Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Hero of the Dramatic Play’ 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 Hero of the Dramatic Play

Dramatic characters present a panoramic view of society and the sociological conditions of the land prevailing for the time being. The liveliness or the sombre outlook of the dramatic characters forms an index to the annals of a people’s history.[1] Their nature and variety is not only a gallery of amusing social pictures but the vignettes of their life disclose the standard of living and comfort, ways and habits, accomplishments and drawback of the nation at large.[2] It calls, therefore, for a highly sophisticated art and a catholic taste in the playwright when he assumes the task of drawing the pen-pictures of several individuals whom he chooses to introduce in his work of art. The study in characters and their various patterns opens a leading avenue for investigation in the field of dramatic literature.

The Sanskrit dramatic litereaure clusters round the axle of the amatory or the heroic sentiment, and the type of characters introduced in a play abide by the ruling sentiment. But whatever the sentiment or the motive of the play be, there is always a rincipal action or the denouement therein. Whosoever is to enjoy the benefit of all efforst or in whose interest are all movement directed is the person who reaps the real harvest. The motif or the resultant benefit is called the fruit (phala) and the enjoyment of the phala is called the adhikāra.[3] One who has the adhikāra is, no doubt, the adhikāriṇ, and it is he who becomes virtually the principal character in a drama. He is called the Netā, Nāyaka or the hero, because the entire dramatic action culminates ultimately into his benefit.[4] He, in fact, becomes the substratum of all actions and is the basic or the pendent factor[5] (ālambaṇa) of the principal sentiment in a show; and thus ranks foremost for consideration.

A hero may be of different types–any–as of many types as human beings can possibly be with all shades of difference in their natural disposition and modes of acquittal. So complex is the human nature with its numerous leanings and tendencies that it hardly admits of any division capable of making compartments suitable enough for demarcating lines of classification. Still the ancient scholars have made attempts to determine the broad characteristics of different characters, and they have, in the first place, defined the personal merits of a hero.

The essential qualification of a hero are enumerated by Abhinava Kālidāsa as generousity, grandeur, high birth, prudence, comeliness, valour and piety.[6] These different qualities make him a perfect a man. He is adventurous and yet God-fearing. He is eminently regardful of his duty to himself, to his peoples, and to his religion. Without this much of personal equipment none is demed worthy of being a leading character of a play for want of imitable virtues in him. To these qualities, Siṅga Bhūpāla addss a few more characteristics, as cleaverness in conversation, sense of gratefulness, statesmanship, self-confidence, brilliance, love of art and amiability of disposition.[7] Profundity of character, sympathetic temperament, sense of emulation and purity are a few features which are added by Śrikṛṣṇa Kavi to the other accepted features of a hero in general.[8] Vāgbhaṭṭa, of course, has got the longest list of qualities necessary for a hero, that comprises as many as twenty-eight covetable accomplishments;[9] but all that is required of a principal character is summed up by Viśvanātha in his text,[10] “Munificent, cleaver, high born, handsome, youthful, enthusiastic, prompt, devoted by people, powerful and tactful is the nature of a hero.” To be possessed of the Śāstric vision is one of the essential merits of a hero according to Dhanañjaya.[11] Cunacandra is still brief in defining a hero who is possessed of the prominent virtues, neither vicious nor be fallen in calamities.[12]

The hero or the principal character is classified into four types; namely, dhīrodātta, dhīra-lalita, dhīroddhata, and dhīrapraśānta.[13] Though the naïve tendencies of each of these types depend mainly upon the heredity, social environment and professional career as discussed above,[14] still for purposes of dramatic delineation, it is their mode of acquittal, their actual frame of mind, line of thought and action that determines their types according as they disclose, on the whole, the Udatta, the Lalita, the Uddhata or the Praśānta character. All the same, it becomes an essential qualification of a hero that eh shouldbe at all events dhīra, i.e. full of fortitude and courage, and should be possessed of the nerve to bear the brunt and withstand all the undulations of the billows that toss him up and down in the tidal waters of human life.

