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Bharata’s Natyashastra: Fundamentals of Dramatics and Aesthetics
Bhimrao Bhosale
Associate Professor
Department of English
Dr. B.A.M. University, A’bad
Natyashastra has been a classic on dramatics and aesthetics which has been commonly attributed
to Bharata, the sage for its authorship. It has been founded on human psychology prevailing
under conditions of India’s cultural system with a focus on stage performance. Rasa theory is at
the centre of the Natyashastra. Natyashastra is an analytical text of dramatic performance that
categorically characterizes fundamentals such as Natya, Vithi, Bhav, Vyabhichari Bhav, Satvik
Bhav, Vibhav, Anubhav, Rasa, Rasa Sutra, Nishpatti, Model Spectator, and highly spiritual
concept of Shantih. The significance of the text lies in its applied relevance for both creative and
critical aspects. It displays philosophically as a classic as well as contemporary text. Bharata
defines each Sutra offers us in terms of determinants, consequence and Vyabhichari Bhav
establishing his authority in understanding the insight of human nature with an ability of
analytical expression and dramatic representation for ultimate Nishpatti of desired Rasas for
pleasure and delight of the audience. The tradition of Sanskrit scholarship regards Natyashastra
as an additional Ved and is a compendium of performing arts, drama, music, dance, and fine arts.
Bharata leaves deep influence on the subsequent Sanskrit critiques like Abhinav Gupta,
Manmohan or Vishwanath in India aesthetics. It is possible that on the basis of practical
experience of Rasas the art can find bedrock for art and fine arts.
Bharat Muni writes Natyashastra possibly at his age of 48. He is committed to single
discipline of art and fine art and is not an octogenariam like Aristotle. His reflection on
Natyashastra finds root in psychology of manunder prevailing conditions of cultural system of
India with a focus shift towards performance. Education, culture, art and fine art in the Indian
context influence his findings in the discipline of Natyashastra. Bharat Muni as a sage has grown
as a noble personality in establishing himself s perfect in the discipline of knowledge and art.
Natyashastra projects features such as Natya, Vithi, model spectator, Bhav, vyabhichari
bhav, Sattvik bhav, Vibhav, Anubhav, Rasa, Rasa sutra, Nishpatti and a perpetual debate over the
status of Shantih, establishing itself as a permanent source of understanding new insights and
new directions and artistic trajectories in his sentimental work on art and fine art with a special
shift towards dramatic performance. His major contribution in the tradition of Sanskrit
scholarship has been acknowledged for the Rasa theory which is practically useful as a guide not
only for creative artist but also for audience or readers.
Bharata defines each sutra of a Rasa in terms of determinants, consequents and
Vyabhichari bhav establishing his authority in understanding and insight of a human nature but
an ability of analytical expression and dramatic representation for ultimate Nishpatti of desired
Rasas for pleasure and delight of the audience.
The tradition of Sanskrit scholarship regards Natyashastra as an additional Veda. The
date is generally referred to the third century A.D. The authorship is ascribed to Bharata the sage.
The definite and reliable information about Bharata and authorship is not known. Natyashastra is
a compendium of performed arts, drama, music and dance i.e. art and fine art.
Bharata leaves deep influence on the subsequent Sanskrit critics like Abhinav Gupta,
Manmohan, or Vishwanath in Indian aesthetics.
Bharata is remembered as the exponent of the Rasa theory. Natyashastra provides an
insight into the psychology of aesthetic reception and has been cknowledged as the scientific
exposition of Rasa theory making a distinctive contribution in the form of Natya, Rasas and
Compendium based on scientific application of reason to human nature and experience. It is
possible that on the basis of practical experience of Rasas the art can find bedrock for aesthetics
of art and fine art.
Manmohan Ghosh’s rendering is widely referred for translations, though no rendering of
Natyashastra is satisfactory including that of Manmohan Ghosh. G.K. Bhatta produced a Bharat
Natya Manjiri (1975), a digest which is very useful for undergraduates of Sanskrit poetics based
on Manmohan Ghosh’s translation.
Natyashastra is a depiction and communication pertaining to emotions of the entire triple
world including variety, sport, wealth, peace of mind, laughter, fighting, sexual passion, and
slaughter all activities of life.
According to Bharata, Natyashastra imitates the conduct of the world. Natyashastra will
be the instrument of instruction for the world in addition to entertainment and pleasure.
Natyashastra includes all knowledge, craft, art, lore, fine art, design, emotions, and acts of life.
Natyashastra is an indication of the happenings in the life of gods, demons, kings, family, men
and sages who have spiritual knowledge. In fact the nature and behavior of the world intimately
connected with happiness and misery, as rendered by physical and other forms of acting, to be
called Natyashastra. Bharata says that the entire nature of human beings as connected with the
experience of happiness and misery, joy and sorrow presented through the process of histrionics
(Abhinaya) is called Natya.
Vithi should have one act. It has the character of all the sentiments and comprises of
thirteen aspects. It is to be acted by one or two characters. It may include three kinds of dramatic
prakriti, high, middling and low.
Model spectator
A person who watches a dramatic performance with full concentration and makes a
judgment on the basis of merit ignoring artistic faults can be judged as a model spectator. All
these qualities cannot be expected in a single person.
It gives an account of rhetorical sentiments (Rasas), emotional states (Bhava), ascribing
mental conditions (Sthayi Bhava), transient mental states (Vyabhichari bhav), psycho physical
conditions (Satvik Bhav), the four kinds of Abhinay, (histrionic representation), the Dharma ( the
mode of dramatic representation), the success of Natya, musical notes, and instruments, songs,
the size, and shape of theatre in detail.
Bhava and Rasa are related mutually. Our view is that Rasa arises from mutual contact of
Bhava and Rasa. The other view is that Rasa arises from the emotional states alone and not vice
versa. During the process of histrionic representation, the two (Bhava and Rasa) accomplish
their status and function by dual interaction.
The Bhava produces poetic contents through words, gestures, and movements, and
psycho-physical representation. ‘Bhav’ is a root that denotes compassion. Bhava is produced by
Vibhav (stimulants) and functions as awareness to the spectator (Anubhav), and the acting modes
of words and gestures (Sattva-abhinaya).
Vyabhichari Bhava
Vyabhichari Bhavas are more prominent towards creating the sentiments in a variety of
ways. They move the spectators to the poetic sentiments in actual dramatic performance. They
are thirty three in number.
Sattvik Bhava
Satvik Bhava is something that originates in the mind. Sattva is produced when the mind