About the Book
The Laws And Practice Of Sanskrit Drama. Volume one, by Dr. S. N. Shastri presents a comprehension study of the canons of Sanskrit dramaturgy enunciated by Bharata and his followers, It illustrates principles of dramatic criticism by citing popular examples from Sanskrit plays extant today; and makes available to modern scholars a comparative study of the essentials of appreciation of the mimetic art of ancient Hindus. It also "elucidates the development of critical standards of judgment in regard to the various patterns of Sanskrit plays evolved by canonists belonging to different ages and holding, divergent views. It attempts to interpret the notions of different canonists and critics in the light of the practice of master playwrights, arid mow an integrated study of the different schools of Sanskrit dramaturgy with a view', inculcating among modem readers a spirit of appreciating Sanskrit plays as dramatic compositions distinct from other specimens of Sanskrit poetry. The author’s insight into a valuable aspect of literary studies makes book a work of great scholarship.
The idea of this thesis developed from the fact that the of Dramaturgy discussed by the law-makers like Bharata, Dhananjaya, Ramacandra and Gunacandra, Sara- datanaya, Vidyanatha, Singa Bhupala, Visvanatha and Sagaranndin have not been so far fully analysed and compared in anyone ingle contribution. Mankad's Types of Sanskrit - Drama deals with mere definitions of the Rupakas- as given by the dramaturgists, and lays more stress on the Nrtta-plays, their species and evolution. Besides, no attempt is made there to apply these rules to any particular specimens and to examine the practice of the playwrights in this behalf. The other work dealing the subject is Kulkarni's Sanskrit Drama and Dramatist. which has dealt with later dramaturgists only. His method of application of these rules with regard to the Dramas is only in a summary form, e. g. in Kalidasa's Sakuntala he would not make mention of the type of the Prastavana, the requirements of Induction, the Junctural sub-divisions, the dramatic embellishments and so on. Of the modern histories of the Sanskrit literature the most important work dealing with the subject is SANSKRIT DRAMA by Dr. A. B. Keith. He has, no doubt, elaborated certain points like the age of the playwrights, their style and language, and given synopsis of the plays with some out- standing characteristics of the drama, but the aim of the present work is not only the elaboration but also a synthetic survey of the whole matter, which has not been so treated by Dr. Keith, The Table of Contents will show that an attempt is made here for the first time to take a synthetical view of the entire subject and to examine the application of the canons in a methodical way pointing out the omissions and- the new additions to the laws observed in the dramatic literature under review. Apart from this little originality, the analysis done here is expected to present a critical review of the dramaturgical laws and their general application from the very beginning of the Art until it became almost standardised by the master playwrights in Sanskrit.
The age of the dramaturgists and the playwrights is rather an intriguing point. This is not the main theme of this thesis to discuss in detail whether the dramatic laws could have developed in the absence of any dramatic literature. On the other hand, all well-established rules and methods followed and recognised by the earlier play- wrights became the laws of conduct for all subsequent writers. However, the historians have assigned the following dates to different dramaturgical works:
The date of Bhasa, as is recognised by all the historians, has to be put between the third century B. C. and the third century A. D. If the date of Bharata be accepted during the third century A. D., the plays of Bhasa must have developed without the guidance of Bharata. Whether there were any dramaturgists before the third century B. C. like Kohala, Krsasva, Matrgupta, Subandhu, Asmakutta, Nakhakutta and others is Dot quite certain; but in view of the fact that literature may develop independently of any law-books on Grammar, Poetics and Dramaturgy, the absence, of any dramaturgists does not preclude the probability of any regular and uniform development of a pattern by any particular author. Therefore even in the absence of any such laws, Bhasa could have, in a methodical and uniform manner, written his plays which present diverse patterns of dramatic art. So far as Kalidasa is concerned, if his time is taken to be the fifth Century A. D., it cannot be overlooked that he was guided to a large extent by the Natya-sastra of Bharata. This expectation is fulfilled to a great extent as is borne out by the elaborate examination of his plays done in Book II of the present work.
The consideration of the later dramaturgists after the time of Kalidasa is necessitated for the comparison of Bharata's Laws rather than the application of the later ones.
