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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Foundational elements of sa.nskR^ita nATaka-s - part II

No one till date has been able to indisputably point out as to how and when the theories of dramas originated in India. nATyashAstra of AchArya bharata is considered to be the primary shAstra among all available lakshaNa grantha-s, but it is clear from the structure, subject and its manner of explanation that even before it, there was a long tradition of texts describing nATya lakshaNa-s; bharata collated the essence of some of these lakshaNa-s, and also did some original contribution by throwing light on different aspects of creation of drama. It becomes clear from  the manner in which bharata has expressed his thoughts on the origin and development of nATyashAstra, that the primary source of the origin of Indian dramas had become so ancient even in his time, that he could not give a scientific description of the same, and covered it with a veneer of divinity and paurANika notions. The daivIya siddhAnta-s which he propagated with respect to the origin of sa.nskR^ta nATaka-s, may superfically appear to be unscientific and imaginary, but ultimately they point towards the serious and inner core elements of Indian dramas. The first chapter of nATyashAstra containing the kathA which dilates on the genesis of nATaka-s, among other things also mentions acting out of the world's first drama, whose plot is based on daityadAnavanAshana during the celebration of victory of indra. In addition to presenting the divine and partially divine plot of devAsura sangram on stage, it contains detailed description of its naTa-s, spectators, hurdles created by dAnava-s, conditions of that time and presentation of drama. This first abhinaya of the world is undoubtedly deeply soaked in the color of paurANika notions, but, as we'll show ahead, it is a clear expression of the core dharma of Indian dramas. The first fact which draws our attention is that of taking four elements of drama from the four veda-s which form the fount of hindu dharma and sa.nskR^iti. This descent of nATyashastra sufficiently throws light on the AdhyAtmika aspect of Indian dramas--acceptance of dramatic elements from veda-s and their artistic union mean that Indian nATaka-s inherited the purity, dharma and auspiciousness of veda-s. dR^ishya kAvya made from vaidika elements--pAThya, gIta, abhinaya and rasa--is verily termed as pa.nchamaveda or nATyaveda, since in the form of these elements it is the artistic shaktI of veda-s themselves which manfiests as abhinaya in it. The objective of creation of this nATyaveda is not only entertainment and education, but to also provide vishrAma to beings overwhelmed with sorrow, dukhaH and labour. In this way, the notion of ma.ngala invoking power of nATya is embedded in it with its very genesis; this is the reason why even after hundreds of years of its development, it has never been injected with any truism which is ashubha, perverted or not beautiful--even though it may be the truth. Indian dramas only take up those elements of reality which pushes the human mind to the sacchidAnanda state of rasa; there is clear admission of struggle, duels and problems, but the puruShArtha inducing theme of dark clouds wash away to reveal a clear sky is what comes out in the end. No matter how strong darkness may appear from light, it has to lose; the very function of the existence of darkness is to brighten up the light even more; wake up the human mind from its toxic experiences and nurture the path to amrita. The manner in which AchArya bharata has presented the form and structure of the world's first act worthy nATaka only brings out the 'shiva' form of Indian dramas even more strongly. This drama which portrayed devAsura sa.ngrAma on the stage was designed to end on a happy note, meaning it depicts victory of deva-s and defeat of asura-s. Indian discourse has been full of spiritual, philosophical and literary symbols since ancient times. devAsura-sa.ngrAma, which has been narrated in purANa-s and epics many times, comes across as a sukShma symbol of similar nature. This is a sign of the ongoing struggle between the asura side and deva side of our inner and external world. The spiritual and vaichArika value of devAsura sa.ngrAma increases manifold in the context of the origin of Indian dramas. The implication of this struggle is nothing but that the impurity of life or world, which are tied up symbolically with asura-s, are forever in contest with deva-s representing satyam shivam sundaram. However, whatever may be the tamas or deformities of human mind, they've to bend down eventually under the constantly developing, strong and dynamic humanity. This symbolic victory of deva-s over asura-s shaped in the first dramatic mould is in harmony with all the elements of happy ending sa.nskR^ita nATaka-s which were written later. In future, bharata and other AchArya-s use these very elements as the foundation of their dramas. Thus in the eyes of modern critics, the daivI origin of dramas, visualized by bharata, and the notion of world's first played drama may appear inauthentic or unrealistic, but their importance in analyzing the form of Indian dramas can't be rejected.

