The Mirror of Gesture is the English translation of the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikesvara which was originally published with a Telugu interpretation by Madabhushi Tiruvenkatachari of Nidamangalam in 1874. The Abhinaya Darpana, according to Nandikesvara, who is a legendary figure, is an abridgement of the Bharatarnava, an exposition on the art of dancing. For those not acquainted with the Indian dramatic technique, it may be difficult to understand the importance of such texts. However, as Coomaraswamy has pointed out, this work may be of immense interest to the living actor in the European theatre and will not only be profitable for him "to adopt the actual gesture language of the East, but it may inspire him with the enthusiasm and the patience needful for the re-creation of the drama in his own environment."
This book, which will serve as an introduction to the Indian dramatic technique and its essentials which imply not merely a thorough understanding of the nyaya, nrtta and nrtya but also the conditioning aesthetic qualities of rasa, bhava, etc. Indian acting and dancing, which are, in fact, dovetailed, possess a special hieratic significance and can be understood by a cultivated audience. In general, however, natya also corresponded to the common and collective need of the folk. To those interested in a study of Indian arts in general, the present manual is of great importance. Gesture, as a means of conveying and interpreting ideas extends beyond the stage into the domains of plastic art, painting and statuary. The mudra, an essential component of Indian acting or dancing, is of equally great importance in studying the graphic or sculptural representations.
About the Author:
Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, the greatest among the Indian art-historians, was born in Colombo on August 22, 1877. After graduating from the University of London he became the director of the Mineralogical Survey of Ceylon. Between 1906 and 1917, when he joined as the Curator of Indian Art in the Boston Museum he was busy lecturing on Indian art and formed societies for the study of Indian art. In 1938, he became the chairman of National Committee for India's Freedom. His contributions on Indian philosophy, religion, art and iconography, painting and literature are of the greatest importance as were his contributions on music, science and Islamic art. He died on September 9, 1947.