Mudrarakshasa (literary study)

by Antara Chakravarty | 2015 | 58,556 words

This page relates ‘Subhashitas occuring in Mudrarakshasa’ of the English study on the Mudrarakshasa: an ancient Sanskrit dramatic play (Nataka) authored by Vishakhadatta which deals with the life of king Chandragupta. This study investigates the Mudra Rakshasa from a literary perspective, such as metrics, themes, rhetorics and other poetical elements. Chandragupta ruled the Mauryan Empire during the 4th century BCE, hence this text can also be studied as a historical textbook of ancient India.

6. Subhāśitas occuring in Mudrārākṣasa

Apart from all these literary merits, Viśākhadatta’s drama is decorated with a huge number of Subhāśitas that make his work great advisory and a navigator to the society. While enumerating the convenience of Nāṭya in the very first chapter of the Nāṭyaśāstra, Bharata states that Nāṭya will relate to actions of men, good, bad and indifferent and will give courage, amusement and happiness and counsel to them all.

The drama will thus be instructive to all, through actions and states depicted in it, and through sentiments arising out of it. Cf.—

uttamādhamamadhyānāṃ narāṇāṃ karmasaṃśrayaṃ/
hitopadeśajananaṃ dhṛtikrīḍāsukhādikṛt//

Thus perhaps following the word of Bharata, Viśākhadatta has chosen the maxims used in our common parlance which are meant to attract the attention of the audience.

Moreover, Mammaṭa in description of his kāvyaprayojana has included a word, i.e. vyavahāravide[2] which indicates that it is the kāvya that can give us the most practical knowledge of the society. Therefore, by including a great number of Subhāṣitas, Viśākhadatta not only has made the drama more palatable one, but it has become the mirror of the society. Let us give an estimate of the Subhāṣitas used in the drama.

i. List of Subhāṣitas (alphabetically) occured in the prose portion:

1. atyādaraḥ śaṅkanīyaḥ:

Extreme courtesy raises suspicion.

2. adhikārapadaṃ hi nāma nirdoṣasyāpi puruṣasya mahadāśaṅkāsthānaṃ:

A post of authority is indeed, a source of great fear even for an innocent man

3. anucita upacāro hṛdayasya paribhavādapi mahad duḥkhamutpādayati:

Undeserved courtesy shown to a man grieves the heart even more than an open insult.

4. amantrauṣadhikuśalo vyālagrāhī pramatto mataṅgajārohi labdhādhikāro jitakāśī rājasevakaḥ ityete trayo’pyavaśyaṃ vināśamanubhavanti:

The snake charmer not versed in mantras and herbs, the rider of an intoxicated elephant without the knowledge of restraining it and a servant of the king who brags of success on getting into office-these three surely meet with ruin.

5. ayamaparo gaṇḍasyopari sphoṭa:This is indeed a fresh boil on the carbuncle.

6. aho alakṣitanipātāḥ puruṣāṇāṃ samaviṣama daśā pariṇatayo bhavanti:

Ah! The favourable or unfavourable turns of man’s life are of unexpected advent.

7. kāyastha iti laghvī mātrā: A kāyastha is a matter of small concern.

8. kīdṛśastṛṇānāmagninā saha virodhaḥ:

What sort of enmity can grass bear to fire?

9. gatiḥ socchāyāṇāṃ patanamanukūlaṃ kalayati:

The condition of those risen to a high station considers a fall to be close at hand.

10. durārādhyā hi rājalakṣmīrātmavadbhirapi rājabhiḥ:

Goddess of wealth is hard to please even by kings with a command overself.

11. dvaivamavidvāṃsaḥ pramāṇayanti:

The illiterate alone believe in fate.

12. daivenopahatasya buddhiratha vā sarvā viparyasyati:

Of one struck by fate, the intellect in its entirely becomes perverse.

13. na niṣprayojanamadhikāravantaḥ prabhūbhirāhūyante:

Officers are not summoned by the kings without any purpose.

14. na yuktaṃ prākṛtamapi ripumavajñātuṃ:

It is not appropriate to neglect even an ordinary enemy.

15. na hi sarvaḥ sarvaṃ jānāti:

It is not indeed that everyone knows everything.

16. nirīhāṇāmīśastṛṇamiva tiraskāraviṣayaḥ:

To those, whose desire is gone completely a king is an object of disregard like straw.

17. puraṃdhrīṇāṃ prajñā puruṣaguṇavijñānavimukhī:

The mind of women which by nature is averse to the appreciation of the merits of men.

18. prāyo bhṛtyāstyajanti pracalitavibhavaṃ svāminaṃ sevamānāḥ:

Servents in attendance usually leave the master whose power is shaken.

19. prārabdhamaparityājyameva:

What is undertaken must not be given up.

20. bhagavati kamalālaye bhṛśamaguṇajñā'si:

Oh! Venerable lotus throned Godess, you are quite incapable of appreciating merits.

21. manasvī damyatvātskhalati ca na duḥkhaṃ vahati ca:

Who being strong minded, has resoved to bear up, even in his prime youth the very yoke of responsibility.

22. muṇḍitamuṇḍo nakṣatrāṇi pṛcchasi:

Inquiring about the constellation after getting shaved your head.

23. yatsvayamabhiyogaduḥkhairasādhāraṇairapākṛtaṃ tadeva rājyaṃ sukhayati:

That sovereignty alone gives happiness, which is devoid of the peculiar troubles worthy of application to work.

24. rājyaṃ hi nāma rājadharmānuvṛttiparasya nṛpatermahadaprītisthānam:

Sovereignty is indeed a source of great trouble to the king intent upon observing the duties.

25. vidvāṃso’pyavikatthanā bhavanti:

The literate too are not given to boasting

26. śirasi bhayamatidūre tatpratikāraḥ:

The danger stands over the head and the remedy is very far.

27. sevāṃ lāghavakāriṇīṃ kṛtadhiyaḥ sthāne śvavṛttiṃ viduḥ:

Rightly the learned men regard the service, which degrades a man of one whom penury plods for bread by his entreating looks and mis representation through helpfulness as a dog’s life.

ii. Subhāṣitas found as verse form in Mudrārākṣasa:

1. atyucchṛte mantriṇi pārthive ca viṣṭabhya pādāvupatiṣṭhate śrīḥ/
sā strīsvabhāvādasahā bharasya tayordvayorekataraṃ jahāti//

The Goddess of Royalty stands with her feet rigidly placed on the king and on the minister when grown too high. But through feminine nature unable to sustain her weight, she quits one of the two.

2. aprājñena ca kātareṇa guṇaḥ syādbhaktiyuktena kaḥ Prajñā vikramaśālino’pi hi bhavet kiṃ bhaktihīnāt phalam/
prajñāvikramabhaktayaḥ samuditā yeṣāṃ guṇā bhūtaye te bhṛtyā nṛpateḥ kalatramitare sampatsu cāpatsu ca//

What is the need of such servants, who is neither wise nor energetic, though he is full of piety? Similarly, what is the use of a wise and brave servant having no devotion? Only those can bring about the prosperity of their king who are full of wisdom, dare and piety, remaining are equal to women both in calamity and thriving only to be brought up by the lord.

3. upari ghanaṃ ghanaraṭitaṃ dūre dayitā kimetadāpatitaṃ/
himavati divyauṣadhayaḥ śīrṣe sarpaḥ samāviṣṭaḥ//

Overhead is the deep thunder of clouds, the beloved is far away. What is this that has come to pass! On the Himālayas grow the herbs supernatural efficacy, whereas the serpent is seated on the head.

4. kiṃ śeṣasya bharavyathā na vapuṣi kṣāṃ na kṣipatyeṣa yat kiṃ vā nāsti pariśramo dinapaterāste na yanniścalaḥ/
kiṃ tvaṅgīkṛtamutsṛn kṛpaṇavat ślāghyo jano lajjate pratipannapastuṣu nirvāhaḥ satāmetaddhi gotravratam//

Is there no pain of burden in the body of Śeṣanāga that he does not throw down the earth? Or does not feel the Sun fatigued that he does not sit down motionless? But a praiseworthy man blushes to lay aside, like a mean-hearted person, what he has once undertaken. To carry their undertaking to their end-this is indeed, the family vow of the good.

5. cīyate bāliśasyāpi satkṣetrapatitā kṛṣiīḥ/
na śāleḥ stambakāritā vapturguṇamapekṣate//

Scattered seeds grow profusely in fertile soil, even being sowed by an ignorant peasant. The clustered paddy does not expect any merit in the sower.

tīkṣnādudvijate mṛdau paribhavatrāsānna saṃtiṣṭhate mūrkhāndeṣṭi na gacchati praṇayitāmatyantavidvatsvapi/
śūrebhyo’pyadhikaṃ vibhetyupasatyekāntabhīrūnaho śrī labdhaprasareva veśavanitā duḥkhopacaryā bhṛśa//

From the stern, she shrinks. In the mild, she does not abide from fear of insult. Hates a fool, she cultivates no friendship to the most learned, the brave–she dreads mighty. The ever timid, she scoffs. The Goddess of wealth, Oh1 like a harlot; that has gained ascendancy is extremely hard to please.

7. parārthānuṣṭhāne rahayati nṛpaṃ svārthaparatā parityaktasvārtho niyatamayathārthḥ kṣitipatiḥ/
parārthaścetsvārthādabhimatataro hanta paravān parāyattaḥ prīteḥ kathamiva rasaṃ vetti puruṣaḥ//

In serving other’s end, self-interest forsakes the king and the king who abandons personal interest, is not the lord of the earth in the real sense of the term. If other’s interest is preferable to self-interest, then, alas! The king has a master to serve, how can he know the flavor of pleasures.

8. prārabhyate na khalu vighnabhayena nīcaiḥ Prārabhya vighnavihatā viramanti madhyāḥ/
vighnaiḥ punaḥ punarapi pratihanyamānāḥ prārabdhamuttamaguṇāḥ na parityajant//

Mean man set on to work from fear of obstacles: Average people desist after commencing difficulties, but Men of superior merit though again and again assailed by difficulties, do not give up what is once undertaken.

9. bhūṣanādyupabhogena prabhurbhavati na prabhuḥ/
parairaparibhūtājñastvamiva prabhurucyate//

A lord is not the lord by reason of the enjoyment of ornaments etc. Rightly is he called king who like yourself has his order not superseded by others.

10. mitrāṇi śatrutvamupānayantī mitratvamarthasya vaśācca śatrun/
nītirnayatyasmṛtapūrvavṛttaṃ janmāntaraṃ jīvata eva puṅsaḥ//

Turning from considerations of interest friends turn into foes and foes into friends, diplomacy leads a person, while still living into other type of existence in which past relation is all forgotten.

11. sa doṣaḥ sacivasyaiva yadasatkurute nṛpaḥ/
Yāti yantu pramādena gajo vyālatvavācyatām//

It is the fault of the minister himself if the king dishonours him. The tusker comes to be branded as a ‘rogue’ through the carelessness of the driver.

12. svayamāhṛtya bhuñjā valino’pi svabhāvataḥ/
gajendrāśca narendrāśca prāyaḥ sīdanti duḥkhitāḥ //

Lord of elephants and mighty kings though naturally strong yet they have to toil for their livelihood, generally drop in discomfort.

Footnotes and references:


Nāṭyaśāstra, I.113


kāvyaṃ yaśase’rthakṛte vyavahāravide śivetarakṣataye/ sadyaḥ paranirvṛttaye kāntāsammitatayopayuje// Kāvyaprakāśa, I. 2




Ibid., I.22




Ibid., I.3




Ibid., III.4


Ibid., II.17


Ibid., III.23


Ibid., V.8





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