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1. Bhasa.

2. Nś
3. Asvaghosa.
4. Sudraka.
5. Kalidasa.
6. Harsa.
7. Bhavabhuti.
8. Bhatta Narayana.

Krishna Mishra.
Rupa Gosvamin.
*Source: The Sanskrit Drama, A. Berriedale Keith

It is difficult to arrive at any precise determination of Bhasa's date. That

Kalidasa knew his fame as firmly established is clear, and, if we may fairly
safely date Kalidasa about A.D. 400, this gives us a period of not later than A.
D. 350 for Bhasa. The fact of his priority to the Mrcchakatika leads us to no
definite result, for the view that this play is to be placed before Kalidasa in
the third century A. D. is not at all plausible. An upper limit is given by the
fact that Bhasa is doubtless later than Asvaghosa, whose Buddhacarita is
probably the source of a verse in the Pratijnayaugandharayana, and whose
Prakrit is assuredly and unquestionably older in character. It is useless to
seek to estimate by the evidence of the Prakrit whether Bhasa is more
closely allied in date to Kalidasa than to Asvaghosa, because changes in
speech and the representation of them in literature are matters which do not
in the slightest degree permit of exact valuation in terms of years.

An effort at more exact determination is made by Professor Konow on the

ground that Bhasa's dramas in part deal with the story of Udayana, of which
Ujjayini was specially fond, as we know from Kalidasa. Hence we may assume
that the home of the poet was Ujjayini, an assumption which obviously is not
legitimate in any degree. Further we may assume that he lived under one of
the Western Ksatrapas, which again goes too far. Now the usual ending of a
drama is not regularly observed in Bhasa's dramas; the introductory question
is found only in the Avimdraka, Pratijnayaugandharayana, Balacarita, and
Duta-vakya. The description of the final benediction as Bharatavakya is
omitted in the Madhyamavyayoga, where Visnu is praised; in the
Dutaghatotkaca, where his commands are given; in the Pancaratra, where
the wish is expressed that the king should rule the whole earth; and in the
Urubhahga, where the wish is that the prince should conquer his foes and
rule the earth. In the other plays a change of form of the Bharatavakya is
asserted; in the Karnabhara there is the desire for the disappearance of
misfortune; in the Pratimanataka the wish is that the king may fare as Rama
who was reunited with Sita and his kinsmen; in the Avimaraka, the
Abhisekanataka, and the Pratijnayaugandharayana, that the king should,
after destroying his foes, rule the whole earth, while in the Svapna-
vasavadatta, Dutavakya, and Balacarita, the wish is for universal rule. This
suggests that for a time the king reigned in peace; then enemies arose and
disturbed his power; finally he again won the upper hand, and his friends
could without absurdity pray for his attaining imperial rank. This would agree
with the history of the Ksatrapa Rudrasinha, who held from 181-8, and again
from AD 191-6 the high rank of Mahasatrapa, and whose name may be
hinted at in the use of the term rajasinha.

Bhasa's Dramas: Svapnavasavadatta, Madhyamavyayoga,

Dutaghatotkaca, Karnabhara, Pancaratra, Dutavakya, Balacarita,
Pratijnayaugandharayana, Carudatta, Abhisekanataka, Pratimanataka,


The discovery of fragments of manuscripts on palm-leaf, of great antiquity, at

Turfan, has through the energy of Professor Luders revealed to us the
existence of at least three Buddhist dramas. Of one of these the authorship is
happily certain for the colophon of the last act has been preserved, and it
records that the drama was the Cariputraprakarana of Asvaghosa, son of
Suvarnaksi; it gives also the fuller title Caradvatiputra-prakarana and the
number of acts as nine.

Asvaghosa is an author whose fame, has recently attained renewal by the

discovery and publication of his Buddhacarita, a court epic in excellent style
and spirit on the life of the Buddha. His Sutralamkara is also known through
the medium of a Tibetan translation, and illustrates his ability in turning the
tale into an instrument for propaganda in support of the Buddhist faith. If the
tradition which ascribes to him the Mahayanayaddhotpada is correct, he was
also the founder or expounder of a subtle system of metaphysics akin to the
Vijnanavada of the Mahayana school. Certainly genuine is the Saundara-
nanda, in the epic manner, which like all his works is devoted to the effective
exposition of Buddhism in the language of polite literature, and also of the
Brahmin schools.

