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 XXVI - Varied Representation (citrābhinaya)

1. The speciality in the representation through Gestures and the like, which occurs from time to time, but has not been mentioned [before] when stated in diverse ways, is known as the Varied Representation (citrābhinaya).[1]

Day, night and seasons etc.

2-4. To indicate morning and evening, day and night seasons, clouds, forest-region, wide expanse of water, directions, planets, stars and anything that is somewhat fixed, one is to make the following gestures: two hands raised with Patākā[2] and Svastika[3] gestures, Udvāhita head[4] looking upwards with various eyes [fitting each occasion].

Objects on the ground

5. With the same[5] gestures of the hands and of the head together with the eyes looking downwards, one is to indicate [objects] resting on the ground.

Moonlight, happiness and air etc.

6. To indicate moonlight, happiness, air, flavour (rasa) and smell, one is to use gestures for representing touch and horripilation.

The sun, dust and smoke etc.

7. To indicate the sun, dust, smoke and fire one is to cover one’s face with clothes. And heat of the ground and heat of the sun are to be indicated by a desire for a shady place.

The mid-day sun

8. The mid-day sun is to be indicated by looking upward with half-shut eyes, and the rising or the setting sun by a representation of the idea of depth.

Pleasant objects

9. To indicate anything pleasant and happy, one is to use gestures for representing the touch of one’s body together with horripilation.

Sharp objects

10. And to indicate things of sharp nature one is to use gestures for representing touch of one’s limbs and uneasiness and to narrow down one’s mouth.

Deep and exalted feeling

11. To indicate these in connexion with deep and exalted feelings one is to have the Sauṣṭhava[6] of the limbs and a display of pride and conceit.

Necklace and flowers etc.

12. To indicate a necklace and a flower garland one is to hold the two Arāla hands[7] in the place where the sacred thread is held and then to separate them from the Svastika[8] position.

The idea of entirety

13. To indicate the sense of “entirety” one is to move on the index finger, look round and press the Alapallava hand.[9]

Audible or visible objects

14. To indicate anything audible or visible whether it relates to the speaker or to the person spoken to, or to anyone else, one should point to the ears and eyes respectively.

Lightning and shooting stars etc.

15. Lightning, shooting stars, peals of thunder, sparks [of fire] and flame should be indicated by relaxed limbs and fixed look.

Repugnant objects

16. To indicate anything repugnant to oneself, or to avoid its contact one is to practice Udveṣṭita[10] and Parāvṛtta (Parivartita)[11] Karaṇas of hands and to bend the head and to look obliquely.

Hot wind and heat etc.

17. To indicate hot wind, heat from the sky, warding off of dust, rains, insects and bees one should cover one’s face,

Lions and bears etc.

18. Lions, bears, monkeys, tigers and other beasts of prey should be indicated by holding Padmakośa[12] hands downwards in the form of a Svastika.

Worshipping superiors

19. To indicate worshipping the feet of the superiors (guru) one should hold Tripatāka[13] and Svastika[14] hands, and taking up of the goad or the whip should be indicated by Svastika and Kaṭakā [mukha][15] hands.


20-21. Numerals from one to ten should be indicated by fingers [of corresponding number]. Multiples of tens, hundreds and thousands are to be indicated by the two Patākā hands.

22. Any number above ten should be indicated by speech [only] and by indirect representation.[16]

Umbrellas and banners etc.

23. Umbrellas, banners and banner-staffs should be indicated by representation of the holding of any staff, and different weapons by the manner of holding them.

Memory and meditation etc.

24. Memory and meditation should be represented by indicating attention, downcast eyes, slightly bent head and the left hand with the Sandaṃśa[17] gesture.


25. Offsprings and height should be indicated by making the head Udvāhita[18] and holding the Haṃsapakṣa[19] hands, on the right side.

Past and cessation etc.

26. The idea of past, cessation, destruction or words listened, is to be indicated by carrying from the left the Arāla[20] hand on the head.


27. Autumn should be indicated by representing a composure of all the senses, brightness of all the directions and a beautiful landscape.

Early winter

28. Early winter (hemanta) should be indicated by the superior and the middling characters through narrowing down their limbs and seeking the sun, fire and [warm] clothing.

29. The same should be indicated by the inferior characters through groaning (kūjana), clicking (śītkāra), and trembling of the head and of the lips and the clattering of teeth.24 25 26

30. The superior characters also may sometimes indicate the winter in this manner, if due to fate they are in a miserable condition.


