A COMFORT TO THE GRIEVED
( A Study In Medieval Stage and Drama )
Drama, according to Bharata, shall be a comfort, an amusement, and a refreshment to all those that are grieved. According to Kalidasa, drama is an entertainment common to people of different tastes. Bhavabhuti stands for sense and dignity in the drama. Dhananjaya calls dramatic representation as pure expression of joy. Bharata is of opinion that all activities are to be represented in a drama and he sponsored the idea that in a play staged, composition should be based on local dialects. Since drama was a representation of human life in all its aspects, Dhananjaya suggested that in all the production, dress, action and speech should be taken directly from the society and should be properly observed. It was through drama that literature was democratised to a great extent. Drama is the natural exponent of the higher form of fine art.
Nanyadeva of Mithila was one of the greatest writers of dramaturgy and he wrote an exhaustive commentary on Bharata’s Natyaehastra. He emphasised that spectators’ state of mind must be considered. He holds that a dominant feeling or emotion becomes a sentiment when it is transformed into an object of enjoyment. His Abhinavabharati is an epoch-making contribution as it covers the whole ground connected with the drama. He exercised a considerable influence over the writers and stage directors of Mithila. Even after Nanyadeva, the rulers of Mithila continued to take interest in these activities and we know that Maharaja Subhankara Thakur (1583-1620) was the author of several works on acting and dancing. He was the author of the famous work ‘Shrihastamuktavali’. Upto the 18th century, Maithili literature had a special preference for the drama and its musical qualities. The theme in most cases was the love story of Radha-Krishna and the marriage of Shiva and Gauri. This type of literature was carried to Nepal.
The tradition of dramatic art in Mithila is as old as the age of Jyotirishwara, who, in his VR, has given a succinct account of the prevalent form of dance and drama. Of late there has been a discussion about the nature and form of the dramas in Mithila and the two schools of thought are prominent—the one school (headed by J. K. Mishra) holds that the Kirtaniya drama held the field while the other school (sponsored by Ramanath Jha) opposes the above view and holds the view that there is no such thing as the Kirtaniya drama in Mithila. He believed that the first Maithill drama is by Jivana Jha to which we shall revert later. The second part of his argument does not stand as the first drama in Maithili language was written by Jyotirishwara. The Maithili drama has been designed as Kirtaniya by J. K. Mishra since its aim is to present dramatic performance in praise of the Lord. The dramas, discovered so far, deal either with the episodes connected with the life of Krishna or Shiva. These dramas have Sanskrit, Maithili and Prakrit forms and they were written with devotional fervour. Special class of actors was trained for the purpose. These dramas served a great purpose for the common mass. Through these dramas, all ideas were brought to the level of the masses. The drama represented the peoples culture. The introduction of Maithili marked the victgry of the peoples, language in the medieval period. In Mithila the dramatic activity reached its height in the medieval period. There were centres of dramatic activities at different places. The influence of Yatra-Kirtana of Bengal and Assam over the Kirtaniya drama of Mithila cannot be denied. The Kirtaniya drama was based on the Puranic sources and represented the prevalent customs of Maithila life and culture. It was highly poetical and musical at the same time.
Jyotirishwara Thakur was the first writer of a vernacular drama entitled the Dhurtasamagamanataka. The mastery of the language, the chaste diction and the elegant handling of metre are evidences of the gifted talents of the author. Like the V.R, this is the oldest vernacular drama of northern India. This is farce. The play opens with one Sanyasin called Vishwanagara who is fraudulent knave. He has a disciple called Snataka. The two first approach a wealthy miser called Mritangara Thakur who refuses to give them any food on some false pretext. They rebuke him but he refers them to the house of a pious lady. Now the preceptor Vishwanagara had seen this lady and had fallen in love with her. So he is happy to go to her place. She is also a great fraud. , She desires to have this good looking Sanyasin as her lover. So she is willing to do everything to please him. He asks her to cook a number of things for mid-day meals. While the food is being cooked, the disciple Snataka expresses his desire to findout a courtesan of the town called Anangasena to with whom he has fallen in love.Vishwanagara also goes with him and having found her both of them fall out. The courtesan is much perturbed and commends one Assajati Mishra as the arbitrator. Here ends the first act.
