Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Summary of the Natyashastra’ 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)

Summary of the Nāṭyaśāstra

The Nāṭyaśāstra is the earliest and the most important available work on Sanskrit dramaturgy. It has arranged and beautifully discussed vast dramatic contents of all aspects. It is a very well written practical book of drama, which has not left any theatrical matter. There is no evidence of any work preceding it, but we cannot avoid the possibility. However, Bharata has taken some points from the predecessors (ānuvaṃśya and āryās) in the fifth and sixth chapter, of the Nāṭyaśāstra, which have come through the tradition of teacher and student or the succession of father and son. After the Nāṭyaśāstra, some treatises may have been written which precede the Daśarūpaka, but they are lost in the course of time. The Nāṭyaśāstra lays down the principles of dramaturgy for the guidance of the poets and actors. In the very first chapter, Bharata himself mentions that Brahmā taught the rules of Nāṭya to him, which he composed as the Nāṭyaśāstra subsequently. The present work of the Nāṭyaśāstra is a concise version, which was supposed to have more than thirty-six thousand verses. Though it is said that the Nāṭyaśāstra is “ānuvaṃsya” in some places, the descendents of Bharata are not the compilers of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Bharata alone is the compiler of the Nāṭyaśāstra. However, there are several of Bharatas such as ĀdiBharata, Vṛddha-Bharata, Jaḍa Bharata and Bharata, the son of Duṣyanta.

History (1998, Krishna Kumara, AlaṃkāraśāstraItihāsa, p.30) states that:

“there were five persons having the name of Bharata, in the ancient age, i.e. Bharata, the son of Daśaratha, Bharata, the son of Duṣyanta, Bharata, the grand-son of Māndhātā, Jaḍa-Bharata and Bharata, the author of the Nāṭyaśāstra.”

According to some Western and Indian scholars, Bharata, the author of theNāṭyaśāstra, is a special person, who had power to move both in the heaven and on the earth and performed dramas in both heaven and earth. Even Bharata himself mentions in the Nāṭyaśāstra that he was advised by Brahmā to compose the Nāṭyaśāstra. However, the opinion is not accepted by the scholars like Hemacandra, Rājaśekhara, Abhinavagupta, Siṅgabhūpāla and Damodara Gupta (Krishna Kumar, p.31). Thus, he must be a historical person and the mythology covers his historical personality. However, tradition honours him by using ‘bharatavākya” at the end of the dramas. Therefore, the Nāṭyaśāstra was written by Bharata and after him it was revised and refined by others.

However, it must be observed here that the Nāṭyaśāstra is the vast treatise for the common people of all castes, sects and the genders (sārvavarṇika–Nāṭyaśāstra.I.12) and it could be enjoyed in both ways, i.e. visually and audibly. It is the collection of the essential elements from the four Vedas like the text from the Ṛgveda, the song from the Sāmaveda, the representation from the Yajurveda and the sentiments from the Atharvaveda. Thus, it is called the fifth Veda. Therefore, the ancient Indian classical drama was religious but not secular; and that is why Bharata classifies it as the representation of the states of the three-worlds (trailokyasya bhāvānukirtanam–Nāṭyaśāstra.I.107). It is the imitation of the action of the people (lokavṛttānukaraṇam–Nāṭyaśāstra.I.112), which is based on various emotions (nānābhāvopasaṃparṇam–Nāṭyaśāstra.I.112) and which depicts different situations (nānāvasthāntarātmakam–Nāṭyaśāsta.I.112). Again, it is based on the actions of good, bad and middle people (uttamādhamamadhyānām narāṇām karmasaṃśrayam–Nāṭyaśāstra.I.113); and it is the representation of human nature with its joys and sorrows of the world (ayam svabhāvo lokasya sukhaduḥkhasamanvitaḥ -Nāṭyaśāstra.I.119). Therefore, it is called drama.

It is very difficult to decide the date of the Nāṭyaśāstra, like other old Sanskrit works. The scholars have ascribed various dates for the Nāṭyaśāstra, because of the doubts of its authenticity in the MSS. of the work. M. Ghosh fixes the date of the Nāṭyaśāstra from 500 B.C. to 200 A.C. However, Jacobi puts it in the third century A.D. Paul Regnaud placed it in 100 B.C. Haraprasad Shastri puts in the second century A.D. P. V. Kane placed it in 200 B.C. to fourth A.C. S. N. Shastri placed it in the third century B.C. and third A.C. Again, S. K. De has ascribed the date as fourth century A.D. (Nāṭyaśāstra, Part I, Introduction by Manomohan Ghosh, 2012, pp. lix-lxv). Then Both the Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa (third part, 17th chapter) and the Agni Purāṇa (cha.338) reflect the topics of Daśarūpakas and the date of these two works are ascribed by various scholars as the fifth to the seventh century A.D. Thus, the date of the Nāṭyaśāstra should be placed before them. However, the date of the Nāṭyaśāstra is uncertain unless and until the dates of Kālidāsa, Bhāsa and Aśvaghoṣa are not decided, because Bhāsa has less used the rules of the Nāṭyaśāstra and Kālidāsa and Aśvaghoṣa have followed most of the rules of the Nāṭyaśāstra. Anyhow, the Nāṭyaśāstra cannot be ascribed a later date than 300 A.C.

