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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dance has a purpose, just like mantras


A friend sent me a passage of Abhinavagupta's commentary (Abhinavabhāratī) on Bharata's Nāṭyaśāstra. It is a further instance of the theory of bhāvanā being used as a commonly agreed upon example.
An objector maintains that dance has no meaning. It is replied that, just like mantras are not used because of their meaning, but are nevertheless not to be dispensed with, so also song (and dance is connected to song):

athocyate recakāṅgahāranibandhātmakaṃ yan nṛttaṃ na tena kaścid artho ’bhinīyate | api tu yathā viśiṣṭair mantraiḥ bhāvanāviśeṣaiś cābhyudayasiddhiḥ tathā viśiṣṭadevatāsūcakair mantrais tathā tad gīte cābhyadhāyi

But, like through various mantras and specifications of the bhāvanā (ritual action), good fortune is realised, and so [also] through mantras which suggest various deities, in the same way this has been explained [to occur] in the case of song.


Bhāvanāviśeṣais could hint at commendatory statements (arthavāda), which, like mantras, are also subsidiary to the main ritual action. Dance, hence, does not convey a meaning, but still has a purpose (artha).
If tathā devatāsūcakair mantraiḥ is not just a gloss, two different classes of mantras are pointed out since according to Mīmāṃsakas most mantras are meant to make one recollect the various ritual items, such as the Deities (viśiṣṭadevatāsucaka), whereas there is a minority of them which serves an invisible purpose (and, hence, directly contribute to the bhāvanā).
The text goes on and this is probably just a prima facie view.

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