Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Pataka-Sthanaka’ 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).

A Patākā-sthānaka is an indication of a matter other than what is contemplated by the mention of something which, though extraneous, tends to oblige the motif of the play. The matter thus indicated may be either means or an end, but it should help the attainment of the main cause in the dramatic action. It is an ornament of the dramatic plot and its use is recommended as often as possible in a drama. No show is deemed to be perfect unless it is decorated by the Patākā-sthānaka at least once. It differes from Patākā in the sense that the former is an intermitternt artifice unlike the latter which contains some continuous matter prevailing over a large extent of the action. It is, in fact, a point of pivot which gives at times an interesting turns to the dramatic action and involves a course of pathetic fallacy as well. Śāradatanaya adds that this artifice helps a good deal in anticipating the operations of Patākā[1]; or a future event is hinted by something under some pretext or the other. Bharata and Dhanañjaya[2] explicitly define a Patākā-sthānaka as a spot where a sudden introduction of some extraneous matter indicates by virtue of certain common characteristics, something already begun or is about to begin.

The point of similarity between the indicating matter and the matter indicated may again be either in respect of situations (samvidhāna) or in respect of attributes (viśeṣaṇa). Consequently, the Patākā-sthanaka is of two kinds: one, known as “tulya-samvidhanaka” or that which indicates the matter of similarity of attributes. In this it is samāśokti or the figure of suggestion that makes the indication. The author of the Rasar-nava-sudhakara adds that the former is again of three kinds, and the latter is type by itself. Thus the Patākāsthānakas are, in all, four in number which is in keeping with the Bharata’s dictum of the subject.[3] No specific names are given to them, but they are distinguished inter se by the use of the ordinal numerals prefixed to them. According to Bharata and his followers they are verily defined as below:

1. The first (prathama) Patākā-sthānaka consists of an abrupt revelation of facts which in the acquisition of a desired object. The abruptness is the source of wonder in this case, and it amuses the visitors on account of the unexpected turn that the events take in course of the dramatic action.[4] For instance, when Sāgarikā in the Ratnāvalī strangles herself to death, the king Udayana takes her to be Vāsavadatta and relieves her of the noose. A moment later, the hero recognizes her and says, “O! how, my darling Sagarikā!”[5] Here on account of similarity of situation there occurs an interesting pivot in the action, and so it presents the first and the foremost type of Patākāsthanaka.

2. It becomes a second (dvitiya) type of Patākā-sthānaka where a statement is full of suggestion on account of its text being capable of giving out more than one sense.[6] An example of the same is visible in the Veṇīsaṃhāra where the Stagemanager says, “may the sons of Kuru become svastha along with their servants!”[7] The statement arouses the wrath of Bhīma sena, who calls out, “how could the Kauravas become comfortable so long as I am alive!” and then construes the statement by virtue of paronomasia (śleṣa) so as to mean that the Kauravas are dispatched to heaves, which is only a euphemism for their being killed in the field of battle.

3. The third Patākā-sthānaka presents itself at a spot where a deuplicate sense brought forth by means of a play on words suggests an idea which falls in suit with the subject-matter in discourse.[8] This is more appreciable when it consists of an equivocal catechism, as is presented in the Chamerlian’s dialogue with Duryadhaṇa in the second Act of the Veṇīsaṃhāra or in the dialogue of Cānakya and Siddhārthaka in the Mudrārākṣasa.[9]

4. The fourth (caturtha) Patākā-sthānaka becomes available where there is some statement full of pun which is directly related to the subject-matter of the play ad brings in suggestively the motive of the action.[10] A suitable illustration is found in the Ratnāvali, where by commonadjectives capable of yielding dual sense, reference is made to the acquisition of yielding dual sense, reference is made to the acquisition of Ratnāvalī who is pur together with Vāsavadatta, her co-wife.[11]

It may be noticed here that these four Patākā-sthānakas can be frequently used by the playwrights according as it suits their sense of dramatic justice. There is no point in making express rules for their use as some seem to prescribe to the effect that these four Patākā-sthānakas should be used in succession in the first four Junctres commencing with the Protasis in a drama.[12] The Juncture of Conclusion should, there-fore, have no Episodeindication according to this school of thought.[13] This opinion hardly stands to any reason; for the dramatic embellishments as these artifices are, they can be used in any order and anywhere and as many times as they cater to the taste of the visitors” sense of appreciation and the playwright’s art of execution. The view with regard to the free use of these indication is upheld by Viśvanātha and also finds support in the practice of the playwrights.[14] The Nāṭya-darpaṇa reverses the order of the third type into the fourth and the vice versa,[15] but as the numerical order has very little to do with the order of merit and use, it is an isignificant divergence from the aphorisms of Bharata.

