Drishtikosh – The Drishti Guide to Dance and Music Terminology


NS=Natya Shastra, AD=Abhinaya Darpana

Alokita [AD]: Drishti bheda; balancing keenly and quickly with open eyes; denotes the turning of a potter’s wheel, showing different things.

Alolita [NS]: Shiro bheda; the head is rolled round and round; denotes drowsiness, intoxication, fainting, laughing uproariously, travelling, etc.

Anchita [NS]: Pada krama; the heels are placed on the ground, and the fore part of the foot and toes raised; denotes moving with a wound on the forefoot, turning in all directions, being struck by something; used in various bhramaris.

[NS]: Greeva bheda; the neck and head are turned back; denotes hanging, arranging hair, looking upwards.

[NS]: Shiro bheda; the head is bent slightly to one side; denotes sickness, swooning, intoxication, anxiety, sorrow.

Angikabhinaya [AD, NS]: Abhinaya expressed by moving parts of the body, namely, sharira (limbs), mukhaja (face) and chestakrita (entire body), or involving the angas (head, hands, chest, sides, waist, or hips, feet), the pratyangas (the six other parts of the body – shoulder blades, arms, back, belly, thigh and calves, and shanks), and the upangas (the twelve parts of the head – eyes, eyebrows, eyeballs, cheeks, nose, jaw, lips, teeth, tongue, chin, face, shoulders). NS mentions only six upangas – eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, cheeks, chin.

Anjali [AD, NS]: Samyuta hasta; two pataka hands joined palm to palm; denotes salutation. [Note: Samyuta hastas are representative gestures using both hands.]

Ankura [NS]: In angikabhinaya, shaka is the hand gesture and ankura is the gesture made with reference to the previous passage by simply pantomiming through them.

Anubhava [NS]: Experience. The consequents of a bhava. [Note: Bhava is a state of mind. Any bhava has both vibhavas (determinants) and anubhavas (consequents).]

Anudruta: One akshara kala, or unit of time, denoted by a single clap. (Tala is a cyclic rhythm. Etymologically derived, according to some authors, from ‘ta’ referring to Shiva, the tandava aspect, and ‘la‘ referring to Parvati, the lasya aspect). The union of these two or of the right and left hands produces tala. The smallest units measured in tala is one Akshara kala. Angas of tala are anudruta – one akshara kala, demonstrated by a clap only and represented by U; druta – two akshara kalas demonstrated by a clap and a wave represented by O; laghu – four akshara kalas or one matra, demonstrated by clapping and counting on the fingers to make up the total number of counts in the particular jati, represented by a vertical line followed by the jati of the laghu, i.e. |., |., etc.; guru, pluta and kakapada (8, 12, and 16 akshara kalas respectively).

Anugraha: One of the panchakriyas of Nataraja; salvation as represented by the raised left big toe of the Nadanta pose. Nadanta is Shiva’s cosmic dance, also depicting Hindu philosophy.

Anuvritta: Drishti bheda; glancing upwards and downwards in quick succession; denotes angry looks, greeting friends.


Asthayi: First part of the song based on the lower scale.

Atta: One of the basic seven talas. It consists of two laghus and two drutas (see Anudruta above). The symbol is ||OO. The number of the beats depends on the type of jati of the laghu.

Ateeta: Refers to the edruppu or beginning of a composition in relation to the rhythmic cycle. In this case, the composition starts before the downbeat.

Atharva: One of the four Vedas, it is a collection of formulas that deal with black magic and spells.

Avanaddha Vadya: Musical instruments covered with stretched skin, such as mridanga, khanjira, etc. [Note: Musical instruments are of four kinds — avanaddha (covered with skin), ghana (made of solid material), sushira (hollow), tata (stringed).]

Avarohana: A series of notes in a descending order of pitch.

Aavartana: One complete cycle of rhythm.