Author: Nagaranjitha S, Varanasi/Kashi
Published as a part of Śāstra Raṅga-2023 Internship ; offered by Noopura Bhramari- IKS Centre. Article series No – 6
The 20th Chapter in Nāṭyaśāstra deals with the ten kinds of theatrical performances which are called as Daśarūpaka. Nāṭya is addressed as rūpaka somtimes. So, what is a rūpaka? The word rūpaka is derived by the dhātu rūpa. Rūpaka are especially composed to be performed on stage. Abhinavagupta interprets the definition of daśarūpakam as that which can be enacted using the four styles[i].
Sarveṣāmeva kavyānāṁ mātṛkā vṛtyaḥ smṛtāḥ|
Ābhyo vinismṛtaṁ hyetadyaśarūpaṁ prayogataḣ|| (Dwivedi, 619)
The Vṛtti or the four different styles that Bharata defines, dominates the kāvya however that which comprises visual characteristics or the vṛttis in presentable terms is a rūpaka. The daśarūpakas are nāṭakam, prakaraṇam, aṅka, vyāyoga, bhāṇa, samavakāra, vīthi, prahasana, ḍima, ihāmṛga.
Further, the distinguishable characteristics of each of these ten types of plays are elaborated in detail in this chapter by Bharata. It is very interesting to note that each of these add variety to the theatrical performances. When some are with four acts, some are with single act. The need for this delineation perhaps was to bring diversity in the theatricals. He says all four styles must be included in the nāṭaka and prakaraṇa however, others should not include kaiśiki vṛtti. If we try to understand the reason behind this, the graceful styles are a kind of disruptive when we are showcasing a combat or a calamity and so on. The characteristic features of the other kinds of play (except nāṭaka and prakaraṇa) requires that this vṛtti is omitted which is to avoid impropriety or the anaucitya.
Another example to discuss is, the time span of an act is specified for a samavakāra. He says for the first act twelve, second act four, and the third act must conclude within two nāḍikās. What could have been the need to be so strict about the duration that it had to be recorded as the lakṣaṇa of this type of play? To introduce different kinds of emotions, conflict and also include some comical elements, he gives twelve units and further in the second act, the play has to concentrate on the conflict so that the spectators attention is held completely on the centre of the plot. This further in the third act in short has to conclude by settling the conflict which can be very apt to hold the attention of the audience and create the experience of rasa. The division of time between the acts here is very proportionate to the requirement. Otherwise, this could lead to unnecessary dragging and give raise to rasavighnas.
Another attention seeking aspect in this chapter is that he not only talks about inclusions but also talks about exclusions in these plays. For example, about the hazard management. Bharata recommends not to bring living animals such as elephants, horses etc on stage but prescribes the playwright or the producers to arrange for the models to be depicted on stage. This is very thoughtful of Bharata. If we can think of the times when these plays were staged, thousands of years ago where the prekṣāgṛha or the auditoriums were using the lighting arrangements using the torch lights, animals could go perplexed seeing the fire and behave in an unexpected way with which there could be chaos in the playhouse. Also, if we think of mānuśī siddhi, the reaction of the audience by clapping screaming or any such could overwhelm the calmest animals and create ruckus. Even slightest of the fear about these mishaps in the minds of the audience could divert their attention leading to rasavighna. Hence such things are clearly listed out by Bharata as strick “Don’ts” in the chapter.
Much clarity on the intentions behind defining the characteristics of these daśarūpakas could be obtained when deeper insights on the concepts of vṛtti, bīja, aṅka and bindu is obtained before studying them.
 (rūpa + ṇavul pratyaya = rūpaṇa)
[i] Dvivedi, Pārasanātha. Nātykaśāstra. Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Varanasi. Vol. 3. p.619