The Prerequisities for Rasābhinaya - Part 2

This article is part 2 of 2 in the series The Prerequisites for Rasābhinaya

One must be familiar with the language of the song for which the choreography of abhinaya is done, at least to the extent that the different shades of meaning and the possible interpretations of the lyrics can be imagined. One must also be conscious of the meter (chandas) of the song and ensure that the metrical melody of the lyrics blends well with the rhythmic pattern of the tāla. For a creative elaboration of the sancāri-bhāvas (creative interpretations of the same line of the lyrics and spontaneous improvisations), an understanding of the alaṅkāras used in the lyrics is essential. For bringing about non-repetitive sancārīs, one needs expertise in nāṭya-dharmī as well as creative thinking.

Let us now examine how all this preparation can help in bringing out rasābhinaya in a composition. The following is a song that I’ve composed:

उदासीन इव यच्छसि यन्मयि
दयित ! सुखं तु तदेव।
इयदानन्दकरं मनोहरं
ममोज्जीवकं मधुरम्॥
यदि कुरुषे निर्भरं निधुवनं
मुदा समर्पितमनसा।
तत्फलं सुखमहो कियदिति वा
विवृणोतु ममोहस्तु कथम्॥


The composition is set to an eight-beat cycle and can be sung in the caturaśra-gati. This can be set to the ādi-tāla. It can also be sung vitāla (i.e., without setting it to any tāla cycle).

The song is composed in such a way that there are not many complex words. Here is the split version of a few complex words that appear in the song – इयत्+आनन्द करं, मम+उज्जीवकं, and मम+ऊहः+तु This is the feeling voiced by a heroine to the hero. Śṛṅgāra is the rasa that the song can evoke. The half-minded love of the hero is giving great joy to the heroine. We get to know from the words of the heroine that the hero is shy but is deeply in love with the heroine. As she can voice her feeling without any bashfulness, she belongs to the category of prauḍhā. She does not seem to mind even if he has other lovers and is not jealous of them. This makes her fall into the category of uttama-nāyikā. She is brave, intelligent and courteous too.

It is quite evident that the heroine is not sādhāraṇā. We will need to examine if she is parakīyā or svīyā. If we work with the assumption the couple is matured and their love has ripened with time and that the heroine is trying to cajole the hero with gentle nudging, then the heroine can be said to be svīyā. Instead, if we assume that the hero is married but has an

affair with another woman and she observes that the hero is anxious and preoccupied when he is in her company. She might then start thinking how wholehearted his love for his wife could be and how blessed the wife is. In this context, she is a parakīyā nāyikā. If the heroine is haughty and possessive and utters the words of the song, she will be an ūḍhā (married) parakīyā nāyikā. If the nāyikā feels that the nāyaka has been kind to her, though he is preoccupied, she can express happiness filled with gratitude. There can be a tinge of sorrow because she has not been able to win him over completely. She has the satisfaction that she is in the company of the hero. There can be romānca (horripilation) and vaisvarya (change in voice) when she says this. The heroine might feel angry, irritated, sad, and jealous because his heart is captured by another woman. These and other associated feelings are the vyabhicāri-bhāvas in this situation. The vyabhicāri-bhāvas can lead to aśru (tears) or vaivarṇya (change of facial colour).

Such a heroine who is jealous and sad because of the hero will fall under the category of madhyā. Mature love can be portrayed only through a svīyā-nāyikā. Layers of emotion and the subtle nature of a woman’s heart can be brought about if the heroine is assumed to be a parakīyānāyikā. However, the song cannot lend itself well for a madhyānāyikā who is filled with jealousy, greed, and hatred. Yet, a talented dancer can interpret the song in any manner she wants and bring out the best abhinaya.

In this composition, it is difficult to say to which category of the aṣṭa-nāyikās the heroine belongs to. Her nature seems to be close to that of a svādhīnapatikā (a heroine who has her beloved under her control), though she does not seem to have him totally under control. The heroine can be depicted as though she is cajoling her beloved to turn towards her, with a tinge of humour that is mixed with pathos. Expounding the emotion of the heroine in such a context is certainly a difficult task and it is like walking on a sword’s edge.

