Mrichchhakatika by Sudraka
Sudraka’s Mrichchhakatika is a prakarna, a type of Sanskrit play. Unlike nataka like Shakuntala or The Recognition of Shakuntala where the hero belongs to the royal family, here the hero is a Brahmana merchant and the heroine is a courtesan.
Sudraka’s Mrichchhakatika Summary
The play Mrichchhakatika by Sudraka is a love story between a Brahmana merchant Charudatta and a courtesan Vasantasena. Sakara who also desires for Vasantasena by force stands as a threat between the lovers. To meet her lover in a garden, Vasantasena mistakenly mounts on Sakara’s carriage. Seeing her, Sakara becomes joyful and kills her. However, a mendicant saves her. Sakara files a case against Charudatta. He is sentenced to death on account of killing Vasantasena. When the two executioners are about to behead him, Vasantasena appears and reveals the truth. Charudatta is saved and both lovers are united. It is also announced that the tyrannical ruler of the city of Ujjayiini is defeated and Aryaka becomes the new King. The play ends with a happy union of lovers and restoration of peace and stability in the city.
Mrichchhakatika Act-Wise Summary
The play is divided into 10 Acts. The act-wise summary of Mrichchhakatika is discussed in the following paragraphs.
The Depositing of the Ornament
Act I begins with the benediction to Siva. After the benediction, we see Sutradhara, the manager of the play, with his wife Nati on stage. Nati observes a fast, Abhirupa-Pati which is observed to get a handsome husband in the next world. As a part of the fast, they need a Brahmana who can dine in their house and complete the process of fasting. So Sutradhara asks Maitreya to pay a visit to his house but Maitreya refuses since he has something to do.
Maitreya goes to his dear friend Charudatta with a cloak in his hand. Churnavriddha, the friend of Charudatta, asks Maitreya to offer the cloak that is filled with the aroma of jasmine flowers. Charudatta accepts the gift but he seems thinking about something. When Vidushaka inquires about it he expresses his grief of losing the attention of people on account of the loss of his wealth.
He says that he has made offering to the household deities and he also suggests his friend Vidushaka go to the Holy Mothers at the public square and offer a Bali. Vidushaka refuses because it is pointless where the deities don’t favor the devotee. Charudatta leaves him and goes to his daily worship.
On the other hand, three men, Sakara or Samsthanka, his friend Vita and his servant Stavaraka or Cheta, chase the courtesan Vasantasena. Sakara is in love with Vasatasena but she does not reciprocate his affection. Therefore he forcefully tries to get her and chases her with his men.
During the time it has become almost dark, therefore to escape from the threat Vasatasena sneaks into her lover Charudatta’s house.
In the meantime, Charudatta is done with his prayers. He asks his friend Vidushaka to present the offering to the Holy Mothers. Vidushaka takes Charudatta’s maid, Radanika as his company. He opens the side-door and asks Radanika to take a step with oblation and the lamp.
Vasatasena enters the house through the side-door and extinguishes the lamp for the fear of being seen. Vidushaka goes back to lit the lamp and Radanika goes out with the oblation. Sakara, who with his men is searching for Vasantasena outside of Chardatta’s house, catches Radanika’s hair assuming that it is Vasantasena.
After a while when Vidushaka comes with a lamp and sees the men with Radanika. Sakara tells Vidushaka to inform his Brahmana friend Charudatta that the courtesan Vasantasena has fallen in love with him. The woman has entered his house and send her to him. If he follows him then there will be permanent friendliness with him and if not then there will be permanent enmity with him. After hearing him, Vidushaka agrees to inform his friend.
Inside the house, Charudatta assumes Vasantasena as Radanika and asks his son Rohasena who is having cough due to the coldness of the night to take him inside and asks her to cover him with the cloak. Vasantasena does not make any response and Charudatta asks her the reason for being silent.
Then Vidushaka and Radanika come and introduce Vasantasena to him. Vasantasena lies to Charudatta that the three men chase her for her ornaments so she asks him to take her ornament as a deposit in his house. He agrees and he companies her to her house.
Act II Samvahaka, the Gambler
Vasantasena feels lovesick and seeing her face, Madanika guesses that she is in love with someone.
