PRATIMA NATAKAM of Bhasa is the only play in the entire Sanskrit literature, which sees good in all people and has a soft corner for all the famous bad characters like, Kaikayi of the classic, the Ramayana. In this play Bhasa portrays these so called villains as good and noble people who were sinned against than sinning. Bhasa tries his best to portray these characters as lynch pins in the scheme of the play of God. On reading Bhasa’s plays, one ends up unconsciously sympathizing with the so called bad characters. Bhasa took the theme of Ramayana for his PRATIMA. The Ramayana is the उपजीव्य काव्य means perennial source for all latter poets.
Type of Nataka
Literature has been divided by Sanskrit rhetoricians into two classes –that which can be seen, and that which can be only heard. They can be represented on the stage. It is also called Rupakam, so called because the Rupa or character of the heroes is ascribed to the actors. Nataka, the most important type of Rupaka, to which Pratima Nataka belongs is defined by Sanskrit rhetoricians as one that satisfies the three requirements laid down thus:
नाटके प्रख्यातमितिवॄत्तं,धीरोदात्तो नायकः, श्रॄड्गारवीररसयोरन्यतरस्य प्राधान्यं प्रख्यातमितिवॄत्तं
In Nataka the plot is one renowned by epic tradition, the hero belongs to the Dhirodatta type, and love or heroism is the dominant emotion. Vastu or plot is of three kinds – renowned by tradition, or conceived by the poet, and partly traditional and partly conceived by the poet. The present play satisfies all the three requirements.
Title of the Play
Nowhere does the name of the poet appear in the title of the play. It is not given in the prologue as is usually the practice with later poets. The name is given by Mm. Ganapati Shastri on the authority of a colophon at the end of the manuscript of this play.
अस्य नाटकस्य मातृकाग्रन्थान्तद्दष्टपातठानुसारात प्रतिमानाटकमिति संद्मा
Pratima Natakam takes its name from the events that take place in the third act. The scene of action is the Hall of Statues, The Pratimagriham. Bharata waits at the outskirts of Ayodhya for astrological reasons, for the auspicious time. He enters into the temple-like mansion where the statues of the departed emperors are installed. He does not recognize the statues of his forefathers. He learns of his father’s death on looking at the statue of his father among those of the departed ones. He faints at what he sees and later learns from the attendant of the gallery that his mother was, responsible for the death of his father and the departure of Rama to the forest. The title is appropriate in as much as the dominant event in the 3rd act.
Rasas or Emotions in this Play
Emotions or Rasa that are considered to be the soul of poetry are nine in number. As regards Pratima Nataka, Mm. Ganpatishastri points out that the dominant emotion is Dharma Vira, (the heroic in Virtue) in as much as Rama is pledged to discharge the duty of carrying out his father’s command throughout the Play, supplemented by Karuna Rasa which is delineated in several scenes. Heroes are generally considered to belong to four different types’
धीरोदात्त, धीरोद्धत, धीरललित, धीरशान्त Valour, magnanimity, strength of character, resoluteness, and all other rare virtues are the characteristics of Dhirodatta- Rama is the best example of Dhirodatta Nayaka. Haughtiness due to strength and valour, love of power, self-glorification, emulation, and greed are the characteristics of Dhiroddhata- Parashurama and Ravan fall under this category.
Sita- Sita is depicted in the play in much the same lines as in the Ramayana. The high ideal of chastity observed by her elicits from Ravana disguised as an ascetic the remark that she is Arundhati among mortals on the earth. At the very outset of the drama Sita is seen to take delight in the humble dress of tree-bark, a princess though she is. At the beginning of the fifth act Sita is seen to tend the trees of Janasthana with maternal care. She is lover of trees, plants, animals and deer, in short of all objects of nature. Her timidity and sensitiveness are brought to play when in the seventh act, after the destruction of Ravana, Rama gently reminds her of the episode of the golden deer. She offers her respectful obeisance to all her mothers-in-law when their meeting with Rama takes place at Janastana on the eve of coronation.