31. One is to indicate the winter by the representation of smelling the flowers, [of the season], drinking wine[21] and of feeling an unpleasant wind.[21]


32. The spring (vasanta) is to be indicated by the representation of acts of rejoicing, enjoyments and festivities and a display of various flowers [of the season].


33. The summer is to be indicated through the representation of the heat of the earth, fans, wiping off sweat and feeling the hot wind.


34. The rainy season (prāvṛṣ) is to be indicated through the representation of the Kadamba, the Nimba and the Kuṭaja flowers, green grass, Indragopa insects and groups of peacocks.

Rainy night

35. A night in the rainy season should be indicated by the loud sound of the masses of clouds, falling showers of rain, as well as lightning and peals of thunder.

Seasons in general

36. Each season should be Indicated by the sign, costume, activity or scenery which is proper to it or whatever is [specially] desired or avoided (lit. undesired) in it.

37. These seasons according to the necessity should be indicated with proper Sentiments as being full of happiness for those who are happy, and full of distress for those who are afflicted.

Psychological States

38. Psychological States[22] should be indicated by the representation of the Determinants (vibhāva)[23] and similarly the Psychological States are also indicated (lit, accomplished) by the representation of Consequents (anubhāva)[24].


39. Acts connected with the Determinants should be represented by means of the Consequents; and the Psychological States relate to the representation of one’s own self, and the Determinants relate to an exhibition of another person [in relation to the self][25].

40. A preceptor, a friend, an affectionate companion (sakhā), a relation from the mother’s or the father’s side, who may come and be [respectfully] announced[26] [properly], is called a Determinant[26].


41. The honour shown to him[27] by rising from the seat, by offering him presents and a seat, and by using respectful words, are called the Consequents.

42. Similarly in other cases also, from an observation of different incidents [in a play] one should find out the Determinants and the Consequents from actions [related to them].

43. Reply to a message given to the Messenger is [also] called a Consequent marked by such a reply.

44. In these ways the Determinants and the Consequents are to be represented by men as well as women.

General directions for the representation

45. In the representation of their own nature, men should assume the Vaiṣṇava posture[28] and women the Āyata[29] or the Avahittha[30] postures in relation to [appropriate] actions.

46. [But] there occurring special need for the same, other postures may [also] be introduced for the representation of different Psychological States in special types of play.

Men’s and women’s efforts

47. Efforts of men should be characterized by patience as well as by sportful limbs, and those of women by delicate Aṅgahāras.[31]

Women’s movements of limbs

48. Women’s movement of hands, feet and other limbs should be graceful (lalita) while men’s movement of these should be restrained (dhīra) as well as vehement (uddhata).

Meaning of words

49. Representation of the meaning of words are to be made differently by men and women. I shall explain them in due to order through the Psychological States and the Consequents proper to them.


50. One should indicate one’s joy (harṣa) by embracing the [other’s] body, by smiling eyes as well as by horripilation.

51. An actress (nartakī) should indicate joy by sudden horripilation, tearful eyes, smiling words and a loving attitude.


52. One should indicate anger by upturned red eyes, biting of lips, [deep] breathing and trembling of limbs.

Jealous Anger of women

53-54. Jealous Anger (īrṣyākrodha) of women should be indicated by tearful eyes, tremor of the chin and of the lips, shaking of the head, knitting of the eye-brows, keeping silent, curling of the fingers, giving up garlands and ornaments and assuming the Āyata posture (sthāna).

Men’s sorrow

55. Men’s sorrow should be indicated by much breathing and sighing, thinking with a downcast face and speaking to the sky.

Women’s sorrow

56. Women’s sorrow should be indicated by weeping, sighing, striking the breast, falling on the ground and striking [the body against] the ground.

57. Crying which has been mentioned before as arising from tears of joy and from jealousy, should be applied in case of women and of inferior male characters.

Men’s fear

58. Men’s fear should be indicated by acts of consternation (saṃbhrama), and of dismay (udvega), fall of weapons [from their hands], as well as patience, excitement and force.

Women’s fear

59-60. Women’s fear should be indicated by eyes with moving eyeballs throbbing and shaking limbs, glancing sideways for fear (lit. terrified heart), looking for someone to rescue them, weeping loudly and putting their arms round [the dear one staying close by].

Women’s intoxicated condition

61. Intoxicated conditions (lit. intoxication) which have

been mentioned before should be applied to women, and men of the inferior type.

