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Techno Corner

Jyothi Venkatachalam

Have you ever gazed upon the beautiful artistic sculptures on the walls of temples in India and wondered how or why they were carved in a certain way? Well, to get an answer to this question, we need to understand the concept of movement of the limbs in dance 'Karanas.'

Karanas are beautiful aspects of dance. They are believed to have originated with Lord Shiva-Nataraja's tandava. The combined movement of the hands and feet in dance is called Karana. Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra describes the Karanas in detail. There are 108 Karanas. Dance poses are based on these Karanas. The whole technique of movement is based on this concept.

Bharata Muni says that movement of the hand and foot should be in tune with those of the waist, the chest, the back, and the abdomen. The complete grace of Angika Abhinaya beginning with the use of all the major and minor limbs needs to be mastered to learn the Karanas. 108 Karanas have been described by sage Bharata in the fourth chapter of the Natya Shastra.

The body movements are divided into four groups: Karanas, Angaharas, Rechakas and Pindibandas. Each Karana is made up of a Sthanaka, Chari and Nritta Hasta.

Sthanaka or Sthana: There are 32 Stanakas that are used. The first seven are used by female characters; the next six are used by male characters and the remaining by both. However depending on the character, a female can use a male sthanaka and vice versa.

Charis: Charis are dynamic movements of the lower limbs. There are two main kinds of Charis:

1. Bhoomi - where the feet are constantly on the ground.

2. Bhucharis - where one foot is raised off the ground.

Nritta Hasta: Are mudras or basically movement of the fingers to communicate the meaning of the dance with the audience.

Angaharas are movements, which consist of 6-9 Karanas.

Rechakas are movements of the limbs performed to attain a position. There are four kinds of rechakas, each involving different parts of the body.

Apart from the Karnas, Anagharas, Rechakas and Pindibandas, the term Bhanga or bend was later on introduced. There are four main types of Bhanga or bend.

1. Atibhanga (Full) e.g. the dynamic pose of Lord Nataraja the Lord of dance.

2. Abhanga (slight) e.g. Sculptures.

3. Smabhanga (Straight) e.g. Rishis or Sages and Buddha.

4. Tribhanga e.g. Goddess parvati as she stands besides her Lord Shiva gentle and graceful.

Karanas are actions and not static poses. The sculptures in the different temples of India and Southeast Asia are frozen moments of the movements. They are inspiring examples of the genius of the artists of those times. On the two ends (Eastern and Western) of the Chidambaram temple in South India, the Karanas are exquisitely carved on the walls. These figures are of women dancers.

Dr. Padma Subramanayam, an acclaimed dancer, research scholar, choreographer, music composer, teacher and author, was awarded a Ph.D. for her pioneering work on Karanas in Indian dance and sculpture. She has numerous articles and research papers published to her credit. The great saint of Kanchi ordered her to design a new set of Karanas for the Uttara Chidambaram Nataraja Mandir, which was being newly built at Satara in Maharashtra. She designed the 108 twin figures of Shiva and Parvati suggesting animation. The relevant couplets defining each Karana from Natya Sastra also have been inscribed in granite.

Dr. Subramanayam discovered 52 Karana sculptures from Central Java belonging to the 9th century a few years ago.

The Karanas used in all the temple sculptures bring about a sense of spiritual identification. The temple walls where these arts are zealously preserved stand as the most eloquent testimonials of a culture that has thousands of years. The static poses used to depict sacred stories and rituals are not empty shells but a stronghold of the arts which ultimately show the way of union between the material and the spiritual.

Jyothi Venkatachalam, director of Abhyasa School Of Dance, Club Tampa Palms, offers classes in Bharat Natyam, traditional folk dances, Indian percussion instruments (Mridangam, Dholak, Ghatam, Kanjira, Morsingh and Konakol). She can be reached at (813) 977-9039 or (813) 404-7899 or via e-mail at [email protected]


Lavanya Dinesh

Robust, fearless and energetic are the words that come to mind when I think of the unassuming Hindustani classical vocalist Malini Rajurkar. Her music is not for the faint of heart. Rajurkar is, of course, an immense treat to listen to live, as most good Indian musicians are. There are less time constraints and the imagination flows more freely in such a setting. However, Rajurkar's recordings are endearing as well. The artist rose to prominence as a formidable female representative for North Indian classical vocal music in the 1970s and '80s and hasn't looked back since.

I remember as a little girl growing up in the '80s in India, learning and experiencing different aspects of Indian classical music. My father - an artist and musician himself - brought home a cassette-tape of a vocalist whose uplifting, lilting and bold rendition immediately endeared her to us. This first album of Rajurkar that I heard (released by HMV/EMI) contained a delectable raaga Bhopal Todi, mesmerizing Kaushik Ranjani and an inimitable Tappa (semi-classical genre) rendition in raaga Khamaj.

Malini Rajurkar
The somber pleading of 'Maangana Maangata Aayo,' the composition in Bhopal Todi, the mellifluousness of the dhrut (fast-paced) bandish 'Barkha Ritu Bairana Hamari Re' in raaga Kaushik Ranjani, the adroit singing and super-speedy phrasing of the Tappa in Khamaj are equally enjoyable now as they were then. Rajurkar's music withstands the test of time and this album lends itself to repeated listening.

There is a two-part classical vocal album of the artist released by HMV, which contains some musical gems as well. Notable is Ahir Bhairav - especially the fast-paced cheez (composition) 'Gaao Guna Jo Nirguna.' In raaga Alhaiya Bilawal - an early morning raaga - the artist has rendered a commanding Marathi composition 'Shiv Hara He Bhava Hara.' Her singing of a 'Jod Bandish' in the melody Bhairavi - 'Kaise Ye Bhalai' - makes one want to dance. Ditto for her 'Payaliya Baje Re Mora Saiyya,' also in Bhairavi.

The reflective Kirwani rendition 'Ab To Bhayi Bhor' is another favorite. Malini Rajurkar's recordings are readily available online and her delineation of raagas Durga, Tilak Kamodh, Kedar, Bageshri, Basanth Mukhari and Nat Bharirav are some of my other recommendations.

Lavanya Dinesh is an accomplished performer and teacher of Hindustani classical vocal music and resides in Tampa. She regularly performs at musical venues both in India and the U.S. She has three album releases to her credit. The artist has worked as a music critic and feature writer for The Times of India and Deccan Herald. She can be reached at [email protected].

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