Lord Brahma, the creator, had found the celestial beings deviating from righteousness in the Treta Yuga. His efforts to bring them back to moral failed. As the last resort, the Lord took four different elements from the four Vedas and created Kridaniyakam-a toy which can be seen and heard, named Naty aveda. This story is detailed in s age Bharata’s Natyasastra, the ancient India dramaturgy. A toy involves mirth and tears. Natya which reflects the light and darkness of life is a toy. But it has the prowess to guide the human society from vices to virtues. Comedy and tragedy are integral to mankind. In the traditional to mankind. In the traditional Sanskrit theatre, Bhagav adjjukam and Mattavilasam are farces pregnant with philosophical anguish. This book is analysisi of these two plays culminating into the terrain of kridaniyakam.
Dr. N. K. Geetha (Born in 1957). Her parents were (Late) Prof. Kalamandalam Vasudevapanikkar and (Late) Smt. T.K. Subhadra.
Dr. Geetha is Associate Professor & HOD, Dept. of Sanskrit Sahitya, Govt. Sanskrit College, Thiruvananthapuram and holds several responsible positions in the academic bodies of kerala, M.G. Calicut, kalady, and kerala Kalamandalam Universiteis and Adarsh Vidyapeetha, Balussery.
She was trained in Carnatic Music by her father and learned Mohiniyattam, Bharatayam and Kuchipudi from Sri. (late) Guru Rajaratnam Pillai, Sri (late) Bhaskara Rao, and Smt. Ogeswary Kalakshethra, and Smt. Kalamandalam Chandrika.
Dr. Geetha has participated in the ‘Summer Institute of Theatre Practice’ and ‘NOH’ Theatre workship sponsored by UGC at School of Drama, Calicut University.
She has choregraphed and assisted in the widely accepted productions of Bhagavadajjukam, Mattavilasam, and Caligula, Muthassi, Chorakkunjine Konna Maryferrar, and Galileo directed by Prof. P. Gangadharan. She worked as the Artistic Director of the first All kerala Vanitha kala Jatha of kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad and ‘Samatha’ the woman’s Theatre group of Thrissur. She has done the choegraphy and direction of Matrkam, a visual composition that deals with the position of woman in society.
Dr. Geetha is resource person of kerala kalamandalam Deemed University and School of Drama and Fine Arts, Calicut University; Co-ordinator and resource person, International Kutiyattam Centre, Tripunithura. She is also an approved Research Guide in Kerala Kalamandalam, Deemed University.
The gods, once, approached the supreme Brahman to appraise him of the gravity of moral degradation to which society had fallen. With folded hands they told him that the holy scriptures are no more capable of leading people to the right path. As a solution they beseeched the Lord to create a toy which would both be visible and audible. Bharata begins his dramatic treatise with the description of this incident.
India inherits a vibrant performance tradition going back to the times of Indus Valley civilization. The many references scattered in classical texts, Jataka tales etc. give us glimpses of the nature of entertainments flourished in the Pre-Bharata period. Performances, though not scientifically structured, had a strong mass - base at that time. Troupes consisting hundreds of artistes traveled from village to village and town to town and exhibited their talents either in streets or in temporary tents. Thousands thronged to watch them. They made all kinds of loud noises to applaud them; at times they rolled on the ground in excitement. Glamorous girls on stage allured them. The aim of these popular shows was to make the masses laugh and merry-haseti, rameti (hasayati, ramayati).
Brahma gave a patient hearing to the gods; he could fully appreciate their predicament. He offered them more than what they asked for. Brahma realized that his earlier creations could not produce the desired effect on the public sphere as they were confined to a few. He therefore, extended the scope of his new design to people belonging to all strata of society - sarvavarnikam.
He desired to effect some kind of refinement on the prevailing practices of performance. He prescribed stylisation for acting with the predominance of expression of internal emotions. He took a drastic decision to shift the space of performance from the streets to well-guarded, closed door theatre houses wherein the number of spectators was limited to a few hundreds. In short, Brahma elevated the crude mass-based performance to classical heights by prescribing a grammar for theatre.
It is in this context that the term Kridanlyaka becomes significant. Gods meant only amusement; but Brahma upheld the ethics too. Kridantyaka symbolizes the social function of theatre-delightful enlightenment, instruction through recreation. Some commentators have gone to the extent of extracting this sense from the salutary verse of Natyasastra, Brahmana yadudahrtam, according to them, means that the Lord illustrates the illusionary nature of worldly life through natya: mundane living is as unreal as the one seen on stage. Life on earth, as on stage is the lila-krida of the Supreme Being. Laughter is the most effective means to attract people to theatre. The director in Bhagavadajjuka claims that hasya is the principal rasa, though he is blissfully ignorant of its details. The source of laughter is imitation of the actions of others. Laughter, according to Bharata is generated by ludicrous imitation of another in dress, misplaced ornaments, impudence, fickleness, tickling, prattle, display of various deformities and showing the fault of others with pointed remarks.
