Concise but comprehensive reference work on Indian drama.
Essentially it relates to classical theatre since its inception in the fourth century B. C. to the 16th-17th century A. D.
New dramatic forms started evolving in regional languages since 15th-16th century.
The dictionary contains references to major folk and traditional drama forms such as Ankia Nat, Yakshagana, Ramanattam, Krishnattam, Nautanki, Tamasha, Bhavai, Maanch, Raslila and Ramlila.
India is known as a 'Home of Puppet Theatre'. The dictionary contains references to major shadow, string, rod, glove puppet theatre forms.
Drama and dance have a close association in India. The dictionary contains history of classical dance and dance-drama forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Odissi, Manipuri and Satriya.
The dictionary is a veritable mine of information.
Known for his erudition and scholarship M. L. Varadpande is an eminent theatre historian of India.
H is associated with several academic institutions of India including well known universities, drama schools, literary and fine arts organizations since several years. His works on Indian Theatre are studied all over the world. His works include.
History of Indian Theatre, Vol. I, II & III Critique of Indian Theatre (Ed)
Religion and Theatre
Mahabharata in Performance
Krishna Theatre in India
Ancient Indian and Indo-Greek Theatre
Dictionary of Indian Culture.
His book on Marathi dramatist Shripad Krishna Kolhatkar has been published by the Sahitya Akademi, National Akademi of Letters, in several Indian languages which went into several editions.
History of Indian theatre is spread over several centuries. Early glimpses of its existence can be seen in prehistoric cave paintings. Archaeological findings related to Indus valley civilization testify to its being. In Vedic and later Buddhist literature dramatic arts and drama itself is mentioned. Earliest extant dramatic works belong to fourth century B. C. In the Gupta age the Indian drama reached its zenith.
In the 15th-16th century numerous new dramatic forms emerged in different parts of the country propelled by Bhakti movement. They contributed to the richness of Indian drama.
Dramaturgists in India considered drama as an all-encompassing life-size art. To quote Bharata 'there is no wise maxim, no learning, no art, no craft, no device, no action that is not found in the drama.'
Efforts are made here to cover the history of this dramatic tradition that flourished in India for several centuries. I hope the readers will find this work useful in understanding the salient features of this great tradition.
Rich and varied in its form and content Indian theatre has an eventful history spread over several centuries. By the way of this book I invite the readers to have meaningful glimpses of the theatre history of one of the oldest civilizations of the world that flourished in the Indian sub-continent.
Indian theatre tradition has its beginning in the distant past. It evolved gradually assimilating in its fold various early performative arts like dancing, singing, music and several types of enactments ritualistic and otherwise.
Pre-historic records in the form of cave paintings testify to the early stages of this process of evolution. Several theatrical performances involving dancing, singing, playing on musical instruments, stage acting, hunt dramas are depicted on the walls of cave shelters since Mesolithic period.
Five thousand years ago there flourished in India a civilization popularly known as Indus Civilization. Spread practically all over north India and extending up to Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west this civilization had two main urban centers, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, and a flourishing, sea-port called Lothal. Excavations done by archaeologists revealed that the Indus people had their own forms of theatrical entertainment.
Vedic Aryans made significant contribution to the evolution of theatre. Their early book of hymns, Rig Veda, contained dialogues with story element which were known as Samvada Sukta or Akhyana Sukta. It is believed that these Suktas were enacted by Vedic priests. Several Vedic rituals were full of dramatic elements and when performed they more or less took the form of dramatic performances. Scholars believe that these performances contributed to the evolution of drama proper.
Ancient literary works are full of description of different kinds of theatrical performances but the question is when exactly a literary drama or Nataka as it is called emerged on the Indian scene?
The Buddhist Jataka tales which reflect the Indian social, cultural and religious milieu of the sixth century B. C. speak of Nataka as a form of entertainment. Both the Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, mention the term Nataka. Preksha, yet another term for drama, is found frequently mentioned in ancient Indian literature.
Nataka reached such an advanced stage of evolution that in the fifth century B. C. the Natasutras or Manuals for Actors were written by Acharyas. Grammarian Panini refers to Natasutras written by Shilalin and Krishasva in his Ashtadhyayi.
In the fourth century B. C. Kautilya in his Arthashastra devised code of conduct for actors and for the first time imposed entertainment tax on dramatic performances. He also introduced censorship or laws against obscenity. Kautilya was the political mentor of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya who ruled from Pataliputra in the fourth century B. C.
The thirteen plays written around the same time by Bhasa in Sanskrit have survived the vagaries of time. Bhasa is the first known playwright of India. He borrowed his themes mainly from the epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. This gave credence to the theory that drama in India emerged and evolved from the tradition of reciting the epics.
After Bhasa a number of playwrights wrote dramas but a few plays by authors such as Ashvaghosha, Kalidasa, Shudraka, Bhavabhuti, Vishakhadatta, Harsha, Bhattanarayana, Murari, Rajashekhara have survived. Apart from the plays some works on dramaturgy like Natya Shastra of Bharata written way back in the second century B. C. have survived the vagaries of time.
In India drama was considered as most exalted art. It was considered as meeting place of all arts and sciences. It was believed by ancient practitioners of this that 'the actor who on the stage delights and amuses his audience is reborn after death among the gods of laughter.' But some opposed it saying that 'it induces sensual, misanthropic, or mentally confused states in others and causes them to lose earnestness.' It is full of mischief-bahuka hi dosa samajasa-some said.
So numerous are the references to the puppet theatre in ancient Buddhist and Brahmanical works that many scholars consider India as a Home of Puppet Play. Some scholars went up to the extent of saying that human theatre emerged in diverse puppet theatre forms have still survived in many parts of the country. India has also a rich tradition of folk theatre.
Since ancient times India developed the art of dancing and music. Several chapters of Bharata's Natya Shastra are devoted to the art of dancing. It was so closely associated with the dramatic art that a term 'dancing out a drama' came into vogue. Dancing performances formed part of drama and sometimes dramas were presented as ballets. In some forms of drama these two arts are beautifully integrated and blended.
This book in dictionary form takes note of these diverse trends to present before the readers the panorama of Indian theatre.
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