Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Arthopakshepakas (modes of Introduction)’ 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).

Arthopakshepakas (modes of Introduction)

From the point of view of portrayal, the plot of a drama is again of three kinds, viz., the Indicative (śucya), the Audible (śravya), and the Narrative or Visible (unmeya or dṛśya).[1]

All that is preliminary or subsidiary or lengthy or uninteresting or incapable of portrayal but needed for connecting the different episodes of a drama belongs to the Indicative class of events. There are certain recognized modes for indicating such matters relating to the plot. They are five in number and are called the Intermediary scenes or Arthopakṣepakas inasmuch as they set forth the subject (artha) of the play.[2]

(i) Explanatory Scence (Viṣkambha or Viṣkambhaka):

It presents before the audience those portions of the story which link the events that have already taken place and those that are yet to happen.[3] It purpose to make a long a short of past events and acquaint the specatators with them so that they can easily pick up the yarn of the story and connect the events that are to follow. Such a scene may be monologue or a conversation between two or more characters.

If an Explanatory Scene is presented by such characters of intermediate status (madhyamā) as speak Sanskrit, it is said to be a pure one (śuddha viṣkambhaka). Even a female character has to speak in Sanskrit if she is admitted to participate in an Explanatory Scene.[4] An Explanatory Scene is said to be mixed or (śaṅkirṇa miśra) if it is presented by characters, some of whom speak in Sanskrit and other use any of the Prākṛta dialects.

Bhojadeva observes that an Explanatory Scene may be conveniently used in the first Act of the play, or just after the Induction is over. Its use may serve the purpose of narrating earlier events which are to be necessarily known before the main action (vastu) is set forth.[5] Kohala prefers its use in the Opening Juncture (mukha-sandhi) of a drama.[6]

(ii) Introductury Scene (Praveṣaka):

The second mode of indication is the use of an Introductory Scene. Its function is almost the same as that of the Viṣkambhaka, but it is presented by inferior characters in language which is not elevated (udatta). It serves the purpose of explaining matters omitted between two Acts.[7] It is intended never to be used in the first Act, for its definition clearly prescribes that it is always to be put in between two Acts. In a Praveṣaka, Bharata says, all characters should use the Prākṛt language,[8] but Sāradatanaya and Sāgaranandin following Matṛgupta permit the use of Sankrit also in case the Praveṣaka is conducted by such characters as the ascetics, brāhmaṇas, sages, kancukins and rakes (vīta).[9]

According to Bharata, the Praveṣaka has a five-fold purpose to serve: (i) It is meant for indication of time including the season or the part of the day in which the action is taking place; (ii) The inner purpose of some particular move is also explained by means of the Praveṣaka; (iii) A mstate of bewilderment (sambharama) due to plurality of action or the implicit nature of some momentous acts could be brought out through a Praveṣaka; (iv) Sometimes a major endeavour or the attainment of some expedients likely to help endeavour or the attainment of some expedients likely to help the consummation of the principal motif is idicated by a Praveṣaka; (v) It may also be used for introducing the nucleus of the events of the succeeding act.[10] Sāgaranandīn observes that a Praveṣaka could also be employed of the purpose of intimating long journeys and sketching the happenings in course of such journeys.[11] In fact, it is an effective device for condensing events ranging over a long duration of time. It is employed mostly insuch cases where even at the end of an Act the argument could not be completely set forth because of multiplicity of motives and actions.[12]

The Nāṭya-darpaṇa recommends the use of this scene as well as of the former in four types of shows only, namely, in the Nāṭaka, the Prakaraṇa, the Nāṭika and the Prakaraṇi.[13] Its recommendation seems to be merely a measure of expediency. For the four types of shows chosen by it have a cobweb of events and such a scene becomes essentially necessary to the succinctness of the presentation. On the other hand, the Vyāyoga and the Bhāṇa and other shows have, on account of shortness of action, no complication of events; and hence the Intermediary Scenes become out of place there. Viṣkambhaka, however, can be conveniently used even in short plays at the close of the prelude. The statement of the Nātya-darpaṇa, therefore, does not amount to an established principle of dramaturgy; nor has it any support in Bharata’s canons, which simply recommend that a Praveṣaka should be employed in the Prakaraṇa and the Nāṭaka by wise playwrights.[14]

