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Concerning the Dasarupa of Dhananjaya – Part Four

Continued from Part Three

Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya

BOOK THREE

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The Third Book or the Third Chapter of the Dasarupa, in its 72 verses, deals, mainly, with the ten (Dasa) varieties of Rupakas or plays. Dhananjaya’s work derives its title from the subject-matter of this Book. Obviously, Dhananjaya considered the discussion on the ten varieties of Dramas as the cream or the ultimate purpose of his work.  Of the 65 Sections in Book Three, as many as 43 Sections are devoted to Nataka, regarded as the best and the most complete form of Drama, exemplifying the rules prescribed for such class of dramatic compositions. The other nine varieties of Drama are briefly defined (in sections 44-64), mainly, by listing the points of their divergence from the Nataka. And, their other common features are simply clubbed under a single phrase – ‘the rest, as in the case of the Nataka’ (sesham natakavat).

When one looks at the structure of the text from this angle, one will appreciate that Book Three is the main purpose of the text (Dasarupa); and, within the Book Three, the Nataka, around which the entire body of discussions revolve, is the central or the pivotal point. The concepts, the definitions and the explanations of the technical terms that occupied Book One (68verses) and Book Two (72 verses) , or discussions concerning the Avastha, Samdhi, Arthaprakrti Vrttis, Vastu and Neta etc., all seem to serve as  the background material or  the preparatory work needed to arrive at the very heart or the soul of the text , the Nataka . Thus, one could say, the Nataka is the summum bonum, in which all the values of a Dramatic composition are included or from which they are derived.

*

The impetus for the Dasarupa comes mainly  from  : Chapter 20 (Dasarupa – the enumeration and descriptions of the ten kinds of play); Chapter  21 (Sandhi or segments of the plot- itivtta);  and, Chapter  22 (Vrtti or styles of presentation) of the Natyashastra .

The Chapter Twenty of Natyashastra commences with the passage:

I shall now describe the division of plays into ten classes with their names, functions and modes of production.

These ten forms of plays are known as aka, Prakaraa, Aka (Utsṛṣṭikāka), Vyāyoga, Bhāa, Samavakāra, Vīthi, Prahasana, ima, and Īhāmga. I shall describe their characteristics in detail.

aka sa prakaraam ako vyāyoga eva ca bhāa samavakāraś ca vīthī prahasana ima 2

Ihāmgaś ca vijñeyā daśeme nāya lakae eteā lakaamaha vyākhyāsyāmya anupūrvaśa 3

 I shall describe hereafter the different methods of constructing plays.

*

The Natyashastra identifies ten major types of plays: aka, Prakaraa, Aka (Utsṛṣṭikāka), Vyāyoga, Bhāa, Samavakāra, Vīthi, Prahasana, ima, and Īhāmga.

All these ten forms of Drama (Dasadhaiva) are traditionally associated with certain modes or styles (Vrtti) of representations, which are the constituent elements of all dramatic works.  Such Vrttis are said to be of four kinds (vrttis caturdha) : Kaisiki; Sattvati; Arabhati; and, Bharati.  The Vrttis are the ways of rendering a scene; or, the acting styles and the use of language, diction that different characters adopt in a play, depending upon the nature or the Bhava that relates to the character.[ For more on Vrttis please Part Three in the series]

According to Bharata, the ten forms of Drama are classified based on the number and the types of Vrttis that are involved with it. Of the ten mentioned by him , only the two major forms – the aka and the Prakaraa – present all the variety of styles (Vrttis), for depicting different types of diverse situations. However, the other eight forms of Drama – the Bhāa, the Samavakāra, the Vīthi, the Īhāmga, the Utsṛṣṭikāka (Aka), the Vyāyoga, the ima, and the Prahasana – would not include kaiśikī-vttihī , the graceful Style.

Vīthī samavakāraśca tathehāmga eva ca utsṛṣṭikāko vyāyogo bhāa prahasana ima 8

Kaiśikīvttihīnāni rūpāyetāni kārayet ata ūrdhva pravakyāmi kāvyabandhavikalpanam 9

Bharata regards the Vrttis as the mother of all poetic works (kāvyānā mātkā vttaya), from which the ten kinds of compositions are evolved. He explains; just as the musical notes (Svara) constitute scales (Gramas) because of the Srutis coming together with their Jatis, so the varieties of plays come into existence due to combination of varied of styles (Vrttis). It is the number of Vrttis present in a play that assigns it a distinct class.

Sarveāmeva kāvyānā mātkā vttaya sm ābhyo vinista hyetaddaśarūpa prayogata

[Abhinavagupta took a dissenting view on this issue. He pointed out that though the Gramas (collection of Jaatis or melodic types), in music, might have common Svaras; yet, they differ from each other because of their internal order of arrangement (Aroha-Avaroha); the combination; and, the mutual relations of the Svaras. And, in a Jaati, within a Grama, a certain Svara might be prominent (amsa), or initial (graha) or final (nyasa), depending upon the type of the Jaati. It is because of such variations that each melodic-type gains its distinguishing character and flavour. Therefore, in all those cases, it is not the mere number of Svaras that truly matters.

In a similar manner, in a play, it is not the number of Vrttis, alone, that is significant. In certain types of plays one form of Vritti might be prominent or otherwise. The combination, the treatment and the variations of the Vrittis differs from one type of play to the other. Thus, the classification of the Rupakas is based on the treatment of the Vrttis, which might either be complete with all its angas (elements) or be lacking in some of them.]

While Bharata and Abhinavagupta laid stress on Vrtti, which, in their view, is the factor that defines the unique character of a Drama; Dhananjaya and Dhanika held Vastu (subject-matter), Neta (Hero) and Rasa (sentiment) as the elements which distinguish one form of drama from its other forms.

*

Though Bharata lists ten types of Dramas (Rupakas), which, apparently, is not exhaustive.  The other ancient writers talk about, in addition, certain minor types of dramatic works (Upa-rupaka). Perhaps, the earliest reference to Uparupaka occurs in the Kama-sutras of Vatsyayana who mentions plays Hallisaka, latyarasaka and Preksanaka of the Uparupaka type, watched by men and women of taste. Ahhinavagupta’s commentary on the Natyashastra occasionally mentions Upa-rupakas; but, without defining the class. Rajashekara calls his Prakrit play Sattaka as not being a Nataka, but resembling a Natika, excepting that pravesakas (preliminary scenes), viskambhakas (intermediary or connecting scenes) and ankas (Acts) do not occur.

[Though Natyashastra enumerates, and discusses Rupakas it does not mention minor forms like Uparupakas. Yet, it is the Uparupaka class based in music and dance movements are considered as the source of the living traditions such as Kuchipudi , Bhagavata Mela Natakas and Kuravanji dance-dramas. Such forms of Uparupakas are very attractive formats; for in them music and dance predominate. And, most of them are dances accompanied by songs, interpreting through Abhinaya or gesture, the emotional contents of the song.

Natyashastra does not mention all the different types of dramas. Kohala, another ancient writer, whose material is said to be mixed up in the present version of the Natyashastra, mentions a number of minor  varieties of dramas that are lyrical in their character; and,  in which music and dance predominate. Abhinavagupta names some drama-types under these varieties as: Dombika, Bhana, Prasthana, Sidgaka, Bhinika, Ramakrida, Hallisaka and Rasaka. But, nothing much is known about these musical varieties. ]

While Rupaka seemed to be the general term used for Sanskrit Dramas, the nomenclature Upa-rupaka indicated a minor type of dramatic composition (within the general class); technically, not satisfying all the classic, dramatic requirements, even when a full theme was handled. Vishvanatha in his Sahityadarpana lists as many as eighteen minor types (Upa-Rupaka), with examples. Among these, he regards the Natika (e.g., Sri Harsha’s Ratnavali, Priyadarsika) and Trotaka (e.g., Kalidasa’s Vikramorvasiya) as more important.

[In case, Natika is counted along with the other forms of Drama, then it would amount to eleven varieties. Bharata, however, explains that Natika is not an independent form; but, is a fusion, combining in itself (antarbhāvagatā) certain features of the Nataka and the Prakarana. And, therefore, the Rupas are only ten (ata eva daśaitāni rūpāī).

 Antarbhāvagatā hyeā bhāvayorubhayoryata ata eva daśaitāni rūpāī tyuditāni vai ॥18. 61

Dhananjaya, following Bharata, also says that the pure forms of Rupas are indeed only ten (Dasadhaiva); as Natika is but a blend of two forms. Here, in Natika, the subject (vastu) is taken from the Prakarana type.  The types of principle characters are as in the Nataka (Natahavat). The hero (Nayaka), a prince, of the illustrious Dhiralalitah class, is taken from a well-known source or is newly created; and, the innocent, beautiful and exceedingly charming (mugdha divya ca atimanohara) heroine (Nayika) is either a princess or a celestial nymph. And, the Rasa (mostly the Srngara-rasa) is also as that in the Nataka. The Natika containing an abundance of female characters is depicted in the graceful style, Kaisiki-vrtti; and, has four Acts (less than that in Nataka or Prakarana). Most of the action takes place within the Queen’s court or in the adjoining gardens – (DR.3. 46-52).

Tatra vastu prakaranan, natakan nayako nipah prakhyato dhiralalitah srngaro angi salaksanah– DR.3.47. ]

**

[According to the renowned scholar Dr. V Raghavan, the mere number of Rupaka – either ten or eleven- is not of much significance. In his view, the number ten is symbolic; indicating ten tendencies. He points out that all the ten varieties from Nataka to Ihamrga embody these ten tendencies in various degrees.]

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Of the ten, the Nataka is regarded as the best, most important and complete form of Rupa. Dhananjaya regards Nataka as the root (Prakrti) of other dramatic forms. Bharata, in his Natyashastra paid greater attention to Nataka and to Prakarana, over the rest eight ; because, these two forms, according to him, lend abundant scope for presenting  all the four varieties of styles (Vrttis); in alluring Rasas; and, for  portraying  range of characters in diverse  types of situations.

Because of these reasons, the Nataka is spoken of first (purvam natakam ucyate).

Prakrtitvad athanyesam bhuyo rasaparigrahat sampurna-laksanat vac ca purvam natakam ucyate   DR.3. 1

 Let’s, therefore, begin with Nataka.

