Ashta Nayika- Yearning soul to seek beloved

Nayika depicted on the walls of Hampi

In Bharatiya Kala (Indian Arts) classification and segregation is one of the important aspect. Many scriptures and Sahitya (literature) provides us detailed classification of human behavior as well as the lifestyle. For such classification there is no discrimination as good or bad. According to Indian literature nothing is good or bad. It is the combinations of देश Desh (place), काल Kaal (time), पात्र Patra (person) makes us feel good or bad, acceptable or not acceptable.

There are many classifications we can use in our life for leading us to the best living. This series of blog is to collate and document these various classifications together and make my readers aware about various beautiful, meaningful and guidable aspects of Human life.

Muni Bharat has provided a lot of classifications which are taken from the day to day life and popularly utilized in performing arts in India and south East Asia. The prominent among them, is classification of Nayikas (heroines). The Nayikas are classified in 8 categories depending upon their relationship , feelings towards their beloved and their awastha (अवस्था)- state of mind; they are called as Ashta-Nayika (अष्ट- नायिका).

Vasaksajja Nayika (वासकसज्जा)

Vasaksajja Nayika is one who is in deep love with her beloved. She is waiting for her beloved or hero who is yet to return from his journey. The separation from him for longer time, however as soon as the news reaches her about his returning; Nayika decorates herself with best of her ornaments, colorful flowers and various colors on her body. She specially decorates her bed-chamber for her Lord.

Ashtanayika though talks about the state of mind of human however it is deeply influenced by spirituality. References of Nayika are used by many poets, philosopher and saints in their literature, such as Jayadeva, Suradasa, Meerbai, St. Dnyaneshwara etc.

Bharatmuni describes her as..

She is one who decorates her bed, for the best of the union with her lord. She decorates herself with jewels and ornaments having a wide smile on her face.

This Nayika is waiting for her beloved, during the waiting period she is not letting her time spent in agony or suffering rather she decorates herself with happiness. This emotion or Bhava is used by various poets and saints in their literature.

Moulana Rumi a Trukish and Farsi poet describes Vasaksajja’s mind as

Tonight is the night. It is the creation of that land of eternity. It is not an ordinary night; It is a mixing of those who seek unity. Tonight, the seeker and seeked will speak in one tongue. Tonight, the union chamber is looking particularly bright.


Virohitkanthitha Nayika (विरोहित कण्ठितः नायिका)

This Nayika is in deep distress and sorrow due to her separation from her beloved. Her beloved is engaged in various activities hence he has not come to meet her. Her beloved or lord is involved in finishing his duties and not able to take out time from his duties. Virohit Kanthitha literally means one who is spending time in separation; she is overwhelmed due to that separation.

She is usually depicted as one who is in deep pain and waiting for her beloved on her bed, or waiting and standing at the door step.

Many saints or philosophers have taken this distress and pain to portray their feelings of separation from their lord. In few compositions of Sri Purandar Dasa he says “My Lord is busy in solving problems and agony of other devotees, when is he going to come and see my pain and agony?”

Moulana Rumi writes

There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don’t you? You feel the separation from the Beloved. Invite Him to fill you up, embrace the fire.

Swadhinbhartruka (स्वाधिन् भर्त्रुका नायिका)

Swadhin Bhartruka or Swadhin Patika is Nayika who is loved by her beloved and she tries controlling him. Her lord is subjected and enthralled by her goodness and character.

In many descriptions of Surdasa, Gopikas of Brij (Lovers of Sri Krishna residing in Brij) says, Radhika is one who controls their lord with her goodness and love.

For Radha sometimes Sri Krishna disguises as Radha and Radha as Krishna. In this condition there is no difference between the lord and devotee, Nayak or Nayika. Both are in control of each other.

Just like Surdasa’s word तुम भये राधा हम भये श्याम – in love you have changed to Radha and I have taken form of Shyam (Krishna)

or in Kabir’s word, लाली मेरे लाल की, जित देखू तित लाल | लाली देखन में गयी, में भी हो गयी लाल The redness (illumination)of my beloved is everywhere, When I went to see the redness I also became illuminated

When a devotee realizes God, he sees illumination of God all over the world. He also merges into God’s love in such a way that all the differences between him and God disappears. He sees only God and nothing else.

