(Last Updated on : 04-03-2010)
Angaracana is an essential part of aharyabhinaya in Indian theatre. The kind of painting a person should use on his or her body in the depiction of a particular character, the kind of hair women should wear, techniques of dressing the hair in diverse countries and use of moustaches are discussed in angaracana. This aspect of Indian theatre helps to enhance the performative proficiency of the actors. Besides the Natyashastra, several treatises on Indian drama have also discussed the lement of Angaracana in details.
Colours play an important role when it comes to oriental plays. In the representation of great legendary heroes, divinities and mythical beings, the elements of place, time, rank, age and profession were never lost sight of. In the Visnudharmottara it is stated that there are five primary colours which are white, yellow, black, blue and myrobalan colours. But in the Natyashastra
by Bharata, there are mention of only four primary colours, white (sita), blue (nila), yellow (pita) and red (rakta). It is the duty of the artist to merge these primary colours and thereby develop other colours. In Indian theatre, great emphasis is laid on the thousand fold mixture of colours left to the imagination of the artist, and on the light and dark shade of every tone.
The Natyashastra provides the list of four elementary colours from which other colours are developed. For example, panduvarna is developed by mixing white and blue, padmavarna by mixing white and red, gaura by mixing red and yellow, kasaya by mixing blue and red and kapotavarna by mixing white and blue. When different colours are to be developed by mixing three or more primary colours, then the strong colour should be taken in one part and the weak colours in two parts each. After cautiously preparing diverse colours and keeping in view the age, country and caste of the character, the paint should be employed in such a way that the character, which the nata portrays, should appear natural. Colours are character and region specific. Different colours are suitable for kings of different regions. They are either painted lotus colour (padmavarna) or reddish yellow (gaura) or dark blue (syama). The colour of plum is given to the sages. Gay persons are to use reddish-yellow (gaura). Kiratas, Barbaras, Andhras, Dravidas, the people of Kasi and Kosala, Pulindas and people of the Deccan are to be coloured brown (asita), the Sakas, Yavanas, Pallavas, Bahlikas and people of the North are generally to be reddish yellow (gaura). Vangas and Kalingas, Vaisyas and Sudras are coloured dark blue (syama). Thus mixtures of paints appropriate to several roles are suggested for people belonging to different provinces, professions and rank of society.
The dress of actors is carefully regulated especially as regards colour which distinctly was looked upon as an important item in the subject of sentiments. Each rasa
had to be painted in its significant colour. The erotic or sringara rasa was of dark blue, the comic or hasya rasa was white, pathetic or karuna rasa was ash coloured (kapota), the furious or raudra rasa was red and the heroic or vira rasa was reddish yellow. Styling of hair is another aspect of angaracana. The Natyashastra gives detailed instructions on the subject of kesaracana. Persons playing the role of ascetic girls are to put on only one braid of hair on their head. Maidens of Avanti
and Gauda wear ringlets. Women of the North tie their hair high on the head. Married women, officers of the king and men should have curly hair. The young women of the Abhiras
wear two braids on their head, which are covered with a piece of deep blue cloth. Mad men, ascetics leave their hair loose. Buddhist monks and experts in Vedic studies have their heads shaven clean or have curly or long hair loosely hanging down.
Beards also comes under the extent of angaracana. After painting the face and other limbs one should provide beards to persons according to their habitation, activity and age. According to the Natyashastra, there are four kinds of beard. They may be shaven clean (suddha) dark blue (syama), carefully trimmed (vicitra) and bushy (romasa). Some shave their beards and moustaches clean and this is called suddha smasru. Ministers, priests, ascetics and persons who have consecrated themselves for any ritual should be clean shaven (suddha). Kings, divine persons, fashionable persons, princes and persons who ordinarily wear beards carefully trimmed (vicitra). Persons in misery and those under religious penances and those who are overtaken by misfortunes wear dark blue beards (syama). Sages, ascetics and those betrothed in sacrifices lasting a long time have bushy beard (romasa).
Angaracana which deals with dress, ornaments and paintings have a vital role to play in Indian theatre. They are used with reverence to the proper sentiment intended to be represented according to customs of the provinces and circumstances and after taking into consideration the age and creed of the people.