This book is based on the ancient Indian text-‘Abhinayadarpanam’ and illustrates the varied usages of the hasthas with special reference to the Asamyutha (single hand gestures) and the Samyutha (double hand gestures) and their applications known as Viniyogas (the vocabulary of dance gestures).
The Viniyogas form the essential grammar for the dance and constitute an essential aspect of Bharatanatyam. Permutations and combinations of Mudras (gestures) combined with the artist’s own skill can depict and interpret any idea one desires. This is an essential means of communication for the dancer.
‘HASTHA PRAYOGAAH’ lays out its content as original Sanskrit slokas, corresponding English pronunciations, word-by-word meaning and a detailed photographic guide to performing the gestures. More than 1070 colour photographs take the reader through the nuances of using the hand gestures.
The book is divided as three sections–the single hand gestures, double hand gestures and a special section on simple choreography interpretations.
The Audio and Video Support Materials, which constitute an essential part of the training envisaged for this book, are available in the form of Audio CDs and Video DVDs. Each follows the same format as the book and is completely self-explanatory.
Jayalakshmi Eshwar, a renowned exponent of the dance form, has designed a book that would be accessible and valuable for the dance student, young professional and teacher of the Bharatanatyam dance form.
A Bharatanatyam exponent par excellence, Jayalakshmi Eshwar is an internationally renowned performer, choreographer, teacher and author. Her in-depth and meticulous training under the aegis of kalakshetra, Chennai of late Rukmini Devi Arundale, has made her style innovative, yet traditional.
Her creative genius has won her several laurels both on stage and on camera in India and world over. She has also enacted as the tanjore dancer in the award winning classical Kannada film ‘Hamsa Geethe’ of G.V. Iyer.
Her internationally acclaimed contribution to Bharatanatyam was her first book-‘Bharatanatyam: How To...’ (Published by BRPC), which was supplemented by audio and video training materials.
She is the recipient of the Sangeeth Natak Akademi’s Senior Fellowship. She is also the Founder-Director of Abhinayaa- a Centre for Bharatanatyam in Delhi. She also the heads the department of Bharatanatyam at the Triveni Kala Sangam and is the Founder-President of Abhinaya Aradhana, an organization dedicated to the propagation of culture in all spheres of life.
This is her second book amongst the several others that are planned in the coming years. The philosophy behind these books is to provide students and professionals of Bharatanatyam the opportunity of immerse themselves in a deeper study of the dance form through an accessible and accurate medium.
Presently residing in New Delhi, India, she is actively performing in both solo and group productions in India and abroad with the Abhinayaa dance troupe.
Indian classical dance forms, inspite of being complex, are highly structured visual art. The richness of the art is such that it’s tools allow one to explore and express not only the traditional and religious themes but also the contemporary ideas.
Bharatanatyam, the ancient Indian classical dance form, not only personifies the aesthetic beauty, physical movements and facial expressions but also combines the concept of spiritual identification. The theme mainly centers around the Supreme Lord and the characterisations, brings out the various facets of human endeavour to attain the goal of oneness with the Supreme.
To express these thoughts through the medium of dance, this classical art of communication dating back to Vedic period, has formed a systematic and properly codified theory and practice. These concept are very well brought out in the ancient treatises like Bharata’s Natyashastra (dating back to more than 2000 years ago) and Nandikeshwar’s Abhinaya Darpanam (dating back to around 1000AD). The various classical dance forms of India follow, apart from the above treatises, different texts based on their respective regions from where the dance form originated.
Bharatanatyam describes the four fold expressions (Abhinaya) as Angika (Physical), Vachika (verbal), Aharya (external ornamentations and decorations) and Satvika (psychological state of mind–the expressions from within). All the above ingredients combine together to derive the Rasa–the essence or the aesthetic flavour.
