Natyashastra (English)

by Bharata-muni | 1951 | 240,273 words | ISBN-13: 9789385005831

The English translation of the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit work on drama, performing arts, theater, dance, music and various other topics. The word natyashastra also refers to a global category of literature encompassing this ancient Indian tradition of dramatic performance. The authorship of this work dates back to as far as at least the 1st millenn...

Chapter XIV - Zones (kakṣyā) and Local Usages (pravṛtti)

1.[1] One should fix the Zones [of the stage] after knowing the division of three [kinds of] playhouse, that have been mentioned before by me.

Arrangement of drums

2. The producer [of a play] should arrange the drums between the two doors of the tiring room, which I have described before.

The Zonal division

3. The Zonal division[2] is to be indicated by going about on the stage. [When one is in a particular] Zone [of the stage, it] will change [lit. be another] with his walking out of it.

Utility of the Zonal division

4-7. [It is] from the. [convention of] the Zonal division that one is to know [whether the place in which the scene has been laid] is a house, a city, a garden, a pleasure-resort, a river, a hermitage, a forest, the earth, the sea, [any part of] the Three worlds, with movable and immovable objects, any one of the nine great divisions of the earth or its seven continents or any of the different mountains, the invisible world, the [surface of] the earth or the nether world (rasātala), places of rest or abodes of the Daityas and the Serpents, houses, and forests. Zones should be imagined with reference to a city, a forest, a part of a continent or a mountain where the action takes place.

Indicating relative location

8. One should assume by convention whether a place is outside or inside a locality or in the middle of it, or away from it or neat it.

9. According to [the convention of] Zonal division, those who have entered [the stage] earlier, should be taken as being inside [a house], while those entering it later are to be known as remaining outside.

10. He who enters the stage with the intention of seeing them (i.e. those entering earlier) should report himself turning to the right.

The east on the stage

11. The direction which drums and two doors of the tiring room face, should always be considered as the east in course of a dramatic performance.

The rule of exit

12. If any person will go out from the place (lit. there i.e. inside the house) on any business, he is to make his exit by the very door he used when entering.

13. If after going out he is to re-enter that house he will make his exit [if necesseary] by the door through which the men [who enter later] came.

14-15. If out of necessity he goes along with the latter, and [re-] enters the house with the latter, or by himself alone, the different Zones should be prescribed for the two. This other Zone will be indicated by their [order of] walking.

Indication of rank in group-walking

16. With the equals, one is to walk side by side, and with one’s inferiors one is to walk surrounded [by the latter], and handmaids are to be known by their walking before [the master]

Indicating distance great, small and medium

17. The same place if much walked over will be taken as a distant land. And nearby land or lands of medium distance are to be indicated likewise [on the same principle][3].

Movement of gods and demigods

18-20. According to various needs of the plot (lit. play) gods and demigods are to move to cities, forests, seas or mountains through the sky, by an aerial car, by their occult power or by different other acts. But while in disguise in a play they (i.e. gods and demigods) are to move on the earth, so that they may be visible like human beings (lit. through human causes).*

Movement of men in Bhārata-varṣa

21. Gods and demigods can at their will move to all [the nine] divisions [of the continent], but it is prescribed that men are to move in Bhārata-[varṣa] (India) alone.

Departure for a distant place

22. If a person departs on business to a distant place, this is to be indicated by closing the Act [with his departing] and mentioning again this fact in an Introductory Scene (praveśaka).

Time allowed for events of an Act

23. To indicate the attainment of an object one is to traverse a measure of distance. But in case of failure in this regard (lit. in non-attainment of the object) the Act should be brought to an end.

24. [Incidents in a play occurring for] a Kṣaṇa, a Muhūrta, a Yāma and a day are to be accommodated in an Act in pursuance of the Seed (bīja) [of the play].

25. But a month or a year is [to be considered] finished with the end of an Act; and events occurring more than one year after, should not be put in one Act.

26. Zones of the stage [and allied conventions] concerning movements of men are thus to be observed in a play in connexion with Bhārata-varṣa (India). Now let it be known that gaits of gods and demigods are like that of men.

