Metaphysics in Natya History & Culture

Who Am I? The big question

Dance is called the Mother of all arts world over. In this exalted status given to dance, let us remember that it includes music too. Dance and music are always wedded. They co-exist in essence and substance. Nature, the world and every aspect of it, dance during every cycle of creation, continue to dance while being sustained and are absorbed in dance during dissolution. Every living entity is in dance, whether conspicuously or inconspicuously, tangibly or intangibly, audibly or inaudibly. Dance is inevitable in and inseparable from life. The discovery of the atom or the seed takes us to the throbbing particle within, which our seers call the dance of Siva Sakti. Not even Siva ‘and’ Sakti, but fused completely as ONE.

This also brings us face-to-face with what we all are in the true sense. A basic question we could pose to ourselves is — WHO AM I? I am (my name), I am (my profession), I am (my religion), I am (daughter of), I am (my nationality), I am (student of) and so on will be the usual answers. The question still remains unanswered. Every answer is a relative identity given to me from birth, family, education, surroundings and material subsistence but none came near the truth of my existence, just as ‘I am.’

It is with the help of the Upanishadic NETI NETI or negation of all derived titles that we can arrive finally at — WHO in reality AM I? Here would come the acceptance of myself as the SELF — The Spirit. A new born, whether a plant or animal or human or an object that is made by a human, is a spiritual life — a breathing, joyously smiling and peacefully ‘dancing’ life, which came into this world as a pure ‘Purusha.’ Soon thereafter and over a period, were added all the identities of the phenomenal ‘Prakriti.’ Then began the dances of all the other not-so-happy sequences of life too. All along, one has been cautioned that it is the formless spirit that has taken a form and every form that appears has to disappear too. The time-bound movement in the world has to freeze into the timeless motion for sure. Hence, one is told to engage in the rhythm of the form without letting go of the melodious mooring.

The stage as explained by the father figure Bharata, is rectangular, square and triangular which when positioned appropriately, becomes three broad framework from the feet until the top. In esoteric worship, these stand for Kamakuta, Shaktikuta and Vagbhavakuta — the lower energies for creation, middling energies for sustenance and the higher energies for dissolution. As we ascend from the lower to the upper regions, the head — the seat of Brahman is the most important for intellectual and contemplative purposes.

The expressive modes also denote a similar mapping. Angika using the body, Vachika on a higher level using the sound and Sattvika on the highest level using the mind and mirrored on the face. These give birth to the Anubhavas or consequences. (Aharya or ornamentation, costume and stage property is a dimension that connects with spectator on immediate appearance as a Vibhava or determinant). Yet another close comparison can be made between this introspective model and Indriya-Manas-Atma, i.e — senses or body, mind and the spirit.

That Natya is devised to be a panacea for the deterioration in values from one Mahayuga to another, is also stated in the text in the opening chapter itself. It is clearly established that the Purusharthas with ‘Moksha’ and the eight-limbed yoga from Yama to Samadhi are all contained and achievable through Natya. Bharata has treated this Sastra as that which will elevate one (the artiste, spectator and the surrounding) to the highest spirit on a beautiful aesthetic journey. The stage was supposed to be erected towards the East, facing Indra who with a thousand eyes (Sahasraksha), represents the spectators.

The Gods are to be pleased by the dances. This should not at any cost, be misconstrued to be entertainment in a crude sense. The foremost exponents like Rambha, Urvasi, Menaka and other Apsaras, the Gandharvas, Nagas and Pisachas who brought the divine dance to earth were demi-Gods and equally venerable. Immediately after them in the spiritual hierarchy come our sages like Bharata, the Sapta Rishis and others who have access to both Indraloka and Bhumiloka, i.e. the astral as well as the earthly planes. It is indeed to be emphasised that the common thread that connects all the beings in the ambit of the ‘Kshetra’ or stage, is the opportunity to attain the taste of self-realisation or RASA .

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 8:05:13 AM |

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