Svapnavasavadattam - The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam is undoubtedly the poet's masterpiece and the fruit of his mature genius. That it was considered the best among Bhasa's works in

RajaSekhara's time (9th century AD) is proved from the well-known verse of that poet: भासनअकचक्रेऽपि च्छैकेः क्षिप्तैः परीक्षितुम्। स्वप्नवासवदत्तस्य दाहकोऽभून्न पावकः।।1

As with many other plays, the plot of this one, too, has been drawn from the legends and stories of Udayan and Vasavdatta, which were prevalent at the time. Bhasa's Svapnavāsavadattam is in effect a sequel to his play Pratijiiayaugandharayanam. The main theme of the drama is the sorrow of Udayana for his wife Vasavadatta, believed by him to have perished in a fire.The legend has been taken from the Kathasaritsagar.

If Pratifflayaugandharayanam is a play of political intrigue closely intertwined with the thrilling adventures of romantic love making, Svapnavasavadattam is an immortal saga of dedicated love set in the hard frame-work of political intrigue.

Svapnavāsavadattam, in six acts, pictures the self-denying love of Vasavadatta for Udayana which impels her to make the most chal­lenging sacrifice a woman may be called upon to make, of willingly

1. M. R. Kale, Svapnavāsavadattam of Bhasa.

The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam

acquiescing with the intrusion of a rival woman in her love. Political intrigue plays its role in this play, too, but there is a clear shift in em­phasis here. Svapnavasavadattam is in a very real sense, a play of the heroine, not of the hero, and is comparable in this respect to Kalidasa's Abhijfiana§akuntalam, where, too, the heroine carries more weight.

The interest in the story of the play does not so much lie in the incidents as in the development of the principal characters in it. The prevailing sentiment (rasa) in the Svapnavasavadattam is 'love in separation' or 'wistful love' vipralambha §rngara, and with it is as­sociated the sentiment of pathos, karuna. Prominent amongst the dramas that delineate vipralambha §rngara (love in separation) and contain therefore, a great deal of pathos are the Abhijiianaakunlatam of Kalidasa and Svapnavasavadattam of Bhasa. It is needless to go into the details of how delicately and effectively pathos is woven by these two poets, each in his own way, into the fabric of the drama to bring into relief the deep love between the hero and the heroine. Both the poets are masters of expression, expert in handling their themes with a great sense of beauty and know very well how best to describe a feeling or a state of mind whether with restraint or with abandon, whether with a single word, silence, or as an emotional outburst.

The play is a noble creation of the poet which depicts conjugal love in a most exalted form. To quote Dr. Sukhthankar:

The aim of the dramatist is to portray on the one hand the complete self-abnegation of the noble queen, who suffers mar­tyrdom for the sake of her lord with cheerful resignation, and on the other hand to depict her husband as at heart true to his love, while unwillingly submitting to the exigencies of the life of a king. The burden of the story is the triumph of steadfast, unfaltering, undying Love for which no sacrifice is too great.

The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam


In order of Appearance

Sutradhara : Stage Manager or Director, who superintends the whole performance, appears only in the Prologue, or even sometimes a principal actor

Two guards : in the retinue of princess Padmavati Yaugandharayana : Chief Minister of Udayana, King of Vatsa Vasavadatta : Princess of Ujjain, daughter of king Pradyota

Mahasena, and the first queen of Udayana, supposed to have been

burnt alive and brought to Magadha in disguise as the lady of Avanti
Chamberlain : From Magadha with Princess Padmavati

Maid : of Padmavati

Padmavati : Princess of Magadha, sister of king Daitaka. In the last three acts the second queen of Udayana

Lady Hermit

Brahmacharin : Student of Theology

Nurse : of the Princess Padmavati

VidOsaka : Jester (Vasantaka) of King Udayana

Udayana (Vatsaraja) : King of the Vatsas

Padminika and Madhukarika : Maids in attendance on the prin­cess of Magadha

Chamberlain : of the Vatsa king at Kauannbi

Vijaya : Portress at Kauambi palace

Raibhya : Chamberlain from the Avanti court of Ujjain Vasundhara : nurse of Vasavadatta from Ujjain

The Svapnavāsavadattam

The Svapnavāsavadattam


The Nandi (prayers to the deities) being over, (enters the Stage Manager).

Stage Manager — May the arms of Balarama resembling the colour of the newly risen moon, invigorated with wine, splendid like the lotus flower and delightful like the spring-season, protect you (the audience).2

I thus beg to address you, noble sirs! Ah! What is this that something like a sound is heard when I am just engaged in addressing (the audience)! Well; I will see (what it is).

(Behind the curtain)

Keep aside, keep aside, gentlemen! Keep aside.

Stage Manager — So be it. I understand.

All the people in the penance grove are being impudently (roughly) driven away by the devoted servants of the king of Magadha, accompanying the Princess. (Exit)

End of Introduction

  1. We have referred mainly to Prof. M.R. Kale's and Dr. Vedprakash Shastri's translations of the play.
  2. The arms of mighty Udayana protect you, (the arms) whose strength is Vasavadatta, fair as the moon and devoted to Udayana, (the arms) which are satis­fied by marrying Padmavati and which are attractive in the company of Vasantaka.
The Svapnavāsavadattam

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