Bharata adds that this sentiment is commonly found in women and characters of lower type. He enumerates six types of laughter and assigns the last two, mocking and boisterous laughing, to the lower type.
Two things are to be borne in mind here- i. Bharata has in his mind the crude plays of the street when he assigns hasita and atihasita to the lower type and ii. This has to be read along with his treatment of imitation in the first chapter.
The revolt of the demons against the premier show was actually against mimicking them in bad taste. Others enjoyed it; but those who were imitated got violent. Brahma pacifies them after a deep analysis of the cause of their annoyance. Three words are vital in this context. The frequently used word is anukarana which can loosely be translated as imitation. Anukarana has two layers of meaning. The most common level is that of vikarana - mimicry. This is the caricature of the deformities of others in a realistic way. Abhinavagupta rightly points out that imitation of this kind though evokes laughter in others, provokes the victim. Mimicry is not art.
The sublime level of anukarana is anuklrtana. Anu denotes consequent similar action. Kirtana is stuti, eulogy. But how to idealize something the actor has not seen actually? Here Bharata adds a symbolic prefix-bhava. Kalidasa later used it in Meghaduta. The yaksapatnt draws the figure, emaciated in separation, of her husband. The question here is that she has not seen him in that state. Then how could she do it? Kalidasa answers- bhavagamyam likhanti, she imagines how he would have been in her absence. Imitation, here, is not of the real as it is, but of the imagined as it aught to be. Bhavanuklrtanam is the representation of the idealized as imagined by the actor.
Actor has to bear in mind this distinction between vikarana and kirtana while he imitates others to create laughter, in order to avoid embarrassing situations. The point here is that in its lofty level, those who are imitated also join to laugh and share the joy. They will hold no prejudice. Then only hasya becomes aesthetic and enjoyable. Bharata's use of the word anukriti in this context has to be read in this light.
This work, discusses the concept of kridantyaka in all its details with suitable illustrations. The two plays chosen by the author are the Bhagavadajjuka and Mattavilasa, As satires, they fulfil the criterion of playfulness; but also embody strong criticism of their age. Social criticism is generally weak in Sanskrit. But these two farces dare the existing order, social beliefs and religious practices. In Bhagavadajjuka, termed as prahasanaratna, a poor student with no means of sustenance is the representative of the common man. He does not understand the meaning of all that happens around him and his preceptor postpones the answer to his query. The other satire tells us that the only one who is sane is the lunatic in the play; all those around are hopelessly insane.
These farces are relevant today as they were when presented centuries ago because the life and beliefs continue without much change in its content. They prove that humour, on all ages, is the best curative for social ailments; it is also the exceptional elixir to invigorate a decadent society.
Prof. Geetha has been fortunate to be brought up in an atmosphere of art and culture. Her father, gifted in music, was professor in Kerala Kalamand alam. She became an accomplished artiste in Mohiniyattam even in her school days. Her partner in life Prof. Gangadharan is an innovative director of traditional and contemporary plays. She, thus, got ample opportunity to associate herself with ancient and modem trends of theatre. This background helped her a lot to become an expert in Natyasastra studies. She is frequently invited for lectures and discourses in NS. She had assisted in the production of these two farces. That experience enables her to go deep into the text and characters.
Bhagavadajjukam and Mattavilasam are very much popular in Kutiyattam theatre of Kerala. Their stage-manuals and elaborations of the role of vidnsaka are interesting topics for study which I hope that Dr. Geetha will take up for her next work.
With immense pleasure, I present this Kridanlyakam to the lovers of theatre.
I feel great pleasure in bringing out this book of Dr. N. K. Geetha to our readers. Dr. N. K. Geeta's approach to the present work reveals her ability in art and culture. It serves the real purpose to enter into the social beliefs and religious practices that are relevant today. Her attempt to catch the concept of Kridaniyaka and its applicability to contemporary life is presented in a profound clarity. Exemplifying the dramas Bhagavadajjuka and Mattavilasa, she tried to place hasya rasa as the prominent rasa among other rasas.
We are grateful to Prof. K. G. Paulose, Chairman, CIFSS for allowing us to publish this book through CIFSS. I also express my gratitude to my colleagues for carrying out all the works of the present edition. We are thankful to RSKS, New Delhi for the financial assistance to bring out the book.
Human life is beset with the operation of the pair of opposites like birth and death, joy and pathos, darkness and light and laughter and wail. It is this feature of human existence that brings out the necessary ambivalence and harmony to it. While 'Ravana' is 'Ratrincara'or 'one who treads at night', there has to be, on the other side, a Rama, the paragon of light and goodness. Humour thus being a dominant factor of life, is depicted in all its myriad aspects in drama also, which is an imaginative reconstruction of life.