Outside the house of Vasantasena, Mathura and the Gamester chase Samvahaka. Samvahaka owes ten gold pieces to Mathura owing to loss in gambling. Since he has no money therefore he is running away from them. Mathura catches him and they move to the King’s high-road. On the Samvahaka asks for help from strangers but nobody listens to him. Seeing them Darduraka approaches to set Samvahaka free. In the process, Darduraka and Mathura fight. Darduraka throws dust into Mathura’s eyes and gives time to Samvahaka to escape.
Samvahaka enters Vasantasena’s house and they follow him. Samvahaka introduces himself to Vasantasena and tells the current pitiful state that he is involved in. Vasantasena comes to know that he is the shampooer of her lover and she is in delight gives her bracelet to Samvahaka to give them. The maid gives the bracelet to Mathura and they go away with satisfaction.
Samvahaka announces that from now onwards he will become a monk and live an ascetic life.
Act III The Making of a Breach
Charudatta and his friend Vidushaka come out from a musical concert. They discuss the performance of Rebhila till they reach their house. They are ready for sleep and before sleep, Vidushaka asks Charudatta to keep the Vasantasena’s deposit in the inner room. But Charudatta refuses and tells him to keep with him until it is returned.
Then in the silence of the house, Sarvilaka makes a hole in the wall and enters the house to steal. Sarvilaka wants to steal so that he can ask the hands of his beloved Madanika from Vasantasena. He and enters the house. He uses his art of thieving and comes to know there is nothing in the underground. When he is about to leave the house, Vidushaka is in somniloquy and tells his friend to take the ornament. Sarvilaka takes it and leaves the house.
Radanika comes to know about the thief and wakes them all. When they realize that the ornament is stolen, Charudatta’s wife, Dhuta offers her only jewel-necklace as a substitute for the golden casket.
Charudatta asks Vidushaka to go to Vasantasena with the necklace and to tell her that they have considered her deposit as their own and lost it in gambling.
Act IV Madanika and Sarvilaka
Sarvilaka meets Madanika and shows her the ornament. On seeing the ornament, Madanika asks him where he gets it. He tells her his secret. She tells him that this ornament actually belongs to Her Ladyship. Madanika asks him to give it to Her Ladyship as a return from Charudatta. He pretends to be a messenger and gives it back to her.
Vasantasena overhears the whole conversation and is pleased with the loyalty of Madanika. She understands the reason for stealing it and therefore she accepts the offer and asks Sarvilaka to take Madanika with him.
During the time King Palaka catches the son of a cowherd, Aryaka as a seer prophesizes that he would be the king of the Ujjayini. When Sarvilaka comes to know the news, he keeps his wife at the merchant Rebhila’s house and goes to rescue his friend from the dungeon.
Vidushaka enters the mansion of Vasantasena and tells the message that he has from his friend. On knowing the truth, she accepts the necklace and announces that she is going to meet spend her time with her lover Charudatta.
Act V A Stormy Day
The lovers meet each other. Vidushaka inquires about the reason for visiting there amidst such stormy weather. The maid tells that her mistress has lost the necklace in gambling which is given to her. Therefore in exchange, the golden casket is offered. They discover that it is the same stolen golden casket and become happy.
Act VI The Exchange of the Carriage
Charudatta goes to old garden Pushpakarandaka. Vasantasena meets Rohasena, Charudatta’s son. Rohasena cries for a golden cart. The cart that he was playing with belongs to their neighbor’s son. After taking the cart from him, he demands a golden cart. Radanika pacifies him with a little clay cart but he insists on a gold cart. Vasantasena takes off her ornaments and fills his little clay cart with the gold, and asks him to make a golden cart out of the ornaments.
Vardhamanaka is ready with the carriage for departure to Pushpakarandaka with Vasantasena but he suddenly remembers that he has forgotten the carriage cushions. So he goes back to the cushions. In the meantime, the cart of Sakara has arrived at the same place.
Aryaka has escaped from the dungeon and is running away from the king’s men. He mounts a carriage hurriedly where Vasantasena is supposed to go. Vardhamanaka assumes that Vasantasena has mounted the carriage and moves on. On the road, Viraka and Chandanaka are guarding and sees the approaching carriage. Aryaka, being in such a life-and-death situation, asks for help from Chandanaka. Chandanaka agrees to help him and allows him to go. But this arises suspicion in the Viraka’s mind. He approaches to see the inside of the carriage. Chandanaka kicks Viraka and lets Aryaka go.
