As mentioned earlier, the Dasarupa of Dhananjaya is a compilation of the extracts taken from the Natyashastra of Bharata.
Dhananjaya’s work is , essentially, a collection of the rules, the terminologies, their definitions and the elements pertaining to Drama, as extracted from the Natyashastra; and, arranged under certain broad heads. The Dasarupa is a compact work, intended to serve as a manual for the use of those interested in the subject of Drama.
As its name suggests, the text is focused on the ten types or classes of Drama that were mentioned in the Natyashastra; and, on the presentation and analysis of their technical features, plot constructions along with their distinguishing characteristics.
[Let me mention, at the outset, what I have posted below is but a brief summary of the few of the selected topics described in the Dasarupa. I have tried to avoid going into various sub-classifications and too many details enumerated in the text. For the complete text, with its translation in English, please click here.]
Before we discuss the main subjects covered by the Dasarupa, let’s briefly take a broad look at its structure and the arrangement of its theme and topics. .
The Dasarupa which commences with a prayer submitted to Lord Ganesha has four Prakashas or sections, containing, in all, about three hundred Karika (verses).
Namas tasmai Ganesaya yatkanthah puskarayate / madabhogaghanadhvano nilakanthasya tandave //
The First Book or the First Chapter consists of 68 verses. After paying homage to Lord Vishnu who displayed ten incarnations (Dasa-Avatara); and, to Bharata who enunciated the ten forms of Drama (Dasarupa), Dhananjaya seeks the blessings of Sarasvathi the Goddess of wisdom, arts and all learning.
He then states the objective of his work as to give concisely and directly the import of the rules pertaining to Drama, as set down in Natyashastra, in its own words (tasyarthas tatpadais tena samksipya kriyate anjasa)
Dhananjaya then goes on to list (pratipadam laksma) the definitions of some of the fundamental technical terms that appear in the Natyashastra – (pratipadam aparam laksma kah kartum iste)
He commences by stating that Drama is an imitation of situations in life (Avastha-anikrtir natyam); and, it is called a Rupa (form), because it is, basically, a visual presentation (rupam drsyatayocyate), made by actors who assume the forms of various characters that are assigned to them (rupakam tat samaropad), such as gods, kings, men or women of various sorts. It is said; Rupa refers to delineation, giving a concrete form to an idea. Then, he just lists the names of the ten chief varieties of Drama that are based in different Rasas (dasadhaiva rasasrayam)
[The phrase Avastha-anikrtir natyam, as quoted by Dhananjaya might give an impression as though the Drama is the art of reproduction by imitation (anukriti), But, Abhinavagupta had earlier objected to such a banal view, saying that mere imitation of other’s movements would produce the ludicrous; and, the imitation of other’s feelings and emotions is impossible. He held the view that Drama is an artistic creation, where music, dance, acting as also the dress, colours, and the stage environment etc., all unite harmoniously in an effort to create a delightful dramatic performance. According to him, such a presentation becomes an art when its narration in the form of dialogues associated with suitable gestures, postures, movement, dance, dress and music etc., succeeds in giving expressions to sentiments and passions so as to rouse similar sentiments in the minds of the audience. Thus, Drama is an entirely a new art that aims to enliven the hearts and minds of the audience; generates in them an aesthetic joy; and, it is not an imitation in the ordinary sense of the term. ]
Dhananjaya mentions the broad categories of Dance-forms as: the Marga (the pure or pristine); and, the Desi (the regional or improvised) – adyam padartha-abhinayo Margo Desi tatha param. As regards the particular Dance forms, Dhananjaya says: the Nrtya, which, principally, is display of various emotional states (bhava-asrayam nrtyam), is a representation of the traditional Marga class. While, Nrtta, with emphasis on limb-movements, in tune with rhythm and timing (nrttam tala-laya-asrayam), belongs to the popular Desi style.
Under each of these (Nrtya and Nrtta) there is again a two-fold division: Lasya, the graceful, gentle and fluid pleasing dance; and, Tandava, the vigorous, energetic and brisk invigorating movements (lasya-tandava-rupena natakad-dyupakarakam.)
After offering short definitions of these terms, which are auxiliaries to Nataka and to the other varieties of Drama, Dhananjaya moves on to the definition of such terms as are directly connected with the major theme of his work – the Drama (Rupa).
