikas are explored. The ten stages of love are abhilasha (longing), chinta (anxiety), gunakirtana (enumeration of beloved’s merits), anusmriti (recollection), udvega (distress), vilapa (lamentation), unmada (insanity), vyadhi (sickness), jadata (stupor) and marana (death). It is a convention not to show the last stage. The dancer while depicting a Nayika resorts to some of the stages contextually and, employing sanchari bhavas, renders abhinaya to the song.

In the post-Bharata period the classification of the Nayikas indeed proliferated. The broad division into uttama, madhyama and adhama; swakiya, parakiya and samanya further suggests the framework within which a dancer portrays the aforesaid eight states.
The principal eight Nayikas enumerated by Bharata are as follows.