Click here for all links

Social media links

Ashta Nayika and Disney heroines
- Tejsree Bhangeeruthee Beharee

July 10, 2022

Who does not like a good Walt Disney story? 
Ashta Nayika is an important concept in Indian classical dance. Ashta means eight and Nayika means heroines, thus the eight heroines. In this article, heroine is referred to as a lady in love: her association with a man in an amorous way, whether it is in union or separation. When we talk about love and relationships, it is often accompanied by a feeling of joy, but there is also the aspect of pain. According to sage Bharata Muni, in his book Natya Shastra, there are 8 types of women in love. They are:

1. Vasakasajja - The one eagerly waiting for her lover
2. Kalahantarita - The restless one confused with anger and sadness
3. Virahotkhandita - The lamenting heroine who is separated in love
4. Khandita - The angry bold one who has been cheated on
5. Swadheenapatika - The one who has her lover under control
6. Vipralabda - The betrayed one
7. Abhisarika - The uninhibited one
8. Proshitabhartruka - The one waiting for her lover to come back

If we reflect more on it, can there be ONLY eight types of women in love? Human emotion is kinetic. We, women, revel into the thousand shades of mood. Every action in our surroundings triggers a new reaction, thus giving birth to another characteristic in us. If we look around, every woman’s love story is different. But if we distil the essence, we all go through similar feelings.

To understand those Nayikas better, an attempt has been made to compare them to some Disney characters. It is important to point out that in their respective stories, these Disney characters show a myriad of moods, and only a snapshot of their emotional journey has been taken to illustrate the relevant Nayikas.

The Little Mermaid
Vasakasajja: The one eagerly waiting for her lover
The Little Mermaid

She is usually a young maiden, full of naiveness and always so eager to meet her beloved. It is most often a situation of mutual love, but in certain situations, her love has not been responded to yet. She is happily bedecking herself and waiting for her lover.

This Nayika reminds me of Ariel from The Little Mermaid. In one scene, she swims to the ocean’s surface to watch a party onboard a ship. There, she spots Prince Eric whom she becomes romantically attracted. But the fact that she is of a different species, makes her hesitant. Thus, she secretly goes to the shore to catch a glimpse of him from far, waiting for a miracle to happen to bind them.

The Lion King
Kalahantarita: The restless one confused with anger and sadness
The Lion King

She is usually in a confused situation after having fought with her lover. She is angry but also repenting as her lover leaves. Deep in her heart she misses him and wants him to come back and spend sweet moments with her.

Here I picture Nala from the Lion King as the Kalahantarita Nayika. She comes across her long-lost friend and lover Simba and they both rejoice in this reunion. Soon it turns into an argument as Simba refuses Nala’s request to go back to save their kingdom. Both get into a heated argument and Simba leaves abruptly. Nala is in a dilemma where she is sure of her point, and she resents Simba for not understanding, yet inside there is an unrealized love that burns for Simba. 

Virahotkhandita: The lamenting heroine who is separated in love

This is a heroine in pain as she is separated from her lover. The word Vira from Virahotkhandita means pain. She does not feel good about anything, and she needs the company of her man only to feel happy again. The latter who is faithful to her, is taken up somewhere else, and that leaves the Nayika in a sorrowful state, and nothing around her feels good.

Jasmine becomes the sad heroine when Aladdin is arrested under the charge of having kidnapped her. Though she explains to Jafar that she had run away of her own will and that she was not kidnapped, the latter declares that the charge cannot be removed, and that Aladdin will be sentenced to death. This shocks and saddens Jasmine. She mourns for him and replies to Jaffar in a rebuking tone: “How could you?...”  She then runs away in tears.

Khandita: The angry bold one who has been cheated on

She is a daring heroine who stands for herself by facing her disloyal lover. She is angry and disgusted. She plays with sarcasm to express herself. She is depicted as offended and rebuking her lover.

Maleficent from the Disney movie Maleficent takes the role of the Khandita Nayika. She was a fairy who fell in love with a human peasant, Stefan, at a young age. The latter reciprocated the love with a true love’s kiss. But unfortunately, his ambitions took over his love and they grew apart. Years later, Stefan is sent by a King to kill Maleficent. The hero could not bring himself to kill her, so instead, he drugged her and cut the fairy’s wings using the iron. For accomplishing this task, the King gave his daughter in marriage to Stefan. Devastated by this betrayal, Maleficent turned her kingdom Moors into a dark place.