Rama- Rama is an embodiment of truth. Rama as a loving brother receives Bharata in the forest with extreme kindness and favours him with the gift of his sandals with the promise to accept the kingdom after fourteen years. His heroism is also brought into play though not to such an extent as in the Ramayana. As a respecter of the Vedic religion including the law of the rituals, Rama offers his homage to Ravana disguised as an ascetic and makes sincere enquiries of him about the best offerings to be made to Pitrs in Sraddha. As a loving husband, he comments in a lighter vein on the bark-dress worn by Sita at the outset of the play. With practical wisdom he finally accepts the kinship on the authority of Kaikayi who was instrumental in wrecking his coronation during the life-time of Dasharatha.
Lakshmana- Filled with devotion and attachment towards his brother, Lakshmana grows furious against both Kaikayi and Dasharatha at the impending exile of Rama. But good at heart, he calms down at the counsel of Rama. Though not bound by duty to follow Rama in his exile, he courts his own exile in supreme attachment to his venerable brother. His attachment to Bharata is no less, whom he receives with tenderness in the forest at the behest of Rama.
Bharata- The part played by Bharata in this drama is unique and even bids fair to throw into shade the part played by Rama, especially in view of the fact that the plot is confined more or less to the Ayodhya of Ramayana. The statue house scene makes him cognizant not only of his father’s death but also of his mother’s cruelty is sending Rama to exile. His stay at Ayodhya during Rama’s exile was a period of suspense for him and often brings recollections of Rama. When after the destruction of Ravana, Rama halts at janasthana on his way back to Ayodhya, Bharata meets him promptly and hands back the kingdom. At last Bharata is happy over the coronation of Rama.
Kaikayi- hard-hearted, selfish and narrow-minded, Kaikayi is depicted in the play at the outset in much the same colours as in the Ramayana. Bhasa is particularly partial towards Kaikayi. He is bent upon improving her character from the one presented in Ramayana. She proves her honesty of purpose to the satisfaction of her son. In the denouement of the play she enthusiastically welcomes the coronation of Rama.
Sumantra- A close friend and charioteer of king Dashratha, sharing in his weal and woe and associate of his queens.
In Pratima Natak, there are seven acts-
The First act of the drama opens in a stunning manner with the coronation of Rama taking place as soon as it is announced in the presence of Emperor Dasharata, Lakshmana and Satrughana. Sita is in her quarters does not know about her husband’s coronation and is surprised when she learns of it. The coronation is abruptly disrupted by Manthara, the messenger of Kaikayi in the middle of the ceremony. Rama does not know the reason for this disruption and retires to Sita’s quarters. There he learns of Kaikayi reminding Dasharatha about the promise he made to her father as bride price, of making her son the future king of Ayodhya. Now Rama starts out to the forest without Kaikayi and Dasharatha asking him to go. The two well known boons are not mentioned and thus Bhasa protects the characters of Kaikayi and Dashratha. What is more, Rama takes upon himself the blame of accepting the crown greedily to prevent people accusing Kaikayi. Before Rama’s arrival to her quarters Sita casually wears bark-garnments thus saving Kaikayi the unpleasant and cruel task of handing her bark-garments. It is to be noted that the important characters Dashratha, Kaikayi and Manthara do not appear on the stage in this act.
In the second act, Dashratha passes away and Bharat who is away is asked to return to Ayodhya forthwith without being told of his father’s death. Bharata had been away from Ayodhya for a long time.