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  1. Nataka

[ Dr. Schroder, a German scholar, opines that Natya, also known as Rupaka is of ten types; of which, the Nataka is most important. He says: In Sanskrit literature Nataka is very ancient. Even in Vedic literature we can find descriptions about Nataka. There are also references in Ramayana and Mahabharata of actors, dancers, singers and anchors. Many theories have been put up by the scholars while discussing the origin of drama.

Dr. Schroder thinks that Samvada-suktas are the origin of the Drama. He says that these Samvada-suktas used to be sung by a group of Udgatrus, in the Sama ; and,  enacted during specific Yajnas to the accompaniment of  music.

Some German scholars like Oldenburg, Windish, and Pishel think that initially these Samvada-suktas were the mixture of poetry and prose.  Poetry remained because it was interesting and melodious; while prose part slowly vanished because it was descriptive.

Drama exactly follows this form of ancient Samvada-suktas, as they are also a mixture of prose and poetry.

Bharata in the first chapter of Natyashastra mentions that in order to alleviate the sorrow of common people, Brahma created a Veda for Dramatics  (Natya-Veda) by taking prose from  Rig-Veda; music from Samaveda; acting from Yajurveda; and , emotions from Atharvaveda.]

**

Bharata, in a passage of six verses (from 19.144 to149) virtually offers his definition of Nataka. He explains that in a Drama (ya), the wide-ranging shades of human nature (lokasya nānā-avasthā-antarātmaka) with its joys and sorrows (lokasya sukha-dukha-samudbhavā) are demonstrated through a variety of representations and actions (nānā-purua-sacārā).

Those who take part in the Drama try to present the past exploits of the gods, sages and human beings (devatānām –ṛṣīnā ca rājñāṃ), by assuming their roles. The actors enact (abhinayate) or interpret, the roles assigned to them through speech, expressions, actions, gestures and other representations. While so acting on the stage, the actors try to give up or suppress their own individual identities and nature (yasmāt-svabhāva saṃ-tyajya);and, systematically, diligently assume the nature, behaviour, gestures and the emotions of the character that they are portraying (gopāga-gati-kramaiḥ). Bharata then remarks, the art of emulating the psychological, mental and physical state of a character calls for an exceptional and a truly dedicated effort. One should realize this truth.

The varieties of dramatic actions; the ways to bringing to life the essence of a character; and, the modes of presentation of actions on the stage, in an attractive manner (rūpāi kartavyāni prayoktbhiḥ), are all indeed countless (aneka-śilpa-jātāni naika-karma-kriayāi ca).

It  is essential that all those involved either in writing, producing or presenting a Drama should observe and study the ways of the common people of the world (Lokasvabhāva saprekya narāāṃ ) – their nature, their modes of behaviour (kāryaṃ) ,speech and dress ; their strengths and weaknesses (balābalam); and, their ways of enjoyment and reasoning (sabhoga caiva yuktiṃ).

Yo’ya svabhāvo lokasya nānā-avasthāntarātmaka so’gādy abhinayairyukto nāya mity-abhidhīyate 19.144

Yasmāt-svabhāva satyajya sāgopāga-gati-kramai prayujyate jñāyate ca tasmādvai nāaka smtam 19.146

Sarvabhāvai sarvarasai sarva-karma-pravttibhinānā-avasthā antaropetaaka savidhīyate 19.147

Anekaśilpajātāni naikakarmakriayāi ca tānyaśeāi rūpāi kartavyāni prayoktbhi ॥ 19.148

Lokasvabhāva saprekya narāā ca balābalam sabhoga caiva yukti ca tata kārya tu nāakam 19.149

*

Bharata, after describing Lasyangas, the graceful, fluid and charming movements; lists the four characteristics of an ideal Nataka.

He says, the playwright (kavi kuryāttu) while attempting a well constructed (suprayoga) Nataka with aptly chosen happy sounding words  (sukhāśrayam mdu-śabdā ) should ensure that it is composed of five Samdhis (pañcasandhi); four Vrttis (caturvtti); sixty-four Angas (catuḥṣaṣṭya-agasayutam); and, thirty-six Lakshanas (atriṃ-śallakaopetaṃ)adorned with Gunas, Alamkaras (guā-alakāra-abhūitam), many Rasas (mahārasaṃ); as also with topics concerning noble persons of sublime virtues (mahāpurua-sacāraṃ), exalted speeches (udātta-vacanā-nvitam) providing inspiration and great enjoyment (mahābhogam). Apart from that, the Drama should also portray the lives of common people, their happiness and miseries (sukha-dukha-samudbhavā) arising out of interactions with their fellow-beings and their multifarious deeds in the world (avasthā yā tu lokasya, nānā-purua-sacārā.)

Pañcasandhi caturvtti catuḥṣaṣṭyagasayutam atriśallakaopeta guālakārabhūitam 139

Mahārasa mahābhogam-udāttavacanānvitam mahāpuruasacāra sādhvācārajanapriyam 140

Suśliṣṭa-sandhi-sayoga suprayoga sukhāśrayammduśabdābhidhāna ca kavi kuryāttu nāakam 141

Avasthā yā tu lokasya sukha-dukha-samudbhavā nānā-purua-sacārā nāake’sau vidhīyate 142

Viswanatha in his Sâhitya-Darpana also 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 of the action (KaryaAvastha), from which arise five structural divisions or sequence of events (Samdhi) of the drama, twenty-one subdivisions (Samdhyantara), having sixty-four Samdhyanga , adorned with thirty-six Abhushanas , ninety numbers of music, and four kinds of Vrttis – all of  which corresponding 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 – Yattu pancachatuh–sastiscatuh–pancaikavisatih / sattrinsatravtisca tat-Natakam.

[To put it simply, In Sanskrit, Nataka is the most complete form of Drama. Its structure is logical. And, its construction is also quite detailed, being composed of five or more Acts, each of which comprising number of episodes depicting various scenes of action. It also employs intermediary scenes that connect its subdivisions. The Dramatic contents of a play find their expressions, through speech, gesture, songs, dance and other representations, in highly refined and attractive forms. . In its modes of depictions, the Nataka employs varied types of embellishments, sentiments, psychological states and actions. And, in case there are such matters, as are not presentable on the stage, they are suggested, indirectly, through explanatory devices.

The heroes in Nataka are generally exalted, descending from noble lineage, known far and wide, for their bravery, generosity and other good qualities. But there may also be other kinds of heroes. The heroines are beautiful; loving; pure in heart; sweet and cheerful; cultured; and, gifted with aesthetic sensibilities. The action in the play ends on an auspicious note, with the overcoming of the evil and the victory of the virtuous.  The major aim of Sanskrit Drama is to provide an unsullied and wholesome enjoyment to the spectators. And, at the same time, it is conducive to Dharma. ]

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The three broad heads under which Dhanajaya discusses the subject of Drama are: Vastu (theme), Neta (the leading characters) and Rasa (the aesthetic sentiment it portrays).  Let’s briefly take a look at each form of Drama, with particular reference to these three criteria.

Vastu

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.

Whatever might 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 interrelated divisions (Samdhi).

Yat tatra-anucitam Kim cin nayakasya rasasya va viruddham tat parityajyam anyatha va prakalpayet.

The purpose of such reshaping of the story and characters by the playwright is to achieve a harmony between the theme and its main character, in order to serve the ultimate purpose of the drama , which is to provide a delightful theatrical experience,  for  the  enjoyment  to the cultured spectators –  the   Rasa .

There should be a sense of balance in the treatment of the subject.  Neither the subject-matter should be isolated by its excessive coverage; nor, should it be cluttered or swamped with unrelated matters and needless elaborations.  

The plot should be simple, the incidents are consistent; the progression of the events should spring direct from the story.

*

The technical divisions of a drama and the development of the plot follow a set of carefully elaborated rules.

The Natyashastra mentions that there could be between five to ten Acts (Anka) in a Nataka. A regular Nataka will have five Acts. And, a Nataka with ten Acts is called Maha-nataka – (pancankam etad avaram dasankam natakam param). An interlude (Pravesaka) must always be made been the Acts.

An Act (Anka) is generally understood as a cohesive dramatization of events that occur within the course of a day.  However, the Natyashastra does not demand that these events run contiguously.  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 where the invents in the first the Act and the second Act are separated by long years. 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, there might be certain types of actions or objects that should not or cannot be presented on the stage. As per the conventions followed in the Sanskrit Drama, one should avoid showing such events as: long travel; murder; war; loss of kingdom; siege of a city; violent over throw; bloodshed; eating; taking bath; un-dressing; sex act etc.

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.

*

In a Nataka, the number of characters that really matter to the main story should not be too many. Similarly, the supplementary or the supporting characters, such as the attainders   etc., should at most be four or five.

As the play gathers momentum, in stages, its focus of attention should, progressively, be confined to characters and actions that are directly related to the main purpose of the story.  The play is structured in such a manner that it steadily moves from the general or the diffused towards the purposeful and pointed.  Its initial Acts might, comparatively, be lengthy; but, as the action moves towards the finale the Acts should get brief and pithy. . As Dhanajaya says, the Nataka, in its structure, should resemble the tip of a cow’s tail (gopuccha). All the exalted situations should be placed in the concluding segment (Nirvahana), awe-inspiring (Adbhuta), and radiating joy in celebration of Dharma – the victory of the good over the evil.

*

The concepts of tragic catharsis or tragedy are not present in the Sanskrit Drama. The Nataka, generally, starts on a happy note (Adi-mangala); and through the trials and tribulations of the hero a happy incident occurs in the middle (Madhya-mangala); and, the play concludes on an auspicious note (Antya-mangala). And, the whole proceeding comes to an end with the Bharatavakya , praying for the welfare and happiness of the King (Raja), his subjects (Praja) and the State (Rajya) ; and , for the peace and prosperity  (Shanthi , Samruddhi) of all the beings in the  three worlds (Trilokye) . 

nirvahana

Neta

The hero (Nayaka) the leading character of the Nātaka should be an ideal person, a worthy and exalted (Udatta) icon of virtue; descending from the noble lineage of royal seers. He should be  : resolute, young, endowed with intelligence, energy, memory, and wisdom; brave, firm, graceful, charming, sweet-tempered, soft-spoken, liberal, clever, affable, popular, upright, and eloquent.

