Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Characters of the drama (Tripuradaha)’ 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 7 - Characters of the drama (Tripuradāha)

Bharata states that in Ḍima, there should be well known (prakhyāta) and exalted (udātta) heroes; whereas Dhanañjaya states that in Ḍima there should be sixteen haughty (uddhata) types of heroes.

However, it should be noted that Vatsarāja has used more than twenty-six haughty (uddhata) and exalted (udātta) characters in the Tripuradāha, i.e.

  1. Maheśa,
  2. Indra,
  3. Yama,
  4. Vāyu,
  5. Varuṇa,
  6. Kubera,
  7. Bṛhaspati,
  8. Kārttikeya,
  9. Nārāyaṇa,
  10. Brahmā,
  11. Hutāśa,
  12. Nārada,
  13. Nairṛtya,
  14. Nandī,
  15. Himavān,
  16. Dharma,
  17. Rāhu,
  18. Alīka,
  19. Viparīta,
  20. Viśadāśaya,
  21. Sphuṭākṣara,
  22. Sarvatāpa,
  23. Bhārgava,
  24. Pṛthivī and
  25. Śeṣa.

In addition to these, in the prologue, Vatsarāja has also used two characters, i.e.

  1. Sūtradhāra and
  2. Pāripārśvika.

Here the characters like Pṛthivī and Śeṣa are shown as female characters. Again, the gods other than Brahmā, Maheśa and Nārāyaṇa, are shown as the weaker, which indicates the situation of the society of that period.


Maheśa, the god of gods, removes troubles of all, when the other gods fail to do so. When Tripurāsura starts troubling gods after having been blessed by Brahmā, gods go to Maheśa and request him to save them from the demon Tripurāsura. The comet like Tripurāsura did not even leave the Earth and serpent Śeṣa. He tortured them in various ways. When the gods were describing their sorrows, Rāhu swallowed the Sun. Thus, Maheśa became angry at Rāhu and wanted to save the Sun by killing Rāhu.

Howeover, Nandī convinced Maheśa that it was not the time to kill Rāhu, as the bodiless Rāhu was an insignificant demon and he should think first of killing Tripurāsura:

(āh! ko’yamsadgraho vigatavigraham nigṛhītam rāhugraham grahītum, tripuradāha evārabhyatām, yenoparuddhadevayānapitṛyānena dharmapathanirmūlamunmūlyate).

Maheśa accepted the opinion of Nandī; but wanted to discuss the matter with Viṣṇu and Brahmā; and hence sent Nārada to call them. However, Tripurāsura got the news from his spy. Tripurāsura deceived Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa through the illusion and caused the quarrels among them. However, Viṣṇu came to know everything through the meditation. Then Brahmā confessed that it was his mistake, because he had blessed Tripurāsura and there was only one way he could be killed and that is by a single arrow. In the mean time, demons started entering the heaven to occupy it and Viṣṇu created the darkness everywhere to prevent the demons from entering. The demons, due to illusion, started killing each other. But when Sarvatāpa, the lord of demons came to know this, he removed the darkness by the illusion called “kaumudī”. Then Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa planned to destroy Tripuras. Brahmā became the charioteer, Śiva became the warrior, Pṛthivī became the chariot, Himālaya became the bow, Śeṣa became the string and Viṣṇu became the arrow. Maheśa destroyed all the artificial puras one by one, with the help of Brahmā etc.; but when he wanted to kill the real Tripuras, they started running for their life; however, in one arrow he destroyed all the Tripuras. After destroying Tripuras, Maheśa stopped the chariot on the Kailāsa Mountain and acknowledged gods for their help and said it is the victory all of the gods.


Viṣṇu is one of the gods who helped Maheśa to destroy Tripuras. He became the arrow, which was the main instrument used to destroy Tripuras. Without him, it would have been impossible to destroy Tripuras. He foiled the plan of Tripurāsura to cause quarrels among the gods, viz. Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Maheśa. Viṣṇu knew the plan through the meditation. Viṣṇu created the darkness when demons started occupying the heaven and the demons killed themselves in the dark. He played an important role and planned the destruction of all the Tripuras.


Brahmā is the most respected god among all the gods including Viṣṇu and Maheśa. Tripurāsura were blessed by Brahmā and due to the blessing, he became powerful. He wanted to occupy the earth, the space and the heaven. They started occupying the heaven and started torturing the gods. They knew that they could be killed only by a single arrow, which was almost impossible and hence were quite assured. However, Brahmā became one of the instruments to destroy the Tripuras. Thus, Brahmā became the charioteer, Śiva became the warrior, Pṛthivī became the chariot, Himālaya became the bow, Śeṣa became the string and Viṣṇu became the arrow. When Tripuras were seen in a straight line, Śiva released the single arrow and Tripuras were destroyed and the gods won the battle.


Śeṣa, the lord of the serpent and the king of the hell, is shown in the drama as a female and a weaker character by the author Vatsarāja. Like the other gods, she was also tortured by the Tripurāsuras. Śiva consoled her to become fearless and promised he would do everything to destroy the Tripuras. Then he planned to kill Trpurāsuras and their Tripuras with the help of Viṣṇu and Brahmā. Śeṣa herself became the string of the bow, where Himālaya became the bow. Śeṣa became fearless and happy when Śiva destroyed Tripuras by the single arrow.


Like Śeṣa, Pṛthivī too is described as a female character who is tortured by the Tripurāsura. She helped Śiva by becoming a chariot in the destruction of Tripuras of Tripurāsura. Śiva destroyed Tripuras and freed Pṛthivī and all other gods from the hold of Tripurāsura.

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