Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya
BOOK THREE – continued
Bhana, Vithi and Prahasana
Of the ten forms of Sanskrit Drama (Rupakas), we have in the last two Parts, discussed about Nataka and Prakarana, the two major forms in the group of Dasarupa.
In this Part, let’s briefly talk about – Bhana, Vithi and Prahasana.
- The Bhana
Bhānavastu dhurta-Càritam sua-anubhutam parena vä/ yathâ-pa Varnayedeko nipunah pandito vitah//
Sambodhana-ukti-prayikti kuryat-ākaša-bhāSitäih/ Sucayet-vira-sringārau saurya-Saubhagya-samstävaih//
Bhuyasa bharati vrttir ekankam vastu kalpitam/ mukha-nirvahane sange lasyangani dasapi ca //
It is said; the term Bhana is derived from the root ‘Bhan‘, which means ‘to speak’. Abhinavagupta explains Bhana as:’Eka mukhenaiva bhahtante ukthi-manthah kriyante apravista api patriyavinesa yatra iti Banah ‘– It is Bhana (lit. speaking) because the characters that do not enter the stage are heard indirectly through the mouth of the actor who is out on the stage’.
ātmānubhūtaśaṃsī parasaṃśrayavarṇanāviśeṣastu । vividhāśrayo hi bhāṇo vijñeyastvekahāryaśca ॥ 108॥
paravacanamātmasaṃsthaṃ prativacanairuttamottamagrathitaiḥ ākāśapuruṣakathitairaṅgavikārairabhinayaiścaiva ॥ 109॥
dhūrtaviṭasamprayojyo nānāvasthāntarātmakaścaiva । ekāṅko bahuceṣṭaḥ satataṃ kāryo budhairbhāṇaḥ ॥ 110॥
Bhana, for all purposes, is a single Act presentation (ekankam); though, technically, it has two junctures – the opening (Mukha) and the conclusion (Nirvaha), each preceded by songs of gentle graceful style (Lasya). And during the course of the Bhana, musical effects are provided from the background to enliven the show.
Bharata explains Bhana as a monologue narrated by a single actor; and, yet its theme is full of various characters and situations – vividhā-aśrayo hi bhāṇo vijñeya stva ekaharya-sca ॥ NS.18.108॥
Abhinavagupta also explained Bhana as a satirical performance put on by a single actor, talking to himself, making conversation with the imaginary persons, imitating the other characters and chastening the high-class by lampooning their licentious ways. He considers that Bhana has affinity (samana-yoga-kshema) with Prahasana
The Bhana type of Rupaka (bhanyate iti bhanah) is described as a monologue enacted by a single actor who plays the role of experienced, clever rouge (dhurta) or a sharp-witted amiable (dakshina) parasite , skilled in amorous ways (nipunah pandito vitah) who goes on an errand to please a courtesan or the lady-love of his noble friend. He narrates, dramatically, his own roguish exploits or describes that of someone else (ātmā-anubhūtaśaṃsī parasaṃśraya-varṇanā-viśeṣastu). He carries on conversation (Sambodhana-ukti-prayikti kuryat) with imaginary persons (akasha-bhasita), asking questions and replying them himself. He imitates other characters, their voice and their expressions. He acts and narrates employing ingenious techniques of Ekaharya abhinaya (abhinaya, without the aropana of the aharya, i.e., adopting or assuming the roles of various characters, without changing either the costume or the make-up).
Bharata says that the Vita, in a Bhana, need not be a ‘Hero’, as in the other types of Dramas, but as the only character that fills the stage. He says the Bhana, after all, is for the Vita; it is a Dhurta- vita –samprayojya. The Vita as a character is generally neglected in Sanskrit Drama. But, he makes his appearance in Mrcchakatika.
The Bhana is altogether different from the elegant Sanskrit court-plays. It deals with the common place and the trivial. It ridicules and exposes the seamy side of urban life and of the court officials, in particular; and, debunks the hypocrites moving under the guise of the virtuous. The subjects such as love, betrayal, rivalry or battles, mischief, fraud, intrigue and nuisance form the meat of its theme.
