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The Cosmic View of Ra´gadaivatap£jana  

The Question of its Ëamic Background 


Radhavallabh Tripathi


The third chapter of N¡¶ya¿¡stra (Ná) describes the ritual of Ra´gndaivata-p£jana. This ritual was meant to be performed for the consecration of a newly built N¡¶yama´apa. Abhinavagupta refers to some ¡c¡ruas who uphold the desirability of its performance before each and every dramatic presentation.

Ra´gadaivatap£jana comprises worship of gods enshrined on the ra´ga or stage. Metaphorically, it has also been termed as ra´gap£j¡ (Ná 11.105) and the word bali has also been used synonymously for it (Ná, III.46).

After the construction of the n¡¶yama¸dapa (theater), it was left to be resided by cows and br¡hma¸as for a week. Then the ceremony of the installation of the gods was performed by the n¡¶y¡c¡ryas or s£tradh¡ra. Before proceeding, he was required to purify his body by sprinkling holy water and fasting for three days. He put on new garments and kept his senses under control ( III.2, 3). The p£j¡-ritual then was performed in the following order:

I . Preparation of the ma¸·ala, and installation of the gods on it;

2. Worship of the gods enshrined on the ma¸·ala, with specific bali (offering)

respectively to each one of them with the invocatory verse,

3. Jarjarap£j¡,

4. homa,

5 . The udyotana-ceremony, which is like the ¡rt¢ done in the temple worship even now-a-days. According to Abhinavagupta the other word current for udyotana during his days was n¢r¡jana. This n¢r¡jana was done by a burning lamp called darbholmuka. This ulmuka was lighted from the fire burning on the altar for homa,

7.  Lightening the theatre from the d¢pik¡s, sprinkling holy water on the body of the king and the danseuses and the n¡¶y¡c¡rya's address and benediction to them, and

8 . Playing of various ¡todyas (musical instruments) and enactment of fights.

The list of gods to be worshipped during the course of ra´gap£j¡ has been cited thrice in the N¡¶ya¿¡stra in this very context with slight variations. The following points are to be noted in connection with the order in which divine and non-divine figures have been mentioned here:

1. Mahadeva has been held as the Supreme Deity, the Creator of all the worlds (. sarvalokodbhavaÆ bhavam, Ná, II.4). He is to be saluted first; Brahm¡, ViÀ¸u and Indra are to be worshipped thereafter.

2. The extensive list of gods to be worshipped in ra´gap£j¡ comprises some of the gods belonging clearly to the Vedic pantheon. They are-Indra, MarutaÅ, A¿vinau, Mitra, Agni, Medh¡ and Dh¤ti. Association of N¡¶aveda with the Vedic worldview is quite evident in invoking and offering salutations to them through the ritual of ra´gap£j¡.

3 . Some of the divine figures to be worshipped through ra´gap£j¡ are originally Vedic gods, but are more prominently associated with Ëgamic or Pur¡¸ic traditions. ViÀ¸u and Sarasvat¢ can be named from the list in the N¡¶ya¿atra as examples.

4 . Quite a number of gods contained in the list of N¡¶ya¿¡stra can be identified with the Ëgamic or Pur¡¸ic traditions only. They are - Mah¡deva, Pit¡maha, Guha, Laksm¢, and Mah¡gr¡m¸¢ (who, according to Abhinavagupta, stands for Ga¸apati).

5 . Some of the properties, weapons, etc. belonging to a particular god have also been incorporated in the list. They are M¤tyu, Niyati, K¡lada¸·a (the sceptor of Yama), the Weapon of ViÀ¸u (ViÀ¸uprahara¸a) and Vajra.

6. The list also includes natural phenomena (the sea and the lightening), semi-divine beings, like gandharuas, yakÀas guhyakas as well as bh£tas, pii¿¡cas, daityns and r¡kÀasas.

