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 XXII - Styles (vṛtti)

Origin of Styles

1. I shall now narrate fully (lit. from the beginning) the [story of the] rise of Styles (vṛtti) and [in relation to them] the origin and the formation of dramas.[1]

2-3. When Lord Acyuta (Viṣṇu) after reducting the universe into a single [vast] ocean and compressing the creation [into a seed] by his supernatural power, was lying on the couch of a snake, the two Asuras, Madhu and Kaiṭabha maddened with the pride of their strength, challenged the god at once for battle.[2]

4-5. These two, after making gestures of challenge, (lit. rubbing their arms) fought the imperishable lord Viṣṇu (bhūta-bhāvana, lit. the creator of beings) with their fists and legs (lit. knees), and while doing so the two parties also abused each other with harsh words, and shook, as it were, the ocean with their reviling speech.[3]

Origin of the Verbal Style

6-7. Hearing the various [abusive] words of these two who were threatening [Viṣṇu], Druhiṇa (Brahmā) was slightly perturbed in mind and said, “Is it the bhāratī vṛtti that starts with these words [for the fighters] and goes on increasing gradually? Kill the two [at once].”

8-10. Hearing these words of Pitāmaha (Brahmā), Madhusūdana (Viṣṇu) said, “Yes, I have made this bhāratī vṛtti for the purpose of doing my work. It will be the bhāratī vṛtti of the speaker, in which words will preponderate. I shall kill these two Asuras today.” So saying Hari (Viṣṇu) with his pure and perfect gestures,[4] and Aṅgahāras[5] severely fought the two Daityas who were experts in the method of battle.

11. At that time Hari’s pacing with the Sthānakas[6] on the ground created a great bhāra (burden) on the earth (bhūmi); the bhāratī vṛtti (Verbal Style) was built on that (bhāra).[7]

Origin of the Grand Style

12. And at that [very] time, by the rebounding of the bow named Śārṅga which was intensely brilliant, steady, and by an excess of unperturbed sattva (strength), the sāttvatī vṛtti (Grand Style) was made.[8]

Origin of the Graceful Style

13. When [in course of fighting] the god moved sportively with various Aṅgahāras and tied up his knot of the śikhā (keśa?) the kaiśikī vṛtti (Graceful Style) was made.[9]

Origin of the Energetic Style

14. Then from the various ways of personal combats which were full of energy and excitement, and which entailed various Cārīs, the Energetic Style (ārabhaṭī vṛtti) was made.[10]

15. Whatever acts [of Viṣṇu] the god Brahmā observed as arising out of the different Styles (vṛtti), were associated by him (Druhiṇa = Brahmā) with words suitable to their meaning.

16. When the two Asuras, Madhu and Kaiṭabha were killed by Hari (Viṣṇu), Brahmā spoke to him (Nārāyaṇa = Viṣṇu) who was the subdduer of foes (arindama).

Origin of the Nyāya

17-18. O god, thou hast killed the Dānavas with varied, pure, expressive and graceful Aṅgahāras; hence this method of personal combat [applicable] to throwing all kinds of missiles will be termed in this world, as Nyāya.[11]

19. Nyāyas[12] are celebrated because this fighting has been made with the Aṅgahāras which are associated as well as genetically connected with them.

20. Then the high-souled Druhiṇa (Brahmā) gave over to the gods this [Style] full of various Psychological States and Sentiments, [for its use] in the production of plays.

21-22. The name Style (vṛtti) was made a repository of the various Psychological States and Sentiments. And whatever was made and in whatever manner, the exploits of the god (Viṣṇu) were utilised by the sages in fashioning the similar Styles arising from the Words and the Gestures which have their origin in materials taken from the Nāṭyaveda, and which also have Words and Gestures as their chief characteristics.

23. These Styles which were desired, wellborn and full of various Cārīs, were again, taken by me at Druhiṇa’s command, for the purpose of making plays (lit. poem).

24. The Verbal Style (bhāratī vṛtti) was from the Ṛgveda, the Grand (sāttvatī) from the Yajurveda, the Graceful (kaiśikī) from the Sāmaveda and the remaining one (i.e., the Energetic or ārabhaṭī) from the Atharva-[veda].[13]

25. The Style which is to be applied by the male characters and not by females and which gives a prominent place to speeches made in Sanskrit, is used by the eponymous bharatas (actors) as bhāratī (Verbal)[14].

Four varieties of the Verbal Style

26. In has four varieties such as the Laudation (prarocanā), the Introduction (āmukha), the Vīthī and the Prahasana, and these have became its component parts (aṅga)[15].


27. The Laudation (prarocanā) in the Preliminaries is to attain success, prosperity, good luck, victory and removal of all sins.[16]

Introduction or Prologue

28-29. That part of a play where an actress,[17] the Jester or the Assistant has a talk with the Director on some relevant topic, and they use interesting words or adopt any type of the Vīthī or talk in any other way, is called the Introduction (āmukha)1 or the Prologue (Prastāvanā) by some. I shall speak in detail about its five varieties (lit. elements).

