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Indian Classical Dances
Techniques of classical dances
Hasta Mudra
Hand Gestures
The Navarasas
Gesture & Posture
Feet in Dance
Qualities & Performances


Nritya is combination of rhythm with expression. Nritya identifies with theme, story and narrative. It makes fullest use of Abhinaya, especially in respect of Angika (physical) and Satvika (emotional) to achieve purpose. Nritya is basically an expressional dance. It is concerned with conveying the meaning of an idea or a subject. It is achieved through facial expressions, hands and other elements of body language known in Indian dance.

Nritta the rhythmic element is composed of only pure dance and with feature striking and elegant poses, but have no expressional meaning and symbolism. There is only physical creativity but no story, theme or narrative. Even the mudras become just as a piece of decoration.

Natya is the dramatic element. Natya is exhaustive. It includes both Nrita and Nritya and in addition, it has the element of drama, which is introduced through speech and song. The Vachika (voice) and Aharya (costume) aspects of Abhinaya are more pertinent to Natya then to Nrita and Nritya. When Natya Shasta was arranged, no dance was independent of drama. The performer was compelled to present both dancer and actor.

Natya and Abhinaya is more or less the same thing.



Abhinaya :

Communication is the main and important aspect of classical dance.

Abhinaya is common to all Classical Indian dances. The expression, which is shown to express poetic meanings, is Abinaya. Here the emphasis is more on facial expressions than rhythmic movements. Abhinaya is the expressional aspect of dance.

There are four kinds of Abhinaya:

1. Angika (of limbs) 2.Vachika (of speech) 3.Aharya (of costumes) 4. Sattwika

Abhinaya has been analysed in the Natya Shastra and has been categorized into four types:

1. Angika or physical

Meaning is conveyed through body movements, including hastamudras (hand gestures), mandis (postures) and even the walk of the dancer. It is named as such because it is expressed in Three ways by anga, pratyanga and upanga.

Angika Abhinaya- Anga: Head, hands, chest, sides (flanks), waist (hips) and feet are called angas. Many include neck also among these.

- Pratyanga: Shoulder blades, arms, back, belly, thighs (calves) and shanks. Many add three more; wrists, elbows and knees combined, and neck.

- Upanga: Scholars include shoulder as upanga and according to Abhinaya Darpana, eyes, eye-brows, eyeballs, cheeks, nose, jaw, lips, teeth, tongue, chin, and face are also called upangas. Thus, upangas in the head are twelve. The other is ankles, toes and fingers. As mentioned in the Natya Shastra Upanga is only six.

The angas, pratyangas and upangas are to be used in every dance.

When an anga (major part) moves, the pratyanga and upanga also move.

2. Vachika vocal/verbal

It is used formally today by members of the orchestra or supporting, non-dancing cast.

3. Aharya or external

It is expression, mood and background as conveyed by costume, make-up, accessories and sets: Dress and the appearance of actors. Costume is a very essential feature of a dance and there is costume for every character taking part.

Aharyya :
Abhinaya plays a secondary but important role in the dance-drama. It aids the presentation of a performance.

4. Sattwika or psychological

This is the representation of eight psychic conditions. These eight conditions are motion-lessness, perspiration, horripilation, and change of voice, trembling, change of colour, tears and fainting.

It is shown particularly by the eyes and as a whole by the entire being of the performer, who feels the mood, the character and the emotion as emerging from the self, not as an act or practical presentation.

Owing to their distinctive and deep-seated nature, the eight conditions form a separate branch of the Abhinaya. But in spite of this possible distinction it cannot be denied that the sattwika abhinaya has every chance of degenerating into the angika abhinaya when the nata lacks the genius as well as proper training in his art.


The Sattwik Abhinaya consists of two elements complementary to each other. They are the Rasa or emotional flavour and the Bhava or the mood to suit a particular emotion. Rasa is the primary and most important requirement of nritya, which may be interpreted as emotional flavour or sentiment.

Bhava is the secondary and complementary features. Bhavas may be of four kinds.
1. Vibhava, which is again sub divided in to abalambanam and its accessory Udipan. Love in the Radha Krishna dance may be expressed through the former, while the latter helps the mood with the external aid of moonlight setting.

2. Anubhava expresses the effect of a mood such as the ravages of anger or sorrow, or the rapture of love.

3.Vyavicharibhava pertains to the temporary changes of settings to fit in with the mood of particular scene.

4. Sattwikbhava consists of eight standardized movements to express such emotions as joy, fear or disgust.