The words for actor (nata) and play (nataka) are derived from the verb nat. the prakrit or vernacular form of the Sanskrit nrit "to dance." The name is familiar to English ears in the form of nautch, the Indian dancing of the present day.
The stock characters of the drama were generally: 1) the nayaka (or netri), the hero, who was often a king or prince; apsara, or daughter of a rishi 3) the prati-nayaka, or villain, who was a rival prince, or a male relative of the hero; 4) the vidushaka, the constant companion and confidant of the hero. Sahitya — darpana divides Sanskrit dramas into two main classes, a higher (rupaka) and a lower (uparupaka). The characteristics features of the Indian drama are the absence of tragedy, the interchange of lysical stanzas with prose dialogue, and the use of some characters and of Prakrit for others.
The greatest of all is Kalidasa. Three of his plays have been preserved: Shakuntala, Vikramorvashi and Malvikagnimitra. The richness of creative fancy which he displays in these, and skill in the expression of tender feeling assign him a high place among the dramatist of the world — the best representatives of the romantic drama of Indian are shakuntala or virramorvashiya malvikagnimitra, on the other hand not concerned with the heroic or divine, is a palace and harem drama, a story of contemporary love and intrigue. One important name is Vishakhadatta wrote a political play called Mudra-rakshasa describing the efforts of Chanakya, Minister of Chandragupta, to win over to his master's cause the noble Rakshasa, former minister of the last Nanda king, deposed by chandragupta Bhatta-narayana whose only extant play, the veni-samhara (braid-binding) tells how Bhima avenges the insults to Draupadi by Duhshasana.
Anargha-raghava, written by Murari is a play about Rama. Karpura-manjari written with lightness and grace by Rajashikhara. Krishnamishra an allegorical play, PrabodhaChandro-Daya (Rise of the moon of Knowledge). Its characters represent abstract ideas and it portrays the ultimate triumph of king reason and his faithful adherents, religion, will and virtue, over King error, folly and vice-svapnavasavadalla written by Bhasa displays the dramatists skill in characterization.
Bhavabhuti's plays include Mahavira-charita, 'The Great-hero's Chronicle,' describing the fortunes of Rama and that is stirring and martial. It deals with the first part of Rama's
life, while its sequel, the vitara-rama-charita, 'Latter Rama Chronicle' is devoted to Rama's later years. His malti madhava, is a powerful romantic drama with the love theme. The best example of the drama of domestic life with a story taken from actual life. This play is also noteworthy because it contains an act relating to the practice of human sacrifice among the Aghoris and worshippers of Durga.