The Most Splendid Vamam Of All

There are two kinds of varna-s—tanavarnam and padavarnam. Tanavarna-s are generally sung, though eminent dancers like Yamini have taken up compositions like Viriboni for dance exposition. The paucity of the words in the libretto restricts the instance and the amount of abhinaya. In that celebrated case, the beauty of Bhairavi, as brought out by Viriboni in Ata tala, sought to justify Yamini's choice.

The pada varna-s on the other hand, have all the ingredients that call for, and give room to, the various aspects of dance that are to be showcased in the major item of the recital. Most of these are in Telugu, some in Tamil, and a few in Sanskrit and in Manipravalam, a concoction of Sanskrit and Malayalam. The last two categories are invariably confusing because the correct meaning of the text is very difficult to get at; and splitting of the words in different ways gives rise to various interpretations that can't be easily reconciled. Possibly there are varna-s in Kannada too but they haven't surfaced in Madras. As yet.