Part One – Introduction
As it is often mentioned, the Natyashastra of Bharata is an encyclopaedic work. Though its main subject is the Theatre, the text actually encompasses all forms of art expressions. Bharata presents a detailed inquiry into the various facets of drama, including its origin; its nature; its theories; the theatrical techniques with all their components of speech, body-language, gestures, costumes, décor as also the state of mind of the performers, apart from rituals, architecture of theater etc.
Apart from Drama per se, the Natyashastra covers a wide range of subjects such as the mythological origins of the Drama, the rituals (Purva-ranga-vidhi), music, dance, prosody, painting, sculpture, architecture of theatre etc. Its author, in fact, claims that there is no knowledge, no craft, no lore, no art, no technique and no activity that is not found in Natya-Shastra (NS. 1.116).
Na tajjñānaṃ na tacchilpaṃ na sā vidyā na sā kalā । nāsau yogo na tatkarma nāṭye’smin yanna dṛśyate ॥ NS.1.116॥
Therefore, over the centuries, Natyashastra has come to be regarded as the earliest available authentic source material for the study of varieties of subjects , under diverse disciplines , related to ancient India: such as:
- theories of music (sruti, svara , murchana etc.,);
- chaste classical music (gandharva);
- improvised music (gana); stage–music (dhruva gana);
- other vocal music (gitam); various types of instrumental music (vadyam);
- dance (nrtyam);
- costumes and makeup (aharya);
- poetry (kavya);
- prosody (alamkara shastra) ;
- meter (chhandas);
- aesthetics (rasa);
- stage craft (ranga-abhinaya );
- design and construction of theatre (natya-mantapa , natya-griha) ;
- architecture (shilpa);
- painting (lekhya) ; and, so on .
It is not therefore surprising that Natyashastra, revered as the classic text on performance, arts and culture, was, in due course, elevated to the status of Veda, the fifth Veda called Natya-veda. And, its author came to be described as a Muni, a sage.
But, over a period, this monumental authoritative work, of great antiquity, invested with an almost of semi-divine character, was getting inaccessible to the practitioners of the Art, who, generally, were not scholars. Therefore, progressively, the yawning gap between the theory and practice did seem to further widen. The reasons for such a state were many.
To start with, Natyashastra is a considerably huge work, consisting about six thousand Granthas or verse-stanzas spread over thirty-six or thirty-seven chapters.
The arrangement of the subject-matter was somewhat unsystematic. The text was rather too elaborate and cumbersome for ordinary use.The myths, rituals and practices were all seemed to be mixed up. And, some passages were repeated without valid reason. For instance; the passages discussing the Prakrit dialects occur two times. Similarly, the portions discussing the explanatory/ intermediary scenes such as Viskambhaka etc., also appear twice, at chapters 18 and 19. Besides, some verses are repeated; but, out of context. There was also some confusion about terms such as Vithi and Prahasana , which were mentioned among the forms of Vrtti and also among the types of Rupakas.
Natyashastra was written in archaic Sanskrit, employing rather a too brief Sutra format. Its method of exposition was : classification, definition and analysis of technical terms with a brief explanation of the concept behind them. But, many times , a term was just stated, without a clear explanation or without providing illustrations. As a result, in certain cases, it becomes difficult to clearly ascertain what Bharata ‘really’ meant.
Another factor is that the Natyashastra belongs to a distant past; and, the concepts and terminologies that were mentioned in its own context were far removed from later times (say, 11th century). And, therefore, it was left to the ingenuity and enterprise of each reader to come up with his/her own interpretation of Bharata’s true intent. .
For a general reader or even for a practicing Artist, Natyashastra tended to be inscrutable without the aid of a well written, lucid commentary. And, such commentaries, which were also handy, were rare. At times, a commentary, itself, needed another sub-commentary to explain what it was attempting to say.
It is said; there was a commentary on Natyashastra written by Kohala, believed to have been a disciple or a contemporary of Bharata. And, Bharata himself had said that the subjects or the material he did not cover in the Natyashastra would be dealt with by Kohala in his study –
śeṣam-uttaratantreṇa kohalastu kariṣyati – NS.37.18
But, sadly, Kohala’s commentary is lost.
