Synonyms: Javanika, Yavanikapaati.
Yavanika is a rectangular curtain carried on and off the stage by stage assistants in order to facilitate the entrance and exit of characters.
The Jain scholar Ratnakara talks of characters exiting behind the Yavanika. It must have been the tradition of his region. In the description of the performances at the court of King Rajashekhara, narrations of the sutradhara1 pulling the Yavanika is detailed.
The tradition of Yavanika is seen in the present day performances of Yakshagana, Kuchupudi and Bhagavat mela.
Bharata’s natyashastra does not give a definite description of this except mentioning that all Purvaranga vidhi’s are to be performed behind the Yavanika. Whatever details available are interpenetrations of later scholars.
The play Vasavadutta has the Queens maids disappear behind a curtain and Queen Vasavadutta enters screened by the Yavanika and her retinue of maids the screen is then removed.
Many scholars’ thinks Yavinka was made of a cloth got from Babylon or Yavana-pradesha hence Yavanika.
Abhinavagupta the later day scholar of natyashastra says a Yavanika is to be placed between the rangapeeta2 and the rangashira3 .Prof Ghosh calls it the screen between the Nepathya4 and Rangashira.
Most of the references to the Yavanika are from the Jain text books. Adipurana describes the silhouette of the dancer Neelanjana through the Yavanika. This indicates that it was a transparent material. Bahubali in his Bharata Purana describes it a cloth as thin as the fisherman’s net. Ratnakara another Jain scholar describes the intricate embroidery with jewels on the Yavanika.
The colours of the Yavanika are described as colours of the sunset, or colours of the cloud.
Tradition has it that the character jerks the Yavanika off as soon as the chaturashra gati is performed. Very rare descriptions of the Yavanika being gradually eased are got.
1. Sutradhara – the narrator.
2. Rangapeeta = actual acting space
3. Rangashira = elevated portion of the stage.
4. Nepathya = dressing room, green room or backstage.
• Bharata’s natyashastra MLBD publication.
• Sanskrit drama in performance-edited by Rachel Van M.Baumer and James Brandon
• Padagaati—Tulasi Ramachandra