Bharatas Natya Shastra is the foremost among the works on rhetoric which embodies the rules governing the composition of the play. An aspiring actor can get all the detailed instructions regarding all types of dramatic applications, the rules, styles of language, plots etc. to far as it is applied to the that of drama. He takes Gunas, Dosas, Alankaras to be subservient to the purpose of awakening Rasa, as Sanskrit drama relies mainly on awaking right sentiments. The purpose of dance or drama would be complete when the evoking sentiments are brought appropriate to the theme by grace, skill of language and gestures.
The chapter I of Natya Shastra named as Natyotpatti the origin of drama contains 127 slokas. The questions of raised by Atreya and others about the circumstances leading to the creation of Natya, creation of Natyaveda, purpose of delicate mode of expression, the first play produced during the festival of Indradhvaja, disturbances of the play, pacification,benefits of drama were dealt. The five questions of sages are (1) How was the Natyaveda created? (2) For whom it was meant? (3) What are the parts of it? (4) What is its extent and (5) How is it to be applied. But the answers of these questions do not go in a sequence, but has spread all over the text of Natyashastra. While explaining the nature and purpose of Natya, Brahma says that nothing is there that is not found in Natya, either knowledge learning, action device or craft4. It includes all the sciences, art and craft and is an imitation of all the situations of three worlds. The theme of the play may be taken from narratives of history, Vedas and Shastras and presented in an enjoyable way. Thus Natya represents the pains and pleasures of the world through the medium of 4 types of abhinaya i.e. Angika – physical movements and gestures, Satvika emotional reaction Vachika – Voice & speech Aharya – Make-up and costume5.
Chapter II deals with Natya Mandapa (the theatre) in 105 slokas. Standards for theatre, constructions, of 3 varieties of Natyamandapa, namely Vikrishta – the rectangular, Chaturasara the square, Tyasra – the triangle along with paintings of the walls sealing arrangements, entrances for king and others, the rear and front stage were described.
Chapter III deals with Ranga Devata Puja, worship of the Gods in 102 slokas. It contains chants of Lord Siva, Brahma, Vishnu, Ganesha, Brihaspati for the benefit and uninterrupted presentation of the drama.
Chapter IV describes the Tandava dance in 320 slokas. The two plays Amritha Mathana and Tripuradaha were presented in the presence of Lord Shiva. The description of 108 Karanas (postures) the basics of pure dance with detailed description and usage 32 Angaharas (movements of limbs) and Rechakas (gestures) were dealt.
Chapter V contains Purva Ranga vidhana the details of rituals to be presented before the actual presentation of dance in 174 slokas, Purva Ranga, Nandi, Druva, Prastavana etc. the preliminaries were explained.
Chapter VI Bharata gives reply to the questions of Sages on how sentiments enacted by the actor attain special qualities, what are bhavas and how do they make us feel, what are the main terms like Sangraha, Karika and Nirukta? The Sangraha which consists eleven aspects of drama,
Chapter VII deals extensively with bhavas the emotions in 121 slokas with many prose passages. Characteristics Bhava – the emotion, Vibhava the determinant, Anubhava – the consequent and their inter-relationship, the importance of 8 sthayi bhava – the static emotion, 33 Sancharibhavas – transitory emotions and 8 satvika bhavas – responsive emotions in promoting Rasa in the heart of audience were dealt in detail.
Chapter VIII holds a detailed description of fourfold Abhinaya namely Angika, Satvika, Vachika and Aaharya. The expression with head, glances, action with pupils, the eye-lids, the eyebrows, the nose and Nostrils, cheeks, lower-lip, neck and colours of the face were described.
In chapter IX Angabhinaya expression through gestures and limbs were dealt, in 283 slokas, Pataka, Tripataka etc. 24 single hand gestures (Asamyutahastabhedas), Anjali, Svastika etc, 13 coupled hand gestures(Samyanuta hasta bhedas), 27 hand gestures of Tandava (pure) dance (Nritha hastas), Karanas of hand gestures, action with chest, sides, belly, waist, thighs, shanks and feet were explained.
Chapter X was totally dedicated to varieties of foot work. Uses of 32 charis, (earthly and aerial), the sthanas, four Nyayas of using weapons, acts related to bow, healthy exercise were treated in 103 slokas.
In Chapter XI the Mandala movements both earthly and aerial were described in 70 slokas.
In Chapter XII the different gaits of men, women, the stout, the intoxicated, the Jester etc were found in 236 Slokas.
Chapter XIII describes Kakshya Vibhaga – stage division as regards to musical instruments and four kinds of Pravritti (the regional identity), definitions Loka Dharmi and Natyadharmi.
Chapter XIV treats with Vyakarana-the grammar and Chandah-the prosody in 133 slokas
Chapter XV decribes Vrittas – the Slokas. Metres of balanced slokas with examples, and meter with unbalanced slokas with examples. Aarya Vritta and Arya gita were dealt elaborately in 227 slokas.
Chapter XVI is dealt with 36 Kavya Lakshana – embellishments, 4 Alankaras the figures of speech, 10 Gunas – the merits and 10 Doshas – demerits in 128 slokas.
Chapter XVII deals with Kakusvara – the modulation in voice, Bhasha – the language, Sambhuddhi – the addressing, Name – the name, musical notes, origin of musical notes etc.
Chapter XVIII gives full description of Dasarupakas – Nataka, Prahasana etc the ten forms of drama in 126 verses.
