Thursday, January 6, 2011

Importance of Decoration (Natya Shastra)

All   women around the world would agree with Bharat Muni over the importance of   wearing right accessories with the right outfit for the right occasion. The pointers giving in Natya Shastra for use of decoration or accessories in a production are very much reflection of what accessories people used in real life based on their social status and region. The Decorations as they are called in Natya Shastra are categorized in three parts:
1.        Garlands
2.        Ornaments
3.        Drapery

The Garlands: The Garlands are further categorized in to five kinds, encircling or vestita, spread up or vitata, grouped or sambhatya, knotted or granthima and hung down or pralambita. Even today on festive occasions we can see women adorning  their hair with garlands  in fact no Indian bridal make-up is complete without a Gajara (knotted or hung down garland) or Veni (grouped type of garland).

Ornaments: Ornaments play a very important role in completing the look of a character a performer is representing. For example if the performer is portraying a noble character, his or her ornaments will be more elaborate and  made to look like gold or precious jewels while if the character played is that of an ascetic then the ornaments will be toned down like a simple necklace of  prayer  beads. Ornaments are categorized into to four types
1.        Piercing ornaments (avedhya) include ear ornaments such as ear-ring (kundala), ear pendant (mocaka), and ear top.
2.        Tied-up ornaments (bandhaniya) consist of girdles (sroni-sutra) and arm-band (angada).
3.        Ornaments to be worn (praksepya) consist of ornaments like anklets and apparels.
4.        Ornaments to be put around (aropya) consist of ornaments like neck chain, necklaces and waist ornaments.

Natya Shastra has further elaboration on what ornaments should be worn by men and women. The ornaments categorized for men  consists of head gear like a crown or crest-jewel, ear ornaments, neck ornaments, finger ornaments like kataka , ornaments for forearm like valaya, wrist ornament like bracelet, ornaments to be worn above the elbow like armlet, breast ornaments like three stringed necklace, waist ornaments like sutra. For ornaments categorized for women are  pearl net for head ornaments,tilaka for forehead, karnika or the sikhipatra which is the lotus shaped ornament worn in the braid, pearl or gold necklace for the neck, arm and finger, ornaments like bangles and armband and hip ornament like the Kalapa, anklets and toe rings. Natya Shastra however warns against the over use of ornaments on a performer which could lead to fatigue while making prolonged movements. Thus the use of lac instead of pure gold to make ornaments for production is encouraged.

Drapery: Costumes help to distinguish between the characters in the production example Yaksa or apsarasas are to be dressed with more elaborate and bright costumes and jeweled ornaments while performer who plays the role of women whose lover has gone abroad should be in white and they should not have many ornaments. Thus the dresses of women or man should be according to their habitation and condition.

Though these rules might sound too difficult to follow we see wide adherence to these rules of decoration in modern productions and plays even today. Like in a Russian Ballet the dancer playing the darker character will always be dressed in black while white is worn to show the purity and good character played by the dancer. If we look at afro dances we see that they use costumes made of more earthy tones and animal print, draped in such a way that it would allow the dancers more freedom for their vigorous movements. Stay tuned tomorrow for the next chapter in this series on importance of make-up and costumes as stated in Natya Shastra.

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