He broadly follows Bharata , who had said : A Nātaka is having five Arthaprakrti; five kâryāvasthās; five Samdhis; four Vrittis; sixty-four Sandhyaga; twenty-one Sandhyantārā, thirty-six Abhusanas; and, ninety music.. Yattu pancachatuh –sastiscatuh –pancaikavisatih / sattrinsatravtisca tat-Natakam
Vastu -Neta -Rasa
The rest of the First Chapter is devoted to the discussion of Vastu, the subject-matter, in detail, about its sub-divisions; and, also of the structural components or the elements of the plot.
He states that the three essential elements , on which the Dramas are based and classified, are : the Vastu (subject-matter) ; the Neta (the leading character- the Hero) ; and , the Rasa (the sentiment it portrays ) . It is on the basis of these three criteria that Dramas are categorized into different types – Vastu Neta Rasas tesam bhedako.
The plot should be simple; the incidents should be consistent; and, the progression of the events should spring direct from the story. It should make an interesting presentation on the stage; and, should provide entertainment to varied class of spectator. That is the basic purpose of the Drama. The ability to please the spectators, to capture their imagination and to make them visit the theatre more often is a major indicator of the success of the play.
The Subject-matter (vastu) can be depicted in two ways (Vastu ca dvidha) – the main theme (adhikarika) along with the subordinate (angam) incidental events (prasangika) – Tatra adhikarikam mukhyam angam prasahgikam viduh.
The major theme (Vrttam) of a Drama would, usually, be about the intense desire or the objective (Adhikara) of the principal character of the play (i.e., the Hero, the Adhikarin); and, how he goes about to realize that goal. The sequence of incidents or actions that follow during the course of the Hero’s attempts, mainly, to achieve his objective or the desired result would be its principal subject (Adhikarika); and, the related minor ones would form the incidental the subject (prasangika).
[For instance; in Ramayana, the story of Rama and Sita is Adhikarika. The stories of Sugriva and Vibhishana are Prasangika, supplementary to the main story.]
The action of the play expands in manifold ways (vistary anekadha), just as a seed (Bija) very small at the beginning, grows, in stages, and expands into a tree.
The process of unfolding of the story could be marked by five stages or elements of action (Arthaprakrti or Karyalakshana): the beginning (Bija) or the cause (hetu) giving rise to various types of actions; the expansion (Bindu), which like the drop of oil in water, spreads and joins the broken ends, expands and maintains the continuity (accheda-karana), till the very end of the play, in all the Acts; the episodes of considerable length (Pathaka), which carry forward and support the main cause of the action ; the incidents within the episode (Prakari), of limited duration and of minor importance , yet, serving the principal plot; and, finally the conclusion (Karya), which also sums up the whole action, starting from the beginning and leading up to the ultimate gainful result (Phala).
Bija-bidu-patakakhya prakari-karya-laksanah arthaprakrtayah panca ta etah parikirtitah.
Following the analogy of the seed and the tree, it is explained, in Arthaprakrti also, the Bija, the germinal-idea, just like a seed, is the origin. And, it goes through several stages namely: appearance (Utpatti), opening up (Udgnatana), going forth or sprouting (Udbheda) and coming out distinctly (Nirbedha). And, just as the seed develops gradually into a tree and bears fruit, here too the Bija develops, in stages, and finally concludes in Karya. And, thus succeeds in bringing the whole series of actions in the play to a happy (mangala) desired finale (Phala) .
Bījaṃ binduḥ patākā ca prakarī kāryameva ca । arthaprakṛtayaḥ pañca jñātvā yojyā yathāvidhi ॥ NS.19.21॥
[The charge levelled against Dhananjaya and Dhanika is that they just state the Arthaprakrti and fail to discuss its importance in the play or its relation with the Avastha, another format of plot-construction.]