Prakhyāta-vamso rājarsih-divyo-vā yatra näyakah/ tat prakhyātam vidhātavyam vrttam-atra-adhikārikam//

The Hero should be  one endowed with noble qualities of the type known as self-control, and exalted (Dhirodatta) , glorious , eager for fame, of great energy , a preserver of three Vedas (Trayi) , a ruler of the world , of renowned linage , a royal seer or a god . It is, basically, his story that forms the the principal subject (Adhikarana) of the Nataka.

mahasattvo ‘tigambhirah ksamavan avikatthanah sthiro nigudhahamkaro dhirodatto drdhavratah

The noble hero  has control over his senses; does not let emotions override his actions; maintains his composure even under dire circumstances; shelters the weak and threatened; always wishes and strives to do good to others; is also wise, well versed in Shastras and is skilled in arts.

The eight virtuous qualities of an ideal hero are: nobility of character (sobha), liveliness (vilasa), sweet-temper (madhurya), poise (gambhirya), firmness (sthairya), sense of honour or brightness (tejas), grace (lalita), and magnanimity (audarya).

 Sobha vilaso madhuryam gambhiryam sthairya tejasi lalita udaryam ity astau sattvajah paurusa gunah

sri Sita Ram

Nayika

Dhananjaya initially mentions and describes three kinds of Heroines (Nayika tridha) : the hero’s own (Sva) wife; another person’s (Anya) wife; and, the common-woman (Sadharana-stri) – sva anya sadharanastri ‘ti tadguna nayika tridha. Bharata had presented a different classification:  divya (celestial); nrpapatni (queen); kulastri (modest house-wife); and ganika (courtesan).

The Nayika of a Nataka is usually of the first type. She would the Hero’s wife (svaya) . And, she would be either be a princess of renowned royal-heritage or a celestial beauty – virtuous (mugdha), dignified (gambhira, manini), charming (manohara) of loving-nature and devoted to her husband. (Nayika tadrsi mugdha divya catimanohara)

devi tatra bhavej jyestha pragalbha nrpavamsaja/ gambhlra maninl krcchrat tadvasan netrsamgamah

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Rasa

As regards its style of narration and depiction, Nātaka should adopt either the graceful Kaušiki Vrtti associated with the Srngara Rasa (suited for display of expressions of love, dance, song as also charming costumes and delicate actions ) ; or, the  exuberant Sattvati Vrtti  associated with  heroic Vira Rasa .

Dhananjaya, in his Dasarupaka said : a Nataka should principally portray one Rasa – either the Srngara or the  Vira; and,  in the concluding part  the Adbhuta Rasa becomes prominent

Eko rasa – angi -kartavyo virah srngara eva va / angamanye rasah sarve kuryan nivahane –adbhutam

 [But, Abhinavagupta, preferred not to lay any such restrictions. Instead, he argued that a play could be a judicious mix of several Rasas, with a major Rasa that defining the tone and texture of the play. He cited Nagananda of Sri Harsha, which in its initial stages display Srngara; but , towards the end,  it is the Shantha Rasa that pervades atmosphere of  the play.  And, he explained though the play had to deal with the horrific killing of the hapless Nagas, it underplays scenes of violence; and, exemplifies the virtues of peaceful coexistence and compassion towards all beings. It is that aesthetic experience of Shanta – peace and compassion towards the fellow beings – which the spectator carries home]

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In the next part let’s talk about Prakarana and eight other forms of the Rupaka.

nayana6

Continued

In

Part Five

Sources and References

The Dasarupa a treatise on Hindu dramaturgy by George C. O. Haas, Columbia University press / 1912

 A Study of Abhinavabharati on Bharata’s Natyasastra and Avaloka on Dhananjaya’s Dasarupaka – by Manjul Gupta

Sahityadarpanah of Viswanathakavirajah

The Theory of the Samdhis and the Samdhyangas in Natya Shastra by T.G. Mainkar

Sanskrit Dramaturgy

All images are from Internet

 
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Concerning the Dasarupa of Dhananjaya – Part Three

Continued from Part Two

Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya

BOOK TWO

David Cooper Photography 2008

The Second Chapter of the Dasarupa , in its 72 verses, classifies, sub-classifies and describes, in great detail, the types of characters in a play, especially the four types of Heroes (bhedais caturdha); three Kinds of Heroines (tadguna nayika tridha) with their twenty (strinam alamkaras tu virnsatih) according to their relations with the Hero; the opponent of the hero (Pratinayaka); the companions and those devoted to the hero; messengers of the Heroine and so on.

Hero

The term Nayaka (Hero) is derived from the root Ni, meaning to carry. The concept of Nayaka or Neta comprised not merely the hero but several other characters as well that appear in the play. Unlike Dhananjaya, Bharata did not regard Nayaka as the distinguishing element on the basis of which the ten forms of the Rupaka are classified. Bharata’s approach was broader as it covered a wide range of character-types of all classes.

Sri Rama

As per the  concept presented by Dhananjaya, the hero (Neta) the leading character of the Nātaka should be an ideal person, a worthy and exalted person of virtue; of noble lineage; resolute, young, endowed with intelligence, energy, memory, and wisdom; brave, firm, graceful, charming, sweet-tempered, soft-spoken, liberal, clever, affable, popular, upright, and eloquent. It is , basically, his story that forms the main theme of the Drama.

Prakhyāta-vamso rājarsih-divyo-vā yatra näyakah/ tat prakhyātam vidhātavyam vrttam-atra-adhikārikam//

The noble hero  has control over his senses; does not let emotions override his actions; maintains his composure even under dire circumstances; shelters the weak and threatened; always wishes and strives to do good to others; is also wise, well versed in Shastras and is skilled in arts;

The eight qualities of an ideal hero are: nobility of character (sobha), liveliness (vilasa), sweet-temper (madhurya), poise (gambhirya), firmness (sthairya), sense of honour or brightness (tejas), grace (lalita), and magnanimity (audarya).

 Sobha vilaso madhuryam gambhiryam sthairya tejasi lalita udaryam ity astau sattvajah paurusa gunah

Dhananjaya mentions four kinds of heroes- bhedais caturdha lalita santo udatto -ddhatair ayam. :

(1) Dhira-lalita, the light-hearted hero, fond of arts, happy, gentle, free from stress – niscinto dhiralalitah kalasaktah sukhi mrduh;

(2) Dhira-shantha, the self-controlled and calm hero , possessed of generic merits of a hero – samanya-guna-yuktas tu dhirasanto dvijadikah;

(3) Dhirodatta, the self-controlled and exalted hero of great excellence , exceedingly earnest, forbearing, not boastful, resolute with self-assertion  suppressed, and firm of purpose-mahasattvo ‘tigambhirah ksamavan avikatthanah sthiro nigudhahamkaro dhirodatto drdhavratah; and,

(4) Dhiroddhata, the vehement hero, altogether dominated by pride and jealousy, wholly devoted to magic practices, and deceitful, self-assertive, fickle, irascible and boastful – darpa-matsarya-bhuyistho maya-chadma-parayanah dhiroddhatas tv ahamkarl calas cando vikatthanah..

In a play in which a Hero is endowed with noble qualities of the type known as self-control, and exalted (Dhirodatta) , glorious , eager for fame, of great energy , a preserver of three Vedas (Trayi) , a ruler of the world , of renowned linage , a royal seer or a god – in that , his characterization is to be made the principal subject (Adhikarana).

Sita Ram

 Heroine

Dhananjaya initially mentions and describes three kinds of Heroines (Nayika tridha) : the hero’s own (Sva) wife; another person’s (Anya) wife; and, the common-woman (Sadharana-stri). Bharata had presented a different classification: divya (celestial); nrpapatni (queen); kulastri (modest house-wife); and ganika (courtesan).

Khandita_NayikaAbhisarika-nayikaProshita-patika_Nayika

There is also an eight-fold classification of the Heroines (Ashta Nayika), depending upon their relations with the Hero:

One who loves to dominate her husband (svadhina- bhartrka or svadhina-patika);

One who loves to dress well and to adorn herself, as she joyfully waits for her lover (vasaka-sajja);

One who cannot tolerate her lover being away from her (viraha-utkanthita) and is disturbed (unmanas) when he delays meeting her;

One who gets furious (khandita) when she discovers that her lover is having an affair with another woman;

One who after a quarrel with her lover moves out (kalaha-antarita), and later upset with herself in righteous anger and remorse ;

One who feels deceived and is deeply hurt (vipralabdha) when her lover fails to show up on-time at the rendezvous agreed upon;

One who is lonely (prosita-priya) when her lover is in a distant land because of war or business;  

 And, one who, deeply in love, sets out in great hurry and anxiety to meet her lover  (abhi-sarika).

[Dhanika, further divides the eight into two classes; and, by permutation comes up with 128 varieties of heroines.]

Dhananjaya lists as many as twenty natural graces of women in the prime of youth. These are again made into three groups.

The first three are related to expressions or manifestation of love: emotions or feeling (bhava); bodily gestures (hava); and passion (hela).

The second group of seven components are related to the inherent characteristics of the heroine: graceful beauty (sobha); lustrous loveliness (kanthi); endearing sweetness (madhurya); poise and courage (pragalbhata); generosity (audarya); and steadfastness (dhairya).

The third group of ten virtues relate to her attitude and dispositions: sportive attitude (Lila); charmingly delightful (vilasa); good-taste (vicchitti); a bit of confusion (vibhrama), easily excitable (kila-kinchita); very affectionate (mottayita); pretending to be angry , in jest (kuttamita); mock-indifference (bibboka); a bit laid-back or relaxed (lalita); and, bashful (vihrta).

 [These twenty qualities are again discussed, in detail, later in the text.)

Kalamkari

The Sanskrit Drama carefully classifies and sub-classifies the Heroine into as many as sixteen types.

 heroine b-w

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Such fondness for minute sub-division of almost every element of the Drama into as many theoretically possible numbers of types as possible   is a defect in the Sanskrit dramaturgy. Such stereotyped threadbare manipulation of characters, actions, styles is rather futile.  Apart from being of no practical use, they rob the playwright of his initiative and enterprise. Every aspect of Drama is typecast and pigeonholed. It is not therefore surprising that over a period, the Sanskrit Drama lost freshness ,  became too conventional and eventually losing their appeal.

