Natya Shastra

Posted by on Aug-21-2010

Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. Traditionally attributed to Sage Bharata, it was written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD in classical India.

Natya Shastra is an encyclopedic work written in Sanskrit. It has 37 chapters dealing with various topics that are necessary for the production and presentation of drama before the spectators. The text consists of 6, 000 sutras or verse stanzas and the passages are composed in prose form.

Natya Shastra has influenced music, classical Indian dance and literature. It covers stage design, music, dance, makeup and every other aspect of stagecraft. It is very important to the history of Indian classical music because it is the only text which gives details about music and instruments of that period.

Sage Bharata describes fifteen types of drama ranging from one to ten acts. The principles for stage design are laid down in some detail. Individual chapters deal with aspects such as makeup, costume, acting, directing, etc. A large section deals with meanings conveyed by the bhavas and rasas. Natya Shastra ranges from issues of literary construction, to the structure of the stage or mandapa, to a detailed analysis of musical scales and movements, to an analysis of dance forms that considers several categories of body movements, and their impacts on the viewer.

It describes four kinds of Abhinaya or histrionics. They are described as Angika – motion of body part, Vachika- speech, Aharya – costumes and makeup and Sattvika – which describe internal emotions which are expressed through minute movements of the lips, eyebrows, and ear.
Natya Shastra is considered as an important text in fine arts from centuries and is also sometimes referred to as the Fifth Veda.

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