Many times, if we observe the titles of Sanskrit dramas, very often they are self-explanatory. E.g., Malavikagnimitram by Kalidas,   Venisanhara by Bhatt Narayan, Uttar-ram charitam by Bhavabhuti and so on. It is a very common tendency of guessing a relationship whenever a male and a female name appear together, rarely can we think of a possibility other than them being in love.

Authors must have been well familiar with such mass leveled “thought limitation”, Hence, they title their literary works especially plays, after their main characters. (I.e. Hero and Heroine) Like the title Malati-Madhav gives us an idea about the story of this play that it concerns two people mainly, Malati and Madhav.

Type of play

This play belongs to a kind called “Prakaran” according to G.K. Bhat. He says, the theme of such plays, taken from real life, with further additions and improvisations by the writer, mainly expresses Shrungar Ras. These plays consist of nearly 5 to 10 chapters of scenes. Depending upon the character of the Nayika or Heroine, this play is categorized as Shuddha or Sankirna. (Since the Nayika in our play is a woman with morals, it falls under the sub kind; “Shuddha”.) (Bhat.1979.202). The plot of these plays is divided into two namely; Principal and accessory. Here, as clarified by the title itself, the principal plot is a love story of Malati and Madhav, where as the sub plot refers to the story of Makarand and Madayantika. Being vast in nature, such plays give a large scope for the imagination and creativity of the author.

The original source

Again, like many other literary works in Sanskrit, the story is not the brainchild of the author, but an adaptation. Many scholars who have studied the play, suggest the original sources for the main story as well as for specific scenes and incidents from the play;

  1. The plot of the story is taken from a text named “Bruhadkatha”, which tells us the story of a Vidushak (literally A joker, but is used to refer to the entertainers.) The story describes the custom where a magician kills a young woman in some sacrifice for offering human flesh to evil powers (Pishach) to please them. May be “Aghorghantaka” incident, must have been inspired by this reference.
  2. An incident where Makarand (Madhav’s close friend), dresses like a female, has already appeared in the play “Devichandragupta” written by Vishakhdatt.
  3. In chapter six, Madhav hides in the internal area of the temple (Garbha-gruha) and suddenly he takes place of Lavangika, and hugs Malati. The concept behind the act is found in the play “Avimarak” written by Bhas.
  4. It seems that, the hysterical reaction of Madhav, (9th chapter of the play) is taken from the a situation in “Vikramorvashiyam” of Kalidas.

The storyline

This is a love-story of Madhav, the son of minister Devrat and Malati, with a very surprising complementary theme of Tantra and Aghor-vidya (Black magic), with three dark-shaded characters namely, Nandan, Kapalkundala and Aghorghantak. However, here the Nayak and Nayika are not alone, neither during their early love-life nor during the troubled times. They are accompanied by pure hearted and caring people; Makarand, Kamandaki, Saudamini, Buddharakshita, Avalokita etc. who always aim to bring about happiness in the life of Malati-Madhav, ready to sacrifice their life for the sake of these two. Like most of the stories, with its own unique stock of twists and turns the story reaches a happy ending.

The characters

Madhav- He is young, modest, and speaks sweetly. He has most of the generic qualities of a hero mentioned by Dramaturgy. Despite these qualities there is nothing special in his nature that would make us admire him. Perhaps (as stated by M.R. Kale,) the rules of dramaturgy must have restricted the author to portray Madhav like the character of Rama Dushyant. These rules say that, a hero of Prakaran, should have just ordinary qualities. The only thing, which attracts sympathy for him, is his deep and passionate love for Malati. His passion has been compared with that of Romeo, by Haslett’s description of Romeo. (If we replace Romeo’s name with him) “Madhav is abstracted from everything, but his love and lost in it. He is himself only in his Malati; she is the only reality, his heart’s true home and idol. The rest of the world is to him a passing dream.” The intensity of his passion, accompanied by purity and innocence that we forgive him for entering in symmetry…. (Kale.38.1983)