In short, Bhana is akin to one-man-stand-up comedy shows, which have become a regular feature on most of the TV channels. In a way of speaking, Bhana which had almost faded away in the middle era, enjoyed a sort of resurrection in the twentieth century. About Bhana, Sylvain Levi, in his The Theatre of India, writes: the monologue, the Bhana, is most remote from the Drama proper. It is most popular today as it was in the past. Actors and writers love it. It abounds in descriptions and gives ample scope to poetical ingenuity, while its imaginary dialogues offer to the actor the opportunity to display his virtuosity.
The theme in a Bhana is improvised (vastu kalpitam); and, is rendered in Bharati Vrtti, the eloquent style (bharati-vrtti Pradhana tvad bhanah).
It is said; the Srngara and Vira are to be its dominant Rasas, depicted by fortune-in love (Saubhagya) and heroism.
[It is rather surprising that Hasya was not considered by the ancients as one among the appropriate Rasas for the Bhana, particularly since it is allied to Prahasana, a farce. Abhinavagupta also speaks of its character, the Vita as – hasyochita.
Similarly, Bharata had specified the Bharati Vrtti as the suitable Vrtti for the Bhana ( Bhuyasa bharati vrttir ). And at the same time , he had ruled out Kaisiki Vritti for Bhana.
But later, Visvanatha modified the ancient stipulations set by Bharata; and, said that Srngara and Hasya Rasas as also the Kaisiki Vrtti could also be treated as suitable for Bhana. He argued that such modification is justified, since there is scope in the Bhana for display of ‘love, gallantry, coquetry, pleasantry (narman) and jesting, along with comic in speech, dress and movement’.
Thereafter, in the later periods, the Srngara-rasa (aesthetic pleasure of the erotic variety), Hasya rasa (of humour) and Kaisiki-vrtti (graceful style) which characterized the Lasyangas became the standard parts of the Bhana. ]
Not many of the ancient Bhana scripts have survived. It is said that in the early years of the 20th century, the scholars Sri M Ramakrishna Kavi and Sri S K Ramanatha Shastri discovered the MSS, edited and published four Bhana plays: Ubhaya-abhisarika of Vararuchi; Padma-prabhrthaka of Sudraka; Dhurta-Vita-samvada of Isvaradatta; and Pada-taditaka of Syamalika. These were published together under the title Caturbhani, during 1922.
The Dhurta- vita-samvada presents an interesting picture of a seemingly clever, experienced, but worn-out Vita, who finding the rainy season too depressing, comes out seeking some amusement. He has no money either for a game of dice or for a drink – even his clothing is reduced to one garment. He, then, winds his way towards the street where courtesans live, transacting with their clients of various kinds. He, sadly, cannot afford a courtesan, either. At the end, dragging his feet, he reaches the house of the roguish couple Visvalaka and Sunanda, who were then busily engaged in a discussion on certain awkward problems of sex-act. The Vita gleefully joins the discussion.
Prof. S. K. De in his article A Note on the Sanskrit Monologue-Play (Bhana), with Special Reference to the Caturbhani , pulished in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland ; No. 1 (Jan., 1926), pp. 63-90 , gives a detailed review of these four ancient works and of a few other.
Prof.SK De in his review observes:
Indeed, one of the outstanding features of all the Bhanas is their want of variety; and, the monotonous on the erotic sentiment tends to become cloying. This, combined with their hopeless but vigorous vulgarity, must have been responsible, to some extent, for the comparative oblivion to which they have been confined.
There is no doubt that in the later times they became mere literary exercises and subsided into a conventional and life-less form of art.
There is a monotonous sameness of style and treatment, inevitably suggesting a sense of artificiality. We meet over and over again the same theme, the same types of characters ,the same elaborate descriptions , the same tricks of expression , the same strings of nouns and adjectives, the same set of situations, the same group of conceits, and the same system of morals or want of morals.
The depressing atmosphere of ‘low’ characters, none of whom rise above the middle-class, is bound to be dull, unless diversified by comic effects or individual traits or variety of incidents and situations.