*

Supporting characters

The section on Neta, apart from the Hero and the Heroine, includes the supporting characters, such as the companions of the hero; the  maids and messengers in service of the heroine ; and , the opponents of the Hero as well. Just mention about these briefly:

The companions of the Hero, i.e., those assisting and attending (pithamarda) and devoted to him are, usually, possessed of qualities similar to that of the Hero, though in a lesser degree. In addition, there would a fun and food loving, good-natured, but a rather incompetent jester (Vidushaka); and another, a sort of parasite (Vita).

The Heroine, usually, has in her service a set of maidens, who attend on her as maid-servant (dasi), and also serve as messengers (dutyo).  The Heroine might use any of those women, as also a foster-sister (dhatreyi), a woman skilled in crafts (silpini), a neighbour (prativesika), and a female ascetic (lingini) to pass on private messages to her lover. Some of these are also her friends (sakhi), confidants and advisors – (dutyo dasi sakhi karur dhatreyi prativesika lingini silpini svam ca netr mitra gunanvitah.)

The opponent of the hero (prati-nayaka), falling under the fourth type of the Hero (Dhiroddhata) is often depicted as avariciousness, vehement, stubborn, criminal and vicious (lubdho dhiroddhatah stabdhah papakrd vyasani ripuh)

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Vrtti

Bharata had mentioned:  Vrttis or Styles are traditionally known as the constituent elements of all dramatic works (lit. poems).  It is said; the Vrttis have been so named because of the element or the action that is predominant in them.  the ten kinds of play are considered to have proceeded from these Vrittis.

sarveāmeva kāvyānā mātkā vttaya sm ābhyo vinista hyetad-daśarūpa prayogata 18.4

Another important element of the Drama that is discussed in Book  Two  of the Dasarupa is the concept of Vrtti  ( which Bharata considered as the mother of all poetic works – kāvyānā mātkā vttaya sm), the ways of rendering a scene; or , the acting styles and the use of language , diction that different characters adopt in a play, depending upon the nature or the Bhava that relates to the character. Thus, the Vrttis get related to the four types of heroes and four kinds of representations. And, since Vrttis are also related with Rasas, they set the mood or ambiance on the stage by their distinct style of dramatic representation. In other words; the Vrttis call for the excellence of the mental, physical and vocal efforts of the actors portraying their characters.

Vrttis are said to be of four kinds (vrttis caturdha): Kaisiki; Sattvati; Arabhati; and, Bharati.

The Kaisiki-vrtti (graceful style) which characterizes the tender Lasyanga associated with expressions of love, dance, song as also charming costumes and delicate actions portrayed with care, mostly by women,   is most suited to Srngara-rasa (tatra kaisiki gita-nrtya-vilasadyair mrduh srngara-cestitaih). Kaisiki has four varieties (Bhedas): Narma (good-natured small-talk); Narmaspinja (pleasure blooms at the first meeting of lovers); Narmasphota (the lovers delighting in each other company); and, Narma-garbha (covert pleasure; incognito). The prefix Narma indicates cheer or laughter.  Kaisiki is the most charming and delightful combination of Srngara and Hasya, playful expression one’s affection or longing for union with the lover.

Sattvati Vrtti (flamboyant style) is a rather gaudy style of expressing ones emotions with excessive body-movement; exuberant expressions of joy; and, underplaying mellow or sorrow moods.  It is associated with the Vira , Adbhuta and Rauidra Rasas (vire sattvaty) – arabhati punah rase raudre ca bibhatse vrttih sarvatra bharati. The Sattvati Vritti has four varieties: Uttpatha (raising up to the conflict); Sallapaka or Samlapaka (heroic and passionate words or challenge); Sanghatya (breach of alliance or that which breaches alliance

Arabhati-vrtti is a loud, rather noisy and energetic style. It is a powerful exhibition of one’s anger, valour, bordering on false-pride, by screaming, shouting, particularly, in tumultuous scenes with overwhelming tension, disturbance and violence. It is associated with Raudra (furious) and Bhibhatsa (odious) Rasas (arabhati punah rase raudre ca bibhatse). The Arabhati has four varieties: : Sanskipta ( brief, elaboration , condensed representation of the plot); Avapata ( commotion, fear, jubilation , panic, fall, puzzled behaviour, quick entrance and exit of characters); Vastu Uttahapanam ( elevation of the plot, combination of all other Vrttis); and , Sampheta ( conflict, fights, combats, betrayal, excitement ). Arabhati is also attended with feats of jugglery, conjunction and conflicting situations, where bodily actions are prominent.

And, Bharati-vrtti is mainly related to a scene where the speech or dialogue delivery is its prominent featureBut, generally, the Bharati-vrtti, related to eloquence, is of 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). Abhinavagupta suggested the terms: Kathodghata (which consists in some characters catching up with the words or intent of the Sutradhara); Pravartakam (introducing the subject), Prayogatishaya (where the director mentions the entry of a character of the drama), in place of Parochana, Amukha and Vithi. All these take place, mostly, in the Purvanga, the preliminary to the play proper.

[There is much confusion about the terms Vithi and Prahasana. They are used in different contexts carrying different meanings. The Vithi and Prahasana mentioned by Bharata as the Bhedas of Bharati Vrtti refer to the Angas of Vithi and also the two kinds of dramas.]

*

Before concluding on the Vrttis, Dhananjaya mentions : the actions that take place in a play should be an authentic portrayal of the language, the gestures, the costumes and the characteristics (Desa-bhasa-kriya-vesa-laksanah) of the people of the region, to which the plot of the play belongs. The playwright should promptly adopt such suitable details (yatha-ucityam prayojayet), as are in practice (pravrttayah) among the common people (lokad) of that region.

 Desa-bhasa-kriya-vesa-laksanah syuh pravrttayah lokad ava-vagamyaita yatha-ucityam prayojayet.

Here, Dhananjaya introduces another division among these four Vrttis. He creates two other sub-classes: Artha-vrtti and Sabda-vritti. According to Dhananjaya, the first three (Kaisiki; Sattvati; Arabhati) which deal mainly with action fall under Artha-vrtti; while, Bharati, where language and the presentation of the speech is of importance, is brought under Sabda-vritti.

But, neither Bharata nor anyone else had made such a distinction.  Many scholars opine the sub-classification made by Dhananjaya was rather needless.

According to Bharata, of the ten forms of Drama, Nātakas and Prakaranās should contain all the four Vrttis; hence, they are called Pūrna-vrtti Rūpakas (NS.17.7). And, the other eight Rūpakas should be represented without giving prominence to Kaisiki-vrtti (NS.18.8-9).They may contain one of the other three Vrttis as the prominent one, and the three others to a lesser degree.

However, Abhinavagupta had pointed out:  it is not the number of Vrttis, alone, that is important. In certain types of plays one form of Vritti might be prominent or otherwise. The combination, the treatment and the variations of the Vrittis differs from one type of play to the other. Thus, the classification of the Rupakas is based on the treatment of the Vrttis, which might either be complete with all its Angas (elements) or be lacking in some of them. Thus, the mere number of Vrttis in a play, by itself, is not very significant.

[ 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 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’.

Thus, while Bharata and Abhinavagupta stressed Vrtti as the distinguishing character of a Drama; Dhananjaya and Dhanika held Vastu (subject-matter), Neta (Hero) and Rasa (sentiment) as the elements which distinguish one form of drama (Rupaka)  from its other forms  (vastu neta rasas tesam bhedako) .

For Dhananjaya, these three were pivotal points; and, he went about constructing his work, analyzing the whole of dramaturgy around these three parameters (pradhāna, netà and rasa). Therefore, while conducting a study of each class of the Drama, he does it with reference to : (1) their subject-matter or the plot (Vastu), the main theme (adhikarika), the episodes (angam) and the incidental events (prasangika);  (2) the types of characters they portray (Neta), such as the class of the hero, heroine and other supporting roles;  (3) the structural divisions of the play , the stages in their  corresponding with the elements of the plot (avastha), the actions essential for attaining the object of the play (Arthaprakrti) ,  the  sequence of  episodes (in the development of the play (Samdhi); and, (4) the Rasa , the  principal or the  dominant  sentiment of the play.]

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Dhananjaya concludes the Second Book of Dasarupa, which covered a number of essential ingredients of the Drama, with homage to Bharata and to Lord Shiva:

Who but Bharata or the crescent-crested god Shiva would have been able to enumerate , without omission, all the varieties of action (Vrttis) , the qualities (Guna) , the utterances (Vak) , and the involuntary States (sattvabhava) that are inseparable from (a-vibhinna) the ten (four types of heroes and six types of heroines) varieties of leading character (netara-dasa-vibhinnan) ?’

Cesta-guno-dahrti sattvabhavan / asesato netara-dasa-vibhinnan / ko vaktum Iso Bharato na yo va /  yo va na devah Sasi khandamaulih //

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In the next Part, we shall talk about the ten forms of Drama which is the main theme of Dhananjaya’s work; and about Rasa as discussed in Book Three and Book Four of the Dasarupa.

Nayana4 crop

Continued

In

Part Four

Sources and References

The Dasarupa a treatise on Hindu dramaturgy by George C. O. Haas, Columbia University press / 1912

 A Study of Abhinavabharati on Bharata’s Natyasastra and Avaloka on Dhananjaya’s Dasarupaka – by Manjul Gupta

Sahityadarpanah of Viswanathakavirajah

The Theory of the Samdhis and the Samdhyangas in Natya Shastra by T.G. Mainkar

Sanskrit Dramaturgy

All images are from Internet

 
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Concerning the Dasarupa of Dhananjaya – Part Two

Continued from Part One

Dance-Drama

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.]

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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 //

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BOOK ONE

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. ]

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 Marga- Desi

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

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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.]

*

Arthaprakrti

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) .

Bīja bindu patākā ca prakarī kāryameva ca arthapraktaya 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.]

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Avastha

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-sapadyate”- (Brhu. Up. 4.4.5).

 ***

Samdhi

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 otherantaraika-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.[

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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. ]

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Itivrtta

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. 

itivtta dvidhā caiva budhastu parikalpayet ādhikarikameka syāt prāsagikam-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.]

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Numerous subdivisions

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.

 

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Continued

In

Part Three

Sources and References

The Dasarupa a treatise on Hindu dramaturgy by George C. O. Haas, Columbia University press / 1912

 A Study of Abhinavabharati on Bharata’s Natyasastra and Avaloka on Dhananjaya’s Dasarupaka – by Manjul Gupta

Sahityadarpanah of Viswanathakavirajah

The Theory of the Samdhis and the Samdhyangas in Natya Shastra by T.G. Mainkar

Sanskrit Dramaturgy

All images are from Internet

 
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Bharata’s Natya-Shastra – some reflections

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1. Natya-Shastra is a detailed compendium of technical instructions about the performing arts. It was meant as a practical manual for  production of successful theatrical performances, which included music and dance as well as acting. It was also intended as a guide to the poet and to the performer, alike. 

