The Agni Purana

by N. Gangadharan | 1954 | 360,691 words | ISBN-10: 8120803590 | ISBN-13: 9788120803596

This page describes Definition of dramatic representation (abhinaya) which is chapter 342 of the English translation of the Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major puranas dealing with all topics concerning ancient Indian culture, tradition and sciences. Containing roughly 15,000 Sanskrit metrical verses, subjects contained in the Agni-Purana include cosmology, philosophy, architecture, iconography, economics, diplomacy, pilgrimage guides, ancient geography, gemology, ayurveda, etc.

Chapter 342 - Definition of dramatic representation (abhinaya)

[Sanskrit text for this chapter is available]

Fire-god said:

1-2. Dramatic representation [i.e., abhinaya] should be known by learned men as carrying forward the sense (of the drama). It arises in four ways resting on internal feeling, speech, limbs and bringing out (the feeling). Stupor and the like are the internal (feeling). The speech is the beginning of speech. That relating to the limbs is the exertion of the body. The internal feeling is the operation of the exertion of the intellect.

3. The employment of sentiment and the like arising from conceit are being described now. Independence of all kinds (of gesticulation) is meaningless without this.

4. The erotic (sentiment) is said to be twofold, namely, love in union and love in separation. Both these are again twofold, namely, concealed and manifest.

5. The erotic (sentiment) known as love in separation is fourfold—incipient love, jealous anger, sojourn abroad and pathos.

6. The other kind is different from these in four ways and has the characteristic of increased enjoyment. But it does not surpass the former.

7. It arises in men and women. Love accomplishes it. All internal emotions except the change of colour and loss of consciousness (are) in it.

8-9a. The erotic (sentiment) thrives (aided) by piety, wealth, pleasure and emancipation on particular supportive (excitants) and (becomes) uninterrupted by their peculiarities. The erotic (sentiment} should be known as twofold consisting (of the mode) of speech and the act of decoration.

9b-11a. The comic (sentiment) is said to be fourfold[1]smita, smile in which the teeth are not visible, hasita, in which the tips of the teeth are slightly visible and the eyes are dilated, vihasita, that is sonorous, upahasita, that is crooked[2], apahasita[3], that is with sound and atihasita, that is without sound.

11b-12. The sentiment known as pathos is of three kinds—arising from violation of virtue and originating from loss of wealth. While sorrow is the permanent (emotion), pleasure is considered the dominant (emotion) of the former two (sentiments of erotic and comic).

13. The sentiment of wrath is threefold—by means of limbs, dress and speech. Its accomplishing factors are anger, perspiration, horripilation and trembling.

14. The heroic (sentiment) is threefold—heroic in liberality, heroic in virtue and heroic in battle. Enthusiasm is said to be the cause of its accomplishment.

15. The sentiment called terror which arises at the commencement (of an action), follows the heroic (sentiment) only. Fear is its accomplishing factor.

16-17a. (The sentiment of) disgust is said to be twofold—agitating and distressing. The agitating (type) would arise on account of stink[4] and the like and the distressing (type) by means of blood and the like. Aversion gives rise to it and the sāttvika element recedes in it.

17b-19a. The elements which add beauty to poetic compositions are said to be the embellishments. These embellishments are threefold—(tending to embellish) word, meaning and both. Rhetoricians declare those which are capable of embellishing word by means of proficiency and the like as embellisments of word.

19b-21. The nine, namely, chāyā, mudrā, ukti, yukti, gumphanā, vākovākya, anuprāsa, citra and duṣkara should be known as the embellishments of words because of the absence of commixture. There, chāyā (reflection) is the imitation of the utterance of others. It is again fourfold—imitation of popular saying, clever speech, childish utterance and intoxicated raving[5] (matta).

22. The proverb (ābhāṇaka) is a popular saying and they are common to all. That which follows the proverb is said to be the lokokticchāyā by the wisemen.

23. The clever are the cultured. Expert knowledge of fine arts is culture. That which delineates it is said to be the Chekoktichāyā by poets.

24. All understand childish speech as the utterance of the ignorant. The imitation of the childish speech hence merely imitates this kind of speech.

25. The vulgar speech of the intoxicated is similarly (composed of) confused letters. That which is similar to this is called mattoktichāyā which even surpasses the intoxicated speech.

26. That which exhibits the power of the poet in its particular purpose (is called) mudrā because it affords pleasure. This is also (known as) repose in our opinion.

27. That is said to be ukti (expression) in which some reasonable sense pleases the heart of good people because of some precept relating to the affairs of the world.

28. Ukti (expression) is sixfold—injunction and prohibition, restricted and unrestricted, and alternative and exclusive.

29-30. Combination is termed so by the wisemen because of its being made for connecting the two, word and sense, which are mutually unconnected. It is sixfold—inflected word, meaning of inflected word, sentence, meaning of sentence, context and amplification.

31. Stringing is the practice of composition within the scope of a word, meaning and their order. It is threefold based on imitation of word, succession of meaning and regular arrangement.

32-33. Vākovākya is a sentence containing question and answer. It is twofold on the basis of the classification as straight speech and crooked speech. The first of these is natural speech. It would be of two kinds according as it is preceded by a question or not. But, crooked speech is intonation or occurs by indirect speech. Hence it is twofold.

Footnotes and references:


The purāṇa mentions only four divisions but defines six as in NS. VI. 51-52.


The purāṇa wrongly reads jihva instead of jihma.


Wrongly printed as pāpahasita.


Text wrongly reads pluti instead of pūti.


The textual reading is wrong.

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