Assajati Mishra is the hero in the second act. He is a great fraud and he has a Vidushaka friend called Bandhuvanchaka. While pretending to decide as to who should possess Anangasena, he himself falls in love with the lady and takes her away for both. The two go disappointed. The lady says : “Verily here is a meeting of knaves”. The third act begins here though no indication as such is given there. Courtesan’s neighbour, a barber, appears on the scene and wants payment for shaving her private part. The lady says that he will have.the money from Assajati Mishra. Assajati. gives him a little bit of Ganja in lieu of payment, which he himself had received from Snataka for arbitrating. The barber ties the hands and feet of Assajati and leaving him unconscious goes away. Then comes his friend Vidushaka to release him.
This is briefly the story of the play. It is a typical Prahasana or farce fulfilling all the conditions; Among the characters are a knave Sanyasim and a Srotriya Brahnana and the lower class is represented by the barber and the prostitute. The very names of the character arouse laughter. The songs are interesting in the total development of the play. The mastery over the language is remarkable. The rhythm and the chaste Maithili diction remind us of the influence of Jayadeva’s. Gitagovinda The ragas and talas of the songs are also mentioned; Besides being important as a work of literary merit, the drama throws a flood of light on the social history of Mithila and also gives us an idea of the culinary taste of the people.
Umapati was a successful dramatist. He is considered to be the founder of the Kirtaniya drama in Mithila. He used to sing and dance before the image of Krishna. His drama, Parijataharana, is an example of the interest evinced by the people of Mithila in the growth of dramatic literature. Here we have Sanskrit, Prakrit and Maithili forms. All the songs are in Maithili. The chief merit of the play lies in the easy flow of the Maithili language in the songs, their sincerity of feelings and their capacity to touch the human heart. In the following song, the distress of the soul imaginating itself to be deserted by God is allegorically depicted :
“O friend, be not unhappy. I shall but enjoy the fruit of my own fate. Where from dost thy give up the life. Hopefully did I bring my love to Hari, and there I obtained but disappointment. I slept beneath the shade of a cloud....
Never again will I reveal my love......If thou moisten a stone ten thousand times with ambrosia, never could thou soften it......”
X X X
His lyrics are the worthy specimen of the dainty poetic style and one of his lyrics gives forth an echo of a verse of Jayadeva. He says:
“Thy face is a fair lotus, and thine eyes twin lilies be,
Thy lips are made of roses, and thy nose of sesame,
While thus thy form is compact of tender flowers alone
O, tell me why thy heart is yet a heart of cruel stone.”
Umapati wrote the drama in which songs are in Maithili. These songs teem with allusions, each of which suggests a definite picture. The story of the drama is as follows—
Narada presents a parijata flower to Krishna which he gave to Rukmini. Satyabhama was enraged and Krishna sent to Indra for some more flowers, which he refused to give. Thereupon there was a war wherein Indra was defeated and Satyabhama was propitiated.
Narada, then, appeared and told Satyabhama if one’s dearest thing was given away under its (Parijata’s) shadow, one got undying fruits. Satyabhama, therefore, gave him Krishna as her dearest possession and Subhadra gave him her husband, Arjuna. Krishna and Arjuna then became Narada’s slaves and he put them up for sale. Satyabhama and Subhadra purchased back their husbands for a cow each and the play ended with generous hilarity. The plot is finished and characters are well developed. Arjuna has a distinct role to play. The story of this drama can be traced to the Harivamsa; the Vishnu-purana and the Bhagavatapurana. Umapati follows the Harivamsa with only one difference that Krishna’s assistant, in the fight with Indra, was according to him not his son, Pradyumna, but his friend Arjuna Dhananjaya. The present Nataka is only in one act, a speciality with all the natakas of Mithila.
Various dramatists of this name have flourished and hence there has been a lot of discussion about his date and authenticity. Aufrecht mentions fourteen Umapatis. Grierson has rightly placed him in the first quarter of the fourteenth century A. D. Mm. Umesh Mishra has found linguistic and literary arguments to place Umapati before Vidyapati. The similarities of ideas and expression in Vidyapati are clearly marked. The archaic features of Umapati’s language have influenced Vidyapati’s poems. Both from the point of view of entertainment and literary merit, Umapati’s drama is successful. The plot is well constructed and the events follow one another in a logical sequence. The characterisation is linked with the plot of the play. He has succeeded in producing a finished piece of art. There is more sustained interest and compactness. Humour is the predominating feature of this work. The predominant sentiment of the play is heroic. His influence on the later dramatists of Mithila is immense. The songs are in extraordinarily polished and mellifluous style and similes are successfully used.
