References were taken from ancient texts and Sanskrit literature by dancer Anupama Kylash to highlight various facets of a hero and the role of a companion
Admittedly there is more attention on the nayika (female protagonist) than on the nayaka (male protagonist) in Indian Shastreeya Nrithya, but he has not been ignored in the Indian literary and textual traditions. Dr. Anupama Kylash, scholar and Vilasini Natyam-Kuchipudi dancer, brought out the facets of the Nayika, Nayaka (hero) and Sahayaka (companion) in an Instagram Live session with the U.K.-based Bharatanatyam dancer Divya Ravi titled, ‘Protagonists in Indian Textual and Literary Traditions.’ The conversation was part of a learning series ‘Sangati’ that Divya presented. “It is on allied aspects of dance that do not get enough time owing to our hectic schedules of practice and performance,” Divya had said.
Following an exhaustive presentation on Nayika Bheda, Dr. Anupama Kylash turned to the Nayaka. She referenced the oldest text on dramaturgy, the Natyasastra (2BC-2 AD), as it classified the hero, first in an over-arching classification for all characters and aspects of drama — Uttama (superior), Madhyama (middle) and Adhama (inferior), and again, according to the hero’s conduct: Dheerodaatta (generous, filled with dharma, e.g. Rama), Dheeroddhata is a Prati Nayaka/villain (equally qualified, brilliant, e.g. Ravana), Dheeraprashanta (tolerant, calm), Dhiralalita (connoisseur of the arts, vilasa/playful, ladies’ man but not necessarily with Sringara).
Quotes from puranas
Anupama quoted the Agnipuran (7th-11th C), one of the 18 Puranas of Sanskrit Literature, that classified Sringara Nayakas, romantic heroes, according to their behaviour vis-à-vis women at a time when polygamy was common: Anukoola (loyal to one woman eg. Rama), Dakshina (who has many lovers, but is loving and treats them equally – eg. Krishna), Drashtha (aggressive, bold, a little rude, does not respond when a woman is angry, but tries to pacify, inconsiderate), Shatha (deceitful, no scruples, no respect towards women). A Shata Nayaka can be either Maani (arrogant) or Chatura (wily, indulging in sweet talk).
Anupama presented another Sringara Nayaka classification mentioned in Rasa Manjari (17th C) by Bhanudatta, according to their relationship with the nayika: Pati (husband), Upapati (paramour of a Kanya, young girl, or a Parodha, married woman) and Vaishika (a man who visits a courtesan). Anupama stopped to underline how evolved the society must have been as the Rasa Manjari goes on to classify the hero according to how he treats the courtesan: Uttama Vaishika (sensitive, kind, who appreciates aesthetics and beauty), Madhyama Vaishika (sensitive but impulsive), Adhama Vaishika (insensitive, cruel).
While the heroine in love can be in any of the eight states according to the Natyasastra, Ashtavidha Nayika Avastha, such as Vaasakasajja (being dressed up for union), Virahotkanthita (one distressed by separation), Khandita (one enraged with her lover), etc, the Rasa Manjari mentions that only three states are permitted for the Sringara Nayaka — Virahotkantha (one distressed by separation), Proshitapati (one with a sojourning wife — wife gone to her mother’s house for delivery, etc) and the third, in the context of an Abhisaarika heroine who goes out to meet her lover, where either of the lovers can go, as the male who helps the Abhisaar by coming to her himself.
Any other avastha or emotional state in the hero, according to the text, will cause ‘Rasabhaasa’ — disruption in creation of rasa or sentiment. Dr. Anupama qualified the rule with a possibility of exceptions, ‘In customer-courtesan situations in padams by Sarangapani and others, when a hero may get angry he will be a Khandita Nayaka.’
Anupama quoted the fifth century celebrated Sanskrit poet Kalidasa to bring out an unusual Proshitapati Nayaka in Meghadootam. She says it is not technically correct but the Yaksha is almost one, being away from his wife. He describes his wife (Prositabhrtrka nayika), who is waiting for him, ‘My wife droops like a creeper in winter… With a veena in her lap, she wishes to sing a song with my name… the tears keep falling… she forgets the words of the song…’ She gave an example for a Shatha Nayaka from the Sanskrit erotic poetry anthology Amaru Shatakam when the nayika calls her erring lover a Shatha, ‘What did you gain by bringing your unfaithful self here? You already carry the kumkum marks of another woman on your chest. Now you have also gained an oily mark of my braid, by forcibly embracing me from behind.’
Duties of a companion
The importance of the Sahayaka, companion, who maybe either a friend (Sakha/Sakhi) or a messenger (Dhoota/ Dhooti), cannot be denied. A friend can be a companion, a mediator in matters of love or an assistant. Many pada sahityas and varnams convey the Sakhi’s point of view. In other situations such as Kalidasa’s plays, Anupama said the Sahayakas took the play forward.
According to Rasa Manjari, the pleasure companion of a Nayaka, a Narmasachiva maybe a Pithamarda (propitiates angry nayika), Vita (one notch below Nayaka, confidant, may cede on behalf of the Nayaka but not always), Cheta (pure mediator) or a Vidushaka (jester in Sanskrit drama and Shakespearean plays — intelligent, mediator).
The female friend, Sakhi, according to Bhoja’s Sringara Prakasa maybe a Sahaja (natural), Purvaja (old relationship), Aagantuh (stranger). Bhanudatta (Rasa Manjari) and Rudrabhatta have given four and three duties for a Sakhi respectively. These are to: create humour (Vinoda), adorn the nayika (Mandana), advise (Shiksha), complain with sarcasm (Upaalambha), pacify nayika in all situations (Prasadana), unite the lovers (Sangama) and console that viraha will be short-lived (Virahashwasa).
Giving many examples for the Nayakas and the Sakhis from Sanskrit, Telugu and Hindi literature, Anupama emphasised the need to kick start the imagination. ‘What is allegory without imagery or comparison? The Andhra Devadasis, Kalavantulu, could present a four-line sloka from the Amaru for one and a half hours.
“For pada sahitya, understanding the context and the mind of the poet are crucial. In Jayadeva Ashtapadis, we know the philosophy is Parakeeya vada, Vishnu bhakti. In Annamacharya Sankirtanas, it is Visishta Advaita; however erotic the lyrics, we know it is Alamelu and Venkateshwara. Kshetrayya padams sometimes have an underlying layer. Sarangapani padams have monetary transactions; it is the interpretation of customer-courtesan padam, there is no need to interpret it as god, just because of the mention of Venugopala,” said Anupama.
Anupama Kylash’s parting advice: ‘You have every right and the artistic licence to portray the character, but it has to be according to the intent and philosophy of the poet. If you internalise sahitya, you will naturally see the correct Nayaka.”
(Story on Nayika: https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/the-intriguing-world-of…)