Theatre discourses of early India present theatre (natya) as an integrated art form, and the poetics of theatre as an interdisciplinary system of thought and performance. Theatre functions as a composite art production comprising dance (nrtya), song (gana), instrumental music (Atodya) and enactment (abhinaya). The poetics of this theatre provides thoughts, techniques, and instrumental frameworks for performance, based on an interdisciplinary reflection upon space, body, mind, motion, sound, memory, consciousness and theatre in relation to the other disciplines of knowledge.
This book attempts to examine the poetics of theatre in early India by interpreting a system of theatre and performance along several themes such as theatre’s place in the premodern interdisciplinary knowledge systems, theatre space and architecture, cognition and emotion, performance, experience and consciousness, human and social behaviour, and music. While focusing mainly on the aphoristic statements on theatre by Bharata in his Natyasastra (third century bce), the book responds to the principles of theatre and literature discussed and debated in a tradition of texts such as Nandikesvara’s Abhinaya Darpana (fifth-fourth century bce), Rajasekhara’s Kavyamimasa (tenth century ce) and Abhinavagupta’s Abhinavabharata (tenth-eleventh century ce). The major concepts elaborated in the book consist of the types of theatre space (ranga), forms of mental/emotive states (bhavas), forms of consciousness (rasas), human and regional variations of performance (vrtti and pravrtti), forms of vocal and instrumental music (gana and atodya), and various others. Divided into eight chapters, each addressing an aspect of theatre, the book is premised upon the argument that theatre poetics of early India presents a coordinated world of inner experience rooted in the self (citta) formed by cognition, emotion and consciousness, but that which develops on stage into an artistic network created by the primitive human behaviour, body, senses, space, sound and the external world, including the varieties of the social world.