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Nata In Hindu Religion – An Actor In A Stage Play

Nata in Hindu religion is an actor in a nataka or stage play. The movements of an actor in classical Sanskrit theater are highly stylized and, in present-day parlance, may be said to be dance. Every aspect of the body movements of the actor is described in the Natyashastra of Bharata and later works on the theater.

The characteristic of a nata, the various types of heroes whom he portrays, the rasas (sentiments) and bhavas (moods) which he embodies through his characterization, his costuming, ornamentation – all these are discussed in great detail in Natyashastra.

Such a detailed analysis of the art of performance of a nata (actor) may not be seen in any other ancient text on the subject matter of theater. The concept of a nata in the ancient past must have had great significance, because in both the great traditions of the Hindu religion, Shiva and Vishnu are given the prefix of ‘nata’ and are known as Nataraja and Natavara.

A Nata should have many characteristics (lakshanas) as mentioned by Nandikeshwara in Abhinayadarpana – handsome, of sweet speech, learned, capable, eloquent, of good birth, learned in Shastras (scriptures) of art and science, of good voice, verse in song, an instrumentalist and dance, self confident and ready of wit.