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Kanishtha – Dancer Or Actress Performing Role Of Minor Character

Kanishtha, or kanistha, is a dancer or an actress performing the role of a minor character. Nartaki, or the female dancer in Indian classical dance, performs a variety of roles in dance dramas and in solo repertoires. The nayikas (heroines) in the dance-drama traditions are classified according to their birth, their association with the nayaka (hero), being either the husband or lover, or their behavior offending the partner.

The heroines primarily belong to three classes depending on their birth – uttama (superior); madhyama (middle) and adhama (inferior).

Though nayikas are categorized under these three classes, Rasa Manjari (a treatise on theory of emotive expressions) written by Bhanu Datta, describes 384 types of heroines in relation to heroes.

The madhyama heroine is of two kinds, jyestha (senior) wife and kanishtha (junior wife) who has less regard for the husband in spite of being the favorite one. She is kulastri (of noble birth) and has the status of being a sviya (lawfully wedded). She is innocent and partially controlled when rebuking her erring husband mildly with tears. She speaks the truth, yet feels frustrated when anger dissolves into sadness during confrontations with her husband. She is often distressed by the separation from her beloved because of his preoccupation. She displays polite behavior and radiates a high degree of charm in public. When alone, she displays hysterical delight or anger and experiences a combination of weeping fits, smiles, fear and passion. People surrounding her are constantly appreciative of her self control and steady unwavering mind, free from vanity.