My first appointment in the west Bengal educational Service was at Krishnanagar Govt. College Krishnanagar in Nadia. Krishnanagar has been a centre of music fine arts and culture for the last 300 years. Some of the elite of the city of Krishnanagar in dance and music used to come to the college for satisfying their queries on these topics and very often the burden used to fall on me. But this offered me the chance of going through the Natyasastra of Bharata which was the fountain head of music and histrionics. Except the Gaekwad oriental institute edition of the Natyasastra the College Library possessed copies of the Kavaymala edition of the Natyasastra and the English translation of Dr. Manomohan Ghosh. The Study of these books apart from meeting the queries revealed before me a vivid picture of the ancient Indian society in different shades. I began jotting down the data and on transfer to the Calcutta Sanskrit College I was privileged to discuss the matter with Dr. Kali kumar Dutta Sastri Prof. of Sanskrit Language and culture in the post graduate training and research Dept. who encouraged me to proceed on the work. Frequent transfers caused inevitable delay but the recluse at Oxford from 1969-71 gave me the opportunity of consulting the old references and to check up the linguistic data contained in the Natyasastra of Bharata. Some more time was consumed in completing the work and we are now in a position to bring out the fruits of our labor. Except the brief analysis of the cultural data found in the Natayasastra of Dr. M. Ghosh no other significant inroad has been made into this field however I admit my inability to go 1991 but even then I hope that this integrated study of the Natayasastra will be of substantial help for those who are interested in this topic.
I have generally followed the principal texts of the NS in the G.O.S edn and in the Kavyamala series No. 42 in our studies on the Prakrta portion of CH XVII we have examined in addition the variants given in the footnotes of both of these texts. Prof. Dr. Satyaranjan Banerjee of the Dept. of Linguistics University of Calcutta has been kind enough to go through the entire Ch VIII of this study and to suggest correction and alterations. It lapses are noticed even then these are due to my ignorant venture into a highly specialized field of study. My daughter Miss Sarbani Kanjilal B.Sc. M.C.A. (final) has taken much pains in the computerized re-editing of the 108 historinci postures noticed in the temple of Chidambaram Madras and reported in the excerpts of the Dept. of Epigraphy, Madras I acknowledge my debts to the Lucknow Museum for the picture of the dancing Yaksi and to Stella Kramrish’s book. The art of India for the Frontis piece.
I convey my best thanks to Sri Debasis Bhattacharyya for expressing his willingness to publish this from the Sanskrit pustak Bhandar Kolkata.
The Natyasastra of Bharata is a voluminous text on histrionics. Histrionics include drama, dance, music and fine arts as well as stagecraft. 1-listrionics as art is the gift of an enlightened and progressive society. A treatise on the science of histrionics will, as a matter of fact, contain meagre or detailed account of the society which has given birth to it. In this process of presentation of the data the details of geography, topography and the geo-physical peculiarities, the general administrative and economic condition of the society come in. The Natyasastra illustrates these aspects. M reference to any dynastic rule can be found in this Political history in the modern sense of the traceable here; but some elements of political geography and of history dealing with the rise and the coalescing of the states and the extension of their boundaries are noticeable in the discussions of political geography and of history in the text of the Natyasastra. The present study covers all the 36 chapters of the Natyasastra, but the remaining six chapters are given to the development and the display of music in all niceties which are essentially specialized and have not been included here.
A cultural study waits for a reference to the date. Examination of the data given in the Natyasastra points to a society which was in all probability free from political turmoil’s and indicate a process of cohesion and social absorption. From the available annals of old Indian history we find a period of settlement and of placidity from the time of Asoka upto the 1st cent. B.C. The total picture of Indian society emerging from the Natyasastra seems to place it in this age of cultural contact and peace. Economy as gathered from the Natyasastra was stable with gold and silver coins serving as the medium of exchange. No reference to draught or shortage of food can be found here. Among the foreign tribes settled in the North or North-West of India no reference to the Hunas or to the Guijaras can he traced. The Arthasastra of Kautilya refers to the Hunas along with the Gandharadesa. It refers to the Sakas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Bãhlikas, the Paradas and the Khasas. The Paradas were settled in the North-West extremities of Balucistan from the 4th cent B.C. and came down the Sindhu land one or two centuries later. Some of the administrative terms found in the Natyasastra like mahattara and ãyuktika are not traceable in a more comprehensive treatise like the Arthasastra. On the other hand the NS refers to Brhaspati as an authority on political science. The reference to Arthasastra in conjunction with Brhaspati (XXVI. 85-91) is indicative of Bharata’s acquaintance with a text on Arthasastra attributed to Brhaspati who has been referred to by Kautilya. The reference to Kämatantra cannot be taken as a reference to the Kãmasutra of Vatsyayana which belongs to the 3rd cent. A.D. There were earlier texts on the science of erotics as well. The geo-political state of India described in the NS includes two territories (i) the Andhra-Maharãstra and (ii) Odra-Magadha. As we have discussed in Ch II the formation and the emergence of these two states point to a period which is not later than 1st Cent. A.D. at the lowest and the mention of Kaa-Koala as one unit also points to a tradition some centuries prior to B.C. The agreement almost verbatim of the Prakrta section of the NS with the Prakrta-prakasa of Vararuci seems to suggest either that the NS had copied the Prãkrta portion from Vararuci or both have taken from a common source — a possibility which cannot be ruled Out. Similarly the NS is in close agreement with the text of Pingala as we have shown in Ch IX Pingla was not much later than Pänini and his text can be placed in the 3rd. cent. B.C. at the latest. From all these evidences we are inclined to place the extant text of the Nttyasastra in the 1st Cent. B.C. but some portions of the text may be as early as the 4th cent. B.C.
Of Related Interest:
The NATYASASTRA (English Translation with Critical Notes) (Book)
Shiva as Nataraja - Dance and Destruction in Indian Art (Article)
Introduction to Bharata's Natyasastra (Book)
BHARATA - The Natyasastra (Book)
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