Classical rāgas such as Ānanda-bhairavī, Khamāc, Kāmbhoji, and Pahāḍi might suit the emotions that are predominantly present in the song. Lālitya (charm/grace) can be brought out through Khamāc and Ānanda-bhairavī, while gāmbhīrya (profundity/majesty) can be brought out by a combination of Pahāḍi and Kāmbhoji. All the four can suggest the emotions of gratitude mixed with delight, light humour and pathos.

Let us move to the manner in which the situation can be enacted. Rāgālāpana must be done as a precursor to the rendering of the song. The nature of the hero and the heroine should be established during the rāgālāpana. The artist should also subtly suggest that the heroine has realised the half-hearted nature of the hero. Yet it should be depicted such that the preoccupied nature of the hero does not completely disappoint the heroine and she tries to cajole him with affection, hope, and gentleness. Several sancārīs (elaboration and interpretation of the emotion) can be brought out while performing the abhinaya for the line:

udāsīna iva yacchasi yanmayi, dayita! sukhaṃ tu tadeva” (‘You are indifferent to me and that is sufficient to give me joy.’)

Sāttvika-bhāvas have to play a dominant role while performing abhinaya for the lines “iyad-ānandakaraṃ manoharaṃ, mamojjīvakaṃ madhuram” (‘It gives me so much of delight, enlivens me with a lot of sweetness.’)

The lines “yadi kuruṣe nirbharaṃ nidhuvanaṃ, mudā samarpitamanasā” (‘If you can display wholehearted love towards me….’) evoke a feeling that can be contrasted with the first two lines.

Sancārīs can be brought in here too. The artist can show how beautiful the śṛṅgāra would be if both the hero and the heroine were in love with total involvement.

For the line “vivṛṇotu mamohastu katham” (‘Tell me how it is going to be’) the artist may display the feelings of happiness mixed with sorrow in her eyes and then appear as though she is lost in thoughts imagining how the hero would be if only he was with her with full involvement.

The word “dayita!” (‘beloved!’) can be recited/sung and enacted in a myriad ways. The heroine can address her beloved with eagerness, helplessness or with delight.

The artist should display a lot of emotional involvement and intensity of love for the line “sukham-aho! kiyaditi vā” (‘the amount of happiness…’) and not elaborate it much. Rest of the emotion should be left to the imagination of the audience.

The composition does not have much scope for employing cārīs, nṛtta-hastas, or karaṇas. It has to be filled with sāttvikābhinaya based in loka-dharmī. Yet there is ample scope for a talented artist to apply a few movements of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Bhūmi-cārīs such as Baddhā, Utsyandita and Sthitāvarta can be employed. Nṛtta-hastas such as Ulbaṇa, Nitamba, Keśabandha, Sūcyāsya, Arālakhaṭakāmukha, Āviddhavaktra, Ardharecita and Viprakīrṇa can be creatively used. Karaṇas such as Mattallī, Lalita, Catura, Ghūrṇita, Parivṛtta, Saṃnata, Sūcīviddha, Nitamba, Skhalita, Madaskhalita, Janita and Avahittha can be employed as a part of the abhinaya. In addition to these, either entire karaṇas or karaṇāṃśas (a segment of the karaṇa) of Ancita and Talasaṅghaṭṭita might come in handy. It is hard to capture in words the manner in which these movements should be applied. The āhārya worn by the heroine should be simple and graceful.

The article has described all the requisites for rasābhinaya. Artists will need to put in a lot of effort to achieve success in rasābhinaya and to ensure that their communication is accurate and effective.


इति निगदितभङ्गानङ्गसर्वस्वमेतत्
विविधमपि मनोभिर्भावयन्तोऽस्य भेदम्।
परिषदि परितोषं हन्त सन्तः प्रयान्तु ॥  -Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa

I’ve exhaustively described all the varieties of love.
May connoisseurs understand all these details and
enjoy them restfully with closed eyes in scholarly assemblies.





Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

Prekshaa Publications

Indian Perspective of Truth and Beauty in Homer’s Epics is a unique work on the comparative study of the Greek Epics Iliad and Odyssey with the Indian Epics – Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata. Homer, who laid the foundations for the classical tradition of the West, occupies a stature similar to that occupied by the seer-poets Vālmīki and Vyāsa, who are synonymous with the Indian culture. The author...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the sixth volume of reminiscences character sketches of prominent public figures, liberals, and social workers. These remarkable personages hailing from different corners of South India are from a period that spans from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Written in Kannada in the 1970s, these memoirs go...

