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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', etymologically it derives from Sanskrit abhi- 'towards' + nii- 'leading/guide', so literally it means a 'leading towards' (leading the audience towards a sentiment, a rasa)

Aside from its clear impact on dramatic tradition, it is used as an integral part of all the Indian classical dance styles, which all feature some kind of mimetic aspect to certain compositions, for example in depictions of daily life or devotional pieces.

Lokadharmi and Natyadharmi Abhinaya

A principal division is that between natyadharmi abhinaya and lokadharmi abhinaya. The former is poetic and stylistic in nature, following a codified manner of presenting emotion and expression which pertains to the conventions of the stage, which appear to have greater 'artistry' by virtue of taking something from natural life and rendering it in a suitably 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.

The Four Ingredients of Abhinaya

Abhinaya can further be divided into four categories, as set down by the Natya Shastra.

Āṅgika Abhinaya

This relates to the movement of the body, and how...
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