Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti: Readings into Catharsis and Rasa

Academic journal article IUP Journal of English Studies

Uttararamacarita of Bhavabhuti: Readings into Catharsis and Rasa

Article excerpt

Bhavabhuti is one of those few erudite and defiant Sanskrit poets unappreciated during his life ti me. His genius however finds its ripeness in his play, Uttararamacarita ("Later Life of Rama") that was crafted out of the Ramayana with necessary modifications as demanded by the theory of Rasa, somewhere in the middle of 8th century. The Sanskrit alamkarikas (aesthetists) of the medieval period, consider Uttararamacarita as one of the greatest plays in Sanskrit as is reflected in the traditional verdict: "Uttaré ramacarite bhavabhutirvisisyaté- the uniqueness of Bhavabhuti reflects in Uttararamacarita ."

Western scholars, however, have a different opinion: Macdonell1 and Kale consider Uttararamacarita as more a dramatic poem than a play; and Wells states that it is "a story altogether repellent to classical theories of drama in the Western world." Bhandarkar2 too states that the genius of Bhavabhuti is more of a lyrical than of a dramatic nature. Karmarkar (1954) considers Uttararamacarita as a dramatic poem rather than a drama, for there is no plot and action in the play.

It is said that Bhavabhuti was well versed in Vedic lore, the Upanishads, the Samkhya and Yoga systems (Kane and Joshi, 1962), which are incidentally said to be the very roots of Sanskrit poetics-Natyasastra of Bharatamuni-besides being aware of the literature on poetics that existed before him. Sanskrit scholars of medieval period consider Bhavabhuti supreme in depicting the sentiment of karunarasa (compassion). He is considered to be unrivalled in his treatment of deep and tender human feelings. According to Bhavabhuti himself, Uttararamacarita is a product of his mature intellect. Against this backdrop, we shall examine the play from the perspectives of Aristotle's dramaturgy and Indian Rasa doctrine.

Seed of the Plot: Skillfully Introduced

The poet introduces the seed of the plot-abandonment of the heroine-very skillfully right at the beginning of the play itself through an uneventful conversation between sutradhara, manager of the play, and an actor of Ayodhya in the prologue to the play. The sutradhara, while waiting for the king, says: "Yadha strinam tatha vacham sadhutye durjanoe janah (Act I s. 5)-people are wicked vilifiers of the chastity of women and the purity of language." Responding to it, the actor from Ayodhya says, "you should say 'very wicked', for men speak evil of even the queen, the wife of Rama. Her staying in Ravana's house is the root cause of this scandal and her undergoing fire ordeal is distrusted". Then sutradhara says, "If this report reaches the great king, then it would be tragic." The actor however, exudes confidence saying, "the sages and gods will by all means bring about auspiciousness." This piece of conversation well prepares the audience for the likely introduction of slander about Sita, its tragic fallout, and its likely end in subham-happiness by the grace of sages and gods.

Beginning of the Play: Rings an Impending Catastrophe

The actual play in Act I begins with Rama, the king, consoling Sita, his wife, who is grieving her father's setting off to Videha after having spent three days with them to rejoice in Rama's coronation, thus: "Queen, take comfort, for the necessity of-anustanam nityatvam-performing the pr escribe d rites, indeed swatantrya mapakarshiti (Act I s. 1) snatches the independence of your father. The performance of the duties of a householder by persons who have kindled the sacred fires is beset with obstacles." As Rama thus makes his respect for anustanam-practicing one's proclaimed duty-known to the world subtly but firmly, Sita responds, "I know, but separation from relatives does cause anguish."

As they are thus conversing, Ashtavakra, messenger from Rishyasringa enters the chamber. Saluting the king and taking his seat, he conveys the message of sage Vasishta, the spiritual guide of the family, to Sita: "the revered goddess earth gave thee birth...Thou art the daughter-in-law of those kings of whose family the Sun is the ancestor and I am the spiritual guide. …

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