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‘Pada-Karma’, Foot-work in Sattriya Dance from mallika kandali's blog


             Sattriya dance has some distinctive foot work patterns, which are called bhariman or Khoj. Bhariman connotes the movements of either single or pair of feet. In Sattriya dance the entire process of application of feet is called bhariman or Khoj. We can also call  it pada-sancara (foot movement). It is worth mentioning that these feet movements or bharimans start from the static positions of foot. Sattriya dance has many feet positions or feet stances. There is a basic stance or position in Sattriya dance form where all the dance numbers of Sattriya start, that is called Ora. Ora covers both feet and hand position. There are two types of oras they are divided primarily on the basis of purusha (masculine) and prakriti (feminine) dance sequences. They are – purusha Ora, Prakriti ora. Besides these two stances or positions “Sama” is another stance or position in Sattriya. Sattriya dance has some other stances, which depict various characters, sentiments, bhavas etc. Sattriya dance is mainly based on “ankiya bhaona” and major portion of its dance numbers are derived from dramatic sequence. Therefore, stances have an important role in Sattriya dance. It needs to be emphasized that the samapada, vaishnava, alidha, pratyalidha from Natya Sastra and the samapada, ekapada, sthanaka-bheda1 from Abhinaya Darpana are also used in Sattriya dance.

            The entire Sattriya dance form depends on three basic stances or positions –purusha ora, prakriti ora and sama. 

·         PurushA Ora :The foot position is in purusha ora pada. Both the arms should bend from the elbow with the palms facing both the outside of the body, parallel to the arms, face, neck and the body remaining straight as in the samabhanga. This position is known as Purusha Ora. Generally tandava or purusha style dances of Sattriya dance start from this position. 

·         Prakriti Ora :The foot position is in prakriti ora pada. Both the arms should bend from the elbow with the palms facing to the outside in the front of the chest, face, neck and the body remain straight . This position is known as prakriti ora. All the lasya style dances are started from this stance.                

·         Sama :The foot position is in juria pada or in normal position. We observe this position in sutradhari, rajagharia chali and other dance numbers of Sattriya dance. 

Though Sattriya dance has a rich tradition of feet stances or positions, yet hardly any attention has been paid towards assigning a nomenclature to these positions in Sattriya dance. Since Sattriya dance is a living and oral tradition, probably in course of time some of the name of the feet positions might have been lost from the vocabulary. Now it is necessary to assign the nomenclature to these foot positions of Sattriya dance basically for the outside student of the sattras or vaishnava  monasteries. Because, in any dance form, the feet positions are the structural foundation which gives a distinctive character and uniqueness to that particular dance form.           

An attempt had been made in this regard in my doctoral thesis, in keeping with the traditional and indigenous mode of nomenclature. Regarding this matter we had discussed with the great maestro of Sattriya dance and culture Guru Paramananda Borbayan of Uttat Kamalabari Sattra (Vaishnava Monastery of Assam), Majuli, Borbayan had given permission and mentioned that nomenclature should be based on Sattriya tradition and Assamese culture. Sincere attempts had been made to follow the maestro’s advice. For example- Kolosi pada (Kumbha pada of Odissi), has been named as “Kolosi” because it resembles a water pitcher which is called kolosi in Assamese. Some other example are- biparitamukhi Pada, age geruwa uthuwa pada, piche geruwa uthuwa pada, dhyana pada (ekapada- the sthanakamandala of A.D), bhumilekha pada etc. 

We would like to highlight the major feet positions of Sattriya dance -


·         Juria pada-In a standing position in both knees straight, and the feet are parallel and almost touching . This pada is used in mati-akhoras like posola tula, pani sicha, uddha chota etc. It has similarity with the samachari pada, which is mentioned in Natya Shastra.

·         Bipartimukhi pada or saman ora pada : The feet are turned out, the knees are bent sideways directly over toes. This pada is used is natuwa nritya(one of the male dance numbers) of Sattriya dance.

·         Kolosi pada : The feet are turned out, heels are almost touching and raised upward. This pada is used in the mati-akhoras like orat utha-boha, Kati-chota ,jalak etc. This pada is similar with the Kumbha pada of Odissi. 

·         Age geruwa uthuwa pada : Standing on the left foot and left knee may be bent or straight. The right leg is crossed in front of the left.The right toe is opposite the little toe of the left foot with the right heel raised facing sideways. The pada is generally used in the Krishna Bhangi, various bhangis and in abhinaya of Sattriya dance. 

·         Piche geruwa uthua pada : Standing on the foot and bending the left knee slightly over a turned out. Bending the right knee, turned out and cross it behind the left on the fore step with a gap between the toes of the two feet . This pada is also used in Krishna bhangi ,various bhangi and abhinaya a part of Sattriya dance. 