An Introduction to Hinduism based on Primary Sources

Authors: Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh, Hari Ravikumar

What is the philosophical basis for Sanātana-dharma, the ancient Indian way of life? What makes it the most inclusive and natural of all religio-philosophical systems in the world?

The Essential Sanātana-dharma serves as a handbook for anyone who wishes to grasp the...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fifth volume, episodes from the lives of traditional savants responsible for upholding the Vedic culture. These memorable characters lived a life of opulence amidst poverty— theirs  was the wealth of the soul, far beyond money and gold. These vidvāns hailed from different corners of the erstwhile Mysore Kingdom and lived in...

Padma Bhushan Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam represents the quintessence of Sage Bharata’s art and Bhārata, the country that gave birth to the peerless seer of the Nāṭya-veda. Padma’s erudition in various streams of Indic knowledge, mastery over many classical arts, deep understanding of the nuances of Indian culture, creative genius, and sublime vision bolstered by the vedāntic and nationalistic...

Bhārata has been a land of plenty in many ways. We have had a timeless tradition of the twofold principle of Brāhma (spirit of wisdom) and Kṣāttra (spirit of valour) nourishing and protecting this sacred land. The Hindu civilisation, rooted in Sanātana-dharma, has constantly been enriched by brāhma and safeguarded by kṣāttra.
The renowned Sanskrit poet and scholar, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R...

ಛಂದೋವಿವೇಕವು ವರ್ಣವೃತ್ತ, ಮಾತ್ರಾಜಾತಿ ಮತ್ತು ಕರ್ಷಣಜಾತಿ ಎಂದು ವಿಭಕ್ತವಾದ ಎಲ್ಲ ಬಗೆಯ ಛಂದಸ್ಸುಗಳನ್ನೂ ವಿವೇಚಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಬಂಧಗಳ ಸಂಕಲನ. ಲೇಖಕರ ದೀರ್ಘಕಾಲಿಕ ಆಲೋಚನೆಯ ಸಾರವನ್ನು ಒಳಗೊಂಡ ಈ ಹೊತ್ತಗೆ ಪ್ರಧಾನವಾಗಿ ಛಂದಸ್ಸಿನ ಸೌಂದರ್ಯವನ್ನು ಲಕ್ಷಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ತೌಲನಿಕ ವಿಶ್ಲೇಷಣೆ ಮತ್ತು ಅಂತಃಶಾಸ್ತ್ರೀಯ ಅಧ್ಯಯನಗಳ ತೆಕ್ಕೆಗೆ ಬರುವ ಬರೆಹಗಳೂ ಇಲ್ಲಿವೆ. ಶಾಸ್ತ್ರಕಾರನಿಗಲ್ಲದೆ ಸಿದ್ಧಹಸ್ತನಾದ ಕವಿಗೆ ಮಾತ್ರ ಸ್ಫುರಿಸಬಲ್ಲ ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಹೊಳಹುಗಳು ಕೃತಿಯ ಮೌಲಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸಿವೆ. ಈ...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the fourth volume, some character sketches of the Dewans of Mysore preceded by an account of the political framework of the State before Independence and followed by a review of the political conditions of the State after 1940. These remarkable leaders of Mysore lived in a period that spans from the mid-nineteenth century to the...

Bharatiya Kavya-mimamseya Hinnele is a monograph on Indian Aesthetics by Mahamahopadhyaya N. Ranganatha Sharma. The book discusses the history and significance of concepts pivotal to Indian literary theory. It is equally useful to the learned and the laity.

Sahitya-samhite is a collection of literary essays in Kannada. The book discusses aestheticians such as Ananda-vardhana and Rajashekhara; Sanskrit scholars such as Mena Ramakrishna Bhat, Sridhar Bhaskar Varnekar and K S Arjunwadkar; and Kannada litterateurs such as DVG, S L Bhyrappa and S R Ramaswamy. It has a foreword by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh.

The Mahābhārata is the greatest epic in the world both in magnitude and profundity. A veritable cultural compendium of Bhārata-varṣa, it is a product of the creative genius of Maharṣi Kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana Vyāsa. The epic captures the experiential wisdom of our civilization and all subsequent literary, artistic, and philosophical creations are indebted to it. To read the Mahābhārata is to...

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhānī Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective to every discussion. These essays deal with the philosophy, history, aesthetics, and practice of...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...