27.32. Yakṣas, Guhyakas, followers of Kuvera (lit. the giver of wealth), Rākṣasas, Bhūtas and Piśācas who live in the best mountain Kailāsa included in the Himalayas, are known as dwellers of the latter mountain. Gandharvas, Apsarasas and Gaṇas are known to live in the Hemakūṭa. In the Niṣadha [mountain] live all the Nāgas (Serpents) such as Śeṣa, Vāsuki and Takṣaka. The thirty-three groups of gods dwell in the great [mountain] Meru, and Siddhas and Brahmarṣis in the Blue [Mountain] full of lapis lazuli. The White Mountain is the abode of Daityas and Dānavas, while Pitṛs resort to the Śṛṅgavat [mountain]. These are the best mountains where gods and demigods dwell. With reference to the Zonal division they should be [placed] in Jambudvīpa [where these mountains exist].

Movement of gods

32-35. Their efforts and exploits should be represented (lit. made) according to their habits and powers, but their costumes and make-up should be like that of human beings. All the States of gods are to be made human. Hence they should not be represented (lit. made) as winkless [which they traditionally are]. For the States and the Sentiments [in a play] depend on Glances. And the States are [first] indicated by Glances and then represented by gestures and postures (lit. by limbs). This is all about the Zonal division.

Four Local Usages

36. I shall now resume the description of the Local Usages (pravṛtti) which according to experts in drama are four: Āvantī, Dākṣiṇātyā, Pāñcālī (Pāñcāla-madhyamā) and Oḍra-Māgadhī[4]

[Now comes the question]: Why is [it called] pravṛtti (report) [of the Local Usages]? [In answer to this] it is said that pravṛtti is so called because it gives us properly information regarding costumes, languages, and manners in different countries of the world. Vṛtti means ‘information’. There are many countries in this world. Hence it is asked, “How a fourfold division of these (i.e. the four pravṛttis) [can be] justified? For an observance of all these pravṛttis has common characteristics.” [In reply] it has been said, “It is true that their observance has common characteristics; but as people have different native countries, costumes, languages and manners, I have prescribed a fourfold classification of the dramatic performance attached to [four] different Styles. [Different] countries are attached to performances which relate to the Styles such as the Verbal (bhāratī), the Grand (sāttvatī), the Graceful (kaiśikī) and the Violent (ārabhatī). Because of this the four Local Usages develop, and performances [following them] originate.

Dākṣinātyā Local Usage

Now [it is said] in this connexion (lit. there) that the Southern [countries] favour various kinds of dance, song and instrumental music, an abundance of the Graceful (kaiśiki) Style, and clever and graceful gestures. They are as follows:

37. Countries adjacent to mountains named the Mahendra, the Malaya, the Sahya, the Mekala[5] and the Kālapañjara[6], are known as the Dākṣiṇāpatha (Deccan).

38-39. Kosala, Tosala[7], Kaliṅga, Mosala[8] and countries like Dramiḍa, Andhra, Mahā-vaiṇṇā[9] and Vanavāsika which lie between the Southern Ocean and the Vindhya [mountain] are always to take to the Dākṣiṇātyā Local Usage[10].

Āvantī Local Usage

40-41. Avantī, Vidiśā, Saurāṣṭra, Mālava, Sindhu, Sauvīra, Ānarta[11], Arvudeya[12] Daśārṇa, Tripura, and Mṛttikāvat[13] always take to the Āvantī Local Usage.

42. This Local Usage depends on the Grand (sāttvatī) and the Graceful (kaiśikī) Styles. Hence these should be used in plays and should be adopted by the producers [related to the area].

Oḍra-Māgadhī Local Usage:

43-45. Eastern [countries such as] Aṅga, Vaṅga, [Ut]kaliṅga[14], Vatsa, Oḍra Magadha, Puṇḍra, Nepāla, Antargiri, Bahirgiri, Pravaṃga[15], Māhendra, Malada[16], Mallavartaka,[17] Brahmottara (Suhmottara)[18] Bhārgava[19], Mārgava[20], Prāgjyotiṣa, Pulinda, Videha, Tāmralipta, and Prāṅga[21] adopt the Local Usage known as the Oḍra-Māgadhī.

