The Natya Sastra is a Sanskrit treatise on the performing arts. The text is attributed to sage Bharata Muni. The date of composition was between 200 BCE to 200 CE. The Natya Sastra consists of thirty six chapters with 6000 slokas, narrating performing arts. There are various topics of dramaturgy composition, Structure of play, construction of stage, genres of acting, body movements, make up and costumes, role of art director, the musical scales, musical instruments, integration of music with art performance. The Natya Sastra is an ancient treatise which has influenced dance, music, and literary traditions of India. It exhibits the Rasa theory also. The goal of Natya Sastra is ultimately to let the spectator experience his own consciousness then evaluate and feel the spiritual values innate in him and rise to a higher level of consciousness. The text opens with mythical genesis and history of drama. It also mentions the role of different Hindu deities in various aspects of the arts. Before the starting of the drama, a puja is recommended.
The text, then describes the theory of Tandava Dance of Shiva, the theory of Rasa, of bhava, expression, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, 9 standing postures etc. Chaptes, 6 and 7 present the Rasa theory. Chapters 8 to 13 are dedicated to the art of acting. Stage instruments such as methods for holding accessories, weapons, relative movements of actors, and actresses, scene formulation, stage zone. Conventions and customs are included in chapters 10 to 13 of the Natya Sastra. The chapters 14 to 20 are dedicated to plot and structure. Chapters 17 presents the attribute of poetry and figures of speech. Chapter 18 presents the art of speech delivery.
The text lists ten kinds of play. The text dedicates several chapters exclusive, to women in performance of arts with chapter 24 on female theatre. The training of actors is presented in chapters 26 and 35 of the text. The theory of music techniques of singing and music instruments are discussed in chapters 28 to 34. The text in its final chapters describes the various types of dramatic characters, their role s and need of team work. The text is closed with its comments of the performance arts on culture. The Natya Sastra is a unique text of India.
A scholar has said- “Natya Sastra praises dramatic arts as a comprehensive aid to the learning of virtue, proper behavious, ethical and moral fortitude courage, love and adoration of the divine,” It may here be Mentioned that Bharata Muni in his Natya Sastra has disallowed certain kinds of scene which are not to be shown in the stage such as death scene, scenes of private life like bathing, eating, sleeping etc. But now a days on the stage and in the films these scones are being shown. Why we are disobeying Bharata Muni? This needs introspection and correction. Nowhere in the world will be found a text like Natya Sastra on dramaturgy. India is a Jagad Guru. Much of civilization and culture originated in India. Wonder that was India.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)
Radhakanta Seth is a former Income tax officer in Sambalpur. He is a freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri, and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolkata.
He can be reached at [email protected]