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Nayika: Search of philosophy behind its presentation
- Swarada Dhekane

June 16, 2016

(This article has been published in English magazine LOUD APPLAUSE which is an initiative by Kathak Pathshala of Neha Muthiyan and also published in Marathi on

It is a proven fact that there is a direct effect of religion, philosophy, culture, social conditions of any country on the art forms that originate in that surrounding and Indian classical dance forms are not an exception. It is very important for every individual to have knowledge of such conditions or components while training in any art form. We need to know why we perform, instead of mechanically taking knowledge only on educational level.

The love between the nayak and nayika is one such aspect which is seen through the praises of gods and goddesses, their characters, short stories; it sometimes depicts Indian culture, philosophy and the relation between a man and woman. So what exactly does the philosophy signify?

Bharatmuni also states the importance of this relation in Natyashastra:

‘धर्मार्थ हि तपश्चर्या सुखार्थ धर्म इष्यते
सुखस्य मूलं प्रमदास्तासू सम्भोग इष्यते’

(Natyashastra: Chapter 24 Samanya abhinaya)
- The concept of “Dharma” here is related to philosophy. Dharma forms one of the concepts amongst the four aspects and goals of life, namely: Duty, Prosperity, Pleasure and Liberation (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha). So what exactly do we understand by dharma? The society is formed on the basis of ethics and morals and if we follow these, we will be able to be a part of this society. Thus duty forms the basis of every dharma.

- Bharatmuni states in Natyashastra that it is important to seek happiness while you gain dharma and women are the source of happiness. Thus it is important to indulge in intercourse or come in union with her. The different types of nayikas are found to be written on the basis of this philosophy as they are found to be written with male being the dominant one or centered around the nayak.

- It is a well known fact that a woman becomes the medium of man’s happiness and vice-versa. Though we know that woman and man become a medium of each other’s happiness, this concept from philosophy has been written and portrayed only from the man’s angle. Thus this concept becomes a one sided view, only from a man’s perspective.
There is another important statement which we constantly use in relation to nayika, which is, “If nayika is the soul (Aatma), then nayak forms the Supreme God (Paramatma).” This is one of the philosophies that is used often.

In yoga, it is stated that Shiva personifies the actual form while nayika is the strength (Shakti). Here, the nayika signifies Parvati and the union of Shiva-Shakti forms the ultimate state. This concept can also be seen in relation to Lord Krishna and gopikas, where Krishna is the paramatma and gopikas are the nayikas.

Nayika (gopika) here are seen trying to lure Lord Krishna by dancing and through music. But why are they luring him? So that the nayaka Krishna accepts them, which in turn may unite the soul (Aatma-Gopikas) and supreme God (Paramatma-Krishna). 

If you observe the picture of Raas nritya (dance by Krishna and Gopikas), we see that Krishna and Gopikas are dancing together. Instead of one Krishna and many Gopikas, we see Krishna with each gopika. The philosophy behind it is when the lord dances with each one, they unite with him at a spiritual level and forget their own identity and become one with Krishna!

When a drop of water falls into the ocean, you can’t separate it. This beautiful thought highlights the union of Aatma and Paramatma. Aatma is the soul of every human and so has many forms. These forms have different characteristics and hence can be differentiated into different types of nayikas. Paramatma on the other hand is considered as the Supreme God and hence has less number of forms and so theoretically nayak has limited types.

When compared with other classical dance styles, Bharatanatyam has a strong base of philosophy, spirituality, kaamshringara and hence we can see the reflections of this in the devadasi tradition, from which the nayika bhed (types) must have evolved. The concept of the union of soul and supreme God (body) and dedication has come from the devadasi tradition. A woman was married to God, and she used to dance for him. From there originated the concepts of Madhura Bhakti and Sringara Bhakti. So the female dancer considers God to be her love as well as her husband. It can be seen that all the compositions which we perform contain the nayak as Divine (Divya), e.g. Shiva, Vishnu, Kartikeya and the nayika is the ordinary (Adivya) woman. The nayika’s love and devotion for her god or separation from him can be seen in many compositions like Varnam and Padam. That’s the reason, if we consider this nayika as a part of society, we may see that she becomes subsidiary and nayaka - the man (Purusha) gains the precedence. Though we have a strong influence of traditions, if we consider ourselves as a part of this society, as man or a woman, we need to think twice before we perform any composition pertaining to this philosophy as it has become the need of time, society and art.

Swarada is a Bharatanatyam graduate from Lalit Kala Kendra, SP University, disciple of gurus Swati Daithankar and Parimal Phadke. She is a researcher and student of Indology, Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, Pune.

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