Dattila and Matanga who wrote authoritative works on Music are believed to have written on dancing, as well. And again, the portions of their works relating to Natya have not survived.
Bharata’s Natyashastra is dated between second century BCE and second century CE. Since the time of Bharata, for over a period of say a thousand years, up to about the tenth century – as mentioned by Sarangadeva (11th century) in his Sangita-ratnakara – numerous treaties on the Natyashastra were produced, from to time, by various scholars like Shandilya, Kirtidhara, Drauhini, Rahula and Harsha.
Even thereafter, many more commentaries were written, especially by those from the Kashmir region, such as: Sankuka and his predecessors Lollata and Udbhata; Bhattodbhata, Matrgupta, Srisankuka, Bhattanayaka, Visakhila, Rudrata and others.
But, sadly, by about the eleventh century, almost all commentaries written by the ancient savants on Natyashastra had been lost. Few of those survived only as fragments by way of citations made by Abhinavagupta and other authors.
Further, there is the complication of many recessions of the text, with no two MS being alike in regard to the number of Chapters as also the number of Slokas in each Chapter.
With all the other previous commentaries having been lost, Abhinavagupta’s work Abhinavabharati (by about the close of the tenth century) is the earliest known and available commentary on Natyashastra; and, it is also the best. It serves as a bridge between the world of the ancient,forgotten wisdom; and the scholarship of the succeeding generations. And, Abhinavagupta himself said that he wrote the commentary in order to save and perpetuate the ancient tradition
Evam anyad api ūhyam iti an-upayogyāt samastaṁ na likhitam āgama-bhraṁsa-rakṣanāya tu diṅ nirupitā
But, the Abhinavabharati, though basically a commentary on and a companion volume to Bharata’s Natyashastra, is , for all purposes, an independent work in its own right. It, again, is a detailed exposition on various subjects such as: drama, dance, poetry, music, art, prosody and also aesthetics with reference to Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka (820-890).
Abhinavagupta comments on a range of subjects, at different levels: conceptual, structural and technical. He cites and discusses the views of many ancient authorities who wrote on drama, dance, music etc. He illustrates the principles and its application in Natya, through examples taken from well-known Dramatic works.
Abhinavagupta not only expands on Bharata but also interprets him in the light of his own experience and knowledge; and, also with references to the then current practices. And, at many places, he differs from Bharata; and, introduces concepts and practices that were not present during Bharata’s time.
Abhinavagupta, thus, comments, practically, on its every aspect; further, he brings in the concepts of his School pratyabhijna, while interpreting Bharata’s text.
However, because of its encyclopedic character and the exhaustive scholarly treatment of the subjects, the monumental Abhinavabharathi is not an easy text that could be read and understood by the general readers. It again needs the aid of a commentary or explanations provided by other scholars.
For instance; authors like Mammata, Hemachandra, Visvanatha and Jagannatha who supported the views of Abhinavagupta provided explanations of his concepts. And those who did not agree with Abhinavagupa, such as Ramachandra and Gunachandra (1100-1175) the authors of Natyadarpana; Siddhichandragrahi, author of Kavya-prakasha-khandana; as also Rudrabhatta, author of Rasakalika , analysed the text and criticized the Rasa – theory (Rasa-vada or Rasa-siddantha) as enunciated by Abhinavagupta.
All those critics pointed out that the experience of Rasa is not always entirely pleasurable (alukika, chamatkara) as claimed by Abhinavagupta; instead, it would, in fact, depending on the context, be pleasurable or be painful (sukha-dhukkatmako rasah).
The commentaries on the Natyashastra and on the Abhinavabharati, up to about 12th century, were concerned mainly with the poetics (kavya, alamkara) in general, and, on the theories of Rasa (Rasa-vada or siddantha), in particular. They touched upon Drama and Dramaturgy in passing, without much discussion. Therefore, from the point of view of those interested in Drama, particularly, such commentaries were not of much help. Further, they were far removed, in time, from their principal texts. And, because of their stylized writing, such commentaries were also not easily accessible to the general readers.
