Bhasa was certainly a talented dramatist judging from the number and variety of his dramas. स्वप्नवासदत्तम~ is undoubtedly the best and the most mature product of Bhasa’s genius. Svapanavasavadattam is certainly one of the masterpieces of Sanskrit Literature. Svapanavasavadattam means the Dream of Vasavadatta. Svapanavasavdattam, the story of the play drawn from the well-known and popular Udayana legends has as its hero the famous king endowed with the qualities of धोरोदत्त नायक. The Svapanavasavadattam forms in substance the sequence of the Pratidnya-yaigandharya.
स्वप्नवासदत्तम~ is derived from the scene described in Act V where the king actually sees Vasavadatta, the heroine, but is led to believe that he saw her only in a drama. This scene is a wonderful creation of Bhasa’s dramatic genius and to name the play after this incident is very appropriate. The word स्वप्नवासदत्तम~ can be derived as Svapane Drushta Vasavadatta and by transference of epithet; the play describing the dream scene is called Svapanavasavdatta. Or it may be derived as Svapane Drushta Vasavadatta Yasmin tat Svapanavasavdatta. Sometimes the work is also called by the abridged name स्वप्ननाटकं which may be derived as स्वप्नप्रधानं नाटकं स्वप्ननाटकं. The main theme of the drama is the sorrow of Udayana for his wife Vasavadatta believed to have perished in a conflagration, separation of Vasavadatta from Udayana, her Vipralambha and final reunion, she dominates all scenes represented on the stage, the mention of her name in the title is also very appropriate. The drama is drawn from the romantic stories about Udayana and Vasavadatta, which were popular in the poet’s time and which seem to have captivated popular imagination.
The story of Udayana was a very popular folkfore in ancient India. The legend that has come down to us in the Kathasaritsagara is said to be a faithful version of the Brihakatha. The Buddhist and Jain chronicles in which Udayana legends are found recorded in Pali in the writing of Somadeva which is a Sanskrit version of the Bruhatkatha claiming to preserve the original faithfully, are much later than Bhasa and hence cannot be the source of Bhasa’s play. Also Somdeva gives a correct account of the folklore for a study of the innovations of Bhasa and their significance in the drama. Svapanavasavadattam is Vipralambhashrungar (Love-in- separation) and it is associated with karuna ras (the sentiment of Pathos).
Yaugandharayana, the minister of Udayana is anxious to recover for his master all the territories which were seized by a king named Aruni. This necessitates an alliance with the king of Magadh. The minister is therefore anxious that his master should wed Padmavati, sister of the king of Magadha. But Udayana is too deeply attached to his queen Vasavadatta to entertain any such proposal. The minister, therefore, forms a scheme and enthuses Vasavadatta to help him in it. During the king’s absence on a hunting expedition, the minister spreads a report that he and Vasavadatta perished in the fire that consumed the village of Lavanaka, in which they resided. Yaugandharayanana and Vasavadatta then leave the village in disguise and arrive at a hermitage when Padmavati, the Magadha princess, happens to come there. Yaugandharyana who is in the disguise of a recluse, gives Vasavadatta the charge of Padmavati, stating that she is his sister, whose husband has gone on a journey. Vasavadatta lives with Padmavati under the assumed name of Avantika. After some time the king is persuaded to marry Padmavati, who is a beautiful, high-minded princess. But the king’s love for Vasavadatta is as strong and as fresh as ever. He mourns for Vasavadatta whom he imagines as lost. Once while the king and the Vidushaka were in pleasure garden, the king in the course of conversation confessed to his friend that he still cherishes his love for Vasavadatta. Padmavati and Vasavadatta hear all his conversation from a jasmine-bower. Afterwards Padmavati is seized with a severe-headahe and it is arranged that she should sleep in the Ocean Pavilion. The king goes there to comfort her but finds that she is not there. He lies down on the bed spread for Padmavati and soon falls fast asleep. In the meanwhile Vasavadatta comes to comfort Padamavati. She mistakes the sleeping form to be her mistress and sits on the bed. The king begins to address Vasavadatta in a dream. Vasavadatta knowing her mistake plans to move away, but not without replacing the king’s hands which were hanging down from the coach. After the king wakes up from his sleep, he receives the joyful news that the enemy’s forces were scattered and that he must now be ready to deal the finishing stroke and destroy Aruni. One day the king’s sorrow for Vasavadatta is renewed and rises to the highest pitch on the discovery of the lute Ghosavati, her beloved companion. That very day a messenger comes from Mahasena of Ujjain and his queen with a message of congratulation to Udayana on his complete victory over his enemy and a present of the picture of the nuptials of himself and Vasavadatta. Padmavati recognizes in the lady painted in the picture the features of the sister left in her charge by the Brahmin recluse. Yaugandharayana soon arrives on the scene to explain how he had devised the whole plan to promote the interest of his master.
