THEATRE ARCHITECTURE

IN ANCIENT INDIA1

By Dr. V. Raghavan

Professor of Sanskrit, Madras University


Books are not silent as to the nature of the theatre crafts in Ancient India. There is ample evidence to show that the names rangabhumi and natakasala connote not 'some sort of architectural structures,' but well-planned, well-built, decorated, beautiful theatres. The types and the details of construction of the Indian theatres in olden times may be known by a reference to the Sanskrit sources. This article proposes to examine the available Sanskrit texts on Theatre Architecture.


Dance and Music were highly-evolved Court arts in Ancient India. They were not the folk-art to be shown on the streets or near the village shrines. The palaces contained separate halls for Natya. The Malavika-Agnimitra of Kalidasa furnishes us the information that the palace of the King had a chitrasala (painting hall) and a prekshagara (a hall for witnessing Natya). It is in this prekshagara that Malavika's dance is presented. There can be no mistaking this place to be a mere a hall or 'some sort of architectural structure.' It is a perfect natyasala, there being mention of the green-room and the curtain.


In act V of the Shakuntala it is said that Hamsapadika, the King's quondam sweetheart is singing in the sangitasala. Saradatanaya in his work on Dramaturgy, Bhavaprakasa, describes three types of theatres in the palace of the king, each for the presenting of a different kind of dance. At the beginning of his work he says that he wrote the book on seeing thirty different kinds of dramas presented by one Divakara from whom he learnt the natyaveda. This Saradatanaya is assigned to A.D. 1175-1250. Narada's Sangita-makaranda, a work on Music, describes one type of theatre, giving its measurements etc. The Vishnudharmottara describes two types of theatres. Above all we have Bharata's Natyasastra, the earliest work on Drama, devoting one whole chapter to Theatre Architecture.

1 Written in 1931 and published in the Triveni, Madras, Vol. iv. No. 6. Nov.—Dec. 1931, pp. 69-77. Slightly revised here.

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