Dutvakyam of Bhasa is a one-act play. The meaning of the title is the ‘Message of the Ambassador’. It is mainly a verbal altercation between Krishna and Duryodhana. The play is based on Udyagparav sub-parv of Mahabharata. It opens in Hastinapur; Krishna goes to Hastinapur as an ambassador of the Pandavas to the Kauravas for an agreement/treaty to prevent the disastrous war. The entire play is constructed around the sentences uttered by the ambassador Krishna. In this drama, Duryodhana and Krishna are the main characters. Yudhisthira is described as the one who speaks softly like a woman. In the opening of the play, Duryodhana is shown at his best, he is polite to his guest, enquires about the Pandavas. He is also clever and well-versed in social and political etiquettes. Inshort he is portrayed as a man with a sweet reasonableness. Krishna tries a peaceful approach and upon failing he provokes Duryodhana.
The Title of the Play
दूतस्य वाक्यं दूतवाक्यं, उपचारेण तदाख्यं रूपकमपि दूतवाक्यं means ‘the words of an Ambassador’ and by transference of epithet, the play is also called दूतवाक्यं The advice of Vaasudeva as an Ambassador is the Central theme of the play and hence the title is Dutvakyam. The play is named ‘Dutvakyam’ as it deals with the advice (Vakya) of Krishna to Duryodhana as an emissary (Duta) of peace from the Pandavas.
The Plot of the Play
The story of Krishna going to Duryodhana as an ambassador of the Pandavas with a view to making a eleventh hour attempt to prevent a calamitous war is elaborately told in Mahabharath- udyogaparva (महाभारत-उद्योगपर्व) Chapters 72 to150. The plot of Dutvakyam is drawn from about ten chapters in that section of the Mahabharath (महाभारत) known as Bhagwanparva (भगवानपर्व). Bhasa has introduced some important changes in the plot to suit his dramatic purpose. These changes make the plot highly interesting and contribute for the effective delineation of the hero’s character in such a short play. After reciting the Mangal-Shloka in praise of Upendra, the stage manager is disturbed by a noise from behind the curtain, made by the chamberlain in proclaiming that his majesty, Emperor Duryodhana, wanted to consult the princes in the Council Chamber. Duryodhana decides not to give even an inch of space to the Pandavas and prepares for the inevitable war. He consults, with all his chief and allies regarding the appointment of a commander-in-chief. Just then the chamberlain enters with the message that ‘Purshottama’ has arrived, but Duryodhana decides to insult Krishna and orders the chamberlain to bring him in as an ambassador only. Duryodhana also orders his ministers not to show any respect to Krishna and he himself sits looking at the picture of Draupadi being dragged by her hair and clothes by Dushassan. Now Krishna enters the hall, all the assembly rise to honour him in confusion, but Duryodhana himself falls from his seat when Krishna addresses him. Duryodhana thinks that Krishna had played some magic on him. The picture is removed away from the wall upon the suggestion from Krishna. Krishna now delivers the message of Yudhisthir claiming their share in the kingdom, Duryodhana criticizes them and questions the right of inheritance of the Pandavas and remarks that kingdoms are not obtained by begging and also they are not given in charity. Krishna requests Duryodhana to show pity on his kinsmen but Duryodhana flatly refuses. Krishna again appeals to him to forget the past but he is not willing to do so. Duryodhana orders his brothers and his uncle Shakuni to arrest Krishna but nobody dares to arrest him. So Duryodhana himself tries to bind Krishna by a noose, but Krishna grows larger and larger and then suddenly he becomes shorter and disappears. Duryodhana goes to bring out his bows to fight with Krishna. Krishna calls for his Sudarshana chakra, his divine energy (weapon) to kill Duryodhana. Sudarshana reminds Krishna that if Duryodhana is killed now, other wicked men may escape. Krishna controls his anger and sends back Sudarshana. Meanwhile all his other missiles Sarang (his bow), Kaumodaki (his mace), Panchajnay (his conchshell) and Nandka (his sword), also appear on the stage in the form of human beings and are told by Sudarshana to return to their respective places, as Krishna is no longer wrathful and there is no necessity for the manifestation of their valour. His vehicle Garuda also comes there but is sent back by Sudarshana. Krishna then starts to the camp of the Pandavas when Dhritrashtra comes and falls at his feet to atone for his son’s offence, Krishna lifts him up and he asks for Krishna’s favour. And the play ends here.
Deviation from the original
- In Mahabharat Dhritrashtra was the emperor whereas in this play, Duryodhana is depicted as the real emperor.
- The picture-scroll and the appearance of the divine weapons are invented by the poet for stage effect.
- Duryodhana’s order to the councilors not to honour Krishna and his looking at the picture of Draupadi’s outrage and admiring it, speak volumes about his wicked nature.
- Krishna and Duryodhana in the epic engage in long, monotonous dialogues whereas in the play, they are more personal.
- In Mahabharat, Dhritharashtra and Gandhari advise Duryodhana to act according to the advice of Krishna, but he turns a deaf ear to their words. Bhasa, by not introducing them in the council, saves Duryodhana from showing disregard to his parents.
- In the play, there is no one in the assembly besides the Kauravas, and Bhishma and Drona are mere figureheads therein; the epic, however, speaks of many persons attending the assembly.
These are the main innovations of Bhasa which invest the plot with thrill and excitement and reveal certain traits in the character of the hero.
Duryodhan – He is presented in this play as a boastful king with a firm resolve, never yielding to threats. He is not disheartened when he fails to put the noose on Krishna and considers it as a display of Krishna’s magical prowess. He reveals the true spirit of a Kshatriya when he says that kingdoms are acquired by conquering enemies and not by begging.
