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Anukarana In Ancient Hindu Drama

Anukarana literally means imitation (also mimesis or representation), secondary being, a term used in Hindu aesthetics and dramaturgy. Anukarana in the sense of imitation is used to denote both the mimetic function of the actor in the theater and the imitation of ideas and expressions from a source-text by subsequent poets. Literary theoreticians like Shankuka and Mahimabhatta use the term in the former sense. According to Shankuka, the function of an actor is the imitation of action of the original character. The actor approximates himself to the mood and action of the original character through acting, and the spectator, for all practical purposes, identifies the actor with the character though being aware that they are not identical. This particular relationship between the actor and character is explained on the basis of chitraturaga nyaya, wherein we identify an image of the horse with the real horse itself even when we are aware of the difference existing between the image and the object. According to Shankuka, rasa is the inferred mental state of the actor which is an imitation of the original emotion of the character. There are some passages in Natyashastra, where natya is stated to be an imitation of reality which might have been the source of interpretation of Shankuka and Mahimabhatta who maintain that rasas are imitations of the basic mental states. This position of Shankuka is criticized by Bhatta Tauta, who argued, among other things, that an actor has no real-life model before him whom he is supposed to imitate.

Anukarana, in the sense of imitation of other people’s work, is debatable in Sanskrit poetics. Authors such as Vamana point out that the poetic meaning sometimes has some resemblance with concepts of other poets and distinguishes between ayoni (ideas which are original) and anyachayayoni (those which spring from resemblance). Anandavardhana, in his Dhvanyaloka, points out that there may be accidental resemblances between the work of one poet and another and as such it is not proper to condemn all such resemblances as imitation outright. Resemblance is objectionable when a subsequent work is a pratibimba (close copy) of the earlier works or when it stands in the relation of an alekhya (pictorial representation) of an object with regard to another work. It is acceptable if a work shows traces of resemblance to another work, provide it can claim a ‘soul’ of its own. This type of resemblance need not be shunned by a poet, because a work showing distinct individuality will be really charming if it possesses a distant echo of an old classic.

Rajashekhara (9th century CE), devotes three chapters of his Kavyamimamsa to examining how poiets can appropriate words and ideas from their predecessors. He declares that ‘there is no poet who does not take from others just as there is no merchant who does not take profit. He who knows how to conceal it succeeds without censure.’ According to him, “Some poets may newly produce some ideas, some may change them, some may conceal them and some may collect them.” A person who perceives something new in words and ideas and expresses novelty is a great poet.

Rajashekhara classifies appropriation of words in five categories – those words, quarter of a verse, half of a verse, of meter, and of composition.

According to some aestheticians, it is difficult to find out something new in the path of poetry trodden by great poets. All that can be done by a poet is to recast, with whatever modifications possible, the material before him. Vakpatiraja does not accept this view and argues that the range of ideas is unlimited.

Imitation of classics is an attested fact in Sanskrit and works of great poets like Kalidasa have often served as models for their less gifted successors. Literary critics do not object to imitation as a method of acquiring compositional skills, and also when the imitation has some individuality of its own. But slavish imitation is understandably condemned outright by critics such as Anandavardhana.