Commentaries on the various Sanskrit plays fascinated me very much when I went through them while working on the problem of the Sandhis and the Sandhyangas in the Natyaastra of Bharata. This dissertation is an outcome of that fascination.
Like the dramatists themselves, the commentators too are very colourful personalities and it is a sheer joy to read their improvements over the lines from the recognised masters of Sanskrit poetry, their explanations and suggestions, their exposition of Dhvani and their erudite discussions of the figures of speech as well as those of other dramaturgic details. Like their modern counterparts they also try to interpret and read allegories and are capable of pleasant as well as fierce irony.
It is an unfortunate trend to neglect these commentaries. Often very sweeping generalizations, based primarily on ignorance and perhaps through a prejudice towards Sanskrit and hard work, are made condemning these commentaries as 'use-less literature'. A serious student of Sanskrit, however, cannot afford to neglect this precious treasure. 1 will feel amply rewarded if his interest in the commentaries is awakened and he feels an urge to peruse them.
I am very much grateful to Messrs Motilal Banarsidass who have always taken very keen interest in my work and have taken considerable troubles to carry out the printing of the book as faultlessly as possible. They have been all kindness and courtesy throughout. My best thanks are due to them. Similarly, my best thanks are due to Dr. (Miss) Usha R. Bhise, my colleague in the Department who spared no pains while correcting the proofs.
Every serious student of Sanskrit Drama is very familiar with the names of Raghavabhatta, Jagaddhara, Parnasarasvati Tripurari, Ghanagyama, Dhundhiraja, Katayavema, Vira-raghava Abhirama, givarama, for these worthies have enabled him to appreciate many beautiful and significant places in the dramas on which they have commented, places the full significance of which he could not have so easily understood. The contribution that these commentators make to our appreciation of the Sanskrit dramas is really very significant and it would be no exaggeration to say that some of these commentaries can indeed be regarded as very brilliant pieces of literary criticism.
When one thinks of Sanskrit dramaturgy and Sanskrit dramas, one cannot afford in any manner to neglect these Sanskrit commentators. If the writers on Sanskrit dramaturgy present to us the theory of Sanskrit drama and if the dramatists give us the works of dramatic art, it is these commentators who apply the canons of dramaturgy to these plays. They try to analyse and understand the play in the light of the doctrines and views of the writers on dramaturgy. They, therefore, form a very vital link between the writers on dramaturgy on the one hand and the dramatists on the other, for it is they who give us the application of the theory of the former as applied to the works of the latter. One can in this context refer to the detailed discussions regarding the Nandi, its different forms and its significance in the play, the different Sandhis and the various Sandhy-angas used in the play and so also about the Natyabhilsanas and the Natya-alatikaras used in the different plays that one gets in all these commentaries. A point of interest and of great importance that deserves to be noticed is that while pointing out these different elements in the drama, they have given the definitions of the Angas, the Natyabhusanas, the Bhavas, and the Alankaras, so they furnish indirectly very valuable evidence for a reconstruction of a critical edition of the works they quote from. A text like that of Bharata's Natyagastra is known to be corrupt and when a definition that is at variance with that of Bharata is seen as given by these commentators, then it does mean a valuable help for not only a proper understanding of the text of Bharata, but also help for a correct understanding of the doctrine that Bharata seeks to teach. The same is true for the other texts from which they quote.
In this connection a point deserves some special emphasis. These commentators, as has been observed, apply the doctrines of dramaturgy to the plays and in doing so, naturally indicate where a particular element, say a Sandhyanga or a Bhava or a Natyablifisana is to be seen as used. Students of Bharata know very well that he always defines but does not illustrate at all. Other writers like Dhanafijaya, Ramacandra, Gunacandra, Sagaranandin and others who followed Bharata in the field of dramaturgy also define and illustrate as well, but their illustrations more than often, are drawn from the plays like the Ratnavali and the Venisarithara though a few like Ramacandra are seen to cast their net wide. What the author of the Natyagastra had in mind is to be understood, first in the light of the explanation offered by Abhinavagupta and then in the light of the defi-nitions and the illustrations furnished by these successors of Bharata. The commentators on Sanskrit plays, therefore, are to be regarded as making a really valuable contribution to a proper understanding of the original ideas of Bharata when they give us illustrations from the plays like the Abhijrianaakuntala, the Uttararamacarita, the Mudraraksasa, the Malatimadhava and the Malavikagnimitra. Many of the Sandhyangas, Bhusanas and Alankaras which appear as riddles and somewhat enigmatic, become clear when under-stood with this additional help from these commentators.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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