Dasarupaka (critical study)

by Anuru Ranjan Mishra | 2015 | 106,293 words

This page relates ‘Characters in the Samudramanthana’ 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 10 - Characters in the Samudramanthana

The Samavakāra type of drama needs to contain plenty of characters, as otherwise, it is impossible to conduct such type of a drama.

In the Samudramanthana, Vatsarāja has used more than twenty characters; i.e.

  1. Sūtradhāra,
  2. Sthāpaka,
  3. Padmaka,
  4. Niṣṭhuraka,
  5. Bṛhaṣpati,
  6. Indra,
  7. Kubera,
  8. Kṛṣṇa,
  9. Brahmā,
  10. Maheśa,
  11. Śeṣa,
  12. Bali,
  13. Varuṇa,
  14. Kujambha,
  15. Vainateya,
  16. Asuras,
  17. Śukra,
  18. Samudra,
  19. Lakṣmī,
  20. Dhṛti,
  21. Lajjā,
  22. Vāyu and
  23. the Dikpālas.

Some of the important characters are discussed below:

Kṛṣṇa -

Though there are twelve heroes, in the Samudramanthana, the story is actually based on Kṛṣṇa and he is the main hero, who gets Lakṣmī as well as emerald called kaustubha from Samudra, the father of Lakṣmī. He employs gods and demons for churning the ocean. Bṛhaṣpati, Indra and Kubera, were excited for the prospects of churning of the ocean and they thought that they were the only beneficiaries of churning.

Kṛṣṇa was deeply in love with Lakṣmī. He did not want anything except Lakṣmī.

When Lakṣmī came out of the ocean by churning, Maheśa becomes sure that this beautiful woman must be the beloved of Kṛṣṇa,

nūnamiyam sā bhāvinī puruṣottamasya vallabhā lakṣmīstadevam tāvat
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.171).

He did not want to interfere, because he knew that the churning was possible because of Kṛṣṇa only.

Kṛṣṇa was happy getting Lakṣmī,

iyadeva me sukham parārthaḥ kāyakleśo’paraḥ
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.172).

When nectar (amṛta) comes out, Maheśa ordered Kṛṣṇa to hand it over to Agniand he would be the protector. However, deceitful demon Bali took away the nectar through Kujambha, coming in the form of Agni. Kṛṣṇa got it back by deceiving Bali in turn.

At the end, he got the hands of Lakṣmī, was extremely delighted.

Ye tanau sutanormagnā!......... romāṅcakaitavāt
  –(III. 12).


Lakṣmī is the heroine and the leading female character in the Samudramanthana and the daughter of Samudra and Gaṅgā. Gaṅgā wanted her to marry Kṛṣṇaand therefore she sent a portrait of Kṛṣṇa through Padmaka to give her. Padmaka gave the portrait of Kṛṣṇa when she was going to worship Pārvatī and told she should worship Kṛṣṇa instead of Pārvatī. Lajjā and Dhṛti, her friends also insisted her same as Padmaka. Then Lakṣmī was agreed and after worshipping Kṛṣṇa, she returned to the ocean with her friends fearing from the tropical storm.

When she came out by churning, she feels pain because of the separation from her father and other relatives:

tātasya mathanaduḥkhe ………..praharṣo jātaḥ

Kṛṣṇa consoled Lakṣmī that nothing would happen to her father. However, she wanted to see her father by herself.

Kṛṣṇa convinced her and said that Varuṇa had gone to get her father. Kṛṣṇa realized the difficulty of daughters,

aho saṅkaṭam kanyakānām
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.186).

Then Samudra came out with Varuṇa and distributed the things collected from the ocean according to his own wish. Kṛṣṇa got the hands of Lakṣmī.


Maheśa is the second leading character. Kṛṣṇa got all the powers from him, because he knew that nothing was impossible, if Ugra was there. When Mandara reached and placed himself in the middle of the ocean, Maheśa ordered Śeṣa to surround him (Mahendra). Gods and demons tried to churn the ocean but failed.

Then Maheśa toeld Kṛṣṇa to help both gods and demons in churning:

Sarve’pi kuṇayaḥ kṛṣṇa!........ bāhurniṣpratyūhaścaturbhujaḥ
  –(I. 35).

Maheśa is the selfless god. When poison came out, he drank it. At the end of the churning, a dreaded storm troubled gods and demons and everyone ran here and there with fear.

Maheśa told Kṛṣṇa to go with all the things were got from the ocean and gods and he would remove unfortunate event

ahamenamanartham śamayāmi
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.177).

Samudra thanked Maheśa and said that he has been prosperous because of him and he is the real protector at the time of creation and destruction. He has protected him so many times from the demons.

In return, Maheśa praised him saying–

sargastvamādyastvayi labdhajanmā………sindhurājaḥ kvacidasti kaścit

Samudra then presents his son moon (candra) to Maheśa, who placed him on his head.