And, in the mean time, the performing-art, the tradition of Drama, had declined over a period; and, it had almost faded away by about the eleventh century. The Drama, as an art, was tapering out; and, was lingering on merely in the form of minor one-act plays (Uparupakas), mainly in the regional languages, with a heavy input of dance and songs; but, with barely adequate emphasis on Abhinaya (acting) and Sahitya (script).
It was in such a context that the compilation of the principal elements of Drama made by Dhananjaya (11th century) variously known as Dasarupa or Dasarupaka or Dasarupakam, gained great significance. It brought a breath fresh life into the theories and practices of the performing art of the Drama that were fading out.
Dhananjaya, in his brief work, containing just about 300 Karikas (verses) spread over four Prakashas (chapters or sections), focused mainly on the aspects of Drama, its various forms and their essentials. He, for the most part, followed Bharata closely ; and, compiled the rules pertaining to Drama, in the form of a brief manual. At the commencement of his work, Dhananjaya , in all modesty , admits that since Bharata had adequately covered all aspects concerning Drama, there is very little scope to say anything new or to add anything substantial
– Pratipadam aparam lakshma kah kartum ishte – DR.1.4
Dhananjaya, therefore, states that in his work, he would be restating the principles of Natya-veda (dramaturgy), its terminologies and definitions as were laid down in the great compendium Natyashastra, in a more concise and systematic form, in Bharata-muni’s own words
– kim cit pragunaracanaya laksanam samksipami .
And, Dhananjaya indicates that his brief compilation (samksipya) is mainly for the benefit of those ‘slow-wit’ (manda-buddhinam) who are likely to get confused (mati-vibhramah) by the diffused and elaborate treatise.
Vyakirne mandabuddhinam jayate mativibhramah / tasyarthas tatpadais tena samksipya kriyate nyasa //
And , at the same time , Dhananjaya , following the lead given by Bharata [who had said that he devised the dramas to give , among other things, relief to those unlucky ones afflicted with sorrow and grief or over-work
– duḥkhārtānāṃ śramārtānāṃ śokārtānāṃ– NS.1.114
And makes it abundantly clear that the prime objective of a Drama is to provide entertainment (ananda).
Dhananjaya taunts; and mocks at one who naively believes that Drama, like history (itihasa), is there only to give knowledge.
He wryly remarks ‘ I salute (tasmai namah) that simpleton (alpabuddhih) who has averted his face from what is delightful ..!’
anandanisyandisu rupakesu/ vyutpattimatram phalam alpabuddhih/ yo ‘pitihasadivad aha sadhus/ tasmai namah svaduparahmukhaya//DR.1.6//
Dhananjaya’s work is mostly a collection of extracts taken from the Natyashastra; and, arranged under certain subjects. In its style, the Dasarupa is extremely condensed. The first part of his work is entirely a listing of definitions on certain technical terms and concepts that figure in the Natyashastra. Here, at times, Dhananjaya offers brief explanation on the etymology, the meaning and the application of the term. The Dasarupa is thus a highly compressed manual, avoiding lengthy descriptions or justifications.
Because of its compact and brief mode of presentation; the simple arrangement of the material; convenience of reference; and, because it is handy (not being too lengthy or elaborate), the Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya soon gained wide popularity among the scholars, playwrights, critics and commentators, as also among the general readers.
For the later writers on prosody and Dramaturgy, Dhananjaya’s compilation turned into a comprehensive useful reference-book or a source material. They made frequent use of the text by citing the rules and definitions listed in it.
And, in fact, the Sahityadarpana of Viswanatha Kaviraja (14th century), recognized as one of the most comprehensive a compilation on Indian aesthetics, in its Chapter Six (Drsya-sravya-kävya-nirüpanah) which deals with Drsya aspect (dramaturgy) makes extensive use of citations from Dasarupaka.
As the great scholar and Spiritualist George Christian Otto Haas, (1883-1964), observes in his Treatise on Dasarupa ; “A similar dependence on the Dasarupa and recognition of its value is found also in other dramaturgic treatises”. He said; “The excellence of Dhananjaya’s presentation and its convenient form gave the Dasarupaka a prominence that it has retained to the present day”.
