Arthaanaambhimukhikaranam abhinayashabdaartham

A sankrit term, ‘Abhinaya‘ literally means “to carry towards” (the prefix ‘abhi’ means ‘towards’ and the root ‘ni’ means ‘to carry’). Thus carrying of an idea towards the spectator or inshort to educate is “Abhinaya”.
‘Abhinaya Darpanam’ mentions : The actors educate the spectator by stimulating in him the latent possibility of aesthetic experience.
Thus Abhinaya is necessarily a representation which is able to suggest or present the psychological status of charactersin a dramatic representation or in dance.

It is not just doing the actions but carrying out gestures or actions, expressions in such a way that the spectator receive the aesthetic pleasure out of it and enjoy it.

Priyadarshini Govind

Abhinaya has also been defined as “movements for suggesting rasa and bhaava(psychological state)”.
For this reason, the word abhinaya my be said to disclose to the spectators the beauty or manifold pleasurable aspects of the play by means of words, gestures and costumes.
Hence ,abhinaya is fourfold:

  1. Aangika (Physical)
  2. Vaachika (Verbal)
  3. Aaharya (dress,make-up)
  4. Saattvika (Temperamental-inner feelings)

Aangika Abhinaya
Tatra aangikongainirdashitaha
that is, Aangika Abhinaya is shown by means of limbs. Thus Aangika Abhinaya is actually the use of gestures or the use of body gesticulation (the conventional and appropriate gestures codified in scriptures )in order to communicate thought and theme in dance. For example, the single hand gestures, Double hand gestures, etc.

Vaachika Abhinaya
Vaachaa virchitaha kaavyanaatakaadi tu vaachikaha
that is, Vaachika Abhinaya constitutes kaavyas (poems) and naataka(dramas) which are made up of speech”.
Thus vaachika abhinaya could also mean the use of proper language, pronounciation, modulation of voice, accent and rhythm. For example, the songs, the delivery of dialogues in dramas, etc.

Aaharya Abhinaya
Aaharyo haarkeyurveshaadibhirankrutihi
that is, Aahaarya Abhinaya includes the decoration of the body by means of necklaces and armlets, etc.
Thus appropriate and suitable use of dress, make up, stage props, decor and ornamentation is very important for the representation of the story. For example, the costumes and face make up in the Kathakali dance form represent definite and particulars characters.


Saattvika Abhinaya
Saattvikaha saattvikairbhavaibhaavagyen na vibhavitaha
that is, Saattvika abhinaya is performed with saattvika emotions by those who know how to represent them.

The word ‘sattvika’ stems from the sanskrit word “sattva” (purity) and it relates to the expressions coming forth from a dancer as a resultt of a particular emotion he/she experiences within. It relates to the inner psychological states and mental feelings which when expressed create the relevant mood or emotion in others.

It is representation of eight psycho-physical states-stambha (motionlessness), sveda (perspiration), romaancha (horripilation), svarabheda (change of voice), vepathu (trembling), vaivarnya (change of colur), ashru (tears) and pralaya (fainting).

Thus Saattvika Abhinaya is that aspect of abhinaya which contributes towards the effective creation of Rasa in the spectator which is the ultimate goal of any dance or presentation.