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Prahasana In Ancient Hindu Drama

Prahasana in Hindu natya shastra is a kind of short comedy provoking laughter. Prahasana is mentioned as a comical, one-act play in Natya Shastra of Bharata (5th century BCE). Bharata discusses this as well as other types from the production point of view.

Subsequent to Bharata’s description of prahasana, commentators like Dhananjaya, Saradatanaya and Gulab Raya further elaborated the themes, characters and the movement of a plot suitable for a short comedy. Though kings and servants could be characters in a comedy, as a rule, the characters in prahasana belong to the lower classes. In the first type, often the pseudo-hermit or fake spirituality is the butt of jokes. The second category has rakes and hermaphrodites, and the humor is usually crude. The third category has tricksters and rogues acting in a funny manner, as dandies or indulging in satire.

Prahasana has laughter or hasya as its main sentiment. This type of play is developed on the themes of ugly or uncouth behavior of the world by one set of people towards another or ludicrous situations. Prahasana helps people to look inward, totally detached and to have fun at their own follies and foibles. Even kings can laugh at themselves or at the behavior of their subjects (eg Mattavilasa Prahasana).

The laughter in prahasana is not evoked merely on the dress, the behavior or the uncouth manners of the vidushaka (court jester) as in classical Sanskrit drama.