It is not, therefore, surprising that the Bhana as literature, though always popular, never made a permanent appeal and was forgotten in the later times.
However, on the same subject of Chaturbhani, FW Thomson took a totally different view; and wrote:
It will , I think, it will be admitted that the Bhana compositions , in spite of the unedifying character of their general subject and even in spite of the occasional vulgarities, have real literary quality . They display a natural humour and polite, intensely Indian, irony with need not fear comparison with that of Ben Jonson or a Moliere. The language is veritable ambrosia of Sanskrit speech. – [Centenary Supplement of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 1924]
vithi tu kaisikivrttau samdhyangankais tu bhanavat / rasah sucyas tu srngarah sprsed api rasantaram / yukta prastavanakhyatair ahgair udghatyakadibhih / evam vithi vidhatavya dvyekapatraprayojita //
The Vīthi is reckoned among the earliest forms of Sanskrit Drama. The episodes culled out of mythologies and popular tales were narrated by use of clever and inventive witty dialogues. It is also said that Vithi which is chiefly of conversational style might have originated from the ancient Samvada Suktas of the Rig-veda.
The term ‘Vithi’ generally stands for ‘marga’- path. As its name suggests, it is likely that the Vithis were, initially, played at the street-corners. And, in the later times they came to be presented on the stage. The term Vithi is also interpreted as denoting a series, string of sequences, Maala ( garland).
It is said; Vithi had two varieties; the earlier one of which was closely related to Bhana where a single actor delivered a monologue. And, in the other, which came later, two actors engaged in varieties of dialogues, impersonating several characters – vīthī syādekāṅkā tathai-ekahāryā dvihāryā vā . The heroine in a Vithi can be a chaste woman (kulapālikā) , a common woman (sāmānyā) or of the other type (parakīyā).
Rasair-bhavaisca sakalaih yukta Vithi prarikrita Ekaharya Dviharya va kartavya kavibhis sada //20.135//
According to Bharata, the Vithi is a single-Act play, to be enacted by one or two persons. It includes characters of the superior (Uttama), middling (Madhyamā) or inferior (Adhama) class. The Vithi is rich in all the Rasas; and consists of thirteen sub-divisions (angas) – Sarva-rasa-lakṣaṇā-aḍhyā yuktā hy aṅgais trayodaśabhiḥ.
Dhananjaya describes Vithi as a one-Act play, which resembles the Bhana, in that it includes frequent speeches in the air; and, has only two junctures (Samdhi) – the beginning (Mukha) and the conclusion (Nirvaha). It may have one or two actors. It has thirteen sub-divisions.
As regards its Vritti, the style of presentation, Bharata had earlier treated it as a class of play, which is akin to Bhana and Prahasana; and, which does not have the graceful Kaisiki Vrtti (kaiśikī-vṛtti-hīnāni). And, he had, earlier, indicated the Vithi as being related to the eloquent Bharati Vrtti. Abhinavagupta followed Bharata.
Vīthī caiva hi bhāṇaśca tathā prahasanaṃ punaḥ । kaiśikī-vṛtti-hīnāni kāryāṇi kavibhiḥ sadā ॥ 19.48॥
That might be because the eloquent speech delivery is the major strength of the Vithi. The techniques of ingenious employment of different manners of dialogue delivery and styles of conversations are the characteristic features of the Vithi. Eventually, even after the Vithi type of Rupaka faded away, its style of witty exchange of dialogues walked into the prologue (Prasthavana) of the more evolved varieties of the Rupakas.
Dhananjaya had initially accepted the Vithi as a part (anga) of the Bharathi Vrtti. But later, he classified it under Kaisiki Vrtti (Vithi tu kaisikivrttau). That was perhaps because; the Vithi, endowed with all the Rasas (Sarva-rasa-lakṣaṇāaḍhyā yuktā), with its thirteen subdivisions (aṅgais trayodaśabhiḥ) has the beauty of the monologue (Ekaharya– akasha-bhasita, speech in the void) as also the beauty of a amusing conversation (Dviharya).
