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Abhinaya in Dance (Part 3)

In the last post we saw about Angika Abhinaya and Vachika Abhinaya. Now lets see what Aharaya and Sattvika Abhinaya mean.

3. The Aharya aspect of Abhinaya involves the make-up and costumes, ornaments, use of specific colours, hair-styles as well as dress code for particular characters. Aharya also includes the stage props and decor. A bharatanatyam costume involves its typical dress
kathakali1 which is either the Payjama style or the Sari style. The ornaments used are the The forehead set (Netti chutti, Chandra, surya), Jumki (earrings), Mattal (ear chain), Nose rings (mukutti), bangles (Hasta Kadakam), Necklace (a chokerand a long necklace which is of pearls or gold and stones), waist belt, and Chilangai or the Gungroos (the bells tied to the feet), flowers for the hair.

Compared to other classical dances Kathakali gives a lot of importance to Aharya. In Kathakali, a symbolic use of costumes and make-up is made to create a larger than life image in order to project the magnificent characters of the epics like Mahabharata. In Kathakali theatre, dominant colours of make-up like green, black, red are used symbolically to show different types of characters. It must be noted that Aharya is the only external vehicle other than body used in Abhinaya, and this, too, is sometimes replaced by Angika.

4. Sattvika Abhinaya is mentioned as the fourth kind of Abhinaya which is the most important aspect of Abhinaya. Sattva in sanskrit means Pure or real. Thus this kind of Abhinaya can be interpreted as one that is real and natural. They are very subtle feelings that we experience (like horripilation, perspiration or tears etc) . It can be expressed only if it is really heart felt. Sattvika Abhinaya are the feelings created in the mind that are externally projected by Angika and Vachika. This Abhinaya is also called as Psycho-Physical representation by some writers. Lets see what are the different Sattvika Abhinayas And its importance.

There are eight Sattvika Abhinayas

1. Stambha means Motionless or numbness because of a shock

2. Swedha is perspiration

3. Romancha is Horripilation . It is experienced when mind is excited and hair on the body stand erect.

4. Ashru is to be in tears

5. Vepathu is Shivering

6. Pralaya to faint out of shock

7. Vaivarnya is a change of skin complexion like to be Red in Anger .

8. Swarabhaga is change in the voice tone due to over e06_Gopikavarmamotions.

All the eight Sattvikas mentioned are not actually bhavas or emotions but they are a sort of reactions seen usually at a height of an emotional experience. For example perspiration and tears cannot be enacted like the other bhavas of anger or sorrow. These reaction follow a particular emotion. If we are very happy or too depressed, tears flow. Sometimes we also experience change in the voice tone (as unable to speak with joy). It is easy to experience Sattvikas in real life but to express them in the unreal world of Natya requires total concentration, knowledge of human mind and technical skill on the part of the actor or Dancer. Thus Sattvika can be called the physical reaction of the mind motivated by acute emotions, which requires the actor to be one with the character. Without Sattvika, Angika and Vacika Abhinaya will become lifeless and ineffective.


  1. Prerana

    Hello Anjali,
    My name is Prerana & am also a bharatnatyam performer. I wanted to appreciate your idea & efforts to share this art with art lovers through internate.
    I was in India & performing for 12 yrs now am in USA so not able to learn more but when I found your site & blog I felt I will definitely get to learn more
    Hope to talk to you in future & gain more knowledge

  2. Anjali

    Thanks Prerana. I am very fortunate to receive this appreciation from an experienced Dancer like you. Yes you are always welcome to contribute your thoughts and ideas here and help the readers know the art better.

  3. Ashima

    Hello Anjali,
    Do you have any tips for me to improve my Abhinaya? Are there any exercises?

    Thanks a lot for your help.

  4. Shanika

    Thank you sooooo much dear Anjali.My name is shanika Harshani.I’am studing Bharathnatyam & So verry usufull for this lessens

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