The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope while it primarily deals with stagecraft, it has come to influence music, classical Indian dance, and literature as well. It covers stage design, music, dance, makeup, and virtually every other aspect of stagecraft. It is very important to the history of Indian classical music because it is the only text which gives such detail about the music and instruments of the period. The Natya Shastra ranges widely in scope, from issues of literary construction, to the structure of the stage, to a detailed analysis of musical scales and movements, to an analysis of dance forms that considers several categories of body movements, and their impacts on the viewer. Natya Shastra remained an important text in the fine arts for many centuries.
Individual chapters deal the aspects such as makeup, costume, acting directing etc. a large section deals with meanings conveyed by the performance get particular emphasis, leading to a broad theory of aesthetics. Four kinds acting are described that by body part motions, that by speech, that by costumes and makeup, and the highest mode, by means of internal emotions expressed through minute movements of the lips eyebrows, ear, etc.
The Playwright, actors and musician work together to portray the bhava called rati (love). The Natya shastra was the first major text that dealt with music at length. It was considered the defining treatise of Indian classical music.
While much of the discussion of music is focuses on musical on musical instruments. The theory of rasa described in the text has also been a major influence on modern Indian Cinema.
The Present work consists of thirty six chapters. Origin of Drama, Description of the Playhouse, Offering to the gods of the Stage, description of the Karana dance, Preliminaries of a play, Sentiments and Emotional fervor Gestures of hands, Gestures of other limbs, Cari movements, Sanskrit drama tradition, different gaits zones and local usages, Rules of Prosody, Metrical patterns, diction of Play , Rules on the use language, Modes of address, and intonation. Ten kinds of play, Limbs of the segments, styles, costumes, and make up, Harmonious performance Dealings with courtesans, varied performances, Success in dramatic performances, Instrumental music, Stringed instruments, Time measures, Dhruva Songs, Covered instruments types of Characters, distribution of roles Descent of drama on the Earth, The present translation includes critical notes and an index of the terms.
The background - In 1789 William Jones brought out his translation of Sakuntla. This is a landmark in the Annals of Indological Research and the interest of Western scholars in Sankrit works whether pure literature or technical works of the sort of the Natyasastra. Scholars all over the world took great interest in the nature and origin of The Indian Theatre.
In the year 1826-27 H.H. Wilson published his select specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus in Three volumes. He was afraid, he said that Nś. of Bharata Muni had been lost. He said this because he could not find any Mss. of the work. Professor Hall the great Indologist edited Dhananjaya's famous Dasarupaka a splendid work on Dramaturgy. He published it in 1865. Till then he also could not find any Mss. of the famous NS. Later he was fortunate enough to come across a Mss, some chapters of which he published as a sort of supplement or Appendix to his Dasarupaka. As ill luck would have it even the best of the original Mss he had was full of lacunae. He had therefore to give up the idea of publishing a critical edition of the same. But the Scholars or oriental learning and literature were induced to search earnestly for other Mss material of Nś throughout India in 1874 the German Indologist Reymann wrote a lengthy paper on Nś. He had elaborately shed light on its contents. This also acted as an inducement to many competent scholars in India and abroad. Various authors published separate chapters with translation in French, German etc. These serval papers and pamphets no doubt helped people to understand some aspects of Ancient Indian dramatic works. Ultimately it was the magnificent work on Indian Theatre by the celebrated author Sylvian Levi and shed considerable light on the exact nature of the ancient Hindu plays, especially the manner of their representation on the stage. While expatiating on the various truths he discovered by diligent research, he magnanimous acknowledged the different contributions of his predecessor.
He had access to Three different Mss more or less complete but major portion of the same had been corrupt and lacuna ridden. Hence he devoted more attention to the study of the literary form of the Hindu plays (Chapter 18 to 22) of Nś which he discussed in greater details. Dhanaujaya, Visvanatha and other earlier Indian writers had professed their indebtedness to Bharata and Levi’ s work contributed much to check the accuracy of the earlier Indian Authors' statements. It was Levi who focussed the attention of Indologists on the importance NS.