Though known all over the world as one of the greatest poets of India, Vidyapati was a great dramatist as well. He seems to have maintained the decorum of the origina’ standard in his dramas.
His Gorakshavijaya is a successful drama. The speeches are in Sanskrit and songs in Maithili. It represents the earliest known story of’ Goraksha-Mina legend in a musical play. Another drama entitled Manimanjari is attributed to Vidyapati. He laid the foundation of a a perfect Maithili style. A.B. Keith ascribes the initroduction of vernacular songs to Vidyapati. This ascription is erroneous in view of the fact that both Jyotirishwara and Umapati did it prior to Vidyapati. Vidyapati added grace to the already existing practice. He does not seem to have been so well known in the field of drama as in poetry.
Govinda wrote the famous Nalacharitanataka, based on the story of Nala’s exile. Sanskrit and Prakrit forms are used in this drama. Damayanti’s distress and Nala’s repentence are nicely depicted. The Maithili songs represent some of the poignant feelings of the play. The success of the dramatisties in the fact that even without any reference to the text of the dialogue, one may get at the plot throught the songs which so nicely depict the feelings. and are thoroughly suggestive.
Ramadasa Jha is the author of Anandahijayanataka. In act one, the hero Madava is eager.for his beloved when he learns of Radha’s beauty through his friend ‘Anandakara’. In act II he with his friend, sees Radha. Here the plot has been made a bit interesting. Anandakara, in the guise of an astrologer, Gunanidhana, asks Radha and her friends Vichakshana and Vachala to collect flower for Shiva worship, and while they are busy, both the friendsappeair. Radha is enchanted to see Madhava. She begins worshipping the Lord. She feels the pangs of separation and a Kapalika consoles. her. The same condition of the hero is described in act IV. They are ultimately united.
The descriptibn of Radha by Anandakara is noting more than an imitation of Vidyapati’s famous Batagamni describing the youthful heroin on her way. This drama is an example of the Krishanite theme. It tells us the story of Krishna’s marriage with Radha. The plot is simple but well planned. Besides being expert in the use of Alankara, the author could at times strike a rare lyrical note. Songs of separation are pathetic and poignant. The play ends in union.
Devananda is also known as Kavindra. He wrote Ushaharana. Some of the songs in the drama are moving. He was the first dtamatist to use the device of immediately translating Sanskrit partion into vernacular.
He is well known dramatist. He is the author of the famous drama ‘Rukminiharana’. The story of this drama is based on the Harivamsa and Bhagavatapurana. It is a very interesting drama, in six, acts, where shiva has been painted as the lord of Nritya (or Dance) Generally the Harivamsa tradition has been followed here with slight,variations. In act-I, it is decided by King Bhismaka to hold a Svayamvata for Rukmini. In act II, Krishna and Sishupala.are proposed, as groorns, When Rukmini speaks against Krishna for his as association with the Gppis the King defends Krishna. Ultimately it is decided to hold a Svagamvara. In act III, when the messenger delivers an invitation to Krishna, he appears. There is nothing remarkable in act IV. In act V, Krishna’s diplomatic behaviour makes Rukmini uneasy. The Narada appears and advised Krishna to elope with Rukmini. This brings to the sixth act., The climax is reached when Krishna follows Narada’s advice and carries away. Rukmim by force. The whole thing becomes known. The situation becomes intolerable to the Yuvaraja and then begins a fight with Krishna. The actual fight is not shown but described. All stages of fighting are, vividly described. Eventually Krishna succeeds in taking Rukmini to his place and marries her with due formality.
Of all the plays attributed to the School of Kirtaniya drama, the Rvfcmityfiarananataka seems, to have been written in the spirit of .a devotee. While the superhuman character of Krishna is evident here, the author has made out a case of philosophical defence of Krishna’s action throughout the play. The Puranic story has been weaved in a purely Maithili colour and Maithila customs have been brought into frequent use. The geographical outlook of the author shows that even in an age of political decay, the scholars of Mithila had not forgotten the concept of India as a whole. The concept of India, that is Bharata, with all its diversification, is preserved in a song in connection with the Svayamvara of Rukmini. There is freshness of imagery throughout the play.
