"SHASTRA & SAMPRADAYA" ("Scriptures & Tradition")

A Bharata Natyam dance interpretation of the Sanskrit Text "Abhinaya Darpan".

An application of the Sanskrit verses to a traditional Bharata Natyam repertoire

As a practical student of classical Indian dance, Sandhya found it necessary to examine and understand the theoretical basis on which the tradition of dance and the traditional techniques have been built.

Abhinaya Darpanam is a key ancient Sanskrit text for Bharata Natyam. It includes many things pertaining to the tradition of Bharata Natyam which are not even mentioned in other texts. After learning the shlokas of Abhinaya Darpanam in audio-visual form, Sandhya felt the need to co-ordinate the Shastra & Sampradaya. Through her experience in the dance field, she found a big gap between the theoretical tenets and its application into dance practice. Dance students know the shlokas but how to apply them to the traditional repertoire is unknown.

This is her sincere effort to bring the Sanskrit verses from the different treatises onto the stage along with its application into a traditional Bharata Natyam repertoire and fill the bridge between Shastra & Sampradaya.

After years of painstaking effort, her Guru Acharya Parvatikumar has set the Shlokas to music and choreographed them in dance form. He has attempted, with the help of his wife, Smt. Sumati Parvatikumar, to compose the music according to the essence of the text, using appropriate ragas and different jatis of talas to break the monotony of the lengthy text.

The composition of the text has been based mainly on the literal meaning of the words in the Shlokas or the 'Shabdartha' or the deeper meaning or connotation of the words; with the incorporation of the Vyabhichar. Many interpretations of a word or line are possible but on account of constraints of time, only one composition has been chosen for each word or line.

The idea behind attempting work of such a nature is to generate a more serious approach to the study of dance so that a deeper understanding of the theory of dance can lead to a more mature and perceptive level of performance and appreciation.

The method of approach towards the representation of each word of a shloka has been a painstaking and thorough one. The various meanings of a single word have been sought, the appropriate meaning selected and its connotations worked upon. Then after considerable research among various texts, the appropriate posture has been selected for definite reasons, and along with the posture, the eye, neck, hand and foot movements. The choice of each being carefully analysed and scrutinised before its selection, so that each posture, each hand, foot, neck and eye movement can best enhance the meaning of the word.


‘The Hindustan Times’ - Delhi
Grammar of gestures
Apart from the Abhinaya aspect, Sandhya Purecha also demonstrated several Karanas, as described by Nandikesvara. It was indeed a marathon performance, which she went through with exceptional virtuosity, although she did not have the benefit of telling a story. She had to hold the interest of the spectator with the sole help of definitions and descriptions of the various moods, modes and Rasas. She has given a fine rendering of the grammar of gestures, as defined by Nandikesvara and as choreographed by Guru Parvati Kumar.

‘Shruti Magazine’ - Madras
Sandhya Purecha in ‘Abhinaya Darpanam’
Sandhya Purecha’s ... performance of Abhinaya Darpanam in Bombay gripped the attention of the audience right from the moment the curtains opened on a strikingly traditional stage decor. The intonation of the sacred syllable Aum created a mood of pious devotion.

‘Free Press Journal’ - Mumbai
Returning to One’s Roots?
(The) presentation was the first of its kind and a marathon visualisation of a Lakshana Grantha (a text of grammar)...... it came off as a lucid elucidation, blending harmoniously the body language and expressions that the mudras evoked at physical and mental levels. The visual lucidity equally owed to the synchronicity of fluent musical spin-up in a varied Tala format.
Witnessing the Abhinaya Darpanam presentation with each of the shlokas having a wealth of meaning and scope for interpretations, one was convinced that there is no need to grope for material for innovation outside tradition.
There is enough within our tradition and texts, if one had only the vision, imagination and interpretative ability.

‘Shanmukh’ - Mumbai
A Life-time Sadhana
However, as the ‘modest demonstrations’ of the codified Lakshanas of the gesture vocabulary unfolded, one found much material to understand and appreciate.
Abhinaya Darpanam was like a breath of fresh air and an aesthetically satisfying experience in the present desultory performing scenario. It was definitely worth the while for Bombay’s cognoscenti and the many disciples who had travelled great distances across the country to be present for the event.

‘Indian Express’ - Madras
Varied & Vivid
Sandhya Purecha, the talented disciple of the Acharya and active collaborator in his research work performed the exacting ... marathon. The incredible stamina with which she performed drew repeated applause. Her facial expressions were varied and vivid, and the postures statuesque. The other three aspects of Abhinaya viz. vachika, aharya and sattvika were also depicted with equal facility.The programme has succeeded in generating a more serious approach to the study of dance and a higher level of appreciation of the art form.