·         Dhyana pada : Standing on the left foot turned out and bend the right knee with the right ankle and place it on left knee . The toe of the right foot may be pointed towards the ground . In Sattriya dance it is generally used in Buddha avatara and in meditating pose in Sattriya Ojapali.It is like the Mahapada of Odissi. 

·         Eka Pada : Standing on the left foot and keep the left knee straight . Bend the right knee and placing it behind the left knee so that it is not visible. It is generally used in Sattriya Ojapali, thiya muruka (one of the mati-akhoras), various bhangis and abhinaya part of Sattriya dance. 

·         Fisha pada or Mina Pucha pada : Standing on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly. Bend the right knee and cross it behind the left knee so that the right knee touches the back of the knee of the left knee . This Padda is also generally used in sattriya Ojapali. It is similar with the Minadandi of Odissi. 

·         Uloma pada : Standing on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly to the left, bend the right knee and bring the right foot, toes pointing downwards to a position where the whole right foot is in a hanging position near the left calf, the right heel opposite the left knee . This pada is used in samukhaloi jap(one of jumps of Sattriya dance) and in various dance poses of Sattriya dance. 

·         Uttolona : Standing on the left foot and bending of the left knee slightly to the left. Bend the right knee, raise the right foot so that it is in straight line with the left knee ; keeping a gap of about one foot between the bent left knee and the right leg, the right foot is parallel to the ground. This pada is used in gayan-bayan (instrumental playing), the various characters of ankiya – bhaona-( in the entry and exit sequences). 

·         Unnita pada : Standing on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly to the left. Bend the right knee, so that the inner part of the thigh and calf  make an angle of 90 degree, and the right heel must be to the right at the left knee . This  is used in tukura pak, akal pak(some bhramaris of Sattriya dance) ,the various poses of Sattriya dance . 

·         Bhumilekha pada (a) : Stand on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly to the left. Bend the right knee and place the right big toe touching the ground . The right foot is in a straight line from the raised heel to the toe. In the abhinaya part of the Sattriya dance this pada is frequently used. 

·         Bhumilekha pada (b) : There is another bhumilekha pada in Sattriya dance. This pada is generally used in samapada –means in natural position . The left foot is in sama position . The right foot is also in sama , but the toes are shrunk while the heel touches the ground . The pada is also generally used in abhinaya part of Sattriya dance 

·         Lahi ora pada : Standing on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly to the left. Bend the right knee and place the right fore steps from the left foot and raise the right heel upwards. This padda is used in lasya bhangis and in various dance poses of Sattriya dance. It is like Kuncita pada of Natya Shastra. 

·         Phul Ora pada : Standing on the left foot and bend the left knee slightly to the left. With the right knee bent, place the right heel at a diagonal distance away from the centre of the left foot. The heel rests on the floor with forestep lifted and turned out. This pada is generally used in pursush bhangi and in various dance poses of Sattriya dance. It is like Ancita pada of Natya Shastra. 

·         Purush ora pada :The foot position is in biparitmukhi or saman ora pada. But the distance between the heels should be the length of dancer’s one sole or one tala . This is called purusha ora pada . All the masculine dance style of Sattriya dance start from this foot position. 

·         Prakriti Ora Pada : From purusha ora position when both the foot slightly move forward that is called prakriti ora pada. All the feminine dance style of sattriya dance start from this foot position. 

·         Mandala pada : The same as purusha ora pada with a wider distance between the heels . This distance should be about two talas . Generally in gayan –bayan abhinaya etc. this position is used etc. 

It is worth mentioning that the characteristics of five types2 of feet, which are mentioned by the Natya Shastra, are also present in Sattriya dance. They are sama, ancita, Kuncita, udghatita and agratalasancara. Among these five, sama, ancita, Kuncita, and agratalasancara are the feet positions or stances . But udghatita is not a foot position or stance, because the application pattern of Udghatita is like a foot movement. In Sattriya dance sama is used in mati-akhoras like posola tula(like anga bhramari of Abhinaya Darpana) and in many dance postures. Ancita is like the phul ora pada , kuncita like lahi ora pada and agratalasancara is generally used in abhinaya .                            

Besides these feet positions , the Sattriya dance has some distinctive feet movements. In Sattriya dance the pada sancharas or feet movements are divided into two parts, based on various treatises and traditionally adhered to. 

The Natya Shastra mentions thirty two numbers of charis consisting  of sixteen bhaumi charis and sixteen akashiki caris3. Nandikeswara has mentioned eight charis . Among these at least the characteristics of thirty charis are largely used in Sattriya dance. They are Samapada , Sthitavarta, Janita, Dolapada, Sakatasys etc. 

The Sattriya has huge number of feet movements as per oral tradition.4.. But due to the lack of proper  recording some names might have been lost. Regarding this matter, Dr. Jagannath Mahanta, in collaboration with Asom Sattra Mahasabha organized a workshop, where vaishnava devotees from various vaishnava Sattras of Assam were invited. During the workshop all the feet movements that are practiced in various sattras were compiled and systematically arranged on the basis of the classical treatises and the local tradition. Dr. Keshavananda Dev Goswami had identified some feet movements 5. 