[ Another work of similar nature and of equal eminence ; but , much more detailed studded with comments and illustrations, is the Natya Darpana of Ramachandra and Gunachandra]
But, there was also a flip side to Dhananjaya’s work.
Its drawback was mainly with regard to the inconsistency in the treatment of its subjects. On the one hand, Dhananjaya carried too far the work of his abridgment; and, left out quite a number of important matters; and, on the other, he went into needless, minute classifications and sub classifications where it was not called for. C O Haas reminds the words of Bhamaha – dhikhedayaiva vistarah – too much elaboration wearies the mind; and, remarks – ‘it may not be untrue’.
As George C O Haas observed; in many instances, brevity was achieved at the cost of clarity. In several cases, Dhananjaya tried to reduce definitions or the meaning of certain technical terms, into a single word, without offering any further explanation. In such cases, the intent of Dhananjaya has to be construed by referring to parallel passages in the Natyashastra or other related text.
Because of such shortcomings and the absence of even-handed treatment, Dhananjaya’s work (just as either Natyashastra or Abhinavabharati) is unintelligible without the aid of a commentary.
Fortunately, that lacuna was made good by a commentary titled Dasarupavaloka (meaning the examination of the Dasarupa) or, in short, Avaloka written by Dhanika, a contemporary of Dhananjaya (in fact, believed to be Dhananjaya’s younger brother). Avaloka of Dhanika, is a supplement; and, is of immense help in understanding the Dasarupa. And, therefore, Avaloka has come to be regarded as an essential and an inseparable part of the main text – the Dasarupa.
In his commentary and explanations, Dhanika closely follows the views put forward by Dhananjaya. And, in addition, he himself composed about twenty-four stanzas – twenty in Sanskrit and four in Prakrit – in order to illustrate certain concepts and definitions cited by Dhananjaya in his Dasarupa. It is said; Dhanika, in his own right, was a reputed scholar and a poet. And, it appears, he had composed a treatise on poetics, titled Kavyanirnaya, from which he frequently quoted. But, sadly that work is not extant.
Dr. Manjul Gupta, in Part Two of Chapter Two of her detailed treatise A Study of Abhinavabharati on Bharata’s Natyasastra and Avaloka on Dhananjaya’s Dasarupaka – writes:
Dhanika’s commentary is indispensable and it helps us a lot in understanding the meaning of Dhananjaya’s otherwise short and pithy sentences. Sometimes, we could not even guess the meaning of Dhananjaya if Dhanika would not have offered us help. The real merit of Dhanika’s Avaloka lies in the occasionally lengthy discussions of disputed and obscure points as in the Book four on sentiments and in his collection of illustrative quotations, many of which are valuable in obtaining a clear conception of the principles of Sanskrit Dramaturgy.
In his explanation of rules, stated by Dhananjaya, Dhanika not only refers to the scenes and situations of the principal Sanskrit dramas but also quotes such passages as would serve to illustrate the matters under discussion. He quotes not only from dramatic works but also from other fields of literature, particularly from the sententious poetry and Kavyas of Magha and Kalidasa. Occasionally, he corroborates his statements by an excerpt from the Bharatiya Natyasastra or some other technical work.
Since Abhinavagupta, Dhananjaya and Dhanika were believed to be almost contemporaries; living in Kashmir; writing and commenting on similar subjects, there has, often, been a tendency among the scholars to compare and evaluate their works.
At the outset, Dasarupa and Avaloka were not so much concerned with poetics as did the works of Anandavadhana, Abhinavagupta or Mammata. Instead, their concern was mainly with dramatic representations; and, classification and sub-classification of the elements of the Drama, in detail. Dhananjaya’s focus was on the exposition of the ten types of Drama; and, he kept his text short and simple, as a collection of major principles pertaining to Drama that were expounded in Bharata’s Natyashastra.
