200 BC – 300 AD

Harivamsha is a volume of 16,374 shlokas appended to the great epic Mahabharata between 200 BC and 500 AD to complete the epic. Harivamsha is important because it describes two forms that may have inspired many composite genres in Indian cultural expression – the Chhalikya, a genre of songs in the ancient Gandharva mode of music making, and the Hallisaka dance..

Music and Natyashastra

With its historical and deep-rooted religious tradition, Indian mythology holds music to be of Divine Origin. Narada was the first sage to whom the laws of music were revealed; Tumburu was the first singer; Saraswati was the goddess of music and learning; and Bharata was the first to draw up rules for theatre, of which music was a major and integral part. Natyashastra, or the Science of Theatre, a treatise on dramaturgy, is said to have been authored by Bharata sometime between 200 BC and 200 AD.

Natyashastra devotes itself mainly to theatre, dance and music. It also touches on the related areas of cultural life of India. It is the foundation on which Indian philosophical thinking squarely rests. It is composed in prose and verse, though verse predominates. The chapters on music contain descriptions of various classes of instruments. Gandharva music, the techniques of playing musical instruments and the rules for talas are explained.

Natyashastra also defines the Rasa theory. The theory states that “Rasa arises from a (proper) combination of the vibhavas (the Stimulants), the anubhavas (the physical Consequents) and the vyabhicharibhavas (the Transient Emotional States)”. Natyarasa is the primary emotion generated by the interaction of the various bhavas. It is presented by the appropriate modulation of the voice, the movements of the body and the involuntary reactions that favourably impact the aesthetic sensibility of the spectator.

This theory of Rasa enunciated by Bharata and interpreted by his major commentator Abhinavagupta(10th century), has interested the followers of both the scholastic and the performing traditions in India for the last 2000 years. It has provided an invaluable aesthetic framework for the literary arts (chiefly poetry, fiction and drama), the performing arts (mainly dance, theatre and music), the fine arts (basically painting and sculpture), and the combined arts (like architecture).