Bali is the king of the demons, who is one of the leading characters like Brahmā, Maheśaand Kṛṣṇa. He was the watchdog for the demons. He could not tolerate the cheating of the demons. He was of the opinion that gods took away everything coming out of the ocean. Hence, he vowed to take revenge. When the ambrosia pot came out, he decided to vanish with it. Therefore, he ordered Kujambha, the attendant, to assume the form of Agni, (Maheśa had decided that Agni should protect the ambrosia pot) and to fetch the pot from Kṛṣṇa. However, the gods were clever and Kṛṣṇa and Vainateya changed their forms as the beautiful damsels, viz. Mohanikā and Nipuṇikā to protect ambrosia pot. Bali, seeing Mohanikā, became love lorn. Nipuṇikā introduced herself as the sister of Lakṣmī and the younger daughter of Samudra. In the mean time, Śukra reached there and Bali introduced Mohanikā to him and told that he loved her. Meanwhile, he heard that gods have taken away everything, by defeating demons. Thus, Bali decided to leave the place to protect demons. Therefore, he kept ambrosia pot with Kṛṣṇa (Mohanikā) and asked her to look after the pot till his return. His love for Mohanikā and foolishness made him and demons mortal.


Samudra is the father of Lakṣmī and Candra and the husband of Gaṅgā. He tolerated the torture of the gods and demons, but never protested.

When Lakṣmī was worried about her father, thinking about the hardships, Kṛṣṇa consoled her saying Samudra is capable of protecting himself,

muñca priye! pitṛviyogabhayākulatvam
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.186).

Lakṣmī despite Kṛṣṇa’s consoling, could not stop worrying about her father,

kuta etanmathanavedanātaḥ …………devatārūpasya tātasya
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.186).

This is an example of the relation between the father and the daughter. The father Samudra was extremely fond of his daughter Lakṣmī and took care of her. When he saw Lakṣmī after a long time, the tears came out of his eyes, but controlling the emotions, he convinced Lakṣmī that she should not worry about him and everything would be all right. In the past, he had faced problems from demons, but he could rule the world due to the blessings of Rudra. Meanwhile Śaṅkara requested him to excuse all the gods, because they have tortured him and take back all the things they have collected by churning.

However, Samudra told him not to punish the gods by taking back goods,

kimidānīm pratyarpaṇena nigrahaḥ kriyate
  –(Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.190).

Then Śiva told him to honour gods according to their wishes. Finally, Samudra rules that the Vedas should give pleasure to the ears of gods by their beautiful chants, in the forests; and Śiva should place Candra on the head. Kṛṣṇa got Lakṣmī; Indra got Airāvata and Uccaiśravas; Medicines and Jewels occupied mountains to serve all the creatures. Further, Varuṇa, Vāyu, Nairuta, Yamarāja, Vāsukī got serpants, Vāruṇī, Aṅkuśa, Kṛpāṇa, Daṇḍa and Poisons respectively. Agni was the protector of ambrosia for the gods. Having ambrosia, the gods became immortal and conquered the death.

Samudra was happy distributing the things and completing his duty–

adya tvayā pramathanātha! kṛtaḥ kṛtārtho, manthopamarddamahamutsavameva manye

Śukrācārya –

Śukrācārya is an advisor and preceptor of the demons. Vatsarāja uses him in the second and third acts. He was not happy when Bali loved Mohanikāand was surprised seeing the beauty of Mohanikā–“aho adṛṣṭapūrvamadbhutamidam strīrūpam prajāpateḥ sarge (Samudramanthana, C. Dalal, p.181).” Śukrācāya doubted that Mohanikā might be artificial, though Bali said that she is the younger daughter of Samudra. He felt wrong, when Bali left for the protection of demonsand told him to taste ambrosia then go, but he gave ambrosia pot to Mohanikā and said he would take it after coming back, with other demons. Mohanikā waited long but Bali did not return; and she decided to enter into the fire according to the prevalent customs. However, Śukra prohibited her but she did not listen and entered into the fire.

Śukra doubted the personality of Mohanikā and through meditation come to know that, she was Kṛṣṇa.

Then he said–

dhigdhigsudhām vārdhivilodanotthām ………… yattvam mahilīkṛto’si

This fact had extremely hurt him and he decided to adopt reciprocation method. When Kṛṣṇa was busy with Lakṣmī, to console her, who was suffering from the separation from her father, Śukra entered the place in the form of Śaṅkara and asked Kṛṣṇa to give some ambrosia, to him so that he could be relieved from the pain of poison.

Kṛṣṇa doubted the statement of Śukrācārya (artifitial Śiva), because he knows that the poison could not harm Śiva. Thus, he could know the truth through the meditation that he is none other than Śukra. Afterwards Kṛṣṇa told him to leave the place immediately; otherwise, he would face the anger of Śaṅkara. Śukra left and thus failed to make demons immortal by giving ambrosia to them.

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