Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya
BOOK THREE – continued
Nataka and Prakarana
As mentioned earlier, Bharata in his Natyashastra enumerates, and discusses ten forms of plays or Natya or Rupakas: Nāṭaka, Prakarana, Anka (Utsṛṣṭikāṅka), Vyāyoga, Bhāṇa, Samavakāra, Vīthi, Prahasana, Ḍima, and Īhāmṛga.
Nāṭakaṃ sa Prakaraṇam Aṅko Vyāyoga eva ca । Bhāṇaḥ Samavakāraś ca Vīthī Prahasanaṃ Dimaḥ ॥ 20.2॥
Ihāmṛgaś ca vijñeyā daśeme nāṭya lakṣaṇe । eteṣāṃ lakṣaṇamahaṃ vyākhyāsyāmya anupūrvaśaḥ ॥ 20.3॥
Bharata divided the ten types of plays into two broad categories. One; the class of plays like Nataka and Prakarana: having a range of characters; portraying all the four Vrittis (styles of presentation) – Purna-vrtti-rupakas – in five or more Acts; displaying their psychological states; and, exuding the Srngara and Vira Rasas. And, the other eight which fall under the class which has less than five Acts; and, where all the Vrttis etc., are not present. Therefore, of the ten forms of Rupakas, the Nataka and the Prakarana are considered more complete.
The Nataka is constructed as per the classic format, in accordance with all the rules prescribed and established by the tradition. The hero and the heroine are highly idealized, almost celestial, descending from a distinguished Royal lineage. Its story-line would usually be about a noble hero who resolutely overcomes many challenging obstacles; and, finally succeeds in achieving his desired objective. The message of a Nataka is that the good and the virtuous should never be defeated; and, eventually the love, truth and justice (Dharma) must triumph over untruth. And, harmony and peace should prevail over chaos and disturbance.
The Nataka is a powerful means for the moral upliftment of the society, holding out hope and faith in the goodness of life, with illustrations of how the virtuous men and women of the past dealt with the sorrows, disappointments, trials and tribulations in their life ; how they fought against the confronting miseries that mounted upon them , with bravery and honesty ; and, how they eventually emerged out of the difficult situations with success , glory and dignity.
The other types of plays
The other types of plays, in contrast, tried to represent life in its varied colours, nearer to the real-life, portraying characters from lower order of the society. These types of plays depicted the good as also the not-so-good aspects of life, built around characters of varied nature: the virtuous, vagrant, weak, comic and so on. This was particularly true in the case of Dramatic forms such as Bhana, Vithi and Prahasana. The object of these other nine types was, mainly, to provide entertainment.
Nataka – Prakarana
In short: The Nataka celebrates the accomplishments of the kings; and, how they find their fulfilment in establishing the Dharma. The Prakarana, as compared to Nataka, deals with the affairs of the social classes coming from a mixed milieu, such as a Brahmin, a minister, a soldier, a merchant or even a social parasite (Vita). A courtesan could also be the heroine of a Prakarana. Its story must be a fictitious one , invented by the poet. Prakarana tends to be realistic in its approach. It attempts to depict the conditions in the society, as they are .
The Srngara, the love, and its victory, in true fashion, are the main sentiment in Prakarana. And Prakarana has in it, some elements from Bhana, Vithi and Prahasana.
While the idealism of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the resort of the Nataka, the social life depicted in the Brhatkatha is, generally, the source of the Prakarana.
Dr.Raghavan explains : The ideals that lie at the base of these two types, the Nataka and the Prakarana, are different; the two are distinct in a substantial manner; the aim of the poet in the Nataka is to present what has been conceived as the highest type of human personality, the sublime type, called the Dhirodatta; this is a heroic ideal. On the other hand, in the Prakarana, the poet is out to hold up the mirror to the world, to depict society as it is in its rank and file
Another important difference between Nataka and Prakarana is in regard to the extent of the Kaisiki-vrtti. In the Nataka, the Kaisiki-vrtti enjoys full scope, while in the Prakarana its scope is rather restricted. The explanation provided for this is : too much display of Kaisiki would be out of place in the Prakarana, which is a realistic social play.
