Author: Sharmila Udupa, Bengaluru
Published as a part of Śāstra Raṅga-2023 Internship ; offered by NoopuraBhramari- IKS Centre. Article series No – 9
After the performance of the worship of Lord Brahma was addressed by Bharata Amṛta-manthana was chosen to be played as it was conducive to both the sects Surās and Asurās as it covered the aspects of virtue, wealth and desire. I recall a modern-day book Search for Transcendence: The Beginning by Priyan, Manini which explains the churning of ocean in a sci-fi mode without diverting from the roots. The spectators were pleased to see the representation of their own actions. Not only back then, but can we say a play like Amṛta-manthana is relevant till date?
There is a special mention of the kind of play chosen to be a Samavakāra . The dictionary meaning goes this way – it is kind of higher Rūpaka or drama (in three acts, representing the heroic actions of gods or demons).
What do the treatise say?
One of the ten types of play (nāṭya). —The Samavakāra is the dramatic representation of some mythological story which relates to gods and some well-known Asura, who must be its Hero. It should consist of three Acts which are to take for their performance eighteen Nāḍikās (seven hours and twelve minutes). Of these the first Act is to take twelve and the second four and the third two Nāḍikās only and respectively. The subject-matter of the Samavakāra should present deception, excitement or love, and the number of characters allowed in it are twelve. And besides this, metres used in it should be of the complex kind.
Moving on the chapter describes the ambience of the incident consisting of beautiful Himalayan mountains, caves, splashes of rivulets amidst were the Bhūtas and Gaṇas. After watching the play, the Lord says that he has conceived a play which is embellished with Aṅgahāra and Karaṇa.
Aṅgahāra (32 in number) means movement of limbs/gesticulations, refers to major dance figures consisting of minor dance figures called Karaṇa. (108 in number)
Karaṇa is a specific kind of configuration consisting of sthāna (standing position), cārī (foot and leg movement) and nṛttahasta (hands in dancing position). Two karaṇas will make one mātṛkā. A combination of two, three, or four mātṛkās will make up one aṅgahāra (major dance figure). Eventually, an arranged sequence of aṅgahāras constitutes a dance. A simple analogy that can be taken is, cell (smallest unit of human body) group of cells called tissue and group of tissues called organ, organ system and organism. One is external while the other is internal.
Having heard this Bharata was overwhelmed to understand and thus Taṇḍu was designated for orientation. Thus the 32 Aṅgahāra and 108 Karaṇas were enumerated along with 4 Recakas.
Recaka refers to ‘moving a limb round’ or ‘drawing up’ or its ‘movement of any kind’ separately, etc. This can be compared to the main joints and its movement in human body namely neck/shoulder, wrist, hip, ankle.
This was finally topped with Piṇḍī a collection of all those basic elements which make a composite whole. Piṇḍībandha – ties them together and they came up with divinities and their flagstaff.
The whole chapter is about inventions and enumerating the terminologies used in Tāṇḍava Dance. After inventing the Recakas, Aṅgahāras , Karaṇas and Piṇḍīs, the Lord Siva communicated them to Taṇḍu who in turn made dance out of them together with songs and instrumental music, and hence this dance is known as Tāṇḍava (i.e., of Taṇḍu’s creation).
Nāṭyaśāstra , N.P. Unni, 2019
Search for Transcendence: The Beginning, Manini Priyan, 2022
www.wisdomlib.org (For equivalent English terminologies)