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In the 20th chapter of the Natyasastra, Bharata describes the 10 types of plays under the heading ‘Dasharupavikalpan’. Here, the term ‘Rupaka’ is used in the context of visual representation. Hence, in Bharatha’s theory, the term Rupaka is equivalent to drama and not to the current popular term ‘naatak’ which according to him is one of the 10 types of plays which come under drama.

The 10 types of plays according to Bharata are as follows:

  1. NATAKA: It consists of a pre-existing story which is not a creation of the writer or poet. It has a celebrated theme, or a well-known story drawn from epics. For example, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata. It is considered as a drama par excellence, due to the employment of all the sentiments, depicting pains and pleasures of human beings and several situations. Shringara, Karuna or Veer sentiments being the principal sentiments also known as Agni Rasas. The other sentiments are subordinate in the drama. The plot is developed appropriately through five stages like Prarambha(beginning), Prayatna(efforts), Praaptyasha(hope of gaining the aim), Niyatapti(certainty) and Phalatrama(securing the aim). These are known as the 5 Sandhis of the plot. The Nataka is written in an elaborate style.

Here, the hero is usually the king or a God-like character. The hero is endowed with attractive qualities. He should be self-controlled, glorious, eager to earn fame, energetic, a preserver of the three Vedas, and a ruler of the world. He should hail from a renowned lineage, a royal seer or a God. The incident for which he is renowned becomes the principal subject.

A Nataka should have 5 to 10 acts. The act should not be too long, and at the end of it, all characters leave the stage. The act should cover the incidents of a single day. If these cannot be finished in one single day they can be presented in an interlude or Praveshaka after closing that act. In Praveshaka, the conversation of the attendants should be in Prakrit. The battle, loss of kingdom, death, seizure of a city should be presented through interlude and not by direct representation. Shakuntalam (Shringara), Uttaramacharita     (Karuna), Venisamhara (Heroism) etc are some of the  best examples of Nataka.

  1. PRAKARANA: It is a play in which the plot and the hero should be the original creation of the poet. Hence the story should be original. The king or God is not the hero. He should not be divine or superhuman. The various deeds of a brahmin, a trader, a purohit, a minister or a merchant should be taken as the subject matter. It contains no love story and no action. The courtesans being the main characters should be ordinary and described through their common life. Except for the insistence on the plot being original, all other details regarding Rasa and development of the plot will be the same as the Nataka. If the play requires, there should be Vishkambhaka, in brief, in Sanskrit, with middle characters similar to Praveshaka. In between two acts, Praveshaka should also be used. Prakarana may have 5 to 10 acts. Shringara is the main rasa. Mrichhakatikam, Malati Madhavam, Meghdootam, Kumarsambhavam and Romeo Juliet of Shakespeare are examples of Prakarana.
  2. SAMAVAKARA: It deals with well-known Gods and demons as its heroes, with a popular story. It has 3 to 4 acts, 3 kapatas or three kinds of deceits, 3 Vidravas or three kinds of calamities and three types of love. Typically, it deals with traditional themes describing battles. It has the duration of 18 nadikas- one nadika comprising of 24 minutes. It should have 12 magnanimous heroes. But there are two views regarding the number of heroes. According to the first one, the number of heroes in each act should be 12, while the other one states that the hero his rival and there two associates four in each act make a total 12 in three acts.

Each act contains one deceit, one calamity, and one aspect of love. The first act should be of 12 nadikas duration, containing laughter, calamity, deceit and Vithi. The second act is similar in nature but has four nadikas only. The third act should have two nadikas bringing the play to an end. Each act should have different incidents having a very loose connection.

The three deceits which lead to joy or sorrow are:

  1. course of planning
  2. luck fate or accident
  3. strategy of an enemy

The three kinds of calamities are:

  1. battle and flood
  2. storm, fire and fight with a big elephant
  3. capture of a city

The three kinds of love are:

  1. for duty or Dharma
  2. for material gain or Artha
  3. for passion or Kama.

When one gets one’s desired object while carrying out one’s duty, it is love together with duty. Thus, Samavakar is based on joy and sorrow. Veer Rasa supported by Shringara is the main sentiment of the drama. Samudramanthanam, Pancharatram of Bhasa, the movie Border or Troy are all examples of Samavakara.