The plot could also be structured in another manner so as to depict the successive, ordered (Yathasamkhya) stages of action (Avastha) in the Hero’s (Neta) attempts to accomplish his purpose. The actions involved in the hero’s way to success are structured into five distinct segments or stages : (1) beginning of the action (Arambha) with eagerness to attain the result; (2) the efforts made by the hero to move resolutely, with great haste, towards his objective despite the odds and resistance he has to contend with (Yatna or Prayathna); (3) actions leading him nearer to the objective, with hope of success mixed with fear of failure (Prathi-sambhava); (4) actions or incidents that ensure certainty of realizing his goal, as by then the dangers and risks would have been bypassed or eliminated (Niyatapti) ; and, (5) finally, the crowning glory, the complete and satisfactory achievement of his desired objective (Phala-agama or Phala-prapti or Phala-yoga)
Avasthah panca karyasya prarabdhasya phalarthibhih ararnbha-yatna-praptyasa-niyatapti-phalagamah.
The Avastha, with its five stages, is a comprehensive model which begins with eagerness and zeal; resolutely passes through strenuous efforts, overcoming several obstacles, mixed with anxiety, hope and fear; and, finally ends happily in the total acquisition of the desired object. Its elements, taken together, portray the physical, mental and psychological states of the hero (Neta) throughout the action of the play.
These five stages, in their successive order (Yathasamkhya), form the essential, classic features of any type of human endeavour; not merely Drama.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad calls upon:
‘You are what your deep, driving desire is; as your desire is, so is your will (sa yathā-kāmo bhavati tat-kratur-bhavati); as your will is, so is your deed (yat-kratur-bhavati tat-karma kurute) ; as your deed is, so is your destiny (yat-karma kurute tad-abhi-saṃpadyate”- (Brhu. Up. 4.4.5).
Another way of structuring the plot (the body, the Sarira of the play) is by creating links, for connecting one scene with the other. These are the Samdhis, the segments of the plot (Artnavayavah), joined mutually or with the limbs (angaih) of the other – antaraika-artha-sambandhah samdhir ekanvaye sati. These Samdhis (junctures) knit together the various structural divisions of the Drama, consistent with the elements of the plot, and with the stages in the Hero’s struggle on his way to achieving his purpose, right from the beginning up to the successful conclusion.
The five stages of the developments or the progressions in the action of the play in that regard are : (1) Mukha (lit. face) , the section where the action originates in a seed-form (Bija) giving rise to various purposes and sentiments (mukham bijasamutpattir nana-artha-rasa-sambhava ); (2) Prathimukha , the development of the seed – sometimes visible and sometimes not ; but, there all the while and progressing (laksya-alaksya atayodbhedas tasya pratimukham bhavet); (3) Garbha, the section of the play where the seed springs up and strives to grow despite the difficulties and challenges it is confronted with (garbhas tu drstanastasya bijasya-anvesanam muhuh); (4) Vimarsa or Avamarsa, a crucial or rather testing time in the development of the seed which has now grown into Garbha , facing troubles; and, when one stops to reflect (avamrsed) because of getting embroiled in entanglements (aslesa), snared in temptations (vilobana), doubts, anger , or following a misleading clue, thus temporarily arresting its development (krodh en avamrsed yatra vyasanad va vilobhanat); and, (5) finally, the Nirvahana or the Upasamhrti, when the scattered threads are harmonized and knit together; when all the main incidents of the play are meaningfully interwoven ; and , the play is brought to a successful conclusion – (bijavanto mukhadyartha viprakirna yathayatham aikarthyam uparuyante yatra nirvahanam hi tat).
Mukha-pratimukhe garbhah sa vamarsa upasarnhrtih.
[For an exhaustive study of the Samdhis, please click here.[
These three – Arthaprakrti, Avastha and Samdhi– could be treated as parallel methods of structuring the divisions of the play. The five elements, that mark the stages of action, in each of these, correspond with the five elements of the other two, in an ordered sequence – Krama (yathasamkhyena jayante).
Arthaprakrtayah panca panca-avastha-samanvitah yathasamkhyena jayante mukhadyah panca samdhayah.
The structural divisions or sequence of events of the drama – Avastha; Arthaprakrti; and, Samdhi – each in its own manner, corresponds with the elements of the plot and the actions associated with the progressive stages in the hero’s attempts to successfully realize his purpose or object.
Avastha are the stages of action in the progression of the events in the play
Arthaprakrtis are in effect, the means for attaining the desired result or success (Phala). These, again, are said to be sequenced in five stages of action (Avastha)
The Samdhis are junctures or the sequence of events in the development of the play; and associated with the actions or the stages in the hero’s realization of his purpose (Phala-siddhi).