As Prof. Adya Rangacharya stated in his The Natyasastra: English Translation with Critical Notes

The eminence of the Natyasastra lies not merely in the fact that it was the first book on the subject on theatrical art; but that, it was the first comprehensive treatise on Dance, Drama and Music;  and , it marks  the origin of our dramatic tradition. It laid down the essentials of the Drama as a representation of the ways of the world; the nature and attitudes of the people; their ways of behaviour and manners of speech. It also provided a framework for the Drama by highlighting its essential ingredients: (1) a playwright who has vision to the grasp of things and has the capacity to articulate that in an interesting way, through speech and action; (2) the story that holds the attention of the audience; (3) a virtuoso director  who can transform a script into a dramatic performance ; (4) the set of  skilled artists with clarity of speech and endowed with talent to give form and substance to the dream of the playwright and the vision of the director;  and , not the least (5) the perceptive ,  intelligent  and   cultured spectators  who appreciate and enjoy a good  performance.

1.1. The text is in the form of elaborate dialogues between the author and a group of Munis , sages who wished to know about Natya-Veda, the knowledge of the performing arts such as dance, music and dramaThe author, in response, presents a detailed inquiry in to the various facets of drama including its nature; is origin; its theories, techniques of the theater with all its components of speech, body-language, gestures, costumes, décor and the state of mind of the performers, apart from rituals, architecture of theater etc. Written in archaic form of Sanskrit, the text consists about six thousand (5,569 – to be exact) sutras or verse-stanzas spread over thirty-six chapters. Some passages are in prose.

Because the Natyasastra has about 6,000 verses, the text is also known as Sat-sahasri. The later authors and commentators (Dhanika, Abhinavagupta and Sarada-tanaya) refer to the text as Sat-sahari; and, its author as Sat-sahasri-kara.

But, the text having 6,000 verses is said to be a condensed version of an earlier and larger text having about 12,000 verses (dwadasha_sahasri). It is said; the larger version was known as Natya- agama and the shorter as Natya-shastra.

Please click here for The Natyasatra – A treatise on Hindu Dramaturgy and Histrionics Ascribed to Bharata Muni; Translated into English by Manmohan Ghosh;  Published by Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta – 1951]

2. Though the  Natya-Shastra speaks of theater (natya), it actually encompasses all forms of art expressions. The text, 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 (1.116). The reason that theater-arts were discussed specifically is that, in the ancient Indian context, drama was considered the most comprehensive form of art-expressions. Further, at the time the Nataya Shastra was compiled, the arts of poetry, dance, music and drama; and even painting, sculpture and architecture were not viewed as separate and individualized streams of art forms. And, even the components of the Drama of the Natyashastra-times later evolved and grew apart, assuming independent identities, such as: Opera, Poetic-drama, realistic plays and so on. Apart from these, Dhananjaya elaborates on the ten forms of the Drama (Dasa-rupaka) that were mentioned by Bharata.

[Vishnudharmottara (Ca. sixth century) asserted that painting and sculpture without the knowledge of the Drama and the Dance would not have much depth; and, that Drama and Dance, in turn, do require a knowledge of music and of the songs, which again is dependent on mastery over languages – both Sanskrit and Prakrit – with a thorough understanding of the elements of prose, poetry, grammar, meter, prosody etc. It thus underlines the interdependence of the arts.]

Natyashastra presented  an integral vision of art, which blossomed in multiplicity.

All art expressions were , thus, viewed as vehicles of beauty providing both pleasure and education, through refinement of senses and sense perceptions. The object of the drama was to show men and women the proper way to live, a way in which one could live and behave, so that one might be a still better person.

“A play shows your actions and emotions. Neither gods nor demons are depicted as always good or always evil. Actually, the ways of the world as represented here are not only of the gods but also of yours. It gives you good advice; it gives you enlightenment and also entertainment. It provides peace of mind to those who afflicted with miseries, sorrow, grief or fatigue. There is no art, no knowledge, no yoga, and no action that is not found in Natya.”  (Natya-Shastra 1: 106=07; 112-16)

na tajjñānaṃ na tacchilpaṃ na sā vidyā na sā kalā । nāsau yogo na tatkarma nāṭye’smin yanna dṛśyate ॥ 116॥

[ Kalidasa remarked : ‘Drama, verily, is a feast that is greatly enjoyed by a variety of people of different tastes – Natyam bhinnaruchir janasya bahuda-apekshym samaradhanam. ]

Bharatha explains: when the nature of the world possessing pleasure and pain both is depicted by means of representations through speech, songs, gestures , music and other (such as, costume, makeup, ornaments etc ) it is called Natya. (NS 1.119)

yo’ya  svabhāvo lokasya sukha dukha samanvita som gādya abhinaya ityopeto nātyam ity abhidhīyate 119

Thus, according to Bharata, the Drama is but a reflexion or a representation of the actions of Men of various natures (Prakrti) – avastha-anikrtir natyam . That is to say; the Drama, in its various forms of art, poetry etc , strives to depict the infinite variety of human characters .

That is the reason, Bharata says, one should study the various human habits and natures (Prakrti) on which the art of Drama is based.  And, for which the world, the society we live in is the most authoritative source of knowledge (Pramana) . All those involved with the Drama should realize this truth – (NS: 25.123)

Nana-sheelah prakutyah  sheele natyam pratihitam / tasma-loka-pramane hi vigneyam natya yo krubhihi // (NS: 25.123)

Having said that; the theater was conventional; yet, imaginative; costumes and make up were stylized and symbolic; and, not what is commonly seen on the city-streets. In any case, Natyashastra requires a performer to present much more than an external representation of the character, such as correct speech, gesture etc.  His/ her stage performance will have to go far beyond technical skill, in order to be believable and accepted by the spectators.

There is, however, not much discussion about scenery; perhaps because scenery was used sparingly.

Theater had a sacred significance. Prayers and rituals were conducted and the stage was consecrated before the commencement of the play ( Purvanga) .

*

Natyashastra (6.10) provides a comprehensive framework of the Natya-veda, in a pellet form, as the harmonious combination (sagraha) of the various essential components that contribute towards the successful production of a play.

Rasā bhāvāhya abhinayā dharmī vtti pravttaya siddhi svarās tathā atodya gāna ragaśca sagraha 6.10

Bharata also mentions the five elements of the plot (artha-prakrti) of the Drama as the seed (Bija); the expansion or the intermediate point which links to the next (Bindu); the episode (Pataka); the incident in the episode (Prakari) and the dramatic outcome (Karya). These are to be used according to the main Rasa of the play and the prescriptions of the Shastra.(NS: 19.21)

Bijah Bindu Pataka cha Prakari  karyameva cha / Artha-prakrutyah pancha tatva yojya tata vidihi // (NS:19.21)

As regards the success of the play (Siddhi), it is said,  the successful production (Siddhi) of a play enacted on the stage (Ranga) with the object of arousing joy (Rasa) in the hearts of the spectators involves  various  elements of the components of  the actors’ gestures, actions (Anubhava) and speech (vachika); bringing forth (abhinaya) their intent, through the medium of  theatrical (natya-dharmi) and common (Loka-dharmi) practices; in four styles of representations (Vritti-s) in their four regional variations (pravrttis) ; with the aid of  melodious songs  accompanied by  instrumental music (svara-gana-adyota).

The assembly of spectators with different tastes and levels of appreciation should all be able to enjoy the play. Therefore, Bharata instructs that a play should be such that it caters to the interests and dispositions of varied class of men and women; the young and the old, with each class looking for its own favorite type of entertainment . And, it is upon such versatile ability that the success of a play depends. The play-production, thus, was aimed to satisfy the happy, responsive spectators and enthuse them to visit the theater more often. 

Bharata elaborates (NS.27.57-61) :

The young are keen on the portrayal of love; and, those after money relish scenes depicting acquisition of wealth. And, the ones who love adventure delight in the terrible and odious acts of battle and combats; whereas the old and pious always praise the enactment of well known tales and legends from the Puranas  (epics) lauding the virtues and good deeds ; the devout look for philosophical and religious aspects ; and, those disinterested in the mundane seek liberation (moksha) .  The common folks, the women, children and the dimwitted lap up with relish comic situations evoking laughter and fun, attractive costumes and make up.

Apart from these types, Bharata also mentions an elite class of appreciative spectators with refined tastes and deep interest in the technical aspects of production. Such connoisseurs were also aware of the theatrical traditions and conventions of performance on the stage. These were the well-informed class who cared more about the aptness of the techniques of performance, critically evaluated the merits (guna) , the defects (dosha)  and the success of the theatrical performance as a whole.

Then, there were also the artists specialized in different branches of music and dance; the scholars who relished subtle nuances in the rendering of speech and the lyrics of the songs; and, there were the accomplished courtesans who were experts in presenting alluring and  delectable performances .

All such elite class were the cream of spectators, for whose approval and appreciation the whole of theatrical group collectively and individually looked forward with great hope and fear.

The producer of the Drama had also the onus to please the patron who sponsored and financed the play –production and display.

Nānāśīlāḥ praktaya śīle nāya vinirmitam uttamā-adhama madhyānā vddha bāliśayo itām 57

Tuṣyanti taruā kāme vidagdhā samayātvite arthevarthaparā ścaiva moke cātha virāgia 58

Śūrāstu vīra raudreu niyuddhevāhaveu ca dharmā akhyāne  purāeu vddhā stuyanti nityaśa 59

Na śakyamadhamairjñātumuttamānā viceṣṭitam tattva bhāveu sarveu tuyanti satata budhā 60

Bālā mūrkhā striyaścaiva hāsyanaipathyayo sadā yastuṣṭo tuṣṭimāyāti śoke śokamupaiti ca 61

Abhinavagupta observes Drishtaphala [visible fruits] like banners (pataka) or material rewards do not indicate success of a play production. Real success is achieved when the play is performed with skilled precision, devoted faith and pure concentration. To succeed, the artist must immerse the spectator with pure joy of Rasa experience. The spectator’s concentrated absorption  appreciation and enjoyment is indeed the success.

