Author: Mahima Harish Magadi, Bengaluru
Published as a part of Śāstra Raṅga-2023 Internship ; offered by NoopuraBhramari- IKS Centre. Article series No – 2
Pūrvaran͂gavidhi or the ‘Rites of Prologue’ (as termed by Dr. N.P. Unni is the fifth chapter of Nātyashastra) extensively deals with the rites or the ritualistic tasks done before commencement of Natya.
The term Pūrvaran͂gavidhi has been grammatically expanded in various ways by scholars. Sriharsha’s vigraha vakya is ‘PurvaH ca asou rangaH iti’. Abhinavagupta further expands it as ran͂gasya pūrvo Bhāgaḥ iti. That which is not a part of the main act, but which occurs before it. The term ‘Ranga’ can be understood in two ways. One the physical stage, which makes Pūrvaran͂ga – the rites that happen in places outside the stage. This may told true for acts like Pratyāhāra, Avataraṇa etc. But this assumptions becomes false when characters like the Sūtradhara and Pariparśvakas enter the stage to complete other steps in the Pūrvaran͂gavidhi. Another way of understanding the term ‘Ran͂ga’ is by thinking of it as the main part of the play where the sūtradhāra introduces the play and the actors begin enacting. In this case, the term Pūrvaran͂ga would mean the rites and series of activities done before the commencement of the play.
Bharatha, very clearly states the constituents of Pūrvaran͂ga and the exact sequence it must be followed it. The steps of Pūrvaran͂ga such as Pratyāhara, Avataraṇa, Ārambha, Āśravaṇa, Vaktrapāṇi, Saṅghotanā, Mārgāsārita and Āsārita are all done by accompanying musicians and instrumentalists before the action on stage begins.
With Uttāpana, the actors being acting on the stage for the first time. The term ‘Nāndi’ is mentioned here. In literature, ‘Nāndi’ is the first verse of the work. The ‘Nāndi’ śloka is usually composed by the poet/author saluting his iṣṭadevatā. The Nāṭyaśastra also has a Nāndi śloka. The purpose of Nāndi as explained by various poets and scholars is to ensure the successful completion of the task while also getting over any obstacles in the way. ‘Nāndi vighnopaśantaye’. This tradition is seen in not only just literature but in important events such as upanayana, vivaaha and as Bharata says, during the commencement of a play.
The Nāndi as described by Bharata consists of various sounds and words which are for the Jarjara. He also calls this ‘Ran͂gadvāra’ as the Āṇgika and Vācika abhinayas are presented for the first time on stage. The term dvāra means door. One can understand this as the door which open to the play.
Most of these steps are seen even in today’s dance or drama presentations. Although not ritualistically, but as a matter of need. The arrangement of musical instruments before the commencement of the play is essential in any art form. We can see, even in a Bharathanatyam for instance, that the musicians adjust the instruments with each other to ensure all of them are cohesive. The modern day dance also involves testing of the nāda with microphones. The singer, naṭṭuvanār and the instrumentalists then perform together to check for uniformity and melody. As Nāndi a Pooja is performed to ensure the successful completion of the show and the removal of Vighnas. The Nṛtyabandha Puśpaṇjali can be seen as a condensed form of a few steps of Pūrvaran͂gavidhi.
The Natyashastra, Unni NP
Srimadbharatamunipranitam Natyashastram, Malaviya Sudhakar