Beauty and the Beast
Swadheenapatika: The one who has her lover under control
Beauty and the Beast

She is a proud woman who revels in the love and care of her beloved. Her pride may have a touch of arrogance. She is bold and carefree and keeps her lover under control. The lover is enthralled by his lady’s intense love and qualities. Since the word Swadheenapatika contains the term ‘pati’ which means husband, it often means that this heroine is married.

That confident lover reminds me of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. By nature, she is a very confident woman who does not care what people think of her. She is someone who rightfully spends her time in books and learning rather than worrying about people’s opinions. This confidence of hers is so contagious that it melts the heart of the Beast. The latter falls in love with her and gradually transforms into a gentle lover of Belle.

Vipralabda: The betrayed one

She is deceived by the infidelity of her lover. In certain situations, she feels betrayed due to a misunderstanding also. In dance, she is depicted as throwing away her jewellery and being in pain.

This situation can be illustrated in Frozen. The unfortunate event happens between Hans and Anna. The heroine was freezing after having been struck with Elsa’s powers in an accident at the ice palace. She was brought back to the castle and handed over to Hans who could save her by an act of true love. But just when they were about to kiss, Hans revealed his true nature. He divulged how he never loved her, and that Anna was only a tool for him to usurp Arendelle. He ridicules her love and her wish to marry him and leaves her freezing to death.

Abhisarika: The uninhibited one

She is bold, proud, and endearing. Filled with attitudes, she does not fear anyone. She openly goes to meet her lover, and gossip does not get to her. She is ready to face any difficulty and she defies them all to be with her lover.

This immediately draws my attention to Pocahontas. When John Smith took the blame for a native’s death, he was arrested to be sentenced to death by beheading. However, at the time of the unfortunate event, Pocahontas rushes to the execution’s place and throws herself at John Smith to prevent her father from executing him. At this moment, she professes her love boldly in front of her father and her people, being a true Abhisarika.

Proshitabhartruka: The mourning heroine

The sad heroine awaits the arrival of her lover without knowing when or whether he will come back. She tries to cope with her everyday life, but she is depressed and does not eat and dress properly, as she is so overwhelmed by sadness.

Cinderella has been the happily ever after story for many little girls as they grew up. But at one moment of the story, Cinderella does turn into the mourning heroine. It all begins when the midnight clock struck. As the magic gifted by her fairy godmother fades away, she rushes back to her place living with the memories of that mystic moment with The Grand Duke. But that happiness also was short-lived. When the Duke decided to look for her, announcing her as the ‘mystery princess’, Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremaine locks the latter to give her daughters a better chance to marry the Duke. During that moment, Cinderella mourns her fate, as she sees no hope to have her door unlocked and to be reunited with the love of her life. She cries out her pain and feels no good to sing and dance and get dressed anymore.

Even though I have presented 8 different heroines, it does not mean that each type of heroine is unique to one person. If we look inside us, we can be all 8 of them and even more. My conclusion is that though the term is called ashta (eight) nayikas, with more research, more characters can be brought to the list.


Though the list here talks about women, there can be a subsection that touches men as they also feel as much as women. The difference is that they express differently. This in a way challenges the traditional set of emotions/moods reserved to male characters in Indian classical dance, where men are never depicted as being soft and sensitive. Let me therefore finish with a last example to illustrate this point. The movie Up starts with the perfect love story of Carl and Ellie who are childhood lovers. They grow up to make a life together until the first pain strikes the couple; Ellie finds out that she is infertile. Despite all, they try to overcome this pain together and they do grow old together until Ellie dies leaving Carl on his own. In this story, it’s the heroine who goes away, leaving the hero in pain - thus a Virahotkhandita.

Tejsree Beharee
Tejsree Beharee is a Bharatanatyam dance student and teacher from Mauritius. She has pursued her studies in Chemical Engineering and recently completed her MA in Bharatanatyam from the University of Madras. She is passionate about this field and likes to write and research on its various topics.

Post your comments
Pl provide your name and email id along with your comment. All appropriate comments posted with name & email id in the blog will also be featured in the site.

Click here for all links
Articles | Home | About | Address Bank | News | Info Centre | Featured Columns