Pronounced nah-tee-ah-shah-strah. This is the Anglicized title of a Sanskrit text that was composed in India at some point between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E.; it is attributed to a monk named Bharata Muni. Bharata claimed to have received divine inspiration from the Eternal Oneness (World Soul), Brahman, to create a new Veda. Other, ancient vedas existed, which established the Hindu World-View and set down cultural and religious codes of behavior, but Brahman was worried that the Vedas were not accessible to all people-- that the man on the street would not understand the nature of Eternal Oneness and how the cosmos operates. So Brahman told Bharata to create the Natyasastra, which lays out the rules for classic Sanskrit drama.

The ostensible purpose of Sanskrit drama is enlightenment. If a production is successful, the audience's heightened emotional awareness becomes a transcendent religious experience. According to the Natyasastra, this heightened emotional awareness will be reached when the playwright and actors successfully engage the aesthetic theory known as Bhava-Rasa. Besides constructing eight Bhava-Rasa pairs, the Natyasastra also sets down the rules for proper stage configurations (rectangle, square, or triangle) and dimensions, correct set design and how props, costumes, and makeup should be used.

The Natyasastra emphasizes the use of music, dance, and mudra to establish bhava. In this context, the term mudra refers to an actor's codified physical manifestation of the bhava which the character is feeling. Gestures become a language; something like sign language, but the text is mood or emotion-based, instead of words. The mudras of Sanskrit drama are performed with the face, neck, hands, and body carriage (including the way one steps on the stage).

The rules for acting set down in the Natyasastra are quite different from those the world has come to know from Stanislavski's theory of Method-acting. Because the Natyasastra is not just a theatre primer, but also a religious text, modern performances of Sanskrit drama actually differ very little from those done over a millenium ago. This is also due to the fact that Sanskrit drama has a set canon; no one is really composing plays like Kalidasa's Shakuntala or Shudraka's The Little Clay Cart at this time.

The Natyasastara is a useful text for anyone who wishes to understand what is usually referred to as "Eastern Society".

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.