(iii) The Intimation Scene (Cūlikā):

The third mode of indication of events is the use of Cūlikā in which the background events are presented through characters that speak from behind the curtain.[15] The characters in the Cūlikā may be of either sex, and the choice of the language is immaterial. The name, Cūlikā is derived from the term Cuda meaning a crest, and it signifies that it is supposed to be spoken, as it were from void, from behind the screen (nepathye)” is a usual stage-direction to denote the use of Cūlikā. Unline the Viṣkambhaka and the Praveṣaka it could be used even in the middle of an Act, and may also find place among the other modes of Introduction (arthopakṣepakas).[16]

Abhinava Kālidāsa and the Kāvyenduprakaśa mention that Cūlikā is of two varieties: It is called Khaṇḍa-Cūlikā if it consists of intimation of facts from within the curtain by characters who entrance and exit are not noticed by the audience. This is used in the beginning or the middle of an Act. On the other hand, if the entrance and the exit of the characters to and from the tiringroom (nepāthya) is within the view of the audience, it is an Akhanda-cūlikā. This is generally used towards the end, and les frequently, at the beginning of an Act.[17]

(iv) Continuation Scene (Aṅkāvatāra):

The fourth mode of indication is the use of an Aṅkāvatāra in which the actors intimate the theme and the argument (bījartha-yukti) of the succeeding Act.[18] Where a closing Act and an opening Act are not intervened by an Intermediary Scene, the concluding portion of the former is, in that case, known as the Ankavatara. It is not found at the commencement of any Act like the Viṣkambhaka or the Pravesaka but only towards the end. One of the features of the Aṅkāvatāra, in the opinion of Śri Kṛṣaṇa Kavi, is that the approach of the characters to appear in the subsequent scene is no foreṣadowed in course of this scene, but the argument runes on the following Act without an interruption (i. e. asucitanka-patram).

(v) Anticipatory Scene:

Aṅkasya or Aṅkamukha: It is a scene in which the subject of all acts is intimated in a nutshell. It is generally used in the first Act of a play, as it done in the Mālatī Mādhavam wherin in course of the talk of Kamandakī, a bird’s eye view of the entire denouement is given. This is how Bharata defines the Aṅkasya or Aṅkamukha as he calls it.[19] Dhanañjaya,[20] owever, defines it is a scene which contains a reference to the subject-matter of the following Act made by the characters at the end of an Act. Dhanika seeks an illustration to this view in the Mahāvīra-carita [Mahāvīracaritam] Act II in the Scene of Sumantra.[21] The Sāhityadarpaṇa bears out both the views as alternative connotations of the term Aṅkasya and cites the very examples to illustrate the definitions.[22] At any rate it is evident that an Aṅkasya with its latter connotation has very little to distinguish itself from an aṅkāvatāra.

Besides these five popular modes of introduction of events there is still one more method of doing so by means of inserting an Act within and Act, which is known as a subsidiary Act or the Garbhāṅka. It consists in the presentation of a small sub-show containing the pivot or the germ of the dramatic plot. It is set in the midst of an Act of the major part of the play and is very efficacious as a camouflage or an effective mode for introducing any marvel in the story. An example of this is found in the second Act of Rājaśekhara’s Bālarāmayaṇa [Bālarāmayaṇam] or the seventh Act of the Uttararāmacarita [Uttararāmacaritam] of Bhavabhūti. A garbhāṅka or an Embryo Act has to satisfy all the requirements of a show and has a short prelude and its own independent motif which, of course, ultimately helps the fruition of the main cause.[23] The Nātyadarpaṇa, however, calls garbhāṅka to be another name for the aṅkāvatāra described above, and cites the second Act of the Ratnāvalī by way of its illustration.[24]