[It seems that Bharata had suggested just two parallel methods or principles of classification for projecting the development of the plot – Avastha and Samdhi – each having five steps. The Samdhi was again divided into 64 sub-sections –Samdhyangas. And, Bharata had not discussed or even suggested inter-relation between these two models.
The schemes of the Avastha (stages) and the Samdhi (junctures), both having five phases, are related to the structure of the play, the dramatic incidents, the development of the theme, and the movement of the plot. While Avastha attempts to delineate or mark the successive stages in the action of the play through various sub-divisions; the Samdhi, following the analogy of the seed and its growth, tries to combine the various types of action into meaningful whole.
When taken together, you find that the Avastha and Samdhi are closely related, with each stage of the Avastha corresponding with each juncture of the Samdhi. Both mark the divisions in the development of the plot, in five stages. Bharata had said: the Samdhis depend on the Avasthas (Samdhyo hi Avastha paratantrah)
Dr. Manjul Gupta explains: Looking at the position, we may finally say that Samdhis are the important parts of a plot. A plot is divided into five parts marking different phases of the main aim. These five Samdhis are related to each other, ‘to their limbs’. .. and, somehow or other, with the five Avasthas of the action.
Thus, the Arambha of Avastha corresponds with Mukha of Samdhi; and similarly, the Prayathna with the Prathimukha; the Prathisambhava with the Garbha; the Niyatapi with the Vimarsa; and, the Phalayoga with the Nirvahana.
Dhananjaya goes further and inserts Arthaprakrti, the constituent elements in a plot, mentioned by Bharata (NS.19.21) as the third format (besides Avastha and Samdhi) for outlining the structure of the plot. And, he had said, they are found in the Itivrtta, just as the five Avasthas do.
Dhananjaya suggested that the five elements of the Arthaprakrti (viz., Bija; Bimdu; Pathaka; Prakari; and Karya), corresponded with the five stages of action as described under Avastha ; and , from these arise five junctures , the Samdhi , beginning with Mukha , the opening.
arthaprakrtayah panca panca-avastha-samanvitah yathasamkhyena jayante mukhadyah panca samdhayah // DR.1.21//
The difference between Avastha and Arthaprakrti seems to be that while the former (Avastha) pertains to the principal plot; the latter (Arthaprakrti) covers the subsidiary plots also. And, while the action of every play consists of five Avasthas, but, in the case of five Arthaprakrtis, it is not necessary that all should be present. The other difference appears to be that in the Avastha, its stages follow an ordered sequence. But, Arthaprakrti is not bound by such regulations; the sequence and the prominence of its elements might be altered to suit the needs of the plot.
However, Bharata had not said anything about the inter-relations that might exist among the three formats of the play, viz., the Avastha, the Samdhi and the Arthaprakrti.
But the later writers (e.g. Katayavema and Dhundiraja) accepted the suggestion made by Dhananjaya for treating Avastha, Samdhi and Arthaprakrti as parallel ways of dividing or demarcating the structure of the Drama into successive ordered segments ( yathasamkhyena jayante ).
It has been suggested that these three sets of five each, Pentad (panchayatam), could be taken as three ways of analysing the structure of the plot of a Sanskrit Drama (Rupaka) from three different angles.
Summing up, Viswanatha in his Sâhitya-Darpana described Rupaka (Nataka) as the most logical and perfect theatrical composition. It progresses in a systematic manner and concludes successfully, bringing joy to all. He says, according to the Dasarupa, the structure of the Rupaka consists: five elements of the plot (Arthaprakrti), matching with the five stages (Avastha) of the action, from which arise five structural divisions or sequence of events (Samdhi) of the drama, which correspond with the elements of the plot and the actions associated with the stages in the hero’s attempts to successfully realize his purpose or objects. ]
As regards the story of a play, it could either be adopted (itivrttam) from the incidents that occur in the well-known (Prakhyatha) legends of the past; or, could be a story invented (Uthpadya) by the poet; or else, it could be a mixture (Misra) of the two. The story could also be about gods (Divya), humans (Marthya) and the like (Divyadivya).
prakhyatam itihasader utpadyam ; kavi-kalpitam; misram ca samkarat tabhyam divya-martyadi-bhedatah.
