(Last Updated on : 23-10-2013)
Origin of Hindu drama not only relates to the detailed works of historians and researchers, but also possesses its own version of mythical legends, doused in aboriginal lores. These mythical episodes make for an interesting and reflecting read, at times taking serious turns and at times, reaching enigmatic heights. It is stated that from the very beginning there just existed the Veda and godlike races were the ones who populated the earth. The Rig Veda
is the oldest extant of Indian poetry and the most erstwhile testimonial in literature, even prior to the Aryan
period. Rig Vedic hymns primarily had eulogised the stateliness of nature and its potent forces, especially Indra
, the Lord of Thunder and Agni, the God of Fire. The dark skinned indigenes of Punjab
were as unknowledgeable of Vedic song and the svelte Sanskrit in which it was engrafted. But the ungracious race that ricocheted forth from the enslaved Dasyus matured and flowered amidst Aryan surroundings and thus had determined to speak Sanskrit
. In spite of such simultaneous upbringings, the bunch was excluded from the study of Rig Veda, which rigorously remained an absolute monopoly of the higher strata; the fortunate classes alone received Vedic instruction. Hence, by virtue of that awareness and understanding, the most elite were accommodated within the holy ritual of a new birth; not a single soul else could possess the auspicious benefit of 'spiritual regeneration'.
Mystic and legends within the origin of Hindu drama went on further to state that in such contradictory circumstances, light fell upon the darkness and from amongst the detested, arose up the Shudra poets. The ascendancy of the Shudras turned out to be rather amazing towards the positive side, who began to compose out from the old-world natural lore, magic and exorcism. These writers also composed a magnum opus Sanskrit hymnal, dedicated solely for the use of the common populace. Thus was born the Atharva Veda
, which had to clamber and scramble for centuries, before the 'twice-born' (literally referring to the Brahmins, the word which means that they are born twice, once the natural way and once, after the threading ceremony) would almost grudgingly lend it a place in their 'sacred canon'.
Trudging by the path of legends and lores, encased within the origin of Hindu drama, one becomes enlightened to know that while the Rig Veda consisted of prayers dedicated to the lustrous and promising elements of nature, the Atharva Veda incorporated spells which were riddled with a dismay of her sinister aspects and a longing for occult powers. The Atharva Veda collection, although based upon almost unrecorded tradition, is chronologically younger compared to both the Sama Veda
, a book of chants accumulated from Rig Vedic passages, or the Yajur Veda
, which incorporates the Vedic liturgy ordained to be interpreted at sacrificial services.
Mythology of Hindu Drama
After God had completed creating his own world, it is stated that the golden age in the origin of Hindu drama had commenced. Peace and agreement began its smooth supremacy upon earth and the whole humanity side by side with God. Next to arrive in this line of peacefulness was the reign of silver, when mankind suddenly veered away from the Divine Will and every soul ran after his own direction. Ruthless contention and bloodbath came into existence; in this context, the Almighty had turned compassionate and broke up the sexes, thus giving birth to male and female, in the wish that love could once more unite the headstrong humanity. However, such complications amongst the sexes build up additional troubles for man, who was no longer attracted towards his own and society's goodness. No sooner did the heart feel pulled towards outward elements, than man lost his command and grip over self-contemplation. The five organs of sense thus underwent evolution, in order that Gods and mortals might satiate their desire for materialistic pleasures.
Origin of Hindu drama further contributed to the building up of unique Godlike legends, wherein Indra, designated by the other gods, approached the throne of the Godhead (referring to Brahma, the creator) and said thus: "O Brahma, we wish to feast our eyes and ears on a dramatic spectacle; deign to create the merry play for our enjoyment." The Creator had just nodded in a courteous manner, appeasing his assistance-seekers, falling then into a deep and sound meditation. And out of the Divine Thought took form the Natya Veda, acknowledged as the 'Veda of the Theatre'. Such was the Will of the Lord who gave birth to the fifth Veda, absorbing and reaping the quintessence of the drama out of the four Vedas -- dance from the Rig Veda, song from the Sama Veda, mimicry from Yajur Veda and passion from Atharva Veda. Origin of Hindu drama and its rich Godly legacy thus was enumerated in similar manners, by the Supreme Being, Brahma
. Brahma then had summoned Lord Vishwakarma
, the celestial architect, and had ordered him to erect a stage in Lord Indra's paradise. The sage Bharata
was nominated as the theatrical manager and as conductor of the celestial performing arts. Thus goes the mythical account of the origin of the Hindu drama, and in fact, Indian drama as a whole.