For pupose of convenience, it is recommended that the first two types of Introductory Scenes, namely, Viṣkambhaka and Praveṣaka should be used by a playwright when he has to condense matters of long duration and requires sufficient length for the intermediary action. When the matter to be brought out through these scenes is comparatively small, then the Aṅkamukha should be used. If the matter is still less than what could be intimated through an aṅkamukha, then Cūlikā should be used, and when it is of the least duration, aṅkāvaṭāra is to be introduced.[25] With regard to the situation of the various types of the Introductory Scenes Kumārasvamī observes in his Ratnapana that the Aṅkasya and the aṅkāvatāra have their situation in the midst of an Act; viṣkambha and praveṣaka are placed always without the Act, and Cūlikā has its situation both within and without an Act.[26]

Footnotes and references:


Daśarūpaka I-56; P. R. p. 114 top; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 214-L.15; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa –X.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-108; Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-45; Daśarūpaka I.-58; P. R. p. 114; N. R. p. 80 6. B. P. p. 214 Line 31; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III- 177 …; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 394.


N. XVIII–106; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 65; P. R. p. 115 verse 19; Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-55; D. R. I-59; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 215, LI. 2-3; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 23; N. R. p. 80 LI. 8-9; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-178.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 38 Line 7.


Sr. Pr. (cited by Bhāva Prakaśa p. 215).


N. V. as cited by A.B. Vol. II. (Geakward Oriental Series ) p. 434. LI. 5-6.


Nāṭyaśāstra XVIII-36; Daśarūpaka I-60; Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-57; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 26; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 66. II. 67; P. R. p. 116 verse 22; N. R. p. 81-17-8; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III. 194; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 305-360; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 216 (Saradatanaya allows certain Sanskrit speaking characters like the Kancukin, etc. to lead the Pravesaka.


N. Ibid. (Prākṛt bhasha-eatah).


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 216, LI. 7-10; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa Line 315.


N. XVIII–37.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa Line 340.


Ibid., Line 328; also No. XVIII, 87-88.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa I-26.


Nāṭyaśāstra XVIII 35. It may be noted here that there are so many variant readings available for this passage whereby it does not become conclusive if at all Bharata means to prescribe any limitation to the use of the Pravesaka.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-111; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 412; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-58; P. R. p. 115 verse 20; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 219; Daśarūpaka I 61b; N. R. p. 80-14; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-182-87, Mālatī-Mādhava p. 66-3; Asmakutta agrees with Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 26.


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 219-24.


N. R. p. 80–LI. 17-24; Ka. P. as cited in Sāhityadarpaṇa p. 293 bottom.


Nāṭyaśāstra XXI-115; Daśarūpaka I-62; P. R. 116-Li. 8-11; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 218-LI. 15-20; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-58; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 27a; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 896; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 66, LI. 7-8; N. R. p. 81-4; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III, 191-93. It is submitted for critical judgement that the inclusion of the ankavatara among the Introductory Scenes does not look to be logi cally correct inasmuch as it is an act in continuation of the previous one. It does not conform to the generic class of the arthopakṣepakas, as it does not copulate the two Acts by the thread of missing facts. If the arthopakṣepaka were to connote a very general significance so as to include scenes also, then every scene, as it presents some event or the other, will be an arthopakṣepaka and the specialty of the class will sink.


Na. XXI-116–“Sūtraam sakalankanam jnyeyam ankamukham budhaih.” Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 406; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 217 bottom; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 66.


Daśarūpaka I. 62a; P. R. p. 116 top; N. R. p. 80 bottom; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa I. 62a.


AVA. P. 32, LI. 22-27.


Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-59b-60.


Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-20.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 41, Line 5.


Ibid. I-27.


Ratnapana: p. 116, LI. 9-11.

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