61-62. Women’s intoxication should be indicated by delicately faltering movements trying to grasp something (lit. the sky), rolling of eyes, of uttering indistinct (vilagna) words and shaking of limbs.

63. These are the rules to be followed in a theatrical production for the representation of men’s or women’s Psychological States when occasion for these will arise.

64. In a theatrical production the Psychological States of women are all to be made graceful (latita) and that of men endowed with self-control and equanimity.

Parrots and Śārikās

65. Parrots, Śārikās and small birds like these, are to be indicated by two moving fingers in the Tripatāka hand.

Big birds

66. But birds like peacocks, cranes and swans which are naturally big are to be indicated by proper Recakas and Aṅgahāras.

Asses and camels etc.

67. Asses, camels, elephants, lions, tigers, cows, buffaloes and the like should be indicated by Gaits and gestures [suitable to them].

Bhūtas and Piśācas etc

68-60. Bhūtas, Piśācas, Yakṣas, Dānavas and Rākṣasas when they are not visible, should be indicated by the Aṅgahāras. But when they are visible they should be indicated by [the representation of] fear, dismay and astonishment.

70. When they remain invisible, gods are to be indicated according to the necessity by making obeisance to them and by movements suitable to the Psychological States.

Greeting an invisible person

70-71. Greeting a man when he is invisible is to be indicated by touching the head with the Arāla hand[32] raised from the side.

Greeting gods and superiors etc.

71-72.[33] Greeting gods, superiors (guru), and ladies is to be indicated by the Kaṭakāvardhamāna or the Kapota hand[34] [touching the head similarly].

72-73. Gods and honourable persons when they appear in person should be indicated by representing the deep influence [they have over the surroundings].

A great crowd and friends etc.

73-74.[35] A great crowd, friends, Viṭas and crooks are to be indicated by means of the Parimaṇḍala (Uromaṇḍala) hand.

Mountains and tall trees etc.

74-75. Mountains in connexion with their height, and tali trees are to be indicated by lifting upwards the outstretched hands.

Wide expanse of water

75-76. A wide expanse of sea-water is to be indicated by two Patākā hands thrown out [side-ways], and heroism, haughtiness, pride, magnanimity and growth upwards also should be indicated by placing the Arāla hand on the forehead.

77-78. The two Mṛgaśīrṣa hands[36] turned away from the breasts and held out quickly at a distance, will indicate anything made uncovered (apāvṛta).

A house and darkness etc.

78-75. Darkness in a house, a hole or cave is to be indicated by holding slightly stretched hands which have their palms upturned and which point downwards.

Love-sick, cursed and possessed persons

79-80. Persons who are love-sick or under a curse or are possessed of some evil spirit or enfeebled in mind by fever, should be represented by [suitable] movements of their face and other limbs.

A swing

80-82. A swing should be indicated by the representation of its movement, agitation of the limbs and the holding of the strings. It is by acting like this (lit. then) that the moving swing will be perceptible [to the spectators], and persons occupying their seats [just after representing a swing] will be taken as moving in a swing.

82-83. I shall now speak of [the indication of] “Speaking to the Sky” (ākāśavacana), “Speaking Aside” (ātmagata), “Concealed Speaking” (apavāritaka) and “Private Personal address” (janāntika).

Speaking to the Sky

83-85. Addressing someone staying at a distance or not appearing in person or indirectly addressing someone who is not close by, is called Speaking to the Sky.[37] This mode of speaking will present [the substance of] a dialogue by means of replies related to various [imaginary] questions (lit. causes) which may arise out of the play.

Speaking Aside

85-87. When overwhelmed with excessive joy, intoxication, madness, fit of passion, repugnance, fear, astonishment, anger and sorrow, one speaks out words which are in one’s mind (lit. heart), it is called Speaking Aside. This including arguments, is often to be used in plays like the Nāṭaka.

Concealed Speaking

And Concealed Speaking (apavāritaka) is related to secrecy.

Private Personal Address

88-89. When out of necessity persons standing close by are [supposed] not to hear what is spoken to someone else, this constitutes Private Personal Address (janāntika)[38].

Thinking within oneself

It relates to something within one’s self (lit. heart) which is a matter of deliberation2 and feeling5 and [which is indeed a kind of Speaking Aside.

Speaking in one’s ears

Words in a play, which are connected with secrecy should be spoken in one’s ears preceded by “so, so.”