Sarva-rasa-lakṣaṇā-aḍhyā yuktā hy aṅgais trayodaśabhiḥ । Vīthī syādekāṅkā tathai-ekahāryā dvihāryā vā ॥ NS.18. 112॥
Apart from that, Dhananjaya followed Bharata in regard to other aspects of the Vithi.
As regards the Rasa (sentiment)the Nāṭyaśāstra states that Vīthī can use all the Rasas; and one may just touch the Srngara Rasa. However, the Daśarūpaka states that Vīthī should have erotic (Sṛṅgāra) Rasa as the main; and, the others as subordinates.
It is said; the term Vithi also stands for ‘pankthi of angas’, series of elements or the sub-divisions. The chief purpose of Vithi , is said, to provide effectivespeeches or witty dialogues . The enumeration of the thirteen subdivisions of the Vithi, with their elements (Vithyanga), is one of the important features of the Vithi Rupaka. In that context, Dhananjaya had treated the Vithyangas as a division of the Bharathi Vrtti, while he was discussing the Amukha, prologue or introduction to the play.
[The Bharati-vrtti is mainly related to scenes where the speech or dialogue delivery is its prominent feature. But, even otherwise, the Bharati vrtti, related to eloquence, is of much importance in all the situations (vrttih sarvatra bharati). It is devoid of Srngara, Karuna and Nirveda (dispassion).
The Bharati-Vrtti has four varieties: Parochana (introducing the play and playwright to the spectators); Amukha or Prastavana (where the Sutradhara strikes a conversation with the Nati or Vidushaka, as a prologue to the play); Vithi (sort of monologue the Sutradhara carries on before the play proper); and, Prahasana (hilarious conversations between minor actors). All these take place, mostly, in the Purvanga, the preliminary to the play proper.]
Bharata enumerates the thirteen subdivisions of the Vithi (Vithyanga) (Natyashastra -Chapter 18.113-114). According to Bharata, the Vithi should include characters of the superior, the middling or the inferior type (Adhamo-uttama-madhyābhir-yuktā); and, it may contain any of the thirteen types of speech.
The thirteen subdivisions of the Vithi are:
- Abrupt Interpretation (udghātyaka);
- Transference (avalagita);
- Ominous Significance (avaspandita);
- Incoherent Chatter (asat-pralāpa);
- Compliment (prapañca);
- Enigma (nāli or nālikā);
- Repartee (vākkeli);
- Outvying (adhivala);
- Deception (chala);
- Declaration (vyāhāra);
- Crushing (mṛdava);
- Three Men’s Talk (trigata); and
- Undue Combination of Words (gaṇḍa).
Adhamo-uttama-madhyābhir-yuktā syātprakṛtibhistisṛbhiḥ । uddhātyakā avalagitā-avaspanditanālyasatpralāpāśca ॥ 113॥
vākkelyatha prapañco mṛdavādhibale chalaṃ trigatam । vyāhāro -gaṇḍaśca trayodaśā-aṅgānyudāhṛtā-nyasyāḥ ॥ 114॥
Thereafter, Bharata says ‘Any of these thirteen types is always to be attached to the Vīthi. I shall now speak of their characteristics in due order’
Udghatyaka: – it is when a person uses obscure terms to explain a given word; and, that leads to a meaning that was not quite intended by the speaker.
Avalagita: – It is when a different purpose is achieved (inadvertently) along with the intended one.
Avaspandita: – It is when a misinterpretation of a word, which might either be auspicious or inauspicious (Subha-asubha), leads to the exactly opposite of the true meaning of the word.
Asat-Pralapa: – It is when a learned person advises a fool, asking him to do the right thing; but, the latter (the fool) chooses to ignore the good advise.
Asat-Pralapa also happens when an irrelevant question is followed by an equally irrelevant answer.
Prapañca: – it is a way of mocking, when two persons praise and complement each other by using false but funny sounding words
Nalika: – It is an enigmatical remark that gives rise to laughter.
