Svapnavasavadattam - Principal Characters

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

Each character in Svapnavasavadattam is well chiseled by the dramatist, and marked with a strong individuality. Each one of them can be witnessed by us as a living and developing personality, each appropriate to his or her temperament and truth of being, and each in its own way, helps in the development of the plot.


Udayana, known as Vatsaraja, is a prince of exalted character, who ruled over the Vatsas with his capital at Kau§ambi. He is dearly loved and highly honoured by his people. He is a faithful and devoted husband who is so distraught when he hears of his queen and min­ister perishing in a fire, that he is ready to sacrifice his life in the same fire.

He marries PadmavatT, sister of the king of Magadha only for po­litical reasons. In Act VI, Udayana sends for PadmavatT as he wants to meet along with her, the Chamberlain and the nurse of Vasavadatta. Padmavati is naturally skeptical about the effect of her presence on the relatives of Vasavadatta. Udayana removes the doubt in her mind by pointing out that the parents of Vasavadatta look upon him as their own son and therefore, their affection would prevent them from not welcoming his second marriage, and secondly, assured of their love for him, Udayana would be failing in his duty if he were to omit pre­senting his new wife to the elders, as good conduct demanded.

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

He is very loving and considerate towards all, including his sub­ordinates, and generous in praise for them. Thus, the magnificent words he utters in verse 18, Act VI of Svapnavasavadattam, regarding Yaugandharayana, would have compensated the individual for all his trouble.

His love for Vasavadatta whom he imagines he has lost forever, remains as deep as ever and he suffers acutely due to the bereave­ment. His sorrow is described by the Brahmacharin in Act I, so poign­antly that the reader is touched to tears. The description of Udayana, on hearing the news of the conflagration, rolling on the ground in grief, rising up suddenly and calling out in agony: —

Alas Vasavadatta! Ah daughter of Avanti's king! Oh beloved! Oh my beloved pupil!

will haunt us long after we have finished the play, and we too will say with Udayana:

Can one forget a love that shook the heart?

Fond memories bring it back with a start, grief revives at each remembrance. It is (in) the course of nature that on shedding tears in this world the mind attains freshness, having a debt paid off (as it were).


Svapnavasavadattam is an immortal song of the soul-stirring self-effacement of the complying wife Vasavadatta, at the altar of pure love. Vasavadatta's figure easily towers over Udayana's in this play; in the dream scene, too, the chief centre of attraction is not Udayana, the dreamer, but Vasavadatta, the dreamed of', who captures the sympathy of the audience with her lingering charm.

She is a truly devoted wife and readily agrees to the plan of Yaugandharayana for regaining the lost kingdom of her husband. Thus she shows that she possesses a high sense of duty to her husband

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

and her people. Finding it difficult to put up with the crude methods used by the servants of the Magadha King and with common people, she prepares herself to suffer these worldly indignities, when she is consoled by Yaugandharayana in the first Act. It is only because of Vasavadatta that the bold plan of the chief minister succeeds. With none to console her, alone in grief, yet she has great solicitude for the king's welfare and health.

Vasavadatta is a memorable character; her supreme trait is her complete identification with her husband, and readiness to sacrifice her all for him. That is very well expressed in verse 4 (a) of Act IV, and she represents the ideal Hindu wife, from Sita's days to the present.

Bhasa, with a style simple, direct and brief, paints the internal conflict of Vasavadatta with such a realistic touch that Svapnavasavadattam can claim a place among the world's classics. Vasavadatta is the daughter of Mahasena and of Angaravati. She bears all good quali­ties. Her intellectual wit, pleasing nature, presence of mind, broad­mindedness, sense of self-respect and immense love for her husband prove her an ideal wife, a great lady and a unique creation of the poet. The name of the play suggests that even the dramatist himself was 'impressed by her'.

Vasavadatta's beauty is not a beauty that is 'skin deep'; it has the quality of the soul. It has a touch of spiritual sublimity, of which, we might either say with Shakespeare that 'age cannot wither it, nor custom stale', or with Bhavabhuti, "Jarasa yasminnaharyo rasah" (whose ecstatic relish is 'old-age' proof).