The whole drama is in six acts: The poet shows considerable skill in working out the plot of the drama.
In Act I, the device of introducing a Brahmacharin, is effectively used to acquaint the audience with the reported death of Vasavadatta and the minister in the fire of Lavanaka. This act further throws much light on the characters of Yaugandharayana, Vasavadatta and Padmavati. The confidence of Yaugandharayana in the success of his plan and ability of Rumanvan to bear his great responsibility gives a hint to the future events. The description of the hermits and hermitage, the plight and lamentations of Udayana and the sunset reveal Bhasa’s love and power to give graphic descriptions of external nature and human feelings.
Act II marks the second stage in the development of the plot and sentiment. Udayana has reconciled himself to the changed circumstances and has agreed to take another wife. The second stage in the great plan of Yaugandharayana is nearing completion. Vasavadatta’s Vipralambhashrungar is leading towards a climax. A deep gloom has enveloped her heart.
Act III The significance of this Act lies in the sentiment of pathos developed in it. Vasavadatta draws the sympathy of the audience when she speaks of her miserable fate “even my noble lord now belongs to another woman.” Her love-lorn figure wreathing the wedding garland for the marriage of her husband with another woman cannot fail to cause tears in the eyes of onlookers. In short, this is one of the most pathetic scenes in Sanskrit literature.
Act IV is very important in the development of sentiments and marks the third stage in the development of the plot. It also provides a brilliant psychological study and throws further light on the character of Udayana, Padmavati and Vasavadatta. Bhasa has accomplished all these with much ease while Bhavabhuti had to invoke supernatural powers to bring Rama and Sita close by in the third act of Uttarramcharitam.
In Act V, the dream scene is the most beautiful and most effective on the stage. The incident is cleverly contrived to bring the king, who is asleep, and Vasavadatta together. The situation, in which Vasavadatta mistakes the sleeping king for Padmavati, is naturally evolved, for the chamber in which he was sleeping was very dimly lighted and she was naturally unwilling to disturb her mistress, who, she hoped had fallen into deep slumber. The vision of Vasavadatta, which the king gets in his sleep, is a natural outcome of the state of his mind, which is ever haunted by the agonizing thought of her destruction of fire. Bhasa has shown his mastery over the psychology and feelings of lovers in the creation and description of this scene which has been highly praised by the critics.
Act VI, the king’s grief rises to its climax on the discovery of the lute Ghosavati and the catastrophe of the drama is reached. Svapanavasavadattam, like the other plays of Bhasa, is remarkable for the swiftness of its action. There are no impediments in the way. Every incident in the drama has a direct bearing on the catastrophe.
- Udayana: – Udayana, known as Vatsaraja, is a prince of exalted character. He is dearly loved and highly honored by the people. Bhasa has portrayed Udayana as a true Dhirodatta type of hero; bold, strong, generous, merciful and charming. Though a romantic lover of Vasavadatta, he is an obliging husband of Padmavati. The most remarkable trait in the character of Udayana as portrayed in this drama is his deep love for Vasavadatta which he cherishes even after her supposed death and his marriage with Padmavati. He confesses this to his companion Vidusaka,
“पद्मावती बहुमता मम यद्यपि रुपशीलमाधु्र्ये वासवदत्ताबध्दं न तु तावन्मे मनो हरति”
Most touching is the manner in which he mourns for Vasavadatta. When the chamberlain from the king of Ujjain comes to him with a congratulatory message and tries to console him, he replies “Mahasensya duhita shishya devi ch me priya, katham sa n maya shakya smartum dehantreshvapi” means “Mahasena’s daughter, my pupil and beloved queen- How can I not remember (forget) her even though in different corporal existence. There is very little scope in this drama for the display of heroism and fighting qualities. His love and sorrow, however, chasten and elevate his character and call forth all the innate nobility of his nature.