Vākkeli: – It is a repartee or a counter speech. It is a series of questions followed by witty replies producing comic effect,.
Adhivala: – It is when, during the course of an argument, both the parties are forced to modify or revise their statements. Thus, each tries to outdo the other.
Chala: – It is a type of deceit, when, during the course of an argument, one party tries to mislead the opponent by making worthless and nonsensical statements, in order to frustrate, ridicule and mock at him.
Vyāhāra: – it is a fearless declaration made in presence of the hero ; and , it is made to happen.
Mṛdava: – It is when one ridicules, dements and crushes the opponent by mocking at the opponent’s merits and make it look worthless and a blemish too.
Trigata: – It is a dignified discussion, with humour (Hasya) carried on by three characters. According to Dhanajaya, it is a discussion among three actors, as in the Purva-ranga (preliminary scene)
Ganda: – It is when in the heat of the situation; and due to excitement, confusion and agitation , one bursts out with disjointed statements, wrong words and hurling abuses at the opponent.
Bharata remarks, if any or most of these thirteen divisions of Vithi, are employed, in a series, it would then result in a Vithi type of Rupaka.
Abhinavagupta explains that these thirteen Angas of the Vithi are quite different from the Lakshanas and Alamkaras (embellishments, figures of speech). The Vithi, according to him, is a series of eloquent and clever statements and counter statements (Vākkeli) made with wit and alacrity. The scope of Vithi is, thus, not limited to a single utterance or to an expression of beauty. It gives rise to series of diverse varieties of skilful, imaginative, innovative statements (ukti-vaichitrya) – (Vithiyantu bahuvidha vakrokthi visesa utpadayante).
Dhananjaya observes that if a playwright, having gained the proper understanding or the essence of Natyashastra, diligently applies to his work the series of definitions of the ten forms of drama (Dasarupa) as prescribed in the Natyashastra; and, if he also studies the works of great poets, he would undoubtedly be able to produce, without effort, a literary work of great merit that is adorned with rhetorical embellishments (Alamkara), sweetness (Madhurya), clarity (Prasada), loveliness (Lavanya) and eloquence (Abhijata) , composed in leisurely paced (Manda-kranta) metres.
The description of the thirteen varieties of Vithyanga is followed by the descriptions of the ten Varieties of Lasyanga.
Bharata says, there is a form of entertainment called Lasya, which is closer to Bhana and Vithi. And, like in Bhana, it is done by one actor (Bhana iva eka-prayoga ni / Bhana-kritiva-Laasyam), displaying various aesthetic expressions (vividha-bhāvam) .
bhāṇā-kṛtiva-llāsyaṃ vijñeyaṃ tva-eka-pātra-hāryaṃ vā । prakaraṇa-vadūhya kāryā-saṃsta-vayuktaṃ vividha-bhāvam ॥ 19.118॥
Bharata again says, the Lasya is related to Srngara rasa, portraying love and other softer, graceful aspects. And, Lasya is present in Vithi, which enters into Prahasana. And, Vithi and Prahasana also enter the first of the three parts of the Samavakara. Further, all of these together with Lasya and its Angas enter into Nataka (Anyāni ca Lasya vividha-angani tu Natake prayuktani).
The emotional theme in the Lasya is a product (utpadya-vastu) of the poet’s imagination, Uhya. In that respect, it is similar to the Prakarana, a play with a created story, uhya-karya (or kavya) – Utpadya-vastu Prakarana vad uhya-karyam.
The Natyashastra does not clearly define Lasya; but, it gives a list of ten Lasyangas, the subdivisions of Lasya (as below), soon after concluding the discussing on Bhana. It also says that the Lasyangas are to be presented by a single character as in the case of a Bhana; and, not by a group of characters.
Geya-pada: – It is a joyful song sung by the heroine, for the pleasure of the hero, while she is seated. She is surrounded with stringed instruments and drums; and, yet, she prefers to sing without accompaniment of any of these. It is a simple rendering of a song, based in melody.
Sthita-pathya: – it is a sad song in Prakrit (regional language) sung by the love-stricken heroine pining for her lover, while resting (sthitha) in her seat.
