The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata. As an audio-visual form, Natyashastra mirrors all the arts and crafts, higher knowledge, learning, sciences, yoga, and conduct. Its purpose is to entertain as well as educate. Abhinaya is a concept in Indian dance and drama derived from Bharata's Natya Shastra. Although now, the word has come to mean 'the art of expression', in Sanskrit ‘ni’ stands for ‘to take forward’. Abhinaya is the ‘taking forward’ of the emotion from the dancer to the audience. A dancer’s prime intention is to evoke a specific ‘rasa’ (emotion) in the spectators using hand gestures and facial expressions, along with body movements. A principal division in Abhinaya is that between natyadharmi abhinaya and lokadharmi abhinaya. The former is poetic and stylistic in nature, following a set, coded manner of presenting emotion and expression which appeals to the rules of the stage, which appear to have greater artistry by virtue of taking something from natural life and rendering it in a little stylised way. Lokadharmi abhinaya is the opposite - realistic and un-stylised, involving very natural expression and movement, as occurs in daily life. Often this is the more difficult as the possibilities for interpretation of an emotion or a line of poetry are endless. These styles have the higher purpose of bringing to the fore the dormant emotion in a spectator’s mind and this, if achieved by the dancer, catapults them to a divine plane.
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