7 . The last but not the least, this list has attained a unique character with the inclusion of n¡¶yavughnas and n¡¶yakum¡r¢s as they can figure only in the practice of the N¡¶yaveda. The N¡¶ya¿¡stra have heen named as N¡¶yam¡t¤k¡s in the subsequent versions. (Ns, 111.30, 67)

The list of gods as given in the beginning of the chapter III of the N¡¶ya¿¡stra is not exclusive and Bharata has suggested a flexible framework by remarking that other gods can be included. (Ná, 111.10) The subsequent references to the gods in connection with ra´gap£j¡ in the same chapter itself include Nandin, DakÀa, Garu·a, Vi¿vedevas, the munis and the devar¿is, which have not been mentioned in the original plan. (Ná, III.26-32)

The whole ritual of ra´gap£j¡, beginning from the bh£mi-par¢kÀ¡ or examination of the site for construction, has a, certain affinity with the Ëgama tradition, particularly the tradition of the áaiv¡gamas.

The Ëgamas categorize temples into three types in accordance with their size -uttama, madhya and kan¢yas. (Ajit Ë, I.XII.15) N¡¶ya¿astra has also given exactly the same classification for theatre-buildings. ( II.21, 22) After the selection of the site, the soil should be levelled equally and it should be tilled by a plough. (Ibid I.7.3, 11) N¡¶ya¿¡stra confirms this practice. Ajit¡gama also prescribes sowing of the seeds of tila, br¢hi and mudga to confirm the fertility of the land. N¡¶ya¿¡stra, however, is silent about it.

Such similarities (or dis-similarities) are superficial, and both Ëgama tradition and the N¡¶ya¿astra might have borrowed them from the regional practices of the V¡stu-tradition. However, the similarities with regard to the system of p£j¡ seem to indicate deeper levels of correspondence between the Ëgama and N¡tya¿astra traditions.

Both Ëgama-literature and the N¡¶ya¿¡stra prescribe p£j¡ after bh£mipar¢kÀ¡ and before laying the foundation. This plija iflvolves the offering of food and salutations to the br¡ma¸as. (AjitA, 1.7.26,, 11.32) N¡¶ya¿astra prescribes chanting of benedictory verses and sprinkling the earth with holy water. Ajit¡ma however, rules for its purification by paµcagavya. (I.VI.26)

It is clear, from the following table that the range of common ground between the ceremony of the consecration of a newly built temple or y¡gama¸·apa as described in the Ëgamas and the consecration of a newly built theatre as described in the N¡¶ya¿astra comprises several minute details as well as certain obvious features that are the parts and parcels of every type of p£j¡:

Consecration of a temple or Y¡gama¸dapa

Consecration of a theater

(i) The consecration rites are to be performed by the ¡c¡rya clad in new white garments which have not been washed.(M¤g Ë,1.8.810)

(i) The consecration rites are to be performed by the n¡¶¡c¡rya, who should wear new clothes that have not been washed. (Ná, III.3)

(ii) The ¡c¡rya chants the mantras to make áiva enshirned within himself.

(ii) The n¡¶¡c¡rya takes the d¢kÀ¡ for the  performance of consecration rites.

(iii) The gods are invoked and en-shrined in the ma¸·ala. Brahm¡ is enshrined at the centre. (AjitË, 1.8.22)        

(iii) The gods are invoked and en- shired in the ma¸·ala, which is a square of 16 hastas, with four doors on the four directions. Braham¡ is enshired at the  centre and gods are given their respective places according to the kakÀy¡vibh¡ga- (division of space in imaginary zones). The following articles are used for nive¿a of the gods-yava, l¡ja, akÀata, ¿¡lita¸·ula power of  n¡gapuÀpa, vituÀa,priya´gu. Two horizontal and vertical lines are drawn in the middle of the ma¸·ala (III.18-24)


(iv) A kumbha full of water is palced in the middle of the ma¸·ala (AjitË,1.9.32).  This kumbha is also to be worshipped and some of the Ëgamas give a very detailed account of kumbha- p£j¡.

