Drama, Puppet Show, Folk Theatre in Tamil and Sanskrit Literature (Post No.3608)

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Research article written by London swaminathan

 

Date: 5 FEBRUARY 2017

 

Time uploaded in London:-  15-52

 

Post No. 3608

 

 

Pictures are taken from different sources; thanks.

 

 

contact; swami_48@yahoo.com

 

Literary references in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature show that the people of India had wonderful entertainment for at least 3000 years continuously. We have references to drama, folk theatre and puppet show from Bhagavad Gita to Tamil saint Manikkavasagar’s Tiruvasagam. Though Bharata’s Natyasastra is about dance and drama, it is interesting to see similes of dance and drama from the olden days.

 

Following are the references: –

iisvarah sarvabhuutaanaam hrddase’rjuna tisthati

bhraamayan  sarvabhuutaani yantraaruudhaani maayayaa _Bhagavad Gita 18-61)

Arjuna, God abides in the hearts of all creatures, causing them to revolve according to their karma by His illusive power as if they were mounted on a machine.

 

I think this is a reference to Puppet show. Puppeteers mount the puppets on a wheel or a circular disc and show them dance. In Indian puppet show the operator sits behind a white curtain on which the shadow of the puppets are projected from behind the screen.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa used to say Ami Yantram and You are Yantri (I am a machine, You (god) are the operator.

 

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Adi Sankara in his Viveka Chudamani, says

yatsatyabhutam nijarupamadhyam

chiddhayanandamaruupamakriyam

tadetya mithyaavapurutsrujeta

sailuushavadveshamupssttamaatmanah (292)

 

That which is real and one’s own primeval Essence, that Knowledge and Bliss Absolute, the One without a second, which is beyond form and activity – attaining That, one should cease to identify with one’s false bodies like an actor giving up his assumed mask.

 

When the actor has played his part, he is simply a man. So the man of realization is one with Brahman, his real Essence.

false bodies: The gross, subtle and casual bodies, which are super impositions upon the Atman.

(Translation of Vevekachudamani by Swami Madhvananda, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta)

 

Sangam Tamil Literature

In Purananuru verse 29, Mudukannan Sattanar says, “Oh King, our life is like dance drama where the actors come and dance and go. (The life is so impermanent)”

 

Tiruvalluvar, author of the Tamil Veda Tirukkural refers to the drama in three couplets:-

 

“Fortune coming to one and its departure are likened to the assembling of a crowd to witness a drama and its dispersal respectively” (332)

 

“The men who do not possess sensitiveness to shame in their hearts are like the wooden dolls operated by strings (puppets)” (`1020)

 

“The great cool world will be  moving like a lifeless puppet show if none asks for help” (1058)

In later Tamil and Sanskrit literature, we have lots of similes for puppets shows.

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Manikkavasagar’s Tiruvasagam

Tamil saint Manikkavasagar who lived 1500 years ago also used the Sanskrit word Nataka (drama) in three places:

In the Tirusatakam song of Tiruvasagam, he refers to drama in three places (verses 11, 15 and 99)

In verse 11, he sings about the dance of Siva n the crematorium with the ghosts.

 

Amidst your devotees, I acted like one of them

to gain entrance (to get leberated) –15

 

and in 99

Thou Whom the lords of heaven themselves know not!

Thy source and end the Vedas cannot trae!

Thou Whom in every land men fail to know

As Thou hast sweetly made me Thine hast called

This flesh to dance on stage of earth

me to enjoy Thyself with melting soul

in mystic drama , too, hast caused to move

pining on earth, Thou Lord of Magic power.

 

Of virtue void, of penitential grace

devoid, undisciplined, untaught

As leathern puppet danced about, giddy,

I whirling fell, lay prostrate there!

-643

(Souce: The Tiruvacagam by Rev. G U pope, Oxford, 1900)

 

Dhammapada

Buddha says in Dhammapada (147), “Consider this body! A painter puppet with jointed limbs, sometimes suffering and covered with ulcers,full of imaginings, never permanent, forever changing.(147)

 

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Last but not the least is Shakespeare whose quotation on world as a drama theatre has become a very popular quote:-

 

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

–As You Like It

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Conclusion

Drama and Puppet show were so popular that even Krishna and Buddha used them as similes.

Every town had a drama or puppet show on Hindu religious them during the local temple festival. It continued until recent days.

Most of the drama quotations are from religious sources which show the nature of the puppet shows and dramas.

Even before Shakespeare made this theme popular, Hindus used it to show the instability and impermanence of life and its pleasures.

World is a drama theatre and we all players!

 

–Subham–

 

 

 

 

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