90. When one is to speak from necessity of something which has occurred earlier, for avoiding repetition, this should be [similarly] spoken in one’s ears.

91. Without making any confusion (lit. mistake) [among these] one should resort to Speaking to the Sky, Private Personal Address and Speaking Aside which will [relate sometimes] to a visible or an invisible person and [sometimes] to one’s ownself or to others.[39]

Concealed Speaking and Private Personal Address

92. Concealed Speaking and Private Personal Address should be indicated by a Tripatāka hand covering [the speaker][40].

Repetition of words

93. Words which are uttered due to commotion calamity, anger and intense sorrow, are to be repeated.

94. [In such cases] utter words such as “ah me”, “alas, alas”, “what, what”, “don’t speak any more”; and these should be repeated twice or thrice[41].

Suspension of representation

95. Distorted or incomplete words used [in a play] should not be represented by gestures for explaining them (lit. for the sake of definition).

Observing proper Psychological States

96. The Psychological State which is proper to a superior [character] should not be applied to a middling one; and similarly the Psychological State which is proper to a middling [character] should not be applied to an inferior one.1

97. By means of different Psychological States and Sentiments which arise from movements proper to the superior, the middling and the inferior characters, a play will attain attractiveness.

No movement in the state of dreaming

98. In the dreaming condition (svapnāyita) the Psychological States should not be represented by any movement of hands. This should be explained by the representation of the Sattva and through speech only.

Speech in sleep

99. Speaking in the somnolent condition should proceed with a slow voice; words in it should be [sometimes] distinct and [sometimes] indistinct, and sometimes their senses should be repeated twice, and this speaking should [also] depend on the recollection of the past [events].

Speech of the old people and Children’s words

100. Speaking of the old people should be done with a faltering voice and with dropping of the syllables [now and then]; and that of children should be made with lisping (kalasvara) which will leave syllables unfinished.

Dying Speech

101. Indistinct speaking at the time of dying should be made with syllables produced by relaxed and heavy speech-organs (karaṇa); it should be a faltering voice resembling the sound of [small] bells, and it should be accompanied by hiccup, [hard] breathing and [the action of] phlegm.

102. Advent of a swoon should be followed by hiccup and [hard] breathing. The speech there should be as in death. To indicate it, the speaking should contain repetition.

Representation of death

103. Representation of death which may arise from different conditions will be of different nature. [For example], sometimes it is indicated by throwing out all the hands and feet, and sometimes by a paralysis of movement of all the limbs.

Death from disease

104. Death from an attack of disease should be represented by an occurrence of hiccup, [hard] breathing and imperceptible movement of limbs which should be relaxed.

Death from drinking poison

105. Death from drinking poison should be represented by throwing out of hands and feet and other limbs, and the power of the poison will lead to the quivering action of the [different] parts of the body.

Eight stages in death from poison

106-107. The first stage of the action of poison is the thinness of the body, the second tremor, the third a burning sensation, the fourth hiccup, the fifth froth [in the mouth], the sixth breaking of the neck, the seventh paralysis and the eighth death.


107-108. Eyes with sunken eyeballs, depressed cheeks, lips, and thinness of the belly and of the shoulder and of arms will represent thinness1.


108-109. Tremor should be represented by shaking simultaneously according to the situation the head, the hands and the feet or some of these limbs separately.

Burning sensation

110. Burning sensation should be represented by shaking of the entire body, feeling pain, scratching the [different] limbs and throwing out the hands and other limbs.


111. Hiccup should be represented by repeated blinking of eyes, belching, vomiting, convulsion (ākṣepa), and uttering of indistinct words.

Froth in the mouth

112. Froth [in the mouth] should be represented by lack of consciousness and of movement of eyes.

Breaking of the neck

Breaking of the neck (śirobhañja = grivābhaṅga) should be represented by the shoulder touching the cheek and the lowering of the head.


113. Paralysis (jaḍatā) should be represented by inaction of all the sense-organs. Together with belching, vomiting, licking the corners of the mouth, and turning back of the head.


114. Death whether it is due to a growth of disease or to snake-bite should be represented, according to the dramatic convention (nāṭyadharma) by a closure of the eyes.

115. These particular representations should be combined with suitable Psychological States and with sufficient Sattva, and [representation of] other popular aspects of these should be learnt from the people.

