Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Heroine 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 Heroine of the Dramatic Play

The next important character is the heroine (Nāyikā) who is the very life-breath of an amatory play. It is the portrayal of this character that may be called the touchstone of the playwright’s skill of acquittal which is the vouch for the ultimate success of the dramatic art. The heroine, as in other respects too, surpasses the hero in diversity of her characteristics as well as her qualities, both personal and natural.

The types of the heroine may be, in the first place, considered from the point of view of nature of her association with the hero. She may be associated with him as his legally wedded wife, in which case she is the Svīya Nāyikā or the married consort. The heroine may not be the married consort and yet may have fallen in love with him. In such a case she is called Parakīyā as distinguished from the one who belongs to the hero. The third type of association may be of a courtesan, a dancing girl or a common harlot arresting the heart of a lascivious hero. Such a courtesab is called a commoner or a Sādharaṇa-strī. So the heroine is primarily of three types whose natural characteristics are as follows:

1. The Married consort (Svīyā = Ātmīyā):

She is a caste lady devoted to the domestic duties, modest in behaviour and straightforward in her dealings. She is a partner both in times of weal and of woe like Sitā of Rāmacandra.[1]

2. The Unwedded (Parakīyā):

She may be a virgin or a mistress. The former is a bashful firl, blooming in youth and is without the wedlock. The latter one is an immodest adulteress seeking an association while in sojourn or in out-door frivolities, being prompted or pressed by her libidinous tendencies.

Dhanañjaya holds the view that such a character should not form the substratum of the principal sentiment and be not ordinarily introduced in a play as the chief character except in case of the Farce (prahasana).

3. Commoner (Sādhāranī):

She is common girl allowing free admittance to the one and all. She is always fully developed and is a selfcontrolled figure. She is stern in attitude a stiff in bheavious. Her love is mostly a pecuniary gamble. She is remarkable for her inconstancy and does not abhor the vicious, nor woo the meritorious. She has got a group of lick-pennis around her, rakes, fools, thieves and eunuchs who fleece her habitués who are, when robbed of all their possessions in due course, driven out the house through the agency of the grannie or the old beldam who is her marker in the art of lovemaking.[2] among the commoners also, some-times extremely devoted to one lover an showers genuine affection upon him.

It may be noted here that the dramatic literature has only the latter type of hetaerae who may be socially or professionally called courtesans; but virtually they are as sweet and chaste as any other type of the heroine could be expected. Of this class Urvaśī or Vasantasenā stand as instances.

Although from the view-point of the nature of their association with the hero, the heroins are thus of three types; yet, in fact, it is their behaviour that forms the crucial test for purpose of classification. Their stage of love, its development or depth is the factor to determine their type. Accordingly, each one of the above-mentioned may be of three kinds: the shy, the free, and the bold. They are defined as follows:

1. Youthful (Mugdhā):

She is shy lady whose passion is concealed out of modesty, and who has budding youth, coyness in love and gentleness even inanger. Such a character is visible in newly-wedded brides or young maidens who are modest and bashful owing to their inexperience of amour.[3]

2. Adolescent (Madhyā):

She is somewhat a free beau gone beyond the stage of shyness. Her frequent association with her love has made her free from extreme reserve. Her youth is advanced. She takes delight in amorous pursuits and is fairly capable of expressing her feelings and thoughts. Dhañajaya calls her passion to be so developed as to permit her indulgence in dalliance of love to the extent of forgetting herself.[4]

3. Mature (Pragalbhā):

She is bold in temperament and wholly engrossed in passion. She becomes crazed on account of love, blinded by youth and is acquainted with diverse sports of love. Mask of bashfulness is cast off by her, and she holds her full sway over her lover. She is capable of manifesting her feelings fully, and of indulging in all kinds of sport. She is even sarcastic at times in her remarks.

The last two types, namely, the free and the bold, are said to be again of three types each, according as they evince their stamina to withstand opposition or adversities in their connubial life. Since the youthful (mugdha) heroine is shy and inexperienced, she does not notice the failing of the hero, her sense of womanly jealousy is not developed, her amorous feelings are not acute, she is free from several mental tortures to which the latter ones are subjected on account for their longer standing and wider experience. Therefore the adolescent and the mature are again classified into the dhīra, dhīrādhīra and adhīra who are respectively self-controlled, partly self-controlled and leacking in self-control. As the admixture of these tendencies with their native characteristics of being Madhya or the Pragabhā will lead to varied modes of behaviour, they are individually examined here:

A. The Adolescent (Madhya) heroine, when in the angry mood:

(i) has the fortitude to face the shortcomings of the hero and makes bold to rebuke her erring lover with sarcasm and indirect speech, is said to be selfcontrolled (dhīra);[5]