A hero is deemed to be Udatta or of gallant character if he evinces a spirit of tolerance (kṣama), gravity of outlook (ati-gambhiratā), absence of boastfulness (avikattahanah) steadfastness in action (sthirata), exceedingly harmonious mind (mahasattvah) and latent self-assertion (nigudhahankara).[15] Vidyādhara desires him to be compassionate and full of sympathy as well (Kṛpavan).[16]

A hero is called Lalita or gay if he is free from anxiety, he is fond of fine arts, and happy and gentle.[17] Śāradātanaya attributes to him a luxurious life given to amatory pursuits.[18] Sweetness of speech, all-pleasing manners (dakṣiṇya [dakṣiṇyam]), fastidiousness in dress and other dainties of life and dandysm are the features of the Lalita hero according to Śri Kṛṣṇa Kavi.[19]

A hero is called Praśānta or the calm who is possessed of the general characteristics of a hero shown above.[20] Guāacandra specifically defines him to be easy-going, and a straightforward person endowed with all gentlemanly qualification.[21] He is modest yet a diploment; he is kind and gentle.[22] Śri Kṛṣṇa Kavi observes that high moral character, some of discrimination, mental equilibrium, clemency and truthfulness are the determining virtues of the Praśānta hero.[23]

A hero is uddhata or bold when his character is dominated by jealousy and self-conceit. He is presumptive, treacherous, ficle, tar-tempered, deceitful and vehement.[24] The self-panegyric element is added by Viśvanātha amongst other characteristics of an iuddhata hero.[25] The Mandara believes him to be irascible and full of enterprise.[26]

That he has got a taste for magical feats” is the observation of Vidyānātha.[27] Acyuta Ria, however, does not accept “Uddhata” as a type of a hero; for he defines heroes of the first three tyes only.[28]

These are the four popular types of heroes who lead other characters whether their action is to pursue for an accomplishment of love or the heroic exploits. Should he be a hero of an erotic composition, his pursuits are all directed to amatory causes. As polygyny was much in vogue in ancient India and more prominently in the princely order, an amatory her is further classified into four types according to his conjugal behaviour towards his spouse or spouses. In the first place a hero may be either a monogamist or has more than one spouse at a time. A monogamist makes a class by himself and is called anukūla or faithful like Nala or Rāma.

But a polygynic hero has got divided affection amongst his different beloveds and he may behave in different ways with them:

(i) A hero, when he is enamoured of another woman, may behave gallantly, showering his affection equally on all of his spouses and remain kind to his previous lady-love. Such a hero is said to be Dakṣina or the gallant one, like Udayaṇa or Yudhiṣṭhira.

(ii) While in pursuit of another woman, a hero, who hides his unfaithfulness from his pervious love and clandestinely approaches the subsequent one, is called Śatha or the deceitful hero, like Pururavās.

(iii) A hero is called Dhṛṣta or the bold one, when he is so disregardful of his previous love that he does not feel abashed of his appearance with amorous marks visible on his person which betray his association with another woman. This is how Dhanañjaya defines the bold hero. But more aptly his character is defined by Viśvanātha when he qualifies him as one, who does not feel shy even though he has committed a wrong or a breach of conjugal trust and is not abashed even if scolded or directly reprimanded.[29] He seeks shelter in speaking lies when he is caught red-handed and his offence is brought home to him. The author of the Alaṅkāra Śekhara[30] agrees to the view of Viśvanātha. Such a hero is the oen of the Abhijñāna Sakuntalā.

These are the four types of the hero who is a married husband. But it is not always necessary that the hero should only be married consort, and hence from the objective point of view, a hero may again be deemed of three types, namely, Pati or a legally wedded mate, or Upa-pati the paramour, and the Vaiśika or the one who idulges with a courtesan.[31] To amplify, Rūpa Goswamīn adds that Pati is the one who accepted the hand of a virgin according to marital rites and Upapati is the one who is an object of love of a woman other than his wife and has become willing to transgress the conjugal limitations under the influence of Amor, which makes him court another girl.[32]

The principal character in the heroic plays is also classified objectively according as the nature of the object of his enthusiasm differs. For example, aher may have purely meritorious differs. For example, a hero may have purely meritorious pursuits and he may exhibit his best zeal for the righteous pursuits and he may exhibit his best zeal for the righteous accomplishments. Another her may have chivalrous pursuits and may be anxious only for trampling over his foes, or he may have the best zeal for running risk for the benefit of another, or he may be most charitably disposed. This they are respectively called

Dharma-vīra; Yuddha-vīra; Dayā-vīra or Dāna-vīra. Besides these dispositions a hero may have an ardent zeal for the display of his personal strength, learning, duty, truthfulness and other virtues in accordance with which they may differ in number of ways as heroic characters. Their essential nature as heroes is determined in terms of the type of sentiment that rules over their activites and pursuits.

