Delhi hosted a five-day long workshop on Bharat Muni’s Natyashastra at Triveni Kala Sangam. Prof Bharat Gupt, a litterateur and an acclaimed historian of comparative cultures delivered the lectures. Prof Gupt has been lecturing on Natyashastra in India and abroad for almost two decades. Art impresario Jayaprabha Menon brought forth a joint venture of International Academy of Mohiniyattam and Sahitya Kala Parishad to apprise the art aficionados of the magnanimity of Natyashastra.
Bharat’s Natyashastra, Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Vatsyayan’s Kamasutra form the edifice of Indian culture to attain the purusharthas of dharma (righteousness), artha (wealth), kama (fleshly desires) and moksha (salvation), feels Prof Gupt. Thus Natyashastra forms a bastion of Indian society. A shastra is a discipline to govern some integral part of human society. Knowledge of Natyashastra is imperative as it ‘covers creation of beauty in all aspects of life’. Veritably, ‘the whole cosmos becomes part of natya’ declares Shri Gupt. Natyashastra is for the well being of jiva and doesn’t kowtow any particular sect or lineage. It is not a doctrine of dogmas but a template that can be integrated upon diverse things to recreate a proactive form culminating in totality of art thereby attaining siddhi–both daivi and manushi.
Prof Gupt came down heavily on the displaced notion of the Indian populace on Natyashastra. Natya of yore encompassed music and sculpture as well. And thus Natyashastra is not merely a primer on India’s dramaturgy but turned out a cornerstone for all these three genres. Prof Gupt was emphatic, ‘Indian sculpture is a direct implication of Natyashastra’. During his entire lecture, Prof Gupt heavily resorted upon Abhinavabharati by Abhinavagupta, the first treatise upon Natyashastra to lay bare the nitty-gritty of it. The charisma of rasas, Indian aesthetics has pervaded its geographical precincts. ‘The responsibility of theatre education is culture education. Natya is not merely acting but conveying an idea from one place to another’. He clarified during the lecture that bhavas can be explored in multifarious ways. ‘Bhava is not merely emotion but thoughts as well’.
Bharat Muni envisages dasharupa, ten kinds of plays, out of which five or six have disappeared. Prof Gupt shattered several myths, calling the so-called Sanskrit dramas to be verily multilingual dramas – ‘No musical composition ever existed in Sanskrit’ came revelations upon another. ‘All dhruvaganas were in Prakrit. Only some characters spoke in Sanskrit, rest songs and all were said in local dialects’. Also, they were the only multilingual dramas in the world at that time. During Natyashastra period there were no linguistic categories in India.
The fecundity of Natyashastra can be surmised from a quote from Prof Gupt’s book, Dramatic Concepts Greek and Indian—“The Indian performance began with an attractive preamble of song and dance (git adiprakriya) called purvaranga. It was meant to make the spectators forget their world of stress and care; in the worlds of Abhinaya ‘to untie the knots of grief, anger and loss in their hearts’. The total run of purvaranga was done in a succession of 19 steps. The first nine steps were performed while the curtain (yavanika) was held somewhere mid-stage”.
Natyashastra gives us the oldest map of languages –Avantika, Prachya, Saurashtri among others’ elucidate the evolution trajectory followed by modern languages. Prof Gupt deplored certain historical developments. The karanas that were at initially108 of them; now hardly 25 to 28 karanas are extant. ‘With the advent of Europeans, literature ceased to be musical’
The five-day workshop saw an avid interaction of audience with the scholar speaker. The audience had some leading art cognoscenti, danseuses, academicians and art impresarios of the likes of Komala Vardan, Leila Venkataraman, Madhavi Mudgal, Pummiji from Attic and Prof Chandra Mohan who all made a beeline to glean upon Natyashastra.