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Drama and Ritual of Early Hinduism

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Item Code: NAB319
Author: Natalia Lidova
Language: English
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 9788120812345
Pages: 154
Cover: HardCover
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 Inches
Weight 290 gm
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Book Description
Foreword By Series Editor
India is one of the great repositories of performing arts, particularly those of the classical, folk/popular, devotional and modern traditions. The sheer enormity and diversity of its cultural expressions in music, dance, dance/drama and theatre are the envy of many nations around the world. This series intends to assemble some of the best books now available on these subjects.

Without exaggeration, a series such as this would not have been possible twenty years ago when I first began writing about Indian theatre. At that time little more than a few dozen books comprised the entire field of scholarship in the English language, not to mention the paucity of materials in regional Indian languages. Today that picture has radically changed. Numerous publishers have devoted precious press time to volumes of well-illustrated, detailed and, yes, sometimes even esoteric works on the multiple aspects of this fascinating subject. Comb any bookshop in Delhi or Madras, Bombay or Calcutta and you will regularly find new works appearing on the shelves. This represents a real area of growth! It is to the credit of Motilal Banarsidass that there is now the potential of assembling numerous volumes together under one umbrella.

Specialized studies such as Natalia Lidova's Drama and Ritual of Early Hinduism further our understanding of the depth and richness of the Indian performance tradition. This is particularly true when the study focuses on the roots of theatre in the distant past. This welcome book sets out to explore the foundations of theatre in ritual practice. In a careful, systematic way Lidova lays out a process by which the classical Sanskrit theatre may have come into existence. Scholars have wrestled with this question for centuries. Because of this work we have a better understanding of the process. The work is bound to encourage further speculation about this topic in the years to come.

The Natyasastra has attracted the attention of scholars, now for over a hundred years. The discovery of fragments of the manuscript was as important an event, as the discovery of the manuscript of Abhijnana Sakuntalam by William Jones. Elsewhere, I have traced the history of critical scholarship on the Natyasastra from J. Grosset to Selyvin Levi, P.V. Kane, S.K. De, V. Raghavan, K.C. Pandey, Masson, F.B.J. Kuiper, S.C. Bhatt; M.Ch. Byrski and also Indushekhar. The text presents challenges to any serious student of the Indian culture, particularly the arts and specifically, the theatre arts. Historians of Indian literature, particularly, Sanskrit literature and theatre, have debated heatedly on the origins of the Indian theatre from divergent theoretical positions. While some have examined the text of the Natyasastra by tacitly accepting the Greek influence on Indian culture, sculpture and the theatre, others have examined the text as a direct evolution of Vedic speculative thought and Brahmanical ritual. The spectrum of opinions range from the origins of theatre and the aesthetics of the Natyasastra to its structure and technique. Divergent views have been expressed and the debate continues.

Parallel have been the attempts at editing the text of the Natyasastra and the indispensable commentary of Abhinava Gupta, known as Abhinavabha raft. F.-E. Hall, W. Heymann, P. Regnaud, J. Grosset, Sivadatta and Parab, Kedarnath, Ramakrishna Kavi, Manmohan. Ghosh and others have painstakingly attempted to edit in part or whole the authentic text of the Natyasastra with or without its most important commentary: Abhinavabharati.

To have the courage to re-investigate a text and its interpretation, with as long and complex a history, is in itself commendable. Further, to do this sitting in Moscow at a time when access to many materials may not have been easy, is equally brave.

Dr Natalia Lidova reopens the debate on the origin of Sanskrit theatre de novo, specially, the relationship between ritual and drama. She questions the hypothesis that the Natyasastra reflects a direct evolution of theatre from Vedic ritual (Yajna).

The birth of art is a mystery. To raise its veil is one of the most formidable goals of humanities. The impact of the ritual on the emergence of the arts appears indisputable, but we can only rarely reconstrue the formal genesis from particular texts, rather than at the intuitive or generalized imaginative level. Ancient Indian texts give us this rare chance, with their de-tailed descriptions of rites and ample testimony on the archaic cultural tradition.

Among these manuscripts is the Natyasastra, one of the oldest and, possibly, the most enigmatic texts Indian culture has to offer. The name of this treatise is made of two Sanskrit words: Nellya, theatre, scenic action or, more specifically, drama, and ,astra, the term accepted in the Indian tradition for holy writ dedicated to a particular field of knowledge. As is often the case with ancient Indian texts, we can hardly say anything for sure about the Natyasastra—either about the time it was written, or the author, or again, the mission meant for this grandiose cyclopaedia which stood at the cradle of the ancient Indian tradition of general artistic concept. Here, hypotheses are the lot of the contemporary scholar.

As students of this treatise repeatedly pointed out, it has no equal in the scope of information and thematic range among analogous ancient and medieval writings'. Really, its 36 chapters treat extremely diverse subjects: the ritual and mythology, as connected with the early mysterial performances; the characterization of the developed literary drama, which posed purely aesthetic, rather than sacral goals and proceeded from well-elaborated principles of acting; and last but not least, the theory of the drama, which includes a genre typology and an analysis of the formal structure of the Sanskrit drama.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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