Chapter XIX discusses the Sandhi Nirupana – Construction of Plot in 154 slokas. The division and nature of plot, 5 Karyavasathas – the five executive processes, 5 Arthaprakrittis -the five causation, 4 Pataka sthanatas – the four dramatic ironies, 5 Sandhis – the five divisions of plot, 64 Sandhyangas – intermediary divisions, 5 Arthopakshepakas – the five suggestive devices Lasyangas, along with ideal drama and its proprieties were discussed.
Chapter XX is of Vritti Vikalpanam – Modes of expression Bharati, Satvathi, Kaishiki and Arabhati Vrittis were described (in 77 Slokas) for the promotions of Rasa in the drama.
Chapter XXI and XXII gives a detailed description of Aharyabhinaya -Makeup and costume, Samanyabhinaya – general histrionic expression in 227 and 332 slokas respectively. Ornaments of men, women, making up the face and other limbs with grease paints etc, details of Natural, derives and subsidiary colours false hair, manufacturing of masks etc were described in Aharayabhinaya. Physical, natural, involuntary graces in women, men, twelve forms of voice expression, 8 varieties of heroines in love (Astavidha Nayikas), general exclusions on the stage
Chapter XXIII deals with Bahyopachara – the courtesans and the vaishika in 80 slokas.
Chapter XXIV is dealt with the Prakriti – the character in men and women 89 slokas. The three types of characters in men and women, four types of heroes, four types of heroines with their assistants and details there of.
Chapter XXV deals with Chitrabhinaya – the particular expression for indicating morning, sunset etc. Seasons, birds, animals, demons, celestials, expression in Soliloquies, aside etc in 125 slokas.
Chapter XXVI deals with vikriti Vikalpa – that is creating moulds of animals and birds and set design in 38 slokas.
Chapter XXVII deals with Natya Siddhi – Success of Production of play in 104 verses. The Daivi Siddhi,Manushi Siddhi (success due to divine blessings and success due to human effort), four types of interruption in a play, qualifications of judges, audience, right time of the day when plays are to be produced and are not to be produced the success were discussed.
Chapter XVIII deals with Jaativikalpanam – the properties of music both Instrumental and Vocal in 142 Slokas. The four types of musical instruments, their nature and variations, saptaswaras, gramas, moorchanas etc were detailed in this chapter.
Chapter XXIX is continuation of 28th chapter, which deals with stringed instruments – the Tala Atodya. Use of melodies according to Rasa, suitability of particular musical note to the instrument and Rasa, playing the tunes in the preliminary rituals, the four varnas etc were dealt in 119 slokas.
Chapter XXX deals with Sushira Atodya – the wind instruments played in combinations with Vina, Venu and Vocal in 125 slokas.
Chapter XXXI is Tala Adhyaya where time, various units of time, laya, qualities of singer and instrumentalists, rhythm, tempo etc along with delicate dance (lasya) its division and presentation were discussed in 378 slokas.
Chapter XXXII is dealt with Dhruva Vidhana – types of songs, five situations in which the song is used, content and metre of the song, its relation with character, emotion, and rasa in 436 slokas. Suggestions and purpose of song in drama is also discussed.
Chapter XXXIII deals with qualification of vocalists and instrumentalists in 23 slokas.
Chapter XXXIV deals with Pushkarvaadyas – percussion instruments in 304 slokas include some prose passages. Major and minor instruments, various aspects of playing the three types of percussion instruments, various tastes of audience etc were discussed.
Chapter XXXV deals with Bhumika Vikalpa – the distribution of roles to sutradhara, actors and actresses in 41 slokas.
Chapter XXXVI deals with Natya Shapa – the curse on drama in 50 slokas. Sages initiated Bharata regarding the drama dropped down to the earth from the heaven, Bharata’s explanation, importance of preliminaries, arrogant sons of Bharata being cursed by the sages, representation of celestials, compromise by Bharata were discussed.
Chapter XXXVII, Guhyatatvakathana (The Mythical account the drama descending on the earth) is dealt in 31 slokas. Nahusha invited the sons of Bharata to bring the drama to the earth, the greatness of Natyaveda and benefits were explained.
Thus the 6000 slokas in Bharata Natyashastra have been distributed in 37 chapters.
In Chapter VI-10 Bharata states that the eleven aspects are very important to define the picture of drama in so far as the author and the actor are concerned.
They are eight types of (1) Rasas, the ninth Santa Rasa is added on, eight sthayi bhavas, thirty three Sanchari bhavas, eight satvika bhavas, thus total number of (2) Bhavas emotions are 49, (3) Abhinaya histrionic expression is of 4 types (Satvika) Vachika, Angika and Vachika (4) Dharmi school of acting is of two types Lokadharmi and Natya Dharmi, (5) Vritti – mode of expression and (6) Pravrithi regional identity are of four types each, Bharati, Satvati, Kaishiki and Arabhati, Avanti,Dakshinatya, Odri Magadhi, and Panchala Madhyama respectively, (7) Siddhi the success is of two types Daivi and Manushi. (8) Svara is of seven notes Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni, (9) Aatodhya i.e. instrument is four types Tala, Avanaddha, Ghana, Sushira. (10) Gana the song is of five varieties Praveshaka, Akshepa, Nishkrama Prasadika and Antara. (11) Ranga the theatre is three forms Chaturasra, Vikrishta and Tyasra. This is the essence of Natya Shastra6.
The chief aim of the presentation is to arouse a particular sentiment in the minds of audience. Drishya Kavya which is enacted on the stage and seen by audience is more effective to give the desired aesthetic pleasure. The plot, the characterization and everything is subordinate in promoting Rasa.
As Drama is a composite art, Bharata’s treatment towards all related subjects such as Architecture, Preliminaries, Postures, movements of limbs, songs, dance, speech, dress, musical instruments etc gave importance and greatness to Natyashastra.