As a fine composer of mixed Hindi-Maithili ballad on the battle of Kandarpi Ghat, Lal Kavi is olso the author af Gourisvaya-invara. He wrote this drama out of love and devotion to Shiva. What is remarkable is that here in this drama Sanskrit and Prakrit have been used only for stage direction and advancing action. Though written in devotion to Shiva, the drama is in a poetic style where there is the preponderance af vernacular and the songs are all tuned. It is a sort of one act play. It describes the story of Gouri’s marriage with Shiva. The characteristic feature of this drama is that all well known customs of Mithila have been nicely and successfully depicted. The play opens with a prayer to Gouri and after that the purpose of the play is explained by the Sutradhara. Kamadeva appears in the back and he is ultimately destroyed by the fire of Shiva’sthird eye. Rati, wife of Kamadeva, mourns the loss of her husband and here the dramatist has been able to put forth the most poignant and pathetic feelings. Thereupon Gouri takes to penance and Shiva, in a disguised form, dissuades her not to aspire for Shiva. There is a forceful dialogue, through the medium of songs indicating action, between Gouri and Hara. Narada appears as the Ghataka of Shiva and ultimately Gouri’s mother agrees to the proposal. The style is vigorous and the action is reported with the speech. Humour has its full play in describing the family history of Shiva and the drama closes upon a happy note.
Nandipati, a renowned poet was also a great dramatist. His Only known play is Krishnakelimala. It is written in a long prose benediction in praise of the sports of Krishna. Devaki is shown in labour and after his birth, Krishna is carried to Nanda and Yasoda. Krishna’s childhood is vividly mentioned. The killing of Rakshasi, Putana, sent by Kamsa to poison Krishna, is picturesquely described. Putana’s end is attributed to Krishna’s superhuman powers. The Sakatabhangalila is described in a beautiful manner. Radha’s complaints of Krishna’s pranks forms some of the most appealing lines of the songs of the drama. The Gobardhanalila is also described in a nice manner. In the third act, the story of stealing Gopis’ clothes, while they were bathing, is narrated. This is a very interestingscene as it deals with the stories of the youth of Krishna. Gopis are seen teasing Krishna and vice-versa. While some of the Gopissnatch away his head-dress, others beat him, scold him and so on and so forth. The scene is bound to produce a thrilling joy in the heart of the Gopis. Radha is always anxious to enjoy Krishna’s, company and with that end in view, she feigns to be sick. Krishna appears in the role of an exorcist. In spite of the elders, Krishna arranges secret meetings with Radha and enjoys her company. Radha’s longing for Krishna knows no waiting and even an hours’ delay on the part of Krishna makes Radha restless. She charges-Krishna with faithlessness. Both of them meditate separately over their actions and Radha realises her mistake of behaving so apathetically with Krishna. The play ultimately ends in the union of Radha and Krishna.
As a dramatist, Nandipati is very popular in Millhila. Badari or Kalanidhi was his pen-name. The homely style of his descriptionsis unique in the whole range of Maithili literature. He has also used Goalari songs in his drama. It has very few Sanskrit and Prakrit passages. It is one of the most important vernacular plays of Mithila where the gain in speed is immense. The action is more often reported or described. The Sutradhara and Nati bear resemblanceto the Ankianatas of Assam. All kinds of Maithili songs have been used. Nandipati is a refined artist, both as a poet and as a dramatist.
Shivadatta was the author of Parijataharana and Gauriparinaya There is a profusion of vernacular passages in the Parijataharana Though lacking in the perfection of Umapati, the story here is almost the same with the only exception that Narada is not made to sell Krishna and Arjuna here. In the Gouriparinaya, emotions are more deeply aroused.. Gouri here has love at first sight and she practises pennace to obtain Shiva as her husband. Gouris burst forth at the terrible picture of Shiva but when she comes to know of the identity her joy knows no bounds. Here description is wonderful and even the water, trees and. whose wife Rati mourns animals are shaken by cupid. Shiva’s anger burns Kamadeva loss in a pathetic manner. Narada appear as a Ghataka and all typical Maithili customs are described.
