Session 40- Greeva Bedha/neck Movements

Four variations in neck movements are prescribed.

Here is what Mr. Santosh Kumar has to say about Greeva Bhedas

Sundari cha tiraschinaa tathaiva parivarthitha

Prakampitha cha bhavagnair gneyaa greeva chathurvidhaa


  • Sundari – Moving neck from side to side (atami in general terms)
  • Therashchinaa – Moving neck up and down in atami like the gliding of a snake
  • Parivarthitha – Moving neck from right to left like a half moon
  • Prakampitha – Moving neck front and back like bird/ pigeon

Session 34- Shiro Bhedas or Head Movements

Bhedha as most Indonesian and Malaysian students will understand, is a term that denotes a change/difference (from the previous state).This Sanskrit word is very commonly used word in these two languages. Bhedhas in dance terminology means a variety of movements prescribed for a particular anga/pratyanga.

In this session Mr. Santosh will elucidate the Shiro Bhedas or movement of the Head . Let’s watch him teaching his class…

Here is the verse and the explanation…

Samam udhvaahitham adhomukham aalokitham dhutam

Kampithamcha paraavrittam utkshiptam parivaahitham.

  • 1. Samam :natural/ straight
  • 2. udhvaahitham:Raised up
  • 3. Adhomukham: Head cast down(down cast face)
  • 4. aalolitham:rotating the head
  • 5. dhutam:shake head from side to side, as if to say no
  • 6. kampitham:nodding up and down, as if to say yes
  • 7. paraavrittam: head turned away to the side (looking away), as if to ignore
  • 8. utkshiptham: Moving head in half moon shape with chin touching neck (thrown up),as if to command or request
  • 9. parivaahitham:shaking the head swiftly from one side to the other (as if shivering Wagging, /widly moved)

Session 30- Samyutha Hastas verses from Abhinaya Darpana

Today we will be learning the Samyutha Hasta verses from Mr. Santosh Kumar.

Here is the verse…

Anjalishcha kapothashcha karkata svasthikasthathaa

dolahasthah pushpaputaha uthsangah shivalingakaha

katakaavardhanashchaiva karthareesvasthikasthathaa

shakatam Shanka Chakrecha samputah paasha keelakau(keelako)

mathsyah koormo varaahashcha garudo naagabandhakaha

khatvaa berundakaakeshcha avahithasthathatheivacha

There can be slightly different readings of the above verse. For eg.
The last line may be taught as “khatvaa berundakaakeshcha ithyethe avahitha samyutha kara” depending on the reading used.

In the next session, we will have checkpoint test no.2. So please work on what has been taught so far..

Best wishes…

The dancing Nataraja and Shivarathri

Shivarathri or ‘Shiva’s Great Night’ is a celebration that has special significance to dancers and students of dance. Mahashivaratri, is an auspicious Hindu festival that is celebrated on a moonless night in the Hindu month of Phalguna that corresponds to February – March in English Calendar.

According to the Ramakrishna Mutt, the Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. One of it states that during the churning of the ocean by the gods and the asuras, malicious venom that emerged from the ocean .To protect the world from its evil effect, Shiva drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This made his throat turn blue, and he was given the name Neelakanta, the blue-throated one. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event of protection graced by Shiva.


Spiritual Significance of the Event

The ocean is compared to the human mind and the process of churning to meditation. In the hours of meditation, the sadhaka or spiritual aspirant churns his own mind. There is a constant war between the devas and the asuras, that is, between the good and the bad tendencies (samskaras) accumulated in the sub-conscious mind. During the process of churning of the mind, both good and bad tendencies surface to the conscious mind. Spiritual aspirants pay and seek the blessings of Shiva (who is none other than their own divine Self) to digest all these poisons without getting affected by them. Then alone will they be able to manifest their divine nature and obtain the pot of nectar – Amruta Kumbha – that is immortality.

According to another Purana, Shivaratri symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Many however, believe, Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Ananda Tandavam – the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction or layam(Unison) as it is beautifully held in India. The Ananda Tandava itself is caught in the famous Chola Bronzes that have almost become an iconic representation of Indology. Lord Shiva in this form is called NATARAJA (Nat- dance, Raja meaning King). Shiva’s dance indicates a continuous process of creation, preservation and destruction.

NatarajaApart from the geometric symmetry there is lot of symbolism attached to this icon.The Damaru (drum) represents the principle of shabda (sound) and creation. Fire represents pralayagni, the fire that destroys the world at the time of dissolution of the world. The right hand in Abhaya Hasta(Pathakam) denotes protection. Together they represent the continuous cycle of creation, preservation and destruction. The other left hand, pointed towards the lifted Kunchitapada (Pointed feet) indicates salvation to those who take refuge at His feet . The Evil Dwarf, the Apasmara-purusha sometimes referred to as Muyalaka, on which Shiva stands in Stithapada(Firmly rooted feet) symbolizes the Lord crushing ignorance . In essence this statue depicts the Panchakriya or Five responsibilties of the Supreme , namely, creation, protection, dissolution. dispelling illusion and salvation.

Shivrathri is celebrated all over India with devotion. Many Saivite temples conduct the Natyanjali ( the offering of dance ) dance festivals as part of the celebrations. Chidambaram Natyanjali and Thanjavur Brahan Natyanjali are part of the Dance festivals mentioned above.

Shivarathri this year (2008) falls on March 6th ,i.e tomorrow.