In the third act, the scene of action is the hall of Statue, the pratimagruh. Bharata awaits at the outskirts of Ayodhya for astrological reasons, for the auspicious time. He enters into the temple-mansion where the statues of the departed emperors are installed. He does not recognize the statues of his forefathers. He learns of his father’s death on looking at the statue of his father among those of the departed ones. He faints at what he sees and later learns from the attendant of the gallery that his mother was, responsible for the death of his father and departure of Rama to the forest. When the three queens arrive at the Hall of Statues to pay their tribute to departed Dashratha, Bharata fails to recognize them also. When Kaikayi is introduced to him he does not bow to her out of indignation, attacks his mother with harsh words and wants to know the real reason for demanding the kingdom for him and also for sending Rama to the forest for no fault on Rama’s part. The introduction of the Hall of Statues saves Kaikayi from directly telling the truth of Dasharatha’s death and her desire to anoint Bharata as the king. Bhasa portrays Bharata as more devoted to his brother Rama than to his mother. The dramatist introduces and uses the Hall of Statues very skillfully.
The fourth act shows up the noble character of Rama and Bharata and their obedience to their parents as well as their affection and love to each other. Rama convinces Bharata that he would return to Ayodhya after fourteen years as desired by Bharata’s mother kaikayi. Bharata agrees to look after the kingdom as Rama’s agent. In all probability Bhasa introduced the Padukapradana to make Bharata blemishless.
The fifth act is the high watermark of excellence in the whole world of Sanskrit Literature. Bhasa dares to bring Rama and Ravana face to face before the battle begins. He makes Rama worship Ravana reverentially. Ravana disguised as a sage enters the hermitage where Rama was to spend fourteen years. Ravana arrives when Rama was in conversation with Sita regarding the annual ceremony of libation to his father falling the next day. Ravana, an expert in Sraddha Kalpsastra, misleads Rama telling him in all sincerity the efficacious one in the Tarpana ceremony. Bhasa knits the dialogue between Rama and Ravana skillfully so nothing sounds suspicious. Bhasa makes Ravana kidnap Sita heroically and makes him leave information as to where he lives. Bhasa depicts Rama as not listening foolishly to the word of his wife to get the deer for her. The dramatist makes the tarpana ceremony important to Rama and not the desire of his wife, thus elevating Rama’s character in the process.
In the sixth act Bhasa makes Kaikayi reveal the curse of the blind sage couple whose only son was accidentally killed by Dasharatha in a hunting expedition. He makes Kaikayi opt to take the blame on herself for sending Rama to the forest. Dashratha is made to grieve and die not because of Rama’s death as a consequence of the curse but because of the agony of separation from Rama. It is made to appear that out of love for Rama Kaikayi sends him to the forest to ward off his death due to curse rather than the greed to grab the kingdom. Rama was to be sent to the forest only for fourteen days. Kaikayi utters the words fourteen years instead of the words fourteen days in her perturbed state of mind. Learning the details of Rama’s exile Bharata now falls at the feet of his mother and craves her pardon which she readily and happily grants and then Bharata gets ready to assist Rama in his battle against Ravana.
The seventh and the final act begins with the statement that Rama had returned to the hermitage of Bharadwaja after destroying Ravana and installing Vibhishana as king. He has come with Sita and is followed by the armies of monkey and bears. Thus the story of Kishkindhakhanda, Sundarkhanda and Yuddhakhanda are done away with in one simple sentence. The entire Ayodhya, led by Bharata and the three queens, comes to the hermitage where Rama is halting. There takes place happy reunion of the sons and their mothers. Kaikayi takes up the thread of the coronation that was disrupted earlier and proposes the coronation amidst vedic hymns and victory cries of the subjects. Thus the play PRATIMANATAKAM ends on a happy note. But the audience is surprised by the oddity of not seeing at all great heroes like Hanuman, Vibhishana and Indrajit. The killing of Ravana which usually is the climax of the story, is not shown nor described vividly. Bhasa leaves the audience dissatisfied so that they eagerly await another play from him to complete the story of Rama.
- A.D. Pusalkar. 1943. Bhasa. Sadhana press
- Sankara Ram shastri. 1951. Prtima Natakam of Bhasa. Shri Balamanorama press.
- Dr. C.L.N. Moorthy Pratimanatakam of Bhasa (article)
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