Natyasashtra, the exhaustive classical text of stagecraft in the classical dance tradition has detailed description of all possible characters. Earlier we have talked of The Nayak and the Nayika. Today we take up the friend or the Sakhi. The Ashtanayika always have a friend who helps them in dressing up, making arrangements for the Nayaka’s arrival, carrying messages, bringing his messages, running errands, and consoling the Nayika, when she is in distress. They are also eight in number:
- Dooti: One who cleverly carries the confidential messages, from the Nayika to the Nayaka and brings back his messages.
- Daasi: One who does the household work.
- Sakhi: One who shares the good and bad times of the Nayika, as her own.
- Sedi: One who is capable of bringing the Nayaka and Nayika together.
- Tatreyi: Daughter of the foster mother of the Nayika, who is always very close to her.
- Prativesini: One who stays in the same neighbourhood or next door and is close to the Nayika.
- Lingini: One who is capable of changing colors according to the situation.
- Silpini: One who assists the Nayika in doing fine work, like making garlands, stringing flowers, making paan etc.
The character of Sakhi is often an important one in many of the dance dramas as well as Varnams, a central piece of Bharatnatyam repertoire. We often see the Sakhi, frolicking with or assisting or consoling the Nayika, at times carrying her messages to the Nayak and sometimes trying to win the favours of the Nayak too.