Wednesday, 23 January 2008


One of the mini-assignments I had in my first sem theory subject on Historical Theory and Concepts of Fine Arts I.

1. A General Categorisation of Ashta Nayikas
2. Ashta Nayika Categorisation
3. An Illustration / Example of the Ashta Nayikas in Practice
4. Categorisation by Birth or Behaviour


According to the Natyasastra of Bharathamuni, heroes are categorized into 4 (Chathurvidha Nayaka) and heroines are categorized into 8, by character. These 8 heroines (Ashta Nayika), are all Shringara* Nayikas, in accordance with the time then. There are also other categorizations for heroines, such as by ‘birth’ and ‘behaviour’, besides ‘character’. In total, author Dr. S Bhagyalekshmi, in her book Approach to Bharathanatyam, says that Nayikas are of 360 categories.

In the Ashta Nayika (8 heroines) classification, the eight are Svadhinabhathrika, Vasakasajjika, Virahothkanditha, Khanditha, Vipralabdha, Proshitabhatrika, Kalahantarita and Abhisarika.

*Shringara rasa is one of the 9 aesthetic emotions (rasas) evoked in /perceived by, a spectator of an artistic performance.

1. A General Categorisation of Ashta Nayikas

The Ashta Nayikas in general are classified into:
Uttama – They are well balanced and are well behaved. They are of the best among the three.
Madhyama – They will reciprocate via actions that are commensurate with the treatment they’ve received from their heroes, to express their discontent.
Adhama – This is the lowest category among the three and will not behave well, even if their heroes are well mannered or kind. They will be jealous and angry towards their heroes.

2.Ashta Nayika Categorisation

2.1 Svadhinabhathrika
Of the eight, this category of heroine is the only one who has her hero with her. Under all other categories, the hero is separated from the heroine, either by circumstance or will. The Svadhinabhathrika is pampered by her lover and she is confident of his love for her. She is very influential and to acquire what her heart’s desires, she makes others serve her. Dominant and commanding, this heroine’s lover is a slave to her as he is captivated by her and fulfills her every wish. E.g. Sathyabhama.

2.2 Vasakasajjika
This category of heroine anticipates her hero’s arrival though she does not know his arrival time. In preparation for his arrival, she adorns herself with ornaments and make up. Even her room is decorated and she peers out of the threshold of her home, looking if he has arrived. She is ready to receive her lover happily and awaits him eagerly.

2.3 Virahothkanditha
Virahothkanditha suffers the pangs of separation as she is apart from her lover. Due to the non-arrival of her lover or hero, she is discontented, anxious and gets exhausted from this. She continuously laments to her servants and others around, as she does not know why he has not arrived. She openly demonstrates her distress, exhaustion and discontent. However, she does not doubt her hero and will think of the various reasons he may have been unduly delayed, such as being detained by duty or king. E.g. of Virahothkanditha is Dhamayanthi before she meets Nala.

2.4 Khanditha
The Khanditha’s hero comes to her in the morning with tell-tale marks of having spent time with another woman. She is enraged upon seeing him and has pride, jealousy as well as anger. As the word “Khanditha” denotes, this category of heroine is one who expresses her anger and distress. The grammatical explanation of the term itself is to be cut or shattered, i.e. in this case the heroine is cut off and is shattered by anger. She uses contempt, sarcasm and silence as weapons.

2.5 Vipralabdha
This category of heroine is in love with her hero is aware of his infidelity; She notices the tell-tale signs of infidelity and will confront her hero about them. Thus, she is disappointed in love, showing her anxiety and disappointment through sarcasm towards her lover. The Vipralabdha also weeps and faints. A sense of inferiority arises in her, out of feeling that other women are more deserving of her hero’s affection, than herself.

2.6 Proshitabhatrika
Proshitabhatrika is the heroine who is separated from her hero and is therefore sad. She therefore loses interest in herself, e.g., in dressing and grooming herself. The separation is due to circumstance, i.e. a mission, livelihood or education of the hero. Hence, the separation is justified. Unlike the Vasatasajika (2.2 above), the Proshitabhatrika knows the duration of separation.

