Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Vrittas (syllabic metres)’ 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).

Technically a Vṛtta may be composed of monosyllabic or bisyllabic quarters, still Bharata has not recognized a Vṛtti with less than a hexa-syllabic quarter. The playwrights and the classical poets too have not patronized meters of shorter pattern than the octo-syllabic ones, though their genius could have conveniently permitted them to do so. For this reason the shorter Vṛttas are not dealt with here.

A variety of Vṛttas is formed on account of the combination of four quarters, which may be either all uniform or may be dissimilar. On this ground, Vṛttas become capable of a major classification, and are accordingly divided into three categories:

1. Regular meters (Sama-vṛttas) are those which contain all the four quarters of equal measure both in respect of number of syllables and the order of their succession.

2. Semi-regular meters (Ardha-sama Vṛttas) are those which are partially uniform inasmuch as they contain quarters of two types which may differ from one another both in the number of syllables and their order of succession as well. This is again possible in three ways: (i) the first and the third quarter agreeing with the second and the fourth one respectively, the scheme of combination being in the ab ab[1] form; (ii) the first quarter agreeing with the fourth one and the second quarter agreeing with the third one, the scheme of agreement being in ab ba form; (iii) and lastly, one hemistich[2] agreeing with the other hemistich,[3] the sheme of composition being in the aa bb form. Out of these three forms, the first and the third are more in vogue.

3. The third category is of the Viṣama or irregular Vṛttas, where no quarter agrees with the other, or one of the quarters, at least, is dissimilar to the other three quarters. It is avariety which admits of all sorts of irregularity.

So far as the dramatic literature is concerned, the Sama-vṛttas are more popular as compared to the Ardha-sama ones of which only a few specimens have found favour with the playwrights. The stanzas of the Viṣama class present an exteme rarity.

Among the Sama-vṛttas then, the first point of distinction is by virtue of the numerical strength of the stanzaic line. From this point of view Bharata has recorded the following generic names to the different classes[4] of Vṛttas:

Group A:

The shortest Vṛtta in respect of length, which is recognized by Bharata, is of six syllables in a foot, and it belongs to the Gāyatrī class. The class of Vṛttas having a septa-syllabic line is Uṣṇik, of those having octo-syllabic lines is Anuṣtup; with novo-syllabic lines it is Bṛhatī, and with deci-syllabic ones it is Paṅkti.

Group B:

Vṛttas belonging to this group are very popular; and their generic names and the number of different types in total that a particular class can have under the Prastāra[5] rules are given below:

No Generic Name[6] No. of syllables in a foot Possible varieties[7] in sāma-Vṛttas
1 Triṣṭubh Eleven 2048
2 Jagatī Twelve 4096
3 Ati-jagatī Thirteen 8192
4 Śakvarī Fourteeen 16,384
5 Ati-śakvarī Fifteen 32,768
6 Aṣṭi Sixteen 65,536
7 Atyaṣṭi Seventeen 1,31,072
8 Dhṛti Eighteen 2,62,144
9 Ati-dhṛti Nineteen 5,24,288
10 Kṛti Twenty 10,48,576
11 Prakṛti Twenty-one 20,97,152

Group -C:

No Generic Name No. of syllables in a foot Possible varieties in sāma-Vṛttas
1 Ākṛti Twenty-two 41,94,304
2 Vikṛti Twenty-three 83,88,608
3 Saṅkṛti Twenty-four 16,77,7216
4 Ati-kṛti[8] Twenty-five 33,55,4432
5 Utkṛti Twenty-six 67,10,8864

Those Vṛttas which have lines containing more than twenty-six syllables are said to belong to the Mala class, otherwise known as Daṇḍakas.[9]

Out of these three groups drawn from the point of view of their popularity, it is worthy of notice that of the first Group only Anuṣṭup is used by playwrights. Out of Group B. all classes are in use of the dramatists, who have, with a rare exception,[10] avoided to use any pattern belonging to the classes mentioned in Grooup C. and the Daṇḍakas.