In anything that Vasavadatta says or does, we find the mellow glow of mature love that is happily free from carnal-dross. She prays from the inmost depths of her soul for the well-being of her own potential rival in love who, at least, could keep her lover happy. What love can be more exalted than this? Bhasa has invested Vasavadatta with such supernal beauty that, along with 8akuntala and SIta of the Orient and Cleopatra and Desdemona of the Occident, she has a place amongst the great heroines of world-drama.

The wonderful dream-scene and the angelic sacrifice of Vasavadatta are the two highlights of the play, the former in point of technique and the latter, in point of characterization. Vasavadatta, the nerve-

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

centre of the drama, fleets through the play like a godly angel, great in beauty, but greater still in soul.

Bhasa has pictured Vasavadatta in the dream scene, as an ex­quisite multi-dimensional emotional complex, blending at once, such varied and conflicting feelings like tender love, and rapturous de­light on one side and nervousness, excitement, fear and surprise on the other; all these kept under check by the overwhelming spell of a mighty grief evoking many rasas simultaneously; karuha (pathos), vipra/ambhasrngara (wistful love), bhayanaka (fear) and adbhuta (wonder).

The pent-up soul of Vasavadatta, blurts out something or the other related to her real self, and finds itself in a quandary. When Udayana's beauty is doubted, she abruptly blurts out that he is beautiful. When Padmavaff waxes eloquent about her love for Udayana and expresses a genuine doubt as to whether Vasavadatta could have loved him so much, her soul as it were bursts open and declares unwittingly that Vasavadatta's love was much greater! In all these cases, she has to summon up all her resources of ready wit to wriggle out of these awkward situations of her own creation. The climax of situational irony is reached, when cruel fate assigns to her the task of preparing the garland for her rival, to wed her own husband, and, what is still more touching is that the mystic herbs to be strung, include one, that has the power to stamp out the co-wife (in this case, herself). She instinc­tively spurns it, but finds herself in an awkward corner, when the maid questions why. Again her ready wit, alone helps her parry the question with her quick and apt retort: "His first wife is already dead. Where is the co-wife now to stamp out?"

Here is a beautiful picture of a true lover who, for the sake of the good of her own loved one, is prepared to sacrifice everything she has and to whose noble and steadfast love no sacrifice is too great. What wrenches of agony her heart must suffer when she is asked to weave the wedding garland of her co-wife! She exclaims:

अकरुणाः खल्वीश्वराः Oh! Pitiless are the gods!

Her words, that her husband now belongs to someone else, cannot

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

but bring tears to one's eyes:

आर्यपुत्रोऽपि नाम परकीयःसंवृतः

It is this karuna or pathos which touches the heart quick, pierces the vital and gives a jolt to the reader or audience. According to Kalidasa, it is in karuna that the heart melts: "Prayah sarvo bhavati Karunavrttir ardrantaratma."

From this conflict of emotions, like that of love and duty, and the conflict of circumstances, there emerges a beautiful and delicate pic­ture of ideal womanhood. Thus, the struggle that is going on in the heart of Vasavadatta - the struggle between the claims of duty on the one hand and love on the other hand, becomes the central ideal of the play Svapnavasavadattam.

Bhasa's picture of Vasavadatta, therefore is unique, as the other characters, though finished masterly, provide only the background against which Vasavadatta is drawn.


Padmavati is a beautiful, innocent, high-minded princess, who de­sires to marry Vatsaraja because he is known to be tender-hearted.

Though young she accepts the guardianship of the older Vasavadatta to keep her promise which was implied in her proclama­tion. In Act I when the Chamberlain is reluctant over the acceptance of Avantika, Padmavati quietly steps forward and in a terse but decisive sentence points out that she will not go back on her words. She is pious and generous with her gifts.

