Ten Kinds of Plays in Bharata’s Natyasastra (Post No.9931)


Post No. 9931

Date uploaded in London – 3 AUGUST  2021     

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Chapter 20 of Bharata’s Natyasastra says that there are ten kinds of plays.

(Following is only a summary of the chapter in Natyasastra).

“Just as the musical notes/Svaras constitute scales, so different Vrttis constitute different plays.

Just as the Sadja and Madhyama include all the notes, so Nataka and Prakarana include all the Vrttis.


That which has as its theme a well known story, a well known hero of exalted nature which concerns the story of a royal sage and his family. In a Nataka there is the story of kings, various Rasas/ emotions.



Prakarana is that in which the story, construction and the hero are the original creations of the author. It should have not less than five and not more than ten acts



In Samavakaara, the story deals with Gods and Asuras. In its three acts, there are three kinds of deceits, three calamities and three types of Srngara (love).

It should have 12 important characters.



In iihamrga, the characters are divine; the theme is war on account of a divine woman . It is her anger to be developed. Many of the male characters must be bold.



The Dima must have a well known story. It should have well known and dignified heroes and sixteen of them. It should have six Rasas except Srngara and Hasya.



It should be constructed around a well known hero, with few female characters and events of one day’s duration. The hero must not be a divine person, but a royal sage.



It is also called Utsrstikanka.

Here the hero may be well known. Sometimes it may be otherwise. It should have Karuna/ compassion as the predominant Rasa/ emotion.



Prahaasana (Parikaasam in Tamil) is of two kinds Pure /Suddha and Sankirna/mixed.

The pure Prahaasana is a satire on Gurus, ascetics,Buddhist monks,learned Brahmins etc., by ridiculing them. Comic dialogue is in every day language.

The Mixed type is one in which courtesans, menial servants, eunuchs, rogues, the gallants appear in immodest dress and make open (obscene??) gestures.

My comments

Great Pallava Emperor Mahendra Varman wrote the famous comedy ‘Matta vilasa prahasana’ in Sanskrit. It is a good example for this type of drama.

Rigveda has got sixteen dialogue poems , some with obscene gestures. They may come under Sankirna / Mixed type.

Bhasa’s 13 plays, Kalidasa’s three plays and plays of Sudraka, Visakadatta, Madhavi’s 11 types of dances in Tamil epic Silappdikaram may be good examples for all the ten types of plays.


Bhana is to be acted by one person.

Either it refers to one’s own experience or  acts of some other person. There are two varieties. Actor can carry on a dialogue with an invisible person by looking up at sky. or himself repeat the other person’s dialogue with suitable gestures.

Here we are reminded of monologues of Shakespearean plays and epic heroes’ lamentations.

Even today we see mimicry shows with both types of acting.



Viithii in one act. There may be one or two characters of high or middle or low status. It can have any rasas. There are thirteen distinguishing features of a Viithii.

Bharata describes them in 20 Slokas.

The above is only a summary of Bharata’s categorisation.

The whole chapter takes 150 Slokas.

My comments

In Sanskrit we have 100s of dramas from ancient days. In addition, we have proto dramas in the Rigveda in the form of dialogue poems.

Unfortunately, we have no Drama in Tamil.

But the above descriptions show that Sanskrit dramas have no connection with the Greek dramas. Our dance, drama and music originated in our own land and grew in Hindu way.

In Greek we have tragedies and comedies and in India we have drams dealing with eight types of emotions (also known as Navarasa in later days by adding one more emotion) . In our dramas we have introduction by the director/sutradhara and National Anthem at the end in the form of Bharata vaakya. All these features are absent in Greek dramas.

In Krta Yuga there was no drama according to Bharata’s Natyasastra. So the Rigvedic dialogue poems were only proto dramas .

Bharata’s approach is amazing. He talks about dramas with ten acts and mono act plays. He talks about one actor mimicrying more people. Unlike Greece, Bharata talks about Eight Rasas/emotions, which is found in later Tamil grammar book Tolkappiam.

If we do a comparative study with Ancient Greek dramas it may bring more light in the field of dramaturgy. They borrowed a lot of things from us. After Alexander’s invasion,we might have borrowed certain features from the Greeks.

— Subham —-

tags- types of plays, Drama types, Bharata, Natyasastra

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