The Bhana which is a one-act monologue presented by a stand-up comedian, the Vita , a depraved parasite, ridiculing the so-called respectable figures in the society, and the Prahasana, the satirical comic skit, have affinity with Vithi . The Vithi is a one-act street-play, having a series of witty exchanges presented by one or two characters of mixed type. It has scope for all the Rasas; but, its distinguishing feature seems to be its resourcefulness and rich varieties of clever repartees. In fact , whenever clever repartees are found in other Rupakas, they are supposed to have been adopted from one or other of the thirteen Vithyangas, the diverse constituents of the Vithi.
The Vyayoga, Samavakara and Dima have their characters from varied class of gods, demi-gods, demons etc.; with some heroic characters taken from Mahabharata and other Puranas. The Utsṛṣṭikāṅka (Anka) is something like an epilogue to the heroic types of plays. It starts near about the end of action in a major play (say, depicting the consequences of a battle that just ended). The Ihamrga is all about the enticing and captivating a lovely damsel. At the end, the hero wins the lady-love; the villain loses out; but, no one dies.
These Rupakas differ from one another (rupaka bheda) according to the nature of the hero and other characters (Neta), the plot (Vastu) in both of its aspects: main (Mukhya) and subsidiary (Prasangika).There also differences in the number of Acts (Anka or Samdhi); and, in regard to sentiments (Rasa) that are displayed.
Though the lesser types of Rupakas were composed principally for providing pleasure, many of them do instruct and impart the norms of good conduct. They also reflect the contemporary social life, its pleasures and pains. These different types of dramas provide an opportunity for the dramatists to choose their characters from among a wide range of men and women in the society.
Nataka and its evolution
In the previous Part we discussed about the Nataka. In the present post let’s talk about Prakarana type of plays.
Before we go into the specifics of each of the nine forms plays (other than Nataka), let’s take a general view , just to see if there is a rationale in identifying these ten as the major types of Drama (Rupaka) ; and, whether they are related to each other , one way or the other.
When we compare the constituents of the ten types of Rupaka, a question arises, naturally, whether these are interrelated. Whether the minor varieties were evolved or derived from the two major types; or, whether the major types were created by combining elements taken from the minor ones. Some scholars, notably Dr. Raghavan and Prof. D.R. Mankad, did attempt to address these questions.
It is said; when Bharata in his Natyashastra codified the Dramatic compositions of his time, the ten kinds of dramatic performances were already in existence. However, not all of them were or could be considered as fully mature. According to Bharata, the only two drama-types, out of the ten, included in the scheme of Dasarupaka, that could be considered as well-structured and complete were: Nataka and Prakarana.
As regards the question how a more complete form like Nataka was arrived at; and what was its relation with the nine other types, the common view taken in that regard , appears to be that the Nataka is the culmination or the final result of the process of growth and development of various Dramatic forms.
Prof. Mankad in his ’Types of Sanskrit Drama’ while tracing the evolution of the Rupakas and the Uparupakas said that these grew from their simple to complex forms by resorting to measures, such as: additions, replication, joining various threads etc. The simple one-Act plays, in stages, over a period, developed into plays with multiple Acts. Following such growth pattern, Bhana and Vtthi would be the earliest types. Then Prahasana would come, in two Acts. Then we might have Vyayoga in three Acts. Further, the Ihamrga and Dima reached four Acts. Thereafter, came Nataka and Prakarana with more elaborate settings, requiring more number of Acts, reaching up to five or ten. Accordingly, Nataka combined in itself and sublimated the elements seen in Vyayoga, Anka, Dima, Ihamrga and Samavakara; and, in addition, it added on its own distinctiveness, with, Srngara or Vira as a predominant Rasa. Thus, a common thread runs through all these types. The Nataka and Prakarana have blossomed out from the earlier types.
[The hitch in this argument appears to be the position of the Samavakara, which, considered by some as the earliest form of Drama, is constructed in three Acts, with number of special features.]
Dr. V Raghavan in his article ‘A note on the name Dasarupa’ (Journal of Oriental Research, Vol. VII, part III, July-Sept.1933) expressed similar views. To summarize his position:
The tendency to depict men of society, their habits and absurdities, tendencies etc., began with small if imperfect types like Bhana and Vithi; it grew into Prahasana; and, later achieved perfection as Prakarana, a social Drama.