(iv) The kumbha full of water is placed at the centre of the ma¸·ala. No account of kumbhap£j¡ is avail-able in the N¡¶a¿¡stra while the ceremony of kumbhabhedana is de-scribe Abhinava says that this ceremony is performed after theworship of kumbha. (, III.88-90 and AbhiBh¡)


(v) Worship of each god with a different set of articles has been specified. Gandha (in-cense), flowers, dh£pa and d¢pa are commonly used, while m¡Àa, godh£ma, mas£ra niÀpava have also been prescribed, ¿y¡maka and by p£j¡ by Ajit¡gama (XXII.33-37) and some other áaiva Ëgamas.

(v) Worship of each individual god has been prescribed with a different set of articles each time.  Flowers, dh£pa and d¢pa are common here also.  The ce- reals prescribed in the Ëgamas are not mentioned.  Brahm¡ is to be offered madhuparka; Sarasvat¢ and some other á¡iva Ëgamas. p¡yasa; áiva, ViÀ¸u, and Indra modakas; Agni ghee and rice;Soma and Arka gu·a and rice;the mu-nis, Vi¿vedevas and gandharvas are served with honey and p¡yasa; Yama and Mitra with ap£pa and modakas; Pit¤s and Pi¿¡cas with ghee and milk and so on.

(vi)Homa is a part of after the p£j¡ . Homavudhi has been described in detail.

(vi) Homa is gadaivata p£jana as well. No a part of ra´ description of homavidhi is given in the N¡¶ya-¿¡stra.

(vii)Musical instruments are  played after the ceremony. There is no mention of the enactment of fights.


(vii) Musical after the ceremony and flights are instruments are played¡ enacted.

These similarities cannot lead to establish that the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana  bears direct and sole influence of the p£j¡-system as given in áaiv¡gamas. Such similarities can be found in almost all Vedic and non-Vedic rites in this country, and the motifs of the invocation of gods and their placement, on the ma¸·ala, offering of flowers, gandha, dh£pa, etc. are always common. The system of p£j¡ as given in VaiÀ¸ava or P¡µcar¡tra Agnmas can lead to the same type of comparison as given above.

Besides, the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana differs from the Ëgamic p£j¡ system on several points and the dissimilarities between the two give a unique character and distinct identity to the former. The worship of N¡¶yavighnas or N¡¶yam¡t¤k¡s and the N¡¶yavighnas, the worship of Jarjara and the enactment, of fights after the ritual- these are some features which establish the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana as a theatric ritual.

F.B.J. Kuiper finds the ritualized consciousness of Vedic Yajµa embedded within the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana ( Varu¸a and Vid£Àaka, pp.110-16). Dr N.R. Lidova refutes any connection or correspondence between the two, insisting that the origin of ra´gap£j¡ as described in the N¡¶ya¿¡stra should be 'studied in the context of p£j¡-dominated Hinduism' in contrast to the 'Yajµa-dominated Vedism' (Abstracts, VIIIth World Sanskrit Conference). She has based her thesis on the idea of 'an opposition' between Vedic and non-Vedic cultures, between yajµa and p£j¡ and between the Nigama and the Ëgama traditions (Ritual Sources of Sanskit Drama, p. 86), and also on the misconception that yajµa ritual was simply dominated by 'animal slaughter' and that women and people belonging to the lower castes were debarred from participating in it.

Dr Lidova thus proceeds to establish the foundations of the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana in the Ëgamic p£j¡-tradition ipso facto. However, many of the lines of comparison drawn by her between the Ëgamic and the N¡¶ya¿¡stra-ritual can be dismissed as mere coincidents; and seeing a correspondence between dhvaja-p£j¡ of Agamic tradition and the jarjara-p£j¡ in the N¡¶ya¿astra-ritual is also far-fetched. There is apparant similarity between the raising, worshipping and lowering down of jarjara as described in the N¡¶ya¿¡stra (Ná, III.12-14, 73-75) and the ritual of raising, worshipping and lowering down of the dhvaja as described in the Ëgamas. (AjitË,  I.XXVII.26,42-76) The jarjara and jarjara-p£j¡ are definitely linked to Indra and his weapon, and the purpose of jarjara-p£j¡ is quite different from the purpose of dhvaja-p£j¡. Besides, the question of the authenticity of the Ëgama-texts as available in print will have to be taken into account in drawing any such comparison.