Asina-pathya: – The lonely, forlorn heroine who is separated from her lover sits (Asina) alone – depressed and pondering over her situation, throwing oblique glances. And, she is not even listening to any sort of music.
Pushp-agandika: – it is a song and dance, with music, performed by a woman who is in the guise of a man, for the pleasure of her female friends
Pracchedaka: – It is dance performed by a separated woman afflicted by moonlight and overcome with passion, clinging to her lover, even though he had been unfaithful to her.
Trimudhaka: – It is when the heroine dances, naturally, to a song composed with soft and sweet sounding words, set in easy, even metre.
Saindhavaka: – As the heroine anxiously awaits her for lover , who has failed to keep his tryst, she sings ,with grief, a song in Prakrit, and dances displaying various Karanas, to the music on Veena and other instruments.
Dvimudhaka:– In it a song of the Caturasra type (chaturasra-pada) set in four kaalas (rhythm, tempo); with a proper beginning (Mukha) and elaboration (Prathi-mukha); and full of emotive feelings and expressions of love , that is sung by the heroine. She dances gracefully, in circular movements, accompanied by melodious vocal and instrumental music.
Uttamottamaka: – It is a dance full of playful and joyous movements, accompanied by exciting songs (adorned with various kinds of Ślokas) and instrumental music .
Ukta-pratyukta: It is a dance performed, as a duet, to a lyric which is composed by weaving into it interesting speeches and counter-speeches (repartee) full of flirtation, dalliance and sarcasm. The song set to playful music, sometimes, contains words of censure and mock-anger.
[Bharata had specifically mentioned ten kinds (Dasa-vidha) of Lasyanga. For that reason, Abhinavagupta recognizes only the above ten forms of Lasyanga. He did not accept the two other forms – Chitrapada and Bhavita – for, he thought that they might have been inserted into the text at a later time.
Citra-pada: It is a dance performed by lovelorn person who amuses herself / himself by looking at the portrait of her/his beloved.
Bhavika: It is a dance in which the heroine dreams about her lover and expresses diverse feelings in a rather pensive mood.]
- The Prahasana
Pakhandi–vipra-prabhrti-cetaceti-vita-kulam cestitam vesa-bhasa-bhih suddham hasya vaco-nvitarn
Kamukadi vaco vesaih sandha kancuki tapasaih vikrtam, samkiram vithya samkirnam dhurta- samkulam
It is called Prahasana, because it generates lots of laughter (Hasa). Bharata considers that humour (Hāsya) is related to erotic (Sṛṅgāra) – (Sṛṅgārāddhi bhavedd-Hāsya). He said amusement or humour (hāsya) as a Rasa is born out of the dominant mood (Sthayi-bhava) called mirth (hāsa) – (hāsyo nāma hāsa-sthāyi-bhāvātmaka). However, Abhinavagupta states that shades of humour can be brought in and experienced in any Rasa (etena sarve rasāḥ hāsye antarhitāḥ iti darśitam).
Prahasana is a farcical or comic satire, created (utpadya) by a playwright, with a view to provoke laughter. It is a burlesque, one or two-Act-skit, littered with caustic humour, flippantly deriding the so-called respectful figures in the society (who, in fact, are worthless people – Kapurusha); and, their corrupt practices. The rumours that are in circulation among the common people (Loko-pacara-yakta-varta), about the deceitful contrivances of the roguish rich and influential are brought out on the stage, without hatred or rancour. Hasya, humour or laughter is its main Rasa.
Bharata had earlier divided the Prahasana into two types: pure (Shuddha) and mixed (Samkirna). Dhananjaya made that into three subdivisions.
Dhananjaya mentions that Prahasana which is similar to Bhāṇa (tadvat) in plot (Vastu) , juncture (Samdhi), gentle dance (Lasya), and style (Vrtti) has three types: Shuddha (pure); Vikrta (modified); and, Samkirna (mixed) – tadvat prahasanam tredha; shuddha, vaikrta, samkaraih.