The Bhana is a type of Rupaka in which only one character appears and carries on an imaginary dialogue through Akahabhasita. It is a monologue, narrated by one actor, though its narration refers to various characters – vividhāśrayo hi bhāṇo vijñeyast vekahārya śca (NS.18.108). The monologue Bhana had erotic and comic elements, lampooning the so-called respectable persons in the King’s court and in the society. The Vithi – a street play, with a sprinkling of all the sentiments , reaching the masses directly – in its initial form, was done by one actor; and, then, it adopted a display by two actors — vīthī syādekāṅkā tathaikahāryā dvihāryā vā (NS.18.112) . The Bhana and Vithi were related in their styles of presentation and their subject-matter. From the Vithi rose the Prahasana, a parody in one or two Acts, with many players, ridiculing the corrupt practices of the high-and-mighty in the society.
Though the main feature of Bhana also merged into the build of the Nataka and the Prakarana, it could live separately, just like the Prahasana. The Misra or the mixed variety of the Prahasana contained, in addition, the Vithi (NS. 20.111). And the Vithi and the Prahasana were made part of the first of the three acts of the Samavakara, with various themes scattered about (samavaklryante) in it; and, having as many as twelve actors of the middling class (NS.20. 70). The remaining type in the Dasarupaka is the Utsraritikanka or simply Anka, a sort of epilogue. And, Prakarana and Nataka, in the process of gaining their full stature, assimilated various features taken from the lesser forms. The Prakarana was not much different from Nataka, except that its hero was not a king of puranic glory, Prakhyata. And, the Nataka, in turn, got such features as the Vidusaka, for comic relief.
It could, perhaps, be said that Bhana was the earliest form to evolve amongst the Rupakas; and, it seems to fit in well with the whole scheme.
Having said this, let me add, these issues are debatable.
Dr. Raghavan illustrates his opinions through examples:
“The Vithi and the Anka certainly do not represent major varieties. The Vithi is the predecessor of the Prahasana. And, the Prahasana is an independent form of drama, even though its characters and features appear, to an extent, in the Nataka; and, amply in the Prakarana. The Vithi, of course, died early; and, none of the old specimens of the Vithi has survived. Bharata’s Natyashastra actually gives, at many places, the evidences for the disappearance of the Vithi into the body of the Prahasana, the Prakarana and the Nataka, both as part of the Prastavana and of the Drama, in general.
The Anka is, so to say, an epilogue or a sequel to a Samavakara, Ihamrga, Dima or Vyayoga. These four types of plays depict fights among gods and other Prakhyata heroes; while the Anka depicts the result of those fights, i.e., opens with the close of the fights and the wailings of the wife or wives , and of the relatives of those killed in the battle. Thus, this one-act Karuna piece called Anka also goes with the heroic class or represents the heroic dramatic thread woven into the body of Dasarupaka.
[But, during Bharata’s time, Anka was drifting away from its theme of the after-effects of war; and, was moving towards the more popular themes.]
The Samavakara, the Ihamrga, the Dima and the Vyayoga represent the Uddhata or Aviddha types of drama, which have heroic elements in their theme. They are the early specimens of dramatic performances depicting fights amongst Devas and Asuras. The Asura Vijaya (NS.3.1.59) and the Amrta-Manthana (NS.4.2.4), described as a Samavakara, were the first dramatic performances, when Brahma took Bharata’s troupe to Shiva’s abode; and, where the theme of Tripura-dahana described as a Dima was enacted (N.S.4.10). The Samavakara, the Dima, the Ihamrga and the Vyayoga are very similar to each other. Bharata refers to the other two while describing each of this. Further, he treats the Ihamrga as similar to the Vyayoga; and, the Vyayoga as similar to Samavakara.
Dr. Raghavan further says, “The Vyayoga is also described as a one-Act Samavakara, with its hero as an epic king and not as a God (NS.20.95-96). These, by the influence of the Mahakavyas and the growing mythological legends, gradually perfected themselves into the heroic type Nataka.
The importance of the Vrttis
Dr. Raghavan also brings in the role and relevance of Vrttis (styles of presentation) in the process of the growth and development of Dramatic forms. In that context, he says: “Just as the dance forms, on the basis of Lalitya and Auddhatya, are differentiated into Lasya and Tandava; similarly, the Rupakas numbering ten, get divided into Lalita (delicate, refined) and Uddhata (loud, vigorous) classes.