2.7 Kalahantarita
The term itself expresses the character of the heroine in this category, i.e. ‘Kala’ is anger while ‘anta’ means end, and ‘aritha’ is to repent. In this category the Nayika is quarrelsome and is not reluctant to disgrace her hero in front of others. She later on, repents her misdeed and is filled with remorse. She can be one of two types: (1) one who turns her hero away because of his relationship with another woman and then repents, or (2) one who turns her hero away in anger because he has failed to adhere to her commands, and then repents.

2.8 Abhisarika
The Abhisarika spends much time adorning herself and makes special attempt to go after her hero. She is skillful and cunning. This category has six subdivisions, i.e.:
Jyotsnabhisarika who wears white and goes out in the moonlight to meet her hero.
Divabhisarika who pretends to be going to perform her daily chores but instead goes to meet him.
Thamoabhisarika who wears dark clothes (black, red or blue) to camouflage herself in the night and then sets out to meet her hero.
Kamaabhisarika who goes out to meet her hero with great passion.
Gharvababhisarika whose intention is to come to where he is, to meet him. However, to hide her pride, she pretends she has come on some other task or talks to someone else instead of her hero.
Premavakyabhisarika who talks nicely, with full of love.

3. An Illustration / Example of the Ashta Nayikas in Practice

In illustration of the eight categories, the attached internet article describes an artiste, Indira Kadambi, presenting the Ashta Nayikas in the theme ‘Ashta nayakiyarin ishta Murugan’, showcasing the “eight emotional states of a heroine in love”, for the Margazhi Mahotsav in Chennai. (Performance date is not stated).

The article mentions that she started with the proshitabhatrika nayika, “a heroine who is unable to bear even a temporary separation from her husband or lover, Lord Muruga”. Following through with the vasakasajjika, virahotkhandita, abhisarika, vipralabdha, khandita, kalahantarita nayikas in that order, she ends with the svadhinabhathrika nayika, welcoming her hero’s return with happiness & pride. As this nayika, she is confident of his love for her.

In the review the author mentions that the compositions and alapana rendered were selected or adapted to suit each character and the theme of the performance.

4. Categorisation by Birth or Behaviour

The Natyasastra mentions the categories of Nayikas by birth or behaviour (or “psychological aspect”, as termed by Dr. Bhagyelakshmi in her book, Approach to Bharathanatyam). Thus, the Ashta Nayikas (which is a classification by nature/ character), can be categorised by birth and behaviour.
By birth:
Divya – These heroines are of divine origin (E.g. Indrani)
Maanava – These heroines are of human origin (E.g. Kannagi)
Mishra – These heroines are a mix of both categories above, such as divine beings who had taken human form, such as Seetha or Andal.
Another birth-based classification is:
Divya - These heroines are of divine origin (E.g. Indrani)
Nrpatni – These are heroines of royal lineage, i.e. kings’ wives (E.g. Mandodhari)
Kulastri – These heroines are women of respectable families
Ganika – These are heroines who are courtesans

By behaviour:

