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 attribute
d to a monk
named Bharata Muni
. Bharata claimed to have received divine inspiration
from the Eternal Oneness
, 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 Veda
s 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".