Or he also says

हेरत हेरत हे सखी, रहा कबीर हेराय | बूँद समानी समुंदर में, सो कत हेरी जाय ||

Searching over and over, O my friend! I lost myself in Him, As the drop mixes with the ocean, where can one search for it

Kalahantarita (कलहन्तरिता नायिका)

Kalah means fights or quarrels. Kalahantarita Nayika is one who fights with her beloved due to jealousy or adamant behavior. She is separated or quarreled and in sad state of mind. This Nayika feels sad due to separation from her beloved through quarrel. She is full of guilt and is deeply sorrowful as she laments her deeds and separation.

In many literature of Sri Purandaradasa, Tulasidasa, Surdadasa; devotee fights with the lord due to ignorant behavior of their lord. However after this fight with their beloved lord, they are pained and feel remorseful.

Amir Khusro in one of his couplet says

बये गए बालम, बये गए नदिया किनार, आपय पार उतर गए, हम तो रहे एही पार

He has crossed, the beloved has crossed, Has reached the other side, on his own. With me, left here alone.

Surdasa in one of his poem describes Gopika’s mind मै अपने जिया गर्व कियो

Alas!I did fill my heart with ego !After all, he is omnipresent and thus he recognized my false pride. Now, who shall I heed to for the re-union with my beloved? For, he has become hard-hearted on seeing my egoistic behavior. The Lord of Surdas is capable of enchanting many other women, there are so many like me who love him!

Khandita Nayika (खण्डिता नायिका)

Khandita Nayika is one whose beloved has not come to her and enjoys with another woman is known as a khandita. She is distressful and angry. This heroine feels offended as her beloved enjoys the company of another girl. She is angry at his faithlessness and is full of fear and distress.

He had promised her to be with her over that night, but turns up in the morning spending time with some other girl. Khandita literally means broken, this Nayika is offended, rebuked, and angry on her love.

Jayadeva in his ashtapadi depicts Khandita Nayika beautifully. Here Shri Krishna says मामियं चलित… Radha has seen me playing with other Gopikas, and left away in anger. As I was guilty, I was afraid of preventing her. Oh my god, she lost her respect for me. She is appearing very angry. I am thinking of her face only. I see excessive anger in her curvy eye brows. It is like black bees encircling beautiful red lotus. Oh beautiful Radha, I feel that you are annoyed with my rude behavior. Otherwise you would not have left me. I beg and bow to you.

Here the Lord is also affected with the broken heart of the devotee or Lover’s broken heart.

Amir Khusrau also shows emotions of Khandita Nayika in his Farasi Poetry

Tu shabana mi numaai be barkay boodi imshab, Ke hunooz chashm-e mastat asar-e khumar daarad.

You look sleepless, in whose embrace did you pass the night; your intoxicated eye has still the signs of tipsiness.

Vipralabdha (विप्रलब्धा नायिका)

Vipralabdha is a Nayika who even after sending messages, her beloved does not show up. She feels sad and humiliated.

After a long period of separation from her beloved she sends message to her beloved and asks him to meet her, however even after informing him her longing and distress he did not turn up. Vipralabdha is disappointed at her beloved for not showing up on time despite his knowledge about her distress in his absence. She has waited for long and is anxious, fearful and sad.

She is broken because of her beloved’s attitude of not keeping the word.

Jayadeva in his Ashtapadi describes Radha’s state of mind after learning that Shri Krisna has not kept his promise and he did not turn up to Brindavan.

या मिहे क मिह शरणं, सखी जन वचन वञ्चितं

Oh dear friend, Krishna has not come to, Brundavana at the promised time. What is the use of my beauty and youth? Who is there to protect me? I am deceived by others’ utterances.

Alas, if Krishna is not here, how can I endure the agony of separation? I am alone at this rendezvous. I feel that even death is better than bearing this separation helplessly.