Few important feet movements are as follows: 

·         Tewai or Tewari :Right phul ora pada is placed in front, Slightly towards the  right edge of the body, left phul ora pada placed towards the left edge on the body. Then the right foot is lifited up and placed behind the left and thereafter the left is also raised and placed behind the right as piche geruwa uthuwa pada . This foot movement is used in gayan – bayan, to express the vira –rasa etc.


·         Juti :-One phul ora pada is placed in front , the other foot is brought behind it as agratalasancara and ultimately placed as piche geruwa utuwa pada . In Krishna nritya and in other dance numbers also, we observe this foot movement.This is similar to swastika pada.


·         Chiral :In chiral a dancer keeps pressure on the toe of one foot dragg on the ground from one side to another . This foot movement is used in gayan – bayan ,Krishna nritya etc.


·         Citika :One lahi ora pada is placed in front, then lifited up as uttolana pada and it is brought to the back and placed in phul ora pada . This foot movement is used in Nadu bhangi and in other dance numbers of Sattriya.


·         Lecheri :With an elevation, one phul ora pada is thrown sideways forcefully and allowed to fall quickly on the ground as agratalasancara. Simultaneously the other foot in agratalasancara is brought to its back and placed in piche geruwa uthuwa pada . This foot movement is used in cali and many other dance numbers of Sattriya dance.


·         NupurChalowa : One phul ora pada is lifited up and taken behind the other and then quickly falls on the ground . This foot movement is used in Krishna nritya and in other dance numbers of Sattriya dance.


·         Maria Cali : One lahi ora pada is swifitly placed on both the right and the left front alternately. This foot movement is used in gayan-bayan etc.


·         Cholaghuruwa : From samapada, one agratalasancara foot is placed in front, the other foot brought close to the first by dragging along with the ground and whirls round . This foot movement is used in gayan – bayan etc. 


·         Utha Khojman : From Samapada position the right foot is placed one step forward, the left foot is dragged along the ground and placed parallel to the other. This foot movements is used in various dance numbers of Sattriya dance. 


·         Tipika : From the purusha ora pada the feet move forward without raising the feet. It means, in the forward movement, feet must be in a flat position .This foot movement is mainly used in gayan-bayan and various dance numbers of Sattriya dance.                


        Besides these above feet movements, there are a variety of feet movements which are generally used in gayan-bayan(instrumental playing) in ankiya – bhaona (Vaishnava theatre), where the performer  plays khol or mridanga (drum), pat ital , bhor tal (cymbals) etc.


        This was a brief picture of pada – Karmas of Sattriya dance. Sattriya dance is an enduring and oral tradition which is more than five hundred years alive through the sattras, the vaishnava Sattras of Assam, and so there is a possibility of further discovery of many new varieties of foot work.

 Notes :

1.Natya Shastra , Chap . XI , vv50-71, Abhinaya Darpan,vv274, 275, 276

2. N.S Chap X vv1-9

3. N.S, Chap xi, vv 6-49

4. These bharimans or feet movements are being used or practiced by the devotees of the various sattras of Assam

5. Goswami Keshavananda, Dev. Bharatiya Patabhumit Sankari Sahitya  Aru Sattriya Sangeet.        

 References Notes:

 v  Bharatmuni:Natya Shastra, Bharatmuni: The Natya Shastra,  translated into English by A Board of Scholars, Sri Satguru Publications, A division of Books Center, indological and Oriental Publishers, 40/5, Shaktinagar, Delhi-110007, and India. First edition Delhi 1986, Second revised edition 1989, 1993, 1996.

 v  Nandikehar: Abhinaya Darpan, translated in Bengali by Sri Ashoknath Shastri, edited by Sri Gaurinath Shastri, Nabapatra Prakashan, Kolkata, first edition September 1991.

 vGoswami Keshavananda Dev Bharatiya Patabhumit Sankari Sahitya Aru Sattriya Sangeet,  Banalata, Guwahati, first edition 2001.

 v  Kandali, Mallika:The Sattriya and the Odissi Dances: A Comperative Study. Thesis submitted to Gauhati University, 2004.

 v  Kandali, Mallika: Sattriya Nrityat Padar Sthiti (Article in Assamese), Gariyoshi, A monthly Assamese Magazine, Vol, XI, No. 10, July 2004.

 v  Kandali, Mallika: Nrityakala Prasanga aru Sattriya Nritya (Assamese), The Written Word, Guwahati, First Edition April 2007.





Age geruwa uthuwa Pada




Fisha Pada or Mina Pucha Pada



UNNITA PADA         

Bhumilekha Pada (a)

Bhumilekha Pada (b)   









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By mallika kandali
Added Dec 18 '11


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