From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Nāṭyaśāstra literally means ‘science of dramaturgy’.


Drama, dance and music have been a very ancient and important aspect of the culture. These three together have been dealt with as a common discipline under the name ‘nāṭyaśāstra’.


The main subject of this work is dramaturgy. Bharata names ten forms of drama known as Daśarupaka. He also develops the theory of rasa in poetics. He enumerated figures of speech like:

  1. Upamā - comparison or simile
  2. Rupaka - metaphor
  3. Dīpaka - enlightener
  4. Yamaka - same word with double meaning

He also narrates ten guṇas,[1] ten doṣas[2] and thirty six lakṣaṇas[3] of a poetical composition.


The earliest systematic treatment on this subject is contained in the Nātyaśāstra of Bharata who might have lived during the 2nd or the 3rd century A. D. Nothing is known of him. The work probably had 6000 ślokas or verses distributed in 36 chapters. It has a well-known commentary Abhinavabhāratī of Abhinavagupta which is available only in fragments. Other writers known to have commented upon it are:

  1. Bhaṭṭanāyaka
  2. Harṣa
  3. Kīrtidhara
  4. Lollaṭa
  5. Mātṛguptācārya
  6. Saṅkuka
  7. Udbhaṭa

However none of these are available now.


  1. It means excellences.
  2. It means defects.
  3. It means characteristics.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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