The Ban Bane – From Natyashastra to Vishwaroopam

After the Vedas were created, Lord Brahma faced a huge quandary.

The Vedas

He realized that these books addressed the lettered and the intellectual class. No provision was made for the commoners, like the frontbenchers in a single screen theater, who lacked the means and education to make sense of them.

His faith in the elite to convey the true meaning of the Vedas was sparse. He was concerned about the future of the masses for all were his children.

“Where will they find the art and the direction to live?” he pondered for long.

One fine day in deep meditation, he was bombed with an epiphany; why not use entertainment as a tool of dissemination of values, wisdom and niti !!

So Brahma, industrious as he was, went to work again for the aam aadmi. Drawing pathya (words) from the Rigveda, abhinaya (gesture) from the Yajurveda, geet (music and chant) from Sāmaveda, and rasa (sentiment and emotional element) from Atharvaveda, he synthesized it all in the Natyaveda.


After completion, he magnanimously handed over the copyright to sage Bharata Muni to popularize this new Veda on earth and it became the Natya Shastra, the Indian treatise on drama. Internal sources confirm; No royalty payment issues were discussed.

After doing all this hard work, Brahma did not expect a backlash from a critically uninformed section of society. Like a contemporary unofficial censor board at every street corner without constituted sanction, tumult arose at the very first performance of a Natya (drama). The premier show threatened to snowball into a big controversy.

Asuras - Rakshas

During a scene, the Asuras, rivals and enemies of Gods were shown in an unfavorable light. Asuras who had come to witness the play resented the action on the stage and threatened to put a stop to it by disturbing it by force.

Bharata Muni who relates the episode in his Natya Shastra says that the Gods went and complained to Lord Brahma, who questioned the Asuras and asked them why they were out to spoil a dramatic performance.

Bharat Muni narrated the story which I am liberally paraphrasing here.

“…questioned thus by Brahman, Virupaksha, their leader, together with his band of rabble rousers said, ‘The knowledge of the dramatic art, Natyaveda, which you have introduced for the first time at the desire and for the sake of the gods, has put us in an unfavorable light. This ain’t done O Lord; especially by you, the first progenitor of the world, from whom came out the gods as well as the daityas.


 Brahman, combing his flowing white beard by his right hand lifted his left as a stop signal, “Enough of your anger o daityas. Now be cool and pay attention, for I shall say this only once.

I have prepared this Natyaveda which will exhibit the good luck or ill will and take into account acts and ideas of yours as well as the gods.”

“In it sometimes there is reference to duty (Deewar), sometimes to games (Chak de India), to money (Guru), to peace (Krodhi) and sometimes laughter is found in it (Padosan), sometimes fight (Singham) or love-making  (Murder) and sometimes killing of people (Vishwaroopam).

“This teaches us duty to those bent on doing their duty (Mother India), love to those who are eager about it (Utsav). It gives courage to the cowards (Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara), energy to the heroic (Lagaan), enlightens men of poor intellect (Ghulam) and gives wisdom to the learned (Arth).


Looking around as he encountered no dissent, he continued, “As I have devised, through Rasa (emotional core) and Bhava (expression), this is mimicry of actions and conduct of people, is rich in various emotions and depicts several situations. It will relate to actions of men; good, bad and indifferent while counseling them all. The drama will thus be instructive to all, through actions and states depicted in it and through sentiments arising out of it.”

“Furthermore, it will also give relief to unlucky persons who are afflicted with sorrow and grief or over work and will be conducive to observance of duty (dharma) as well as fame, long life, general good.”

“There is no wise maxim, no learning, no art or craft, no devices or action that is not found in the Natya. Hence I have devised drama in which meet all departments of knowledge, different arts and various actions.”

Indonesian Wayang Kulit

“So (O daityas), you should not have any anger towards the gods; for a mimicry of the world with its seven divisions (Sapta Dvipa) has been made a rule of, in the drama. Stories taken out of Vedic works as well as semi historical tales (Itihaas) (so embellished that they are) capable of giving pleasure is called drama”

“A mimcry of the exploits of the gods, Asuras, kings as well house holders in this world is called drama. And when human nature with its joys and sorrows is depicted by means of representation through gestures combines with words, costumes, and temperament or (sattva) it is called drama.”

That pretty much put a spanner in the rising revolt, shutting up the Asuras.

M F Hussain - Kamal Haasan

So dear Brahma ji, the Banned Artists Association of India today, from late Hussain to Haasan sorely miss an authoritative yet equitable voice like yours. We could start a Facebook petition to urge you to make an appearance for the benefit of all the hounded artists.

The seat of the chairperson of the CBFC is yours for the taking. And in case you can’t spare the time, could you please send back Mr. Vijay Anand as your avatar to crack the whip?


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