The scholarly opinion, across the board, is that as compared to Dasarupa, which mainly confines itself to compiling certain extracts and explanations relating to the Drama, the Abhinavabharati is definitely a far superior, comprehensive treatise. The Abhinavabharati, which is regarded as the best guide to Natyashastra discusses various dimensions and aspects related to several subjects, at different levels, from the point of view of an aesthete; offers comments on the statements of Bharata , either by way of elucidation or by way of criticism; cites and sums up the views of numbers of other scholars; and, eventually comes up with its own convincing explanations in the light of the practices prevalent durimg its time.
Another issue is with regard to the needlessly elaborate and hair-splitting exercise undertaken by Dhananjaya to classify and sub-classify its subjects , such as the Hero (Neta), Heroine (Nayika), Srngara-rasa and the plot (Vastu). But, the major objection raised by the scholars is about Dhananjaya’s selection and treatment of the very subject matter of his work.
The critics point out: though Bharata mentioned ten types of Drama, he discussed mainly about its two forms – Nataka and Prakarana, perhaps because these two alone fulfilled all those requirements that were necessary for Rupaka (Major type). Further, Bharata had also explained : as these two major forms alone depict varieties of situations , made up of all the styles (Vrttis) and representations, they lend enough scope for display of Rasas (Rasapradhana or Rasabhinaya or vakya-artha-abhinaya); while the other eight forms are incomplete , as they are not presented in the graceful style, the kaisikivrtti .
Further, the distinctions, as made out, among the eight Uparupaka (minor type) are largely hypothetical; and, there is no historical evidence to corroborate such theories. All those minor types have very limited themes and rather narrow subjects; and, are also incapable of presenting a spectrum of Rasas. Except for the Bhana, the one-man-stand-up shows (ekaharya or ekabhinaya) and Prahasana, the comic skits or parodies intent only on providing amusement (Ranjaka pradhana), not many of the other types of minor class of dramas were produced even in the earlier periods. And, by the time of Dhananjaya, the other (six) minor category of plays had almost become obsolete.
Therefore, it was pointed out that Dhananjaya’s effort of carefully subdividing and meticulously categorizing the details of elements under such formats of the Drama as had become almost obsolete, is of mere theoretical interest and has no practical value or utility. They stopped short of calling it a futile exercise. (We shall talk about the various classifications of the Drama, later in the series).
The celebrated scholar of the yesteryear’s Dr. V Raghavan , therefore , rejected such attempts to classify the Drama into major and minor types, as they do not represent the ‘facts of historical development’. “These hypothetical theories about the derivation and the evolution of Rupakas and Uparupakas are no doubt interesting, but, we have no historical evidence to corroborate these theories , meaning such minor types were either not produced or have not survived ”.
And, as between Dhanika’s Avaloka and Abhinavagupta’s Abhinavabharati, the latter again is lauded and held up as a work of better scholarship. As compared to Abhinavabharati, the Avaloka is inadequate in many places, though it attempts to illustrate every point with examples. But, sometimes, Dhanika’s examples are not quite appropriate to the point in question. It also said; Dhanika leaves many issues untouched in his commentary, without providing adequate explanation.
Dhanika, in sections Two and Four of his Avaloka, frequently cites verses from the anthology of love-poems Amarusataka, ascribed to Amaru or Amaruka (7th -8th century), to illustrate the different types of Nayikas or heroines, particularly the Abhisarika-nayika who sets out , in great anxiety, to meet her lover . He intended to use the cited verses, primarily, to picture her costumes and gestures (section 2) and Vyabhichari-bhavas or transitory waves of feelings she experiences (section 4). But, he often, fails to convince how the cited verses illustrate the point that he is trying to make. Similarly, he quoted five stanzas from Anandavardhana’s work; but, did not comment on it.
While reviewing the Character and Value of Avaloka, C O Hass takes a very stern view; and remarks:
Although professedly an aid to the understanding of the text, the commentary leaves much to be desired; and, is not nearly as helpful as the average work of its kind. Sometimes, it explains a very simple and clear statement though it requires no comment. Often, on the other hand, it does not clarify obscure words and phrases; and, whole sections are occasionally dismissed with the single word ‘spastam ‘(it is clear). Even where Dhananjaya’s definitions of technical terms are illustrated by means of examples from Sanskrit literature, the absence of further explanation sometimes leaves the exact meaning in doubt.’
