Abinaya in Indian dances
Abinaya is a sub division of Lassiya catergory of dance. Abinaya
consists of four categories: Angika, Akaariya, Vaasika and Saathvika.
With the aforesaid four categories of abinayas, another aspect of dance,
called Bhava is included in Lassiya. Abinaya depicts the nature,
structure and the meaning of the concerned concept, through hand
gestures (Muthras or Hastas).For this reason the hand gestures, which
are used in Abinaya are called working hands.
Abinaya play a major role in
successful dance performance
Abinaya plays a major role in almost all the Indian classical dance
forms. Abinaya means the interpretation of songs through hand gestures
and facial expressions. In other words, Abinaya means to articulate the
meaning of the songs, through proper facial expression by using eyes,
eyebrows, to some extent by mouth, and expounds the Manotharma of the
songs mainly through Bhavas and Rasas.
The essence of abinayas is called Bhava and the substance of Bhava is
called Rasas. The concept of Bhava can be seen not only in the dance
alone but also one can feel it in the way of singing of the vocalist in
the vocal music.
In olden days the hereditary members of the Isai Vellala clan who
were the mentors of dance and music. The Isai Vellala community members
were engaged in the profession of preserving the Bhavas, and Rasas
together in dance and music.
Through the Abinaya the dancers reach the hearts of the audience.
Similarly in the music recitals, through the raga, and through the way
of singing, the emotional involvement of the musicians touch and steal
the hearts of the audience.
The ability of expressing Abinaya, (Bava and Rasas), differs from
individual to individual. The abinaya was referred to by Adiyarku Nallar
the commentator of Sillapathikaram as 'Molliya Moli' which means that
the mode of language without oral words, but through facial expressions,
and expound the meaning by hand gestures (actions). Even to some extent,
the stands, and the body positions including the still poses also could
be calculated as a part of abinaya.
Generally through abinayas the people all over the world are linked
together. Handling abinayas is totally depended on the dedication,
experience, and involvement of the artiste with the art. As compared to
Nirthiya, the way of performing pure Nirtha, is much more mechanical.
Pure Nirtha is executed only through adavus and still poses.
Naturally in Abinaya the personal ability, the imaginative
creativity, and the experience of the individual artiste, are playing
important role. In the Sathir (the earlier form of Bharatha Natyam)
which was danced by the Nautch dancers, used various subtle movements in
the Sathir dance by using the lip movements, eye movements and eye brow
movements to a great extent.
These female Nautch dancers were called devadasis. The devadasis' way
of interpreting the meaning of the songs was almost a direct way of
interpreting the meanings. But today in this present era, Bharatha
Natyam dancers mainly interpret the songs invariably, and indirectly,
especially through subtle Bhavas.
Each Indian classical dance has its own unique historical origin,
background, process of development, and development of different styles
in the same dance forms. Most of the dances were solo dance forms, but
with the passage of time all these dances are performed by group
dancers. Yet Bharatha Natyam, Mohini Attam, Kuchupidi, Odissi, and
Kathakali are performed by solo performers.
Many present day Bharatha Natyam dancers study abinayas from the
Kuchupidi, Kathakali, and Bhgavatha Mela, artistes. During the
pre-Indian independence period, all the above said dances were performed
by the male dancers alone.
Rich and abundant
Abinaya of Kuchupidi and Kathakali are very rich and abundance. Still
Kuchupidi has more affinity with Bharatha Natyam. Originally Kuchupidi
and Kathakali were performed by male dancers with exclusively
exceptional expressions. There were numerous evidences reveal that many
devadasis and non devadasi dancers learnt the nuances of abinaya and
mastered their abinaya skill, under numerous Kuchupidi exponents.
There is a reference that the celebrated Bharatha Natya dancer
Abinaya queen, Balasaraswathi learnt abinaya under Kuchupidi dance
Gurus. Even it was said, that many dedicated and devoted,
non-traditional and outstanding dancers, learnt abinayas under Kathakali
exponents. Even the creative dancer like Udaya Shanker; learnt the
nuances of abinaya under Kathakali dance exponents. Later his own
idealistic creative dance form, gained the international fame. Odissi
another Indian classical dance form uses beautiful and graceful
abinayas. All these traditional Indian dance forms are deeply influenced
by the religious themes, and use variety of hand gestures to interpret
the meaning of the song. The hand gestures are used in all these dance
forms to expound and explain the meaning of the songs through abinayas.
Abinaya has become a part and parcel of the Indian classical dances.