|The birth of theatre|
A long time ago, the wise sages approached Bharata, the master of dramatic art, during an intermission in their studies. "O, Brahmin," they asked, "how did originate the Natya Veda, similar to the Vedas, which you have properly composed?" Bharata then went on to narrate the origin of the Natya Veda, devised by Lord Brahma.
In a time of desire and greed, anger and jealousy -- when people were addicted to sensual pleasures -- the Gods, led by the Great Lord Indra, approached Brahma. "We want an object of diversion," they requested, "which must be audible as well as visible. As the (exsisting) Vedas are not to be listened in to by the those born as Sudras (untouchables), be pleased to create another Veda which will belong (equally) to all varnas (colours)."
Brahma then vowed to make a fifth Veda on the Natya, compiling elements of the earlier four.
From the Rig Veda, he took recitation or path, from the Sama Veda, he took song, from the Yajur Veda, he took histrionic representation or abhinaya, and from the Atharva Veda, he took acting sentiments - aesthetics or rasa.
Brahma then approached Indra, and asked the Gods to enact the semi-historical tales. Indra modestly refused, saying, "Gods are unable to receive or maintain knowledge of the vedas... (and so) unfit to do anything with the drama." The sages who know the mystery of the Vedas and have fulfilled their vows are alone capable of maintaining the Natya Veda.
Brahma then summoned Bharata and his 100 sons and asked them to study it and put it to use.
The sons were assigned different roles, and feeling "this style cannot be practised properly by men without the help of women," they were granted nymphs by Brahma to enhance their performance, along with musical instruments and celestial musicians (gandharva's).
The Natya Veda was first performed at the festival of the banner, in celebration of Indra's victory over the Asuras (demons). The performance, which enacted a similar tussle between good and evil, pleased the Gods who showered them with gifts.
Unfortunately, the enacted killing of the demons offended the evil spirits, who avenged themselves by paralysing the speech, movements as well as the memory of the actors. Outraged at their audacity, an angry Indra smashed his banner and destroyed the evil spirits surrounding the stage. The Gods rejoiced, and declared that the banner pole would henceforth be used as a symbol of the divine protection afforded to actors.
To prevent further mischief, Brahma requested the heavenly architect Visvakarma to construct a "playhouse" to ward off evil spirits. He then assigned various Gods to the task of protecting different parts of the structure, himself occupying the middle of the stage.
Meanwhile, talks between Brahma and the evil spirits ensued. "The knowledge of the dramatic arts has put us in an unfavourable light," claimed the Asuras. Said Brahma, "I have prepared this Natya Veda which will determine the good as well as ill luck of you and the Gods, and which will take into account acts and ideas of you as well as the Gods."
Brahma then asked the gods to perform a yagna in the playhouse, and asked the actors to perform a puja to the presiding deity of the stage. "He who will offer this puja will attain wealth and, in the end, go to heaven," he proclaimed. And he who doesn't "will be reborn as an animal of the lowest order."
"The drama I have devised is a mimicry of actions and conducts of people, which is rich in various emotions and which will relate to actions of men good, bad and indifferent, and will give courage, amusement and happiness as well as counsel to them all."
"And so," said the wise sage Bharata, "the theatre was born."