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Vritti – the Style of a dramatic performance!

नानभवोपसम्पन्नं नानवस्थानतरात्मकम्

लोकवृत्तानुकरणं नाट्यमेतनमया कृतं।


Vrittis is one of the most significant topics dealt with in Indian dramaturgy (Natya). It is one of the thirteen aspects of Natya as explained by Sage Bharatha in his encyclopaedic text, Natyashastra. Vritti is defined as the “style” of a dramatic presentation. Bharati, Sattvati, Arabhati, and Kaisiki are the four Vrittis (Styles) in which Natya can be performed.

The "Bharati vritti" is typically used to refer to a verbal mode of presentation. It is characterized by expressive dramatic diction. According to Natyashastra, Bharati vritti is named after the Bharatas, the descendants of sage Bharata and is composed of the Sanskrit language. Natayshastra also emphasizes that Bharati vritti should be used exclusively by men.

"Sattvati vritti" refers to mental activity because in Sanskrit, "Sattva" means mind, According to NS, Sattvati vritti is characterized by empathy and purity of mind. It recommends channelling the actors' inner spiritual strength to fully immerse in the role of the fictional character. Actors' ability to convincingly portray their characters' mental states has been greatly influenced by Sattvati vritti.

The third vritti, Arabhati, is based on bravery and valour. By using strong movements and gestures befitting a battle scene, Arabhati vritti conveys rough, masculine action. When depictions of aerial acrobatics, magic tricks, juggling, and other forms of flight are included, the term "Arabhati" is used.

Kaisiki Vritti is associated with a gentle, graceful manner of movement and is used for creating an atmosphere of love. According to Natyasastra, the use of Kaisiki vritti is inappropriate for males because of its association with femininity. Kaisiki Vritti has a more feminine vibe, and it makes use of a wide range of graceful dance moves and gestures.

The Natyashastra attributes a mythological background to almost every one of its Natya concepts. Thus, the origin of Vritti can also be traced back to mythology. Lord Vishu, who vanquished the demons Madhu and Kaithabha, is credited with creating Vrittis. Every vritti has its origin from a particular move made by Lord Vishnu during the battle. A detailed explanation of the same, however, is beyond the scope of this blog.

Let's examine a few examples where one vritti is predominantly used compared to all the others in a given artistic discipline. Prabandhakoothu is a subgenre of Koodiyattam that features heavily on Bharati Vritti. The Vidoshaka, who is responsible for narrating the Prabandhakoothu, must be a skilled orator if the performance is to be a success. While Sattviti vritti is essential to the creation of all forms of art, its significance is particularly clear in Nangiar Koothu, where the actress employs nuanced acting techniques. The Mayurbhanj Chhau dance and the martial art Kalaripayattu are two examples of art forms that make extensive use of Arabhati vritti. These performing arts exhibit Arabhatti vritti through the expert use of the sword and acrobatic manoeuvres. The fluid movements of dances like Mohiniyattam, Odissi, and Sattriya are great examples of the fourth vritti, Kaisiki vritti. One vritti's predominance in a given artistic genre is not indicative of the absence of others. The well-orchestrated Vrittis are one of the reasons why all of these art forms are so enjoyable to watch.

Let us analyse vrittis within the context of Dasaroopakas (ten types of dramas). Natyasastra uses Vritti to describe the ten types of play known as Dasaroopakas. Among the ten genres, only Natatka and Prakarana were fully developed enough to use all vrittis. Kaisiki vritti was not present in the remaining eight types (Bhana, Samavakara, Vithi, Ihamruga, Anga, Vyayoga, Dima, and Prahasana). It is interesting to find that the four earliest types of dramas (Samavakara, Dima, Ihamruga, and Vyayoga) have lacked Bharati vritti. They were created only in the Arabhati style as they depicted battles between the Devas and the Danavas. The scholars believe that those performances resembled pantomimes, lending credibility to the theory that ancient Indian theatre evolved through several non-literary forms.

Vrittis have a significant role in delineating a role in the contemporary scenario of Natya because each vritti corresponds to one of the three primary ways in which humans express themselves—verbally, mentally, and physically. Some people may have a stronger capacity for verbal expression, while others might be more attuned to nonverbal cues. A person's behaviour may change dramatically from one moment to the next based on his mental state. It is possible for a normally reserved person to suddenly become hostile and vocal. Natya was designed to depict various aspects, emotions, and situations encountered in real life; therefore, it is crucial to assign the appropriate vritti for a role when detailing a character.

This article was an attempt to provide a concise understanding of the concept of vritti, both in the context of the ancient text Natayashastra and the contemporary theatre scenario in which it is used.


# Natyasastra - N.P Unni

# Natyasastra - K.P Narayana Pisharodi

# Natyasastra - Board of Scholars

# Concept of Vritti in Natyasastra - Dr Natalia Lidova

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