46. In relation also to other countries known in the Purāṇas as belonging to the East, the Oḍra-Māgadhī Local Usage is applied. [This Local Usage depends on the Verbal (bhāratī) and the Graceful (kaiśikī) Styles.][22]

Pāñcālī Local Usage

47-48. Countries such as Pañcāla, Śūrasena, Kāśmīra, Hastināpura, Vālhīka, Śālvakā,[23] Madra and Uśīnara which are contiguous either to the Himalayas or to the Northern bank of the Ganges, take to the Pāñcālī (Pāñcāla-madhyamā) Local Usage.

49. In this Usage the Grand and the Violent Styles are known [to predominate]. The application of these [means] paucity of song, and excessive movement and extraordinary Gaits and steps.

Twofold entrance in observing Local Usages

50. In going about on the stage the Local Usages, will operate in two ways, viz. by entering from the right and by entering from the left.

51. In the Āvantī and the Dākṣinātyā Local Usages the going about [on the stage] will be from the right, and in the Pāñcālī and the Oḍra-Māgadhī it will be from the left.

52. In the case of the Āvantī and the Dākṣinātyā Local Usages the door to be used in entering should be the Northern one, while in case of the Pāñcālī and Oḍra-Māgadhī Local Usages the Southern door should be used.

53. But in view of the special assembly, place, occasion and expression of meaning these rules may be combined (lit. be made into one).

34. Experts should produce their plays in Styles which have been prescribed before for the Local Usages in different countries[24].

Two general types of play

55. The production of a play in conformity with the rules of dramatic practice is of two types: delicate (sukumāra) and energetic (āviddha).

The violent type

56-57. The play which requires energetic (āviddha) gestures and dance movements (aṅgahāra) to represent, cutting, piercing and challenging, and contains the use of magic and occult powers as well as artificial objects and make-up, and has more men and less women [among its dramatis personae] and applies [in its production] mostly the Grand and the Violent Styles, is of the energetic type.

58. According to the [expert] producers, [plays of] the Ḍima, the Samavakāra, the Vyāyoga and the Īhāmṛga [clases] are known to be of the energetic type.

59. Production of a plays of this type should be made by [an impersonation of] gods, Dānavas and Rākṣasas who are majestic and haughty, and have herorism, energy and strength.

The delicate type

60. The Nāṭaka, the Prakaraṇa, the Vīthī and the Aṅka ate plays of the delicate type, and they depend [for their production] [on an impersonation of] human beings only.

Two Practices

61. I shall now define (lit. relate the characteristcs of) the two Practices (dharmī) which have been mentioned before.

Realistic Practice

62-63.[25] If a play depends on natural behaviour [in its characters] and is simple and not artificial, and has in its [plot] profession and activities of the people and has [simple acting and] no playful flourish of limbs and depends on men and women of different types, it is called Realistic (lokadharmī)[26].

Conventional Practice

64-65.[27] If a play modifies a traditional story, introduces supernatural powers, disregards the usual practice about the use of languages, and requires acting with graceful Aṅgahāras, and possesses characteristics of dance, and requires conventional enunciation and is dependent on a heavenly scene and heaven-born males, it is to be known as Conventional

66. If anything not admitted as real by people is invested in a play with a corporal from and speech the practice is [also] called Conventional (nāṭyadharmī)[28].

67. [The practice in a play according to which persons are supposed] not to hear words uttered in proximity, or to hear what has not been uttered at all, is [also] called Conventional.

68. If objects like a hill, a conveyance, an aerial car, a shield, an armour, a weapon or a banner-staff are made to appear on the stage (lit. are used) in [human] form, it is known as an [instance of] Conventional Practice.

69. If after appearing in a role, one assumes a different role [in the same play], on account of his being an expert in both the cases or being the sole actor available for both the roles, it is known to be an instance of Conventional Practice.

