Mahfil. v 7, V. 7 ( 1971) p. 223.


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Ernest Bender

AN OLD GUJARATI DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

For over half a milennium the tradition of the gagaria bhat, or man bhat,^- flourished in Gujarat, yielding in recent years to the stronger attraction of the product of the printing press, the movies, the radio and the theater. A counterpart to the pauraniky who narrated akhyans (or tales from the Purarias) in the original Sanskrit in his home or in the home of a patron, the gagar^ya bhat was the answer, in the early part of_the fifteenth century, to the desire to hear the classics in Gujarati verse on the part of an affluent class, ill-tutored in or ignorant of Sanskrit. These bhats would wander about the villages and towns reciting the tales, altered in language, structure and content in their transmission from teacher to apprentice, as each tailored them to suit his talent or the taste of his varying audiences and the occasion.

Accompanied by his several assistants, the bhat would station himself at sundown in a public square before the door of a temple or some verandah and, after assembling his audience by drumming on his gagar or mdn^ would begin an akhydn.

The traditional akhyan is in the form of a vas or vaso, a versed narrative broken into kadvus L each of which ends in a vatan^ or choral stanza, indicating a change in the dhat or mode of singing of the kadvu following. The meters employed in versification in the vernaculars were de^l, as contrasted with the classical meters of Sanskrit; the term deSi being applied both to the meters as well as the rags, the melodies to which the meters were sung.-^

We turn, now, to an Old Gujarati work which was composed in the early part of the seventeenth century by a Jain monk, Matisara (or Matisagara), the theme of whose tale is directed to the virtues and rewards of almsgiving. The manuscripts examined bear varying titles, viz., Satibhadrarasa^ Dhanna^dlibhadrarasa^ Satibhadracaritra^ Satibhadracaritrarasa. Composed of roughly two-hundred two-lined stanzas, the work falls into twenty-nine dhdts (or kadvus; see above and footnote 2), each dhat in copal meter, the last four to eight stanzas of each dhat being in duhd (or doha) meter. Excepting seven, each 6%5Z--heading is accompanied by a pag-ca.pti.on. In all, fourteen different rags are used. The edited text, resulting from the collating of thirteen manuscripts, along with the examination of seven others, demonstrates that, rather than a straightforward verse-narrative, it is to be viewed as cast in the form of a theatrical presentation. The differing moods and emotions to be elicited from the audience are indicated in the text by ray-captions, and the melodies to which specific segments are to be recited or sung are illustrated with the beginnings of stanzas excerpted from other poetical works not related to the story, ' but which are known to the audience. The stanzas, indicated to be repeated by the narrators assistants or the audience, serve to sustain the mood of that specific segment.



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