It is also said; whatever be the original story, if it is not suitable for the hero or is inconsistent with the sentiment (Rasa) he represents, then the story can be modified or re-arranged in some other way. After determining the beginning and end of the play in this manner; and, after dividing it into five parts, the author should then break it up into small sections; the divisions called junctures (Samdhi).
The purpose of such reshaping of the story and characters by the playwright is to achieve a harmony of theme and character in order to serve the ultimate purpose of the drama , the Rasa – the enjoyment by the cultured spectators concept of
Yat tatra-anucitam Kim cin nayakasya rasasya va viruddham tat parityajyam anyatha va prakalpayet.
[The best example of this is Kalidasa’s reworking of Abijnana-shakuntalam and Vikramorvasiya, the former from the Mahabharata and the latter from the Vedas, Epics, and Puranas.]
Dhanika the commentator mentions that the Vastu is initially classified as the principal (Adhikarana) and subsidiary (Prasangika); and, each of these two are again sub-divided in three ways (Prakhyatha, Uthpadya and Misra), keeping in view of the source of the story, the characters, the portrayal and the dramatic conventions.
[But, Bharata had divided the plot (Itivrtta) into only two classes – the principal and the subsidiary; and, had not attempted their further sub-divisions.
itivṛttaṃ dvidhā caiva budhastu parikalpayet । ādhikarikamekaṃ syāt prāsaṅgikam-athāparam ॥ 19. 2 ॥
The explanation provided is that Bharata did not attempt to divide the dramatic components into tight compartments, because: he was more concerned with the successful production of a play. He was focused on coming up with an interesting presentation that would provide wholesome entertainment to the spectators ; and , at the same time he had to pay attention to the playwright , the actors and the very process of production.
But, the later commentators like Abhinavagupta and Dhananjaya were basically theoreticians who relished offering scholarly interpretations of the vast variety of technical terms , principles and concepts etc., together with illustrations of their applications by citing passages from the great plays that preceded their times (such as the plays of Bhasa, kalidasa, Bhavabuthi, Sriharsha and others). These scholars were, however, not much concerned with the nutty gritty or practical details of play-production or the structure and management of the playhouse.]
Dhananjaya says that the chosen subject could be arranged in six ways: showing what needs to be put forth; displaying emotion; the element of surprise; representations for sustaining interest in the story; and concealing what needs to be concealed,
The task of dramatization of the underlying story (Itivrtta) calls for selection, omission and meaningful arrangement of the incidents. Some types of actions should be presented on the stage; while certain other types that are unsuitable for display might either be indicated by words or not shown at all.
There might be incidents in the play which have happened either in the past or in the distant lands; and, there might also be certain types of actions which might neither be possible nor advisable to show on stage. All such matters have to be suggested or indicated by various other clever devices (Arthopaksepaka).
[Normally, the action in a play depicts the events that occurred during the course of that day (or night). But, there are some noted exceptions to such conventions. For instance: in the Uttara-rama-charita of Bhavabhuthi, the invents in the first Act and the second Act are separated by as many as twelve years. Similarly, several years elapse between the last two Acts of the Abhijnana-shakuntalam . In such cases, an intermediate scene (Vishkambha) is introduced as a link and also to explain/narrate the occurrences that took place subsequent to the previous Act.
Further, it is said; a chariot, an elephant or a horse should not be brought on the stage. Similar is the case with palaces, hills or lakes. Such animals and geographical features might be suggested or indicated through models made of cheap materials. And, in case an army has to be introduced on the stage, that should be symbolically represented by the movement (gati-vīcāra) of four to six persons dressed as soldiers.
But, in many cases, the unity of place is not strictly observed; and, travels are undertaken, often, by aerial routes, riding the celestial rathas. ]
In regard to the continuity of action taking place after a lapse of time , that is achieved through suggestions or indications made in one oe more of the five ways : (1) Vishkambha, an interlude; (2) Pravesaka confined to lesser characters, which use Prakrit; (3) Culika, suggestions from behind the curtain; (4) Ankamukha, anticipatory scene, at the close of an Act a character alludes to the subject of the following Act; and, (5) Ankavatara , the seed of the subject-matter of an Act in the previous Act before it has drawn to its close, so that the following is a continuation of the one preceding it.
