More interesting titbits about Natyasastra of Bharata (Post No.9878)

same woman SANTHA BASKAR danced after 50 years


Post No. 9878

Date uploaded in London –21 JULY   2021           

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Dhananjaya’s  Dasarupaka

Almost thousand years ago, a writer called Dhananjaya wrote a treatise called Dasarupaka (ten forms of plays). He said,

“It was Brahma who extracted from the four Vedas their essence and created the Natyaveda out of it. It was sage Bharata who put it in to practice; and it was Siva and his consort Parvati who (respectively) contributed the Tandava and Lasya dances. Against this galaxy of authors who else dare explain dramatics? I am contributing my little mite to reveal the excellence of the work”.


The original work, the text says in its first chapter, was composed by Lord Brahma for the celestial immortals ruled by Indra . In the last chapter, it is said that for the terrestrial world, it was recomposed or edited by Konami, Vvastysa, Sandilya and Dattila, who are mentioned both as the sons and disciples of Bharata.

But dramaturgy was studied even before Panini of eighth century BCE. Panini refers to Nata Sutras— aphoristic guide for the Natas — by two persons Silalin and Krsasva.


Meaning of Words not known

We come to know that several hands tried to update the book. It resulted in contradictory, repetitive and incongruent final text. There are words and passages impossible to understand. Even an erudite scholar like Abhinavagupta gives several meanings to a word. For instance meaning of Mattavarani is not known. The gods of eight quarters are placed on eight places to protect the theatre; in the Mattavarani, , Indra, the master or the patron of the show, is seated. Mattavarani means intoxicated elephant. Is it a special seat like Royal box?. Correct meaning is not known. Similarly Dwibhumi— two grounds— in connection with the theatre, where Abhinavagupta is on an imagination spree.

Another example, where confusion and contradiction exist is the description of three kinds of theatre houses.

In the first chapter, the book begins with the origin of drama and narrates how and why Bharata produced the first play. The sixth chapter begins with the sages asking Bharata five questions . Here he used the word Sutra and summarised the first five chapters. This lead to the conclusion that the first five chapters are added later. And originally it was in ‘Sutra’ form and authors like Kohala produced it in the present ‘sloka’ form.

Originally the open field was used as the auditorium; in the course of time a Dwibhumi was thought of. That is the auditorium was in two levels. Later a building with four walls came. And each change was incorporated in the book.

My comments

All these apparent contradictions can be resolved if we understand that it was updated according to the development of stage and acting. Whatever we don’t understand belong to the oldest stratum.

The text underwent changes may be seen from another circumstance. In one instance the death of a hero is prohibited on the stage. But the dramatist Bhasa has his hero dead on the stage. ‘Goes to heaven’,says the stage direction. Does it mean it was written before Bhasa? Role of sthapaka is also different in both.

Characters in a play should not be many says Bharata.

But in Bhasa’ s plays we see many characters. Even critics have called Bhasa’s plays ‘bahu bhumika’, having many characters.

There are many more remarks which would date NS to a later period.

My view is that it shows updating. While updating any book Hindus don’t dare to touch the previous writers. We see such contractions even in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Like Mahabharata

Like Mahabharata which encompassed all earlier stories and philosophies, NS too boasts that

“What is found here may be found elsewhere, but what is not here cannot be found anywhere”.

Playwrights continued the use of Bharata’s Sanskrit and Prakrit. Bharata himself said that dress and speech conform to the regional usage of the spectators .

Since foreigners were not well versed in our customs, and then they had falsely believed that Greeks were far superior in all aspects, they drew wrong conclusions. The only help they did was translating all the Sanskrit works into English .

They had no intimate knowledge of our tradition.

Crimes came before the Penal code,

Language came before grammar and

Drama came into existence before the NS


Drama in the Rig Veda

RV 6-29-3

“Your devotees embrace your feet for glory.

Bold, thunder armed, rich through your strength in rewarding.

Robed in a garment fair as heaven to look on,

You have displayed you like an active dancer.”

Active dancer in the fourth line is translated into Tamil as actor by Jambunathan.

In the days of Rig Veda only dance drama existed. So actor and dancer is acceptable.

शरिये ते पादा दुव आ मिमिक्षुर्ध्र्ष्णुर्वज्री शवसा दक्षिणावान |
वसानो अत्कं सुरभिं दर्शे कं सवर्ण नर्तविषिरो बभूथ ||

śriye te pādā duva ā mimikṣurdhṛṣṇurvajrī śavasā dakṣiṇāvān |
vasāno atkaṃ surabhiṃ dṛśe kaṃ svarṇa nṛtaviṣiro babhūtha ||Rigveda 6-29-3

tags – dance, titbits, Rig Veda, 6-29-3

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