Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Eastern Regional Centre, Varanasi has organized the International Conference on Nātyaśāstra in collaboration with Lincoln University, U.K. and Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi as a humble initiative to rejuvenate Natyasastric studies in order to explore this fundamental text from the point of view of the “context, vision, structure and process” and reinvestigate the “methodological tools” adopted by the scholars so far. We have to review the Nātyaśāstra in the context of perennial flow of the tradition with the twin process of continuity and change, as also, the interplay of the Sastra (theory) and Prayoga (practice). We have to examine the text from the point of view of its integral vision which provides the unity of purpose and rigorousness of the structure to the text.

The Nātyaśāstra in its very nature is a residual record (Shastra) of a deeper richer experience and wider oral discourse (Natya Veda) which has an inbuilt fluidity that gives scope for multiple interpretations. The Nātyaśāstra, like other classical textual compositions in several other disciplines in India, has implicit and explicit layers. Some insight can be gained by penetrating through the language of ‘myth’ and ‘legend’ in which it is couched. The text insists a ‘code’ of discourse which is expected to be evident and illuminating to the initiated and conversant. On the surface, it is engaging to the general reader but always the text is not fully comprehensible on this level. The explicit level of the text includes all branches of knowledge, the science and arts, all dimensions and orders of ‘space’, ‘time’ and the performer’s body. This explicit level of the Nātyaśāstra deals with the theatrical discourse of meaning. There are unsaid, unspoken implicit layers in the text. It suggests a non-ordinary or transmundane level of experience. It is rasa. It remains one of the world’s most influential aesthetic concepts in art, literature and theatre practice, proposing a synthesis of the visible and audible; the speech and gestures; the meaning and emotive state; and the perception and praxis. A very careful sifting of the implicit and explicit layers of the text is thus necessary. The relationship between Practice (prayoga) and theory (sastra) should also be given due consideration.

Keynote Speakers:
  • Prof. Richard Schechner, New York University
  • K.N. Panikkar, Director, Sopanam Institute of Theatre Research, Kerala
  • Prof. Kamalesh Datta Tripathi, Banaras Hindu University, India
  • Prof. Navjivan Rastogi, Abhinavagupta Institute of Aesthetics, India
  • Prof. Lyne Bansat-Boudon, University of Paris
  • Dr. Sreenath Nair, University of Lincoln, UK
  • Dr. David Mason, Rhodes College, USA