It is, for this reason, that the present work is divided into two parts: Book I, which is -the main theme, deals with a critical examination of the laws of Drama from the earliest time of Bharata to the latest development of different schools irrespective of their application to the works written by the earlier playwrights. Book II, Part I, deals with a detailed examination of a set of uniform laws as applied to the dramas of Kalidasa; and the second Part of the Book U proposes to examine the plays of Bhasa and predecessors of Kalidasa. The application to the works of later playwrights has to be deferred for the present, partly because of their close adherence' to the model adopted by the standard earlier authors and partly because the examination of all the existing dramas in a single book is impracticable. All the same, the application of the laws of dramas, though limited at present to the works of Kalidasa and Bhasa, amply testifies to the fact that their scheme has greatly influenced the later play- wrights in construction of their plays.
Charts appended hereto, it may be hoped, will facilitate a clearer grasp of the detailed ramifications of a stem than the pen-pictures attempted in the descriptive portion. A Thesaurus of the dramaturgical terms added as a fruitful appendix will show the different uses of the same term by the canonists in different context, which, otherwise, may have caused confusion in understanding the subject critically. A Glossary of Technical terms given as Appendix C will serve the average reader.
The Bibliography is necessarily a brief one, for the subject is only incidentally referred to by a small number of modern authors. It is, therefore, added only at the end.
With some diffidence, therefore, it is hoped, in conclusion, that this attempt may show the way how the plays could be critically studied by the modern annotators and research students of the fascinating subject of Sanskrit Dramas and Dramaturgy. It is further hoped that the method of studying the dramas in the light of the demonstration made in Book II will facilitate and advance the intelligent and the scientific study of the dramas as plays rather than pieces of general literature in view of the systematic approach towards the interpretation of the dramatic theories done in the First Book. For the most of the existing commentaries on Sanskrit dramas appear to have missed the point, and deprived the students of understanding the dramas in their proper perspective. It is needless to elaborate the point that the Drama which is the highest development of literature, has a special aspect of its own; and the students of Sanskrit Drama would be decidedly losers if they cannot make the distinction between the aspects of drama and of other branches of poetry, such as the Mahakavyas, Kathas and the like.
If this expectation is fulfilled, this labour of over a decade of years in consultation with the best available resources may be deemed successful.
With this hope the following is added by way of an outline introduction to the subject of Sanskrit poetry, and as an elaboration of the topics enunciated above:
Poetry is one of the finest arts and the rarest too; for the poet not only carves the bust of his fable from popular stories and well-known incidents, but paints the best portraits of social conditions and infuses the music of life in his art, and above all, he is the very architect of his Universe. Poetry has, in essence, a beauty of imagination, yet has a happy combination of realism and idealism with an ultimate purpose of giving an uncommon delight to an appreciative mind. All Poetry is indeed charming, yet the wonder in it varies greatly both in respect of degrees and quality. For it appeals more when it is enjoyed not only through mental contact but also through various senses of perception. In this respect the scenic art of a poet excels the epic one, inasmuch as the former is the imitation of situations represented in actuality, and invokes the sympathy of the spectator who, like the actor, becomes in unison with one who is represented, by virtue of total identity both in purpose and person. Sympathy, which is so essential for enjoyment of beauty, is awakened not only by the audible poetry which the representator there reads, but by seeing the beautiful scenes and hearing music as well. " In the realm of Poetry, dramatic works excel the readable ones" is a true compliment to the mimetic art; for, it not only sublimates the inner self but feasts the perceptive sense also with a rich menu of sweet music and tasteful delineation of characters.
Since lack of propriety (aucitya) and system (riti) is the one enemy which undoes all, art, the least tolerant of this opposing element is the delicate art of representation which demands orderliness first, and everything else only next to it. For purposes of securing freely the charms of orderliness, the free art of flying on the pinions of imaginative genius has to put on self-chosen fetters of realism and principles of presentation, technically known as the mis-en-scene. That is why the artist has to limit his scope to well-known facts and popular characters and can only scarcely transgress the established course of events. This creativeness of the artist is not synonymous with arbitrariness, which would only be a weak foundation for his work of art lacking sanction in the popular appeal. His mastery, in fact, li.es in mustering all forces of wonder ( camatkara) and wedding facts unto them so as to produce a systematic work by author's creative faculty. The problem is still greater with a dramatic artist who imitates reality and has the task of concentrating 'the confused panorama of life into a single, coherent, striking and natural picture.
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