Sage Bharata’s Natya Shastra is a treatise, which deals extensively with the aspect of music, dance and drama comprising theatre art in totality and it is termed as Natya. The earliest text, Natyashastra, became the basis for such related subsequent texts. But the text Abhinayadarpanam written later by Nandikeshwar around 1000AD is more related to dance. These two treatises do have certain differences in the classifications of Hasthas. For instance, the Natyashastra of Bharata has only 24 Asamyutha hasthas (single hand gestures) where as Abhinayadarpanam mentions 28 Asmyutha hasthas.
Though the main source of dance is Natyashastra the Bharatanatyam dance form, by and large refers and follows only the text of Abhinayadarpanam, especically with regard to the hastas and their applications.
Hastha’s are of various categories like the Nritta, Nritya (Asamtyuta, Samyuta, Dashavathara, Navagraha, Jaati, Bhandhava and Deva hasthas). But this book “Hastha Prayogaah” based on the text of “Abhinayadarpanam” illustrates varied usages of Hasthas with special reference to Asamyutha (single hand) and Samyutha (Double hand) gestures and their applications known as Viniyogas. The hasthas form a part of Angikaabhinaya.
Taking Bharatanatyam as a language, we have the basic Hasthas/Mudras as Alphabets. Then we have the Viniyogas, usages of each hasthas as words. Viniyogas gives us an idea as to how the different gestures are used to depict the various words. These words then combine to form sentences. Thus we derive at framing the sentences using the different Hastas/Mudras appropriately. These sentences can be in the form of poem, prose or song. Executing them, combined with the rhythm and various feet positions along with expressing the moods and emotions of the song through bhava (exhibiting the emotions and sentiments) is actually the dance.
These Viniyogas form the essential grammar for performing the dance and are like the foundation of a structure. Once it is mastered well, it becomes easier to apply this vocabulary to explore one’s own ideas as well as relate to any given theme. With different permutations and combinations of mudras, combined with the artist’s own skill, one can depict and interpret any idea one desires as a means of effective communication, keeping in mind to bring out the aesthetic beauty.
My first book “Bharatanatyam-How To” concentrated on the basic dance units “Adavus” along with detailed illustrations in addition to the history of dance, taalas, Bharatanatyam Maargam, accompaniments, costumes etc. My second book “Hastha Prayogaah” concentrates on the Hasthas (single and double hand gestures) and their applications in Bharatanatyam.
The Sanskrit text along with its english manuscript and meanings are given with clarity and detailed photo illustrations. Each of the illustrations for the word shown, depict the general way of using the hasthas for particular applications in the dance.
However, sometimes one may not find a suitable application for a word in the viniyogas. In such cases, another hastha is applied with the application for a word in that particular viniyoga; for example, “moonlight” in the pathaaka viniyoga. If one just shows the pathaaka hasthah moving to show the sky it may not represent the meaning that well. Hence, the alapadhma hasthah is used in one hand representing the full moon and the other hand in Pathaaka hasthah making a movement of an arc above, starting from the alapadhma hasthah above.
In such situations while expressing the meaning of a song or theme, these applications are used with different combinations to the maximum possible way, thus making the expression more clearer and understandable.
In practice, initially, these Hasthas and their usages are taught only in the sitting position. This way the learning process becomes easier and enables one to perfect and memorise the usages well.
The position of the hands for the application of the usages of the hasthas may vary slightly depending on the different schools of Bharatanatyam, wherein the meaning still remains the same.
As each word has a meaning, it is advisable to practice it along with the proper facial expressions which will help at a later time in expressing the meaning of a song in a maargam (repertoire) with much more ease.
There are no strict rigid rules regarding the Paadhabhedas (feet positions) for performing the Viniyogas. Different schools of dance generally use it the way they see it appropriate to express the ideas. But for some words different schools of dance commonly use certain feet positions. While applying the feet position, one has to keep in mind how effectively the feet positions can enhance the Viniyogas, the usage of the words, thus making it more meaningful and beautiful. Paadhabhedas (different feet positions) are explained in Abhinaydarpanam. A few of the important feet positions are also illustrated in my first book “Bharatnatyam-How to”.
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