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Mrichhakatika as a classical play

Mrichchhakatika as a classical play

Mrichhakatika as a classical play

Q. Mrichchhakatika as a classical play - Discuss

Answer: Mrichhakatikam is a prakarana, one of the seven categories of plays according to classical Sanskrit aesthetic theory. If we dive deeper into the source of the play, Mrichhakatikam, we can find many elements of classical works. It is to be noted that Bhasa’s Charu-duttam or Charudutta is believed to be the major source of Mrichhakatikam, largely because of close similarities in the first four acts of both the plays. Charuduttam is still acted in the South India and is a particular favorite among Mohiniattam dancers. It is believed that Raja Ravi Verma’s iconic depiction of Vasantasena was drawn from Charuduttam, and not from Mrichhakatikam.  

The play, Mrichhakatikam is attributed to the authorship of Sudraka, a king who is belived to have lived between the third and the fourth century BC. The play itself is based in Ujjain, the capital of Pradyota dynasty and its king Palaka, who ruled the state in the first quarter of the fifth century BC. Believed to be a development on Vasa’s incomplete five act play, Carudutta, it is one of the gems of Indian classical literature. Its tenth act is is a work of stupendous craftsmanship, where imagination blends seamlessly with incisive social critique.

As a rupaka or allegory, too, the play is exemplary, delivering the importance of detachment from worldly possessions and achievements and foregrounding their illusory and impermanent nature within an external form of great vivacity and action. In excellence, it is matched only the great works of Kalidasa.

Besides, with the accordance of classical saga, the play begins with a prologue of hymn to Lord Shiva in two parts, extolling his beauty and urging his help in carrying out the play to its completion. The Brahmin then states that, the preparations for the play are over and he has become hungry while making all these preparations. He goes back home and asks for food, of which he finds none since the actress, his wife, has undertaken a fast to get herself a handsome husband in her next birth. 

Vasantasena in Mrichhakatika

Playfully, she asked the Brahmin to be her husband and ask him to find someone to initiate the puja that is related to the fast. The Brahmin finds Maitreya, Charudutta’s friend passing by and calls him to come in and carry out the rites. Maitreya declines and rushes on his way. This is how the prologue introduces one of the main characters of the play. It is also makes clear that the play is going to be set in the affluent city of Avanti, present day Ujjain –a favorite abode of many classical works.    

However, Mrichhakatikam is one of the plays along with Abhijnanasakuntalam, which plays a significant role in the development of interest in Indian Classical Literature abroad –a spirit that reigned throughout the 19th century and the early half of the 20th century. The textual history of Mrichhakatikam is fascinating, although most modern translations follow Arthur Ryder’s 1904 translation of the play. It continues to be one of the most studied Oriental texts worldwide.


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👉 The Illiad, (Book – I and Book II): The Character of Achilles 

👉 Abhijnanasakuntalam – Short Answer Type Questions and Answers (2 Marks) 

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👉 Oedipus Rex by Sophocles – Oedipus as a tragic hero 

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