Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Indian classical dramatic tradition’ of the English study of the Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya: an important work on Hindu dramaturgy (Natya-shastra) from the tenth century dealing with the ten divisions of Sanskrit drama (nata), describing their technical aspects and essential dramaturgical principals. These ten types of drama are categorised based on the plot (vastu), hero (neta) and sentiment (rasa)

Indian classical dramatic tradition

There is no evidence of the origin of the practical Indian dramatic tradition. The Vedic literature provides some evidences of monologues and some stray evidences about the folk dance and puppet dance. There is no instance of play-writes or plays before Bhāsa, Aśvaghoṣa or Kālidāsa.

Some Archeological evidences (1987, Manjul Gupta, p.3) show that:

“Indian classical dramas, started in the Pre-Āryan period, are based on some mythological gods like Śiva and Viṣṇu. Even the Āryans borrowed at least some of the earlier forms and traditions of dance and gave them their own unique fashion and concept. The various sites of Indus and Ganges valley civilizations, show dance, as practised well over five thousand years ago and continuing through pre-history and history and through Vedic, Epic and classical epochs.”

The Śrautasūtra of Kātyāyana (600 B.C.) provides some evidences that dance, song and music were performed at the time of the Pitṛmedha rites and dance was performed for the Atirātra and Sāttrāyaṇa sacrifices (nṛttagītavāditravacca–21.3.11). These dance, song and music are the essential parts of the Hindu drama. Pāṇini (500 B.C.) has mentioned that the “naṭasūtras”, the rules for naṭas compiled by Śilāli and Kṛśāśva, belonged to two schools of dancing and acting (Aṣṭādhyāyi, 4.3.110).

Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya consists of the evidence about the dramatic tradition of ancient India. It has mentioned the name of two dramas, i.e. Kaṃsavadha and Balibandhana (kaṃsavadhamācaṣṭe kaṃsam ghātayati, balibandhamācaṣṭe balim bandhayati–3.1.26), which were visualized through different theatres. S. K. De and S. N. Dasgupta, 1947, The History of Sanskrit Literature (Classical Period, Vol.I, pp.631-644) provide th th the probable date of the existence of drama as the 5 and 6 century B.C.

The Kāmasūtra (200 B.C.) also gives the evidence of the presence of song, dance, music and visual drama (gītam vādyam nṛtyam and nāṭakākhyāyikā darśanam–1.3.16, 1.4.42). Further, besides these, the Rāmāyaṇa, the Mahābhārata, old Buddhist literature, the Arthaśāstra have also mentioned the presence of the dancers, singers and musicians. However, they do not mention any literary drama and performances of any real drama.

In the 2nd century B.C., the Kaliṅga emperor Khāravela has depicted the stories of Udayana and Vāsavadattā and Duṣyanta in Rāṇigumphā caves. Even the sculptures show the theatrical tradition with the description of dance pavilion or raṅgamaṇḍapa.

The Nāṭyaśāstra itself mentions the name of plays, i.e. Tripuradāha and Amṛtamanthana (Nāṭyaśāstra.IV.2 and 10).

M. L. Varadapande (1981, Indo-Greek Theatre, p.55) gives some evidences of South-Indian theatrical tradition. He states that the earliest Tamil work, Tolkappiyam, th written around the 5 century B.C., contains references to the theatrical arts. Even Kural nd literature belonging to 2 century B.C. refers to the theatrical arts. Two Tamil Epics, Silappadikaram and Manimekalai refer to the rich theatrical tradition.

However, it is impossible to classify the Ṛgvedic performances by the definitions of rūpakas, given by Bharata in his Nāṭyaśāstra.

M. L. Varadapande (1981, Indo-Greek Theatre, p.48) states that:

“all types of one-act and plays mentioned in the Nāṭyaśāstra, existed around 500 B.C. Epics like the Rāmāyaṇa and ancient Buddhist literature, particularly the Jātaka tales, mention about Nāṭaka in clear terms, which is the most developed form among the rūpakas given by Bharata. Therefore, all the ten forms of rūpakas had developed by 600 B.C. The concrete evidence points to the existence of Nāṭaka form of rūpaka from 400 B.C., when Bhāsa appears on the scene. Bhāsa has handled various types of rūpakas from the one-act plays like the Dūtavākya, the Dūtaghaṭotkaca, the Ūrubhaṅga and three-act Samavakāra type of dramas like the Pañcarātra to full-fledged six or seven act Nāṭakas like the Svapnavāsavadattam, Pratimā. It would not be wrong to say, under these circumstances, that Nāṭaka may have been in vogue for two to three centuries before Bhāsa. This again suggests at 600 to 500 B.C. as a probable period in which the most developed forms of rūpakas like Nāṭaka and Prakaraṇa were in vogue.”

According to D. R. Mankad (1935, Types of Sanskrit Drama, p.148), Nāṭya developed from Nṛtya and Nṛtya developed from the primitive Nṛtta.

Thus, the characteristics of the first type of drama can be stated as follows:

  1. It was entirely in Sanskrit,
  2. It was descriptive in nature,
  3. It was monologues in form,
  4. and it was Secular in matter.

Thus, in view of these points, four types of dramas originated in different periods;

  1. Nāṭya types were represented by simple forms requiring only one actor and one act.
  2. Nāṭya required many actors but only one act
  3. Nāṭya of less complicated types with many actors
  4. Full-fledged Nāṭaka and Prakaraṇa types.

Thus, the original sequences of the dramas are:

  1. Bhāṇa,
  2. Vīthī,
  3. Vyāyoga,
  4. Prahasana,
  5. Aṅka,
  6. Ḍima,
  7. Samavakāra,
  8. Ihāmṛga,
  9. Nāṭaka and
  10. Prakaraṇa.

Manmohan Ghosh (1958, Contribution to the History of Hindu Drama, p.8) divides the kinds of dramas, discussed in the Nāṭyaśāstra, into five distinct types:

1) One act play in a monologue; Bhāṇa.

2) One act play with one or two characters; Vīthī.

3) One act play with different kinds of subject matter and with more characters Vyāyoga, Prahasana and Utsṛṣṭikāṅka.

4) Plays with three loosely knit acts and many characters, Samavakāra and plays with four acts and many characters, Ḍima and Ihāmṛga.

5) Plays with five to ten well-knit acts and many characters, takes long time to develop, which existed possibly long before Pāṇini, Nāṭaka and Prakaraṇa.

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