Laughter is one of the ancient signifiers of human body that stands for relations between the people. Laughter solves the space of strangeness between persons. The proverb 'Man is an animal capable of laughing' not only defines him as one distinct from other animals but it also signifies laughter as a symbol of humaneness. Bergson in his indepth study on 'Laughter' observes: 'The first point to which attention should be called is that the comic does not exist outside the pale of what is strictly human.
Laughter and crying are the primary responses of the body created by feelings. When a child feels loneliness, hunger, insecurity and fear it breaks out into tears. Protection and care makes it happy. So it laughs and plays around. These physical responses visible from childhood are inborn instincts in human beings. That is why G. K. Bhat opines thus: 'It will be more correct, therefore, to understand that laughter has a double aspect, mental as well as physical - that it is a 'psycho-physical process'.
Laughter may sometimes be said to represent the brighter and pleasant side of human life. In Malayalam it is the word 'Ciri' that mean 'laughter' and 'Ciri' most probably, originated from 'Sri' the 'Goddess of prosperity and brightness'.'
Man is capable of laughing at himself. At the same time he attempts to make others laugh. The innocent laughter of the children, the mother's laughter in response, laughter of fulfilment, laughter of love and friendship, laughter of a philospher, laughter within oneself, the laughter of victory, the laughter of contempt - the wide differences between these laughter need no further explanation. This multiface of laughter is clearly defined thus: 'Laughter as a social phenomenon involves a wide range of social reactions; we laugh more easily in a group for example, than when alone and laughter sometimes is merely a social gesture.
Since art is the creative interpretation of life, the rhythm of life reverberates in the art in all hues. There are generally two types of laughter in life.
i. The laughter of intimacy.
ii. The laughter of emotional distance.
The child's laughter to its mother is an expression of intimacy. A person laughing at another is a laughter of emotional distance. The hasya in art is laughter of emotional distance. This vital urge of man to make others laugh explains the numerous humorous situations in the vast field of literature including drama. To share the comic experience with others is also unique with reference to human beings. As John Peek and Martin Coyle observe: 'Comedy often shows how people's irrational impulses, such as love or greed or their absurd self-importance, undermine any claims of society to be a rational, civilized order’. This comic element forms one of the major part of Sanskrit dramas which is the main topic of the present study.
Humour in Vedas
The Vedas are the oldest source of Indian literature. 'Sanskrit, Classical language of India, has had a history of four thousand years in this country, its earliest literature, the hymns of Rgveda (RV), being also the oldest and most extensive remains of Indo- European literature,' opines Dr. V. Raghavan." The Vedic poet, standing like a child at the wonder and pleasure the universe infused in him, shares his experience in many fold ways. In the suktas of RV, the primitive mind of the seers expresses its feelings, in relation to nature, with many spontaneity, freshness and simplicity. The powers of nature are worshipped as superior beings and their kindly aid sought for the prosperity in life. According to S. K. De, 'there is, no doubt, a comic side to some of the myths and legends, but to the ancient Indian themselves they never appeared in a fantastic light'? While discussing the mythical origin of natya, Bharata states that rasas were taken from the Atharvaveda.8This indicates that, among various rasas, hasya also find a prominent place in Vedas. This is evident in various instances in RV.
Laughter is not the reflection of a sombre heart. It is an indicator of a live mind urging for growth. The brightest experience in the universe is dawn. RV gives a poetic appreciation of the rising sun. The divine light of 'Goddess Dawn' joining her Lord, the Sun, is that of divine satisfaction and the cause of delight." In one of the funeral hymns, after the completion of the obsequial ceremonies, people are described as going east-ward and indulging themselves in dance and merriment - 'nrttaye hasaya' (RV, X, 18.3.)
In another sukta which is attributed to Kavasa, it is said: 'The two ribs weak due to hunger, press me from both sides just as the co-wives put me in difficulty always'.'? The similarity between the ribs and the fellow wives provokes laughter. The curious frog-hymn in which the croaking frogs in the rainy season are portrayed, is fully satirical. In one of the rks, the cries of the frogs during the rainy season are equated with Brahmanas chanting mantras during the sacrifice bearing the soma libation. In piercing satirical tone, the poet portrays frogs who hide themselves perspiring in their holes in the hot weather but appear crying loudly in the rainy season like the Brahmanas who chant mantras on the sacrificial stage." In another hymn a common satire is made on the wealth, saying that affluence makes even the ugly, beautiful; the ignorant, wise and a lean man, fat by the possessions of cows, the symbol of wealth." The relation between wealth and power and its magical influence in the society is satirically hinted in this verse.
North Indian Music (279)
Original Texts (59)
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