Dhananjaya in his Dasarupaka remarks that responsive spectators, fired by enthusiasm and imagination, contribute to the success of the play in the manner of ‘children playing with clay elephants ‘. ” When children play with clay-elephants, etc., the source of their joy is their own utsaha (enthusiasm). The same is true of spectators watching  and almost sharing  the heroic deeds of  characters , say  like, Arjuna and other heroes on the stage.”…… 

Kridatam mrnrnayair yadvad balanam dviradadibhih / svotsahah svadate tadvac chrotrnam Arjunadibhih.

**

2.1. The text employs Natya as a generic term, which broadly covers drama, dance and  music. It does not treat dance as a separate category of art form. Bharata while dealing with Angikabhinaya (body-language) speaks of nrtta, pure movements that carry no meaning- as compared to Abhinaya (literally meaning that which carries the meaning forward towards the audiencei. e. gestures that convey specific meaning. Nrtta was, in fact, meant to provide beauty, grace and a certain luster to the performance. The postures of the nrtta (called karanas) were classified by Bharata as tandava and sukumara, to convey vigor and grace.

[ Nandikeshwara (perhaps prior to Bharata ?), author of Abhinaya_darpana, is believed to be the first to recognize dance as an independent art. He called it natanam; and classified it into nrtta (Pure dance), nrtya (abhinaya – expression- aspectand natya (combination of nritta and nrtya with a dramatic element to it).

Dhananjaya in his Dasarupa, while drawing a  distinction  between nrtta and nrtya , explains the term  nrtta as that which  depends on rhythm and tempo – nrttam tala-layam ashrayam (DR. 1. 9) ; and,  nrtya as  that which is dependent on emotion – Bhava-ashrayam nrtyam (DR. 1. 9).

As mentioned earlier, Nandikeshwara explained Natya as the combination of nrtta and nrtya .]

3.1. It is said that the text which we know as Natya-Shastra was based on an earlier text that was much larger. And, many views presented in Natya-Shastra are believed to be based on the works of other scholars. There are frequent references to other writers and other views; there are repetitions; there are contradictory passages; there are technical terms, which are not supported by the tradition.

[ It appears there were texts on Drama even much prior to Natyashastra. Panini (Ca.500 BCE) the great Grammarian, in his Astadhyayi (4.3.110-11), mentions two ancient Schools  –  of Krsava and Silalin – that were in existence during  his time – Parasarya Silalibhyam bhikshu nata-sutreyoh  (4.3.110); karmanda krushas shvadinihi  (4.3.111). It appears that Parasara , Silalin , karmanda and Krsava were the authors of  Bhikshu Sutras and Nata Sutras. Of these , Silalin and Krsava  were said to have prepared the Sutras (codes ) for the Nata (actors or dancers). At times, Natyashastra refers to the performers (Nata) as Sailalaka -s  . The assumption is that the Silalin-school , at one time,  might have been a prominent theatrical tradition. Some scholars opine that the Nata-sutras of Silalin (coming under the Amnaya tradition) might have influenced the preliminary part (Purvanga)  of Natyashastra , with its elements of worship (Puja).

However, in the preface to his great work Natya-shastra of Bharatamuni (Volume I, Second Edition , 1956) Pundit M. Ramakrishna Kavi mentions that  in the Natyavarga of Amara-kosha (2.10.12) there is reference to three  schools of Nata-sutra-kara : Silalin ; Krasava; and,  Bharata .

 Amarakosha

It appears that in the later times,  the former two Schools (Silali and Krasava) , which flourished earlier to Bharata , went out of existence or merged with the School of Bharata; and, nothing much has come down to us  about these older Schools. And, it is also  said, the Bharata himself was  preceded  by  Adi-Bharata, the originator and Vriddha (senior) Bharata.  And, all the actors of whatever earlier Schools, later came to be known as Bharata-s. ]

3.2. These factors lend support to the view that Natya-Shastra might have been the work of not one single author but of several authors, spread over a long period of time.

Ms. Kapila Vatsyayan, a well known scholar, however, observes that the text projects an integrated vision and   a unity of purpose. She points out many instances of reference to later chapters in the text, and says they are indicative of the coherent and well knit organic nature of the work. 

For those reasons, she concludes, Natya-Shastra might well be considered as the work of a single author or of a single tradition.

4.1. Rasa, as discussed in Natyashastra, meant aesthetic appreciation or the joy that the spectator experiences.  As Bharata says , Rasa  should be relished  as an emotional or intellectual  experience : na rasanāvyāpāra āsvādanam,api tu mānasa eva (NS.6,31) .

The yashāstra states that the goal of any art form is to invoke  such Rasa.

[Bharata explains Rasa  as an experience that can be relished – like the taste of food – Rasyate anena iti rasaha (asvadayatva), which is associated with palate (ability to distinguish between and appreciate different flavors) . Yet ; the aesthetic senses that are primarily engaged with a theatrical presentation  are only the eye and the ear. The senses of taste, touch and smell are not , generally, associated with   the type of ones experience that Bharta talks about  while witnessing a Drama. These are personal or individual experiences. But, Rasa, the aesthetic experience enjoyed by all the spectators , in a play, in common, is mainly through two senses : the eye and the ear. That , perhaps , is the reason why Bharata says that the Rasa in a play should be relished only as an emotional or intellectual experience.]

Bharata’s theory of Rasa was crafted mainly in the context of the Drama.    After naming the eight Rasas, he says ‘these are the Rasas recognized in Drama’nāṭye rasāḥ smṛtāḥ – (N.S 6.15).  In the prose-passage following the verse thirty-one of Chapter six, Bharata commences his exposition of Rasa, saying: I shall first explain Rasa; and, no sense or meaning proceeds without Rasa (Na hi rasa-adrate kaschid-arthah pravartate).

He , then  focused on the dancer’s or actor’s performance and effort to convey the   psychological  state , which the character is experiencing , to the spectator, in order to create  Rasa – the aesthetic appreciation or enjoyment of the art – in the heart and mind of the spectator.

The famous Rasa-sutra or basic “formula”, in the Nāyashāstra, for evoking Rasa, states that   the vibhāva, anubhāva, and vyabhicāri bhāvas  together produce Rasa:  tatra vibhāvā-anubhāva vyabhicāri sayogād rasa nipatti 

Bharata elaborated the process of producing  Rasa in terms of eight Sthayi Bhavas – the principle emotional state of the character expressed by the performer  with the aid of Vibhava (the cause) and Anubhava (the enactment)  ; thirty-three Vyabhicāri (Sanchari) bhāvās –  the transient emotions; and, eight  Sattivika-bhavas – the involuntary physical reactions.  Among these, the more important  ones are said to be vibhāva and anubhāva , which  invoke the Sthāyi bhāva, or the principle emotion at the moment.  Such elements employed to convey the psychological state of the character, thus, in all, amounted to forty-nine or more. 

[The Sattvika , the involuntary–reflexes ( such as being stunned, going pale , stammering, shedding tears etc.,)  were perhaps meant to introduce a realistic style of acting – suited to the situation as also to the nature, psychological state and the social standing of the character , as compared to the purely conventional style .]

It is explained; they are called Bhavas because they happen (Bhavanti); they cause or bring about (Bhavitam);  and,  are felt (bhava-vanti). Bharata explains that  Bhavas  effectively bring out the dominant sentiment of the play – that is the Sthāyibhāvā – with the aid of various Bhavas , such as words (Vachika), gestures Angika), costumes ( Aharya) and bodily reflexes (Sattva) – for the enjoyment of the good-hearted spectator (sumanasaḥ prekṣakāḥ) . Then it is called the Rasa of the scene (tasmān nāṭya rasā ity abhivyākhyātāḥ).

Nānā bhāvā abhinaya vyañjitān vāg aṅga sattopetān / Sthāyibhāvān āsvādayanti sumanasaḥ prekṣakāḥ / harṣādīṃś cā adhigacchanti tasmān nāṭya rasā ity abhivyākhyātāḥ //6.31//

In brief, Abhinaya is the art of communicating bhāva (emotion) to produce Rasa (aesthetic enjoyment). In other words, it is the Bhavas that produce Rasa; and, it is not the other way.

The Rasa theory of the yashāstra is considered one of its most important contributions, with several scholars over the centuries , until today, discussing and analyzing it extensively.

Thus, Bharata’s concept and derivation of Rasa was mainly in the context of the Drama. They all are related to concrete and tangible emotions, based upon human experiences. There is no mysticism whatsoever here. That concept  – of the enjoyment by the recipient spectator – as also his views on the Gunas and Dosha, relating to the  scripting and enacting the play , were later  enlarged , transported  and adopted into Kavya as well. In either case, the human element was never lost sight of ; and, the spectator or the avid reader remained  at the center of art-experience. 

*

Bharata, initially, names four Rasas (Srngara, Raudra, Vira and Bhibhatsa) as primary; and, the other four as being  dependent upon them .That is to say ; the primary Rasas, which represent the dominant mental states of humans, are the cause or the source for the production of the other four Rasas.

Bharata explains that Hasya (mirth) arises from Srngara (delightful) ; Karuna ( pathos) from Raudra (furious); Adbhuta (wonder or marvel ) from the Vira  ( heroic); and, Bhayanaka ( fearsome or terrible) from Bhibhatsa ( odious).

śṛṅgārāddhi bhavedd-hāsyo raudrācca karuṇo rasaḥ vīrāccaiv-ādbhuto-utpattir-bībhatsācca  bhayānakaḥ 6.39

But, effectively, the eight Rasas listed in yashāstra are well accepted. Some scholars remark that the   distinction of four basic Rasas ; and , their associate four Rasas is a mere technical detail that the spectators may not be interested in.

śṛṅgāra hāsya karuā raudra vīra bhayānakā bībhatsā adbhutasajñau cetyaṣṭau nāye rasā sm 15

Later, by the time of Abinavagupta Shanta rasa came into discussion; and, eventually was  recognized . Thus , concept of Navarasasa was accepted. ( for more on  discussion about Shantha Rasa , please click here). Later on Vatsalya , Bhakthi and such others were also named as Rasas. Thus the number of Rasas is not mere nine or eleven , it could be more. 