Dr. Manjul Gupta observes that the charge made by Haas might be true to an extent; yet, it cannot be denied that the Avaloka of Dhanika is indispensable; and, it helps a lot in understanding Dhananjaya’s work , particularly some of his short and pithy sentences.
Haas had also moderated his assessment of the Avaloka by remarking that its real merit lies in its lengthy discussions on certain disputed and obscure points ; and, in his collection of illustrative quotations , many of which help greatly in obtaining a clear conception of the principles of Sanskrit dramaturgy.
Despite its shortcomings, the Dasarupaka, in combination with Avaloka, is definitely of immense help in the study of Sanskrit dramaturgy in general; and, Natyashastra in particular; whatever might be its inadequacies.
Manohar Laxman Varadpande, in his History of Indian Theatre (1987), observes: The main contribution of Dasharupakam along with its commentary Avaloka, to the Sanskrit dramaturgy is a detailed analysis of the different types of heroines (Nayikabheda), and a critical delineation of erotic sentiment (Shringara Rasa). The writer has confined himself to a deep understanding of the ten types of Sanskrit dramas based upon the elements of Vastu (plot), Neta (heroes/heroines), and Rasa (the emotive aspect of plays). The influence of Dasharupakam is very evident on later Sanskrit dramaturgists.
And, recognizing the relevance and the value of Dasarupaka in the context of Dance, Dr. Mandakrantha Bose m, in her book The Movement and Mimesis: The Idea of Dance in the Sanskritic Tradition (1991), writes:
The Dasarupaka reflects considerable changes in the discourse on dancing since Bharata’s Natyasastra. Dhananjaya’s strength lies particularly in the fact that he composed a methodical account of the categories of dance and provided clear, if brief, explanation. Prior to his work, much of the information available, including what we find in Abhinavagupta, is fragmentary, existing as quotations from lost works or from the general body of literature. Sometimes the information comes in as passing remarks or views not clearly expressed. In Dhananjaya the concepts and the categories are set down and defined unambiguously enough to suggest that their meanings had come to be generally accepted…. Apart from that, the text also gives some quite vital information leading to our understanding of the use of gesture language in drama. Gestures obviously formed a very important technique for expressing meaning in the performance of a play.
According to Dr. Bose, one of the most important contributions of Dhananjaya is the distinction he draws between Nrtta and Nrtya. He explained Nrtta as that which depends on rhythm and tempo (Nrttam tala-laya ashrayam – DR.1.9); and Nrtya as that which is dependent on emotion (Bhavashrayam Nrthyam – DR.1.9). The definitions he provided of the terms such as Nrtta, Nrtya, Tandava and Lasya mark a distinct stage in the evolution of the understanding of dance and drama. And, Dhananjaya was also the first writer to use the term Nrtya to denote mimetic dance and also dance-dramas.
Further, Dhanajaya’s classification of Nrtya as belonging to the Marga (pure) tradition; and, Nrtta as the Desi (regional) popular dance form, was also very significant, though it marked a departure from Bharata. Yet, Dhananjaya remained anchored in Bharata’s basic view that both Nrtta and Nrtya are auxiliaries to Drama.
The trend that Dhananjaya set in, categorizing Nrtta and Nrtya respectively as Desi and Marga , was taken up and continued by the later scholars such as Sarangadeva (Sangita-ratnakara), Pundarika Vittala (Nartana-nirnaya) and such others.
Finally , all said and done , Dasarupaka is still relevant and has its usefulness . In fact , the scholar Sri Adya Rangacharya in the introduction to his edition of the Natyashastra remarked : Almost a thousand years ago a writer called Dhananjaya wrote a treatise called Dasarupaka (ten forms of plays). He did what I originally intended to do, viz. abridge the work only as far as it concerned drama.
Thus, whatever be the criticisms levelled against it, I do agree that the Dasarupa of Dhananjaya is an authentic work that revived and continued the tradition established by Natyashastra.
