Authoritative manual on theatrical arts of India
Translation in Sinhala
by Ven. Hiripitiye Pannakitti
Four Volumes (Parts I-IV)
Published by S. Godage and Bros,
DANCE: The translation of the Natyasastra (Nts) of Bharata,
the most celebrated and highly renowed author, critic and visionary,
would indeed have been a formidable task for even an erudite scholar.
Considering the structure of the treatise dealing with a variety of
disciplines and themes it has not been a forbidden undertaking to the
eminent scholar, Ven. Pannakitti, endowed with the requisite skills to
grapple with the terms and concepts used in defining and interpreting
the wide range of material occurring in the Fine Arts with an emphasis
laid on the literary, dramatic and performing traditions.
Ever since Nts. was accepted as the original and authentic work of
Bharata many researchers, writers and scholars of the West and the East
have assessed its value and position in Indian literary theory,
dramaturgy and poetics as its date and authorship could throw light on
the development of forms, styles and norms in creative writing.
Considering the vast range of subject matter taken up for comment and
description in a very authoritative manner within 36 chapters and over
5000 verses (slokas) excluding the prose sections, the compilation of
the original work assumes the prestigious format of an encyclopedia of
Fine Art, a unique manual sastra demanding validity and acceptance.
Although I am entrusted with the task of assessing the Sinhala
translation of the Nts. I considered it necessary to examine the
contents of the original text while examining the version in Sinhala and
the translatorās contribution. Research and writings on the Nts. has
been quite profuse and covered many aspects of literature and literary
criticism. Therefore, it is unnecessary to examine that material here.
In writing this review I have been impressed considerably with the
study of Bharata and the authorship of the text, entitled
Bharata-Natysastra of Kapila Vatsyayan, published by the Sahitya Akademi
(India) 1996,2001, as the book explores the problems involved and
brought out the multi-layered structure of the work, examined from
various points of view.
A brief review of the contents of Nts would, therefore, be helpful
before assessing its value as an authoritative guide for those
practising any of the Fine Arts where knowledge of both theory and
practice were considered essential.
The sutra style of writing has been used following the same method in
vogue in imparting knowledge of the subjects. The subject or theme is
introduced tersely to aid the memory of the listener and also make it
the topic for commenting, elaborating by the adherents or even critics.
Thus this practice led to the growth of leading exponents/ teachers and
also schools of thought.
The Nts. shows how and why it acquired its unique position as a
standard Manual for the Fine Arts in due course. It is the prestigious
corpus, the sastra of natya which had become an urgent need to inculcate
the rules and prescriptions of natya, at first revealed by Brahman to
the Sages who demanded the instruction. It also attained the status of
the fifth veda, coeval with the earlier four Vedas, a secular need of
the people. It earned the name of Natyveda.
Curiosity of sages
The first chapter discusses the curiosity of the sages regarding the
origin and scope of the new Veda. The response given was that it is a
composite creation using the elements from the earlier Vedas for its
growth. The second chapter deals with the theatre and the details of its
structure and the rituals and offerings thus showing that it had the
blessings from above and responded to the secular need for viewing and
IV and V gives more details of preliminary activities including the
enactment of mythological stories and also refers to the tandava
(Masculine) technique of dance as opposed to the lasya (female),
revealed by Brahman to Bharata, together with the other modes of dance
along with the gestures and musical accompaniments enriching them.
Although these items are supposed to have been demonstrated by
mythical heroes it is possible to infer that the experience and
influence of Bharataās predecessors in the teaching of dance and musical
lore and the technical aspects are possibly hinted.
The sixth chapter, though different in content, is an important
contribution of Bharata to the validity of the concept of rasa in his
formulation of the theory and the constituents which relate to the
themes and motifs and their appropriate usage in creative poetic
Considering the manner in which the theory of rasa and the criteria
mentioned in the operative areas in the evocation of a mature sentiment
finally, as laid down by Bharatha entire range for the Sanksrit
literature it may be necessary to postulate a school of thought that had
brought the concepts to prominence.
He lays down the preliminary stages in the drama showing how such
ideas had been known before his time.
Taken together the ideas and the concepts of the varied emotions
jointly stimulating and producing the state of the mind generating the
sentiment (rasa) suggests also precedent stages of discussion of the
The seventh chapter enlarges on the theory of the emotional states
and feelings a drama could successfully evoke. The eighth chapter deals
with an important aspect concerned with the four means of dramatic
expression: speech/words - vag, body, physical movement - anga, sattva,
mental feelings and aharya, external aids, to enhance the sentiments.