Picutre Credits: Craftsindia .com


Session 18- Samyutha Hastas

Before we proceed to step 4 of mardhita, let’s look at the Samyutha or Sankyutha (Sanskrit, meaning together/combined) Hastas. These are the two handed gestures and are 24 in number. Here is a chart for the Samyuhta Hasta, please click on it to enlarge…

Samyutha hasta

There are only 23 in this chart. Avahita, the last of the Samyutha hastas has two Alapadmams crosses at the wrist and placed in uttanam (facing the sky) in front of the chest .

I have been asked how to learn up these hastas?

Repetition is the only key. Learn up the above in 3 days, say 8 per day, taking care to see if what was learned the previous day is retained.In our class we often keep repeating the Asamyutha and Samyutha hastas reciting their names and demonstrating the symbols.

We have now learned :-

Please get these committed to memory. We will be learning the verses from the Natyasashtra as it mentions them, after we complete learning the meanings for these Samyutha hastas.

In our next step in Mardhita we will be using the Dola Hasta , so please acquaint yourselves with it.

Session 15- Asamyutha hastas and their meaning

We have learned the Asamyutha Hastas in session 8. Each of these hastas /their names have a meaning. We are going to study the meaning of these hastas in today’s session. It may be necessary to have a look at the chart provided earlier to see how the gesture actually denotes the meaning.







3 parts of a flag/


2 parts of a flag/


Scissors/ Tongs




Half Moon


Petal/ bent


Parrot’s beak




The pinnacle/ top


Wood apple






Full moon


Lotus Bud


Hood of Cobra


Deer’s head


Lion’s face


 small bell


Fully Bloomed Lotus


4 sides, square




Swan’s bill


The swan









It should be noted that each of these hastas can be used to show various thoughts, actions, ideas and things. Those become the usage or Viniyoga of a Hasta. These Viniyogas are mentioned in Natyasashtra shlokas that will be dealth with at a later time..
For adavanced Learners
While learning the steps in itself it would help to know a few other terms with reference to hastas.
Hasta Pracahara:denotes the facing of the palms. It would at present help to learn the following terms
  • Uttana-Palm upterned or facing ceiling/skywards
  • Adhomukha-facing the floor
  • Unmukha-Palm facing oneself
  • Paran Mukha-Palm facing away from one self.

We will now proceed with the Mardhita adavu in the next session. Did you know that there are other ways/terms to refer to this adavu? Try finding them out and check with us in the next session to see if you came up with the right answers. But before we start on to Mardhita please check to see if you are able to execute all the 8 Tatadavus and Naatadavus with proficiency.

Check Point / Guidelines for practising Adavus

It may at this juncture be pertinent to try answering the following questions?

From a Student’s point of View :

  • How am I dancing ?
  • How does my dance come across/ look to the audience ?
  • How good are my adavus/nritta?
  • Are they any rules to be followed while practising the adavus?
  • Is quanity more important than quality, or in other words is it important to master what is learnt before progressing ahead.
  • What are the yard sticks to measure my accomplishmentso far?

From a Teacher’s point of View :

  • How do I explain to my students about how their dance comes across/ looks to the audience ?
  • Are there any blanket rules that can be followed while training students on the adavus?
  • Is quantity more important than quality, or in other words is it important to master what is learned, before progressing ahead.
  • How do I support self assessment or discretion in my students?

Here are a few points that have struck me in my experience…

  1. Eye Movement/Drishti Rules: Abhinaya Darpana, an ancient text that delves into the nuances of classical Indian dance lays down this famous Sloka:
Yatho Hasta Thatho Drishti,
YathoDrishti Thatho Manah
Yatho Manah Thatho Bhaava,
Yatho Bhaava Thatho Rasa
This can be roughly translated as follows…

Where the hands(hasta) are, go the eyes (drishti); where the eyes are, goes the mind(mana); where the mind goes, there is an expression of inner feeling (Bhava) and where there is bhava, mood or sentiment(rasa) is evoked.

I t can easily be seen that your drishti/eye movement goes a long way in determining the success of your dance.

At this point of time, when adavus are being learned it may be said that the Eyes follow the movement of your hand. This is a good indicator of the student’s involvement and understanding.

2. Posture/ geometry rules:Angashuddha

Bharathanatyam apart from being visual poetry is also visual geometry. The dance form itself is characterized by the absolute symmetry and perfect geometry of its movements. A technical excellence in these aspects may be referred to as”Angashuddha” and ‘Savustavam” in the technical lingo. We should satisfy ourselves in loosely explaining these terms as a combination of good posture, balance , centering, symmetry and geometric correctness. let’s look at the  fig. above to have a rough idea.

3. Hasta rules:

Hastas need to be clear and well defined to improve aesthetics and in later lessons to make communication clear. It is not unlikely for katamukhams turning to some unidentifiable insect, tirupathakams to fall and alapadmams to wither away unless conscious effort is put in. This effort will become natural and should be unconsciously executed by dancers with practice.

4. Foot Work rules: Foot work should be firm and the tapping does not need to be unduly loud/soft. Remember to maintain the arch of you foot while tapping. To soft a tap may never give the feeling of rhythmic correctness and too loud a tap tires you out too soon.

So to make a short note out of it here are the rulles

  1. Maintain a good posture
  2. Follow your hand movements with your eyes
  3. Keep hastas clear and firm.
  4. Be firm and careful with your foot step.

This is in no way a complete list of rules that guarantee great dance, but just an aid. Observation is the key. Watch more and see what should be imbibed and what should be avoided.