History of Hindu Drama
In effect, Hindu drama had originated from the age-old custom of recounting the national poetry in occasions of social and religious assemblages. The Gangetic tribes are known to have delivered excellent service, owing to their possession of gifted bards. The very words "Bharata" and "Magadha
" later came to exclusively imply 'minstrels' and 'actors'. Bana (also respected as Banabhatta, the Sanskrit scholar and novelist), who had penned his legendary novel during the time of the Arabian Prophet, recounts that the Hindu epics used to be interpreted out loudly, in several places of worship all through Kannauj
. Bana also had stated that these public recitals were rendered in such a warm and excellent fashion, that even the royals were of the habit of attending such recitals. During the monsoons and times of wet, the reader's place was decided at the reading desk in the local temples; however, during the rest of the normal months of the year, the 'sundown entertainment' was presented on the extended village fields. Origin of Hindu drama and its tactics of performing states that, during such moments of character portrayal, a fellow-actor, rather taken as the interpreter, was of the habit to elaborate the Sanskrit verses to the ignorant and uninformed villagers in their local jargon. The recital of the Mahabharata
would persist for several weeks, almost continuing for recurring nights. So fanatical and intense was the curiosity taken in the subject, that the calamitous misfortunes of the Pandava
brothers invoked up many a sob and tear, whereas their happy return to Hastinapur
was heralded with excitations of joyfulness and sighs of respite. The cottages nearby for these visiting villagers within the audible range were almost always illuminated to portray distinct pleasure.
However, origin of Hindu drama, as can be noticed, was solely done in the illustrious Sanskrit language, which gradually too became the choice for light street gossip and plain home talk. This phenomenon was one such element, which could just not be tolerated and suffered by the so-called upper classed Brahmins and the erudite. Hence, the Prakrits
or 'vulgar tongues of India' thrust themselves forward more and more towards the forefront. Thus was initiated the birth of Prakrits or the common lingo in the origination of Hindu drama for the masses, as opposed to Sanskrit dramas targeted at the class conscious. The bharatas and magadhas began to insert and initiate vernacular versions of both epics (referring to Ramayana
and Mahabharata) and slowly shed off bookish Sanskrit on the whole. The interpreter, who was no longer necessary, from this time onward, participated whole-heartedly in the everyday evening recitation. Musical accompaniment and dramatic expressions further boosted the success of the 'two performers'.
Travelling by the path of the origin of Hindu drama, one can be enlightened that the oldest Indian dramas
, or rather 'colloquies' (Sanvadas), were not framed in Sanskrit, but in Prakrit. Mahabharata and Ramayana supplied no end of subject matters; indeed, originally the Prakrit Sanvadas served as whodunits too - with both Krishna
acting and dancing out as the lead part. The most wanted and preferred episodes from Krishna's eventful life were the 'Slaying of Kansa the Tyrant' and the 'Binding of the Heaven-storming Titan'. Teeming crowds always arrived to witness these alfresco astounding demonstrations. The majestic climax, a cheery roundelay of the bright-eyed gopis (referring to the girlfriends of Krishna, with whom He is known to have spent his pastimes), testified as the special attractions, neatly preserved for the end. On the other hand, the opponent worshippers use to flock in likewise numbers to the promiscuous debaucheries, generally held in honour of Shiva. In this context, considered rather an encumbrance to the origin of Hindu drama, looked at as sacred, was somewhat marred by such bacchanals. As a result, Vedic priesthood assayed to wholly obliterate whatever was libidinous or preposterous in the popular cult of the two primordial Gods. But the sanvadas, saturated in their almost bubbling laughter and 'gross licence', subsisted and were even worked out in detail in Sanskrit literature. A few Vedic hymns possess quite an impressive spirit and fibre of their own.
Evolution of Hindu Drama
As origin of Hindu drama advanced towards even more sophistication, themes like warfare of the elements started to gather much significance as the ever-recurring theme of the sacred Rig Vedic lyrics. Themes and scenes portrayed, generally left each spectator in awe, with portraitures like the thundering Indra and his untamed mountain host, the screeching maruts or storm-gods; the incensed Agni bounding forth in the red spark of lightning; the sheeny raindrops quivering with joy at their discharge from the just-burst cloud-castles; the crimsoning dawn heralding the triumphant Surya (the rising sun), also including the rhythmical sunbeams preserving his lustrous banner exultantly -- potent forces of nature, trepidation or ecstatic, served as the dramatis personae in the extant sanvada hymns. In such contexts, Vedic dialogues reverberated the afterglow rather than the first morning blushing of the uncouth representations, staged in the improper tongue of Krishna's and Shiva's primeval mysteries. Then again, the exceedingly elevated conversation between Krishna and Arjuna
, enumerated with masterly art in the Bhagavad Gita
, accompanied by the mystical tete-a-tete held by Shiva and Kali
, according to the Tantras, were rather late developments of the old Prakrit sanvadas which, even in the age of the Rig Veda, were no longer entirely grasped.