Though there are over a billion of meters as shown above, which are provided by a large variety of combinations presented by the method of prosodial permutation in the Sanskrit language, only a few, nay a very few, could be deemed expedient for an adequate sentimental expression, which, in fact, is the very summum bonum of the art of the scenic representation.

The popular meters, which have found favour with the Sanskrit playwrights and are deemed expedient for employement by Bharata, are briefly discussed here.

In the Gāytrī class Bharata has given four types,[11] namely, Tanumadhya, Makara-śirsha, Mālinī and Malati,[12] the first two of which are also accepted by Bhaṭṭa Kedara[13] who, however, calls the second one as Śasīvadanā. Kālidāsa[14] also includes Śasī-vadanā in his list, which equates with Bāla-lalita given in the Garuda-purāṇa.[15] Piṅgala Naga, however makes a mention of Tanu-madhya only.[16] Mālini of given connotation is not found anywhere else. Malinī, however, is recognized by Kedara as Sragvinī[17] and as Vimoha and Vallari by the Vānibhuṣaṇa and the Cchandaḥ Kaustubha respectively.[18] Mada-lekhā is the only type which is recognized by Kālidāsa in the Uṣṇik Class.[19] It does not, however, agree with any meter mentioned by Bharata who has in his list two other types known as the Bhramara-malika and Uddhata, the latter equating with the Kumara-lalita of Piṅgala Naga and Bhaṭṭa Kedara.[20]

In the Anuṣṭup class, Bharata mentions three varieties Siṃha-lila,[21] Matta-ceshtitam and Vidyullekhā out of which the last two are recognized by other prosodists by naming them as Pramānika and Vidyuna-mālā respectively.[22] Kālidāsa, Piṅgala Naga and Dāmodara Miśra add Manavakakridita to this list.[23] The most important and popular meter in this class, however, is Śloka otherwise known as Padya which is said to be evolved by the Ādikavi Vālmikī[24], and this pattern has in each quarter the fifth as a short syllable, the sixth long, and the seventh one long and short in alternate quarters.[25] It is also known as the Pāthya -vaktra, and is of very frequent occurrence in the Sanskrit plays.

Footnotes and references:


The symbol “a” and “b” here represent the pattern of the quarter, and the order of succession is symbolized as abab, abba, and aabb.






This division into groups is done for the facility of understanding, and is not so done elsewhere by any canonist.


Prastara is the first of the six-fold Pratyayas recognized by the Cchandah-sastra for determining the varieties of the meters. It determines the total number of meters in a class by rules of permutation.


Vide Nāṭyaśāstra XIV-41, 46.


Ibid. XIV-61, 77. They could be 134, 217, 726.


Also spelt as Abhikrti.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIV-47; Ccha. S. VII-33.


The well-known exception is of Bhavabhūti: Ma, Ma. V-23, which is Sangrama type of Dandaka.


N. XV–9, 10.


Tanumadhya has a Tagana and a Yagana in each foot; Śasī-vadanā has a Nagana and a Yagana; Malati has a Rāga na and a Magana; and Malani has two Rāga nas. Na. XV-2, 10.


V. R. III-7, 8.


Sr. B. 8.


G. P. Purva-khanda, Adhyāya 209.


Ccha. S. VI-2.


V. R. III-11.


V. B. II-45, 46; Ccha. K. as cited by Visalyankarini p. 106, 9.


Mada-lekha = Ma, Sa and ga.


Bhramara-lulita has Ta, Na, and ga; and Uddhata has Ja, Sa and ga. Na. XV-12, 14; Ccha. S. VI- 3; V. R. III-1.


It is otherwise spelt as Simha-lekha.


V. B., V. R.; Sr. B. and Ccha. S. Sr. B. names Pramanika as Nagasvarupini.


Sr. B. 13; Ccha. S. VI.–4; V. B. II-76; V. R. III-21.


Cf. Sokah Slokatvam agalah.


Sr. B. 10.

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