He wrote the Rukmangadanataka which begins with a benedictory song in praise of Shiva. Here we have the excellent description of the Ardhanarishwara form of Shiva and a song in a new raga is also introduced. He was also a great poet.
He was the author of drama entitled Shrikrishnajanmarahasya. It begins with the appearence of Narada at the court of Kamsa. He announces that Devaki’s son will kill Kaimsa. It is at the instance of Narada that Kamas put Devaki and Vasudeva into prison. The birth of krishna is described in the second act. The darkness pf night has been nicely described After the birth of Krishna, the prison doors automatically open and Vasudeva takes new born baby to Yasoda. Yasoda’s house is full of joy. The simplicity and directness of the drama are noteworthy and remarkable.
His Gourisvayamvaranataka is the most complete Maithili play hitherto discovered. In a true Maithila style, the play begins with an invocation to Ganesha Gosaauni and Kamla. He then describes the birth of Parvati. Narada announces that Gouri is destined to be married to a madman. Himalaya’s wife Manain gets anxious at this prediction and Gouri is made to penance for securing Shiva as her husband. Some of the scenes are described in picturesque sityle. Gouri goes through all sorts of hardship. Shiva is shown mourning the loss of Sati. Rama appears and consoles Shiva by asking him to marry Gouri, daughter of Himalaya. On the other hand, Parvati was determined to have Shiva alone and none else. Both of them see each other and Shiva continues his meditation. Then follows the birth and achievement of Tarkasura who became difficult to control. It was later on revealed to Indra by Brahma that son born of Shiva and Gauri could only suppress Tarkasura. Kamadeva Is moved to influence Shiva but he is burnt by the third eye of Shiva. Rati laments his death. Indra then approaches Shiva and the latter agrees. Maithila customs of marriage are then described. The combination of opposites, the grotesque and the fantastic have been successfully depicted. Kanharama had all the requisites of a successful dramatist.
Kanharamadasa belonged to the Karana Kayastha family of Mithila. His drama is in Slokas, Dohas, Chandas, Gitas and Kavittas etc. Like all the Kirtaniya dramas, he does not mention his patron. The superiority of this drama over others in Maithili has been accepted by all. He has the remarkable capacity of arranging the threads of plot in his own unique manner. His dramatic sense is able to produce the developed form of Kirtaniya drama. The scenes are marked out units in themselves and they may be treated as separate scenes or Acts. Like the Elizabethan playwrights, he does not divide his play into Acts. He may be regarded as one of the most remarkable Kirtaniya-dramatists of Mithila. Like many others, his critical estimate as a dramatist and as a poet is yet a desideratum. The Maithila marriage customs have been nicely described.
He wrote Ushaharananataka based faithfully on the account of the Harivamsa. It is a lyrical drama having the scenes of realistic colour. The songs arouse appropriate emotions here and there. Narada is also brought on the scene but not as a humourist. The most.important, but at the same time unique, feature of this drama is the presence of a neutral observer who reports the progress of the action at various places. It is divided into parts: (i) Gouri granting to Usha, the daughter of one Banasur of Sonitpur, the boon of getting a desirable husband in a dream on an appointed day; (ii) On the appointed day, Usha sees Aniruddha, son of Pradyumna and enjoys his company in the dream. She learns the identity of Aniruddha through her friend Chitralekha. Chitralekha then arranges to go to Aniruddha with the message of Usha. On her way Chitralekha meets Narada who helps her to take away the hero secretly with the help of magic.
Aniruddha then marries Usha according to the Gandharva rite and engages in love sports with her. The news of Usha’s meeting with Aniruddha is conveyed to Banasur who orders the gate-keepers to kill the intruders. Usha loses courage but Aniruddha succeeds in defeating them. Banasur takes resort to magic fight, and Aniruddha's misfortunes make Usha anxious. The state of her health in such a condition has been compared to “a line of the lightning which somehow throbs with vitality.” Narada informs Krishan about Aniruddha and Krishna goes to rescue him. Banasura after being defeated by Krishna, goes to Shiva who comes to his rescue. Then begins a battle between Krishna and Shiva. War of fever is resorted to in both the camps. Then Shiva engages himself into a personal fight with Krishna. When after realisation, Shiva retired, his son, Karttikeya, came to the rescue of Banasur and he is drawn away from the battle only when Gouri intervenes. Banasur accepts defeat. Krishna pardons him and he goes away. Banasur is seen worshipping Shiva. Ultimately marriage between Usha and Aniruddha is arranged in a purely Maithili manner. It is a dignified play.
