Dramaturgy in the Venisamhara

by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words

This page relates ‘Usage of Language in a Drama’ 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 Usage of Language in a Drama

Bharata in details and Dhanañjaya in brief, have stated rules about the usage of Language in a drama.

Bharata[1] has stated that the languages to be used in a drama are of four types in which “Pāthya” (text of the dialogue) should either be in Sanskrit or in Prākṛt. The languages occurring in the plays are: Atibhāṣā (superhuman), Āryabhāṣā (Noble), Jatibhāṣā (common), Yonyantī (of animals) etc. Athibhāṣā belongs to deities and Atibhāṣā to the princely class.

Jatibhāṣā is twofold or it has various forms as prescribe for the use on the stage. In Jatibhāsā some words even from Mleccha Vocabulary do occasionally creep in, as are spoken in Bhārata-Varsa. Yonyantarī Bhāṣā is used by the rustics and foresters and has its origin in animals-domestic or wild and in birds of various species. It follows the conventional practice (Nāṭyadharama).

The language most popularly used in dramatic literature is Jatibhāṣā. Bharata states that Pāthya in Jatibhāṣā is of two kinds. Prākṛt and Sanskrit and which relates to the four castes. In the case of the Dhīroddhāta, Dhīralalita, Dhīrodatta and Dhīrapraśānta types, the Pāthya should be in Sanskrit. Heroes of all these classes are to use Prākṛt when the occasion demands that; as for example Arujyna disguised as Bṛhannalata uses Prākṛt.

In the case of even a superior person (in caste) not educated or poor or due to other causes and intoxicated with kingship or wealth, etc. Sanskrit should not be used.

To persons in disguise i.e. persons in disguise of different kinds of professional and religious mendicants, Sṛamanas, ascetics, and jugglers, should be assigned the Prākṛt Pāthya. Prākṛt should also be assigned to Bhāgavatas, tāpasas, children, persons possessed of spirits, of the lower order, women, persons of low birth, lunatics and enuchs.

But to itinerant recluses, sages, Buddhists, pure Srotriyas and others who have received instruction in the Vedas and wear costumes suitable to their position, should be assigned Sanskrit Pāthya. Sanskrit Pāthya is also to be assigned to the queens, courtesans, female artists to suit special times and situations in which they may speak.

In the production of play their native language should not be assigned to tribes such as Barbara, Kirāta, Andhras and Dramila. To pure tribes of these names should be assigned dialects current in Śauraseṇī. The producers of plays may, however, at their option use local dialects, for the plays may be written in different regions. Bharata mentions seven dialects assigned to different people which are: Māgadhī, Avantīja, Prācya, Śauraseṇī, Ardhamāgadhī, Bahlika, Dākṣiṇātya.

In the dramatic composition there are besides many Vivhasas, such as the speeches of the sakara, abhiras, candalas, sabaras, dramidas, odras and the lowly speech of the foresters. But we need not go into detail here. Suffice it to say that according to Bharata, Māgadhī is assigned to the guards in the royal harem, the heroes and others like them while in difficulty are also to use Māgadhī. Ardhamāgadhī is assigned to menials, princes, and leaders of banker’s guild. Prācya is the language of the jester and the like, Avantija of the gallant crooks (Dhūrta). The heroines and their female friends are also to speak Śauraseṇī without any exception. To soldiers, gamesters, police, chief of the city and the like should be assigned Dākṣiṇātya and Bālikī is the native speech of the Khasas. Thus these are the rules regarding the assignment of dialects in plays. Whatever has been omitted here should be gathered by the wise from the popular usage. In the opinion of Abhinava Sanskṛt and Prākṛt Bhāsā due to the distinction of the speaker become fourfold. Sanskiṛt Bhāsā owing to its refinement due to proper accentuation, grammatical inflexions and Vedic influence over its vocabulary, is thus distinguished. He further thinks that Bhāṣā is thus distinguished. He further thinks that Bhasa is the Apabhraṃśa of Saṃskṛta and Apabhraṃśa of Bhasa is Vibhāṣā, and that belongs to persons living in caves and open, they are found in the drama also.

Dhanañjaya, too avoid the tiresome detail has spoken about the Language in brief. In his opinion Sanskiṛt is to be spoken by men that are not of low rank, by devotees and in some cases by the chief queen, by daughters of ministers and by courtesans. Dhanañjaya follows Bharata and states in brief what Bharata has stated in great details.

Dhanañjaya states that Prākṛt is the language to be spoken by women and that too is Śauraseṇī and characters of low rank also speak Prākṛt in the dialects of Śauraseṇī. In this Dhanañjaya aggres with Bharata.

Dhanika defines Prākṛt as developed from or related to an original form which was Sanskiṛt, and the language derived from that may be of many kinds like Tadbhāva, tatsama, desi and so on. Śauraseṇī and Māgadhī are fixed in accordance to their rules. Dhanañjaya mentions Paiśācī also. While Bharata has mentioned other minor dialects like Sakari, Candālī, Abhiri, Śabarī, he has not mentioned Paiśācī.

Footnotes and references:


Bharata. Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata , CH. XVIII, 26-65.

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