The Natyasastra deals with the rules relating to theatrical performances, in fact to the science of stage. The science is intended as a guide alike to the poet and the player. The author of this work was Bharata, the sage. It is known as Sutra as it embodies principles set out in a very concise form.
The present work consists of 36 chapters. Bharata divides the work broadly into four sections based on abhinayas or modes of conveyance of the theatrical pleasure, called rasa, is pure and differs from the pleasure we derive from the actual contract with the objects of the world which is always mingled with pain.
These modes of abhinaya are four:
1) Sattvika conveyed by the effort of mind,
2) Angika or the natural movement of the organs when any thought is expressed of conveyed,
3) Vacika, the delivery through expression and
4) Aharya, the dress, deportment, and mise-en-scene.
The sage attached great importance to the first of these modes and deals with it in chapters 6 and 7. Expressions of feeling is conveyed to a strangers only by gestures or through the organs of speech. Hence Angika abhinaya comes next and is dealt with in chapters 8 to 13. Then delivery or Vacika is taken up which extends over chapters 14 to 20. Then comes Ahraya, i.e. dress and scenic appliances and mutual conduct or movements on the stage along with the musical. Auxiliaries behind the stage to intensify the emotional effect produced on the stage. The fourth and fifth chapters treat of preliminaries before the commencement of the actual drama. Chapters 35 and 36 are supplementary and deal with the qualifications and behaviour of the actors and actresses on the stage and how the theatrice descended from heaven to earth.
The present translation includes critical notes and an index of the terms. The book is published under Raga Nrtya Series No. 2.
Contents of the Book:
1. The origin of drama.
2. Characteristics of the playhouse.
3. Adoration of the God of the stage.
4. Characteristics of the Tandava dance.
5. Procedure for the preliminary items.
6. The distinction between sentiment and emotional fervour.
7. Exposition on bhavas (emotional tracts and stages).
8. Procedure of the ancillary limbs.
9. Hastabhinaya (gestures of the hands).
10. Sarirabhinaya (gestures of the limbs).
11. Carividhana (explanation of the cari movements).
12. Mandalavikalpanam (diverse mandala movements).
13. Gatipracara (the different types of gaits).
14. Kaksya Paridhi and Lokadharmi Nirupana (review of zonal division and realistic practice).
15. Chandovidhana (rules of prosody).
16. Chandoviciti (an inquiry into the varieties of matres.
17. Kavyalaksana (characteristics of poetical work).
18. Bhasavidhana (rules regarding the use of languages).
19. Vakyavidhana and Kakusvara Vyanjana.
20. Dasarupavidhana (rules regarding the ten types of dramas.
21. Sandhyanga Vikalpa classification of the constituents Sandhis (junctures).
22. Vrttivikalpa [divisions of Vrttis (styles)].
23. Aharyabhinaya costumes make up.
24. Samanyabhinaya (basic representation).
25. Varsikopacara (services of the gallant).
26. Citrabhinaya (special representation).
27. Natya-Siddhi Niruprna (review of fulfilment and success in dramatic production).
28. Atodya Vikalpanam (classification of instrumental music).
29. On stringed instruments.
30. On Susiratodya [Hollow musical instruments (flute etc.)].
31. On Talas (time-measure and the ghana instrument of Tala).
32. Dhruva songs.
33. Avanaddhatodya Vidhanam.
34. Prakrtis (type of characters).
35. Bhumika Vikalpa (the differents roles).
36. Natyavatara (incarnation of the science of dramatic performance.