A totally different view of the ritual of ra´gadaivatap£jana has been advanced by some modern scholars. According to them, the whole ritual is simply an appendage. R.V. Jagirdar thinks that the whole of the chapter III of N¡¶ya¿¡stra is an interpolation (Introduction to Bharata's N¡¶ya¿astra, pp. 9-10), while Pramod Kale finds in ra´gadaivapap£jana 'a defence structure' 'which was needed perhaps to counter the attacks of Phillistines and puritans' (Theatric Universe, p. 4)

'Sanskrit Drama has least to do with religion and religious rites' Jagirdar concludes - '... it is the work of people treated as anti-Vedic'. (Drama in Sanskrit Literature, pp. 35-36) Like Dr Lidova's thesis, such refutation of the inter-relationship between yajµa and the N¡¶ya¿astra is also based on a misconception, overlooking the fact (as Dr Kapila Vatsyayan rightly puts it) that 'Ritual is invariably accompanied by gestures and in it we find the seeds of abhinaya as it was to develop later. The ritual practices of Yajurveda must have provided the actor and the dancer with unique material which was as profound as it was symbolic and beautiful, as it was stylized and technical.... In all the sacrifices, the puntiliousness with which hands and feet are placed in dif-ferent directions, or figures are used, are indicative of a sense of perfection and consciousness of an artist and a mathematician combined." ( Classical Indian  Dance in Litrarute and Arts, p. 155) The ritual of ra´gap£j¡ must therefore be viewed in this background where yajrin and theatre thrived on a common pIatform. (Lectures on the N¡¶ya¿¡stra, pp. 34 -45)

The insistance on a sole Agamic bakground based on the idea of a dichotomy between Vedic and non-Vedic cultures therefore is not acceptable, and ra´gadaivatap£jana must he viewed as a ritual having Vedic worldview at the core, with yajµa and p£j¡ fused together to form a theatric ritual. N¡¶a¿¡stra itself adjusts this ritual as an ijy¡ and iÀ¶i also and Ahhinava calls it .devaya-jana. (AbhiBh¡, Vol.I, p. 46)


1. This question was raised by Dr Kapila Vatsyayan during the discussion on this paper.


Ajit¡gama; Ed. by N.R, Bhatt, Pondicherry,1964 (AjitA).

Jagirdar, R.V., Introduction to the Study of N¡¶ya¿¡stra,  Bomhay, 1966.

Kale, Pramod, The Theatric Universe, Bombay, 1974.

Kuiper, F.B.J., Varu´a and Vid£¿aka: On the Origin of Sanskrit Drama, Amsterdam-Oxford-New York, 1973.

Lidova, N.R, Ra´gadaivatap£jana in the N¡¶ya¿¡stra and the Ëgamic Rituals, Summaries of the papers of VIIIth World Sanskrit Conference, Ultiversity of Vienna, 1990.

Lidova, N.R, Ritual Sources of Sanskrit Drama, Indian Traditions Through the Ages, New Delhi, 1990, pp. 85-106.

M¤gendr¡gama;  Ed. by N.R. Bhatt, Pondicherry, 1962.

N¡¶ya¿¡stra, with Abhinavabh¡rat¢, Vols. 1-4, Baroda.

Raurav¡gama; Ed. by N.R. Bhatt, Pondicherry, 1961.

Tripathi, Radhavallabh, Lectures on the N¡¶ya¿¡stra Centre of Advanced Study in Sanskrit, Poona, 1991.

Vatsyayan, Kapila, Classical India Dance in Literature and Arts, New Delhi, 1968.

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