That he had abundant precedent to guide him is clear from the classical form
already assumed by his dramas; the argument of Professor Konow to the
contrary on the ground that many of the standing formulae and characters
are derived from the popular drama, and show that artistic drama had not
developed yet full independence is unintelligible, since these features persist
throughout the history of sanskrit drama. Nor does any weight attach to the
argument that the Natyasastra, assumed to be same period as Asvaghosa,
shows knowledge of only a limited variety of dramas. On the contrary it is
amazing how much literature must have preceded to permit of the setting up
of main types of drama, some of which were evidently represented by many
specimens, though others doubtless rested on a small basis of practice.

The most remarkable thing regarding his other play Buddhacarita is its close
correspondence to the classical type as laid down in the Natya-sastra. The
piece is a Prakarana, and it has nine acts, which accords perfectly with the
rule of the sastra.

Asvagosha's Dramas: Cariputraprakarana, Buddhacarita, Sutralamkara

Shudraka's only existent play presents him as a king, and gives details of his
capacities; he was an expert in the Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, mathematics,
the arts regarding courtesans, and the science of elephants, all facts which
could be concluded from the knowledge shown in the play itself; he was
cured of some complaint, and after establishing his son in his place, and
performing the horse sacrifice, he entered the fire and died at the age of a
hundred years and ten days. Professor Konow finds in him the Abhira prince
Sivadatta, who, or whose son, Isvarasena, is held by Dr. Fleet to have
overthrown the last of the Andhra dynasty and to have founded the Cedi era
of A.D. 248-9. This remarkable result is held to be supported by the fact that
in the play the king of Ujjayini is Palaka, and is represented as being
overthrown by Aryaka, son of a herdsman, and the Abhiras are essentially

Shudraka's Dramas: Mrcchakatika

Kalidasa's Dramas: Abhijnanasakuntala, Malavikagnimitra,


Three dramas, as well as some minor poetry, have come down to us under
the name of Harsa, unquestionably the king of Sthanvicvara and Kanyakubja,
who reigned from about A. D. 606 to 648. The patron of Bana who celebrates
him in the Harsacarita and of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuan-Tsang who is our
most valuable source of information on his reign. That the three plays are by
one and the same hand is made certain in part by the common ascription in a
verse in the prologue mentioning Harsa as an accomplished poet, partly by
the recurrence of two verses in the Priyadarcika and the Nagananda and of
one in the former play and the Ratnavali, and above all by the absolute
similarity of style and tone in the three works, which renders any effort to
dissociate them wholly impossible. The question of their actual authorship
was raised in antiquity; for, while Mammata in his Kayaprakaca merely refers
to the gift of gold to Bana - or Dhavaka in some manuscripts — by Harsa, the
commentators explain this of the Ratnavala, which was passed off in Harsa's
name. This is, however, not in any way borne out by early tradition; I-Tsing
clearly refers to the dramatization of the subject of the Nagananda by Harsa
and its performance, and in the Kuttanimata of Damodaragupta, who lived
under Jayapida of Kashmir (A.D. 779-8I3), a performance of the Ratndvali,
ascribed to a king, is mentioned. The ascription to Bana has nothing even
plausible in it, so disparate are the styles of the dramas and the Harsacarita,
and we have the option of believing that Harsa wrote them himself with such
aid as his Pandits might give, or of accepting them as the work of some
unknown dramatist, who allowed the king to claim the credit for them.
Harsha's Dramas: Ratnavali, Priyadarcika, Nagananda


