The National Mission for Manuscripts, presently part of IGNCA was established in February 2003 by the Ministry of Culture. Its purpose is to locate, document, preserve and disseminate the knowledge content of Indian manuscripts. While looking ahead to reconnect with the knowledge of the past, the Mission is in the process of trying to re-contexttualize the knowledge contained in manuscripts for the present and the future generations. The Mission organizes seminars on various subjects related to Indian knowledge in different locations of India. The papers presented in the seminar are collected and brought out under the Samiksika series.
Samiksika-19, contains the papers presented in the national seminar organized at Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Vedavyas Campus, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh in collaboration with the National Mission for Manuscripts.
This book encompasses valuable papers dealing with chronological history and geographical origin of Natyasastra, critical analysis on the journey of the text, commentaries, and their contribution; content, order, language and style of the text; role of sculptures, paintings and carvings in the architectural monuments. The text of Natyasastra influenced successive authors of dramaturgy and treatises of poetry and drama. The book touches upon the subject of cataloguing, documentation and digitization of manuscripts of Natyasastra and corridors to the Revival of Indian Traditional Drama and performance arts.
The Natyasastra, an encyclopaedic Sanskrit treatise of performing arts by Sage Bharat, is considered as the fifth Veda along with the Mahabharata. Its influence has percolated fathom deep in the aesthetic psyche of Indian populace influencing its drama, dance, music, sculpture and literary traditions. Its quintessential rasa theory helps one transcend the aesthetic realm and realize the state of self-consciousness, altering his or her spiritual and ethical ethos, benefitting the society in toto.
Believed as composed between 200 BCE-200 CE, the text has undergone numerous recensions. The most studied version of the Natyasastra, consisting of about 6000 verses is divided into thirty six chapters. The structure of the text harmoniously compiles various aspects of the theatrical arts. It starts with the mythical genesis and history of theatre, explains the role of presiding deities in various aspects of the arts, prescribed the rituals to consecrate the space for performing arts. The text of the Natyasastra describes the components of Tandava dance, fundamental emotional notions and aesthetics of rasa and bhava including expressions, gestures, acting techniques, basic steps, standing postures etc. Thus chapters 8 to 13 are dedicated to the elaborate art of acting. Stage instruments such as methods for holding accessories, weapons, movement of actors and actresses, scene formulation, stage areas, conventions and customs are depicted in chapters 10 to 13 of the text. The chapters 14 to 20 articulate the plot and structure of the performing art. These sections carry the theory of Sanskrit prosody, metres to be employed and the language of expression. Chapters 17 and 18 discuss the attributes of poetry, figures of speech and the art of delivery in the performance arts. Here the text discusses ten major rupakas (form of drama) and a variety of uparupakas. The Chapter 21 covers stage decor, costumes and make-up. The Natyasastra dedicates several chapters predominantly to women in performance arts as well as classification and stages of feminine youth. The chapter 26 presents the nature of dramatic personae. The theory of music, techniques for singing and the distinction between vocal and various instrumental music are discussed elaborately in chapters 28 to 34. The text in its final chapters explains different types of dramatic characters, lays down the principles for distributing rules and the qualifications for members of the troupe. The Natyasastra ends by stating the glory of Indian theatre and numerical traditions. The Natyasastra did pave the way for the emergence of many literary creations and commentaries on it in Sanskrit of which the tenth-century Abhinavabharati, a creation by the Kashmiri Saivite Sanskrit scholar, philosopher and grammarian Abhinavagupta, stands tall.
The seminar on "The Recensions of Natyasastra" has addressed quite a pertinent issue associated with the contents and impact of the text in the Indian creative works across millennia in acting, costumes, dance, music, playwright, songs, stage direction and so on, along with the copious comments of the text and the incumbent challenges in its study. Its preservation for the future generations is another pertinent challenge that demands immediate attention.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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