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Act Of Moving Belly In Indian Classical Dance – Jathara Krama

 Jathara Krama is the act of moving the belly in Indian classical dance. Bharata, the author of Natyashastra, the oldest available Hindu text on dramaturgy and histrionics, describes isolated movements of various parts of the body. These are divided into pratyanga (minor limbs) and anga (major limbs). Pratyanga consists of arms, neck, shanks, elbows, thighs and knees. Jathara (belly) is one of the prayangas. There are various kinds of karmas (movements) mentioned in ancient texts on Indian dance.

Jaya Senapati, the author of Nritta Ratnavali, discusses subtle variations and purposes of belly movements. Sangita Ratnakara, written by Sarangadeva (13th century CE) discusses three movements executed by dancers with special reference to the belly.

Natyashastra discusses the physical attributes of a belly:

  • Kshama is the shape of a belly that is drawn inwards, while holding the breath, especially done while laughing or weeping.
  • Khalva is the belly that is crouching or bent due to a person feeling depressed, sick or weary.
  • Purna is the full round shape of the belly, obvious when a person exhales. It is also used to depict an over-fed person.

The belly can be moved separately, in an isolated manner, in many different directions. It can be turned aside, rotated, shaken, raised, and held completely motionless. These movements are used extensively in classical dance-dramas like Kathakali of Kerala and Bharatanatyam of Tamil Nadu. They are performed by dancers executing nritya (expressive and symbolic movements) rather than nritta (pure, abstract dance).