Technical terms signifying musical notations, dance sequences and
processes associated with the (abhinaya) exposition of the themes by
means of the postures, rhythms, cadences, described in detail.
Combined with the rasa theory which brings to the fore the connection
between the physical and the mental feelings which finally creates the
desired satisfaction in any composition, the nexus with the traditional
system of medicine (ayurveda), also, shown in the Nts, throws light on
the understanding of Bharata in the definition of the aesthetic
Bharata has based his theory on the drama but applies its relevance
to cover all the fine arts as the one aim is art appreciation is search
and discovery of the ultimate poise and harmony which each can bring
through the evocation of the feelings and states of mind involved
leading to composure.
Translation and merits
A detailed statement of all chapters is not considered necessary as
this review takes up the translation and its merits. From the VIIIth
chapter onwards the technical aspects of the communication of the
effective transmission of the actorsā movements, gestures and movements
of the body and the limbs are identified and enumerated in a
Bharatās intimate knowledge of the varied movements of the body are
stated and, as necessary, related to the styles and functions set out in
Up to the 23rd chapter the author is occupied with the very technical
and intimate observations of differing characteristics of actors on
stage, their speech, their portrayal of ethnic or individual attitudes,
and, also the divisions of the drama and the pace of movement etc.
The end chapters are important as the verses (of the text) convey
socio-economic differences and cultural traits of regions. Musical data
and references are to be also found in a later chapter.
The last, 36th Chapter, refers to an interesting transference of the
dramatic spectacles to the earth - the sages have made the appeal to
Bharata owing to their keen desire to see them.
The Natyasastra, the most authoritative manual and a critical
treatise on the arts in general, paying special attention to the
theatrical arts of India, is not so well-known in academic circles
perhaps because it is written in Sanskrit and adopts a style, commonly
used in the (sastra) manuals. It is however recognised and studied as a
valuable text by musicians and dance professionals.
This translation published by Venerable Buddhist author who has to
his credit a large number of writings published during nearly four
decades is an eminent scholar, deeply engrossed in academic pursuit of
oriental and ideological works of value.
He uses material from ancient history, Buddhist philosophy, and
particularly Sanskrit texts and specific treatises such as the
Natyasastra which have influenced the growth of theoretical as well as
practical understanding of acknowledged concepts of interpretation and
evaluation in special disciplines.
His work receives due commendation as he attempts to offer by means
of translations, the great Epic of India, the Mahabharata, and the
treasured āocean of storiesā (Kathasaritsagara), as both these
compilations reflect the character and identity of the Indian mind, its
wisdom and culture, not without significance to the Sri Lankan way of
The four volumes of the Natyasastra, in the Sinhala translation,
carries the original Sanskrit text with the translation. The
translations are further enlarged with additional comments and
explanations, as necessary.
The author also states that the Hindi translations of Professor Babu
Lala Shukla Sastri and the English translation of Manomohan Ghosh (a
gift of the book by Prof. W. S. Karunatilaka) of the text were very
useful aids in adding the notes and comments to the Sinhala versions. He
also acknowledges reference to the single commentary on the text,
Abhinavabharati in elucidating the difficulties.
The four volumes printed at Sridevi Press are published by Godage
Book Publishers, Colombo, both institutions undertaking the tasks with
their professional competence and fulfilling the academic need for such
It is also necessary to state our appreciation of the research and
publication of books and articles of Indology especially in the form of
translations which would undoubtedly be of great benefit to students
interested in these subjects.
Lessons in nation building
Translator: Ranjith Gunaratna
Available at leading bookshops
DEVELOPMENT: Singapore, with a population of 4.5 million
living on a small island of 699 square kilometres, about the size of
Colombo and Gampaha districts is one of the richest countries in the
world. Its GNP per capita is $ 29,900.
During 1950s it was just a trading port of the British Empire with
shanty dwellings, dirty surrounding now where mostly Chinese, Indian and
other immigrants lived with no hope for their future.
Today, it has become a clean, green and neatly designed city state
with all modern facilities and services. Above all, Singapore is a
politically stable, trouble free thriving economy. How could this small
island be developed into a splendid city and a flourishing country from
a poor village-like port 50 years ago?
In order to understand Singaporeās contemporary history of the last
half a century, Lee Kuan Yewās The Singapore Story is a must-read. It is
a beautifully and carefully written autobiography which looks at all the
aspects of historical development of modern Singapore until 1965.
Today, the Sri Lankan readers too have got an opportunity to read The
Singapore Story in Sinhala. It has been translated by Ranjith Gunaratna,
a senior Foreign Service officer, who served in Singapore for about
Ranjith Gunaratna, the translator of the book has captured the core
of the original book accurately and has transformed it to an easily
comprehensible book, allowing the Sri Lankan readers to grasp every
detail of the original book without any difficulty.