He wrote Prabhavatiharana in four Acts describing the union of Prabhavati, daughter of a demon, with Krishna’s son, Pradyumn.
He wrote two Maithili plays entitled “Ushaharana” and “Madhavananda”. ‘Ushaharana’ (same as of Ratnapani’s) is in five acts. Dialogucs are carried on in Maithili songs. He is well known for his imagery and suggestiveness and he often in indulges in erotic songs. His unique imaginative power is evident from the following lines :
“The mark in the face of the moon represents a fisherman who has thrown the net of moonbeams from the moonboat in the sea of Sky. And as morning approached, the stars and the planets are imagined to have been taken out of the net as the fish caught in the net are taken out by fishermen.”
Fever is described as extremely uneasy, terrible in appearance, three faced nine-eyed and six-armed; with eyes closed with lethargy, with hands burning, every moment yawning, and eating on every side everybody whom he happens to see”.
Madhavananda deals with Krishna’s sports with Gopis on the basis of Shrimadbhagavata and the subject matter is much similar to the third Act of Nandipati’s Krishnakelimala. Harshanatha is more graceful and elevated and his descriptions are ornate and picturesque. His songs are exuberant and lyrical and imagination is vivid and colourful. His poetic qualities are marvellous and he is essentially a poet of nature. His description of winter is interesting, while the following erotic images give a description of the Sharada-ritu :
“the Sun has left his abode and moon entered it as if he were the second husband;
the river uncovers itself as the young damsel uncovers herself with great hesitation.”
Mithila in the middle ages produced some notable poetic dramas, meant to be staged. The poetical and musical features were the chief characteristics of medieval dramas and they were inspired by religious fervour and extreme devotion. Two varieties of drama are known to have exristed. One in praise of Krishna and the other in praise of Shiva. Throughout the medieval period, Krishna theme dominated the scene of poetical dramas and other literary compositions. Vaishnavism took its place alongside Saivism.The drama seems to have been a very popular art in Mithila and the deficiency in the branch of prose was made up by the poetic and dramiatic compositions. The themes were based on the Puranic legends. Rukmini, Parijata, Usha, Gouri, Shiva and Krishan form the basis of these stories. Umapati, Ramadasa, Harshanatha and Bhanunatha stick to the rules of Sanskrit drama. They were greatly influenced by the Sanskrit classics. Nandipati, Shivadatta, Lalkavi, Kanharamadosa and others are well known for their Maithili plays and are comparatively free from the classical influence. Ratnapani represents both the trends.
In the verancular plays, there are provisions for Nandi and the description of characters. Chandas and Dohas relieve the monotony of the continuous singing of songs. The Sanskrit dramas were meant mainly for the upper classes and the aristocracy while the vernacular plays were meant for the common man who not only enjoyed the show but had the satisfaction of being inspired by religious fervour. The vernacular dramas are simple, natural, easy, informal and direct. Sometimes suitable songs from other poets were also used by the actors of the playwrights. Maithili belief, customs, rites and ceremonies are found in almost all the dramas and these also bear testimony to their being of an indigenous character. It was through the medium of these dramas that the torch of Maithili literature was kept burning through the centuries. The important aspect of this dramatic art can be seen in the Terai area of Nepal even to-day.
According to Narendranatha Das, the leader of the popular drama in Mithila was known as Nayaka and the whole group was called Jamaita. Nayaka played the part of Sutradhara and hero. Females did not take part and their roles were impersonated by male actors There was no caste restriction in the choice of actors but some minimum qualifications like singing and gesticulations were required before one could be allowed to join a Jamait. The performances were held at night and the stage was nothing more then a simple platform. After the Nandipatha, the Sutadhara used to make his appearance in his usual costume (Jama, Nima, Payjama and a pair of sandal called Paduka) and covering himself with a wrapper and head with a Paga (national headgear of Mithila). He had in his hand a Phulahatha or a rod and he was accompanied by his wife, the Nati.
He not only introduced the occasion and the author but
also the play and on such occasions he also tried to display his knowledge.
