Drishtikosh – The Drishti Guide to Dance and Music Terminology


NS = Natya Shastra, AD = Abhinaya Darpana

Arala [AD, NS]: Asamyuta hasta; the forefinger of pataka is curved in words; denotes [AD] drinking of nectar or poison, water, strong wind.
[NS] courage, pride, prowess, beauty, content, heavenly objects, poise, act of blessing, a woman gathering up or letting down her hair, preliminaries to a marriage, marital union, round objects, calling someone, asking someone not to come in, uprooting something, wiping off sweat, enjoying a fragrant smell, abuse, saying ‘too many things’.

Arambha [NS]: Purvaranga; the commencement of vocal exercise for singing, that is, beginning.

Arangetram: The maiden performance, when for the first time, bells are tied to the feet. Usually takes place on an auspicious day in the presence of critics, artists and well-wishers, after the dancer has acquired a sizeable repertoire of dance items. After the customary obeisance to God, guru and audience, the performance takes place. Also called rangapravesha.

Ardhachandra [AD, NS]: Asamyuta hasta; the thumb in pataka is stretched out; denotes
[AD] phases of the moon, hand seizing the throat, spear, consecrating an image, a plate, origin, waist, musing, oneself, meditation, prayers, touching the limbs, greetings by common people;
[NS] young trees, crescent moon, conch, jar, bracelet, opening something forcibly, exertion, thinness, drinking, a woman’s waist, hip face earring.

Ardhamukula: Drishti bheda; expressing vyabbichari bhava of joy; the eyelids are half-opened, the eyeballs half-closed and lively.

Ardhapataka [AD]: Asamyuta hasta; the ring finger and little finger of pataka are bent in; denotes leaves, a board or slab for writing or painting, the bank of a river, both, knife, banner, tower.

Ardhasuchi [AD]: One of the extra asamyuta hastas mentioned in AD. The forefinger in kapittha is raised to denote a sprout, the young ones of a bird, big worms.

Arudi – Adavu: A rhythmic pattern performed by stamping the feet or doing muktaya adavus; generally done in a varnam or tillana, and occasionally in padams; performed from the first to the fifth (or vice vesa) beats of adi tala, ec.

Asaritha [NS]: Purva ranga; this is for practising the beat of the time fractions.

Asamyata hasta [AD, NS]: Representative gestures using one hand only.

AD mentions 28 gestures: alapadma, arala, ardhachandra, ardhapataka, bhramara, chandrakala, chatura, hamsapaksha, hamsasya, kangula, kapitha, kartarimukha, katakamukha, mayura, mrigashirsha, mukula, mushti, padmakosha, pataka, samdamsha, sarpashirsha, shikhara, shukatunda, simhamukha, suchi, tamrachuda, tripataka, trishula; 4 extra hastas – ardhasuchi, kataka, palli, vyaghra.

NS mentions 24 gestures: alapallava (or alapadma), arala, ardhachandra, bhramara, chatura, hamsapaksha, hamsasya, kangula, kapittha, kartarimukha, katakamukha, mrigashirsha, mukula, mushti, padmakosha, pataka, samdamsha, sarpashirsha, shikara, shukatunda, suchimukha, tamrachuda, tripataka, urnanabha.

Ashtanayika: The classification of heroines into eight types, abhisarika, kalahantarita, khandita, proshitabhartrika, swadheenabhartrika, vaskasajjika, vipralabdha, virahotkhandita. (Nayika is a heroine, the romantic concept of the beloved.)


Bani: A style of singing or playing characterized by certain special qualities of the performer.

Bansuri: The bamboo flute used in Hindustani music..

Bayan: The bass, left hand drum of the tablas (Hindustani music).

Bhagavatam: One of the eighteen Puranas, it deals with Vishnu as the supreme being. It contains 18,000 verses.

Bhajan: A devotional song in praise of god.

Bhashanga Raga: A derived scale where one, two or three foreign notes are used.

Bhava: Feeling or emotion. It is the very soul of expression in music and dance. WIthout bhava, a technically perfect performances leaves a lot to be desired.

Bol: Name for a drum syllable, used in Hindustani music.

Brihaddesi: A very important treatise written in the 5th century AD by Matanga Muni.

Brijbhasha: A dialect of language Hindi.