Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Bhavabhuti included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Bhavabhūti

A Sanskrit poet who lived in the 7th century A.D. His important works are the three dramas, Mālatīmādhava, Mahāvīracarita and Uttararāmacarita. Bhavabhūti was a brahmin of the Kaśyapagotra. He was the son of one Nīlakaṇṭha and one Jātukarṇī. He was a great devotee of Śiva and he got his name Bhavabhūti later because of this. His original name was Nīlakaṇṭha. Bhavabhūti was born in Padmapura in the state of Vidarbha. But Bhavabhūti spent most of his life in the palace of Yaśodharmā, king of Kannauj.

Bhavabhūti’s first drama is believed to be Mahāvīracarita. There are seven acts in this. The theme is based on the story of Śrī Rāma. But there are some variations from the original Rāmāyaṇa in this drama. Bhavabhūti states that even at the time of the svayaṃvara of Sītā, Rāvaṇa was a suitor. There is an opinion among certain critics that Bhavabhūti did write only up to the 46th verse in the fourth act and the rest was written by another poet named Subrahmaṇya.

Mālatīmādhava is a drama of ten acts. It is a love-story of Mālatī and Mādhava. Mālatī was the daughter of the minister of Ujjayinī and Madhava was the son of the minister of Vidarbha. It was while Mādhava was having his education in Ujjayinī that he came to love Mālatī. It was Kāmandakī who was a classmate of both the ministers and who became a sannyāsinī later who pulls the strings of this love story. The king of Ujjayinī wanted Mālatī to marry Nandana, a friend of his. But Mālatī did not love him. Yet afraid of getting the displeasure of the King, Mālatī’s father decided to give her in marriage to Nandana. In despair Mādhava was about to commit suicide when from the temple nearby Mādhava heard an agonised weeping. He rushed to the site of the sound and found to his bewilderment the gruesome sight of Mālatī being dragged for sacrifice by a sorceress named Kapālakuṇḍalā helped by her guru Aghoraghaṇṭa. Mādhava killed Aghoraghaṇṭa and saved Mālatī. Disappointed Kapālakuṇḍalā swore that she would seek revenge on Mādhava and disappeared. Mālatī went back to her palace. At this time Madayantikā, sister of Nandana and Makaranda, a friend of Mādhava became lovers. Once Madayantikā was attacked by a tiger in a Śiva temple and Makaranda saved her from the wild beast, and they became lovers thereafter. The proposal to give Mālatī in marriage to Nandana was still pending then. The marriage day was fixed and a day before that by a clever ruse played by the keenwitted Kāmandakī Mālatī and Mādhava eloped together. Makaranda, friend of Mādhava, was disguised and dressed in bridal robes and Nandana little suspecting the trick played on him married the substitute. Before they went to the bridal chamber for the night Nandana’s sister came to see her new sister-in-law and the moment she put her eyes on her she understood who it was and that night they also eloped. Thus poor Nandana was left alone.

Kapālakuṇḍalā by her sorcery separated Mālatī from Mādhava but luckily Saudāminī a disciple of Kāmantakī saved her from Kapālakuṇḍalā. Later Mālatī married Mādhava with the permission of the King. This is the story of Mālatī-Mādhava.

Uttararāmacarita is a play of seven acts. The theme is the story of Rāma after his return to Ayodhyā after the exile. It begins with the renouncement of Sītā by Rāma and ends with the vanishing of Sītā.

All these three dramas used to be enacted during the festival of 'Kālapriyanātha' at Ujjayinī. The predominant emotion in Mahāvīracarita is 'Vīra', in Mālatī-Mādhava, 'Sṛṅgāra' and in Uttararāmacarita 'Karuṇa'. In expressing and elaborating the emotion of 'Karuṇa' Bhavabhūti excels Kālidāsa. The one draw-back which keeps him second to Kālidāsa is his lack of humour and wit. The sanskrit poet Dhanapāla in his book' 'Tilakamañjari' speaks about Bhavabhūti thus:

"spaṣṭabhāvarasā citraiḥ padanyāsaiḥ pravarttitā / nāṭakeṣu naṭastrīva bhāratī bhavabhūtinā //"

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