Western literary critics generally are unaware of the jIvana darshana woven in and around sa.nskR^ita nATaka-s, this is the reason why a lack of dramatic gravity in these nATaka-s bothers them. According to them, presence of villainous characters in drama, the cruel games of destiny, tragic situation, intense tones of pity on stage due to the death of nAyaka and other characters etc. are truly the necessary elements of dramatic seriousness--those dramas which lack these elements can not truly to called serious dramas. If this is indeed true, then the Indian dramas definitely implore such grimness which is detrimental to the ethical life of the viewers and readers, and makes them hear only the tone of dukhaH in this world. In India the very etymological meaning of the word sAhitya is a mark of the welfare of social life people--nATaka is the manifest form of sAhitya, therefore it is naturally a strong opponent of such tendencies which support anything which is inauspicious or malevolent to society.

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The purUShArthavAdI tradition of Indian dramas has since the beginning been a staunch opponent of such pessimism--fiery manifestation of such opposition can be seen in these nATaka-s which have always been sukhAnta and whose primary aim was to unfurl the victorious banner of light over darkness.The quality of these dramas--which believe in the fruition of action and have AsthA in iShTa--is not like the dramas with the so called tragic seriousness. In real life, the fruition may be as inaccessible as the pitiable end of a sincere life in Western tragedies. But generally sAhitya and specfically dR^ishya kAvya can not move on the basis of pessimism and poverty of life. Account to Indian viewpoint, our prArabdha may be the reason for life's pessimism and troubles or all such sufferings may be the results of our actions in current life itself. No matter what is the reason or agency of our sufferings, they can be resolved in this life itself; that is why, they cannot be considered as an exponent of any victory or defeat of life. The wheel of the world has a fixed destination, towards which it is constantly moving; it is true that at times it has to face cataclysms, but this never means that it has to ultimately rupture or break down forever. The mortal human life is an important part of this progressive and focused cycle, which rips away all the struggles of life and is ever in motion towards the brighter horizons. Indian literature and especially drama marches on with the internalization of this eternal truth and high ideal with complete confidence and sincerity.

sa.nskR^ita drama doesn't chose substance from every good or bad aspects of life. By rule, it has to chose only those things which will breath life into the inert components of society, inspire them towards true path and is capable of putting a proper ideal in front of readers or members of society. This is the reason that a hero or heroine like Macbeth or lady Macbeth can not be imagined for Indian stage. In Western dramas, such characters have undoubtedly been novelized with immense gravity; not only this, they are full of human compassion despite their inevitable fall to decadence due to their own weaknesses; due to this, emotions such as pity and suffering are invoked in us as we reach a certain point of the act. Like Macbeth any tragic hero "is a person like us when it comes to core sensitivities and emotions; his form is idealized, but he is so much part of our simple humanity that we develop deep interest and sympathy towards him. He falls from his high throne; and the misfortune that his life becomes a prey of, is not a result of some willful evil act on his part, but is borne on the account of his great mistake or weakness." Hegel has also presented the form of tragedy in a similar way. According to him the hero of a tragedy is powerful and possesses good character, however his misfortune and pain are but natural results of his actions. Such a nAyaka does attract our mind, but he becomes guilty in our eyes because the actions which are in complete harmony with him are opposed to ethical forces and reject them. The meaning of all this is that nobility, sympathy, pauruSha etc. all treasures of a good character--prove out to be of lower category in comparison to his weaknesses. Such pessimistic point of view comes out in complete contradiction to the foundation elements of Indian rupaka-s. Indian nATaka-s clearly point towards the horizon of human victory, happiness and joy.  

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It is the rIti and nature of this dualistic world that it moves towards its aim on sinuous path--these sinuous paths do not in any way signify its defeat or backwardness, rather they are a benchmark to test its courage and compassion, and present a testimony to its immovable will. (...) This is the central bhAva and core revelation of the view of life of Indian dramatists--who consider human life as a divine blessing of victory against all vicious circles and tAmasika forces.

-translated from 'bhavabhUti aur unakI nATya-kalA' by shrI ayodhyA prasAda si.nha 

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