Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Shringara or Adya-rasa (The Erotic Sentiment)’ of the study dealing with the Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana and its practical application of Sanskrit Dramaturgy. The Veni-Samhara is an extraordinary drama in Sanskrit literature which revolves around the great war of Mahabharata within six Acts. This study deals with the author, background and the technical aspects, reflecting the ancient Indian tradition of dramaturgy (Natya-Shastra).

Śṛṅgāra or Ādya-rasa (The Erotic Sentiment)

The emotion of amor (rati) develops into the erotic sentiment, Śṛṅgāra or Ādya-rasa.[1] The indirect causes (ālambana) of this sentiment are a man and a woman, who love each other in pursuit of conjugal pleasures. It is promoted by various exciting factors which may be broadly classifies into two categories: one, internal which pertains to ālambana, and the other, external which refers to the outside world. The internal one may be qualitative, operative excitants may again be merits of mind, spirit, speech or body of the persons concerned. The mental qualities which may attract the lover of his beloved may comprise of such virtues as fineness of temperament, sublimity of thought, sense of gratefulness, capacity of tolerance, spirit of patience and an attitude of clemency, piety and magnanimity. The virtues of speech may be sweetness of expression, musical voice, and an attractive trend of talk. The personal features that attract a love differ according to sex. The masculine build, handsome features, symmetry of body, comeliness in appearance, fair complexion, high birth and youth are some of the personal qualities that attract in a man. The prominent among the fascinating characteristics pertaining to the body of the softer sex are: age, lineaments (rūpa), loveliness (lāvaṇya), beauty (saundarya), charm (abhirūpata), sweetness (mādhurya) and delicacy (mardava).

The age of a damsel attracts only at particular stages. They are:

(i) Adolescence (Vayas-sandhi) is the age, growing from childhood to youth–say, the age between fourteen to eighteen years.

(ii) Fresh youth (nava-yauvana) which ranges from eighteen to twentytwo years is an age marked with slight development of breast, lovely smile, sprightly looks and modest influence of Love.

(iii) Blooming youth (Vyakta-yauvana) is conspicuous with prominent breast, linear waist, and gay apprearance and dolphin looks.

(iv) Full youth (Pūrṇa-yauvana) is characterized by fascinating bright limbs, slim waist, corpulent hips, amplitude of breasts and tapering thighs.

Age has much to do with attraction more in a woman[2] than in a man[3] so far as personal charms are concerned.

The second physical charm of a damsel is her personal lineaments, and consists in her natural grace adoring the body without the use of any ornament or decoration.

Lāvaṇya or loveliness is that glaze on the skin which glisters like the luster of a pearl.

Saundarya or beauty consists in the proper growth of every limb and its joints, and symmetrical constitution of the body which at one attracts even at a casual sight.[4]

Abhirūpata or comeliness is that quality or every limb which attains a hall-mark of beauty. It equals or surpasses the accepted standards of comparison, e. g. the set of teeth like a rosary of crystals, face like petals of rose, hair like a string of bees and so on.

Mādhurya or sweetness is an inextollable charm mainly consisting of uniformity and ever-fresh attraction.

Mardava or delicacy is incapacity to bear a contact with any thing calling for hardihood. It is again of three degrees, high delicacy, the middling delicacy and the standard delicacy. High delicacy may be illustrated by reference to the night and found the flowers unfaded in the morning, but her body scarred with callus here and there. The middling delicacy may be seen in a body rubbed red by a flirting contact with a fringe of silk muslin worn by her. Face assuming a copper colour, fatigued, and perspiring even in contact with early sunbeams, and panting after a few hasty steps on a level ground is the norm of a female delicacy.

The third type of excitants that promote the sense of amor relates to accomplishments: In case of a man, his deeds of valour, exploits, conquests over enemies, feats of arms, achievements in fine arts, scholarṣip, righteous deeds, munificent spirit, sportsmanship, examples of self-sacrifice, ample resources, eminence gained by granting protection to the oppressed and domination prowess generally attract a lady-love. In case of woman, her proficiency in music, dance and domestic arts, sportiveness and literary attainments are the few accomplishments that add a sauce to her lāvanya.

