Many texts on music, dance and drama continued to be written in different parts of India until the 17th Century. Between the 12th and the 16th Century, regional styles emerged. Medieval texts have been discovered in all parts. One amongst these is the Srihastamuktavali belonging to the eastern tradition. While there is ambiguity in regard to its origins, text has been found in Maithili and in Assamese transcript. The author confines himself to a detailed treatment of the hastas (hand gestures). Dr. Maheswar Neog has edited and translated the text with great care, pointing out the similarities as also differences with the Natyasastra and the Sangita Ratnakara tradition. The text throws significant light on the language of the hand gestures which may have been followed in the eastern regions.
Dr. Maheswar Neog, a scholar of extraordinary gifts and accomplishments, is the author of over 50 publications and research papers. For nearly 5 decades, he has been writing and lecturing on different aspects of Assamese history, literature and the arts. Known for his outstanding contribution, in his book entitled "Sankaradeva and His Times" he has explored the literary and artistic texts with incomparable depth. His other works include Sri Sri Sankaradeva (4 Edns.) (1948); Asamiya Sahityar Ruparekha (4 Ends.) (1962); Adhunika Asamiya Sahitya (1967), Pracya Sasanavali (1975) (Epigraphy); Guru-a-carita Katha (Ed) Pavitra Assam (Ed) etc.; English; Sri Sri Sankaradeva (1965). Dr. Maheswar Neog has held many important positions, including Jawaharlal Nehru Professorship in Gauhati University and Saint Sankardeva Professorship in Punjabi University, Patiala. `He has received many honours, including, Padam Shri in 1972, Sadasya Mahiyan of the Assam Sahitya Sabha in 1988; and the Srimant Sankaradeva Award of the Assam Government in 1989.
It is with great pleasure that we introduce the Third Volume in the Kalamulasastra Series of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. The two previous publications dealt with music, namely, Matralaksanam and Dattilam. Matralaksanam was the first text to be published in the Series wherein an attempt was made to transcribe the wor1d’s most complex system of orally accentuated verses transmitted through oral in notation into a written textual form belonging to two very important sakhas of the Sama Veda. The text and its publication laid the foundation of the IGNCA’s programme of publishing fundamental texts of the Indian traditions in original and translation.
The second was also a text of music Dattilam. Its value lay in its representing a stream of theoretical discussion on music which could be clearly differentiated from the system enunciated by Bharata in the Natyasastra.
Between the composition of the Matralaksanam, the writing of Dattilam, the Natyasastra, and its commentary by Abhinavgupta, centuries elapse. Nevertheless, the tradition of the writing of texts (sastras) on the arts not only continues, but, it undergoes many changes and transformations. In course of time, distinct regional traditions emerge. The concept of the Desa: in the Natyasastra and Desi as a term of aesthetics, rather than denoting sociological category is recognised by the theoreticians. Sangita-Ratnakara of Sarngadeva takes cognizance of the emergence of Desi styles, both in music as also dance. From the 15th Century onwards, a large number of texts come to light from all regions of India on different aspects of the Indian arts, especially, architecture, sculpture, music and the dance. Each of these texts reflects two types of tendencies. The first is the flow of continuity. There is a direct relationship between the formulations contained in the earliest texts going back to the 2nd Centaury A.D. and those that have been written and compiled as late as in the 17th and 18th Centuries. The other is the attempt to identify distinctive features of a regional style or school. These two parallel tendencies are common to practically all the arts.
Hastamuktavali of Subhankara reflects these tendencies and the dynamics of textual writing on the arts in India. Despite the many controversies regarding the author and his date, it is clear from the excellent introduction of Dr. Maheswar Neog that the text was written somewhere in the Eastern part of India, possibly, originally in the Maithil Pradesh and then carried to Assam. The original manuscripts as also the transcriptions and the gloss in Asamiya bear testimony to the popularity of the text and the mobility of the text between Nepal, Bihar and Assam. Also, it is clear that no text of this kind could have been written and re-written had it not been for a flourishing tradition of prayoga.
The contents, although restricted to the hastas again reflect the direct relationship with the Natyasastra tradition on the one hand and the regional traditions of hand-gestures, known as mudras in the Kalika Purana tradition of Kamarupa. Dr. Neog makes a very interesting comparison between mudras mentioned in the Kalika Purana and the bastas mentioned in the Hastamuktavali.
The text is important for making comparisons for not only with the Natyasastra, but, also the Abhinaya darpana and the Sangita ratnakara.