Padmavati bears malice to none. She wants none to suffer for her sake. Her treatment of the maids, and Avantika was exemplary, tender, kind, considerate and free. She is free from jealousy and we see when in the flowering bower, she hears the king tell Vidusaka, in confidence, that he still loves Vasavadatta; she does not feel offended. When her maid says in her presence, that Udayana lacked all courtesy, by pre­ferring his dead wife Vasavadatta to Padmavati, she corrects her and

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

says that Udayana, far from lacking courtesy has rather shown great courtesy by remembering the merits of Vasavadatta even after her death. This statement brings forth from Vasavadatta the praise: "My dear, your words are worthy of your exalted birth".

On one occasion in Act IV, she expresses her desire to learn music from her husband; and noting his silence, does not persist in her request, judging for herself that she has not been able to replace Vasavadatta in his heart. The way she expresses her love for her husband is also characteristically modest. And she bears the suf­fering caused by Udayana's confession of his love for Vasavadatta in Act IV, quite silently. The desire to see the portrait of Vasavadatta in Act VI shows Padmavati's respectful attitude. Her hesitancy at sitting in place of Vasavadatta, along with Udayana, at a moment that she feels is delicate, that is, when he is about to receive messengers from Ujjayini, does her honor and credit.

The exquisite scene in the hermitage when the Chamberlain at her behest asks the hermits what gifts they want, her desire to see the portrait of her husband along with Vasavadatta and do honor to them both, her spending a day at the hermitage, really brings her to a supreme level.

Padmavati shows she has a sense of humour. When the Jester gives the excuse that the king's eyes were wet due to the pollen from the ka§a flowers falling into his eyes, which had been already said by Vasavadatta, and the king was going to repeat later on, she remarks indulgently: "the chivalrous master has a chivalrous servant. "


The importance of Yaugandharayana's plot and of the clever po­litical strategy that he puts into action, is seen everywhere in the play. He is the real Sutradhara of the play; all other characters, including Vasavadatta and Udayana, are conscious accomplices and tools in his hands. Yaugandharayana's devotion to Udayana is very obvious. But he fully realizes from the way Udayana loves Vasavadatta that Udayana would any day prefer his beloved wife to the lost kingdom.

Principal Characters

Principal Characters

This knowledge, together with the trust that Udayana places in him, would never allow Yaugandharayana to raise the political issue above the fact of love. Further, his concern for Vasavadatta as shown in Act I is quite genuine. She has already obliged him by consenting to be a part of his political strategy. And when she is worried over the humilia­tions entailed by her disguise, Yaugandharayana consoles her by wise philosophical observations. It is an open fact that Yaugandharayana's political ambition is wholly selfless. His anxious solicitude must be acknowledged as prompted by a genuine emotion of affection; hence the responsibility he takes upon himself. In Act I, this sense of re­sponsibility that Yaugandharayana evinces is aptly rewarded by the confidence that Vasavadatta places in him.

It is thus necessary to remember that all Yaugandharayana's ac­tions, initiated though by political motive, are moulded by the consid­erations of the royal love. And in the sixth Act, while returning the 'de­posit' (Vasavadatta in the guise of Avantika), how was Padmavati to be aware of any definite connection between Avantika and Vasavadatta? It is clear, therefore, that if Yaugandharayana were not to appear in the background as described, the immediate production of Avantika on the stage could not have been so dramatically achieved. As it is, the dramatic, timely arrival of Yaugandharayana helps, as nothing else could have done, to bring Vasavadatta forward.

Yaugandharayana had an inborn capacity to organize plans, as is shown by his organizing Vatsaraja's release from Ujjayini, the fire at Lavanaka, and the entrustment of Vasavadatta to Padmavati, etc. Of course, he has the necessary psychological insight; he knows that Vasavadatta would be well treated by Padmavati; that Padmavati would not go back upon her word once given, and that the king of Magadha would offer Padmavati to Vatsaraja, the moment he became a widower, and would offer his help for regaining his kingdom.

In Yaugandharayana, Bhasa has portrayed a great minister and a great man, indeed, one comparable to Chanakya, or even better as a humane personality.

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Principal Characters

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