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Today’s blog is actually in continuation of an earlier one where I spoke about the various kinds of Abhinayaas detailed in the classical scriptures.

Abhinayam, as mentioned earlier is four folds- Angikam, Vachikam, Aharyam and Sattvikam. In this write up I will detail out Angigam Abhinayam, which is the expression through the body and its limbs.

It is expressed in three ways:

  1. ANGA

    Tatraangiko-anga pratyangopaangaih tredha prakasitah,
    Angaanyatra siro hastou vakshah parswou katitatou,
    Paadaaviti shaduktaani greeva mapyare jaguh.

    It means that angiga abhinayam is of three types- angas (major limbs), pratyangas (subsidiary limbs) and upangas (minor limbs). Among these, the angas are six in number:

    • Sirah- head.
    • Hastou- the two palms.
    • Vakshah- chest.
    • Paarswou- the two sides.
    • Katitatou- the two sides of the waist.
    • Paadou- the two feet.

    Some other scholars include the neck also.


    Pratyangaanyatha cha skandhe baahu prishtham tathodaram,
    Ooru-jaanghe shadityaahu rapare manibandhakou,
    Jaanuni koorpara vetat traya mapyadhikam jaguh.

    It means there are six pratyangas :

    • Skahdhe- the two shoulders.
    • Aahu- the two arms.
    • Prishtham- back.
    • Udaram- stomach.
    • Ooru- thighs.
    • Jaangha- shanks.

    According to some scholars, the wrists knees and elbows are also pratyangas.


    Drishti bhru puta taarashca kapolou naasika hanu,
    Adharo daasana jihwaa cubukam vadanam tatha,
    Upaangani dwadasaiwa sirasyangantaresu cha,
    Parshnigulphou tatha aangulyah karayoh paadaayoh tale,
    Etani poorvasaastraanusaarenoktani vai mayaa.

    It means there are twelve Upangas:

    • Drishti – eyes.
    • Bhru – eye brows.
    • Puta- eye lids.
    • Tarah – pupis.
    • Kapolou – cheeks.
    • Naasika – nose.
    • Hanu – jaws.
    • Adharah – lower lip.
    • Dasana – teeth.
    • Jihwa – tongue.
    • Cubukam – chin.
    • Vadanam – face.

    Some scholars also add to these the heels, ankles, fingers and soles.

The movements of the pratyangas and upangas depend upon the movements of the angas. Mostly, the ones useful in bharatnatyam are described in detail in the classification of the siro bhedas, drishti bhedas, greeva bhedas and hastas.

As seen in any form of dance, the movement of the body is one of the most important tools of communication and expression. The hands depict multiple meanings through the mudras, both in nritta as well the natya aspect of a dancer’s performance. The footwork adds rhythm and technique to the rendition of jatis and adavus, which involves the movements of all the other limbs of the body too. In all non-narrative dances, for example, alaripu, jatiswaram or tillana, they play the most important role along with the use of some Upangas such as the eyes and face. When performing narrative sequences which involve rasa and bhava and demand emotional appeal, the Upangas again prove very useful along with the movements of the angas and pratyangas. Whether it be the representation of people, gods, demons, nature or animals, a combination of all aspects of angiga abhinaya help in creating realistic interpretations of the ideas or episodes that need to be expressed in front of the audiences. It is therefore an undeniable fact that angiga abhinaya is one of the strongest modes of expression in bharatnatyam.

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