Whichever be his type, a hero has certain general characteristics as his personal merits and they are eight in number.[33]

1. Beauty of character (Śobhā): Sympathy with the inferiors, emulation with the superiors, chivalry and skill omprisec Śobha.

2. Vivacity of character (Vilāsa): Steady glances, firm, steps and smiling speech form Vilāsa.

3. Sweetness (Mādhurya): Equanimity of behaviour and undisturbed demeanour evening the midst of great calamity is Madhurya.

4. Mental equilibrium (Gāmbhirya): Absence of change in mental attitude even when there is cause for agitation shows gravity of character.

5. Steadfastness (Dhairya or sthairya): Unflinching devotion to the purpose, though confronted with a host of obstacles depicts “sthairya” of character.

6. Brilliance (Tejas): Sense of self-respect and intolerance in respect of an insult is called Tejas.

7. Affability (Lālitya): Sweetness of temperament, amiable disposition and engaging manners constitute the Lalita character.

8. Magnanimity (Audārya): A tendency to oblige some one else even at the cost of self-interest is a specimen of Audārya.

Every hero has his counterpart, and he is known as the subsidiary hero or the anu-nayaka. The leaders of the Episode (Patākā) or the Incident (prakarī) are generally such characters. They are the principal helpers to the hero in achieving his end. An Anu-nāyaka, therefore, is a character whose part is slightly less prominent than that of the hero.[34]

A character who is adversely interested in the activities of the hero, or the one who is the declared foe of the hero is called the adversary or the Pratināyaka. He is generally found in all the heroic plays, for on the prati-nāyaka. He is generally found in all the heroic plays, for on the prati-nāyaka. He is generally found in all the heroic plays, for on the prati-nāyaka depends the heroic enthusiasm of the hero. Since the hero of a drama is always a dhira character of imitable virtues, the opponent against whom the victory of the hero will form the denouement of the play, should always be characterized as an avaricious, sinful and voluptuous person,[35] possessed, of course, with ample resources and great might. There may be a series of Prati-nāyakas to a hero, as is found in the Bālarāmāyaṇa, where, though the principal opponent to Ramacandra is Rāvaṇa, still Parasurāma has proved as much of a Pratināyaka in the Janakapurī as did Rāvaṇa and his retinue at the outskirts of Laṅkā.

In an amatory play, the parner is necessarily the lady-love; and she and the hero constituyte the ālambana of the erotic sentiment. The heroine and her types will be, therefore, discussed in all main particulars below. Even in an amatory play their can be a Parti-nāyaka in a co-suitor to one lady, as is Śakāra in the Mṛcchakatika or Nandan in the Malatī-mādhava.

Footnotes and references:


Ibid. I-84, 44.


Daśarūpaka I-12.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 257.


N. R. p. 2, LI. 20, 21.


Rasārṇava-sudhākara I-62, 63.


Mālatī-Mādhava VIII-2, 3.


K. A. Chap. V p. 62; P. R. I-II, 12.


Tyagi krti kutinas susriko rupa-yauvanotsahi/ Dakṣo nurakta-lokas tejo-vaiadgdhya-silavan neta// Sāhityadarpaṇa III-30.


Daśarūpaka II-2.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa VI-160 p. 197.


Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata XXIV-3; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-31; Daśarūpaka II-3; S.S. XI-2; Rasārṇava-sudhākara I-72, 3; Bhāva Prakaśa IV p. 92, 2; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 76, 29; P. Raghuvaṃśa-27; S. K. p. 681, 682; U. N. M. p. 32, 35; K. A. p. 61; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 257.


Vide Chap. I. p. 4. supra.


Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata XXIV-3; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-31 etc.


P. R. p. 28.


Daśarūpaka II-3; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-34.


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 92 II.


Mālatī-Mādhava p. 77-LI. 15.; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa I-9; S. S. XI-4.


Daśarūpaka II-4; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-34.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 19.




Mālatī-Mādhava VIII, LI. 11, 12.


Daśarūpaka II-6.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-33.


Mālatī-Mādhava p. 77, 22.


P. R. p. 22, Verse 30.


Tredha neta prakirlitah”–S. S. XI-2.


S. III-36.


AI. S. XX-9.


R. C. p. 34, LI. 2, 10.


U. N. M. Vv. 9-15.


Daśarūpaka II-15; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 10, 2; K. An. VII; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 197.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 160.


Ibid. 166.

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