The Shuddha (the pure) Prahasana is that in which the leading characters are heretics, hypocrites (Pakhandi), Brahmins (Vipra), ascetics, (tapasaih) men (Dasa) and maid-servants (kancuki). It contains conversation of ascetics and gods provoking humour; but, it is devoid of obscenity and falsehood. Its language and conduct are studied and learned (Adighata). The Shuddha Prahasana is performed with appropriate costumes and language; and, is full of (anvita) comic speeches (hasya vaco-nvitarn). It is also said; when the plot focuses on the personality of only one person, whose conduct is improper, only then he should be laughed at.
‘The second is the modified Prahasana (vikrta) where the characters are of vulgar type, such as: eunuchs, prostitutes, rouges (Dhurta) and parasites (Vita). It deals essentially with the, hypocrisy, tricks, squabbling, and mean streak of every kind. The characters, their appearance and flashy costume, are uncouth, garish and loud.
The third, the mixed Prahasana (Samkirna) is similar to the Vikrta type; but, in addition, it is an admixture of elements taken from the street-play or the Vithi type of Rupaka; and, it is filled with rouges (Dhurta).
Apart from providing amusement, the hilarious Prahasana is useful, in the sense that it cautions the good folks to be on guard against the possible exploitation by the unscrupulous elements in the society.
Bharata said that Prahasana was the most popular form of Drama: sarva-loka-prahasanair abādhante hāsya-saṁśrayaiḥ – NS.36.8). It is not surprising that Prahasana, which had its origin in the pains, disgust and laughter of the common people, was a much sought-after popular form of comic relief, in an otherwise dreary existence.
Dhananjaya names six types of laughter: smile (smita); smile just about to break into gentle laughter (hasita); gentle laughter (vihasita); laughter of ridicule (upahasita); vulgar laughter (apahasita); and, excessive laughter (atihasita).
Clever, slick, and captivating eloquence (Bharati-vritti) is the very lifeblood of Prahasana; and, it is essential that the actor ensures that there is never a dull movement in his presentation. He should start off briskly; and, ingeniously employ with alacrity every element of Amukha, the opening section: catch the attention of the audience (udghātyaka), introduce the theme quickly (kathodghāta), and develop it with imagination (avalagita), if need be, by resorting to exaggeration (prayogātiśaya) and other smart and entertaining means.
In its structure, the Prahasana has two Samdhis (junctures): Mukha, the opening; and, Nirvaha, the conclusion. Its style is eloquent (Bharati Vritti); and, its predominant Rasa is Hasya (Mirth). Prahasana lends abundant scope for use of song and dance.
Sylvain Levi in the first volume of his work The Theatre of India writes: “The farce or the Prahasana, among all dramatic types, comes nearest to the popular theatre or, rather, to popular taste. In contrast to the Nataka and the Natika with their conventional setting, the Prahasana moves more freely in a natural atmosphere of joy and human imperfection.”
Bhagavadajjukam of Bodhayana (6th -7th century AD) is one of the earliest Prahasanas; and, it is often clubbed with the Mattavilasa-prahasana of the Pallava King Mahendravarman (7th century). And, both these works are mentioned in the Mamandur inscription of the Pallava ruler.
The satirical comedy Bhagavadajjukam (The saint-courtesan) hilariously pictures the confusions and absurd situations that follow when the souls of a hermit and a courtesan get interchanged. The monk and his transformation as a courtesan by the exchange of souls give enough scope for amusement as also to ridicule the hypocrisy and to puncture the vanity that shrouds the ‘high society’. The work also exposes the practices of sham mendicants; and, lampoons the degeneration of the contemporary society.
Mattavilāsa-prahasana, a parody in one Act, is built around the confusion when the drunken antics of a Kapalika, and the lives of his fiancee and of Buddhist monk get entangled in mess over a begging-bowl that went missing, of all the places, at the local liquor shop. Please click here for a detailed study of Mattavilāsa-prahasana.
In the Next Part , let us talk about the Dima, Vyayoga and Samavakara forms of the Rupakas.
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