Svakiya – She is of good character and spends her time serving her hero, who she loves. She is the ideal wife and is categorized into Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbha. In the work titled Studies in Nayika-Nayaka Bedha by Rakeshagupta, the author states that the division of Svakiya into Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbha is similar to the classification that divides the youth of the woman into 4 stages: Prathama, Dwitiya, Thrithiya and Chathurtha Yowanas, though the actual definitions of these are not given by the author.
Mugdha – This category is further divided into the Dyata Yowana who is aware of men and their character, as well as Adhyata Yowana who is not aware of men and their characters. Mugdha is generally young, shy and inexperienced in love. Thus she is not aware of how she is to react to love.
Madhya – The Madhya Nayika has reacted to her husband’s love. However, she is not fully understood love. This category is broken down into Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera. Each of these is broken down into Decha (older) and Kanicha (younger).
i. Dheera Madhya – She will marry more than once and will be jealous because her hero favours another. She indirectly expresses her ill-feelings and uses sarcasm. She does not however, raise her voice in anger and instead, maintains respect towards her husband though her mood will be one of indifference (e.g. not smiling).
ii. Adheera Madhya – She openly rebukes her hero and chides him in public.
iii. Dheeraadheera Madhya – She is likely to use sarcasm and will breakdown in expression of her discontent.
Praghalpa - She is very experienced and understands the character of her hero. Thus she can express herself very well. Praghalpa is broken down into the Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera categories as well.
Parakeeya – She is also known as Anyanari and can be one of two types; the Kanya or the Praudha. The Kanya is a young maiden and the Praudha is married and matured. The Parakeeya belongs to one person but has feelings for another. An e.g. would be Meera as she pined for Krishna’s love despite being married to another. She would fall into the Praudha category.
Samanya – Also known as Dravyanari, she is a courtesan and will attach herself to her hero/heroes for self betterment. She will charm her heroes with her beauty and cultural talents.
The classification into Uttama, Madhyama and Adhama by Bharathamuni, is said to be “similar in spirit to the classification into Svakiya, Parakeeya and Samanya”, according to author Rakeshagupta in his book, Studies in Nayika-Nayaka Bheda.


The Nayikas’ categorization by birth, character and behaviour are all as stated in the Natyasastra. The Ashta Nayikas can be respectively classified into Uttama, Madhyama and Adhama. In terms of behaviour, they can also be classified into Sviya, Parakeeya and Samanya. While the Praghalpa and Madhya Nayikas of the Svakiya category are broken down into Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera, the Mugdha Nayikas of the Svakiya category is separated into the Kanya and Praudha groups. The Ashta Nayikas, when categorized by birth, can be segregated into origins; divine, human or a combination of both.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Katha Parayumbol - Must Watch!


You: Why Should I Watch 'Katha Parayumbol'?

Me: If you're anything like me, you are curious about most things Keralite, but you don't always relate to Kerala's culture or understand the finer nuances of Malayalee conversation. (And you wont be even be surprised that you dont relate to these aspects.) Why? Because, like me, you:

  1. never grew up in Kerala...or India for that matter.

  2. What you know of the Malayalam language is what mom or grandma spoke, or what you saw in pirated Mallu videos of the 80s, in the country your family emigrated to.
So, a two hour political potrayal of socialist endeavours or "boy-meets-girl at college for the billionth time", will be completely lost on someone like me.

But the movie "Katha Parayumbol..." (translates loosely to "When Telling a Story...") engaged me for its complete duration...that's an experience I've not had with any Indian movie in a while!
Story-telling was at a new level, with entertainment and education rolled into one. Each cast member was picked with precission and the screenplay (by comedian Sreenivasan) was commendable in my view.

In a time when the Indian movie still gets snickered at for its focus on "LAU", "LAU SONGS" and as they say in Tamil, "KUTHU CHANDAI" ( "Impossible feats of fist fighting and kicking stunts that defy gravity), this movie has me thinking that it's time I take my "tounge-in-cheek", sarcy family and friends to this movie.

You:Where Should I Watch This?

Me: I'm priviledged to have watched "Katha Parayumbol..." on the big screen in Chennai and I am aware that my fellow members of the Keralite diaspora may not have this privilege if they're in Malaysia or Belgium or Fiji Islands or whatever. But to those of you planning to make a trip to Kerala, I recommend you don't miss this movie.

You: Ok, You've Won Me Over ...(Almost, so dont get too excited!) Tell me, who starred in it?

Me: Now the stars... Mamooty& Sreenivasan.

Every Mallu and his/her brother-in-law knows Mamooty.

