Postures: Insights from Natyashastra of Bharata

Presented by: Dr. Nirmala Mani Adhikary

Postures also are significant aspect of non-verbal communication. Bharata describes various postures in his treatise Natyashastra.

Standing, Sitting and Lying-down Postures

The Standing Postures (Sthanas)
In the 11th Adhyaya of NS, Bharata describes following standing postures.
1. Vaishnava: the feet two Talas and a half apart, one for the natural posture and another obliquely placed with toes pointing sideways and the shank bent (Anchita) and limbs with Saushthava. Vishnu is the presiding deity of this Sthana. From this Sthana, persons of the superior and the middling types should carry on their ordinary (natural) conversation in connection with various duties. It should also be assumed in throwing a disc, holding a bow, in patient and stately movement of the limbs, and in anger. On being reversed it is to be used in anger of love. And similarly in the administration of rebuke, and in love, distress, apprehension, envy, cruelty, assurance and recollection, it is to be assumed when the Erotic, the Marvellous, the Odious and the Heroic Sentiments are prominently introduced.
2. Samapada: the feet in the natural posture and kept one Tala apart, and the body with the natural Saushthava. Brahma is its presiding deity. It should be assumed in accepting blessings from the Brahmins and in mimicking birds. The bridegroom at the marriage ceremony, persons in the sky, chariot and aerial car (Vimana), person of marked sects and persons practicing vows are also to assume this.
3. Vaishakha: the two feet three Talas and a half apart and the thighs without motion; besides this the two feet to be obliquely placed pointing sideways. Skanda (Kartikeya) is its presiding deity. This Sthana should be assumed in riding horses and in exercise, exit from any place, mimicking large birds, practice of shooting arrows and in the Rechakas of the feet.
4. Mandala: the feet are four Talas apart and they are obliquely placed and turned sideways, the waist and the knee are in the natural position. Its presiding deity is Indra. It should be assumed in the use of weapons like the bow and the thunderbolt, driving of elephants and mimicking large birds.
5. Alidha: the right foot in the Mandala Sthana drawn five Talas apart from the other foot will make the Alidha Sthana. Rudra (Shiva) is its presiding deity. It should be assumed in all acts relating to the Heroic and the Furious Sentiments, duel of wrestlers and in the representation of enemies, an attack on them and release of missiles.
6. Pratyalidha: when the right foot is bent and the left foot is put forward in the Alidha Sthana the Pratyalidha will be produced. After taking an aim from the Alidha Sthana the missile to be actually released from the Pratyalidha Sthana. The actor should release various weapons from this Sthana.

Sitting Postures (Asanavidhana)
In the 13th Adhyaya of NS, Bharata describes following sitting postures. According to him, sitting posture for men and women should be made conforming to the different Psychological States which they are in.
1. Sitting at ease: the two feet are at rest (Vishkambhita) and kept doubled up (Anchita), the Trika is slightly raised and the two hands are put on the thighs on the two sides.
2. Sitting in a pensive mood: when a person is to assume deep thinking, he is to stretch slightly one of his feet, and the other foot is to rest on the seat and the head is to bend on one side.
3. Sitting in sorrow: when a person is in grief and uneasiness, he is to put up his hands for supporting the chin, or his head to rest on the shoulder, and he is to look like one whose mind and sense-organs are not working.
4. Sitting in fainting and in intoxication: when a person is unconscious, fainting or is intoxicated, tired, weakened or sad, [from the above posture] he is to stretch his arms loosely and to sit depending on some support.
5. Sitting in shame and in sleep etc.: when a person in ill, ashamed, asleep or in meditation, he is to lump together his limbs between legs and knees.
6. Sitting on ceremonial occasions: In offering a libation of water to the spirits of diseased parents, muttering (Japa) of Mantras, saying the Sandhya prayers and making Achamana, one is to assume the sitting posture with the hump raised, in which the hip and heels come together.
7. Sitting in pacifying a beloved woman: In appeasing the anger of a beloved woman and pouring ghee into the sacrificial fire and doing similar other acts, a person is to put one of his stretched knees on the ground [from the sitting posture mentioned above].
8. Sitting in worshipping a deity, in pacifying anger of superiors etc.: Downcast face and the sitting posture with the two knees on the ground (i.e. kneeling down) is to be assumed in adoring a deity, pacifying the angry superiors, bitterly crying for sorrow, seeing a dead body, the fear of persons of low spirits, the begging of something by lowly persons and servants, and attendance during the Homa and the sacrificial work. Ascetics (Muni) while practicing austerities are also to assume this sitting posture.

Lying-down Postures
In the 13th Adhyaya of NS, Bharata describes following postures in the bed.
1. Akunchita: Lying down with limbs narrowed down and the two knees sticking to the bed is called the Akunchita posture. It is to be used in representing persons attacked with cold.
2. Sama: Lying down with the face upwards and the hands free and turning downwards is called the Sama posture. It is the posture in deep sleep.
3. Prasarita: Lying down with one arm as the pillow and the knees stretched, is called the Prasarita posture. It is to be used to represent one enjoying a sleep of happiness.
4. Vivartita: Lying down with the face downwards is called the Vivartita posture. It is to be assumed in representing wound from any weapon, death, vomiting, intoxication and lunacy.
5. Udvahita: Lying down with the head resting on the hand and making a movement f the knee, is called the Udvahita posture. It is to be used in sports, and on hearing the master’s words.
6. Nata: Lying down with the legs (lit. shanks) slightly stretched and the two hands loosely resting is called the Nata posture. It is to be used in laziness, fatigue and distress.
Bharata emphasizes that whatever remains unsaid should be devised according to the demand of circumstances.

Postures in Walking and Talking to Others
Following three Sthanas (postures) of women in walking and speaking to others have been described by Bharata in the 13th Adhyaya of NS.
1. Ayata Sthana: In this posture, the right foot will be Sama, the left foot (lit. the other at the side) Tryashra (obliquely placed) and the left waist raised. This Sthana is to be used in invocation, dismissal, observing carefully, thinking and dissimulation. And the first appearance on the stage, scattering handfuls of flowers on the stage, anger due to jealous love, twisting the forefinger, prohibition, pride, profundity, silence, fit of resentment (Maana) and looking to the horizon are also to be represented from this Sthana.
2. Avahittha Sthana: In this Sthana, the left foot will be Sama and the right (lit. the other at the side) foot Tryashra (obliquely placed) and the left waist raised up. This Sthana is known as natural for women during conversation with anyone, in determination, satisfaction and conjecture. In representing anxiety, amorousness, sportiveness, grace, the Erotic and the like Sentiments and looking towards the way of someone coming or going this Sthana is to be used.
3. Ashvakranta Sthana: The Sthana in which one foot is raised and the other is resting on its fore-part and ready for the Suchi or the Aviddha Chari is called Ashvakranta. This Sthana is to be assumed in taking hold of the branch of a tree, plucking a cluster of flowers or in taking rest for any purpose. The Sthana will be maintained by a dancer till any movement begins. For during a dance the Sthana is at an end when the Chari has begun (lit. is present).
After describing these Sthanas, Bharata says that this is the Sthana for women and for men as well.


One Response to “Postures: Insights from Natyashastra of Bharata”

  1. Mana Says:

    Reblogged this on Mein Tagebuch 2015 and commented:
    We learnt the Sthanas in yesterday’s class with Nirupama ma’am. What an enchanting woman!

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