Malati- Nayika (Heroine) of this play is a very fine picture of a maiden of high birth. Here, the writer’s object seems to be to depict her as a maiden, in whom, passion is just kindled, but is restrained by a charming reserve and sweetened by girlish innocence to unite; purity of heart, intensity of passion, a high sense of family honor and dignity of manners. She has mastery over herself and she knows how to keep her passion under check. Even after her marriage to Madhav, her earlier image of a modest, reserved and unassumed girl does not change. The poet sketches her character as one with noble traits; a tender hearted and loving girl who, would rather prefer dying than tarnish the honor of her family and who, though was extremely in love with Madhav, was not ready to marry him without the consent of her parents.(Kale.38.1983)

Kamandaki- A Buddhist female mendicant, who as Bhurivasu’s chief agent and trusted friend holds the threads of the plot in her hands, She has nothing but a mere feeling of  pure friendship for Bhurivasu and Devrata, and with that, she desires to promote the wellbeing of their children, and for it even subordinated observance of her religious rites. She acts as a tenderhearted foster mother for Malati, but she is even more than a mother to her. Kamandaki’s deep love for Malati is displayed in an act where Malati is taken again for the second time by Kapalkundala, and she appears to put an end to her life, unable to find whereabouts of Malati. Assisted by her pupil, Avalokita and her friend Buddharakshita, she tries to get Malati’s heart filled with love for Madhav and at the same time she takes care to make her heart feel disgusted for Nandana. After love had wounded the hearts of both equally, she tries to keep up their spirits, by holding forth hopes for a successful future, to bring about which she would not mind giving up her own life. She is seen to be less active in the last four acts, where her place is taken by her follower Saudamini, who saves Malati from the clutches of Kapalkundala and cheers up Madhav. (Kale.36, 37.1983) In a nutshell, Kamandaki is a character of a woman blessed with diplomacy, pure love, care and friendship.

Makarand- A childhood friend of Madhav, and the hero of Pataka. He is perhaps a character displaying the qualities of an ideal friend. Inseparable associate of his friend, supporting him in every act and stands by him at all times, good or bad. All what he does is aimed only to make his friend happy or to help him to get out of distress. E.g. after Madhav confessed his love for Malati before him, he risks impersonating himself as Malati, in a sham marriage arranged by Kamandaki for Nandan. Like his friend, he is bold, loving, intrepid and ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of others. This courage of Makarand is seen in the third act where he rescues Madayantika from the tiger, at the risk of his own life.

Avalokita, Buddharakshita, Lavangika, Saudamini-

Avalokita, Kamandaki’s pupil, Buddharakshita and Lavangika are all Malati’s friends. They take part in the love intrigue, and contribute to the plot with energetic effort. All of them are very shrewd, affectionate, skilled in the use of enigmatical language and artful yet natural in their conversation. Amongst all of them, Saudamini receives special admiration from the audience/readers since; the service she renders to our Nayak-Nayika is quite disinterested. The only fact connecting her with them is that she is an old pupil of Kamandaki who is interested in the well-being of Malati-Madhav. (Kale.39,40.1983)


The acts are important so that, we can have an idea of the happenings though in brief, before reading the actual text.

Act I

Scene I: In a nutshell, the scene is merely about the conversations between Kamandaki and Avalokita discussing at first about Malati and Madhav and the engagement made by their fathers at the time, when they were students. Later their talk focuses on Saudamini, about her attainment of miraculous powers by practice of yoga. Along with their desire to match Madhav and Madhav, they also wish for the union of Makarand with Madayantika, Nandan’s sister.

Scene II: It describes Madhav’s love for Malati, which includes the very first encounter of Madhav with Malati, Madhav’s confession of his love.

Act II

After the meeting at Madan-Garden, Malati’s passion grows intense, turned worse when her father at the instance of the king affiances her to Nandan.

Scene I: Along with Malati’s conversation with Lavangika, where Malati in spite of having feelings for Madhav rejects his proposal as it would dishonor the nobles.

Scene II: The scene takes place between Malati and Kamandaki, where Malati tells her situation including her arranged marriage  with Nandan and Kamandaki prepares Malati’s mind for a marriage by self choice.