I dont know how many of my Mallu family and friends will know the name Sreenivasan from the 80s/90s comedy flicks. But if you remember him as well as I do, I think you'll agree that he was one of those comedians you waited to watch on screen and whose talent in comedic-timing surpassed that of most of his peers of those decades.

Anyway, Sreenivasan wrote the screenplay of this movie and he's done a wonderful job! Loved this movie and recommend it to Mallus who aren't completely in sync with regular Mallu flicks.

You: Do I Have Access to This Movie? If I Don't, Why Whet My Apetite Telling Me About It?

Me: You may wonder how the rest of the Malayalee population, dispersed across continents, nationalities and generations, are going to get to view this gem of a Malayalam movie. For now, the only way is to either travel to satisfy your unique movie cravings, or to become an owner of a cinema and make it a point to screen Mallu movies. :-) How that would make money, I don't know....I ain't no business-person.

Any other legal ideas are welcome too. I always imagined that malayalee associations all over the world will one day convene to find a solution to this problem, especially in the day and age when every Malayalee parent is lamenting that their kids aren't as Mallu as themselves or aren't interested in Mallu culture. I'm surprised that these parents don't realise that they themselves picked up details of Kerala and its tradition through Malayalam cinema. Therefore, great films are the answer to their problems. Despite all the ingenuity that the Keralite boasts of across the seas, something as simple as propagation of culture through GOOD cinema has been left untapped.

I think Malayalam cinema, unlike many of it's sister-genres, can (for the most part) boast of being able to propagate culture without the patronising commerical additives that include [1] hip-hop dancers for a song set in Kanada raga (go figure!) or [2] a three-piece suit with tie-pin and cuff links, for a villian whose entire lifestyle is typical of a village head (and not of the mafia!)

Secretly, the next story I hope someone as talented as Sreenivasan tells us, relates to not only those IN Kerala but those OUT of it, aspiring to retain what is precious. He seems fertile with issues which are otherwise untouched by his own peers in Malayalam film-making, and I hope a movie like the one I've mentioned above, takes hime to greater heights.

Here's another secret wish...the reason I tell you, the potential-audience about this, is in the hope that some Mallu out there reading this, does something about accessibility of Malayalam movies to Keralites and their clueless descendents around the world!

So there!

Incidentally, I HAVE emailed Sreenivasan my comments. :-)

Source of photos -

Monday, 14 January 2008

True Story: Citizen Auto-Driver


On the way to uni this morning, I performed the usual rituals; getting into an auto-rickshaw, ensuring the driver understood where I was going. Trust me, I've been driven to places WAAAY of the mark a few times when I did not name at least 2 landmarks besides mentioning the name of my famous campus and uni!

Anyway, the point is, 2 mins away from my stop I prepared my fare in hand so that I don't start searching my bag for the right change when I get there. Today I took out a Rs.100 note to pay the driver my Rs.60 fare.

When I whisked the note out of my purse, it flew out of my hand into the merciless traffic of Kamaraj Salai. Anyone who's been on Kamaraj Salai will tell you it is no less than a death wish, to run after a stray note on that road, no matter what the denomination. But tell that to my auto driver, will you?! This amazingly brave driver (or brainless...whichever you'd perceive him to be), parked the vehicle safely along the roadside, got down, and darted through the heavy traffic, dodging the tank-like Ambassadors, reckless scooters, autos etc to chase the note. As though that was not amazing enough, he actually caught it while it whizzed between vehicles. He then proudly waved to me with it, 50 yards off where I sat, completely awestruck!

As he walked back towards me, I saw an arm extend from behind a pillar that separated him and the road he had to cross to get to me. It gestured him to approach. From the sleeve on the arm, I knew it would be a traffic policeman who must have seen the incident as we'd passed him so closely during this 'drama'. I assumed he just wished to "kepoh", as we say in Malaysia....or in English, to be a "busy body".