  1. IHAMRIGA: It consists of a plot which is partly popular and partly invented. The characters are divine, and the God is the hero. It consists of 4 acts set to a well knitted plot. The Divine Hero wages war on account of a divine woman. The story is developed on her anger. The theme is based on fights for women, their addiction, and dissuading them with painful experiences. Forcible abduction is to be described by avoiding actual fighting. The male characters are bold. There is commotion, excitement, and violent conflict. The main Rasa is Shringara.

According to some people it should have six heroes. It derives its name from ‘Ihate’ or the hero who seeks, and ‘Mrig’ or a deer, describing a divine female who is unattainable.

Rukminiharana of Vatsaraja is an example of this type of drama.

  1. DIMA: It has a popular story with dignified and magnanimous heroes. It is a play dealing with the supernatural and celestial beings. It describes the magical feats of these supernatural beings and is founded on a celebrated story or a well-known plot. It consists of 4 acts and 6 sentiments, except Shringara and Hasya. It has 16 heroes like Gods, Demons, Nagas or serpents, Yakshas etc. The plot consists of earthquake, eclipses, battles, angry conflicts, plenty of deceit and jugglery, and the usage of dreadful weapons. The story is grand and incorporates various emotions. The Raudra Rasa is dominant. Tripuravijaya of Vatsaraja serves as an example of this kind of play. Other examples can be Putna vaddh, Lord of the Rings etc.
  2. VYAYOGA: It is a play which contains only 1 act, and its duration is of one day. The dominant rasa is the Veer Rasa. It has very few female characters and a well-known hero with an exalted genealogy but who is not celestial. He may be a King or a royal sage. It should contain battles, fights, personal combats, and conflict. These conflicts should not arise on the account of a woman. It contains no Shringara or Hasya rasa. It has a traditional plot with a well-known story. It has a very haughty hero known as Veerodhatta. Madhyama Vyayoga of Bhasa and Sougandhika Harana of Viswanatha are very good examples of this kind of drama.
  3. ANKA: Also known as Utsrishtanka, it consists of a well-known story with a male character other than celestial heroes. Karuna Rasa is the main rasa in this play. It is a 1- act play. It describes the lamentations with pathos and is Karuna Rasa Pradhan. It contains no battles or fights, but all the characters are vanquished and injured in war, so the lamentation of women after the fight is described. Unmatta Raghava of Bhaskara is an example of this type of drama.
  4. PRAHASANA: It is a 1-act play mainly divided into two kinds- Shuddha- meaning pure and Samkirna- meaning mixed. Humour is the main sentiment. It is a farce, filled with comic scenes. The story is invented by the poet or writer. The Shuddha variety is a satire on Gurus, Bhagawats, ascetics and monks, Brahmins etc by ridiculing them. The language, dress, and everything else is very natural giving consistency to the plot. The Samkirna variety has courtesans, menial servants, eunuchs, rogues and vitas as their main characters. They appear in crude way of dressing and offensive in their movements and behaviour. Scandal, deceit vanity or hypocrisy is the subject matter of this kind of play. Mattavilasa Prahasana of Mahendravarma, Mahendravikraman and Bhagavadajjukiya of Bodhayana are examples of this type of drama. It could also be a short film of only 1 scene like a court scene.
  5. BHANA: It is a single character play in which the hero narrates his own or someone else’s experiences. The plot is invented by the author. The other characters are made to speak through him only after conveyed by Akashabhasita. This play consists of the life of a rogue as its theme. The character himself repeats the other’s part of the dialogue with suitable gestures called angavikaar. It includes many movements expressive of various episodes of rogue or vita. Shringara rasa supported by the sthayi bhava or permanent emotion. Heroism or Veer rasa and surprise is the main sentiment of this 1-act play. Music, dance and other features of this type of drama are purely in the form of a monologue. This play should contain only opening and Sansdhis known as junctures. It must have a variety of incidents in it, like a short movie. The Sringarabhushana Bhana of Vamanabhatta is an example of this type of drama.
  6. VITHI: It is a one act play with two or three characters and it contains all the sentiments. ‘Vithi’ means garland. Hence, this play forms a garland of various sentiments with love as the main sentiment the characters are primarily the Nayak, Nayika, and Sakhi. The Nayika may ask her sakhi to call the Nayak or to give him a message. The characters are of three types – superior, middle, or inferior status. All the sentiments may be incorporated in this play. It has 13 distinguishing features (angas). They are:


  • Udgatyaka- accidental interpretation
  • Avagalita- transference
  • Avaspandita-ominous significance
  • Nalika-enigma
  • Asatpralapa-incoherent chatter
  • Vakkeli- repartee
  • Prapanca-compliment
  • Mrudava-crushing
  • Adhibala-out-vying
  • Chhal- deception
  • Trigata-Three men’s talk
  • Vyahara-declaration
  • Ganda-undue combination of words

Premabhirama of Ravipati is an example of this type of drama.