**

4.2.  Bharata gave a definite structure to the drama; and said every play must portray and convey a  dominant Rasa; and , each of the eight rasas providing enjoyment to the audience. A Rasa depends on the type of the story and sort of the hero. According to Dhananjaya, hero (neta), story (vastu) and rasa (artistic enjoyment) constitute the essential ingredients of a drama – Vastu neta rasas tesam bhedako .

Natya-Shastra strives with a single pointed devotion to bestow an artistic form and content to what was still then a vulgar source of entertainment. Bharata could say with pride “parents could watch a dramatic performance in company of their sons and daughters-in-law.”(Natya-Shastra24.297)

5.1. That leads us to the question who was this author? Was Bharata his name   ? Was Bharata the name of his tribe? Or, was it a clever acronym?

There are, of course, no clear answers to these questions. The author made no attempt to reveal his identity. The book, as I mentioned earlier, is in the form of dialogue between Bharata and the sages.  The author was explaining the broad parameters, the basic principles and techniques of theatrical art as they then existed. He was not expounding the text as if it were his discovery or as his personal position. He was lucidly and systematically explaining a tradition that was alive and vibrant. These factors lead us to believe that Bharata, whoever he was, might have been a practicing- well informed-leading performer of his time,  belonging to a certain tradition . Bharata perhaps   belonged to a community of artists, actors, dancers, poets, musicians who shared a common heritage and common aspirations. 

5.2. From the prologue, couched in mythological language and imagery, it appears, Bharata was also a teacher and a preceptor of a school or an academy. He had a number (100?) of sons and pupils each of them being an accomplished performer or a learned theoretician. He produced plays with their assistance; by assigning each one a specific role.

It is very unlikely there were ‘theatrical Companies’, as such . Perhaps the family of Bharatas – producers, directors  (Sutradhara) and actors, as also their disciples of various talents and ranks, managed the theater as a group, under the leadership of the senior Bharata being in charge. It does, also, appear that the actors of various ranks of importance, dancers, musicians, assistants and minor functionaries did receive a systematic training in their  craft.

Such a troupe leader (Bharata) might also have been the one who assigned roles in a play; and, taught the rules of  the art/craft to the actors and actresses. His chief function seems to have been mostly supervisory. He might also have been involved in the design and structure of the theater hall (Natya-shala)

Thus, the Bharata, whoever he might be, should have been one capable of performing all those diverse and difficult tasks, with a sense of responsibility and commitment. Besides, he should have been one  who was sensitive to human frailty; and, also conversant with the language  customs  and nature of people of different classes and regions,

The term Bharata perhaps initially referred to  such a multi-talented virtuoso; and also, a producer / director of plays. The author of the Natya-Shastra was perhaps one such “Bharata”.

5.3. Incidentally, the text – in its chapter 35 – Bhumika vikalpa – provides a sort of elaborate explanation of the term Bharata, as : one who conducts as the responsible leader of a performance – as producer , director and stage manager  – who is required to be an expert not only in acting but  also in all those arts which together constitute a performance – by acting in many roles, by playing many instruments and by providing many accessories – is called Bharata – (Natya-Shastra 35: 63-68, 69-71).

[ In this connection, I shall speak of the qualities of a Director. An enumeration of his qualities will constitute these characteristics; they are: First of all, he should possess knowledge of characteristics of everything concerning the theater, desirable refinement of speech, knowledge about the Tala, rules for timing of songs, and of the theory relating to musical notes and to the playing of musical instruments.

63-68. One who is an expert in playing the four kinds of musical instrument, well-trained in rites prescribed in the Sastras, conversant witli the practices of different religious sects and with polity and the science of wealth, expert in the manners of courtezans (kama-shastra), and in poetics(kavya-shastra) , knows the various conventional Gaits  and movements (gati-prakara), throughly appreciates all the States (bhava) and the Sentiments (rasa), is an expert in producing plays, acquainted with various arts and crafts, conversant with the rules of prosody and the metrical feet (chhandas shastra), and is clever in studying the different Sastras, acquainted with the science of stars and planets and with the working of the human body, knows the extent and customs of the earth, its continents and divisions, mountains and people, and the descendants of different royal lines (prasutivit) , is fit to attend to the Sastras relating to his works, capable of understanding them and of giving instruction [on the subjects]; should be made a teacher {acharya) and a Director (Sutradhara)

69-71. Now listen to me speaking about the natural qualities of a Director. He should be possessed of memory , intelligence and judgement; should be patient, liberal, firm in his words, poetical, free from any -disease, sweet [in his manners], forbearing, self-possessed, sweet-tongued, free from anger, truthful, impartial, honest, resourceful (pratimanta) and free from greed for praise.

– The Natyashastra –  translation by Manmohan Ghosh – 1950 – (page 546) – Chapter 35. Bhumika vikalpa – Verses 63 to 71 ]

5.4. The author of the Natya-Shastra is also often addressed, in later times, as Bharata­muni. Shri Adya Rangacharya, a noted scholar, remarks.  “The usual trappings of a muni (sage) are nowhere mentioned”. On the other hand, his sons misused their knowledge and   ridiculed the sages (ṛṣīṇāṃ vyaṅgya-karaṇaṃ); and the enraged sages promptly cursed them “as due to pride  ( madonmattā ) in your knowledge you have taken to arrogance (a-vinayam) ; your corrupt-knowledge (ku-jnana) will be destroyed (nāśameṣyati )” — (Natya-Shastra 36: 32 – 38).

yasmājjñāna-madonmattā na vetthā vinayāśritāḥ । tasmād etaddhi bhavatāṃ kujñānaṃ nāśameṣyati ॥ 38॥

5.5. Bharata recounting this sad episode, cautions the community of artists not to overreach themselves, in arrogance, just because the art had bestowed upon them a special position in the society . The art that empowered them, he counsels, derives its strength from the society; and, the artists, therefore, have a special responsibility to cultivate discipline, self-restraint and humility (Natya-Shastra 36: 29 – 38).

5.6. Bharata refers, repeatedly, to the power that creative art is capable of wielding; and to the responses – both subtle and intense – they can evoke in the hearts of men and women. He asks his sons and disciples not to destroy drama which has its origins in the hoary past of the Vedas and their upangas (supplementary texts). He implores them to preserve the dramatic art by teaching it to their disciples ( siṣyebhyaśca tadanyebhyaḥ ); and to spread the art by practicing it (prayacchāmaḥ  prayogataḥ ).

jānīdhvaṃ tattathā nāṭyaṃ brahmaṇā sampravartitam । śiṣyebhyaśca tadanyebhyaḥ prayacchāmaḥ  prayogataḥ ॥ 36.49

mā vai praṇaśyatāmetan nāṭyaṃ duḥkha-pravartitam । mahāśrayaṃ mahāpuṇyaṃ vedāṅgo-upāṅga -sambhavam ॥ 36.50

5.7. [The attempt to explain Bharata as an acronym for three syllables Bha (bhava), Ra (raga) and Ta (tala) , somehow, does  not seem convincing at all.  At the time Natya-Shastra was composed, music was discussed in terms of pada (words), svara (notes) and tala (rhythm) forming components of a certain style of music called gandharva said to have been derived from Sama. Bharata talks about structured and unstructured music: bhaddha (structured like a verse or a stanza; and with rhythm) and anibhaddha (unstructured – without rhythm, analogues to the present-day aalap). The term raga did not come to prominence  until Matanga (about sixth century), in his Brihaddesi, elucidated the categories of muchchhanas and jatis; and introduced the term raga and outlined its concept.]

5.8. Thus, the author of the Natya-Shastra, whoever he might be, comes across as a multi-talented virtuoso, a person of great learning, culture and rooted in good tradition (sampradaya, parampara). He was well grounded not merely in Vedic learning and its ethos, but also in kavya (literature) , fine arts, Ayurveda (medicine), jyothisha  (astrology), ganitha (mathematics), vastu-shilpa (architecture) and  hathayoga. His understanding of the human anatomy- particularly the motor and sensory systems and the joints; the relation between the physical stimulus and psychic response; as also the relation between psychic states and expressions through physical movements  were truly remarkable.

6.1. As regards its date, it is not clear when the Natya-Shastra was initially articulated. There are, of course, a host of debates concerning the date of composition of the text. I however tend to go along with the argument that Natya-Shastra was a post Upanishad text; but it was prior to the age of the Puranas; and certainly much earlier to the age of classic Sanskrit drama. The following, briefly, are some of the reasons:

*. Natya-Shastra describes itself as Natyaveda, the fifth Veda that would be accessible to all the four castes (1:12). It claims that the text imbibes in itself the articulated- spoken word (paatya) from Rig-Veda ; the ritual and the body-language (abhinaya) from Yajur Veda; musical sound , the sung-note, from Sama Veda; and Sattvika (understanding of the relation between mind and body-expressions) – for conveying various bhavas through expressions exuding grace and charm – from Atharva Veda . (Natya-Shastra – 1:17-19)

jagrāha pāṭhyamṛgvedātsāmabhyo gītameva ca । yajurvedādabhinayān rasānātharvaṇādapi ॥ 17॥

vedopavedaiḥ sambaddho nāṭyavedo mahātmanā । evaṃ bhagavatā sṛṣṭo brahmaṇā sarvavedinā ॥ 18॥

utpādya nāṭyavedaṃ tu brahmovāca sureśvaram । itihāso mayā sṛṣṭaḥ sa sureṣu niyujyatām ॥ 19॥

*. The text is permeated with the Vedic symbolism and the imagery. The theatrical production is compared to yajna; with the stage being the vedika,   the altar. The dramatic spectacle, just as yajna, is said to have a moral and ethical purpose.

The text might have, therefore, arisen at a time when the Vedas were not a remote theoretical fountain head, but a living-immediate experience. 

*. The text strongly recommends that puja, worship, be offered to the stage before commencement of the show. It however recognizes puja as distinct from yajna. There is, however, no reference to “image” worship.

*. The gods revered and worshiped in the text are the Vedic gods; and not the gods celebrated in the puranas. For instance, Natya-Shastra begins with a salutation to Pitamaha (Brahma) and Maheshwara. There is no specific reference to Shiva. There is no mention of Nataraja even while discussing karanas and angaharas. Ganesha and the avataras of Vishnu are conspicuously absent. There are no references either to Krishna or to the celestial raasa dance. 

*.The gifts showered by the gods on successful performance of the play are similar to the gifts received by the performer at the conclusion of the yajna.