The driver disappeared beind the pillar. When he emerged next, he wore an angry expression, nodding his head in annoyance and was muttering under his breath. As soon as he saw me peering out of his auto, he apologised and explained that the policeman had literally taken the note out of his hand! No explanation or query. Just like that! The auto driver expressed his annoyance about his failed attempts at convincing the policeman that the money belonged to a customer in his auto, just across the road!

The auto driver suggested to me politely that perhaps I should cross the road and go ask the policeman for the money myself since the policeman doubted the driver's testimony. This of course was a last resort as it has commonly been the advice of my Chennite friends, to stay clear of troublesome (or more precisely in this case, bullying) coppers. As I got out of the vehicle, the policeman who was up until that time standing there watching the driver walk back to the auto, hurriedly got on his bike and sped off!

The auto driver's eyes turned bloodshot and he started swearing at the policeman! I was amazed that my driver felt a certain sense of duty towards getting his customer's rightful money, back. Among so many auto drivers I'd met who couldn't give a toss as to what happens to their customers, today's auto driver came to me as a big surprise. Though I lost my money to the cop, I felt I needed to reward my driver. So I gave him a tip over the fare, both of which I had to conjour up from my remaining stash after a desparate search for spare change in my school bag. I was again amazed that he was polite enough to refuse my first attempt to give him a tip.

And that, was the event of today which I thought was blog-worthy.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Subjects in Semester 1


Some friends (& strangers!!) had contacted me from Malaysia, enquiring about my are the subjects I took in my first semester at University of Madras, under MA Indian Music:
  1. Foundation in Performance I
  2. Compositions in 8 Ragas
  3. Alapana in 4 Ragas
  4. Devotional Compositions: Music of South India
  5. Historical and Theoretical Concepts of Fine Arts I
  6. Introduction to Sanskrit I
  7. Spanish - Compulsory to take one subject within the group of subjects called "soft skills", as per the new university ruling.

Rough Descriptions:

  1. Includes understanding of tala, nadai, use of nadai in tisram, kandam, misram (and naturally chatusram). Varnam will be sung in all these nadais, in 1st and 2nd kalam. Alangkaras in all talas, using 8 ragas. This will have to be rendered with and without gamakas. It is implied that sarali, jantai, dhatu varisais and relevant geethams and varnams are already covered when the student joins the course, as they will be the basis of introducing other new concepts. (Practical)
  2. Compositions in 2-kalai covering 8 important ragas will be covered. These compositions are different every semester, hence no preparation can be undertaken except sharpening one's knowledge of the ragas in which the compositions will be taught. Ragas include among others: Purvikalyani, Kamboji and Saveri. This subject is the basis for subjects in musical improvisation in following semesters. (Practical)
  3. This is a creative subject but it requires understanding and apt rendering of the 4 selected ragas. Ability to notate alapanas that masters of the art render, is also examined. (Practical)
  4. Devotional compositions in Telegu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. Compositions include ragamalikas. Some compositions may also be in Manipravalam. (Practical)
  5. As the title suggests. Topics covered include music theory and literature pre- and post-trinity, largely covering history of tamil music. Thus topics such as 4000 Divya Prabandham, Thevaram, Tirupugal, Panniru Tirumurai etc will be covered along with ancient works such as Silapadikaram, Tolkapiyam, Bharatasenapatiyam, Cacaputavenpa, Talasamudiram etc. There are over 25 main topics so the list above is not exhaustive.
  6. This subject is a follow-on for students who, in India, have studied the basics of Sanskrit in school already. Note to the non-Indian student: To be able to complete this subject successfully, you may consider learning sanskrit on your own first, and come up to speed with the Indian school-leaver. Sanskrit is an excellent allied-subject to take alongside your music studies, to aid in the appreciation of sahitya in Carnatic music.
  7. This is one of the university's new (compulsory) subject introductions, alongside other options such as Managerial Skills and Computing Skills, to keep postgrads upto par with the requirements of the Indian/ international job market. Languages offered include French, German, Italian and Korean, besides Spanish.

Hope the description above is helpful. All the best!