Bhavabhuti tells us in his prologues that he belonged to a family of Brahmins

styled Udumbaras, of Padmapura, apparently in Vidarbha, who were of the
Kacyapa Gotra and followed the Taittiriya school of the Yajurveda. His full
name was Crikantha Nilakantha, son of Nilakantha and Jatukarni, grandson of
Bhatta Gopala, fifth in descent from Mahakavi, a Vajapeya sacrificer, famed
for his scholarship. He was skilled in grammar, rhetoric, and logic, or perhaps
in grammar, logic, and Mimansa, if we may believe the legend that he was a
pupil of Kumarila preserved in one manuscript of the Malatimadhava which
complicates the matter by styling the author also Umvekacarya, a
commentator on Kumarilas works. As he expressly mentions his knowledge of
the Vedas, the Upanisads, Samkhya and Yoga, and gives Jnananidhi as his
teacher, we may probably discard this suggestion. The whole three of his
plays were performed for the feast of the Lord Kalapriya, who is normally
identified with Mahakala of Ujjayini, though the scene of the Malatimadhava
is laid in Padmavati. We may conjecture, therefore, that he left his home and
proceeded to Ujjayini or Padmavati in search of fortune. From the silence in
his dramas on any good luck, it is strange to find that Kalhana in the
Rajatarangim expressly asserted that he was a member of the entourage of
Yacovarman of Kanyakubja, who was defeated by Muktapida Lalitaditya of
Kashmir, not earlier, probably, than A.D. 736. A further indication of date is
afforded by the reference in Vakpati's Gaildavaha to Bhavabhuti's ocean of
poetry; the poem is a prelude to a description in Prakrit of Yacovarman's
defeat of a Gauda king, and, as it seems never to have been finished, it
presumably was interrupted by the king's own defeat. We must, therefore,
place Bhavabhuti somewhere about A.D. 700. The silence of Bana regarding
him suggests that he was not known to him, while it is certain that he knew
Kalidasa; the first writer on poetics to cite him is Vamana. Verses not in our
extant dramas are ascribed to him, so he may have written other works than
the three dramas - two Natakas on the Rama legend and a Prakarana - which
we have. His friendship with actors is a trait to which he himself refers, and
efforts have been made to trace in his works evidence of revision for stage

Bhavabhuti's Dramas: Mahaviracarita, Malatimadhava, Uttararamacarita

Bhatta Narayana

The age of Bhatta Narayana, Mrgarajalaksman is unknown. But he is cited by

Vamana and Anandavardhana and so is before A. D. 800. Tradition,preserved
in the Tagore family, makes him out to be a Brahmin summoned from
Kanyakubja to Bengal by Adisura, the founder of a dynasty of eleven kings,
who are supposed to have reigned before the Pala dynasty came to the
throne in the middle of the eighth century A.D. It has been suggested that it
was identical with the Guptas of Magadha since Adityasena, son of
Madhavagupta of Magadha, made him-self independent of Kanyakubja; this
would make Adisura Adityasena, who was alive in A.D. 671. The date,
however, is clearly conjectural for the present.

Bhatta Narayana's Dramas: Venisamhara


A curious vagueness besets our knowledge of Visakhadatta, son of the

Maharaja Bhaskaradatta or the minister Prthu, grandson of the feudatory
Vatecvaradatta. None of these persons are elsewhere known, and for his date
we are reduced to conjectures. His play, Mudraraksasa, ends with a stanza
mentioning Chandragupta as would be natural in a play of which he is hero,
but there are variants in the manuscripts, including Dantivarman,
Rantivarman, and (A)vantivarman. The last has been utilized to fix the date,
but in two different ways ; Avantivarman might be the Maukhari king whose
son married Harsa's daughter, or the king of Kashmir (A.D. 855-83); Jacobil
identifies the eclipse referred to in the play as that of December 2, 86o,when,
he holds, Cura, the king's minister, had the play performed. There is no
conclusive argument for or against this clever combination. There is nothing
that prevents a date in the ninth century, though the work may be earlier.

