Author: Nagalakshmi P K, Mysore
Published as a part of Śāstra Raṅga-2023 Internship ; offered by Noopura Bhramari- IKS Centre. Article series No – 7
Nāṭyaśāstra, the encyclopedia of nāṭya with 36 chapters, has an exclusive chapter called the Sāmānya abhinaya as the 24th in the list. Well, the word sāmānya itself means the common or the abhinaya in vogue in general or which is universal. This means the all inclusive abhinaya. The fact that this chapter has about 328 shlokas which is a huge contribution after the few major ones, speaks of the voluminous contribution for abhinaya here.
The need for this chapter might have aroused due to Bharata thinking of the application rules and effects of the caturvidha abhinaya in nāṭya. By this time, he has already spoken of the āṅgika, vācika, āhārya, sātvika abhinayas. So, what is the need of one more superannuating universal abhinaya? Here we can justify this to be chapter focusing on application aspects. If we knew the āṅgikas, vācika, āhārya, sātvika, best abhinaya cannot be achieved as the intensity of application is not specified there. Only in this chapter, do we find the initiative to define the excess or moderate usages of the caturvidha abhinaya inclusive of the recakas supporting the various bhāva and rasas.
In common the abhinaya mentioned in this chapter is pertaining to both those following the śāstras and those that do not follow and are locally popular involving those initiated from the body, those that are natural and those that are effortlessly portrayed. In this way we are introduced to the imporatance of vāk, aṅga, mukharāga, which seem to be the most connected with the audience even today. This chapter seems to be the basis for the nāyikā avasthas. Satva, which is the basis of this chapter is the goodness needed in abhinaya for nāṭya or nṛtta. This satva attributes defined for male artists is relevant even today.
The satva filled abhinaya is complemented by the application of the 6 śārīra abhinayas which form the basics for abhinaya choreographic compositions even today. We also find educative instructions for compositional forms. Sāmānya abhinaya is defined as the actions equally done by the head, face, feet, shanks, stomach, waist. The inclusive abhinaya is that which binds into the lakṣaṇa and the extraneous is the one that is not bound to it.
The importance given to kāma or desire is notified as the initiator of dharma, artha and moksha. The fact that we have to see our desire as happiness even is distress is surprising but valid to reach one of the 3 above goals. Unlike the rati or love that is usually taken as only physical, here there is no mention of that but the union in love is indeed for the mind first. A woman is a source of happiness and has to be accepted in any of the many natures she is classified into. We also have the 5 arrows of love that initiate the 10 states of love in men and women. The ashtanāyikās shown and the features of vāk and aṅga in the other different nāyikās is indeed seen as an importance given to the lady roles in those days.
Summarising as a whole, sāmānya abhinaya is the essence or satva of abhinaya which when mingled with the caturvidha abhinayas will truly create the rasa. Hence this universal abhinaya is to be featured in nāṭya irrespective of whether the abhinaya follows the lakṣaṇa or is an independent entity. Prominence for the female artist is to be specially mentioned here. The elements of sāmānya abhinaya are like pickles or seasonings or the sweeetness in a great food that is relished.
Reference : (Bharata 4, 2015), Nāṭyaśāstra with translation by Dr. Parasanatha Dwivedi