Scene I: It is a conversation between Buddharakshita and      Avalokita, where Buddharakshita seizes every occasion, to create a feeling in Madayantika’s heart for Makarand.

Scene II: It starts with a conversation between Kamandaki and Lavangika who share with each other, the love-affected conditions of Malati and Madhav, where Malati is present and is with Lavangika, but Madhav enters unobserved. The act is followed by a twist, witnessing a heroic act of Makarand who saves Madayantika from the attack of tiger.

Act IV

Scene:  The scene is a start of an incident when, Malati is affianced to Nandan, making Madhav distressed and despaired Though Kamandaki assures Madhav, that even at the cost of her life, she would bring about his alliance with Malati, she leaves with Malati who also departs with a heavy heart with anguish.

Act V

Scene I: With the scene, the most interesting twist of the play starts. Where Kapalkundala comes to the cemetery, who is searching for a maiden as required by her guru, and is about to leave in search of her, as the maiden was to be found in the neighboring city. In the same scene, Madhav who is still in distress, describes how Malati has left a deep impression on his mind, he then calls out the goblin haunting the cemetery offering his body flesh. As he reaches the river skirting the burning ground, all of a sudden he hears something.

Scene II: The scene takes place at the temple of Karala, where Aghorghantaka and Kapalkundala are discovered preparing to offer Malati to Chamunda. When they ask Malati to say her last prayers and to remember the person loved by her the most, she professes her love for Madhav. Madhav, on recognizing her voice comes forward and an exchange of some heated words takes place between Madhav and Aghorghantaka, when they hear Kamandaki’s voice asking the soldiers to search for Malati, and surround the temple as it is the place where Malati could be found in all certainty. This alarms both the dark characters, but in the end, Aghorghantaka meets with doom which he richly deserved and there is an energetic display of swordfighting by the two combatants.

Act VI

Scene I: here Kapalkundala enters and expresses her resolve to avenge Madhav for having slain her Guru. In the meantime, in the background, Malati’s marriage is announced, where all concerned are ready for receiving the bridegroom’s party that is approaching. Malati received her mother’s bidding in accordance with Kamandaki’s injunctions to repair to the temple of the town deity where all obstacles would be warded off. Kapalkundala is glad to hear as she might find an opportunity to carry out her wishes.

Scene II:  Madhav and Makarand stationed in the interior of the temple, when they observe Malati’s arrival, are greatly struck by the dresses and ornaments carried by Malati’s servants. When Malati enters the interior with Lavangika, she confesses her love for Madhav and declares her resolve to put an end to her wretched existence and asks her to assist her in carrying out the resolve. Malati falls at Lavangika’s feet. Lavangika asks Madhav to replace her, which he readily does. She gives a long speech about friendship and as the last token; she wishes to gift a Bakula wreath, the only object dearest to her as woven by her chosen lord, around her neck.  But when proceeding to do so, she realizes her mistake and Madhav then tells her that the love in his heart is no less than hers.

Lavangika and Makarand suggest a love marriage, Malati hesitates at first but Kamandaki appears, cheers up Malati and asks Madhav to accept her. She sends both of them to her sanctuary where her pupil has made the arrangements already. In addition, she asks Makarand to dress up in the bridal costume and get married to Nandan under that disguise.


Scene I: Buddharakshita comes and explains how Makarand carried out his character perfectly and how after the marriage, Nandan was deceived and offended by the supposed Malati.

Scene II:  Buddharakshita and Madayantika appear and while Makarand pretends to be asleep, they along with Lavangika discuss about the behavior of Malati, where Madayantika tries to defend her brother, by saying that though he was the offender the root cause was Malati’s talk for Madhav which were filled with love, while the latter lay the blame on Nandan. The latter then cunningly turns the talk to Makarand and elicits a confession from Madayantika and advices Gandharva-Marriage and Makarand then throws off his disguise, takes Madayantika’s hand and addresses her lovingly. Lavangika then asks them to go where Malati and Madhav had already gone.


Scene I: The scene is a conversation between Madhav, Malati, Avalokita, Buddhacharita and Madayantika succeeded by news of Makarand’s fight with the city guards, when Madhav quickly moves to help his friend after saying some words of encouragement to Madayantika, and Malati sends Avalokita and Buddharakshita to Kamandaki.