Act VII The Escape of Aryaka
Vardhamanaka arrives with the carriage in the garden. Aryaka introduces himself to the Charudatta. He sets him free and tells him to go back in his carriage and seek a safe place for himself. Aryaka shows his gratitude to him and exits the garden.
Act VIII The Killing of Vasantasena
Vasantasena reaches the garden with Cheta. Sakara becomes joyful and seeks forgiveness. Vasanatasena becomes irritated with the crocodile’s tears and kicks him with her foot. This inflames the wrath of Sakara and he orders his friend Vita to kill her.
Vita refuses to do such a wicked task. Sakara also entices his servant Cheta to perform the task. But he also steps back. Moreover, when he goes to her to kill her Vita seizes him by the neck and pushes him.
Therefore Sakara makes a plan to send two of them away and in their absence, he strangles her and covers her body with dried leaves. He takes a step further to file a case against his enemy Charudatta that he has killed the courtesan Vasanatsena in the garden for her ornaments.
A Buddhist Mendicant enters the garden for the purpose of drying his washed cloth. He, fortunately, lays it on the heap of dried leaves. He observes the leaves are making movement and wonders what it could be. Vasantasena regains her consciousness and takes her to a nearby nun’s house for hospitality.
Act IX The Trial
Sakara appears at the court and informs about the murder. The judge soon summons Vasantasena’s mother and Charudatta for legal inquiry. The old woman tells that her daughter has gone to spend time with Charudatta. Till the time, the judge is in favor of Charudatta since there is no evidence of his charge.
Soon the case takes a turn when Viraka, the officer enters the court. He informs the judge that during his duty he was suspicious about a carriage that belongs to Charudatta. The carriage was heading towards the garden Pushpakarandaka. He also informs them that when he was about to inspect it Chandanaka kicked him. His statements give them clue to suspect Charudatta.
Vidushaka also appears in the court. He was about to return the ornaments to Vasanatasena which she has given to Rahasena. But after hearing the news of his friend he soon heads towards the court. He tries to convince that his friend has not done anything and shows his resentment to Sakara. In response Sakara gets angry and both fight with each other. In the fight, the ornaments of Vasanatasena fall under Vidushaka’s armpit. This again leads to believe that charge is true. Without further inspection and the soldiers catch Charudatta.
The king orders Charudatta to execute him and he is taken to the execution-ground.
Act X The Conclusion
The two Chandals take Charudatta for execution. Charudatta requests that he wants to see his son for the last time. Rohsena comes to see his dying father with Vidushaka.
From the distance, prisoner Sthavaraka hears the proclamation and comes to know that Charudatta is going to die. He plans to save him. He throws himself and his fetters break. He moves in the direction of the sound of the proclamation. He reveals the truth but Sakara manipulates the public that he is a captive from his palace who is caught on account of stealing his gold.
On the other hand, Vasantasena returns from the nun’s house with the Mendicant. There is a commotion on the high-road and Vasantasena asks the Mendicant to inquire about it. When she hears that her lover is going to die because of the false charge. She dashes into the execution-ground and just as the Chandalas fix him on the stake Vasantasena stops them and saves him.
Seeing the Mendicant, Charudatta asks Vasantasena who he is. She tells him that he is the one who saves her. The Mendicant tells him that he is his personal shampooer, Samvahaka, whom once Vasantasena saves him from the gamblers by paying them ten gold pieces on his behalf.
It is proven that the Sakara deceives them. Therefore the two Chandalas go out in search of the culprit.
Hearing the sad news of her husband, Dhuts is going to enter a blazing fire. Chandanaka informs her husband and they dash to the place. Charudatta reaches there just in time and saves her from the danger. Seeing her husband is alive, Dhuta steps back.
On the other hand, Aryaka has killed the wicked king Palaka and becomes the king of the Ujjayini. Since once Charudatta has helped Aryaka in his hour of need, as he becomes the king he offers the kingdom of Kusavati to him. Sarvilaka also announces that the king has bestowed her the title of a wedded wife.
The king’s men catch Sakara and he begs for mercy to Charudatta. He forgives him. Charudatta suggests that they should free the prisoner Sthavaraka from the bondage, the Chandalas should be made the chiefs of all the Chnadalas.
The play ends there with the indication that righteousness is restored and Ujjayini has got a deserving king.