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Natyasasthra (Bharatheeya Kavyasastra: Part II)
- V S Bhaskara Panicker
C/o e-mail:

May 14, 2006

(This is the second part of the research paper that Mr. V S Bhaskara Panicker would like to share with narthaki readers)

Natyasasthra is undisputedly the earliest or rather the first compilation, codifying the principles of Natya/Kavya. The tradition of Natya/Kavya is very ancient, starting right from the Vedas, supposed to have been composed or compiled five thousand years back. There should have been compilations enunciating these principles, and stipulating guidelines for the benefit of poets and performers during this long period. Bharatha would have compiled his Natyasasthra from such texts and when his Natyasasthra was accepted and adopted as the basis, the earlier compilations would have gone into oblivion.

There is a belief that Adi Bharatha or Vridha Bharatha had composed "Natyavedasamhitha" consisting of twelve thousand slokas and the present Natyasasthra was compiled by Bharata taking about six thousand slokas.

Nothing is known about his place of birth, activities or ancestry. Bharathas were a race traditionally engaged in music, Natya, etc. and were accepted stage performers. Bharathamuni (200 BC - 110 BC) would have belonged to this sect. Bharatha's contribution to aesthetics is the Rasasidhantha. The 2000 year old pursuit in the field of literature and art in this country is centered around this Sidhantha. Rasa is aesthetic pleasure which still remains undefined.

(Extracts pertaining to Kavya)

Origin of Natya
Vedas constitute the substratum of all Indian thinking and learning. The principles of Natya too have the rudiments in the four Vedas. Vedas originated from the mouth of Brahma and as such Natya/Kavya (drisya -sravya) were also part of his creation. The combination of these two is called Kreedaniyam.

Natya/Kavya has got four aspects 1) Patya (prose and poetry), 2) Githa (music), 3) Abhinaya (visual representation) and 4) Rasa (aesthetic sentiment). Patya was taken from Rigveda, Githa from Sama, Abhinaya from Yajus and Rasa from Atharva.

The practical application of the principles is called Vrithis (in Natya sense). The four Vrithis are Bharathi, Sathwaki, Arabhadi and Kaisiki. Bharathi is connected with the usage of words, Sathwaki the mind (bhavas) Arabhadi the gesticulations, Kaisiki is the effort to make the other three Vrithis graceful and attractive for the fruition of Rasa. Bharatha has said that the fourth one namely Kaisiki was formulated by him and added to the other three. Its purpose being Rasa, it is evident that Bharatha was the expounder of Rasasidhantha.

Natya is actually the imitation of life-modes. In worldly life we pass through different states of emotional experiences. We also engage ourselves in diverse activities. All these are motivated by the impulses from within. These also vary from man to man and people to people. These varied forms of experiences, both physical and mental, are enacted or imitated on the stage. Thus Natya is the representation of life and its activities.

Natya - What for?
Natya depicts the acts and activities of the virtuous, the vicious, and the ordinary ones, and it offers advice to each and all in the manner they require, and also provides mental strength and enjoyment to them. It offers consolation to the overworked and grief-stricken. It offers dharma, glory, long life and prosperity to the people in general.

Natya Thanu
The body of Natya is Kavya. Abhinaya (gesticulations) colourful dresses, embellishments, Bhavabhinaya (expression of emotions) are all intended to express Vakyartha (meanings of the words in Kavya). Utmost care should therefore be bestowed in the use of words. It is absolutely necessary that in Kavya, words and their blending should be liberal, sweet and gracefully simple and clear. Nataka should be composed after taking into consideration the inclination of the people in general, the nature of the society (Lokaswabhava) and the capability of the spectator to understand what is presented. Life is an admixture of happiness and sorrow. While writing the drama, the poet should take care to select commonly used graceful words, after fully comprehending their explicit meanings.

Abhinaya is exposition of Kavyartha
Abhinaya is the process of expressing the meanings otherwise than through words. (Abhi + neen) means a process of face to face expression. Meaning (substance) may be an object or an action (Vasthu or Kriya). Abhinaya has got four attributing factors:
1) Aharya (stage arrangements and dresses)
2) Angika (gestures or gesticulations
3) Vachika (sounds produced or pronunciations) and
4) Sathvika (expression of emotions, say perspiration restlessness etc).
The actor should understand the diversity and gravity of the meanings (artha) and convey these honestly to the audience.