Scene II: Taking advantage of this, Kapalkundala takes Malati away to the mountains of Sriparvata, with an intension to put her to a cruel death. When Madhav and Makarand return after being honored by the king, they meet Lavangika and Avalokita who were searching for Malati. However, to their anxious enquiries the latter had no satisfactory answers to give. Makarand suggest that, she might have gone to Kamandaki’s place and full of misgivings, they all direct their footsteps.

Act IX

It starts with Saudamini’s arrival in Padmavati wishing to find out Madhav and to cheer him up with the news that Malati was quite safe. This is succeeded by news of Makarand’s fight with the city guards.

Scene I: Madhav, with deep grief in his heart, could not divert his mind, while Makarand tries his best to do so. Depressed Madhav then decides to throw himself in the river Patalwati and Makarand’s efforts to console him are about to fail, when suddenly Saudamini appears and prevents him by doing so telling him that Malati was safe. She further comforts both of them by telling how Kapalkundala had carried Malati with an intension to kill her but how Saudamini succeeded in saving her. She then flies in the sky with both of them, in search of Kamandaki to share the news with her.

Act X

Here Kamandaki, Lavangika and Madayantika resolve to put an end to their lives by throwing themselves from the top of the hill. When a flash is seen and with that appears Makarand who make them learn that the Yogini (Saudamini) has saved Malati. Just at the time a voice behind the curtains announces that, Bhurivasu (Malati’s father) was approaching mountain Suvarnabindu to put himself in fire. This is followed by a wailing cry of Malati, who asks her father to desist from the act. Now appears Madhav, carrying Malati, who is in a trance, in his arms. He tells how he came along with Saudamini to the mountain. The shower from the clouds calls back Malati to her senses.

Malati falls at Kamandaki’s feet but Kamandaki raises her and embraces. She also praises Saudamini for her act. Saudamini appears here again, with a letter from the king that not only contained his approval for the two secret marriages but also his entire satisfaction for the son in law. Kamandaki expresses her satisfaction at the happy turn of events, but Saudamini remarks that the happier still must be considered the fulfillment of long cherished desire of two ministers to have their children united in wedlock. This remark takes Madhav, Malati and Makarand with surprise and the play ends with Kamandaki’s explaining matters and the happy end.

The period of action of the events

The whole action seems to occupy a period of three months or little less.

1. In the first act, when Madhav is shown to be gone to witness the Madana festival. According to the commentary on Vatsyayana’s Kama sutra, Madana is the festival celebrated on the first day of the month Chaitra. (Chaitra according to the Hindu calendar is the first month of the New Year.) It is celebrated until 5th day of the same month. According to M. Williams, it is celebrated on the full moon day of Chaitra, while Pro. Wilson says that it is celebrated on the 13th and 14th of the bright half of Chaitra. When Makarand meets Madhav, it appears to be noon as per the words of Makarand “SAKHE LALATANTAPASTAPATI TAPAN:” The conversation lasts for about an hour and again the speech of Makarand suggests that, when the two left for their homes, the sun was in the middle of the sky. The events of the second act too happen in the later part of the same day, which is clear in the conversation between maids in the pravesaka. They terminate the talk between Kamandaki, Malati and Lavangika in the evening.

2. A period of about a month has passed, between the first two and the third event. Considering Malati’s modesty, the period is necessary to bring about the change in her feelings. As expressed in the words;

“NEETA KATIPYAHEN SAKHIVISHRAMBHSEVYATAM”, it is the 14th of the dark half probably of the month Vaishakh on which the third act begins. Madhav and Makarand are in a trance at the beginning of the fourth act; hence, the events of the act happen on the same day. The news about the marriage of Malati and Nandan, heard by Madhav, who then goes to the cemetery at nightfall, passes the night there, in the hope of some favor by the tenants of the cremationground. In the meanwhile Malati is taken away by Kapalkundala to the Karala temple, to be offered as a victim. These events, from the fifth act take place on the night of the same day. Thus the events of the 3rd, 4th and 5th acts occupy one day and one night.

