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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


Lavanya Dinesh

My play list includes lighter genres as well. Classical Indian maestros for the last few years have increasingly been experimenting with fusion and world music with hopes of reaching a wider, varied and more international audience. They have been pushing their own creative boundaries as well. One such musician is bansuri (Indian bamboo flute) maestro Pandit Ronu Majumdar, an instrumentalist I admire.

My new favorite album is Majumdar's 'Ronew.' The album released by Times Music label is a blend of Indian music, Smooth Jazz, Sound Scapes, etc. Its eight lovely tracks range from the whimsical and airy to the sublime and transcendental!

While Majumdar's haunting and immaculate bansuri playing is on full display, the CD is an attractive blending of the talents of various instrumentalists such as Louis Banks and Atul Raninga on keyboard, and percussion master Sivamani and Gino Banks on the drums. The young stars on the dynamic Indian drums (tabla) are Fazal Qureshi, Satyajit Talwalkar and Rajesh Rajbhatt. The seductive guitar is by Karl Peters and the traditional horizontal drum (Pakhawaj) is ably played by Durga Prasad.

The first track titled 'Ronew' for which the album is named is a true breath of fresh air. Majumdar confesses to being inspired by Sax player Kenny G.'s soft sound for this track. It blends soothing strains of the flute with the guitar and piano. The catchy phrasing and steady drum beat will make you tap your toes. It is a happy, happy sound.

Ronu Majumdar's 'Ronew' album cover
The second track 'Dancing with the Wind' is set to the mercurial melody Hamsadhwani. There is a friendly rhythmic duel between tabla, flute and keyboard. You can almost sense how much fun the musicians are having with this composition. It truly gives one a feeling of skipping in the breeze.

In the next piece 'Dreams,' the free-flowing melody is loosely based on raaga 'Zilla Kafi.' There is a stop-and-go phrasing here and the sharp clean tabla rhythms as well as Sivamani's percussion styling dominates.

The fourth track called 'Rain' does an attractive interpretation of one of my most favorite raagas 'Mian Malhar' - a melody of the rainy season. The mukhada (most important phrase) of the piece is catchy and draws you in completely. As always, this reveals the true aesthete in Majumdar. It's worth listening to the conversation between the bansuri and keyboard.

The fifth track 'Back to the Roots,' based on raaga 'Kalavati' and drawing inspiration from Carnatic music, is yet another showcase for diverse rhythmic patterns.

This is followed by 'Saraswati' - a raaga named for the Hindu goddess of learning and music. It is a somber piece just like the melody itself. The ebb and flow of the melodious composition is simultaneously serendipitous and reflective.

The beautiful bhajan (devotional number) 'Vaishnava Jana To' is the only vocal piece of the album. It has been sung with great sincerity and emotive elegance by Majumdar himself. He gleans its beautiful poetry.

'Moksha' - meaning salvation is the final piece on the album. This track is included from one of Majumdar's earlier albums called 'Dhyana.' The flautist plays a soaring folksy melody while there is a harmonious chanting of 'Om' in the background. It represents man's eternal struggle to be one with the Almighty! 'Ronew' is an enchanting album that is truly easy on the ears!!

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

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