Natyashastra is the most detail and elaborate of all treatises on drama and acting ever written in any language and is regarded as the oldest surviving text on stagecraft in the world. Natyashastra demonstrates every facet of drama covering areas like music, stage-design, make up, dance and virtually every aspect of stagecraft. Natyashastra was attributed to the Sage Bharata (No connection with Bharata of Ramayan or King Bharata of Mahabharta).
Background of Natyashastra:
Natyashastra composed of two words, Natya means Dramaic Art, and Shastra means holy writ dedicated to a particular field of knowledge. The Natyashastra consists of six thousands sutras and has been divided into some thirty six chapters. The background of Natyashastra is framed in a situation where a number of Munis approach Bharata to know about the secrets of NatyaVeda. The answer to this question comprises the rest of the Natyashastra book.
Lord Brahma created the fifth veda called Natyaveda (Natya = Drama, Veda = Knowledge, thus the art of drama), which can be studied and practiced by everybody. Natyaveda was handed over to Indra and Indra handed it over to Bharata. While creating this Natyaveda, Brahma adopted its constituents from four Vedas, such as:
- Pathya (Text) including the art of Recitation and Execution in performance taken from the Rig Veda.
- Geet (Songs) including instrumental Music from the Sama Veda
- Abhinaya (Histrionics, Acting) the technique of expressing the poetic meaning of the text and communicating it to the spectator from the Yajur Veda,
- Rasa (Sentiments) or aesthetic experience from the Atharva Veda
Subordinate vedas called Upavedas were also connected with Natyaveda such as:
- Ayur Veda was used to show expressions of diseases, their symptoms & certain mental moods
- Dhanur Veda (archery) was made use of in the representation of fights on the stage
- Gandharv Veda was used in the preliminaries and in the actual performance of drama
- Shilpa Veda (architectural science) was necessary for construction of the playhouse
Sage Bharata says that all the knowledge of Natyashastra is due to Lord Brahma. At one point he mentioned that he has a hundred "sons" who will spread this knowledge, which suggests that Bharata may have had a number of male disciples whom he trained in dramatic art. However to play the role of male counterpart female, Lord Brahma created Apsaras (celestial maidens), who were experts in dramatic art.
Chapters of Natyashastra:
Concisely, Natyashastra covers every aspect of art and drama. In its first chapter, Bharata gives account of Natyashastra’s creation. The natya was created by Brahma, the god of creation, to meet the demand of a plaything a source of pleasure to minds; tired of strife, wants and miseries of daily existence. An art form like a drama does it very easily because it has a visual and aural appeal. Any piece of advice communicated through a visual-aural form has more impact on human mind than any other form. A drama, besides offering entertainment, can also influence and uplift the minds of spectators.