Alankara is Kaisiki Vrithi. For Bharatha, Alankara means beauty. Beauty becomes explicit when the four aspects of Abhinaya are blended together. When expressed in Natya, it is Natyalankara and when in Kavya, it is Kavyalankara. When the essential meaning (artha) pervades the mind of the poet or Nata and submerges it, Rasabhava is generated and it is conveyed to the Sahridaya for his consumption and enjoyment. Bharatha had made mention of 36 Lakshanas. These Lakshanas are transformed into Alankaras.

Kavya Doshas
The natural flow of Artha should not in any way be impeded by improper or inappropriate usage. Such usages are called Kavya Doshas. Bharatha had cautioned against such Doshas.

1. Goodhartha ( expressing with non-suitable Paryaya)
2. Arthanthara (improper description)
3. Arthaheena (giving unconnected meanings)
4. Bhinnartha (use of obscene or colloquial words)
5. Ekartha (use of words with different meanings)
6. Abhipluthartha (meaning is made too concise)
7. Nyayapetha (without any authority)
8. Vishama (non-observance of rhymes)
9. Visandhi (violation of Sandhi rules)
10. Sabdachyutha (use of improper words)

Kavya Gunas
1. Slesha: That which is based on a Vrithi. Naturally clear and well composed.
2. Prasada: The combination of Sabda and Artha is natural and comprehensible without explanation.
3. Samatha: Alankaras and their application to the context are appropriate and graceful.
4. Samadhi: Elucidation by proper use of simile.
5. Mathurya: Though repeatedly used, not to become stale.
6. Ojas: Rich in Sabdartha with meanings noble, nevertheless the construction bad
7. Soukumarya: True blending of Sabda and Artha and easy combination of words.
8. Arthavyakthi: Meaning is easily understood.
9. Udatha: (Udatham) Profound and properly used words which convey rich and diverse meanings.
10. Kanthi: Produce pleasure to the ear and mind.

Rasa based usages
1. Veera, Raudra, Adbhutha; Lakhu (mild sounding letters) Alankaras; Upama and Roopaka
2. Beebhatsa: Guru (hard letters)
3. Karuna: -do-
4. Sringara: Vritha - Nari; Alankara; Roopaka
5. Veera: Use of compound Vyanjanas (characters)

Rasa and Bhava
Bharatha's Rasasidhantha is the most valuable contribution to aesthetics. Rasa is the intrinsic pleasure or making up of the mind-set which transforms itself in to pure state of pleasure (Ananda). Ananda is the ultimate aim of spiritual pursuits which the Yogis attain through Sadhana. Rasa is the inner most experience closely akin to it. Ananda is complete and continuous transformation and flows like Thailadhara unintermittently. Rasa is short lived and exists till the infrastructure offered by Vibhavas etc exists.

Sthayee Bhavas
Rasas are eight in number, each with a corresponding Sthayee Bhava. The Bhavas, technically speaking the Sthayee Bhavas are the consummation of Natya/Kavya process and these create the conditions required for the ultimate unfolding of the aesthetic experience (Rasa). The question whether these Sthayee Bhavas are offered to the mind in subtle form by the extraneous Vibhavas etc. or the kindling up of the inner inherent faculty of the mind that it possesses by the latter, have been examined by the later Acharyas. The Sthayee Bhavas and Rasas as detailed by Bharata are as follows:
Sthayee Bhava Rasa
Rati Sringara
Hasa Hasya
Soka Karuna
Krodha Raudra
Utsaha Veera
Bhaya Bhayanaka
Jugupsa Beebhatsa
Vismaya Adbhutha

Vyabhichari Bhava
The mindset created by the Natya/Kavya is multifold. Though Sthayee Bhava is the ultimate stage, there are a number of subsidiary Bhavas which the mind assumes and discards. These subsidiary Bhavas are Vyabhichari Bhavas (Sanchari). Bharatha has explained in detail the process of gesticulation and other modes to represent them effectively on stage. These are 33 in number. A few examples of Vyabhichari Bhavas are Nirveda (disappointment, sorrow, disinterestedness), Glani (depression), Shanka (doubt), Asuya (jealousy), Vishada (sorrow).