In 1894 was published the Skt. text along of Nś. in the Kavyamala series as its 42nd title. This was edited by Pandit Sivadatta and Kasinath Pandurang Parab and in 1898 the Frech Indologist Grosset published his critical edition with (Ch. 1 14). He consulted all the Mss. available till then. It is one the best specimens of scholarship of the occidental Indologist. Thereafter many edition and the Baroda edition were published. Thereafter many editions have come out with the local language translations and annotations. Unfortunately in almost of these, printing mistakes, editorial slips are too many. A comparative error-free edition was published by the Kerala Sahitya Academy under the able editorship of Shri K.P. Narayana Pisharioti with the the Malayalam translation written by himself. The text was Malayalam characters. Unfortunately this edition has become out of print. It behoves scholars in general to make use of the valuable data on the origin and nature of ancient Indian Drama found in Nś and subject them to the searching scrutiny the require.
Commentaries The following are the best known commentators on Nś viz; Lollata, Udbhata, Sankuka, and the most famous of the Abhinava Guptas. There is a mention of a Bhasya and a Vartika besides a Natya Sutra. This system of assiging Sutra Bhasyas and Vartikas is common to all systems of India Philosophy. Hence the same has been introduced in the Nat yadarsana as well. Unfortunately our knowledge about these works except that of Abhinava Gupta is very scanty.
(a) Nanyadeva - He is reputed to be the Bhasyakara in this system. He has been quoted by Abinava Gupta and other early commentators.
(b) Bhatta Lollata - It is conjectured that he lived in 8th century. Abhinava Gupta has quoted him, often.
(c) Sankuka. This commentator has been quoted by Abh Gu many times. He has also been identified as the author of the poem Bhuvanabhyudays. He flourished in the period of the Kashmerian King Ajitapida definitely known as reigning during 813/816 A.D.
(d) Udbhata - Abhinava has referred to his opinions a few times. Possibly he is identical with the Alamkarika of the same name .
(e) Bhattanayaka - He is the author of Hrdaya darpana a work on the Dhvani theory and can be placed between 9th and 10th centuries. Abhinava Gupta makes respectful mention of this commentator.
(f) Bhattavantra - Too has been mentioned by Abhinava Gupta Nothing more is known about this author too.
(g) Acarya Kirtidhara - He probably flourished in the 6th century. He might have been a very early commentator. He is respectfully remembered by Abhinava Gupta.
(h) Abhinava Gupta - He seems to be the same as the celebrated author of the learned treatises on Kashmirian Saivism; as well as the Locana commentary on Dhvanyaloka. His age is established as between 10th and 11th centuries. He is known as Narsimha Gupta too. Despite some weak points such as faulty explanations here and there, this commentary has additional value in as much as there are profuse quotations from a vast number of drmatic and other works. Serious students of Indian poetics, aesthetic and dramaturgy are sure to be profited by the thorough perusal of this commentary. The author's background as a voluminous writer on abstruse Philosophical topics has given to the work a peculiar charm in regard to the learned reader.
The Text of Natya Sastra The work available now under the name of NS. of Bharata Muni contains about Five Thousand Six-hundred verses. There is a Shorter version with a reduction of nearly Two Hundred verses. Both the recensions possess great antiquity; which one is the earlier we cannot say for certain. The problem of the relationship between different recensions of all ancient works cannot be solved this way or that way in an off Hand manner. The very fact that the longer recension has more verses need not make us think that there are interpolations. The changes may be intentional or unintentional; scribes must have blundered by omitting verses here and there. Use of different metres etc. cannot be adduced as reasons for priority or posteriority.
Authorship - Bharata is reputed to be the author of this work. Originally the word Bharata was used in the sense of an actor in a drama. The treatise dealing with the activities of a Bharata, or intended as a guide to him came to be called Bharata Sastra. Later on the compound word began to signify the Sastra propounded by Bharata. Bhavabhuti the dramatist is probably the First to mention Bharata Muni as the author and he calls him Tauryatrikasurakara.
The Contents - A mere perusal of the contents of the work will convince everyone as the variety of the topics discussed herein. The principal theme is the dramatic art which concerns the producers of the plays as well as those who compose them, the playwrights. There are certain plays which can be only read and appreciated; but out Bharata wants the plays to be a Drsya Kavya that can be successfully and profitably represented on the stage. This vital relationship between the literary and the technical aspects of a play has been analysed by him and justice has been Done to both. The dramatic theory as well as practice has been elaborately dealth with. Hence manual gestures, facial expressions. Poetics, music with all ramifications whether vocal or instrumental, prosody. Some points of grammar, costumes, ornaments, setting up of the scenese with proper background etc. etc. have been thoroughly dealt with.
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