30. The Accidental Interpretation (udghātyaka), the Opening of the Story (kathodghātā). the Particular Presentation (prayogātiśaya), the Personal Business, (pravṛttaka) and the Transference (avalagita) are the five varieties of the Introduction (āmukha).[18]

31. Of these the characteristics of the Accidental Interpretation (udghātyaka)[19] and the Transference (avalagita)[20] have been mentioned by me. I shall now speak in detail of the characteristics of the rest.

Opening of the Story

32. [That Introduction] in which a character enters [the stage] taking up a remark of the Director or its meaning, is called the Opening of the Story.[21]

Particular Presentation

33. When, over this production [of the Introduction] the Director imposes another production and then a character enters [the stage], it is called the Particular Presentation.[22]

Personal Business

34. [The Introduction] in which the Director speaks on some business in hand, and taking cue from this (lit. with its help) a character enters the stage, it is called the Personal Business.[23]

35. Working out skillfully any of this which may be relevant, the wise [playwright] should construct the Introduction (āmukha) without encumbering it with [many] characters[24] and speeches.

36. The wise are thus to know the Introduction with different bases. The characteristics of the Vīthī[25] and the Prahasana[26] have been mentioned before.

37. These are the four varieties[27], of the Verbal Style I spoke of. I shall now explain the rules of the Grand Style with its characteristics.

The Grand Style

38. The style which is endowed with the quality of the spirit (sattva), the Nyāyas, [proper] metres and has exuberance of joy and suppression of the state of sorrow[28], is called Grand[29].

39. Related to plays expressing the spirit (sattva) the Grand Style is known to consist of representation by Words and Gestures.

40. It is to contain the Sentiments such as Heroic, the Marvellous and the Furious, and to a small extent the Pathetic and the Erotic; and characters in it should be mostly majestic and defying one another.[30]

Four varieties of the Grand Style

41. It is known to have the four varieties such as (utthāpaka), Change of Action (parivartaka), Harsh Discourse (saṃlāpaka) and Breach of Alliance (saṃghāta)[31].


42. One’s rising up with a view to conflict after saying “I am getting up [for battle, now] show me your own prowess” is called the Challenge[32].

Change of Action

43. If after leaving the thing which caused the rising up, one takes to other things due to some necessity, it is called the Change of Action.[33]

Harsh Discourse

44. A dialogue containing various kinds of word of abuse whether these arise from contempt or not, is called Harsh Discourse.[34]

Breach of Alliance

45. Disrupting an alliance for the sake of a policy in favour of a friend or due to an accident or [one’s] own fault, is called Breach of Alliance[35].

46. These are the four varieties[36] of the Grand Style that I spoke of. I shall hereafter describe the characteristics of the Graceful Style1.

The Graceful Style

47. That Style is called Graceful (kaiśikī) which is specially interesting on account of charming costumes worn [by dramatis personae ] mostly women, and in which many kinds of dancing and singing are included, and the themes acted are practices of love and are connected with (lit. arising from) its enjoyment[37].

48. The Graceful Style is said to have the four varieties such as Pleasantry (narma), Beginning of Pleasure (narma-sphurja), Unfoldment of Pleasure (narma-sphoṭa) and Covert Pleasure (narma-garbha).[38]

Three kinds of Pleasantry

49. The Pleasantry which abounds in remarks made in jest, is of three kinds: that based on love, that with pure laughter and that having Sentiments other than the Heroic[39].

50. The Pleasantry is known as connected generally with acts of jealousy and anger mixed with words of rebuke and done in the guise of self-reproach and through to deception of others.

Beginning of Pleasantry

51. The Beginning of Pleasantry is to be known as the first meeting [of lovers] in which words and dresses exciting love [are in evidence], but which ends in fear[40].

Unfoldment of Pleasantry

52. The Unfoldment of Pleasantry is the cause of the Sentiment contributed by short touches of different Psychological States and not by any of them as a whole[41].

Covert Pleasure

53. When the Hero out of any necessity acts incognito through his qualities such as intelligence, [good] appearance and affection, it is called Covert Pleasure[42].

54. These ate the four varietes of the Graceful Style that I was to speak about. I shall hereafter describe the Energetic Style which is concerned with a haughty Sentiment.

The Energetic Style

55. The Style which includes mostly the qualities of a bold person (ārabhaṭa) such as speaking many words[43], deception, bragging and falsehood, is to be known as Energetic[44].

56. The Style in which there is a representation of model work (pusta) falling down, jumping, crossing over, piercing, deeds of magic and conjuration, and varied ways of fighting, is called Energetic[45].

Four varieties of the Energetic Style

57. It has (four) varieties such as Compression (saṃkṣiptaka), Commotion (avapāta), Elevation of the Plot (vastūtthāpana) and Conflict (saṃpheṭa).[46]


58. Conforming to the purpose of the play Compression includes relevant crafts such as many kinds of model works, drawings, and dresses, for a condensed representation of the Plot.[47]


59. Commotion is known to relate to the occurrence of fear and jubilation, panic, flurry, many kinds of speaking, quick entrance and exit[48].