He explains; the Arabhati-vrtti, a loud, rather noisy and energetic style, fit for exhibition of one’s anger, valour, bordering on false-pride, by screaming, shouting etc., portrays the haughty Uddhata or the vigorous Tandava aspect. Such forceful (Uddhata or Aviddha) types are more dominant in the types of Rupakas, such as Ihamrga, Dima, Vyayoga and Samavakara, depicting fights amongst Devas and Asuras
And, the Kaisiki-vrtti (graceful-style) – characterizing the tender expressions of love with graceful dances, melodious songs as also charming costumes and delicate actions – which is most suited to Srngara-rasa , is a representation of the Lasya aspect. Such Lasyanga is a distinguishing attribute of the advanced types of plays such as: Nataka and Prakarana.
According to Dr. Raghavan, Bharata divides the Dasarupa, the ten forms of Dramas, into two broad groups, classified on the basis of the nature of the Vrittis they portray: either Kaisiki or Arabhati. Such two types of dramas are also called Sukumara (subtle, gentle) and Uddhata or Aviddha (haughty, loud).
In short, Dr.Raghavan seems to opine: the logical, well structured and sophisticated forms of Drama (Nataka and Prakarana) were evolved through a process of refining or eliminating the rough and uncouth elements found in the other forms of Dramas. Thus, Nataka is the hallmark of the Sukumara class; while the rest is of the Aviddha type.
In any case, the ten forms of Rupakas do pre-suppose the existence of simpler types of presentations (gramya dharma), such as mimicry and mirth during local festivals or amidst friends gathered, at night, around a campfire on a river-bank. Over a long period of time, such simpler plays by their assimilations and refinements might have evolved into Rupakas, as we know them. It is, perhaps, because of this reason that we find in the Natyashastra numerous overlapping in the case of certain types of Dramas.
[There is also a view which suggests that Rupakas might have evolved out of the dance forms, the Natya, when the playwrights transplanted their themes and modes of presentations into Dramatic forms.]
It is not clear on what basis or rationale these ten forms of Drama came to be grouped together under one common head, the Dasarupa. Even this process of weeding out other forms of Drama and arriving at a set of ten varied forms, each with its own well defined and recognizable features, might have been spread over a considerably long time. It is, perhaps, because of such reasons that some earlier dramaturgical traditions refer to more than ten types of Dramas. For instance; the Natyadarpana mentions twelve forms; the Bhavaprakasa lists as many as thirty; and, the earlier versions of Natyashastra describe eleven forms of dramas (including Natika).
It is reasonable to assume that the genre of plays included under the Dasarupa, with their individual dominant styles, had evolved from out of the varied cultural and social environments; and, were nurtured by patrons according to their tastes and inclinations. Naturally, the choice and the mode of presentation of the three cardinal factors – Vastu, Neta and Rasa – differed from one type of play to another.
There is also another way of looking at the issue.
At different stages, a particular variety of drama had come into being , developed and got absorbed into a more popular or a more mature form ; or , it disappeared altogether, because , by then, it had lost its appeal and/or the other varieties of plays had taken over. There was thus much overlapping, with the different varieties running into each other. In the process, the more mature forms like Nataka and Prakarana absorbed the interesting features of the other varieties of plays. For instance; the Nataka and Prakarana adopted the one-man-show (ekaharya abhinaya) and soliloquies (Akasha-bhasha) from Bhana; the witty dialogues and quick repartee from Vithi; illogical and ludicrous comic scenes from Prahasana; vigorous action, fighting etc., from Dima, Vyayoga and Samavakara; and, similarly, they acquired patterns and techniques of conversation (Vithyanga) like abrupt speech (udghatya), enigma (nalika), three-way discussion (trigata) and eloquent repartee (vakakeli) etc., from others. Similarly, ten or twelve varieties of Lasyanga related to Srngara rasa, portraying love and other softer, graceful aspects, as in Vithi and Prahasana , all walked into Nataka, Thus, over a period, all such attractive techniques and embellishments were grafted and integrated into Nataka and Prakarana.These forms grew more stylised and systematic.
