Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Introduction to the Nataka type of Drama’ 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)

Introduction to the Nāṭaka type of Drama

The West has very good and long tradition of drama, which started before the fifth century B.C. The tradition of drama originated from the Greek. The dramas were performed in the theatrical Athenian city, viz. Dionysian. The Greeks were performing tragic dramas based on mythology or history before the god Dionysus. The word tragedy is derived from “tragos” and “ode”, which mean “the goat song”. Aristotle has mentioned six elements of the tragedy, i.e. plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle and song because other types of dramas (comedy and satyr) are originated from the tragedy. Most of Athenian tragedies were based on Greek mythology and others were based on history. For instance, Aeschylus’s The Persians, Oresteia trilogy; Sophocles” Antigone, Electra, Oedipus the king; Euripides” Media, Hercules, The Trojan woman; Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Othello constitute tragedies based on mythology or history.

After 550 B.C., the comedy and satyr types of dramas originated from the tragedy. The word comedy in the broadest sense of the term means drama. In Athens, any kind of humorous material, related to Greek civilization or history was called comedy. The performance of comedy started in the classical age at the Dionysian, in the sixth century B.C. The comedy is equivalent to ancient Greek “komoidia”. The word komoidia means in Greek “party (kom-) song (-oid-)” which indicates the partiers (komastai) sang songs (oidai) to tease, mock and make fools with the figures of spectators or public. Some old comedies like Aristophanes” Forth wall, Knights; Cinonides” Beggars, Heroes, Persians; Magnes” Frogs, Dianysus, Birds, Lydians are well known.

The humorous play featuring boisterous bands of lusty, mischievous woodland spirit is called satyr. It is also called joking or humorous tragedy. The satyr comes under both comic and tragedy. Mostly satyr is mythological, based on rural background. For instance, Aeschylus’s Prometheus the Fire-Bringer, Theban trilogy, Oresteia, Bacchae and Sophocles’s The Trackers, Ichneutae are satyrs.

From Greek, the tradition of theatre spread to Roman (270-476 CE.), where the prominent playwrights were Livius Andronicus, Gnaus Noevius, Titus Maccius Plautus and Publius Terentius Afer. The Elizabethan tradition started in the sixteenth and seventeenth century A.D. it is the most famous western tradition. The authors like Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton and Ben Jonson are the prominent playwrights of this tradition (Google search, Western Drama).

However, the Indian dramatic tradition started in the form of Sanskrit classical drama. Western scholars believe that the Sanskrit classical tradition of drama began after the development of Greek and Roman dramatic tradition, which continued from the second century B.C. to the tenth century A.D. It almost stopped after the Islamic conquests in the tenth to eleventh century A.D. However, the Indian scholars refute this view and hold that it started much earlier than the Greek and the Roman traditions. The ancient Vedas in various hymns consist of the dialogues such as Yama-Yamī, Purūravā-Urvaśī, Indra-Indrāṇī etc. However, the earliest reference to the drama is known from the Mahābhāṣya of Patañjali (140 BCE). It is estimated that the Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata was composed in between 200 BCE. Pāṇini has mentioned in his Aṣṭādhyāyī about the Naṭa-Sūtras (4.3.110), which are generally believed to have flourished during 500 B.C. It is also believed that some monologue types of dramas might have existed long before Pāṇini.

However, Indian drama is quite different. It is based on the views of Bharata and Dhanañjaya regarding drama. Further, it does not depend on any one sentiment like the Western drama. Indian dramatists use various sentiments like tragedy (karuṇa), heroic (vīra), marvelous (adbhuta) etc. in the drama. Thus, the definition of drama is different in the Indian tradition. According to Indian view, it is the work of actor (naṭa) or the activities of actor (naṭakarmaiva nāṭyaṃ, syāditi nāṭyavidāṃ mataṃ—Bhāvaprakāśana, 2.46). Abhinava Gupta also states that “Nāṭaka is the act or presentation of the actor” (naṭasya naṭavṛtti, -Abhinavabhāratī, vol.I, p.3).

The Nāṭyaśāstra defines Nāṭaka (Nāṭyaśāstra.XVIII.12, XIX.145) as that which is based on various sentiments and emotions and represents pleasure and pain with the story of the kings, godsand sages. It is the story of the pastand is imitated properly. When an actor imitates differently with the help of gestures or physical movements, leaving aside his real natureand when it is enjoyed by the audience, it is called Nāṭaka. The Daśarūpaka defines Nāṭaka as that which comprises various types of sentiments as well as fulfils the total definitions, amongst all types of drama (Daśarūpaka.III.1). But Dhanika states in the Avaloka that Drama in which all the necessary characteristics are described is called Nāṭaka (uddiṣṭadharmakam hi nāṭakam -Daśarūpaka.III.1).

The Nāṭyadarpaṇa, (I.5.4) derives the word “nāṭaka” from the root “nāṭ”, “to please” or “to make dance”. However, Abhinavagupta derives the same word from the root “naṭ”, which means “to bow down.” However, in that case, the first vowel and the derived word would only be “naṭaka” and not “nāṭaka”. This instance is similar to the derivation of ghaṭa, (and not ghāṭa) from the root “ghaṭ”.

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