These are the several division of the subsidiary plot. Every thing else is the main theme of the drama which covers the entire stretch of action of the principal character, who reaps the fruits of his own labour as well as of the endeavours of all those who support him. The main action, therefore, must necessarily have a beginning and an end. But as these two stages cannot coalesce so as to endure the interest in the action, the beginning and the end must be intervenced by obstructions, efforts for their removal, success of such efforts and consequently the ultimate success of such efforts and consequently the ultimate success in the undertaking. It seems to be the natural course for dispensation of facts if they are presented with an abiding interest before the spectators and readers. In view of this pshychological phenomenon, the entire dramatic action is divided into five stages.[16]

They are known as—

  1. Commencement (ārambha),
  2. Endeavour (yatna),
  3. Prospect of Success (prāptyāsā),
  4. Certainty of Success (nityatapti), and
  5. Consummation (phalāgama) or attainment of fruit.

These stages are defined by Bharata as follows:

1. Commencement (ārambha):—It is that stage of action which reveals the inclination and zeal of the principal her for achieving the object of his desire. As the will precceds all action, it is the expression of a will and an effective will that pervades the first course of the dreamatic action.[17]

2. Endeavour (prayatna):—It is a zealous pursuit after the object of desire that marks the second stage of action. It also covers the expression of anxiety which is a mental phenomenon and propels the hero to find and try all sorts of means to the end.[18]

3. Prospect of Success (prāptyāsā) lies in that stage of action which signifies some hope of hitting the mark though it is fret with chances of missing. There is every suspicion of losing the board, yet anxious endeavours are in full swing; and this stage of action culminates almost in that situation where it begins appearing that there are less misses than hits.[19]

4. Certainty of Success (niyatāpti) arises when all impediments that stand in the way of begetting success are removed. It is the fourth and the penultimate stage of action.[20] According to Asmakutta the failure of the aims of the opponent or the downfall of the rivals is a sign of surety of success for the hero.[21]

5. Consummation (phalāgama):—When all efforts of the hero, his counter-part and assistants are crowned with success and bear the result of total acquisition of the desired object, the dramatic action reaches its apex of fulfillment. Thus the achievement of the hero’s cause marks the finis of the play, and that is the last stage of action.[22]

Matrgupta has aptly drawn the distinction among the various stages of action by reference to the illustration of Rama’s victory against Rāvaṇa. He oberves that in an action of the annihilation of Rāvaṇa, the onslaught on Khara and Duṣana is the Commencement. As an opposition, the act of Sita’s molestation arranged by Śurpaṅakahā has afforded an opportunity for endeabour on both the sides, viz., regaining the lost wife on the part of Rāma and retaining his booty on the part of Rāvaṇa. Then by maity with Sugriva, prospect of success is secured. With the destruction of KumbhaKarṇa and the retinue of Rāvaṇa the certainty of success ensues. And lastly, killing of Rāvaṇa by Rāma in the interest of the divine race is the fruit which brings the hero the gain of all the three ends of human existence, viz. Dharma, Artha and Kāma.[23]

Footnotes and references:


Bhāva Prakaśa p. 202-LI. 8. 9.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-31; Daśarūpaka I-14; Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-45; N. R. p. 120-5.


Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-16, Bhāva Prakaśa p. 203, LI. 3-11.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX 32; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI 46; Bhāva Prakaśa 202, LI-18-19; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-17; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 31a; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 1007.


Rat. III xvi-8.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX 33; Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-47; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 202, LI. 20-21; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-18; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 31a; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 1016.


Veni. I-7.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX 34; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-48; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 202, LI. 22-23; Rasārṇava-sudhākara p. 113; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 31b; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 1923.


Veni. II–xxiii–2-7; M. R. p. 88-Li. 1-4/


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-35; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-49 Bhāva Prakaśa 23-1-2; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 31b; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 1034; Rasārṇava-sudhākara Ibid.


Rat. II–iv/


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa –1037.


Ibid. 997.


Sāhityadarpaṇa p. 291, LI. 9-10.


Nāṭya-Darpaṇa vide pp. 45, 46.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-9; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-70; Daśarūpaka I 19; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa verse 34; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 206, LI. 1-2; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, 10; N. R. p. 77, LI. 8 9; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 57–58; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-23.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-10; Daśarūpaka I-20a; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-71b; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 35a; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 206, LI. 5-6; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, 12; P. R. p. 105, LI. 9; N. R. p. 101, LI. 19; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 59; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III–23b.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX-11; Daśarūpaka I-20b; Sāhityadarpaṇa VI-72a; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 35a; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 206, LI. 7-8: Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, 13; P. R. p. 105, 10; N. R. p. 115, 13; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 66; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-24a.


Nāṭyaśāstra XIX 12; Daśarūpaka I–21a; Sāhityadarpaṇa 72b; Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 35b; Bhāva Prakaśa p. 206, LI. 910; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, 14, P. R. p. 106, 1; N. R. p. 136, 3; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 69; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-24b.


Ibid et seq,; N. R. p. 144, 2; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 76.


Arater apacaya-paramparu, niyata ca phala-pralih.”–q. i. Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 83.


N XIX-14; Daśarūpaka I-22a, Sāhityadarpaṇa Vi-73b, Nāṭya-Darpaṇa 36b, Bhāva Prakaśa p. 206, 13; Mālatī-Mādhava p. 61, 16; P. R. p. 153, 13; Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 89; Rasārṇava-sudhākara III-25.


Nāṭaka-lakṣaṇa-Ratnakośa 102

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