(ii) Cannot summon courage to reprimand the defaulting lover and gives vent to her restless heat in weeping, is partly self-controlled (dhīradhīra), and she silently rebukes her love only with tears;[6]

(iii) Brusts out of remorse in harsh words andis wrathful against her lover, is said to be lacking in self-control (adhīra).[7]

B. The Mature (Prāgalbhā) heroine is said to be:

(i) self-controlled (dhīra) when she conceals her anger and is outwardly self-respectful but is indifferent to pleasures of love and thus exhibits her wrath at the failings of her lover;[8]

(ii) Partly self-controlled (dhīradhīra) when she becomes prone to tease her lover by ironical speech and volcanic remarks full of satire and sarcasm;[9]

(iii) Lacking in self-control (adhīra), when she is wont to scold and even vapulate her guilty lover.[10]

Above are the three dispositions of heroine when she is angered at the failings of her lover.[11]

It is held by Viśvanātha, Dhanañjaya and Śri Kṛṣṇa Kavi that the Mugdha, Madhya and Prāgalbha are the three types of the married consort.[12] As a corollary then, it follows that the three dispositions, viz. dhīra, dhīradhīra and adhīra also belong to the Śvīya only. This view is also supported by Vidyānātha and Siṅga Bhupāla as well.[13]

But really speaking, the classification of the Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbhā is based upon the age and experience of the heroine in her amatory activities. These three stages can be well had among the married consorts, as well as among the maidens and no less among the courtesans. Each one of these types can be meek and gentle, can be free and also bold and dashing. Similarly, when any heroine is to notice a failing on the part of her lover or a breach of his conduct towards her or when she is positively offended by him, she is positively offended by him, she is bound to be indignant and have perverseness of attitude (mana). A certain lady may be tolerant and grave by temperament and thus express her indignation coolly, and so, she may be a dhīra heroine, no matter whether she is a married consort or an unwedded mistress or a courtesan. Likewise, each one of these types may be impetuous and may not be able to tolerate the failings of her love and may not be bold enough to scold him; and hence the only way to lighten her heart is to let out her grief by tears, and thus she may be dhīradhīra. Then againa, each one of these three types may be able to make bold, when offended by the hero, to scold and flog him and thus behave herself in the manner of the adhīra heroine.

Since it is purely a matter of temperament rather than of legal wedlock or otherwise or otherwise, it does not quite stand to reason as to why these types of dispositions should be limited only to the wedded wives and not extended to other two types of heroines who can as well be the Madhyas and Pragalbhas possessed of individual characteristics of being the dhīra, dhīradhīra or adhīra. Rūpa Goswamīn seems to support this view partly,[14] as he extends the scope of this classification to Śvīya and Parodha, i. e. another’s wife in love with the hero. It does not become clear why Rūpa Goswamīn should not see these three stages of experience and three dispositions in the state of anger in case of the unmarried ones, and the courtesans, who can be young and at the primitive stage of their career as contrasted with other bold ones of longer standing in the profession.

For reasons stated, it becomes evident that the division by way of Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbhā belongs to all the three types of heroines, viz, the married consorts, unwedded associates, either virgins or mistresses, and the courtesans. Temperamentally then, the variety of the threefold disposition, dhīra, dhīradhīra and adhīra may be said to be found only in the Madhya and the Pragalbha heroines, because their developed sense of conjugal obligations may permit them to behave with their lovers in whichever manner their nature permits them to do. They are of three types on the basis of their age and experience. This distinction is based upon the of their age and experience. This distinction is based upon the stage of love; and it is their behaviour in their indignant mood that determines the sub-type. But in case of the Mugdha heroine it is difficult, in the first place, for her to notice the conjugal violations committed by her lover; and secondly, to summon enough courage to question his conduct and hence the only way of expression of her wrath which she can resort to is to trickle into tears. Thus, in general, the Mugdha heroine may be of adhīra disposition.

Footnotes and references:


Daśarūpaka II-22; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa p. 173; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-67, 71.


Sāhityadarpaṇa Ibid.; Rasārṇava-sudhākara i-117. Note that Rudrata and Singabhupala do not consider it to be undramatic ot employ commoners as heroines. Vide Rasārṇava-sudhākara p. 30, LI. 13, 14.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-58. It may be added here that almost all canonists of repute agree in respect of Nāyikābheda, hence they are not separately cited here.


Daśarūpaka II-27.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-60.


Ibid. III-61.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-62.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-62; Daśarūpaka II-30.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-63; Daśarūpaka II-30.


Sāhityadarpaṇa III-64; Daśarūpaka II-30.


R. C. p. 6, 3.


Daśarūpaka II-3; Sāhityadarpaṇa III-34.


R. R. p. 33, 36; Rasārṇava-sudhākara I-95.


U. N. M. p. 107, Verse 71 (Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata Edn.)

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