Actors were limited and their introduction was given at the beginning in the form of a song. The Nayaka (hero), Nayika (heroine), Sakhi (friend), Narada (in different forms) and Vipata or Vidushaka formed the stack characters of the Kirtaniya drama. In some of the plays, Sanskrit and Prakrit were used in dialogues and the stage direction but the vernacular songs, Chandas, Sorthas etc. also conveyed the major portion of the themes of the plays. Details of the descriptive scene were sometimes preceded by a song at the stage. The orchestra was specially trained in the Nardiya forms of musical Kirtana and most of the songs were tuned to the different ragas. The artists entertained their audience by symbolical gesticulation, vocal and instrumental music, fun of the Vipata and songs of the Nayaka. The important centres of such activities were Hati, Lagna, Alapur, Sarisava, Ganhavari, and areas under the Nepal Terai.
The dramatic use of the songs seems to have begun early. Umapati is superb in plot construction and characterisation and his description stir the imagination of the audience who do not feel the lack of scenery. The interest is more sustained and compact with humour predominating all over the play. Beautiful similes are used in a novel way as a Nataraja has been nicely described in one of the finest Nacharis of his drama. He added charm to his drama by giving therein some of the sweetest lyrics. We donot come across any remarkable skill of plot construction or psychological insight. Some of the dramatists tried to imitate the earlier lyrical tradition but without any considerable amount of success. Devananda’s Usha and Aniruddha remind us of Miranda and erdinand in Shakespeare’s Tempest Ramapati wrote in the spirit of a devotee. Nandipati seems to have perfected the convention of giving the names of all dramatis personal in a song at the very beginning and after him this became the essential part of the structure of the Kirtaniya drama. He regards Krishna as the first God and leader of all blissful creatures. He says that the singing of His attributes brings good upon all. His songs are the precious treasures of the Maithili literature. Songs form the major portion of his play and the action is more often reported in the songs. The influence of the Ankianatas on the Kirtaniya drama of Mithila can be traced here. The Sutradhara and Nati are made to talk. It is one of the most attractive Maithili plays where stage direction is particularly revealing. Maithili colour is provided all through the play.
In Sivadatta’s Parijataharana the Nati describes the entrance of dramtais personal. He marks the stage when vernacular drama was becoming rather a long recitation. The use of certain set of stock phrases in prose, for describing various objects, in Nandipati and Shrikant Ganaka, reminds us of the fact that the tradition of the VR was still alive in Mithila. While the figurative language, or the flights of passionate or lyrical imaginations are absent in Ganaka, the songs are melodious and graceful. Kanharamadasa’s play is the most complete work in Maithili. He is decidedly superior to all the Maithili dramas relating to Shiva’s marriage. He has a marked sense of dramatic ideal and he can be favourably compared with the Elizabethan playwrights. He has been successful in arranging his plots well. There are various types of poems in his play. Ratnapani, classical in form, has the richness of description. Non-actors are seen helping the actors.
The growing popularity of music was also responsible for the growth of drama in medieval Mithila. Some of the songs of these dramas are the best specimens of Maithali literature. There are matters of religious experiences, philosophical reflections on the world and on morality, poignant introspection of the self, self anguish and yearning for illumination in some of these dramas. They have both a sensuous and intellectual appeal. These plays exercised a tremendous influence on the life of the people of Mithila and led to the growth of a popular stage and the development of music and dancing. Drama was the most effective means of propagating the religious cult. Here we also get a glimpse of medieval prose and poetry. Though developed out of indigenous materials, the influence of Sanskrit dramaturgy is perceptible Lyrical songs preponderate and the playwrights largely use them to bring home the message inculcated in the play. They may be termed as “lyrico-dramatic-spectacle”. Through these dramatic compositions, people could cultivate the emotional vein of personal devotion to God or even the expressions of natural feelings of love. The dramas crossed the frontier and entered the valley of Nepal. Typical Maithila customs like Naina- Yogina, Batagamni and Kohvara were introduced in the dramas as a concession to popular taste and demand. The popular taste was amply met by Manabodha whose language approached very nearly that of Nandipati, whose work bereft of its dramatic form, is very much like a long narrative Kavya. Ratnapani and Harshanatha used ornate style and they had a clear bias towards the classical models. The language as a medium of expression, showed progress, sometimes phenomenal, but the forms of literary compositions remained old and stereotyped.