But, before we get into a discussion on the text, let’s briefly talk about Dhananjaya, the author of Dasarupa; and, about Dhanika the author of Dasarupavaloka, the commentary on Dasarupa.
Dhananjaya, the author of Dasarupa or Dasarupaka, in the concluding verse of his work mentions : the Dasarupam, of great interest to the learned and wise, was presented to the world by Dhananjaya – the son of Vishnu, inspired by his discussions with the Sovereign Lord Munja.
Visnoh sutenapi Dhanamjayena / vidvan- manoragani bandhahetuh / aviskrtam Munja-mahisagosthi / vaidagdhyabhaja Dasarupam etat (DR.4. 91)
Now, the King Munja, mentioned by Dhananjaya, is identified as the ruler of the Malava region, in west-central India, comprising parts of western Madhya Pradesh and parts of south-eastern Rajasthan. King Munja, son of Sīyaka, the seventh Raja of the Paramara Dynasty, who ruled the Malava Kindom, with its capital at Dhārā, during c. 974 – 995 CE, was renowned by many other names or epithets, such as: Vakpati-raja-deva; Utpalaraja; Amoghavarsha; Sri-vallabha; and, Prithvi-vallabha.
It is said; Munja, apart from being a valiant warrior, was an accomplished poet; and, was also a generous patron of arts and literature. For instance; the lexicographer Halayudha, and Padmagupta the author of Navasahasarikacarita recall with gratitude the benevolence of the ‘friend of poets’ – kavimitra, kavibandhava – Vakpathiraja –
sa jayati Vakpatirajah sakala-arthi-manorathaika-kalpataruh); and, (Sarasvati kalpalataika-kandam/vandamahe Vakpatirajadevam / yasya prasadad vayam apy ananya-/ kavindracirne pathi samcaramah etc.
Some of the verses composed by Munja (Sri Vakpathi-raja-deva; Srimad-Utpalaraja) were quoted by the later scholars in their works ; as for instance : the renowned scholar , commentator and poet of the eleventh century , Ksemendra (in three of his works on poetics: Suvrittatilaka, Kavi-kanthā-bharaṇa and Auchitya-Vichāra Charchā); and, Vallabhadeva (15th century) in his compilation of aphorisms (Subhāṣitāvalī) . Further, Dhanika, in his Avaloka also quotes a stanza as ascribed to Munja (Vakpati-raja-paranamo- Munjadevasya).
Concerning Dhananjaya himself nothing much is known save that he was the son of Vishnu ; was a court-poet (Asthana-kavi) at the court of the Malava King Munja; and , that it was the discourses with his King and patron that inspired him to compose the Dasarupa.
As regards Dhanika, the author of Dasarupavaloka, a commentary or an ‘Examination of the Dasarupa’, it is said, he also held an official position (Maha-sadhya-pala) in the Royal Court of King Utpalaraja, i.e., Munja. Dhanika also described himself as the son of Vishnu. And, therefore, it is surmised that Dhanika, the commentator, was the younger brother of Dhananjaya, the author; and, both functioned as officials in the Court of the King Munja. As mentioned earlier, Dhanika was also a poet and scholar in his own right. He is said to have written a treatise on poetics, titled Kavyanirnaya, which is lost; and , composed verses, which he frequently quotes in his Avaloka.
There are some other speculations, as well. It has been suggested by some , because of the similarity of the names – Dhananjaya and Dhanika (both meaning a person of substantial wealth) ; and as , each describes himself as the ‘son of Vishnu’; and , both were in the employ of the Paramara king of Malava , Munja, at Dhara (10th century) , it is very likely that the names Dhananjaya and Dhanika refer to one and the same person. That would go to suggest that Dhananjaya wrote a commentary on his own work.
But, the scholars have generally taken the view that Dhanika was a contemporary of Dhananjaya; very probably his brother, who collaborated in the production of the work Dasarupa.
In the next part we shall, briefly, discuss the structure and subjects dealt with in the Dasarupa, along with notes from Avaloka.
Continued in Part Two
Sources and References
The Dasarupa a treatise on Hindu dramaturgy by George C. O. Haas, Columbia University press / 1912
All images are from Internet