Further, it is surprising that the Nāṭyaśāstra was first published in a foreign land by a foreign scholar and it disappeared by 1865 A.D. and was unknown to everyone. Krishna Kumar (1998, Alaṅkāraśāstra kā Itihāsa, p.29) mentions that “in 1865, Fredrik Hall discovered the Nāṭyaśāstra in an incomplete condition. He got four chapters, i.e. the seventeen, the nineteen, the twenty and the twenty-four. Then in 1874 A.D. German scholar, Heymann had got and published a complete copy of the Nāṭyaśāstra. In 1880 A.D., Regnaud, a French scholar published the fifteenth and the sixteenth chapters in French language. Then one of the students of Regnaud, viz. J. Grosset, published twenty-eighth, a single chapter and again he published it from the first to fourteenth chapters. However, in 1894, the Nāṭyaśāstra was published by Nirṇayasāgara Press, Bombay, Kāvyamālā Series by Sivadatta and Kashinath Panduranga. Again, it was published in 1935 by Kāśi Sanskrit Series; by Pandit Batukanath Sharma and Pandit Baladev Upadhyaya.”

At present, there is only one commentary of the Nāṭyaśāstra, which is available, viz. Abhinavagupt’s Abhinavabhāratī (975-1015 A.C.). There is another commentary, i.e. Nānyadeva’s “Bharatabhāṣya”, but it describes only about the music. Further, from various sources, it is known that there were many commentaries of the Nāṭyaśāstra, but all of them are lost in the course of time. The authors like Kohala, Dantila, Drauhiṇi, Rāhula, Harṣa, Bhaṭṭodbhaṭa, Lollaṭa, Mātṛgupta, Śrīśaṅkuka, Bhaṭṭanāyakaand Bhāṭṭa Yantra are supposed to have written commentaries on the Nāṭyśāstra (Manomohan Ghosh, Nāṭyaśāstra, Introduction, 2012, pp.xxxviii-xlvii).

There are thirty-six chapters in the Nāṭyaśāstra, which discuss elaborately the essentials of dramaturgy, such as Music, Dance, Alaṅkāras, Stage-Construction, Metres, Prosodyand Sentiments. The main points of all the chapters have been discussed briefly below:

Chapter I describes elaborately the origin of the Nātya. Gods requested Brahmā to create a treatise, which would entertain the people of all the castes. Brahma created the Nātyaveda as the fifth Veda, taking the essences from the four Vedas. Bramhā advised Bharata to compile the Nāṭyaveda. Bharata enacted a drama with the help of his sons and nymphs in the festival of Indradhvaja. It also describes the obstacles in the performance and its removals. Then it also describes the Nātya and its nature and other things. Chapter II discusses different types of dramatic stages, the construction of the auditoriumand nature of its different parts, greenroom, side-room (platform) and similar things.

Chapter III describes the worship of the stage and that of the gods like Śiva, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Bṛhaspati and planets to get their blessings.

Chapter IV describes the enactment of Amṛtamanthana and Tripuradāha, origin of the wild dance of Śiva and its 108 dramatic production, 32 movements of limbs and hand poses or gestures and implementation of the songs.

Chapter V describes the preliminaries such as benedictory, song, prologue and similar things.

Chapter VI describes the five questions related to the sentiments asked by the sages, determinants and the permanent emotions, discussion of the eight kinds of sentiments, actions, styles and their achievements, seven kinds of tunes, music and songs.

Chapter VII describes the emotions, permanent emotions, consequents, determinants, the divisions and the sub-divisions of transitory moods.

Chapter VIII describes the parts and sub-parts of the acting and it describes the four kinds of acting, i.e. physical representation, verbal representation, representation of internal emotion and representation of extraneous matter.

Chapter IX describes the representation of hands; it also shows different types of hand and finger gestures and the movements of hands with the movements of body.

Chapter X describes the representation of whole body, like chest, back, waist and the other parts of the body.

Chapter XI describes the arrangements and applications of the attendants like earthly and aerial and the movements of acting of the characters and descriptions of various types of physical exercises and the science of Archery.

Chapter XII describes the variety of the stances of cāris and their definitions and names.

Chapter XIII describes the different gaits, according to the sentiments and characters. It also describes the rules that as to how the males could act the female character and the female could act the male character.

Chapter XIV describes the regional variations of dramatic performance and the nature of Indian and foreign dramasand the four kinds of regional variations, i.e. Pāñcālī, Āvantī, Dakṣiṇātyā and Ardhamāgadhī. It also describes the divisions of the directions, worldly or natural convention, dramatic convention and the two types of productions, i.e. delicate and energetic.