The Nataka, in turn, though it retained the traditional framework of Vastu, Neta and Rasa, its modes and styles of presentation of either the delicate (Lasya) or the vigorous (Tandava) elements of the play were influenced not only by the features it had borrowed from other sources, but also by the changing trends and tastes. Eventually, while the Nataka got richer, more inventive, and diverse; the lesser forms of drama gradually faded out. And, that led to production of more complex varieties of Natakas.
Thus the processes of evolution and absorption were both instrumental in the growth and development of the Nataka.
And at the end, it can also be said that such theories tracing the growth and development of drama and dramatic performances are no doubt fascinating; but, there is not much historical evidence to support these hypotheses, bordering on speculation.
Now, after having taken a broad look at the growth and the structure of the Dasarupas; lets us briefly talk about Prakarana and eight other forms of Drama.
We may start with Prakarana.
Atha prakarane vrttam utpadyam lokasamsrayam /amatya-vipra-vanijam ekarn kuryac ca nayakam /dhiraprasantam sapayam dharma-kama-artha tatparam/ sesam natakavat samdhi-pravesaka-rasadikam
The Prakarana is a play of the principal category, in five to ten Acts. It is similar to Nataka, in regard to the numbers of Acts and the Samdhis. The Prakarana consists of five Sandhis: Mukha, Pratinukha, Garba, Vimarsa and Samhriti. Its principal sentiment is Srngara.
But, it differs from Nataka in a couple of other aspects, apart from those mentioned earlier. The main points of departure are with regard to the story-line (which is created); the hero (not a god or a king. but a person outside the royal palace environment); and, its objective, which is to provide enjoyment to the common people. In addition, Abhinavagupta listing out the differences between Nataka and Prakarana mentions: ‘there is a slave in lieu of Kancuki (chamber maid); Vita (rouge) in place of Vidusaka (jester); and, Sresthi (merchant) instead of Amatya (minister)’. The rest of its features are as in Nataka – Sesam natakavat.
Prakarana is mainly based on the story created or concocted by the playwright (Prakurute). It can also be drawn from sources like Brhatkatha and similar works of earlier poets; but, not from the Puranas. Its theme concerns the middle-class characters. And, therefore, offers a larger variety of characters to choose from. The Hero (Nayaka) or the leading character may be a Brahmin, a minister, an officer of the court, leader of a caravan or a merchant. And, sometimes, a Vita is also added to this list of heroes. Generally, the hero would be a self-controlled, calm, Dhira-prashantha type, following dharma-kama-artha. The heroine (Nayika) may be a house wife (kulastri) or could even be a courtesan (ganika).
The Prakarana is classified in three ways (prakaranam tredha) depending upon the type of heroine: ShuddhaPrakarana (where the heroine is from a noble family); Misra or Vikrta Prakarana (where a courtesan is the heroine); and Sammishra Prakarana (where both the types of heroines are figured).
Nayika tu dvidha netuh kulastri ganika tatha / kva cid ekaiva kulaja vesya kvapi dvayarn kva cit / kulaja ‘bhyantara bahya vesya natikramo ‘nayoh/ abhih prakaranam tredha samkirnam dhurtasamkulam //
The stories take place outside of the palaces and the royal circles, in the lanes and houses of the town; and, are concerned with common interests such as acquisition of money, love, legal justice, and bourgeois honour and so on. At the same time, purity of character and chastity are respected; and, held up as noble virtues. The Prakaranas affirm the identities of the middle-class heroes, and, pay due recognition to their position in sustaining a healthy social order.
The narration, in a Prakarana, is rendered more interesting by introducing complications of mistaken identities, petty revenge, theft, and political intrigue etc. The Prakarana plays end on a happy note, with the victory of true Love. Srngara is the predominant Rasa.
The earliest extant specimen of Prakarana is Asvaghosa’s Sariputra Prakarana. And, Shudraka’s Mrcchakatika (Little Clay Cart) and Malatimadhava by Bhavabhuti are the well-known examples of the Prakarana class.
We shall continue in the next Part ; and, talk about the Bhana, Vithi and the Prahasana varieties of the Drama.
The Next Part
Sources and References
The Theory of the Samdhis and the Samdhyangas in Natya Shastra by T.G. Mainkar
All images are from Internet