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Abhitapta – Eye movement In Dance

Abhitapta is one of the eye movements enumerated in Natyashastra. In Hindu classical dances, glances convey emotions. There are 36 kinds of eye movements used by classical dancers to express the eight basic states of self love, humor, compassion, anger, courage, fear, disgust and wonder. Abhitapta is used to depict vyabhichari bhavas (complementary or auxiliary emotional states) accompanying these emotions. They are described in the domain of rasa theory enunciated by Bharata in his Natyashastra.

The 36 glances are divided into three categories. The first eight glances are used to express the eight sentiments listed above. The next eight glances are used to suggest sthayi bhavas (permanent psychological states) of each sentiment. For example, vismaya (astonishment) is the sthayi bhava of adbhuta (wonder). The remaining twenty glances are used to express complementary psychological states that emerge with each sentiment; humor, for instance, is accompanied by insomnia and drowsiness.

Abhitapta is characterized by the eyeballs moving slowly in different directions – up, down, sideways and in circles. It is accompanied by slow movements of the eyelids opening and closing over the eyes. This glance is used by characters in deep emotional distress or physical pain. A disappointed person in a pessimistic mood uses it to convey his or her depressed state of mind. A character, accidentally hurt, moves his or her eyes in abhitapta to express shock and despair. The glance is usually accompanied by hand gestures and body movements, characteristic of the particular emotion.