Chapter XV describes the divisions of the metres of verbal representation, descriptions of notes, signs, roots, prepositionsand compounds; it also describes the use of Sanskrit and Prakrit languages in drama, divisions of metres, unit of syllables, like short, long and trikas.

Chapter XVI describes the rules of terminology of metres and gives the descriptions of regular metres, such as sama, viṣama and āryā.

Chapter XVII describes the poetry, the definitions of thirty-six divisions of poem, the nature of the figures of speech, like upamā, dīpaka, rūpaka and yamaka and their divisions, examples, ten types of errors and merits of poetry.

Chapter XVIII describes the rules of language and fixes the characters as to who should speak in the Sanskrit and who should speak in the Prakrit. It also states that the Śaurasenī is the prime Prakrit and other Prakrits are Māgadhī, Āvantī, Prācyā, Ardhamāgadhī, Bālhika and Dakṣiṇātyā. Instead of these, it also describes the subordinate languages, like Śabara, Ābhīra, Cāṇḍāla, Śakāra, Draviḍa, Audra.

Chapter XIX describes the notes on intonation, the rules of conversation and the way of informing between the characters with each other, styles of reading, seven types of notes and their employment in the sentiments, two kinds of intonation (kāku), high and low notes and the figures of speech.

Chapter XX describes the ten types of dramas and other sub-dramas, use of Aṅka, Praveśaka, Viṣkambhaka and similar technical things, gentle dance and its usage. Chapter XXI describes the making of the plot like principal and subordinate, five kinds of actions, five kinds of junctures and its sub-divisions, five types of elements and introductory scenes. It also describes that Nāṭaka type of drama should include all above types of technical things.

Chapter XXII describes thoroughly the styles, the origin of the Bhāratī, Sāttvatī, Kaiśikī and Ārabhaṭī styles, their definitions and applications in various sentiments. Chapter XXIII describes the extraneous mode of representation, its nature, costumes, make-upand their four divisions like decoration of mask, ornaments, decoration of body and decoration of living creatures.

Chapter XXIV describes the generic representation, twenty kinds of graces for women, graces of physical representation according to the sentiments and emotions, seven kinds of effortless graces, ten kinds of natural graces, three kinds of graces based on limbsand twelve kinds of verbal representations. It also describes the divisions of women and their female messengers, eight kinds of heroines and description of their modes of love and ten stages of love.

Chapter XXV describes the external ways of attention, definition of courtesan, her thirty-three types of natural and accomplished qualitiesand the attendants and friends of courtesan. Again, it describes about the gestural representations of the women who love or hate; four stages of youthfulness of women, four kinds of lover and five ways to influence women.

Chapter XXVI describes the special representation, to gratify the conditions of Moon and Sun, times like afternoon, evening, nightand darkness, emotions like joy and sorrow. It also describes the intention of monologue, aside, aloud, personal address, confidence, representations of dreaming conditions; dyeing, poisoning conditions.

Chapter XXVII describes the indication of success, success through humans and divines and their intentions, satisfying audience, success in acting, removal of accidents and inauspicious activities; and the qualification of the judges or examiners of drama.

Chapter XXVIII describes the four kinds of musical instruments such as string instruments, drum instruments, solid instruments and flute; seven kinds of notes and scales, modes, pause of the notes.

Chapter XXIX describes the stringed instruments, the use of note and pause for the particular sentiment. It also defines four types of mode of articulations (varṇa) like ascending, descending, persistent and movement and their thirty-three dependant ornamentation.

Chapter XXX describes the flute instrument and its notes. It also defines the rules of Vīṇā.

Chapter XXXI describes the divisions, measured time, tempoand description and definition of song and description of dance, measured timeand hand gesture.

Chapter XXXII describes audible hand gestures and its five divisions and subdivisions, the qualifications of the female singers and the male music players and the qualifications of the music teacher.

Chapter XXXIII describes in detail the music instruments, like drums and leather-made music instruments. It also describes the occasions of playing the musical instruments and the commencement of the musical instruments by Svātī and Nārada.

Chapter XXXIV describes three types of characters of men and women (high, medium and low), four kinds of heroes (dhīrodātta and similar characteristics), classification of heroines, the qualities of female attendants of the royal harem and royal servants.

Chapter XXXV describes the distribution of the characters, creating artificial scenes by different objects and two types of acting, i.e. Delicate and Energetic. It also describes the characters like Sūtradhāra, Pāripārśvika, Naṭa, Viṭa, Śakāra, Ceṭa and the characteristics of heroines.

Chapter XXXVI describes the arrival of the Nāṭya on the earth, the names of the sages and questions asked by them, the history of the origin of the family of the Naṭa and the greatness of the Nāṭyaśāstra.

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: