by Debi Prasad Namasudra | 2016 | 70,412 words
This page relates ‘Venisamhara as a Drama’ of the study dealing with the Venisamhara of Bhatta Narayana and its practical application of Sanskrit Dramaturgy. The Veni-Samhara is an extraordinary drama in Sanskrit literature which revolves around the great war of Mahabharata within six Acts. This study deals with the author, background and the technical aspects, reflecting the ancient Indian tradition of dramaturgy (Natya-Shastra).
The Nāndī and Prastāvanā of Veṇīsaṃhāra is short and to the point. The Prastāvanā gives us the name of the play and also of the author together with his title Kavimrgaraja (Kavisingha, the best of poets). It catches the attention f the spectators by holding out hopes of music. But ultimately with the peculiar device of Kāku, Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa has succeeded in introducing the main point of the plot viz. that Kauravas have gravely insulted the Pāndavas–particularly their wife Draupadī–for which they are going to meet destruction at the hands of Bhīma Before the spectator is aware of it he is told that Lord Kṛṣṇa has undertaken embassy for bringing negoticiation if possible and avoid war; and also that Bhīma ever smarting under the past insults is out for revenge and hence is openly against this attempt of negotiation. The Praṣṭāvanā is brought to a close by Bhīmasena coming on the stage repeating the words of the Sūtradhāra with a modulation of voice. The Praṣṭhābanā of the Veṇīsaṃhāra is Prayagatisaya. It has served its purpose quite well by introducing the main character on the stage in a striking manner and thus catching the attention of the spectator and rousing his curiosity. It has at the same time supplied the back-ground which is expected to enable the spectator to follow the forthcoming incidents with ease and interest.
The drama starts with the exilement the Pāndavas is over and Yudhiṣṭhira, as a last attempt, has sent Kṛṣṇa to negotiate peace with five villages. The idea is not liked by Bhīma who would rather break off with Yudhiṣṭhira and avenge all the insults heaped on Draupadī in particular by Duhśāsana and Duryadhaṇa than agree to the peace. Sahadeva’s exposition of the peace proposal is simply ridiculous and foolish in his opinion. The news of a fresh insult given to Draupadī by Duryadhaṇa’s wife, Bhānumatī, adds fuel to the fire and Bhīma avows to batter Duryadhaṇa’s thighs and tie Draupadī’s hair with his hands gory with Duryadhaṇa’s blood. Draupadī is not sure about Yudhiṣṭhira. But just then peace negotiations break off; Duryadhaṇa attempts to captivate Kṛṣṇa who escapes with a miracle and Yudhiṣṭhira’s wrath is roused. War is declared with the beating of a drum and Bhīma assures Draupadī that he could see her only after completely annihilating the Kauravas.
War has progressed for a few days and Bhīma and Abhīmanyu are slain. Then one morning Duryadhaṇa is distracted to find his wife gone way from the chamber without taking his leave as ususal. He sends the Kañcukin to see where she is and when he comes up scolds him for expressing his disapproval of Abhimanyu and makes a solemn declaration which by a slip of tongue meant just the opposite of what he actually wanted to say. He then asks Kañcukin to lead him to where Bhānumatī was. On going there he finds her conversing with her friend and miad and, therefore, makes up his mind to overhear them. The talk was about some evil dream that Bhanumatī had that morning in pacification of which she was observing a Relegious fasting (Vrata) from the same day. Owing to the double meaning words in the talk and his ignorance of the context, Duryadhaṇa misunderstood the whole talk and accused his wife of infidelity and incest with Nakula. Fortunately, however, he did not act on his impulse at this stage and was glad to realize that it was all a dream that she was talking about. At this stage Bhānumatī realises that Duryadhaṇa was there; she is confused and Duryadhaṇa tries on coax her and alleviate her misgivings. He answers all her arguments in favour of her Religious fasting (Vratta) and ultimately suggests that the Manostapatti for which she wants to observe the Religious fasting (Vratta) depends on her only. The amorous suggestion would not have been readily granted by Bhānumatī, but for the sudden violent storm which frightened her and shattered her ideas of the religious fasting (Vratta). Then they go to the Daruparvataprasada where again Duryadhaṇa suggests that Bhānumatī should occupy his thing, when Kancukin comes with the word Bhagnam Bhagnam. This is ominous again and the news brought by Kañcukin. Thousands of warriors on either side are killed, principal among them being–Dhṛtarāṣtra, Ghatotkacha, Bhagadutta, Drupada, Somdutta, Hidimbha (Bhīma’s wife) has ordered that a Rākṣasa is be constantly with Bhima, who has vowed to drink Duhṥāsana’s blood. The Rākṣasa is to enter Bhīma’s body and drink it for him. All this information is conveyed through the interlude at the end of which we are told that Droṇa is being killed by Dhṛstadyumna and that Aśvathāmān is coming up with his sword drawn.
Aśvathāmān learns the news of his father’s murder on the battle-field and how he himself was at the root of it. He breaks out in lamentations first and then avows destruction of all concerned. At Kripa’s suggestion he goes to Duryodhaṇa’s ears are already poisoned by Karṇa against Droṇa (and Aśvathāmān) and he repudiates Aśvathāmān’s proposal saying that the post has been already bestowed on Karṇa. Then there ensues some scuffle between Karṇa and Aśvathāmān. From words they come to blows. But they are prevented from actual fight by Kṛpa and Duryodhana. Aśvathāmān then leaves off his weapon vowing not to hold it as long as Karṇa was alive. Just then is heard from behind the curtain Bhīma’s challenge to all Kaurava warriors to save Duhśāsana who was now in his clutches. Karṇa at once hastens there. Aśvathāmān asks Duryodhana to go there personally, and himself is about to take up his weapon; but is prevented from doing so by some Devine speech, Aśvathāmān curses himself for his leaving of weapons and asks Kṛpa to go the Duryodhana’s help, and himself goes to the camp.
After that it, shows Duryodhana in swoon on his chariot being led away by his charioteer to some suitable place, while behind the curtain, Bhīma announces that he is drinking the warm blood of Duhśāsana, charioteer afraid that Bhīma will slay Duryodhana also. Duryodhana recovers and asks charioteer to take his chariot to where Duhśāsana is and is informed by the former about Duhśāsana’s fate, of course suggestively. Duryodhana again laments, falls in a swoon, blames the Suta for having brought him away form the field and lastly expresses his desire that he should not die at in hands of Vrkadar. At this stage Sundaraka (Karṇa’s man) after pretty long search comes to Duryodhana, and in a long narration intercepted several times by suitable remarks or questions of Duryodhana narrates how fight ensued between Bhima and Karna, how Arjuna & Vrsasena (Karṇa’s son) hastened to their help, how Vrsasena showed excellent skill, how Vrsasena was slain by Arjuna’s power, and how Karṇa changed his chariot (the former having its axel broken) and has sent a message in his own blood to Duryodhana before recommencing war, prepared for the worst. Duryodhana at once prepares to go to Karṇa’s aid, but has to wait because of the arrival of his parents whom, of course he could not evade (though he would very much have liked to do so).
It is taken up mostly by Dṛtarāṣtra and Gāndarī pleading in various ways in favour of negotiation and Duryodhana showing how it was impossible, unbecoming, and dishonourable. Duryodhana pleads in favour of war in grim and pathetic arguments. In the meanwhile comes the news of Shalya returning in the chariot without Karṇa, a news which is shocking to Dṛtarāṣtra for fear of his son’s fate, but equally shocking to Duryodhana out of his deep friendship for Karṇa. On learning the details of Karṇa’s death Duryadhaṇa tells his parents that now he would prefer war to the pangs of Karṇa’s separation and avenge his death rather than that of Duhśāsana. Duryodhana asks his charioteer to bring his chariot. In the meanwhile the old parents ask him who would be his next Senāpati and are told that he himself would be the Head of the Army. At this stage Bhīma and Arjuna come in search of Duryodhana uryadhaṇa and on knowing that Dhṛtarāṣṭra scolds Bhīma who also gives a good retort. Duryodhana asks Bhīma how he could be so insolent unless he vanquishes him, the doer of the insult. Then ensues a wordy tussel between them when, it being evening, the war is declared to have stopped for the day. Just then comes up Aśvathāmān reviling Karṇa before Duryodhana and offering his help. But Duryadhana sharply rejects it saying he may wait till his own death. When he had left, Dhṛtarāṣṭra on his own behalf sends Charioteer to pacify Aśvathāmān and requests him to do his best. They all leave for Shalya’s camp.
Thereafter the drama opens with the appearance of Yudhiṣṭira worrying over Bhīma’s promise for battering Duryadana’s thighs the same day, and sending orders for a close search for Duryodhana. Just then comes Pancalaka who in details narrates how Duryodhana, who on the strength of water miracle lay hidden in a lake, how he was found out, and how he has chosen to fight a macedual with Bhīma. He then delivered the message of Kṛṣṇa that preparations be made for the Coronation; adding that it is his order. Yudhiṣṭhira orders festivity accordingly and while he is explaining to Draupadī why Duryodhana was given choice, a sage (he is really Duryodhana’s friend Cārvāka, a Rākṣasa) comes up. He, after some rest, tells that Duryadhana’s duel with Bhīma is over and that now he is having it with Arjuna. He then adds that Balarāma helped Duryodhana against Bhīma by dropping a hint and has now taken away Kṛṣṇa leaving Arjuna to his fate which was certain.
Yudhiṣṭhira and Draupadī lament and blame Balarām; and Draupadī ultimately thinks of burning herself, asking Yudhiṣṭhira to follow Religion of Kṣatriya (Kṣātradharma). Yudhiṣṭira would better die and Rākṣasa suggests that he also should burn himself in that case. He then leaves the place and secretly kindles the fire. Yudhiṣṭhira and Draupadī send their last messages to all and finding the fire kindled prepare to throw temselves into it together. Yudhiṣṭhira offers libations to all. Draupadī offers water to Bhīma. Here Yudhiṣṭhira’s right eye throbs and Kancukin comes in declaring that Duryodhana has come in search of Draupadī. He also suggests that she should immediately throw herself into the fire. At this stage Bhīma (mistaken by all for Duryodhana) comes up and, assuring all that they have no reason to be afraid, goes to Draupadī and tries to hold her hair, when Yudhiṣṭhira catches him fast and declares that he would kill him there and then. Bhīma then knows what has happened, the misunderstanding is cleared up, and the Beṇī is tied up by Bhīma and appreciated by all. Then come up Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa. The latter announces the arrival of all for Yudhiṣṭira’s Coronation (Rājjyābhiṣeka). The Rākṣasa is exposed and is punished by Nakula and after the usual manner the play ends with the Bharatvākya.
Characterization is not a strong point of Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa. He can hardly be said to have depicted any character quite successfully. In fact he does not seem to have bestowed much care on this point, a greater part of his attention being taken up by the management of the vast plot of the great Bharat a war which he had to mould in a dramatic form. This does not, however, mean that he has not the capacity to paint characters. We see that he has given us bold touches of some of his characters from different angles.
Let us take up Duryodhana who has actually appeared in Acts II, III, IV and V and is mentioned in Acts I and VI. In act II we see his sensuous aspect combined with haughtiness, conceit, arrogance and fearlessness in the face of grave danger amounting to foolhardiness. In Act III he comes as a king, courteous in his manners and talk inspite of whatever is going on in his mind and at the same time easily carried away by the views of others. The fourth and the fifth acts show him as a dauntless warrior, a very staunch friend, a very loving brother, a fierce enemy, a dutiful son and a clever arguer. In Act VI we are given another aspect of his character when he is reported to have explained why he hid in the lake and also when we are told that he chose to fight with Bhīma–the most formidable Pāndava–inspite of the choice given to him. From all this it is easy to see that Duryodhana, a disciple of Balarama in the mace was, of course, the main root of the insult heaped on Draupadī which he owns and for which he is not sorry. As man he is proud of his strength and insolent in his behaviour and would do any thing in his haughtiness; even try to captivate Kṛṣṇa, the peace ambassador if not Bhagavāna. As son he was very dutiful and showed due respect to his parents, but his love for friend was greater, greater than even love for his brothers. Dutiful as a brother he risked his own life for news of Karṇa’s death which filled his mind with thoughts of revenge for Karṇa. For friend’s sake he was ready to lose any thing or any one and would not have any thing to do with one who reviled his friend. As husband he was loving and amorous, but easily falling a prey to suspicion. This circumstance takes away much from his love of his wife. As warrior he was brave and dauntless and was so sure of his strength that he would not care to stop for even his Chariot (Rata) or Charioteer (Sārathī). His Gadā was enough for him. But the most admirable point that we notice in him is the he has maintained the same spirited attitude from the beginning to the end inspite of the heavy odds facing him. It is only in a weak moment that we find him uttering “Api nama bhavenmrtyurna ca hanta Vrkadara:|”
Next we come to Bhīma who is on the stage in Acts I, V and VI, while he is referred to in Acts III and IV. In Act II the idea that Bhīma would shatter Duryodhana’s thighs is suggested in the Patākāsthana where the word “Bhimen” is used (but in a different sense). From the beginning we see Bhīma filled with the thought of, revenge to such an extent that the mere idea of peace negotiations or mere suggestion of the happiness and well-being of the Kauravas is enough to upset him. Revenge is the ruling word with him and for that he is ready may be for a day-to break off with his elder brother. His idea of revenge also is very bloody. We really shudder at the boastful challenge which Bhīma gives to all on the battle-field to save Duhśāsana from his clutches as he would drink the warm blood from his chest. Even Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa–possibly out of religious considerations-could not stand the idea and had to invent the novel idea of Rākṣasa entering his body and drinking it. About Bhīma’s Herculean strength there is no doubt. That he has shown several times, particularly, at the Jatugṛhadaha incident. He is very rash with his tongue also. He does not hesitate to insult Dhṛtarāṣṭra to his face and in the presence of Duryodhana. In the last act he appears in that hideous form all blood-smeared and is mistaken by all for Duryodhana. Even then his only thought was to fulfil his promise viz. tying up Draupadī’s hair with his hands gory with Duryodhana’s blood. But to indulge in that blood-stained condition smacks insavoury. As already noted above we might say Revenge, thy name is Bhīma. Act IV contains a reference to Bhīma’s war exploits. But there is hardly any other aspect of Bhīma’s character depicted in this play.
Aśvathāmān, a compeer of Bhīma so far as the idea of revenge (and also to some extent boasting) is concerned, appears yet in better lights, though he has come on the stage only in Acts III and V. In Acts III we see him as a brave man, a dutiful and loving son, a manly warrior conscious of his strength, a simple straight-forward man, bitter with his tongue and ever ready to return an insult. We also see his softness of heart–particularly for his king and friendwhen for his sake he is even ready to falsify his promise. Act V shows him again ready to help his king, but ignorant of good manners. Thus in Act III from words he comes to blows with Karṇa and cuts off his sacred thread, to show that he does not require his caste to defend him. In Act V he reviles Karṇa who is dead and gone, and that too before Duryadhaṇa a fast friend of his. This comes surely in bad taste. But he is after all a mere soldier even like Bhīma. He would not care for anything else and would try to solve every dispute by force of arms.
Karṇa combines in him the soldier and the politician. On the stage he appears only in Act III; in Act IV his war feats are described and his message to Duryodhana is delivered; while in Act V is reported his death. From his short presence on the stage we see how he is like a venomous cobra, poisoning Duryodhana’s mind and ultimately leading to the non-co-operation of a good warrior like Aśvathāmān. He is, however, a dauntless warrior and a true friend for whose cause he in firm determination sacrifices his life. His message to Duryodhana is pathetic indeed and shows that he has some soft feeling at least for a friend as, we know, he has for his son.
Dhṛtarāṣṭra appears only in Act V and is a very loving father trying to save the life of his son dissuading him from war. He presents a true picture of a father struck with the sorrow of the death of 99 sons of his and this explains his great anxiety to effect peace on any conditions whatever. It is rather below the dignity of a Kṣatriya no doubt to go begging for peace, particularly when one is losing fast. Like an old man he is patient as well as cautious and is shrewd enough to manage the situation when Aśvathāmān went away insulted. All his entreaties were, however, of little consequence and he had to witness with a flutter of heart the result of what he had witnessed with clam indifference thirteen years ago.
Among the female characters Gāndārī is painted as a loving mother with her love of all the dead sons now concentrated on the one that was alive. She is a dutiful wife who has blind-folded herself in view of the blindness of her husband.
Bhānumatī is depicted as a very loving wife caring with all her heart for the good of her husband. Dutiful to her elders, she was also of a religious bent of mind and was easily susceptible to fears. For her husband’s sake she would undertake any religious fasting (Vrata) and would always advise him to remedy the evil portents by religious observance. She is a fine Hindu lady. She has committed one sin in asking that insulting question to Draupadī for which she has very heavily to pay.
Draupadī, on the other hand, is more thinking of her own insult than of any thing else. She is so much upset with the idea of revenge that she even speaks disparagingly of her other husbands. She is quite one with Bhīma with his idea of revenge but is afraid that the brothers of Bhīma (particularly Yudhiṣṭhira) would not agree to it. She appears to have had a poor opinion of Nakula and Sahadeva as warriors (of course, as compared with Duryodhana) as is shown by her question toṄ Yudhisthira as a softness of heart. When war is declared and Bhīma declares that he would not see her before exterminating the Kauravas she expresses her anxiety and requests that they all should take care of themselves. She was also loving wife as is clear from the fact that she prepared to throw herself into the fire when Bhīma and Arjuna are heard to have died. Her message to Subhadrā shows her as a loving cowife also.
Cārvāka, the demon friend of Duryodhana, appears only in the last act. He has done his best to bring Yudhiṣṭhira and Draupadī to burn themselves, apparently at nobody’s instance. He has succeeded quite well in his ambition almost to the last moment when the revelation of Bhīma’s identity alone saved the situation. The one noticeable point in connection with this Carvaka is the fact that he refuses to receive any hospitality from Yudhiṣṭhira. Can it be, because he intends doing harm to Yudhiṣṭhira and as such does not want to make him his benefactor in the slightest degree?
Yudhiṣṭhira has appeared on the stage only in the last act and is mentioned in the first and the third. Even when he is on the stage he has allowed himself to be misled by sage (Muni) and the too after receiving a message-nay an order-from Kṛṣṇa the Lord, Adideva as he was in his opinion! He has shown his self control while dealing with his enemies, but when overpowered with grief he loses all his grip, and seems to fall too low. His lamentations in the last art could have evoked greater sympathies of the spectators if he had been depicted on the stage as a great personality. Though we know much about him from the Mahābhārata, yet so far as the play is concerned we hardly get any view of this eldest Pāndava to form a very high opinion about him and thus be ready to have sympathy for him in his adversity. He is perhaps the most neglected character of this play.
Under these circumstances the question as to who is the hero of the Veṇīsaṃhāra becomes quite puzzling-nay tantalizing. To have a play with so many characters, a play dealing with the great Bharata war and not to find any one who can be easily accepted by all its hero is a strange occurrence indeed! But such is the fact with the Veṇīsaṃhāra if plainly stated. The only course open to a critic to solve this problem is to fall back on the theory of Sanskrit drama and find out what ancient writers on dramaturgy have to say on this point and in that light to find out what view Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa might have possibly held. Doing this we find Sanskrit critics declaring that “A hero is one who is the recipient of the ultimate fruit or result (of the whole action of the play)” of Adhikāra: Phalswamyamadhikari ca tatprabhu|. But the question is as to how we can determine what the actual result is and who actually has received it in the opinion of the play-wright. For this again there is one indication or clue given by the author. The last Saṅdhi of every Sanskrit drama has at the end two Aṅga’s called Kavyasaṃhāra shows that the person who is asked that question has already received the fruit; and more often than not in his reply also that person actually declares that he has had the fruit. This shows that the person who is thus addressed in the Kāvyasaṃhāra and who gives a reply to it is, according to the play-wright, the actual recipient of the fruit, and hence the hero. If this test is applied we find that the question in the end is addressed to Yudhiṣṭhira and it is he who actually recounts what fortune he has had upto that point. This should suggest that according to Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa’s view the hero of the Veṇīsaṃhāra is Yudhiṣṭhira -a view which is supported by Sanskrit writers like Viśvanātha.
Coming now to the source of the play we have to note the various omissions, additions and alternations that Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has introduced in the original story of the Mahābhārata war as found in the Mahābhārata itself. Looking to the incidents that he has chosen for representation on the stage we can easily conclude that he has an eye for the right choice. We also see his skill in omitting various details and thus bringing the whole story within the compass of his six acts. But the real skill of the playwright lies in the way in which he introduces several incidents that he cannot represent on the stage and more particularly still in the innovations in the form of additions and alterations that he introduces in the original.
Comparing the plot of the Veṇīsaṃhāra with the Mahābhārata story, it is easy to see that Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has introduced several innovations of both these varieties. As for the additions we may note that Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has invented the character Bhānumatī, (Act I) and the Rākṣasa couple in the interlude to Act III, not to mention others like Sundaraka (Act IV), Pañcalaka (Act VI) and the minor characters like the Kañcukin, the Ceti and Female freind. Among incidents and scenes thus invented by Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa must be mentioned the insulting question put to Draupadī by Bhānumatī and the dream of the latter, almost the whole of Act II, particularly the storm and the amorous scene between Duryodhana and Bhānumatī, the whole of Act V again, particularly the discussion between Duryodhana and his parents and the message from Karṇa. The dramatic importance and interest of all these can hardly be exaggerated. We have only to remember how the small insulting question put to Draupadī by Bhānumatī added fuel to Bhīma’s fury and worked havoc; or how the dream of Bhānumatī was saved threadbare from having a disastrous effect; or how the strom gives a sudden turn to events and in more ways then one portends evil in store for Duryodhana who ironically enough thinks otherwise; or how the conversation between Duryodhana and his parents serves to bring out some salient traits in the characters of these persons or how the receipt of the message of Karṇa brings out Duryodhana’s friendship into relief and how the arrival of the parents, just as he is to start, prevents him from going to Karṇa’s help and thus paves the way for his death on the battlefield.
Not are alterations in the original story wanting. Some of the important alterations are: combining the details of the two attempts at peace into one, giving quite a different motif to the quarrel between Karṇa and Aśvathāmān, altering the details of the failure of the negotiations and Visvarupadarsana, and making Cārvāka play his role (of course altered according to Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa’s plan) before the Coronation. The Pañcagrāmaprārthanā is connected with the peace negotiations through Sañjaya while the other details are connected with Kṛṣṇa’s embassy. By combining these Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has secured not only economy but at the same time ground for the Upapatti and also a means to expose some traits in the characters of Yudhiṣṭhira, Duryodhana and Bhīma also to some extent. The attempt to captivate Kṛṣṇa and its frustration by Viśvarupadarsana are highly dramatic in effect. But this our author has perhaps borrowed from Bhāsa. The quarrel in the Mahābhārata starts with Karṇa passing some remark against Kṛpā, and Aśvathāmān taking cudgels for him; and all this takes place before Droṇa’s death Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has placed it after Droṇa’s death and based it on the nasty remarks of Karṇa against Droṇa. Shifting of Carvaka’s mischief to an earlier stage has served to cause suspense and helped the play to come to a close with the mention of coronation.
It may now be confidently said that Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa though he has drawn the plot from the Mahābhārata, has shown good skill in using it for the purpose of dramatization and has succeded in presenting the whole of the Bhārata war with its plethora of details in the short space of six acts in an interesting manner.
Let us now pass on to a few peculiar devices used by Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa in this play. The most striking among these is the use of “Nepathye” (behind curtain). Here we may only remark that it is this device in the main that has worked in Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa’s hand at a measure of economy (which otherwise it would have been impossible to achieve) and a principal means to push the plot further. There is hardly a play in Sanskrit literature where this stage direction has been so much utilized. Next we come to the various devices Bhaṭṭa-nārāyaṇa has used in obedience to the exigencies of the stage and used them without marring verisimilitude. Thus Bhīma’s turning away his face in wrath (Act I), Aśvathāman falling in swoon (Act III), or Duryodhana sitting in despondency in his chariot (Act IV) very well account for the silence of these characters and at the same time give scope to some other scene, speech or speeches with which they are not concerned. Thirdly we may note the bifocal scenes in Act I where Draupadī and her maid over-hear Bhīma’s talk to Sahadeva and in Act II where the talk of Bhānumatī with her friend and miad is heared by Duryodhana.
Inspite of these excellences shown by him, however, Bhaṭṭanarayaṇa fails to attain the height of Bhavabhūti or Kālidāsa whom he seems to have imitated ocasssionally. The reason for this appears to be that his is a conscious, a laboured art as he himself admits in the prologue. But the most serious defect that he is guilty of is his grave neglect of character-painting. As we have already seen there is hardly any character who can be said to tower above all and who can inspire us with awe and respect. At least Bhīma and Draupadī who are directly connected with the Veṇīsaṃhāra should have been carefully painted; and more attention should have been given to Yudhiṣṭhira if he was to play the role assigned to him in the last act. Strangely enough Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa appears to have laboured more on Duryodhana who appears on the stage longer than any other character, longer than even Bhīma. It is this circumstance that detracts much from the value of the Veṇīsaṃhāra as a drama. The same to some extent may be said about the Rasas. Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa has, no doubt, brought in all the Rasas on different occasions. But he has failed to keep up a proper proportion among them. The main topic of the play and also the title require the Heroic sentiment (Virarasa) to predominate in the play. Actually, however, it is found that Karuṇa is vying with Vīra to such an extent that it has actually been posed as the main sentiment of the play. This discrepancy between the main topic and the dominant sentiment in the play is not a little responsible for disturbing the general effect of the play. The whole of Act IV again is a blemish on the workmanship of Bhaṭṭanārāyaṇa as a playwright. He has no doubt tried to break the monotony of the narration by intercepting Sundaraka’s speech at several places. But that is too mechanical a device and can”t save the scene for being undramatic.
In fine it may be said that the king Yudhiṣṭhira who is the hero according to the strict convention of poetics is generally known to be a Dhirodatta though very many of his traits as such do not appear depicted in this play. The dominant emotion brought out in this play is Vīra, the heroic. Hence Veṇīsaṃhāra satisfies all the requirements laid down by rhetoricians for a Nātaka. It may also be observed that most of the Sandhyangas or essential ingredients in the plot of a drama are woven into this play in scrupulous compliance with the rules of dramaturgy as will be apparent from the profuse quotations in Dasarūpaka from this play in illustration of the same.
Some critical remarks of scholars are placed here regarding the play:
1. “The play is on the whole undramatic, for the action is choked by narrative, and the vast abundance of detail served up in this form confuses and destroys interest. Yet the characterization is good……… Horor and pathos are not lacking, but the love interest is certainly not effective. The style of the play is clear and not lacking in force or dignity. We find in Bhaṭṭa Narayana many of the defects of Bhavabhūti, in special the fondness for long compounds both in Pṛakrt and in Sanskrit prose and the same straining after effect which gives such a description of the battle as that vouchsafed to Draupadī by Bhīma, when she warns him not to be overrash in battle.” Prof. A.B. Keith.
2. “There is much good writing in the piece although the style is rather powerful than polished; there is also poetry in the thoughts but it is the poetry rather of passion than fancy, and the pathos and horror in which ity delights are relieved by no brilliancy of illustration: both too are overdone, and the pathos becomes tiresome and the horror disgusting. The chief merit of the drama is individuality of character; the ferociety of Bhīma, the pride of Karṇa, the fiery but kindly temperament of Aśvathāmā and the selfish arrogance of Duryadhaṇa are well delineated.” Prof. Wilson.