The Sinhalese translation was released on 11, November 2006. As it
was correctly stated by Ajith Nivad Cabraal, the Governor of the Central
Bank and Janaka Bandara Tennakoon, the Minister of Local Governments and
Provincial Councils, during the launching ceremony of the book, the
Sinhalese translation of The Singapore Story would certainly be a guide
for us to find out where we stand in the path of nation building.
Although there are different views about some of the strategies adopted
by Lee Kuan Yew in his journey towards nation building, I am sure we can
still agree with many of his actions.
In precise and clear language, Ranjith Gunaratna describes Leeās
childhood, life under colonial rule, life in England, the struggle to
gain independence, his determination to bring the nation together,
merger with Malaysia, events that led to break up from Malaysia and
finally the emergence of Singapore as a free and independent country.
He colourfully portraits Leeās strategies and approaches to each
challenge enabling us to capture a panoramic view of the contemporary
history of Singapore. Ranjith Gunaratna, not only depicts the evens as
they occurred but also tries to recreate the events with his powerfully
and carefully selected idiomatic expressions. You wonāt feel that you
are just reading a translation of a book.
The reason, I think, is that Ranjith Gunaratna has excelled in both
English and Sinhalese languages. He has written poetry and songs. Thus,
his language in The Singapore Story emanates the fragrance of poetry.
This book also covers Leeās experiences as an opposition party member
in the assembly. After organising The Peopleās Action Party (The PAP) he
contested the election in 1959 and became the first Prime Minister at
the age of 35 in a self-governing British colony from 1959 to 1965.
During the same time he forged an alliance with Malaya in 1963. In
realizing that Singapore should choose its own path to salvage the
nation from the extreme poverty and extremist elements he broke this
alliance in 1965.
As depicts in the book, Lee had some what mixed feelings about the
Communists. Lee admired the skills and unyielding dedication of the
Communists. However, he did not want to allow extreme communist elements
to highjack the country to realize their day-dreams.
Evidently, the success stories emerged from China painted a glorious
picture about communism in the minds of Singapore Chinese. They even had
the aspiration of becoming a part of China.
The fact that many graduates from Chinese schools and Nanyang
University did not have English proficiency to secure good jobs in
Singapore, the dissatisfaction with employment prospects interwoven with
resentment of the British imperialists provided fertile ground for the
spreading of communist ideas in Singapore.
As a result, many associations and schoolchildren organized
demonstrations and protests one after another to topple the colonial
Government. Understanding this milieu correctly, Lee determined to
switch all schools to using English as the teaching language in the
1960s and ā70s, allowing young graduates move up on the economic ladder.
Today, in Singapore, English is the working language, providing
cohesiveness for all three ethnic groups, and all students are obligated
to learn English in school. Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, along with English
are all official languages, despite the fact that almost 80%
Singaporeans are ethnic Chinese, 14% Singaporeans are Malays and 7% are
Lee introduced the teaching of three languages, Mandarin, Malay and
Tamil, in English schools. This was well received by all parents. To
balance this, he introduced the teaching of English in Chinese, Malay
and Tamil schools.
As a result of his timely intervention, Singapore was able to avoid
any clash over the issue of languages. This is an ideal example for Sri
Lankan as many issues of today have links to the language.
Malaya became independent from the British in August 1957. Later it
became Malaysia in 1963 with the inclusion of Singapore, Sarawak and
Sabah on the island of Borneos. But Singapore was separated from
Malaysia and became an independent country two years later, in August
Lee sought an alliance with Malaya mainly for two reasons viz.
Singapore could never achieve complete independence from the British as
it was too small in area and could not defend itself and in order to
submerge the overwhelming pro-Communist sentiment in Singapore it was
required to be a part of a much bigger country - Malaya, where Chinese
were a minority.
Lee supported a Malaysia as a multiracial society of equal citizens,
while Tunku, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia wanted a
Malay-dominated Malaysia. They also had disputes over economic policies.
Lee did not tolerate the new phenomena and criticized publicly the
policies of Malaysia. He angered Tunku by visiting foreign countries on
behalf of Singapore. From Leeās point of view, all he wanted was a
practical, business-like working relationship with Tunku, not a
Politically, Lee tried to foster a Southeast Asian identity instead
of a Chinese identity in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yewās Singapore Story helps
us to understand Singaporeās political culture at large and many
government policies in specific.