Out of the 10 main Rupakas described by Bharata in his Natyasastra, Dima, Samavakara, Vyayoga and Ihamriga are the plays where the characters of Gods, royal sages, demons etc., larger number of men and fewer women participate. The remaining Nataka, Prakarana, Bhana, Vithi, Anka, Prahasa are the delicate type. Their characters are human beings and there is no restriction on the number of female characters.

Among the Dasarupakas, the Nataka and Prakarana are considered as superior and elaborate.

There are minor types of Sanskrit dramas comprising music dance drama and bodily gesticulation these are known as the Uparupakas. They are of 18 types. Out of these, Nayika, Sattaka, Trotaka, Prekshanaka, and Prakaranika are well known.

The Natika having the features of both Nataka and Prakarana needs a special mention here. Natika has the king as its hero, but the plot is in the poet’s imagination. The heroine is either belonging to the Royal Palace or a courtesan. It has mostly female characters and graceful gestures. It consists only of four acts. Kings, hypocrisy and royal etiquette should be presented in the Natika. Love is the dominant sentiment.  Ratnaawali of Shri Harsha is the best example of Natika.

Sattaka is written in Prakrit and is very much like the Natika. Karpuramanjari of Rajeshakara is a Sattaka.

Trotaka comprises of 5,7,8 or 9 acts. The plot is founded on the story of a demi-God. The jester or Vidushak introduces every act. Vikramorvasiyam of Kalidasa is an example of a Trotaka.

The major and minor forms of drama (Rupakas and Uparupakas) evolved from the popular dramatic compositions available at that time. The chief aim of any of these forms of play is to arouse a particular sentiment in the minds of the audience. Drishya Kavya, which is enacted on the stage and seen by audiences is more effective to give the desired aesthetic pleasure. The plot, the characterization and everything else is subordinate in promoting Rasa.

The following chart shows the details of the 10 types of drama:

Type of play Theme Uparupaka Hero Acts Sandhis Vritti Rasa Specialities
1.Nataka Well-known/ Puranic Natika Heroic and noble 5-10 5 unities

of 64 angas

4 All rasas, Shringara

and Veer


High and noble type
2.Prakarana Created by the poet Prakaranika Excluding divine beings.




5-10 5 unities of 64


4 All, Shringara

and Veer


Civilised and wordly
3.Samavakara Known Chitra Devas

and Rakshasas




3 in 3 nights,

Total 13.5


All 4 except


All except


Veer and



Fight, deceit, invasions.

Vithyangas may be used.

4.Ihamriga Known Chitrataalaa Divine being

for a

noble heroine.

4 3 unities Arabhati Light


Forcible abductions, fights etc.
5.Dima Known Dimikaa Well-



(16 heroes)

4 4 except Vimarsh Satvati,



Shringara not allowed

Maya, Indrajala, Devas,

Pishachas etc.

Excitement and fear.

6.Vyayoga Known Jugupsita Known.


Very few

Female heroines.

1 3 unities.

No garbh or


Arabhati Veer and


Fight, beating, bullying etc.
7.Anka Well-known/

created by poet

Viyogini No



1 1st and last unities Bharati Karuna Grief of women, cries, dejection etc.
8.Prahasana Created Haasikaa Sannyasin,


Sage, Vita,

Vaisika etc.




1st and last unities Bharati Hasya Worldly life, not very vulgar.
9.Bhana Created Bhaanika Single

Character, Vita,


1 1st and last unities Bharati Shringara and Veer

(only to be suggested)

Laasyaangas allowed. Conversation by question and repetition.
10.Vithi Created Kalossahavati 1 or 2




1 1st and last unities Kaisiki Touch of Shringara Use of many angas.


In conclusion, the Dasarupakas as outlined by Bharata in the Natyasastra encompass a rich spectrum of theatrical forms, each distinct in its narrative style and emotive intent. From the grandeur of Nataka and Prakarana to the celestial realms of Samavakara and Dima, these plays evoke a gamut of emotions and themes, attracting audiences with their elaborate plots and characterizations. While some emphasize heroic exploits and divine conflicts, others reach into human imperfections and comedic interludes. Together, they exemplify the artistry and versatility of classical Sanskrit drama, crafted not just for entertainment but to deeply evoke the essence of Rasa in the hearts of spectators.

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