The earliest known Sanskrit dramatist, Bhasa is believed to have lived sometime during the 3rd century AD. Thirteen of his plays were rediscovered in 1912 by an Indian scholar, Mahamahopadhyaya Ganapati Sastrigal. Most of these surviving works are romances taken from the famous epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, although two of Bhasa's plays do boast original plots: Avimaraka and Charudatta which became the basis for a later play, The Little Clay Cart, possibly written by the legendary King Shudraka.

The most respected of Bhasa's plays is Svapnavasavadatta or The Vision of Vasavadatta which tells of King Udayana, a ruler who is pressured by his minister of state to marry the daughter of a powerful ruler in order to strengthen his reign and protect his kingdom. The King, however, is too devoted to his wife to consider such a marriage. But the Queen, ready to sacrifice herself to save the kingdom, stages her death in a palace fire, then secretly returns to wait upon the new queen and be near her husband. The play is so well constructed that a 9th century critic is said to have remarked that "when the whole of Bhasa's plays were thrown into the fire, the Svapnavasavadatta alone remained unconsumed by the flames!"

Bhasa deviated from the accepted dramaturgical practices of the day by depicting battle scenes and murder on stage. He had a profound influence on the dramatists that would follow him, including India's greatest poet, Kalidasa.

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Bhasa's Plays  |  Biographies/Studies


Bhasa's Plays


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