Author: Seema K S, Bengaluru
Published as a part of Śāstra Raṅga-2023 Internship ; offered by NoopuraBhramari- IKS Centre. Article series No – 8
‘Śuddha Pūrvaraṅga’ or ‘Raṅga Pūjā Vidhānam’ or ‘Raṅgadaivatapūjanaṁ’ of Nāṭyaśāstra, elaborates regarding the ritualistic worship of the (newly constructed) stage or performance area before actually performing there. Stage was considered as a sacred place; in order to ward off the evils; to protect the artists and to contribute to the success of the play, deities were placed in all directions with Brahma in the centre. A representation of various Gods, Gandharvā-s, Ṛiṣi-s, Vāstu Gods, etc installed on the stage is given below:
‘Pūrvaraṅga vidhi’ – meaning, ‘the preliminaries of a play’ of Nāṭyaśāstra narrates about the procedure of rituals before starting the play/performance on the stage. The rituals like Jarjara Pūjā, Nāndī etc attribute to the success of the play, overcoming the Vighna-s. Bharata also refers to Actors paying obeisance to Brahma; worshipping Brahma (Brahma maṇḍala -Brahma’s circle) using flowers in the following śloka:
“puṣpāñjalyapravargasca kāryo brāhmōtha maṇḍale
raṅgapīṭhasya madhye tu svayam brahmā pratiṣṭitaḥ”
In the later stage of this ritualistic procedure called as ‘Citra Pūrvaraṅga’ meaning Mixed Prelimineries, Bharata says that the white flowers should be scattered all over the stage and the Aṅgahāra-s should be performed by the dancers.
“siddhā kusumamālābhirvikireyuḥ samaṅtataḥ
aṅgahāraiśca devyastā upanṛtyeyuragrtaḥ”
Nandikeśwara also mentions about starting the performance with a prayer, praising Gaṇapati, the sky and praying to the earth. One should pray to the Goddess of Raṅga who brings out the bhāvā-s and rasā-s to the pātra (actor/dancer).
Having known about the significance of these pre-performance rituals, are these ritualistic worships practiced in Bharanāṭyam? Are these procedures relevant in a Bharatanāṭya recital today!?
Puṣpāñjali– puṣpa+añjali meaning holding flowers in the hand; offering prayers and oneself to the Raṅgādhidevata-s. Though it has its roots in the Temple dance tradition, it is an invocatory nṛttabandha in current times; indicates salutations to the stage (centered by Brahma) where the dancer offers flowers for removing the obstacles and prays for a successful nṛtya recital. Abhinayadarpaṇa mentions the śloka for Puṣpāñjali in the following way,
“vighanāṁ nāśanaṁ kartuṁ bhūtanāṁ rakśṇāyaca |
Devanām tuṣṭaye cāpi prekśakāṇām vibhūtaye ||
Śreyase nāyakasyātra pātrasaṁrakśṇāya ca |
Āchāryaśikśāsiddharthaṁ puṣpāñjalimthārabhet ||”
This nṛttabandha acts as Nāndistuti comprising of śloka-s on deities like Gaṇapati, Śiva, Sarasvatī etc. The Puṣpāñjali śloka itself is also danced for along with sollukaṭṭu-s.
Toḍayamaṇgaḷam – As the name suggests, this is an auspicious invocatory kīrtana in the praise of a deity, popular in Bhāgavata meḷa tradition. Earlier it was said to be equivalent to the Nāndi of Pūrvaraṅga; involved iṣtadevata stuti. Dr. Padma Subrahmanya says that the adhipati of each direction is praised in this composition. In a Bharatanāṭya recital, Toḍayamaṇgaḷam follows the Bhajana sampradāya and finds its place in the first part of the dance recital. ‘Jaya Jaya’ is a very common phrase observed in the Sāhitya; flowers are not offered in this composition.
Alaripu- Alar means flower, blossom. Unlike Puṣpāñjali, flowers are not offered on the stage. This is the first nṛttabandha in the Bharatanāṭya Mārgam. Alaripu has a distinctive feature of employing Añjali hasta in different positions to convey Praṇām-s to various Gods, Guru-s and audience. With Añjali hasta held above the head indicates salutations to the God, Añjali in front of the forehead represents salutations to the Guru and Añjali in front of the chest conveys salutations to the audience. Movements of the head up-till the feet is prevalent here, the eye movements are said to be salutations to the Sun and the Moon. It can also be understood that Alaripu being the first composition in a dance recital prepares (blossoms) the body and mind for the rest of the nṛtya that follows. Alaripu, gives an auspicious beginning to the recital; this could be one of the main reasons for Alaripu to be the first in a Bharatanāṭya mārga.
Thus, one can observe that the invocatory nṛttabandha in a Bharatanāṭya recital follows the concept of paying respect to the Gods, thereby wishing for a successful performance. Alaripu is a unique way of starting a dance recital by using the bodily movements (hand gestures) to denote salutations. Flowers are held in hand or suggested using gestures in Puṣpāñjali and hence can be considered as a shorter version of Pūrvaraṅga vidhiḥ.
 Śloka 71, chapter 5
 Śloka 152, chapter 5
 Śloka 31-32, Abhinayadarpanam
 Śloka 33-34, Abhinayadarpaṇam
 Todayamangalam, Nrtya Marga Mukura