‘Indian Express’ - Ahmedabad
A report on ‘Abhinaya Darpanam’ A fitting finale
The visualisation of Abhinaya Darpana on stage was to reveal step-by-step the depth and shades of Bharata Natyam through superb illustrations for the lay audience as well as the students of this classical art. No other stage performance has ever given us such a varied and comprehensive practical way of understanding the amazing world of Bharata Natyam in an entertainment-cum-education method.Parvatikumar’s three levels depicted first the elaborate interpretation of the invocatory salutations to Siva, the Cosmic Dancer.
The dancer, Sandhya Purecha demonstrated with extraordinary felicity the components of the human body, limbs and their uses as defined in the text. The next level described the language of gestures through illustrative hastas to produce variety. And finally came the third level with its enhanced tempo, sculpturesque poses, brilliant footwork and delightful leaps. Breathtaking were the postures showing the Gods, Navagraha and the Gods incarnations in quick succession.
The credit for the success of the stage version of Abhinaya Darpana goes to the learned Guru, and his star student Sandhya Purecha and a team of musicians.


‘Blitz’ - Mumbai
Grand Fest
Recital was by brilliant bharata natyam exponent Sandhya Purecha. A danseuse of immense potential, Purecha concluded her performance with Shyam Sundar, pertaining to Krishna, the cosmic Flautist. She deserves to be seen more often on the professional platform.

Rashtriya Sahara - Lucknow
Sandhya Purecha’s dance was full of Shringaar & Bhakti Rasa. All her items were greatly appreciated by the audiences but the item Nartana Ganapati & Ananda Tandava enthralled the people. The seven tandavas of the item Anand Tandava was spectacular with respect to its laya, hastas & facial expressions.

Amravati - Hindustan
The Surabhi Festival of Dance, Drama & Music held at Amravati commenced with an unforgetable performance by Dr. Sandhya Purecha that left the audiences spellbound.

Sanzloksatta - Mumbai
In todays day and age, theory and practise of Indian classical dance is far from each other. Thus the verses given in the ancient dance treatises are not known to the students of classical dance. It was the sincere effort of Dr. Sandhya Purecha to show the connection between Shastra & Sampradaya of classical dance.

Abhinaya Darpanam is a unique experiment in bringing on to stage, a presentation that is largely meant for teaching fundamentals in the classroom, and is a welcome experiment. One hopes it will bridge the wide gap that exists between theory & practise. Presenting the Abhinaya Darpanam on stage is to create a well-defined visual dictionary for dancers.


Sensing Sandhya's passion for dance, her father Sri Virsinha Purecha, who always encouraged and supported her, took her to the folk dance maestro, Sir Ramesh Purav, where she had her first formal training in dance. Realising her urge to learn more, Sri Ramesh Purav handed her over, in 1978, to his Guru, Acharya Parvati Kumar, to learn classical dancing. Sandhya, to this day, remains truly indebted to her Gurujis for their training and guidance.

She took an active part in her Guruji's research work on “Abhinaya Darpanam” and has performed his choreographed version of the text onstage at ICCR Delhi, Krishna Gaana Sabha at Madras, and at venues in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Pune.

She simultaneously acquired a Master's Degree in Sanskrit at Bombay University and subsequently a law degree (LL). Presently, she is working on her thesis for a Ph.D in Bharata Natyam, under the guidance of her Guru.

Sandhya has also endeavoured to bring about a wider appreciation of the art through seminars, workshops, lecture demonstration and write-ups on dance. She has written a number of papers on various dance topics over the years, Since 1994 she has been demonstrating at the Government Teachers' Training Programme at Natyashala on “Rasa” theory and also at various Teachers' Training Programmes on aspects of Abhinaya.

She has founded the dance institute “ Kala Parichaya" and has been its Director for the past fifteen years. Today, the institute caters to its students at seven branches in Mumbai and one at Amaravati with eighteen of her students having performed their Arangetram.

Sandhya has endeavored to maintain a distinct quality of technique and style in Bharata Natyam. Her basic search in the field of choreography has always been to explore and express Indian dance in the contemporary context, to enrich it with notable compositions and a thought-provoking approach. Her innovative efforts in bringing together all seven Indian classical dance styles in the new ballet "Ashtanayika", based on the Natyashashtra, has won her admiration from all quarters.

Sandhya has performed for various prestigious festivals and organisations in India and abroad.

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