Although Dr. Maheshwar Neog, the distinguished Sanskrit and Awamiya scholar, had published the text on the basis of three manuscripts in 1980, there was no translation. In view of the great importance of this text in was considered necessary to re-publish this along with the revised critical introduction, the original text and the translation in the Kalamulasastra Series.
We thank Dr. Maheswar Neog for the immaculate collation and editing work his translation and his erudite introduction. We acknowledge our thanks to his daughter Dr. (Miss) Sulekha Chakraborty for the assistance, to Dr. C.B. Pandey, our Editor for seeing it through the press.
Classical Indian Dance Literature:
From the very beginning the Indian drama has depended a great deal upon the element of dance, as it did have music, both instrumental and vocal, as an important part of it. The dramatic art consisted of representation (abhinaya), classified into angika (physical, gestural) vacika (vocal), aharya (depending on costume and make-up), and sattvika (temperamental or emotional). Angika referred to the artistic movement of various limbs of the body, such as the head, the hands, the feet, the eyes, the eye-balls, the eye-brows, the neck and the thighs. From the earliest times, drama and art critics have tried to fix codes for the movement of the limbs, of which the hands have always been receiving the greatest attention.
Among the Indus Valley finds are figurines of danseuses. There are references to dances, codified or not, to be found in Indian literature of all ages. The Rgveda, 1.92.4, mentions the dancing of a courtesan (nrtu) with bare breasts. In Panini (5th or 4th century [IC.), IV.3.1 10-111, we find references to the Nata-sutras of Silalin and K4ãva; but the exact nature of the contents of these sutras could not now he determined.
The Natyasastra is not only the earliest detailed treatise on Indian dramaturgy and histrionics, but it is also the most authoritative work on the subject ever to be written in this country. It is ascribed to a sage going by the name, Bharata, supposed to be eponymous by some scholars, as the word originally meant ‘an actor’. It seems to date back from the second or first century B.C. There are altogether thirty-six chapters (made into thirty-seven in one of the two recensions) in this masterly work. Of these—
(1) Chapter iv provides a description of the tandava or class dance, and deals quite elaborately with 32 angaharas (composite movements of limbs), which consist of karmas, poses numbering 108 in all, (and being) described in this very chapter. ‘The 4 types of recakas of the feet (pada), of the waist (Mad), of the hands (hasta) and of the neck (griva) are then taken fir discussion. Pindis or pindibandhas (combinations of dancers) arc then described.
(2) Chapter viii goes into details of physical representation, that is, gestures, which are classified into (a) gestures of the limbs (sarira) being (i) angas or major limbs, — the head, hands, breasts, sides, waist and feet, (ii) 6 upangas or minor limbs upahga)—the eyes, eye-brows, nose, lower lip, cheeks and chin; (b) gestures of the face (mukhaja); and (c) gestures of the body as a whole (cestakrta). There are 13 gestures of the head, 36 glances (drsti including 8 to represent rasas 8 representing sthayibhavas and 20 representing vyabhiart bhavas), 9 gestures of the eye-balls, 8 additional glances, 9 gestures of the eye-lids, 7 gestures of the eye-brows, 6 gestures of the nose, 6 of the cheeks, 6 of the lower lip, 6 of the chin, 6 of the mouth, and 9 movements of the neck. There are four different ‘hues’ of the face here noticed.
(3) Chapter ix is wholly engaged with the 67 gestures of the hands, which are of three types—24 gestures of single hands, 13 gestures of combined hands, and 30 nrttahastas or pure dance hands, there are four classes of karanas of the hands, and 10 movements of the arms.
(3) Chapter x deals with the gestures of the other limbs and their use in abbinaya—5 of the breasts, 5 of the sides, 3 of the belly, 5 of the waist, 5 of the thighs, 5
of the shanks, and 5 of the feet.
(5) Chapter xi deals with the cari movements and their uses. There are 32 caris, of which 16 are earthly (bhaumi) and 16 aerial (akasiki). There are, moreover, 6 sthanas or standing postures and 4 ways (nyaya) in handling weapons.
(6) Chapter xii describes mandalas which are combinations of caris, of which 10 are earthly and 10 aerial.
(7) Chapter xiii prescribes gaits (gati) for different characters like kings, merchants and ministers, ascetics and sectarians, the sick and emaciated, lunatics and jesters, etc., for different sentiments, and for different situations.
North Indian Music (277)
Original Texts (59)
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