It is only that part of the action which is fit to be exhibited is divided into Acts and presented on the stage in an ingenious and a highly interesting manner.
[Natyashastra prescribes that in the presentation of the play , one should avoid showing such events as: long travel; murder; war; violent overthrow; bloodshed; eating; taking bath; undressing; sex act etc.
Dura-dhavanam; vadham; yuddham; rajya-dessadiviplavan/ samrodham; bhojanam; snanam ; suratam; ca-anulepanam/ amvara-grahanadini pratyakshani na nirdiset na-adhikaraivadham kvapi tyajyam – avasyakam na ca // ]
[The classical Sanskrit Drama, in its presentation, followed a traditional format.
Plays were usually presented at the spring festival. The Srngara and Vira are the usual dominant Rasas of the play. The dialogues are interspersed with lyrical stanzas and songs; and, often with dance movements. Tragedy, in the Western sense of the term, was not there, for every drama must have a happy ending.
A drama always opened with Naandi, or benediction, submitted by the well accomplished Sutradhara, stage –manager or director, to Lord Shiva, praying for successful completion of the play , for the joy (nanda) and the prosperity of the audience. Right after the Naandi, the Sutradhara , appears in a section , preliminary to the play, called Prarochana , where he would praise the literary merit and scholarship of the playwright; laud the high quality of his play that the audience is about to watch; and, compliment the audience for their wisdom in choosing to such an excellent play. The Prarochana would be followed by Prastavana, the prelude to the play-proper, where the Sutradhara would strike a light-hearted conversation with a Nati or a minor character regarding the play that is just about to be presented. All these take place in the Purvanga, the preliminary , before the commencement of the play .
The initial scenes are always auspicious, spreading a happy–feeling (adi-mangala); and, as the story unfolds, unbearable miseries are unjustly mounted on the virtuous hero , by the crafty villain. In the midst of all the troubles that the hero is facing, near about the mid-point of the story, something good happens to the hero (madhya-mangala). Somewhere in the second-half of the story, amidst the trials and tribulations of the lovers, a sort of relief arrives through the clumsy attempts of the usually inept, food and fun loving sidekick, the vidushaka . And, after a hard fought and suspenseful struggle (in which the gentle heroine, for no fault of her, is somehow drawn in), the anti-hero falls; eventually the Good, the Love and the Dharma triumphs; and, all ends well (antya-mangala).
The play concludes with a Bharatavakya, praying for the welfare of the king with good governance, the happiness of his subjects ; and, the peace and prosperity of all beings in all the three worlds.]
The Dasarupa goes into lot of details, enumerating the subdivisions of the various elements of action (much of it not being quite significant). For instance:
- 12 subdivisions of the opening scene (Mukha);
- 13 subdivisions of the progression (Prathimukha);
- 12 subdivisions of the development (Garbha);
- 13 subdivisions of the pause (avamarsa) ,
- 5 kinds of intermediate scenes (arthopaksepaka) ;
- 14 subdivisions of the conclusion ( Nirvahana )
- 64 types of Samdhyangas (Divisions or Limbs of Samdhis)
- 12 limbs of Garbha
- 13 types of Avamarsa
- 72 types of Sandnyantaras which act as inter-links
- And so on
The First Book of Dasarupa concludes with the advice: after examining the entire body of divisions of the subject matter presented in these and the following sections, as well as in the works like the Ramayana and Brhatkatha, one should thereupon compose a story expanded with the appropriate selection of Hero (Neta) and sentiments (Rasa) , bound together with appropriate and pleasing words (ucita-caru-vacah).’
ityady asesam iha vastu-vibhedajatam / Ramayanadi ca vibhavya Brhatkatham ca / asutrayet tad anu netrra-sanugunyac / citram katham ucita-caru-vacah-prapancaih //
In the next part we shall talk about the types of Heroes , Heroines and the supporting charecters ; and, also about the Vrttis , which Bharata regarded as the mother of all poetic works.
Sources and References
The Theory of the Samdhis and the Samdhyangas in Natya Shastra by T.G. Mainkar
All images are from Internet