The origin of the INDIAN drama may unhesitatingly be described as purely native. The Mahometans when they overran India brought no drama with them ; the Persians, the Arabs, and the Egyptians were without a national theatre. . It would be absurd to suppose the Indian drama to have owed anything to the Chinese or its offshoots. On the other hand, there is no real evidence for assuming any influence of Greek examples upon the Indian drama at any stage of its progress. Finally, it had passed into its decline before the dramatic literature of modern Europe had sprung into being.

. of which the nátya (defined as a dance combined with gesticulation and speech) comes nearest to the drama. Three kinds of entertainments. were said to have exhibited the gods by the spirits and nymphs of Indra’s heaven. and to these the god Siva added two new styles of dancing.The Hindu writers ascribe the invention of dramatic entertainments to an inspired sage Bharata. As the word Bharata signifies an actor. or to the communications made to him by the god Brahma himself concerning an art gathered from the Vedas. we have clearly here a mere personification of the invention of the drama.

and first sung.—a favourite kind of subject in the Indian drama.—the choice of him as a consort by Laxmi. . then spoken. dialogue. and the most ancient Indian play was said to have treated an episode from the history of that deity. rásas of the Western Provinces). Such scenes and stories from the mythology of Vishnu are still occasionally enacted by pantomime or spoken dialogue in India (játras of the Bengalis . it sprang from the union of song and dance in the festivals of the gods. to which were afterwards added narrative recitation.The origin of the Indian drama was thus doubtless religious .

the Gítagovinda. But while the epic poetry of the Hindus gradually approached the dramatic in the way of dialogue. has been conjectured to be suggestive of the earliest species of Hindu dramas. their drama developed itself independently out of the union of the lyric and the epic forms. . The author’s later poem.The tradition connecting its earliest themes with the native mythology of Vishnu agrees with that ascribing the origin of a particular kind of dramatic performance—the sangíta—to Krishna and the shepherdesses.

whose works. the Mahábhárata and the Rámáya_a. The beginnings of the Indian drama may accordingly belong to the 3d century B. C. We know it only in its glory.Their dramatic poetry arose later than their epos. and in its decay. But by the time it produced the first specimens with which we are acquainted.. and these had been preceded by the early hymns. and it was therefore looked upon as having sprung into being as a perfect art. it had already reached its zenith . in its decline. had again been long preceded by the hymnody of the Vedas—just as the Greek drama followed upon the Homeric poems. or to a rather earlier date. .

The history of Indian dramatic literature may be roughly divided into the following periods : .

C. as well as in the moral and intellectual.D. From the 1st century B. life of the land. to the 10th century A.). who lived at the court of King Vikramáditya of Avanti (died 56 B.C. being accounted the brightest of its "nine gems" of genius.I.—This period belongs to the pre-Mahometan age of Indian history. He is the author of Sákuntalá. and includes the works of its two indisputably greatest masters. It is the classical period of the Hindu drama. Of these Kálidása was by far the earlier. but to that second division of it in which Buddhism had already become a powerful factor in the social.—the work Sir William Jones’s translation of which first revealed to the Western world of letters the existence of an Indian drama. .

contains one act of incomparable loveliness . in the opinion of the highest authorities. Vikrama and Urva_í (The Hero and the Nymph). and its enduring effect upon Indian dramatic literature is shown by a imitations of it in later plays. was not composed by a different poet of the same name.It is a dramatic love-idyll of surpassing beauty. To Kálidása has likewise been attributed a third play—the Málavikágnimitra . though held to be of ancient date. . but it is doubtful whether this comedy. and. Kálidása’s other drama. one of the master-pieces of the poetic literature of the world. though unequal as a whole to Sákuntalá.

the pathetic Mrichchhakatí (The Toy-Cart). a domestic drama with a public underplot. and seems certainly of an earlier date than the 10th. . he can hardly be deemed his inferior in dramatic genius. who flourished in the earlier part of the 8th century. It is attributed (as it not uncommon with Indian plays) to a royal author named Súdraka.II. Another work of high merit. and in general more bound by rules.D. may possibly belong to the close of the 2d century A.. While he is considered more artificial in language than his rival. or he in whose throat is fortune). The palm of pre-eminence is disputed with Kálidása by the great dramatic poet Babhavúti (called Çrika__ha.

