Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Summary of the drama (Mudrarakshasa)’ of the English study of the Dasarupaka of Dhananjaya: an important work on Hindu dramaturgy (Natya-shastra) from the tenth century dealing with the ten divisions of Sanskrit drama (nata), describing their technical aspects and essential dramaturgical principals. These ten types of drama are categorised based on the plot (vastu), hero (neta) and sentiment (rasa)

Part 2 - Summary of the drama (Mudrārākṣasa)

The Summary of the drama is indebted from the Mudrārākṣasa, translated by M. R. Kale (1983):

Act I –

By means of a Prologue (prastāvanā), wherein stage-manager (sūtradhāra) converses with his wife, the author hints succinctly at the plot of the playand prepares the way for the entrance of Cāṇakya. Further, the author in a long soliloquy briefly outlines his plan of action, stating what has been done and what remains to be achieved. Cāṇakya had employed spies everywhere, for finding out what is going on in the city; one of these, Nipuṇaka by name, enters and relates his discoveries during the course of his wanderings. Disguised as a mendicant, he had gone to the house of the merchant Candanadāsa, with whom the wife and son of Rākṣasa were staying; there he happened to pick up a ring belonging to Rākṣasa, which he hands over to Cāṇakya and which is the pivot on which the plot of the story hangs. In pursuance of his plans, Cāṇakya gets a certain letter written by Śakaṭadāsa (professional writer and a friend of Rākṣasa) and then he seals it with Rākṣasa’s ringand gives both the letter and the ring to Sidhārthaka, one of his trusted emissaries, with certain secret instructions. Next, he tries to induce Candanadāsa to deliver over the family of Rākṣasa; but Candanadāsa declines and remains firm on his loyalty, even though threatened with capital punishment. For the present, Cāṇakya orders him to be kept under arrest.

Act II -

Rākṣasa is introduced and is shown as plotting variously for the overthrow of Candragupta; he, too, employs spies to wander about in Pāṭaliputra and collect information. Virādhagupta, one of the spies, who was disguised as a snake charmer, comes and narrates how all the plans of Rākṣasa had gone wrong. Further, how all his schemes to kill Candragupta had been invariably foiled by the vigilance of Cāṇakyaand how all his allies and friends, including Śakaṭadāsa, were arrested on a suspicion of being involved in the attempts on the life of Candragupta. In the meanwhile, Sidhārthaka, acting upon Cāṇakya’s private instructions, rescued Śakaṭadāsa and brings him to Rākṣasa. Rākṣasa takes off some of the ornaments from his person and gives them as a reward to Siddhārthaka (these ornaments were given to Rākṣasa by his ally, prince Malayaketu). Siddārthaka takes a ring, on which, there was signature of Rākṣasa, for sealing up the ornaments in a boxand being questioned about it, states that he found it near the house of Candanadāsaand then restores it at his desire to Rākṣasa who gives it in Śakaṭadāsa’s keeping. Siddhārthaka outwardly takes service under Rākṣasa while inwardly he remains Cāṇakya’s spy.

Act III -

Cāṇakya secretly arranges a sham quarrel with Candragupta, meant as a ruse to mislead Rākṣasa. Candragupta orders the celebration of the Kaumudi festival and Cāṇakya forbids it. However, when the festival was forbidden, Candragupta sends for Cāṇakya to know why the festivities were forbidden. A fine scene ensues between them in which the monarch reretorts Cāṇakya and the latter taunts him as being ungrateful and insolent. Cāṇakya resigns office and leaves the king in high dudgeonand the king proclaims that he would rule independently of him. Thus to all appearance they are thoroughly estranged.

Act IV -

Rākṣasa’s agent brings the news of the (feigned) quarrel to his master, who is highly pleased at it and believes that it would be easier to overthrow Candragupta, now that he has no longer Cāṇakya to advise him. In the mean time, Malayaketu, accompanied by Bhāgurāyaṇa, comes to see Rākṣasa who was reported to be suffering from headache. Bhāgurāyaṇa seizes this opportunity, to create a suspicion about Rākṣasa’s sincerity, in his master’s mind by telling him that the deserters from Candragupta come to him wishing directly to deal with himand not through Rākṣasa. The latter, he further suggests, is not so much the foe of Candragupta; and in case Cāṇakya were somehow dismissed, there would be nothing to prevent him from allying himself with Candragupta. Malayaketu overhears the conversation between Rākṣasa and his agent and his suspicion is thereby deepened. He, however, goes forth to see Rākṣasa, who advises him to lead an expedition against Pāṭalīputra at once.

Act V –

The scene now shifts to the camp of Malayaketu near Candragupta’s capital. One Jīvasiddhi, who was known as a friend of Rākṣasa but was in reality a spy of Cāṇakya, enters into the presence of Bhāgurāyaṇa and Malayaketu. In the absence of Rākṣasa, ostensibly he requested to permit him to leave the camp. When pressed to give the reason for doing so, he says he is disgusted with the conduct of Rākṣasa and wants to leave him before it is too late. Malayaketu overhears Jīvasiddhi’s speechand the latter succeeds in poisoning the mind of the prince against Rākṣasa by his allegation that it was Rākṣasaand not Cāṇakya, who employed the poison-maid against Malayaketu’s father and killed him. After he left, the guards bring in Siddhārthaka, whom they had caught leaving the camp without a permit on the plea that he was a servant of Rākṣasa. On his person are found that old letter which Cāṇakya had given him and a box of ornaments, both sealed with Rākṣasa’s seal. The letter is couched in such terms as incriminate Rākṣasa while the ornaments are easily recognized by Malayaketu to be the same that he had formerly given to Rākṣasa.

Therefore, it was apparently clear that Rākṣasa was in secret communication with Candragupta, which deduction is further corroborated by the oral testimony of Siddhārthaka. When charged with treachery, Rākṣasa denies it as being the fabrication of the enemy. However, he is at a loss to explain the fact of the letter being in the handwriting of his friend Śakaṭadāsa. Further, he happened to be wearing at that time an ornament, which he had bought unsuspectingly from a person who was in reality an agent of Cāṇakya; that ornament had originally belonged to Malayaketu’s deceased father and was later in the possession of Candragupta. Malayaketu recognizes the ornamentand Rākṣasa finds himself in a fix; he could not well say that he bought it, since Candragupta was hardly likely to sell it. Finally, Malayaketu taxes him with having murdered his father by means of the poison-maid. All this circumstantial evidence completely overwhelms Rākṣasa, whom Malayaketu now disownsand who thus finds himself without an ally. Malayaketu has also the indiscretion to order five kings under him to be put to death.

Act VI –

Malayaketu’s expedition proves a failure owing to dissension among his own followers and Bhāgurāyaṇa, Bhadrabhaṭa and others and he takes him captive. Rākṣasa goes to Pāṭaliputra to save his friend Candanadāsa who was ordered to be impaled by Cāṇakya for sheltering his (Rākṣasa’s) family.

Act VII –

Candragupta is being led to the place of execution by the Cāṇḍālas. Rākṣasa arrives on the scene; he announces himself to the Chāṇḍālas who take him into the presence of Cāṇakya. The latter explains to him how all his plans, including the forged letter, were intended to bring matters to that particular culmination, it being his (Cāṇakya’s) desire to induce Rākṣasa to take up the post of the chief minister of Candragupta. After some hesitation, Rākṣasa accepts it; the life of his friend Candanadāsa is saved; and all ends happily as originally designed by Cāṇakya.

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