Visakhadatta's Dramas: Mudraraksasa


Murari tells us that he was the son of Crivardhamanaka of the Maudgalya

Gotra and of Tantumati; he claims to be a Maha-kavi, and arrogates the style
of Bala-Valmiki. His date is uncertain; he is certainly later than Bhavabhuti
since he cites from the Uttararamacarita, while we have evidence from the
anthologies that he was reckoned by some as superior to Bhavabhuti,
apparently his predecessor. A further suggestion as to date may be derived
from the Kashmirian poet Ratnakara, who in his Haravijaya makes a clear
reference to Murari as a dramatist. As Ratnakara belongs to the middle of the
ninth century A.D., this gives us that period as the latest date for Murari.
Curiously enough, Professor Konow, who accepts the disproof of the
reference to Murari in Ratnakara, admits that the reference to Murari in
Mankha's Crikanthacarita (A.D. 1135) suggests that he was regarded by that
author as earlier than Rajacekhara, a fact which accords excellently with his
priority to Ratnakara, and is far more important than the fact that he is not
cited by the authors on theory of the eleventh century A.D. A further effort to
place him late is that of Dr. Hultzsch, who infers from verse 3 of the Kaumudi-
mitrananda of Ramacandra, pupil of Hemacandra, that that dramatist was a
contemporary of Murari. But the evidence is clearly inadequate; the words
used are perfectly compatible with the fact that Murari was dead, and there
are grave chronological difficulties in the way of the theory. It is practically
impossible that a contemporary of Ramacandra could have been cited by
Mankha at the date of the Crikanthacarita. Moreover Murari seems to have
been imitated by Jayadeva in the Prasanna-raghava. Of his place of activity
we know nothing definite. He mentions, however, Mahismati as the seat of
the Kalacuris, and it has been suggested that this indicates that he lived
under the patronage of a prince of that dynasty at Mahismati, now Mandhata
on the Narmada.

Murari's Dramas: Anargharaghava


Rajacekhara was of a Maharastra Ksatriya family of the Yayavaras, who

claimed descent from Rama; son of the minister Durduka or Duhika, and of
Cilavati; grandson of Aka-lajalada, and descendant of Surananda, Tarala, and
Kaviraja, all poets of name. He married Avantisundari of the Cahamana
family, and was a moderate Saiva.

In the Karpuramanjari, probably his first play since it was produced at the
request of his wife, and not a king, he refers to himself as the teacher of
Nirbhaya or Nirbhara, who was clearly the Pratihara king, Mahendrapala of
Mahodaya or Kanyakubja, of whom we have records in A. D. 893 and 907.
The Balaramayana was produced at his request. But he seems then to have
visited another court, for the Viddhacalabhanjika was produced for the
Kalacuri king, Yuvaraja Keyuravarsa of Tripuri. But, as the unfinished
Balabharata was written for Mahipala, successor of Mahendrapala, whose
records begin in A.D. 914, we may assume that he returned to the court of
the Pratiharas and died there. In the Balaramayana he speaks of six of his
works, not apparently including the Viddhacalabhanjika and the Balabharata,
and in fact we have many stanzas from him regarding famous authors,
though of course the proof of derivation from this Rajacekara is not always

The Balaramayana shows to perfection Rajacekhara's own estimate of

himself. He traces his poetic descent from Valmiki, through Bhartrmentha
and Bhavabhuti, but it is not clear that Bhartrmentha must be assumed to
have dramatized the work, and the little we know of this obscure person
merely shows that he wrote an epic, the Hayagrivavadha, while his date is
involved in the problems of Vikramaditya and Matrgupta.

Rajacekhara's Dramas: Balaramayana, Karpuramanjari,

*Source: The Sanskrit Drama, A. Berriedale Keith



Some mystery exists as to the identity and character of Candra as a

dramatist. We have in a Tibetan version a Lokananda, a Buddhist drama
telling of a certain Manicuda, who handed over his wife and children to a
Brahmin as a sign'of supreme generosity, which is ascribed to Candragomin,
the grammarian, in whose ^isyalekhd is found a verse ascribed to
Candragopin in the Subhdsitavali. If this is the dramatist Candaka or
Candraka. who is placed by Kalhana under Tunjina of Kashmir, and who
rivalled the author of the Mahdbharata in a drama, is wholly uncertain. The
grammarian must have lived before A.D. 650, as he is cited in the Kacika Vrtti
though not by name; a more precise date it is impossible to give, for his
reference to a victory of a Jarta over the Hunas cannot be made precise until
we know what Jat prince is referred to, though Yasodharman has been

Candraka's Dramas: Subhasitavali