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Vishkambhaka In Hindu Drama

Vishkambhaka is a form of stylized interlude between two acts of a Hindu or Sanskrit drama. Manuals of Sanskrit drama describe in detail what consists of an anka (act) and how many types of intervals between acts and scenes can be introduced. The purpose of all drama was the realization of righteousness, economic well-being, aesthetic enjoyment, and spiritual salvation, the four basic purusharthas (value-orientations of life). Thus the tone of all interludes would have to nourish the basic sense of wellbeing and joy experienced at the expression of the sublime throughout the play.

The intervals between two acts of a play are supposed to signify a time interval of a year or less, and five types of scenes are prescribed to cover these intervals – vishkambhaka, praveshaka, culika, ankasya and ankavatara.

In Dasarupaka, a literary manual giving authentic details of all terminology for Sanskrit dramatic conventions, the vishkambhaka has been described as the interlude that reports briefly the happening in the plot, either past or future. Middle-level characters are employed to report these events, which are place at the beginning of an act.

There are two types of vishkambhakas – shuddha (pure) and sankirna (narrow). It is important that at least one of the characters is a middle-level character. If any of them is a low-level character (high, middle, and low being divisions of the characters in the order of social and economic status), it ceases to be vishkambhaka and becomes another kind of introductory interlude.