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Bharatha’s natyasasthra: Part 1 - A wisdom for all days

Dr. C.P. Unnikrishnan

Bharatha is synonymous to The Aesthetic Wisdom of ‘Bhaarth’ i.e. India. Bharatha, the acclaimed author of the most elaborate among the Natyasasthras, science of dramaturgy, is referred to as Bharathamuni. Muni is a sage, from whose depth of silence too can one learn the tenets of eternal wisdom. There is still the ongoing controversy about the period of origin and the identity of the author of Bharatha’s Natyasasthra. Arguments on etymology, antiquity and authorship retire into insignificant quarters to those who can assimilate the contents of Natyasasthra into the fathoms of their cognitive domain. Natya is ‘Lokaanukaranam’, which means ‘Imitation of the World’. It is neither space nor time bound. Bharatha himself boldly states more than once: “I have included in this science, all what I have gathered from the world around me. It is for the scholars of any time to keep it updated.” Have we been able to spot many like him, who leave their work open to additions, deletions, modulations & interpretations? It takes one to be eternally highly Philosophic, Religious, Artistic and Scientific to be so broad minded and practical, which Bharatha was. Bharath’s Natyasasthra runs over 36 chapters, comprising several hundreds of verses. It is irrelevant and impossible to deal with the contents in detail, within the scope of this article. The objectivity of this article is to briefly analyse and establish the following truths.

Bharatha was a Philosopher, a Religious one, a Scientist & an Artist.

Natya evolved as a Veda and became a science.

The tenets and thoughts encoded in the Natyasasthra encompass both the eternal as well as the etesian concepts of righteousness.

Practically no subject is left untouched in this text.

Bharatha emphasizes the need to keep the repositories of wisdom, accessible to anyone at any time. His work has built in it the very breath of dynamism.

Natyasasthra is not a text that deals with only the techniques of dance, drama, music, drawing and painting, and sculpture alone. It is a dynamic curriculum to keep the humanity continuously educated and civilized. Education and Civilization were not to be separately dealt with, in the ancient times. But in the modern world… ?

Bharatha believed in preservation, transformation and transfer of culture. He wanted this to be achieved in an entertaining manner, through audio-visual means, accessible to all classes of humanity. ‘To imitate the world with a difference’ is the technique he adopted. This exposes the behavioural psychologist, sociologist, teacher and the leader resided within the mastermind.

Bharatha was a keen observer of every phenomenon, process and live or inert being in nature. Nature was his library, temple, laboratory and stage.

Let us just look into those relevant areas of Natyasasthra, to examine the above statements one by one and derive appropriate conclusions. Let us not forget that we are dealing with a material processed in the late B.Cs & early A.Ds.

Philosophy is an attitude towards life. Religion is a way of life. Science is the curiosity about life. Art is to wonder at life. Bharatha’s philosophy was ‘Humanism’, his religion was ’Positivism’, his science was ‘Humanity’ and his art was ‘Humanisation’. To verify this point let us have a quick look into the origin of the Natya Veda and the Natyasasthra

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