Lakshya-Lakshana Bhāva

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Expressions such as Kāma-rūpatā prāpyata (attains a desired form), Anya ēva rūpātishayah…prapannah (instantly assumed an altogether different, excellent form) used by the Kapāli, at the beginning of the play-proper in the Mattavilāsa-prahasanam (22) recall the Nāndī in which the sūtradhāra speaks of how “the arousal of the power of primal feelings reveals the manifold march of evolution of the three worlds” (1). The Nāndī seems to give a synoptic view of the chapters, in the Nātya-shāstra (N.S.), on Abhinaya and Rasa. The expressions used by the Kapāli seem to have a specific reference to the N.S. XXI.7-8: “Just as a man, who renounces his own nature and body, assumes another’s nature by entering into his body (a yogic/tapasic power) so the wise actor, thinking within himself, “I am he” (Sôsmi) should represent the states of another person by speech, gesture and other aspects (that is, dress and expression of nature).”

The opening of the prastāvanā, which shows the actress playing the role of a jealous, angry, older wife, almost illustrates what the Sūtradhāra says in the first two lines of the Nāndī. The opening of the play-proper, too, which shows Dēvasōmā suspecting the Kapāli, when he mistakenly calls her Sōmadēva, illustrates the Nāndī lines. The natī, it is obvious, undergoes transformation at two levels of production (prastāvanā and the play-proper) by assuming the role of the angry, jealous wife in the prastāvanā and by playing more or less the same role when she becomes Dēvasōmā in the play-proper. The Sūtradhāra plays the role of a husband who has two wives, in the prastāvanā and the role of Kapāli in the play-proper. As Kapāli, he seems to play the role of a commentator commenting on the natī’s transformation into the leading actress, Dēvasōmā, in terms of the Nātya-shāstra’s observations regarding an actor’s transformation in to the character whose role he/she is supposed to play.

The two functions, namely, that of the play and that of the poetics, which seem to move hand in hand in a classical Sanskrit play, may be described as illustrating what is technically called Lakshya-Lakshana Bhāva, that is, the connection between the indicated and the indicator. In consequence a classical Sanskrit play is a combination of both a stage-production and an explanation of that stage-production.