Education About Asia: Online Archives

Understanding Cultural Perspectives through Greek and Hindu Theater

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As educators, we are constantly being asked to diversify our teaching to broaden students’ knowledge about the world in which they live. But for many, teaching about other cultures can pose significant problems. Providing materials that students find accessible yet engaging— that helps them develop creative and critical thinking—is a challenge teachers must confront. One way to begin to overcome these struggles is to look to the primary sources available to us, connect them directly to the cultures from which they emerge, and investigate how the cultural and textual heritage compares and contrasts to other traditions and societies.

This essay begins by exploring the heritage of two very specific forms of dramatic theory—Bharata-muni’s Natyashastra and Aristotle’s Poetics— that serve as starting points to represent the emergence of the performing arts in two distinct cultures: Hindu India and ancient Greece. More specifically, by exploring these primary sources, we can gain a better understanding of how storytelling emerged in one Eastern and one Western region; how it was influenced by cultural heritage; and the ways in which those formulas continue to inspire the creation of the arts, both within and beyond the cultures today.


Arnott, Peter D. Public and Performance in the Greek Theater. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Eck, Diana L. Darshan: Seeing the Divine Image in India. 3rd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Grube, G.M.A., trans. Aristotle: On Poetry and Style. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing, 1958.

Gupt, Bharat. Dramatic Concepts Greek and Indian: A Study of Poeticsand Natyashastra. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 2006.

Ley, Graham. “Aristotle’s Poetics, Bharatamuni’s Natyashastra, and Zeami’s Treatises: Theory as Discourse.” Asian Theater Journal 17, no. 2 (2000): 191–214.

Lutgendorf, Philip. “Is There an Indian Way of Filmmaking?” International Journal of Hindu Studies 10, no. 3 (2006): 227–256.

Rangacharya, Adya. Introduction to Bharata’s Natyashastra. New Delhi: Munshiram: Manoharlal, 1998.

________. trans. The Natyashastra. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1996.

Schwartz, Susan L. Rasa: Performing the Divine in India. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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