It is considered by their critical authorities the best example of the prakarana. or drama of domestic life. Mahávára-Charitra and Uttara-Ráma-Charitra are heroic dramas concerned with the adventures of Ráma (the seventh incarnation of Vish_u) . and has been called (with more aptitude than such comparisons usually possess) the Romeo and Juliet of the Hindus. the powerful Málatí and Mádhava. has love for its theme.Of his three extant plays. the third. .

and which in the violence of its action recalls the manner of Shakespeare’s predecessors. The next series of plays forms a transition between the first period of Indian dramatic literature and . the Ve_i-Samhara is thought probably to date from about the 8th or 9th century.Among the remaining chief works of Indian dramatic literature. Its author’s name seems doubtful . the play is described as one in which both pathos and horror are exaggerated.

Hanúmantinuous series of Mahometan invasions of India. the period of decline. surpasses all other Indian dramas in length. or "the great Nataka" (for this play. the work of several hands. which may be reckoned from about the 11th to about the 14th century of our era. dates from the 10th or 11th century. Hanúman Nataka. and of which the beginning roughly coincides with that of a continuous series of Mahometan invasions of India. extending over not less than fourteen acts0. .III.

Krishnamicra’s "theosophic mystery. by another to about the end of the 12th. is ascribed by one authority to the middle of the 11th century." as it has been called. and a prominent character in it is the mythical monkeychief Hanúmat. tradition ascribed the original authorship of the play.Its story is taken from the Rámacycle. indeed.. to whom. i. of Prabodha-Chandrodaya (The Rise of the Moon of Insight. The dates of the famous to about the end of the 12th.e. . the victory of true doctrine over error).

a court-comedy of love and intrigue. depend on the disputed question of their respective authorship. One of them belongs to first quarter of the 12th century.The dates of the famous Ratnavali (The Necklace). with a halfTerentian plot. which begins as an erotic play but passes into a most impressive exemplification of the supreme virtue of self-sacrifice. which begins as an erotic play Buddhist drama Nágánanda. . the other to an earlier time. and of the interesting Buddhist drama Nágánanda.

was probably composed later than the end of the 12th century. if (as is most likely) it was produced at a time when the Mahometan invasions had already begun. Vinákhadatta’s interesting drama of political intrigue. makes his appearance. presumably identifiable with Sandrocottus. . This is the only Indian play known to us with an essentially historical fable—a noteworthy circumstance. Mudrá-Rakshasa (The Signet of the Minister). in which prince Cnandragupta.Finally.

IV. and belong to the period of decline. The remaining plays of which it has been possible to conjecture the dates range in the time of their composition from the end of the 11th to the 14th century. and an affected and over-elaborated style. . as compared with the first the general characteristics seem to be an undue preponderance of narrative and description. Of this period.

the extravagance of its diction. is started to enjoy a higher reputation with the pandits of present age than the master-pieces of Kálidása and Babhávuti. or by reason. the Anargha-Rághava. and the obscurity of its mythology. . of the commonplace character of its sentiments.As a striking instance of this class is mentioned a play on the adventures of Ráma. which in spite.