The much treasured traditions of the almost disappeared Prakrit theatre, (constituting as an integral part of the origin of Hindu drama) of which virtually nothing can be deduced in present times, although it must have existed, were noiselessly assimilated by the burgeoning Sanskrit drama
. The earliest Sanskrit plays which have been preserved since, suddenly had dashed upon one's sight like lightning, just as it cuts through a dark thundercloud. Amongst all the Sanskrit wonders, both in plays and playwrights, it is quite definite that Kalidasa
, who generally unfolds the list of playwrights in aboriginal primers of Indian literature, is considered the inheritor and successor of a long line of distinguished Sanskrit dramatists, such as Saumilla, Bhasa, etc. whom the poet himself recognises. These, too, were undeniably ante ceded by writers of much repute in the arena of Prakrit plays. This view is also validated by the subsistence of an old Sanskrit treatise on dramatic art.
The origin of essay, which has been looked at as one of the most convincing parts in the origin and germination of Hindu drama, is ascribed to the sage Bharata. The genre of essay in ancient dramatics teems in technical Prakrit phrases, most of them associated with picturesque particulars. Bharata enumerates these essentials comprehensively and exhaustively, those prakrits or idioms which, in conformity with already-conventional customs, can verily utilised and employed for stage and theatrical purposes. The succeeding authors of Sanskrit dramas had religiously carried on with the strategies laid down by Bharata. Undeniably, with the origin of Hindu drama and its interrelation with Sanskrit Language
, insignificant roles were never framed in the mentioned dialect. The majestic tongue would have merely sounded preposterous on the ordinary mouth of the crude, who indeed swarm and invigorate the Indian stage. In the dramatic literature of India, the Prakrits hold a unique and rather disoriented position, when the origin of Hindu drama and its performances is being spoken about. They alight with a bang amongst the polished Sanskrit dialogue like 'a shabby camel driver amongst the rich and well-designed court attires of a native durbar'.
The part of the "Vidushaka" or jester was written, as a prevailing principle, in a dialect of the eastern provinces. Soldiers and salesmen, publicans and chefs and the umpteen other from diverse trades and professions introduced in the Indian theatre, all versed in a prakrit of their own, varying to some extent from one another. Origin of Hindu drama in the format of Prakrit after Sanskrit also did include the Almighty and the blue-blooded in its own embellished way. Gods and Brahmins, kings and nobles, are known to have conversed in flawless Sanskrit, but women spoke in out-and-out Prakrit. In one Hindu drama, a divine being is depicted to congratulate Shiva and Uma (Lord Shiva's consort) on the occasion of their matrimony; the bride being addressed in Prakrit, while the bridegroom in Sanskrit. Such was perhaps the conscious class divide between these two languages, which is still very much a talked about topic for the origination of drama in Hindu religion.
Hindu Drama in Different Regions
district has always been considered as the holy land of 'Krishnaism'. Shauraseni, the medieval vocalisation of the Agra masses, recurrently had to come face to face with the Sanskrit lingo, while on stage. The 'Krishna cult' had been successfully resurrected and let fresh life in Bengal and numerous Yatras or melodramas had been framed and compiled in honour of the Almighty, addressing the much sought after genre of origin of Hindu drama. Yatras were very popular in the Presidency (referring to the Bengal Presidency region, a major administrative unit during British
Raj) and they had strictly upheld the Shauraseni dialect, which however has long modified from a 'vulgar' to a 'sacred' tongue.
Bharata, who has long since become the custodial deity of Indian drama
, is however not a historical person, but a symbolic name like sage Vyasa or Manu. The treatise which has been ascribed to him for a long period of time appears much verbose and is also considered to be an elaboration of the Bharata Sutras, which did not survive to the present century. It was to these sutras, or stage directions for the utilisation of Bharatas or actors, that Bharata is forever indebted for his imaginary existence. They were penned in Sanskrit, but their eventual source was observably one or the other Prakrit dramatic art. The sutras are also testified to be ages old in antiquity, since they were examined and researched at the Universities of Hindustan before the Macedonian regiments had entered into the Indian soil. The Bharata Sutras are subsequently mentioned by Panini
, the most outstanding of the Indian grammarians, who is generally ascribed to 4th century B.C. Sanskrit theatre as the basis of origin of Hindu drama has forever acted in accordance with the rules laid down in the Bharata Sutras. They were held sacred to the maximum point by Kalidasa and other later dramatists. Going back once again to the mythical tradition in the origination of Hindu drama, there exists a concluding remark that a saga arose announcing that the sage Bharata had in fact simulated them from the fifth Veda (the Natya Veda), which was in turn conceived to be a creation of Brahma himself.