Sthayee Bhavas are Sthitha (permanent) and Vyabhichari Bhavas are called so because they are transitory (Sanchari - moving nature).

Satvika Bhava
The next category of Bhava is Satvika Bhava. These are actually the state of mind at a particular stage and exhibited through visible signs or indications externally. These are eight in number. 1. Sthambha (immobility), 2. Swetha (perspiration), 3. Romancha (raising of hairs), 4. Swarabhanga (choking of voice), 5. Kampana (shivering), 6. Vivarnatha (decolorization), 7. Asrupravah (shedding of tears), and 8. Moorcha (senselessness).

Rasa evolved by the combination of Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari Bhava, just as the side dishes prepared by the combination of condiments are relishing. It is Rasa because it is enjoyed.

Natya Rasa
The basis of Natya being Kavya, it is the poet who conceives the Rasa in the first instance. In Abhinaya, Vibhava, Anubhava and Vyabhichari Bhava are applied to project the Rasa conceived by the poet. The Bhavas are instrumental like the condiments and the combination of these give effect to Rasa.

Sringara Rasa
Rati is the Sthayee Bhava of Sringara. The basis is gender differentiation. The main theme of Natya/Kavya is human life, which mostly centers around the relationship between man and woman and this is the primary emotional force. Naturally Sringara is dominant in its description in Natya/Kavya.
Sringara has got two aspects - Sambhoga and Vipralambha (union and separation).

The Sthayee Bhava for Hasya is Hasa. Hasya is produced when confronted with the meaninglessness of what is perceived. It is Atmastha when seen on oneself and Parastha when perceived in others.

This Rasa is produced by Sthayee Bhava, Soka. The Vibhavas for this Rasa are so many in life, bereavement, death etc. The Anubhavas to be followed are weeping, state of fatigue etc. The Vyabhichari Bhava are pensive mood, fear, disinterestedness etc. The Sthayee Bhava is Soka.

The Sthayee Bhava is Krodha. The Vibhavas are abusing, unpleasant utterances, harsh words etc. The Vyabhichari Bhava are enthusiasm, choking of words etc.

The Sthayee Bhava is Uthsaha. Determination, sense of justice, self control etc. are the Vibhavas. The Vyabhichari Bhavas are courage, pride, rising of hair etc.

Bhaya is the Sthayee Bhava. The Vibhava are devils, jackals, murder etc. Perspiration, shivering of limbs, change of voice etc. are the Sanchari Bhavas.

Jugupsa (aversion) is the Sthayee Bhava. The Vibhava are seeing abhorrent objects, withdrawal of body organs etc. Tension, vomiting, stiffness, etc. are the Anubhavas.

Vismaya (surprise) is the Sthayee Bhava. Trickling of tears, perspiration, rising of hairs etc. are the Vyabhicharis.

Santha Rasa
It has been stated earlier that the rasas are eight. But towards the end of his detailed narration, Bharatha has added Santha Rasa as the ninth one. It has been commented upon by later critics that Santha cannot be imitated on the stage as its essence is spirituality.
According to Bharatha, Sama is the Sthayee Bhava of Santha Rasa. Philosophical knowledge, abstinence, purity of heart etc. are the Vibhavas. Observance of Yama, Niyama etc, are the Anubhavas. Mental detachment, pensive attitude, firmness, neatness, are its Vyabhichari aspects.

Sthayee Bhavas are the emotional contents. According to Bharatha, the subtle essence of all emotions is Santha. Emotions are projected from Prakrithi to merge finally in it. All the other eight Rasas exist on the strength of the supporting materials. When the latter ceases to exist, the Rasa subsides. Then what remains is Santha. This is the philosophical consummation of the treatise.

V S Bhaskara Panicker has been an ardent writer since childhood, writing mainly in Malayalam language. Some of his literary expulsions have seen light and many are still left unpublished. He is 77 years old and still continuing his passion. In June/July 2004, when he visited his son in Gujarat, he typed out his research paper on Bharatheeya Kavyasastra.

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