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Nepathya – Greenroom in Ancient India

Nepathya is a term used for indicating the dressing space of actors. It is also used for actors’ stage decor. The nepathyagriha, or green room, was located at the farthest end of the ancient theater house and had two doors opening at the back stage. It was almost the same floor size as the stage of the ranga. As there is hardly any description of the inside of this room, it can be presumed it was just an empty space. The nepathya, as the clothing of the acting persons, was prescribed in the finest detail.

The general principle was that characters on stage should reflect the kind of clothing they wear in loka (life), according to status, age, region and race; but it should present an embellished and somewhat exaggerated version of the real.

The stage décor, again, followed the same principle, and used materials of all kinds to make stage props and models.

Bharata Muni in his Natyashastra defines aharya as of four kinds – pusta (stage props), alankara (ornaments of flowers and metals), angaracana (face make-up and costume) and sajiva (moving objects).

Decorative models of mountains, chariots, air-vehicles, elephants, etc, were made out of cloth, skin, leaves or bamboo, out of woven threads or wax and straw and this was called pusta.

Another term used synonymously with nepathya as costume is aharya and is used at the time of describing abhinaya or actor’s expression. In the context of analyzing the process of rasa, the term used for all the action, costume and decor of an actor is vibhava.