Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Relationship of the different phases of Rasas’ 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).

The Relationship of the different phases of Rasas

Incidentally, it is necessary to discuss very briefly the relationship of the different phases of Rasas, for an analytical study of the nature of these sentiments evinces that some of them present light moods, wheras others cause a serious attitude of mind. For instance, the comic and the erotic sentiments give rise to gay and jolly attitude, but the furious and the heroic do not do so. Then again, the pathetic and the quietistic do not admit of light-heartedness at all. The state of consternation and wonder cannot but cause a person to be beside himself. Thus it becomes evident that the various types of sentiments essentially differ from one another in respect of their nature, composition and after-effects.

As the very constitution of this Universe bears the stamp of pleasure and pain blended together, any cosmic relation causing a physical or mental contact with a mundane phenomenon is sure to yield sometimes joy and at others course misery.[1] An unadulterated happiness is, in ordinary course of human life, an alien feature in a mortal society unless some psychological or mystic device is there to raise a human being above the infirmities of flesh and blood. Hence the natural opposition among the various sentiments and mental attitudes is bound to occur. So basic is the opposition that the concurrence of the divergent attitudes and sentiments becomes an improbable conception. Hence a clever artist has to avoid carefully the prevalence of the adverse attitudes simultaneously. Only those sentiments can, therefore, be aptly manifested together whose confluence in a dramatic representation does not mar their relative value. For this purpose, it is, enunciated by canonists as an empirical truth that the Heroic and the Erotic, the Comic and the Erotic, the heroic and the Marvellous, the Heroic and the Furious, and the Erotic Marvellous agree with one another; but the Erotic does not agree with the Loathsome and the Pathetic,. And the Quietistic and the Heroic do not agree with the Terrific, nor does the Furious with the Quietistic.

All the same, should a playwright, in the interest of the dramatic justice, feel it expedient to use two countervening sentiments in his work of art, nothing, however, can prevent him from doing so, provided his master skill warrants an adept use of them and makes the presence of one foster the cause of the other. It is only imporopriety (anaucitya)[2] which is fatal to the draatic interests, but the artist is otherwise free to make his own use of all the different elements, if he can stencil out his characters with a uniform success even through varied colours, whether they are at accord or discordant. For he can jolly well avoid impropriety by placing the adverse sentiments in a harmonious manner. That can be done by the avoidance of their opposition which is generally of tow types: one in respect of situation (sthiti) and the other in respect of perception (jñāna). The former can be avoided by placing the two discordant elements at a respectable distance, which can be managed by affording a different substratum (ālambaṇa) for them, e. g. if the Heroic sentiment is depicted through the principal character (netā) the Terrific may be stationed in his foe (prati-nāyaka). The opposition which stands between the two discordant sentiments can be avoided by the mediation of the netural sentiment. A contrast can easily be presented by the use of a relieving mediator in between the two disagreeing emotions.

Footnotes and references:


There is a good deal of controversy among the canonists in regard to their opinion about the nature of rasas: There is one school of thought represented by Ananda-vardhana, Mammata and Jagannatha who consider that in the realm of Poetry there is nothing but delight (Lokottarananda)–Rasagaṅgādhara p. 4, 9. According to them the psychological forces of cognition and fruition (bhavakatva and bhogakriva) relieve them of the miserable aspect of life and cause the mortal limitations to be sunk in the relish of the sentimental wonder (rasa-eamatkrti). It is all bliss, something akin to mystic pleasure, that an aesthetician enjoys while relishing the piquancy of dramatic sentiment. The other school of thought headed by the authors of the Natya-darpana, and of the Kanthabharana does not believe in this camouflage (Doṣa- vyapara), and thinks that rasas are both in the nature of pleasure as well as of pain.


The nature of Impropriety is discussed in details under the section of Dramatic Flaws... Vide Chap. VII infra.

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