Sanskrit dance and drama

Venkatraman Iyer venkatraman_iyer at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu May 6 23:03:43 UTC 1999

Thanks, Mr. Steiner. On the contrary, Indu Shekhar is a pioneer
in that field. Gonda, Shekhar, Kuiper and Renou did not know Tamil.
The Classical Sangam Tamil texts remain untouched in the
Western academic discourse till to date as far as the music and
dance are concerned. CilappatikAram, a product of Kerala,
as a drama has not been studied in comparison to Sanskrit dramas yet.

In the late 1950s, when Indu Shekhar wrote his dissertation
nothing from Dravidian side was available to them. No Zvelebil,
Hart, Shulman, Ramanujan, Vasudha, Vidya, Indira, ....
Parpola's Deciphering the Indus script was not published
or Iravatham Mahadevan have not started writing until 1970s.

For example, challenging Sivaramamurti's Nataraja in art, thought
and literature, Zvelebil wrote a book:
Ananda tandava of Siva sadanrttamurti: the development of
ATavallAn-kUttapperumAnaTikaL in South Indian textual
and iconographic tradition, 1985, Madras.
In this work, Zvelebil explains well the central position
music and dance occupy in the life of ancient Tamils from the
Sangam texts. P. Younger writes also in his Home of the
Dancing Sivan.

Admittedly, I have not read anything on what is written about
Indic dance and music. Must read Mandakranta Bose, David Gitomer,
Natalia Lidova, ... But I suspect these works may not have much
from Dravidian/Tamil side.

Heard that S. A. Srinivasan, On the composition of the Natyasastra
gives some weightage to Dravidian influence. Please let me
know if there are books out there that follow the lead
by Indu Shekhar, S. A. Srinivasan, ... Or, about anyone
working on this aspect.

More research involving classical sangam texts and
tamil epics and sanskrit drama will show that criticisms by Renou, Kuiper,
... are NOT justified.

V. Iyer
 > Indu Shekhar, Sanskrit drama: its origin and decline,
 > E.J.Brill, 1960 (2nd ed., Delhi, 1977)
 > How do Sanskritists rate this work?

See, e.g., the (justified) criticism by L. Renou, "La recherche sur
le théâtre indien depuis 1890", in: S. Lévi, Le théâtre indien,
réimpression, 1963, p. XII, n. (7): "Récemment, lŽouvrage de
Shekhar [...] fait état dŽune provenance anâryenne: hypothèse
souvent formulée pour dŽautres secteurs de lŽindianisme et qui
semble dispenser dŽexplication interne rationnelle." ("Recently,
the work of Shekhar [...] points to a non-Aryan provenance: a
hypothesis which has been often formulated with respect to
other fields of Indian studies and which seems to exempt [itself]
from a rational internal explication.")

For more details, see F.B.J. Kuiper, and Viduu.saka,
On the origin of the Sanskrit Drama, Amsterdam, etc. 1979. Cf.,
-- p. 116: "An entirely different thesis has been defended by
Indu Shekar, who argued that the drama was a product of an
non-Aryan culture of India. The present study will show why I
think that the evidence available points to a different conclusion."
-- p. 116, n. 29: "It is true, influence of non-Aryan cultures has
too often been invoked, without the slightest proof , as a _deus
ex machina_ to explain difficult problems. If, however, there are
specific (mostly linguistic) indications pointing to that conclusion,
there is obviously no point in ignoring their existence, our task
then being to try to understand what the role of the influence can
have been in the whole context of Indian culture."

Roland Steiner

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