Arichandra (The Martyr of Truth) exemplifies—with a strange likeness in the contrivance of its plot to the Book of Job and Faust—in the trials of a heroically enduring king the maxim "Better die than lie." . has likewise (but without any pretension to certainty0 been ascribed the only Tamil drama of which we possess in English version. the 14thc century.To the close of this period.

the latest of them. and exhibit the Indian drama in its decay. Besides these there are farces or farcical entertainment. which was composed about the beginning of the present century. and still serves as a model for Bengali dramatic performances. may be regarded as a mere aftergrowth. . more or less indelicate. is improvised comedy) it is left to the actors to supplement. of uncertain dates. Isolated plays remains from centuries later than the 14th . Indeed. but these. Chitra-Yajna. which chiefly turn on the legends of Krishna (the last incarnation of Vishnu).V.

and those mentioned by Hindu writers on the drama. stated to be about 100 in number. . Wilson doubts whether all the plays to be found. added the plays in Tamil. The number of the plays which have descended to us from so vast an expanse of time is both relatively and absolutely small. To these should be. and to have been composed by poets who enjoyed the patronage of the Pandian kings of Madura. however. and it has been seen that not more than three are ascribed to either of the two great masters. amount to many more than 60 .VI.

there is among the Hindus no dearth of dramatic theory. the reputed inventor of dramatic entertainments. The sage Bharata.On the other hand. The commentators (possibly under the influence of inspiration rather than as a strict matter of memory) constantly cite his sátras. or aphorisms. was likewise revered as the father of dramatic criticism—a combination of function to which the latter days of the English theatre might perhaps furnish an occasional parallel. .

a term applied to the architect and general manager of sacrificial solemnities. was named the sutra-dhára. .. thread-holder. the misfortune is that there should not be examples remaining (if they ever existed) to illustrate all the branches of so elaborate a dramatic system. By the 11th century. Other critical works followed at alter dates. exhibiting a rage for subdivision unsurpassed by the efforts of Western theorists. carpenter. then to the director of theatrical performances). ancient or modern . thread. and the Dasa Rupaka (of which the text belongs to that age) distinctly defines the ten several kinds of dramatic composition. (From sutra. when the drama was already approaching its decline. dramatic criticism had reached an advanced point .

the wise." is the reply. loftiness of character.. delicate expression of desire. . require in a drama?" "Profound exposition of the various passions. "pleasing interchange of mutual affection. and the Brahmans. a surprising story." inquires the manager of an actor in the induction tone of the most famous of Indian plays. "What. and elegant language. the venerable. "are those qualities which the virtuous. the learned.

" says the manager (for the Indian dramatists. like Ben Jonson. replete with all qualities." And he proceeds to state that "Babhavúti has given us a drama composed by him. . or will exist. and the world is wide. of similar tastes with myself . Possibly some one exists."Then. for time is boundless. though not. wont to "rail" the public "into approbation." are unaffected by mauvaise honte) "I recollect one. to which indeed this sentence is applicable: ‘How little do they know who speak of us with censure! This entertainment is not for them.

. Connected in their origin with religious worship. renders intelligible the chief peculiarity in their diction. and more especially at seasons sacred to some divinity. springing from an imperturbable consciousness of lofty aims. accounts for much that is characteristic of the higher class of Indian plays. chiefly of a public nature. and furnishes the key to their most striking ethical as well as literary qualities. It explains both their paucity and their length. they were only performed on solemn occasions." This self-possessed disregard of popularity.

. It explains both their paucity and their length. and more especially at seasons sacred to some divinity. accounts for much that is characteristic of the higher class of Indian plays. chiefly of a public nature. Connected in their origin with religious worship. renders intelligible the chief peculiarity in their diction." This self-possessed disregard of popularity. springing from an imperturbable consciousness of lofty aims. they were only performed on solemn occasions. and furnishes the key to their most striking ethical as well as literary qualities.

renders intelligible the chief peculiarity in their diction. accounts for much that is characteristic of the higher class of Indian plays. . chiefly of a public nature." This self-possessed disregard of popularity. springing from an imperturbable consciousness of lofty aims. Connected in their origin with religious worship. It explains both their paucity and their length. and furnishes the key to their most striking ethical as well as literary qualities. they were only performed on solemn occasions. and more especially at seasons sacred to some divinity.