- Vasavadatta:- वासवदत्ता, the beloved daughter of Mahasen and the dear wife of Udayana, is a beautiful young woman endowed with many virtues of an ideal Hindu wife. Vasavadatta is a devoted, selfless wife, who sacrifices her feelings for the sake of her lord. She readily agrees to help the minister in his scheme, though it involves immense sorrow and suffering to her. Her self-abnegation and self-sacrifice are beyond all praise. Her silent suffering draws our sympathy. Vasavdatta is a woman of gentle nature and pleasing manners. Padmavati, along with others in the palace love and admire Avantika. She very cleverly extracts information from the maid that Padmavati wishes to marry Udayana and not Gopalak though she is suffering from pain. Many are such instances showing her ready wit and intelligence. All though the long period of separation from her lord, she shows calm resignation to her lot. No repining, no outburst of ill temper mars the serenity and dignity with which she endures her suffering.
- Padmavati : Padmavati is a beautiful, innocent, high-minded princess who desires to marry Udayana because he is known to be tender-hearted. Her simplicity and innocence impart a charm to her character. One striking feature in the character of Padmavati is the complete absence of jealousy and a clear understanding of Udayana’s feelings. She does not get offended when Udayana expresses his greater love for Vasavadatta and says that the king is fair-minded who even now remembers the virtue of the noble Vasavadatta. Padmavati exhibits a good sense of decency and propriety in all her actions and behavior. When she got to know about the true character of Vasavdatta by the portrait she falls at Vasavadatta’s feet and begging to be pardoned for having treated her as a friend. She has been made a victim of political strategy and yet is happy for securing a tender husband in the king and a loving friend Vasavadatta.
- Yaugandharayna: He is the prime minister of king Udayana, is an outstanding man, strong-willed, capable and devoted to his master. He is free from selfishness and hence he is able to command the respect and confidence of everyone from the queen to the student. Apart from being a politician and statesman, he is also a good fighter in battle. Udayana himself recognizes his varied talents and praises him for all he has done.
Geography Of The Play
- मगध :- The country of Magadh corresponds roughly to the southern part of modern province of Bihar. It is a Rajgruh has been identified with the modern Rajgir. It was Bimbsara (528B.C- 500B.C) who built Rajgruh and made it his capital.
- लावाणक :- Lavanaka was the name of village adjacent to Magadha and was probably situated on the south bank of Jamna near its confluence with the Ganges.
- काम्पिल्य :- Kampilya is the name of a town in the country of the Panchalas, where the स्वयंवर of Draupadi was held. It corresponds to the Kampilla of modern times, situated between Badun and Farrukhabad.
Bhasa has made many changes from the folklore in the plot of Svapanavasavdattam. The most important change is in the motive of Yaugandharyana in counseling Vasavadatta, proclaiming her death in the fire of Lavanaka and bringing about the marriage of Padmavati and Udayana. The charming scene in the hermitage with the vivid description and the beautiful episode of Padmavati’s piety and desire to make gifts to holy men and accepting Vasavadatta as a deposit at the request of the holy man, is highly dramatic while the folklore story making Yaugandharayana meet Padamavati in the palace garden is rather stale and to some extent, unrealistic.
There are many more minor deviations- all these changes are calculated to improve the dramatic effect, highlight the sentiments, make the plot realistic and the sequence of events more natural and also to improve the character of the prominent persons in the play.
- A.D. Pusalkar. 1943. Bhasa. Sadhana press
- Sankara Ram shastri. 1951. Prtima Natakam of Bhasa. Shri Balamanorama press.
- Dr. C.L.N. Moorthy Pratimanatakam of Bhasa (article)