Decoration is another type of excitant which arouses the amorous tendency. It may be done by putting on an attractive dress, the use of choice jewellery, garlands, perfumes, pomades and other cosmetic.

Besides these personal attractions, the attendant circumstances are the external causes that excite the amatory sentiment. They are generally by reference to time, place and situation. For instance, moon-lit nights, cool atmosphere, floral fragrance, the songs of the cuckoo, the vicinity of some river, solitude, the nocturnal excursions on the full moon nights in the autumn season, the sight of the mango sprays, the vernal season, the Malaya breeze, the roaring clouds, flash of lightning, torrential rians, the humming of bees, jubilant festivities, gay scenes and movements of all those that command the forces of Cupid constitute the army of excitants, which stir the loving hearts to indulge in sports and coquestry, dalliance and merriement.

Anubhāva or the ensuants of amor in case of lady are all the alaṅkāras, physical, natural, and invorn as described in the last chapter. Besides them, there are some explicit anubhāvas which are called by Rūpa Goswamīn as the Udbhāsvara ones, because they become clearly visible on the body of the person.[5] He broadly illustrates them by referring to such features as slipping of garment fromt eh body, looseness in the braid of hair, the twisting of limbs, yawning, widening of nostrils, heavy breath[6], dalliance, knitting of brows, directing side-glances and similar other activities.[7] Even in the mode of speech, the change caused by emotion of love becomes visible; and that sets up a group of verbal anubhāvas. According as the stage of love differs they present a varied type[8], and may be summed up as follows:

Alapa is a coaxing mode of speech;

  1. Vilāpa is a speech which expresses afflication at heart;
  2. Saṃlāpa is a witty conversation between the lovers;
  3. Pratāpa is a meaningless statement made at random;
  4. Anulāpa is repetition of one and the same word or words. It expresses frenzy of love;
  5. Apalāpa is a statement which construes matters in a way different from the one in which it is originally meant. It may also consist in adrioitly withdrawing or modifying a statement originally made in all seriousness;
  6. Saṃdeśa is a missive dispatched to the loving partner in expression of one’s own feelings;
  7. Atideśa is an expression of one’s feelings through some external medium as that of music, thunder echo, and the like;
  8. Upadeśa is a direction or an instructive remark which is suggestive of love;
  9. Nirdeśa is a mention of one’s own name, or of a lineage for purpose of indentification or attraction;
  10. Vyapadeśa is an expression of one’s own desires by reference to similar situations in case of others.

Besides these three varieties of anubhāvas, all the involuntary states (sāttvikas) shown above also behave like anubhāvas for purposes of suggesting the sentiment of Love.

The auxiliary feelings which support the expression of the sentiment of love are all and any of the Vyabhicārins except, sloth, fright, acrimony (ugratā) and disgust.

In fine, the emotion of Love (sthāyī-rati), when brought out in a piece of composition with these vibhāvas, anubhāvas, sāttvvikas, and sañcārī-bhāvas, develops into the erotic sentiment (Śṛṅgāra).

Footnotes and references:


Amor is an emotion of universal experience and sways over all other feelings and emotions; and hence it is the most prominent one, especially in the dramatic works; for in a Nāṭaka, the chief sentiment is stated to be either this one or the Vīra -rasa, It becomes, therefore, necessary to deal with these two sentiments in greater particulars here.


Singa Bhupala calls four stages of youth as the first, the second, the third and the fourth, and defines the last with features of declining youth and admits that his first-two stages only are attractive. (Rasārṇava-sudhākara p. 39 -T. S. S.).


In case of a man, the degree of attraction by reference to his age is nicely summed up as: “Anankurita-kureakas sa sitopaladhyam payah, Sa eva dhrta-kureadkas salavanambu-takropamah/ Sa eva sita-kureadkah kavathita-guggulodvega-krt, Bhabanti harini-drsam priyatameshu bhavas trayah.”– Vag-vilasa-5


Cf. Shakespeare: “Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.” As You like It. I-ii.


U. N. M. p. 299


U. N. M. p. 319.


Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata p. 64, LI. 6 & 7.


U. N. M. p. 322 et seq.; Rasārṇava-sudhākara I-220, 221. Whereas all the canonists agree in respect of all these particulars outlined here-in above, repetitive citations are avoided.

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