In fact, the Singapore Story should have been translated into Sinhala
long time ago. However, the efforts made by Ranjith Gunaratna to
translate the book should be commended. Relatively large fonts, simple
language and short sentences, enable even young readers to read and
understand this remarkable book easily.
Unquestionably, this book should be available in every library for
reference. It would definitely be a valuable source for those who are
interested in politics of East Asia, especially Singapore. In
particular, this should undoubtedly be a handbook for young politicians.
Genealogy of Malays exposed
Saga of the
Author: Tuan Arfin Burah
An author publication
Available at Vijitha Yapa
151 pp. Price Rs. 250
HISTORY: The Malays in Sri Lanka are the descendants of the
kings, queens, princes and princesses, noblemen, dignitaries, artists,
craftsmen, commanders and their retinue, who were part and parcel of the
sovereign, exiled by the Dutch.
A hereto unknown factor, perhaps buried in the sands of time, has
been unravelled by the author on the above. T. Arfin Burah a senior
professional in Land Surveying and Land Economics has delved in
unearthing from old records at the Archives and from several locations
on ground, presenting them in a manner a glimpse of the functioning of
Colonial rule, particularly in Java and Sri Lanka.
The book covers the occupation of the Dutch in Ceylon extending from
A.D. 1640 to 1796, a period of 156 years. This book has been made
possible with the correct interpretation after a great level of
painstaking research and passion due entirely, as with divine providence
by a Dutch Professor Vanden Belt of the Lieder University of Holland who
played a major role in having given his valuable time and expertise to
the translation to English from the Romanised Dutch records, and also
the Assistant Archivist Mrs. Dias who had in many ways has helped the
This aspect of it has been the missing link that has prevented the
narration of this epic story by other historians. The saga unfolds when
for the first time one gets more than a glimpse of the exiled Javanese
Prince Amankoeratte of Batavia and the royal retinue in Sri Lanka. The
great role and responsibilities of the exiled royal party are detailed.
Developing and expanding the base of spices and commodity trade
between Sri Lanka and Batavia has been his direct responsibility.
Entrustment of these duties to him by the Dutch rulers highlights the
capacity and the respect given to the royal party.
The book goes further to expand the role of the forefathers of the
author and their contribution to many aspects of commerce and life in
the wider community in Sri Lanka. Much emphasis has been confined in his
research of the Prince Amankoeratte the 3rd of whom he asserts that his
great grandfather has been a descendant.
In trying to establish the genealogy of the Javanese (now termed
Malays) in Sri Lanka to their ancestors he has not only obtained
information from archival records but has also visited many Malays in
obtaining valuable data which had been passed down to them by their
With the invasion of the British to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) communication
between the Dutch in Java and the exiles comes to an abrupt end when the
change of names took place to conceal their royal identity when taking
the āOath of Allegianceā to serve under the British when Ceylon ceded to
the British. Most of the Javanese names therefore were anglicized for
easy pronunciation by them.
With great delight I recommend this book to all Sri Lankans who
should know the origin and the contribution made by the Javanese a must
for the discernable historians and the general reader alike.
The author avers that with globalization an individual will be
identified by a numeral and a name no longer relevant and hopes that his
research will be used in preserving oneās identity.
Biography of Sonia Gandhi
Author: S.M. Haniffa
BIOGRAPHY: S.M. Haniffa, who is a veteran journalist, author
and publisher, has brought out his latest publication āSonia Sarithaiā,
which is a brief biography of Sonia Gandhi, in the Tamil language.
In his Foreword to the book, the author says: āTo show my admiration
of Soniaās sacrifice, I decided to write her biography in the Tamil
Language. As far as I know, nobody has made any attempt to write this in
Thamil. Inspite of my advanced age and illness, I have undertaken this
writing of this work at the age of 78, while suffering from diabetes and
high blood pressure, out of sheer zest to record my appreciation.ā
In the next 150 pages, he has dealt with the contributions and
sacrifices made by the Nehru family to the Indian motherland and
explains how a reluctant and unwilling Sonia has been drawn to the
Born in 1946, she arrived in India in 1968. Until the death of her
husband Rajiv; she was aloof from active politics. It was the
assassination of her husband that brought her to the centre stage; just
as how in Sri Lanka the assassination of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the
subsequent events made Sirimavo Bandaranaike the first woman Prime
Minister of the world.
Today, she leads the 112 year old Congress and guides its Government
with confidence and determination. This gradual, but steady
transformation of Sonia has been narrated in a lucid flow of language in
A recently published book named Sonia-A Biography by Rasheed Kidwani
(2003) has been used as primary source by the author.
Sonia Sarithai is available at Poobalasingham Book Depot, Sea Street,