“राज्यं नाम नृपात्मजैः सह्र्दयैर्जित्वा रिपून भुज्यते
तल्लोके न तु याज्यते न तु पुनर्दीनाय वा दीयते”
He is intelligent and shrewd and has ready wit to retort, when Krishna asks him to love his step-brothers, he retorts, how will there be friendly relations between sons of Gods and common people? The dramatist, while portraying the merits of Duryodhana’s character, has not failed in pointing out other aspects as well. Without the least sense of shame, he gazes at the picture of Draupadi’s outrage in the council hall and enjoys a wicked pleasure in describing it. He decides not to honour Krishna who comes as an ambassador and prepares to take him a prisoner.
Shrikrishna– Bhasa has portrayed Krishna as a magnanimous man possessing all the essential qualities of a first rate ambassador. The title Dutvakyam suggests the importance of Krishna’s role in the play. In Mahabharata too, this part of the story is in Bhagavadyanparva. Krishna comes to the camp of Duryodhana at a critical moment. He is aware of Duryodhana’s wickedness and obstinacy, and also the probable result of his mission, and yet he undertakes the job of an ambassador due to his love for the Pandavas and desire to bring peace and happiness to the world. He has got a commanding personality which makes all the councilors rise when he enters the hall even though they were ordered by Duryodhana not to show any respect. He changes his tone and attitude when he realizes that Duryodhana, cannot be converted by soft words. One thing that Krishna cannot tolerate is adharma-अधर्म. When Sudarshan (सुदर्शन) reminds him of his mission on earth, he withdraws his orders to kill Duryodhana. When Dhritrashtra requests him to stay for a while and receive his adoration, he agrees. This shows his gentle nature.
Dhritarashtra– Dhritarashtra, who is introduced at the end of the play, is fully aware of the wrongdoings of his son, but he is powerless to check him. So he wants to atone for the sins of his son by falling at the feet of Shrikrishna and by honouring him. This is in conformity with the character of Dhritarashtra as portrayed in the Mahabharata.
Sudarshana– In this play, Sudarshana arrives on the stage in the form of a human being and a powerful person to whom Duryodhana is rather an insignificant man. He is very thoughtful in his actions. Though Krishna orders the killing of Duryodhana, he reminds Krishna the purpose of his avatar(अवतार) and tells him how that purpose would be defeated by killing Duryodhana just then.
Chamberlain– The Chamberlain knows the greatness of Shrikrishna and introduces him as Purushottama. Later on, to please his master, he says that he was confused.
Sentiments are the important factor in Rupak. In this drama वीर (the heroic) is the main sentiment, and the appearance of the divine weapons towards the end of the play, borders on the adbut अद्भुत (the wonderful). The style is Arabhati (violent).
Type of the play
In classifying the plays of Bhasa we should remember that Bharats’ definitions and rules cannot be fully and strictly applied to them because Bhasa has his writing style. There is confusion in scholars whether Dutvakyam is vyayog or vithi (व्यायोग or वीथी). Dr. G. Shastri states that the play is either a Vyayog or Vithi. According to Dhananjaya, Vyayog must have a renowned plot; the fighting must not have been caused by woman. According to Bharata, Vyayog is a one-act play depicting the actions of one day. The plot is drawn from an epic and the hero is a well known king and not a divine person. Few female characters are introduced and many men are engaged in the struggle. Attacks, fights and insults are described in such a way as to cause excitement. The sentiment is Vira or Raudra and the style is most suited to that. In Dutvakyam, the plot is taken from the Epic, Mahabharatam. Duryodhana, is a well known hero as well as a king. Many men are supposed to have been engaged in the struggle to bind Krishna with ropes. Krishna’s anger and the arrival of Sudarshana cause great excitement. The incidents described take place on a single day and the sentiment developed is Vira, thus the definitation of Vyayog fits well with this work.
Features of the play
- Bhasa adopts a new technique in making Duryodhana introduce all his dignitaries one by one so that the audience also knows who are present in the court.
- In this play, dramatic effect is achieved when Duryodhana calls Krishna’s name in order to refute kankuchakiya’s epithet for Krishna, Purshottama, ie the best among men.
- Verses in this play are complex, rhetorical and full of resonance. Description is effective all through. The language is lucid and elegant, is particularly effective in debunking Duryodhana.
- Bhasa’s power of describing the various moods of the Pandavas and Draupadi is seen in the effective delineation of restrained passion.
- Most of the bad traits of Duryodhana’s character which are elaborately brought out in the Mahabharata are effectively hinted here also. But there is one difference. In the original story, the reference to a man of wicked deeds is attributed to Shakuni, Karna and Dushasan while here it rests with Duryodhana only.
- In Urubhanga and Pancharatra, Bhasa has portrayed Duryodhana in better colours than the original, but here he has not done so. This fact is a strong point in favour of taking Krishna as the hero of the play.
- There is no heroine in this play, nor any female character, nor is any Prakrit used.
- T.K.Ramchandra Aiyar. Bhasa-Natakchakre Dutvakyam.R.S.Vadhyar & Sons, Kalpathi, India.
- Sukumari Bhattacharji. 1993. History of classical Sanskrit Literature. Orient Longman Limited.
- Shriramjimishra. 2007. Dutvakyam. Chaukhamba Prakashan.
- A. D. Pusalkar later foreword by the late Dr. A. Berriedale Keith. Bhasa- A Study. 1940,1960. Munshiram Manoharlal oriental publishers.