Love, Longing, and Devotion, The Ashta Nayikas And Their Artistic Representation

22nd May, 2024

Ashta Nayika, a term referring to eight different types of heroines or nayikas, each with their position about their male lover, or nayaka. These eight heroines, briefly mentioned in Bharata Muni's Natyashastra, were expanded upon by aestheticians, poets, and visual artists during the medieval period. These heroines undergo various emotions that collectively suggest love, representing eight different states or Avasthas about their hero or Nayaka.

She is pictured standing/sitting next to her lover, who is depicted lovingly massaging, cleaning, caressing, or putting lac dye on her feet. This is evidence of her Lover's full submission.

1. Swadhinapatika Nayika

She stands beside her bed, waiting for her beloved, as the maids prepare the house and bed for her lover’s greeting.

2. Vasakasajja Nayika

The Ragamala painting depicts a dejected Nayika rejecting her lover's advances, reflecting her rejection and possibly the dejection of her lover. The painting's symbols reflect the protagonist's rejection, while the lover pleads, and the darkness behind them suggests the banter between them.

3. Kalahantarita Nayika

She  is offended by her lover and is labeled as possessive and insecure. The balanced symmetry and dynamic leading lines draw the viewer's attention to the central figures, while the slight daylight suggests it's either dawn or early morning.

4. Khandita Nayika

5. Prositapatika Nayika

She is sitting with her Sakhi, is trying to soothe her as the time of Kṛiśhna’s return has passed and he has still not returned.

She is abandoned by her lover. She is depicted as ripping down her jewellery and dumping it on the floor in despair. The painting is divided into Purvanugraha, Mana, Pravasa, and Karunya. The elements in the frame, such as the darkness, birds, and jewellery, suggest the lonesome attitude of the Nayika. The grey skies and empty frame emphasize the emptiness of her mind.

6. Vipralabdha Nayika

A heroine embarks on a journey to meet her lover, overcoming obstacles like snakes and ghosts. The Abhisarika Nayika, categorized into five types, is used to guide her journey, with the main goal of reuniting with her lover.

7. Abhisarika Nayika

A heroine eagerly awaits her lover, often depicted in a serene setting, often surrounded by nervous deer grazing and wind-snuffling. Utkanthita Nayika and Abhisarika Nayika are the most poetic heroines from the Ashta Nayika series in Indian art, often depicted in solitude and loneliness, often surrounded by deer.

8. Utkanthita or VirahotkanthitaNayika