Elevation of the Plot

60. That deed which is including panic or is being connected with as giving shelter to [anyone] and includes a combination of all the Sentiments is called Elevation of the Plot[49].


61. Conflict (saṃpheṭa) is known to include excitement, many fights, personal combats, deception, betrayal and much striking of weapons[50].

62. These are the Styles to be reckoned by the wise in connexion with the drama. Now listen about their application in different Sentiments, which I am going to tell you.

Styles according to Sentiments

63-64. The Style in the Erotic and Comic Sentiments should be Graceful, and in the Heroic, and the Marvellous Sentiments it should be Grand. And in the Terrible, the Odious and the Furious Sentiments one should use the Energetic Style, while the Verbal Style is applicable to the Pathetic and the Marvellous Sentiments[51].

65. I have spoken properly about the Histrionic Representation dependent on Words, Gestures, Sattva, which culminate in Styles. Now I shall treat of the Costumes and the Make-up used in the production of plays.

Here ends Chapter XXII of Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra, which treats of Styles

Footnotes and references:


Sāgaranandin explains the vṛtti differently. See NL, 1044ff.


The story of Nārāyaṇa’s reducing the three worlds into ‘a single ocean, occurs in the Rām. VII. 72; Kūrma P. XIII. See JK. under Viṣṇu (8) and Nārāyaṇa (8).


Madhu and Kaiṭabha charged Nārāyaṇa with the theft of the Vedas. Rām. VII. 72. See JK. under Kaiṭabha.


aṅgaiḥ here means āṅgikaiḥ and aṅgahāraiḥ.


See IV. 19-27, 170ff.


See XI. 49ff.


This is a clear instance of folk-etymology and does not really explain the origin of this Style. It possibly came from the Bharata tribe; see I. 41 f.n.


See above II note 2.


See above II note 2.


See above II note 2.


See XI. 74ff.


See IV. 170ff.


This is a different story about the origin of the vṛttis. See before 2-14.


NL. 1054ff. DR. II. 5; SD. 274, AP. modifies this def. by adding strīyuktā prākṛtoktītā, Haas, on DR. III. 5 (p.81).


Cf, NL. 1008-63; DR. III. 5; SD. 285.


Cf NL. 1070.71ff; DR. III. 6; SD. 286.


Cf. NL. 1178-81, DR. III. 7 SD. 286.


Cf. NL. 11-88-89 DR. III. 8. SD. 287.


See XX.117 Cf. NL. 1189; DR. III. 14 SD. 288.


See XX. 118; NL. 1192. DR. III. 15; SD. 292.


Cf. NL. 1196; DR. III. 9; for an ex. see SD. 289.


See NL. 1201-1202; DR. III. 11; for an ex. see SD. 290.


Cf. NL. 1214-1215; SD. 291; for an ex. see DR. III. 10


i.e. actress, Jester or the Assistant. See 28 above.


See XX. 111ff.


See XX. 101ff.


See before 26-30.


This shows that no pathetic subject-matter should find a place in this Style.


See NL. 1234ff. SD. 416. DR. II. 53.


See NL. 1271-1273.


Cf. DR. II. 53 SD. 416, NL. 1274ff.


Cf. NL. 1276, 4278. also cf. DR. II. 54; SD. 416


  Cf. DR. II. 55; SD. 419; NL. 1279-1282.


Cf. DR. II. 54; SD. 418, NL. 1288.


Cf. NL. 1208-1299; DR. II. 55; SD, 417.


See before 41, 44, 45.


Cf. SD. 411; DR. II. 47; NL. 1304ff.


Cf. DR. II. 48; SD, 411; NL. 1308ff.


Cf. DR. II. 48-50; SD. 412; NL. 1310.


Cf. NL. 1342-1343; DR. II. 51; SD. 413.


Cf. DR. II. 51; SD. 414; NL. 1336ff.


According to Sāgaranandin Ārabhatī is an aṅga of the Gauḍī-vṛtti: NL. 1385, Cf. DR. II. 52; SD. 415; NL. 1338f.


‘Many words’ probably mean altercation or verbal duel.


Cf. NL, 1348ff, DR. II. 56-57; SD. 420.


See above 55 note 2. C. adds one more def. (C.58) of the ārabhaṭī. In trans. it will be as follows: “That which includes excitement due to an application of the sixfold policy (ṣaḍguṇa), running away due to deception of the enemy, and that which relates to [material] gain or loss, is called the Energetic Style.


  Cf. NL. 1356f. DR. II. 56-57. SD. 420.


Cf. DR. II. 57.58, SD. 422, NL, 1358f.


Cf. DR. II. 59. SD. 423; NL. 1368f


Cf. DR. II. 59. SD. 420; NL. 1372f.


Cf. DR. II. 50; SD. 421; NL. 1380f.


Cf. NL. 1059-1562. DR. II. 62; SD. 410.

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