“Indra (Sakra) gave his auspicious banner (dhwaja) , then Brahma a kutilaka ( a crooked stick) and Varuna a golden pitcher (bhringara) , Surya an umbrella, Shiva success (siddhi) and Vayu a fan , Vishnu a throne (simhasana), Kubera a crown  and Saraswathi –visibility and audibility.” (Natya-Shastra-1.60-61)

brahmā kuṭilakaṃ caiva bhṛṅgāraṃ varuṇaḥ śubham । sūryaśchatraṃ śivassiddhiṃ vāyurvyajanameva ca ॥ 60॥

viṣṇuḥ siṃhāsanaṃ caiva kubero mukuṭaṃ tathā । śrāvyatvaṃ prekṣaṇīyasya dadau devī sarasvatī ॥ 61॥

*. It therefore appears; during the time Natya-Shastra was compiled the prominent gods were the Vedic gods such as Indra, Varuna and Vayu; and not the gods of the Puranas that came in to prominence centuries later.

*.The mention of the Buddhist bhiksus and Jain samanas indicate that Natya-Shastra was post –Buddha and Mahavira.

*. Natya-Shastra employs a form of Prakrit, which predates the great poet Ashvaghosha’s play (first century).

For these reasons, the scholars generally agree that Natya-Shastra might have been composed sometime between second century BCE and second century AD, but not later.

indian_aesthetic

7. 1.The questions whether or not the Natya-Shastra was compiled in a particular year by a particular person are not  very important. Whatever are the answers to those questions, the importance of the work would not be diminished nor its wisdom distracted. What is of great importance is that Natya-Shastra has provided a sustainable foundation and framework for development of theory and practice of arts in India. Just as Panini standardized the classical form of Sanskrit, Bharata standardized the classical form of drama. He gave it status and dignity; a form and an objective; a vision and finally a technique.

7.2. Bharata ensured that drama and dramatic performance is first a work of art before it is literature – drsya kavya a form of literature that could be seen and heard.

7.3. His brilliant intuition and intellect has inspired generations of artists over several centuries. It is immaterial whether or not Bharata was an individual or when he lived.

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8.1. It could be said that the Natya-shastra is broadly modeled into four sections, based on Abhinaya or modes of conveying theatrical expressions which bring pleasure, pure delight (Rasa) to the cultured spectators (sahrudaya). Such Abhinaya-s are: Sattvika (conveyed through expressions which delight the mind); Angika (natural and appropriate movements of body, limbs and face); Vachika (delivery through speech and songs); and Aharya (costume, decoration, make-up and such others to heighten the beauty or the effectiveness of the dramatic presentation).

natyashastra-4-638

The author of the Natya-shastra seems to have assigned greater importance to Sattvika elements, the expressions of which are conveyed through the aid of movements, gestures (Angika) and speech (Vachika).

8.2. The Sattvika aspects are dealt in Chapters 6 and 7; followed by Angika in Chapters 8 to 13; and, Vachika in Chapters 14 to 20.  The Aharya which deals with costume, scenic presentation, movement on the stage along with music from the wings etc follow in the later Chapters.

The four-fold core Chapters are supported by information and descriptions about the origin and greatness of the theatrics; different forms of the stage and the norms for construction; qualifications and desirable modes of behavior of the actors; and the rituals and prayers before and after the play etc.

Thus, the core of the theatrical art and science is dealt in 29 Chapters  – from 6 to 34.

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9.1.  A question that is often asked is: why were the ancient Indian scholars and seers reluctant to disclose, in their works, details of themselves and of their times? Did they lack a sense of history? 

There is, of course, an array of explanations, in answer to that.

But, I think it had a lot to do with the way the ancients defined their relation to a school of thought, and the position, they thought, their text occupied in the tradition of that school. They always viewed themselves as a part of an ongoing tradition – parampara. Invariably, even the best known of our thinkers (say, the Buddha, Badarayana or Shankara) did not claim that they propounded an absolutely new idea that was totally unknown hitherto. They always said, they were interpreting or elucidating the truth in the light of eternal pristine principles.  They did not lay claim to novelty or uniqueness. They placed their work in relation to the larger and broader river or stream of the tradition. Within that tradition, individual styles, innovative ideas or enterprising leaps of thought were surely discerned; but they were always placed and viewed in context of the overall ongoing tradition.

9.2. As regards Natya-Shastra, as Kapila Vatsyayan  summed up beautifully:

“ it was analogous to the Gomukh demarcating the glaciers above and the rivers which flow with streams of the Alakananda and the Mandakini , the Bhagirathi and others with their manifold confluences and some divergences , but all of which we recognize as the Ganga. The analogy of streams, confluences (prayaga) and the continuous flowing and yet unchanging nature of the river is the closest approximation in which the parampara of the Natya-Shastra, the text and dramatics of inflow confluences, outflow and ultimate inflows in to the ocean, can be explained.”

9.3. The individual biological identity in terms of the physical events of the birth and the personal life of the author did not, therefore, seem to be a psychical concern. Individual effort and contribution in furthering a school of thought was, no doubt, important; but it was viewed as an integral part of the dynamics of the flow and course of the river called parampara, characterized with its nature of continuity and change.

The attitude signified being alive to a sense of tradition rather than lack of a sense of history.

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1 0. Why  was the text called a Shastra?

The term Shastra does not always carry connotations of ritual or religion. Nor does it always mean classical, as in shastriya sangeeth

The Sanskrit- English dictionary of Sir Monier-Williams describes the term as an order, a command, a rule, teaching, and instruction manual relating to religious precepts. But,  Shastra, in fact, means much more than that.

10.1.In the Indian context , Shastra is a very extensive term that takes in almost all human activities – right from cooking to horse and elephant breeding; love making to social conduct; economics to waging wars; justice system to thievery ; and of course all the arts- from archery to poetry. There  is a  Shastra – a way of doing and rationalizing — for almost everything. A Shastra binds together the theory that provides a framework for rationalizing the practice; and the practice that illustrates the theory. Shastra is, at once, the theory of practice and practice of a theory- enriching each other.

10.2. The author of Natya-Shastra prefers tocall it a prayoga Shastra – a framework of principles of praxis or practice. Bharata makes a significant opening statement: “I am creating a theory and text of performance; of practice and experimentation” . He also underlines the fact that the efficacy of its formulation lies in practice (prayoga).

10.3. There is a certain flexibility built in to the structure of the text. It provides for varied interpretations and readings. The author himself encourages innovations and experimentations in production and presentation of plays. He even permits modification of his injunctions; and states the rules “can be changed according to the needs of time (kaala) and place (desha)” . The text accordingly makes room for fluidity of interpretation and multiple ways of understanding it. The intellectual freedom that Bharata provided to his readers/listeners ensured both continuity and change in Indian arts over the centuries.

tree of life

11. 1.Natya-Shastra,throughout, talks in the metaphor of the seed (bija) and the tree. It talks of the organic inter-relatedness of the parts and the whole; each branch of the text being distinct and yet inspired by the unitary source. Introduction of the core theme is the seed (bija) and its outer manifestation is like a drop of liquid or a point (bindu) that spreads and enlarges (vistara) to fill the structured space. That denotes both the process and the structure.

11.2. Bharata also explains the relationship between the structure of the drama, its plot, bhava and rasa through the imagery of a tree. The text grows like a tree and gives out shoots like the proverbial Asvattha tree.” Just as a tree grows from a seed and flowers and fruits… So the emotional experiences (rasa) are the source (root) of all the modes of expressions (bhava). The Bhavas, in turn, are transformed to rasa.”(Natya-Shastra: 6-38)

yathā bījād bhaved vṛkṣo vṛkṣāt puṣpaṃ phalaṃ yathā । tathā mūlaṃ rasāḥ sarve tebhyo bhāvā vyavasthitāḥ ॥ 38॥

11.3. This idea of multiplicity springing out of a unity is derived from the worldview nourished by the ancient Indians. Bhartrhari (Vakyapadiya) , for instance, observes  that diversity essentially pre-supposes an underlying unity (abedha-purvaka hi bhedah).  In other words, he says, where there is difference or division there must be a fundamental identity underneath it ; else, each cannot relate to the other; and , each object in the world would be independent of , or unconnected to  every other thing in existence.

Such holistic view  treats the world as a living organism, a whole with each part interrelated and inter dependent. The expanding universe is viewed as a process of sprouting from the primordial source (bija), blooming, decaying and withering away, at some time; but only to revive and burst forth with renewed vigor. The seed (Bija) is the source / origin of the tree; and, Bija is also its end product. The relationship between the universe and the human; between nature and man, too, has to be understood within the cyclical framework of the Bija- and -the tree concept.

Bharata seems to suggest that theater is an organism, just as life is an organism that re-invents itself.


flower2

12 . Let me end this in the way Bharata concluded his Natya-Shastra:

He who hears the reading of this Shastra , which is auspicious, sportful, originating from the mouth of Brahman , very holy , pure good, destructive of sins; and he who puts in to practice and witnesses carefully the performance of drama will attain  the same blessed goal which masters of Vedic knowledge and performers of yajna – attain.” (Natya-Shastra-37:26-28 )

ya idaṃ śruṇuyān nityaṃ proktaṃ cedaṃ svayambhuvā । kuryāt prayogaṃ yaścaivamathavā’dhītavān naraḥ 26

 yā gatirvedaviduṣāṃ yā gatiryajñakāriṇām । yā gatirdānaśīlānāṃ tāṃ gatiṃ prāpnuyāddhi saḥ 27

 dānadharmeṣu sarveṣu kīrtyate tu mahat phalam । prekṣaṇīyapradānaṃ hi sarvadāneṣu śasyate 28

 [ http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_z_misc_major_works/natya37.html?lang=iast]

golden-bodhi-tree-symbol-thai-style-isolate-background-vector-illustration-54289542

Please also read Abhinavabharati – an interpretation of Bharata’s Natya-Shastra

 

Sources and references

Bharatamuniya Natya-Shastra by prof.SKR Rao

Bharata: The Natya-Shastra by Kapila Vatsyayan

Introduction to Bharata’s Natya-Shastra by Adya  Rangacharya

An introduction to natya shastra – gesture in aesthetic arts  by  M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.

Translation of the Natya-Shastra verses from the Natya-Shastra by Man Mohan Ghosh

http://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_z_misc_major_works/natya36.html?lang=iast

Images are from Internet

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Abhinavagupta, Music, Natya, Sanskrit

 

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