Ashta Nayika


On the 17th of January, Dr Sonal Mansingh presented ‘nayika ’at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi. The performance was based on the shades and nuances of the ‘ashta nayika' as found in the lyrics of Tagore. The performance was a confluence of four dance forms –Dr Sonal Mansingh (odissi) ,Meenu Thakore(kuchipudi) ,Vijayantimala Devi(Manipuri) ,Jaya Prabha Menon (mohiniyattam) ,Durba Ghose (Rabindra nritya) Dinabandhu Dalai as Krishna . The direction and choreography was by Sonal Mansingh.

Sonal Mansingh is a leading exponent of Odissi and Bharatnatyam. She has been on stage since 1964. She is a social activist, thinker, researcher, orator, choreographer and teacher. She trained in Bharatnatyam under U S Krishna Rao and Chandra Bhaga Devi. She trained in Odissi under Kelucharan Mahapatra. Her mentor in Odissi dance has been the Late Shri Jeevanpani, a great poet and scholar. According to her, Shri Jeevanpani initiated her on this journey, though her Bharatnatyam gurus also helped to shape her aesthetics. She runs the Centre for Indian Classical Dances. She has performed extensively in India and abroad in all major festivals. She is the youngest recipient of Padma Vibhushan awarded in 1992 and the Rajiv Gandhi Excellence Award. Dance is her passion and her guru. It opens her perception of mythology, literature, music and sculpture. It is her ‘tapasya’ and passion which keeps her going even at this age.

Jayaprabha Menon, disciple of Guru Bharati Sivaji, is an accomplished Mohiniattam dancer and teacher.

Nayika is the woman in love who shows the ‘utkrisht tam bhavas' or the superior emotions. This is how Sonal Mansingh put the concept of 'nayika'. She is the one who exhibits the ups and downs of emotions. ‘Ashta Nayika’ are the eight ‘nayikas’ exhibiting the eight emotions or ‘bhavas’ as described in ancient literature and narrated by Tagore in his poetry. These emotion are best described in the context of ‘Radha - Krishna’ as lovers. The verses are translated and beautifully blended into the four dance forms by Sonal Mansingh in her choreography. The production presents the emotions and feelings of intense love of a woman in different moods. She experiences the ecstasy of the union and the pain of separation. ‘Vasak sajja’ – She is decorated and fully prepared to meet her lover. She hears the flute playing and collects flowers and strings them into a garland. ‘Abhisarika’ – She leaves home to meet her lover. She is full of hope despite the clouds and rain. ‘Vipralbdha’ – She is there at the appointed time but he is not there. She experiences the pain of being made to wait. ‘Virahot kanthika’ – She is pining and yearning for her beloved. The ‘virahni’ experiences immense pain. ‘Khandita’ – The lover is late. She hurls harsh words at him and he turns away. The anger and frustration makes her do that. ‘Kalah tarita’ – She is full of regret and remorse at having turned away her lover. Does he understand the language of her tears? ‘Proshita patita’ – She awaits the return of her lover, for he has gone away. ‘Swadhina bhartika’ – The beloved returns and he knows her power over him, for he surrenders and asks for forgiveness. Finally the united lovers perform the ‘Raas Leela’.

The four dancers interpreted the lyrics in their own dance styles. The technical part of each style of dance was over shadowed by the emotional expressions of each ‘Nayika’. Beautiful emotions with excellent technique of each dancer and the lyrics of Tagore created a feast for the senses.