THE STAGE, RANGAMANCHA OR NATYAGRAHA
The designated space for the performance of productions in performing arts or theater is known as Stage or Rangamancha. According to the classical text Natyashastra it is called the ‘Natyagraha’. The stage serves as a space for actors to perform and the focal point for the members of the audiences. The celestial architect, Vishwakarman, has prescribed three shapes of the Natyagraha. These are:
- Vikrsta – The oblong
- Chaturasra – The square
- Tryasra – The triangular
By their size, using units of measurement of hasta and danda, these can be categorised into three kinds:
- The biggest – 108 hastas, prescribed for the Gods.
- The medium – 64 hastas, prescribed for the kings.
- The small – 32 hastas, prescribed for the remaining characters and ordinary beings.
Natyashastra states that for most dancers and commoners, the medium sized stage should be 64 hastas long and 32 hastas deep. It should not be bigger than this, as the natya will not be seen properly and speeches and songs shall not be able to reach the audience. The roofing of the stage should be like a cave or mountain. The stage should have two levels (dwi bhoomi). There should be no breeze as the sound must carry clear. The vikrsta stage should be on a higher level and the chaturasra stage on the ground level. The tryasra mandapa, also has a triangular stage, and all rules and formalities regarding the walls and pillars are the same as that of the chaturasra stage.
Once the stage is ready the priest should purify it with chants and holy water. He should offer his salutations to the Gods, thunderbolt, lightning, gandharvas, apsaras, sages, village deities and divine sages. The lamp should be lit and the deity should be installed. These deities have to be prayed to in a prescribed fashion to achieve the desired effects of the performance. This too is detailed out in the classical texts.
In today’s modern age, the rangamancha is built in a similar way with proper green rooms, entries and exits doors, hallways, pillars etc but the offering of prayer is not necessarily followed as strictly. The dancer enters from a side of the stage, and offers flowers and prayers to the deity. It is also mandatory for the musicians to sit on the far left side of the stage and they too offer a prayer before the performance begins. The audience may or may not sit at an elevated level and is spread across in such a manner that each one has a good view of the performance. Most stages found today are oblong or rectangular. Triangular stages are rarely found unless they are in the open or constructed as amphitheatres. Ample lighting is provided in the indoor as well as outdoor rangamancha for a more appealing effect. Sound system with latest technology are an integral part of the modern day stages.