3. There must be a gap of a fortnight between 5th and 6th acts, a period necessary for Malati to recover from the sudden shock of being carried to the cemetery. In addition, her marriage with Nandan must have been fixed some days early in the dark half of the Jyeshtha month, probably on 3rd or 4th day. The real marriage of Malati and Madhav also takes place on the same day.

4.  However, the incidents of the seventh and eighth act seem to have happened after some days. We are told that, the bridegroom’s party returned that day to Nandan’s house with Malati. Generally a bridegroom is entertained for four days by the father of the bride. So, that must have happened on the 7th or 8th day of the dark half of Jyeshtha. Some facts such as when the real character of Makarand is revealed to Madayantika and their love marriage determined upon, they are asked to repair to Kamandaki’s dwelling under cover of dense darkness of the midnight. On the same night, Malati and Madhav are described to have had their evening bath, hence referring to the days of Grishma. The first verse of eighth act, appears to be the time of the moonrise. The king witnessed the fight between Madhav, Makarand and city guards, at the time of night, when moon was shining bright. This can be possible only on the 7th or 8th day of the dark half of a month; hence, it must have happened on the 7th or 8th day of the dark half of Jyeshtha.

5. The incidents from the last two acts must have taken place, on the following day; Kapalkundala took Malati away at midnight. Madhav and Makarand must have searched for her the whole of next day. When Saudamini comes to look for Madhav it is mid-day and that must be of the same day she must have started searching for Madhav, just after her rescue of Malati from Kapalkundala’s hands. All these events could easily be thrown back to one full month, but for the mention of the setting in of the rain season and the fall of first shower. Thus, we conclude that the events of the 9th and 10th acts must have occurred on the ninth of the dark half of Jeshtha.

The first literary work by Bhavabhuti

Whenever comes a statement concerning about the history, whether it is scientific formulae or let it be an author’s claim over the text, we demand for “rational reasons” always. Similarly, had some scholar presented the possibility of this play being the first work of Bhavabhuti, readers and the rest of scholars would have questioned it.         However, prepared with all such possibilities, M.R.Kale in his translation of Malatimadhava, gives us some internal evidences, which could serve as the basis for  the conclusion.

1. As M.R.Kale quotes, the play displays “an admixture of excellences and defects, however small the number of the latter may be.” The plot also suffers from clumsiness as mentioned above (section of general critic.)

2. In its prelude, the poet speaks of his great literary attainment, with a glow of pride and indirectly hints that he possesses the great powers and the necessary qualifications of a dramatist, which would not be done if it were not his first work. His writings specifically, the long compounds, references from Nyaya, Yoga and other philosophies shows an irrestible desire of a scholar, fresh from Guru’s home, who is eager to show his knowledge to the world.

3. The verses in Mahavircharitam like “VASHYAVACH: KAVERVAKYAM” shows that the play was second composition of the writer, as he speaks more confidently due to the success of his previous work. It is reflected in his later work Uttar-ramcharitam, with the verse “YAM BRAHMANMIYAM DEVI VAGVASHYAIVANUVARTATE”.

4. Mahavircharitam and Uttar-ramcharitam are the plays based on the life of lord Rama. It cannot be supposed that, the poet wrote Rama’s early history at first and took a break, wrote a play completely different from the previous plot and later again switched to the post-coronation life of Ram.

5. A new, striving poet/writer can hardly think of going out of the way, since his very first aim would be to gain popularity. At the time when most of the plays were written with a romantic plot, were praised and well responded by people, it is a rare probability that, a struggling writer would choose a plot based on Vir-ras/heroism for his first work.

  1. The fame of his great predecessor Kalidas must have influenced him. May be as we was willing to establish himself a reputed author as Kalidas, he might have tried to imitate him. After the play was praised, he must have gained confidence hence switching to heroic element for his later work. (Kale.8, 9, 10.1983)

Institution: • Kale M.R. 1983. Malatimadhava; with the commentary of Jagaddhara. Motilal Banarasidas. Delhi. • Ka