Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Aharyya Abhinaya


Aharyya Abhinaya plays a secondary but important role in the dance-drama. It aids the presentation of a performance with  (a) Background or decor (b) Make-up (c) Music.


Decoration creates the right atmosphere for a dance number. It forges a link between drawing, painting and the kindred arts, such as dancing and music. The decor must be effective, but not so spectacular and obtrusive that it overshadows the dancer. The purpose of the background is to indicate the time and scene of the action, serving as an introduction to a spectacle rather than being itself the main spectacle. A dark backdrop serves to bring into strong relief the figure and costume of the dancer. A row of musical instruments at the back is often employed, but it serves to break the simple line and should therefore be avoided. 

In nritya musicians are a part of both the audience and visual effects. As they have to be seen, it is best to arrange them on one side, near the wings. They may also be placed in two groups in the rear corners of the stage.


Lighting is one of the most effective aids to illusion. It can make or mar the spectacle of the dance. Flat lighting tends to create monotony and should therefore be sparingly used. Lighting from different angles enhances the effect of a number immeasurably, so care is taken to avoid ugly shadows on the backdrop.

Arc lights covered with mica help considerably in heightening the illusory effect if the mica is of a shade that fits in with the ensemble. Mixed white and coloured lights help to produce gradations and combinations of colour that evoke a variety of moods. A spotlight playing on a darkened stage is useful for Indian dancers of a light nature not characterized by any technique in particular.

Make-up and Ornamentation

Other aids to illusion are make-up and ornamentation. Both play an active part in nritya. Though ornaments of genuine worth such as gold or silver jewellery may help a great deal, the average dancer has to content himself with cheaper material. The Natya Shastra very sensibly lays it down that the ornaments should be light so as not to interfere with the dancer's movement in any way. Bharata's dance treatise prescribes certain ornaments for women and others for men. Siddhi women must wear yellow robes with pearls or emeralds as ornaments. Players appearing as apsaras or celestial maidens are exhorted to wear gem-studded ornaments and to dress their hair in a bun crowning the head. Women, appearing as gandharvas (musicians) must flaunt rubies and wear gowns of a vivid red; they must also carry a veena. Vidhyadharis must be depicted in white with pearls to adorn them. Black robes and blue stones fall to the lot of the women who appear as female demons. Green drapery and pearls are assigned to characters representing goddess. Milkmaids are required to don blue costumes and to plait their hair.

Colouring served to differentiate between the characters. Thus Kshatriyas (warriors) must appear painted in reddish tints and Vaishyas (merchants) and Sudras (menials) in deeper hues. Spotless white is reserved for Brahmans.

Other aids to illusion are beards and moustaches. Here also colour is a distinguishing factor. Men who refrain from sexual indulgence like the saints and brahmacharis wear long white beards. The sensual and the rakish appear in black beards, while kings and gods wear mixed black and white beards. Makeup and its rules vary with the different schools of Indian dancing.


Music helps to create the atmosphere for a dance performance. It can be treated as a part of the visual plane of the aharyya abhinaya of nritya. The 'Abhinaya Darpanam' lays down the rule that during a dance performance two cymbal players must seat themselves on the right and two mridanga or drum players must remain on either side of the stage, while a singer must be present with a tambura or drone.

Indian music consists of an infinite variety of sounds, skillfully arranges. Though based on melody, Indian music has innumerable variations so subtle and with so many twists to each note that the inexperienced ear misses the lightning changes. There are twenty two notes in Indian music and they glide smoothly with silvery tones creating subtle moods and visions.

The Indian musicians has two bases on which to improvise. They are the tala and the raga.

The tala governs the duration of a sound and is beaten out on a variety of drum, each drum regulated to the dancers pace. It is the dancer who fixes the tala. The drummer observes the speed set and meets the dancer at the climax of each beat, in the process improvising various thekas or expressions with his palms, fingers or sometimes even his elbows or with sticks. Two dozen talas are popular today, each having from three to sixteen matras or sub divisions and in south Indian music, as many as twenty nine.

The raga is a group of notes but not quite a melody. Ragas are meant to create certain moods and are divided into male and female tunes. There are six ragas or male tunes each accompanied by five raginis or female tunes and each possessing eight putras or sons with a bharya or wife, a piece. In South Indian music, there are seventy two major ragas and many minor ones.

When music, singing and dancing blend in harmony in an appropriate setting, the aharyya abhinaya is complete for a nritya performance.