Amir Khusrau Writes

Tonight there came news that you, oh beloved, would come – Be my head sacrificed to the road along which you will come riding! All the gazelles of the desert have put their heads on their hands in the hope that one day you will come to hunt them…. The attraction of love won’t leave you unmoved; should you not come to my funeral? You’ll definitely come to my grave. My soul has come on my lips (e.g. I am on the point of expiring): Come so that I may remain alive – After I am no longer – for what purpose will you come?

Proshitbhartruka (प्रोषित भर्त्रुका नायिका)

One whose beloved has left to another place for an important business is known as Proshita Bhartrika. She is depicted as a lady who has abandoned her ornaments and left her hair loose. This Nayika portrays immense grief, being neglectful of her appearance and deprived of energy. She is sleepless and constantly thinks of her beloved’s arrival.

As the Gopikas mourn with pain remembering Sri Krishna, Surdas ji describes,

अखियाँ हरी दर्शन को तरसे

These eyes are thirsty for the sight of Sri Hari! They desperately want to see those lotus eyes of his, and thus they remain sorrowful day and night. My heart remembers his delightful form adorned with musk on the forehead and pearls on his chest! He promised to return but has not shown up, his separation is becoming like death itself! Thus describes Soordas the status of the gopis who have been deprived of the sight of the Lord.

Amir Khusrau describes Proshitbhatruka s

सेज वो सुनी देख के रोऊ मैं दिन रैन, पिया पिया मैं करत हूँ, पल भर सुख न चैन

Day and night, I see an empty bed, and cry calling for my beloved, I remain restless forever.

Abhisarika (अभिसारिका नायिका)

Abhisarika is overwhelmed with love, she who leaves behind her family and shame to go and meet her beloved.

Abhisarika is a heroine, who sets aside her modesty and moves out of her home to secretly meet her lover. She is depicted at the door of her people and on her way to the tryst, defying all kinds of difficulties like the storm, snakes and dangers of the forest

There are three types of Abhisarika

Tamobhisarika (तमोभिसरिका) one who has left her house on the dark night wearing black robe to meet her beloved in dark forest.

Jotsnabhisarika(ज्योत्स्नभिसरिका) One who leaves her home on full moon nigh wearing white cloths to meet her beloved secretly

Divabhisarika (दिवाभिसरिका) Wears usual robe and secretly meets her beloved during day time.


Maulana Rumi’s couplet says

All day I think about it, and then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.


Surdasji describes

चली बन बेनु सुनत जब ढहाई, मात पिता बांधव अति त्रस्त जाती कहा अकुलाई?

When she heard the sound of the flute, she rushed towards the forest. The family members showed anger and asked, where do you hurry to? She did heed to any of their words and got out of the household, breaking all other associations. It appeared as if the unstoppable rains of the rainy season are moving forth. She gave up all other relations and ran towards the Lord, like bee flies with all love towards the fully blossomed lotus. After all, she has completely surrendered herself to the Lord of Surdas!

Meera bai says

अब तो मेरा राम नाम दूसरा न कोई॥ माता छोडी पिता छोडे छोडे सगा भाई।

Now only Lord Ram is my savior and no one else, I left my mother, father and brother to seek my Lord.

Ancient Indian literature has deep connection to spirituality. Though the Ashtanayika talks about feelings of man – women relationship and emotions resulting the longing from beloved, It has deeper connection of Aatma (Soul) to Paramaatma (Ultimate or supreme Soul). Some say its relationship and longing of devotee to his/ her lord. Indian classical art forms are essentially spiritual in nature and thus provide a sacred platform for every individual. Just like, when it comes to Classical dance, the dancer is a devotee seeking the association of the supreme. Various aspects of the dance represent the yearning of the soul for the supreme soul.

In future blogs I shall describe and collate details of other classifications of Human mind and behavior based upon oriental (Indian) literature, Sahitya and Samhitas (Compilations).


3 thoughts on “Ashta Nayika- Yearning soul to seek beloved

    • Its not that they are not happy or content. Their search for their own self or beloved or lord makes their being in unrest.
      That’s true with any soul who is seeking true happiness.
      All the Ashtanayika are phases of every individual’s life and emotions. More the emotions, more are the ways you want to exhibit them.
      These are those ways of showing their love and yearning voice to reach their beloved.


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