70. If a woman for whom marital connexion with a particular person in actual life is forbidden by the Śāstras is made to appear in a play in the role of woman with whom such connexion is permitted, it becomes an instance of Conventional Practice. The same will be the result if the situation in the above case is reversed.

71. That, [in a play instead of simple walking] one dances or goes with graceful movement of limbs as well as with similarly made steps, is known as Conventional Practice.

72. If the [ordinary] human nature which has acts of joys and sorrows as its essence (lit. soul) is represented by (lit. combined with) [special] gestures, it becomes [an instance of] the Conventional Practice.

73. The Zonal division on the stage, which observes (lit. depends on) many rules, is also [an instance of] Conventional Practice.

74. A play should always be produced with the conventional movement [of limbs], for without acting through the [use of] Gestures etc. [by the actors] no feeling is evoked in [the spectators]1.

75. The States are natural to all [persons] in a play and all the gestures [in connexion with them are used] from a paticular necessity; [hence] decorative movements of limbs [in producing a play] have been considered as [an instance of] Conventional Practice.

76. So much about the Zonal Division, [the two] Practices and the [four] Local Usages. Experts in dramatic production should know these and put them properly into practice.

77. I have described properly the Histrionic Representation by the Śākhā and by Aṅgahāras. I shall afterwards speak similarly about the Representation depending on Words which consist of vowel and consonantal sounds.

Here ends Chapter XIV of Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra, which treats of the Zones and Local Usages.

Footnotes and references:


See II. 630.


As modern device of the change of scenes was absent in the ancient Indian theatre, the convention of the Zonal division indicated the locality, in which different characters met.


For an example of this see Uttara. I.


The passage following this till the beginning of 37 is in prose.


For Mekala see the Buddhacarita XI. 31


Kālapañjara seems to be same as modern Kāliñjar (=Kālapiñjara); piñjara is a variant of pañjara; see Paia-saddhamahaṇṇavo, sub voce.


Aśoka’s Tosali.


Older name of Masulipaṭṭanam in Andhra.


Mahā-veṇṇā, a Skt. name of the Kṛṣṇa-veṇṇā river. The name indicates the attached river-valley.


Geographical names mentioned in this passage and the passages that follow, are mostly to be met with in the Purāṇas (sometimes with variant readings). For a discussion on the same see D.C. Sircar, ‘Text of the Puranic Lists of Peoples’ (IHQ. Vol. XXI. 1945, PP. 227-314).


Ānarta was probably N. Kathiawar peninsula.


Arvuda or modern Ābu in Rajputana is probably meant by this name.


Sometimes identified with Mertā in Rājasthān. See JAS. Vol XVII. pp. 180-181.


Utkaliṅga is the older name of the later Utkala. This occurs in the Brahma P.


The region beyond Vaṅga.


Maladā be may modern Maldah District of W. Bengal.


Mallavartaka may be modern Mallabhum (Bankura in W. Bengal).


For Brahmottara see Viśvabhārati Patrikā, Vol. IV. pp, 250ff.


Bhārgava remains unidentified.


Mārgava remains unidentified.


The region beyond Aṅga.


This is from a conjecturel restoration. See Introduction to the text.


47-48 1 The reading Śalyaka of some mss. may be a variant of Śālvaka. As in the Purāṇas an expression like śālvāh śākalavāsinaḥ is met with, Śālvas or Śālvakas might have been the name of a tribe residing in the ancient Śākala region. See Pāṇini. IV. 2. 135, 169, 173 and Mbh. Bhīṣma 10.3.


B.G. add one couplet which in translation is “In musical plays (gānakādi) these rules should be simplified. One should produce them (lit. practice those acts) in disregard of the multiplicity of Local Usages.” But this seems to be spurious.


For a discussion on Dharmis see V. Raghavan, Nāṭya Dharmī and Loka Dharmī (Idealism and Realism of Bharata’s Stage), Journal of Oriental Researches. Madras, Vol. VII. pp. 359-375.


See note 1 to IX. 1-3.


I accept Ag’s interpretation.


An instance of this is the personification of the Bhrahmaśāpa in Māyāpuṣpaka (Ag.).

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