General directions

116. Just as the garland-maker makes garlands from various kinds of flowers, the drama should be produced similarly by gestures of different limbs, and by Sentiments and Psychological States.

117. Movements and Gaits that have been prescribed by the rules for a character which has entered the stage, should be maintained by the actor without rigidity till he makes an exit.

118. Now I have finished speaking about the representation to be made through Words and Gestures. Things omitted here by me should be gathered from [the usage of] the people.

The trifle basis of drama

119. The people, the Vedas and the spiritual faculty (adhyātma) are known as the three authorities. The drama is mostly based on objects related to the last two (the Veda and the adhyātma).

120-121. The drama which has its origin in the Vedas, and the spiritual faculty (adhyātma) and includes [proper] words and metre, succeeds when it is approved of by the people. Hence the people are considered to be the [ultimate] authority on drama.

121-122. A mimicry of the exploits of gods, sages, kings as well as of householders in this world, is called drama.[42]

122-123. When human character with all its different Psychological States is represented with [suitable] Gestures, it is called drama.

People supplying norm to drama

123-124. Thus the events (vārtā) relating to the people in all their different conditions, may be (lit. should be) included in a play, by those well-versed in the Canons of Drama (nāṭya-veda).

124-125. Whatever Śāstras, laws, arts and activities are connected with the human practice, may be produced (lit. called) as drama.

125-126. Rules regarding the feelings and activities of the world, movable as well as immovable, cannot be formulated (lit. ascertained) exhaustively by the Śāstra.

126. The people have different dispositions, and on their dispositions drama rests. Hence playwrights and producers (prayoktṛ) should take the people as their [ultimate] authority [as regards the rules of the art].

127. Thus they (prayoktṛ) should pay attention to the feelings, gestures and the Sattvas in representing the Psychological States through various characters [that may appear in the drama].

128. The men who know in this order the art of Histrionic Representation and applies it on the stage, receive in this world the highest honour for putting into practice the theory of drama (nāṭyatattva) as well as [the art of] acting (abhinaya).

129. These are to be known as the modes of representation dependent on Words, Costumes, Make-up and Gestures. An expert in dramatic production should adopt these for Success [in his undertaking].

Here ends Chapter XXVI of Bharata’s Nātyaśāstra which treats of the Varied Representation.

Footnotes and references:


Their collective use as under 5-20 below. Ag. makes a scholastic discussion on the justification of the term citrābhinaya. But this does not appear to be convincing.


See IX. 17-26


See IX. 134


See VIII. 27


As described above.


See IX. 88-91.


See IX. 46-52.


See IX. 134.


See IX. 90.


See IX. 208.


See IX. 210.


See IX. 80.


See IX 26-32.


See IX. 134.


See IX. 61-64.


This is not clear.


See IX. 109.


See VIII. 27.


See IX. 105.


See IX. 46-52.


See ṚS. V. 5 and 10.


K. reads before this the following text which in trans, is as follows: He who is imbued with a state pleasant or otherwise, looks under its influence everything as permeated with it. For the def. of bhāva see VII. 1-3.


See VII. 3-4.


See VII. 4-5.


See Ag. on their point.


This is only an example of one of the many vibhāvas which may lead to the many Psychological States.


One of the persons mentioned in 40 above.


See XI. 51-52.


See XIII. 157-170.




See IV. 170ff.


See IX. 46-52.


See IX. 136.


See IX. 129.


See IX. 129.


See IX. 86.


See Ag.


88-891 It is because both the janāntika and the apavāritaka are supposed to be inaudible to others on the stage. Ag. quotes a view on their distinction as follows:

“anye tvāhu ubhayamapyetajjanāntikameva yāvato hi janasya tad vaktavyaṃ tāvato'nitake sāmīpye taducyate yattu tasmāt param uddiśya nocyate atha ca paraḥ śṛṇotvayamevāśayo vacane tadapavāritakena nigūḍheṇa bhāvenāśayena saṃyuktam”

And a late writer says:

“iha yadvṛttamekasyaiva gopyaṃ bahūnāmagopyaṃ tajjanāntikam tadviparītam apavāritam”. ND. p. 31.

But all this does not seem to fit in well with the examples of the apavāritaka available in extant dramas. Cf. Lévi, p. 61.


The trans. is tentative.


Cf. DR. I. 65b; BhP. p. 219, l. 21-22; SD. 425. Lévi, p. 61.


Correct the beginning of 94 text as “brūhyaho”


See I.120.

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