Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Introduction to the Bhana 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 Bhāṇa type of Drama

Bhāṇa is the earliest ritualistic play enacted by the priests, dating back to the 2750 to 2475 century B.C., known from pyramid texts of Egypt (Varadpande,1981, p.24). It contains occasional dialogues and actions. In Greece, the Athenian women used to celebrate a festival is called “Lenaia”, in the month of January, in honour of Dionysus (the Greek god). The masked devotees and actors celebrate it with grand procession. They perform some monologue type of play in front of the orchestra, which is called “arena”.

Greek and Roman people used to enjoy the traditional dance and seasonal performance, which were called Cordax or Kordax (Varadpande, 1981, p.126), in which vulgarity is copious like in monologue. The actor’s body is uncovered intentionallyand the drama is the act of dancing with various movements. Even the idea of using singing-boys and singing-girls in the Greco-Roman dance forms indicates the use of Courtesan or Gaṇikā in monologue. This Gaṇikā is called “the flute girl” or “the singing girl” who performs dance and drama as to the Greco-Roman tradition. The Greek one-act-hilarious plays are equal to Bhāṇa in India. It is said that these Gaṇikās or Hetairas have migrated to India from Greek. They are fair in colour, hold the wine glass and use the language with unfamiliar consonants. They wear crescent-shaped earrings. These girls with a brooch at the shoulder wear the pinnedgarment.

Then Greece has evidence that the monologue play is originated from puppet theatre. M. L. Varadapande (1981, Ancient Indian and Indo-Greek Theatre, pp.11213) states that the puppet player potheinos was so much popular in Athens that the Arehons gave up to him the very stage on which Euripides has excited the enthusiasm of the populace.

These incidents strongly suggest the fact that monologue has a long history. Even Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” betrays similar trends of mono acting by the woman character Macbeth. Some other western mono-acting plays are “Andrea Drell Satron” of Brownian, “From Marne to mid-night” of George Cesar, “Barren ground” of Ellen Glasgow, “My last douches” of Robert Borrowing, “Mad” of Alfred Tennyson. Bhāṇa is also similar to the mono acting of the west.

The Monologue is the oldest form of dramatic literature in ancient India. The Vedic Saṃhitās indicate about it through its ākhyānas and saṃvāda Sūktas like Yama-Yamī, Purūravas-Urvaśī, Saramā-Paṇi and Indra-Indrāṇī. These dialogue forms are of monologue type, enacted at the ritualistic sacrifices known as yajña, performed by Āryans. The hymns we get in the Ṛg Veda are the most ancient compilations, assigned to 2000-1500 century B.C. (Whitney) and 1200-1000 B.C. (Max Muller). It is considered as the earliest dramatic text. These saṃvāda Sūktas helped to create later development of dramatic forms. It is known from the history that the Monologue or Bhāṇa was developed in Gupta period, which is a one-act play with single character to amuse the audience. The Nāṭyaśāstra states that the Bhāṇa has come through the tradition (tathāgamānugatam –Nāṭyaśāstra.XX.108). It records the practice of enacting monologues in the Ṛg Veda. The Nāṭyaśāstra also describes the ancient Indian festival like banner festival of Indra. In a particular day, the play is staged and the flagstaff of Indra worships a decorated pole, probably with the image of Indra on its top to save the performance, from any kind of obstacles (dhvajāmahaḥ śrīmānmahendrasya -I.54).

Surendranath Shastri (1961, The Laws and Practice of Sanskrit Drama, Vol.1, p.17, footnotes) states that Monologue or Bhāṇa is a one-act play wherein the hero speaks for himself as well as for other characters who are known through the speech of the addressee and are proceeding from void. In fact, while staging a Monologue, it is only one actor that appears on the stage who addresses to a feigned listener and, for getting his reply introduces the expression; “what do you say” (kim bravīṣi) and himself speaks out the statement of the addressee. That is why it is called a Monologue (Bhāṇa).

Therefore, the etymology of the term [bhāṇa] is,

bhaṇyate gaganoktyā nāyakena sva-pravṛttam yasmin iti bhāṇaḥ.”

The Monologue generally has the characters like gambler or knave (dhūrta), courtesan (gaṇikā), Brahmins, Ministers and similar characters. The Gaṇikā is used in a Bhāṇa for singing or to perform music or for the enjoyment. It is known from the history that Greek was exporting Yavana girls or flute girls for the same purpose. In Gupta period, Yavana Gaṇikās were common in India. The fine example is Ubhayābhisārikā of Vararuci, was written at the time of Gupta period. The Gaṇikā Madanasenā, presents a musical play in the Viṣṇu temple. Even Mahākavi Śyāmilaka describes about the beautiful Yavana Gaṇikā settled in the prosporous city of Ujjayinī, in his Pādatāḍitaka Bhāṇa.

The earlier Monologue (Bhāṇa) plays did not contain any comic sentiment as the main sentiment; all they have is erotic sentiment. These Monologues, which have comic sentiment, are Farces. Some available and famous Monologues are Padmaprabhṛtaka, Dhūrtaviṭasaṃbada, Ubhayābhisārikā, Pādatāḍitaka, Śṛṅgārabhūṣaṇa, Śṛṅgāratilaka, Rasasadana. For critical study, the researcher has chosen the Monologue (Bhāṇa) called Ubhyābhisārikā of Vararuci, which is considered as the first and oldest Sanskrit Monologue play.

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