On the khandita, a woman who stands up to her unfaithful lover-News-Art-and-culture, Firstpost


This series is an exploration of classical dance ashtanayika – the eight types of heroines that portray a woman’s many thoughts and emotional states. In the last essay, part 8, a look at the khandita.

A nayika delights, saddens, captivates, anger. In many ways, she provides catharsis, as her shameless telling of her story – her woes, apprehensions, and joys – evokes those emotions of love and desire within us that we may not even know existed.

In his Natyashastra, written around 200 BC, Bharat Muni set forth his theories on the practice and performance of theater and dance in 36 chapters. It was in these verses that he conceived the ashtanayika, or the eight heroines based on eight different episodes in a woman’s life. Ashtanayika express the thoughts of a woman caught up in a myriad of situations regarding her lover and are considered to be one of the most beautiful and enduring forms of abhinaya in the study of Indian classical dance.

For centuries, each of these examples has meant much more than portraying a woman’s puzzles and perils: they have come to denote her freedom to express herself and her love – physical and spiritual – for her beloved. . Perhaps this is one of the reasons the concept of nayikas has been nurtured over time, evolving with the world around it, while remaining grounded in its essence. Because a nayika is a woman, she is every woman, at a given time, at a given place.

In this First post series, we explore the ashtanayika, their representation in classical Indian dance and their place in contemporary time and practice.

Read more of the series here.


Infidelity strikes at the very foundation of love and trust on which relationships are built. It is bitterness that erodes the trust that binds two lovers, often pushing them so far apart that they may never meet again. The infidelity it involves resides in moments of transgression, and sometimes callousness, which later result in grief and sorrow.

It is the exploration of this disloyalty that is at the heart of the khandita | , a nayika whose beloved cheated on her and came back filled with apprehension and sorrow in the face of the pain that this act inflicted on her.

The by nayika torment is evident in his anger; she rages against the fickle love of her beloved and sums up the courage to drag him by the hand to the door of her house and asks him to leave. It is only after the finality of the separation that the khandita allows himself to completely collapse, letting tears and sorrow take over, which had until then been veiled under his rage and his sudden dismissal.

It was only after this act of ‘khandan’ or more colloquially, the “rupture”, that a nayika really turns into a khandita – because at that moment, she chooses to move away from the person who has been unfaithful to their shared love.

Odissi Swapnokalpa Dasgupta’s exponent says that in the traditional repertoire, this tragic heroine can be represented in various forms, depending on the underlying nayika bheda or distinctions of age and love experience that govern his impulses. In the lessons she learned from her guru, the legendary dancer Kelucharan Mohapatra, the khandita he often conjured in the choreography of a ashtapadi (a poem with eight lines) would be the uttama nayika, or a mature, knowledgeable woman whose inner composure allows her suffering to surface without fury.

There are some interesting contradictions embedded in such a description of the khandita. Typically a ashtapadi is a saying illustrating the relationship between Radha and Krishna. In the traditions of eastern India, Radha is a parakiya, notes Dasgupta – a nayika who seeks union outside the bonds of marriage. She is a uttama too, and when these facets blend together, they produce a khandita who, instead of pushing away his lord or Krishna, disengages himself from his grip when he tries to draw him towards him. Here, says Dasgupta, Radha thinks Krishna “is too big for her to reject him” and refuses to give in to his requests for forgiveness. On the contrary, the displacement of her physical body from hers invokes in her the strength to let go and to meditate on the part of herself that she should surrender to the spiritual (read: Krishna) while remaining linked to her. terrestrial world (read: matrimonial) domesticity.

However, in many traditional performances, a khandita is often portrayed as a naive young heroine through abhinaya who sees her tremble with envy and fury. She slowly and unwittingly comes undone as the protagonist caught off guard by her beloved’s betrayal.

A khandita refuses to accept the apologies of her beloved. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Popular performances involve the nayika patiently awaiting the arrival of her lover, and while she does, she dresses in bright colors with jewelry ornaments and fresh flowers. She puts back her twisted pillows and crumpled mattresses, covers a tray with delicious food to keep it warm, and has all the ingredients needed to make a tasty meal on a silver tray. paan for her lover.

As the sun disappears behind a purple sky and the twinkling moon shines in the dark night, she lays her head on a pillow, and oscillating between dream and wakefulness, keeps an ear glued to the door for the slightest sound that would signal the arrival of his beloved.

When she finally hears a knock, unable to endure another moment of separation, she rushes to the door and swings it open. Her face reveals a burst of love and confidence. Slowly the nayika observe the strained lines on her beloved’s forehead, her face swollen from lack of sleep, and her lips lightly tinted with the scarlet remnants of paan. But the truth does not sink completely until after his refusal to meet his gaze.

In an old bandit of the traditional deposit of Kathak, the nayika asks his beloved:

Kaahe ab tum aaye ho, simple dwaare

Sauten sang jaage, anurage, rasa paake baahein

(Why have you come back to my door now? After spending a night of love and passion in the arms of the other woman?)

In the contemporary urban context, a person’s world can crumble with a text, a snippet of a conversation heard, or a random image that appears on social media. Here, technology is both a blessing and a curse, which on the one hand lays bare the truth and on the other becomes the harbinger of immense pain. A series of clashes and battles ensue, which rarely end well.

In a classical performance, on the other hand, it is the most satisfying process of abhinaya – a truly cathartic conversation between two lovers: one, begging forgiveness, and the other, unduly hurt by the transgression. The resulting interaction is just as crucial as the knowledge of the betrayal.

As a young adult, notes Dasgupta, learn to perform the khandita would mean portraying more anger than pain.

In the traditional choreography inherited from this writer, the lover appears as a figure filled with apologies and remorse. And even as he tries to find platitudes, the by nayika the anguish only increases, until, in her rage, she throws the flowers, the beautiful paan tray on the floor and berates this traitor for breaking his heart. She refuses him to touch her, moves away when he puts his forehead at her feet to ask her forgiveness and, consumed by such great rage, orders her to leave and never to return.

Jhooti jhooti batiyan karo na man rang tum, vahi jao jinke chatiyan so laage

Freely translated, the nayika repeats: Do not invent lies to appease me, return to this “other” woman whose embrace is so dear to you.

According to Dasgupta’s study, for the experienced interpreter who understands the uttama nayika, it could be the woman contemplating her space in that relationship, as opposed to a sarcastic remark made at the time. She may be urging her lover to go to the woman he has chosen for her.

In another interpretation of khandita, Dasgupta tells, the nayika tells Krishna that he shouldn’t come near her as he tries to calm her down, and instead enjoys the attentions of this wayward charmer.

In contemporary times, infidelity in a marriage opens up a debate on broader questions around the cultural and social consequences of cheating on a partner. It highlights cracks inherent in the nature of the engagement and its implications for the two lovers.

In every story, whether it is Radha courteously asking Krishna to return to the “other” woman, or the innocent heroine whose anger leads her to throw her lover out of their house, a khandita highlights the grief and mistrust that infidelity sows in the victim’s mind. For young dancers barely initiated nayika bheda, while navigating romance and its tender bonds in their own lives, the khandita is a lesson in the suffering and pain that could be the fallout of a young love.


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