Friday, May 17, 2013

Mrichcchakatikam Q-The state of society in “Mrichchhakatikam”

Mrichcchakatikam Q-The state of society in “Mrichchhakatikam”
v Introduction:-
            “Mrichchhakatikam stands apart as a unique play in the entire range of th eSanskrit drama. It has won a place for itself which time cannot blur, not clime can touch.”   
  - G.K.Bhatt.
            King Shudraka (2nd Cent.B.C) was one of the best Sanskrit dramatists who was probably born in south India. The drama itself tells of him as a Brahmana who was well-versed in many sciences and as one who died by self immolation at the age of over hundred years. He was known to be the author of at least half a dozen Sanskrit works, but nothing definite can be said either about his authorship. He has written many plays like ‘Padmaprabhritaka’, ‘Vina-vasavadatta’ ‘Mrichchhakatikam’.

            Mrichchhakatikam is a play in ten acts with a social theme set in a realistic atmosphere. The play is full of varied interests which show the nobility of Charudatta’s mind and the selfless love of Vasantsena. The drama gives a faithful picture of the everyday life of the people in those days and is regarded as the most Shakespearian of all Sanskrit plays. The author’s style is simple and effective. His utterances are full of wisdom.
v Description of Ujjayni : or The realistic picture of Ujjayni
            Ujjayni is described as a gay prosperous city like modern Paris. It attracts people from far and near. For instance Samvahaka comes here from Pataliputra. Trade both inland and maritime was in flourish condition. Shudraka defines the city in the following manner. “Ujjayni is known as a gay and prosperous city attracting people from all places including Pataliputra trade both inland and maritime, flourished.”           In this city many millionaire-merchant princes gave large amounts of money in charity. For example, Charudatta himself becomes poor on account of his limitless charity. The rich courtesans like Vasantsena were the objects of envy even for kings. The city was beset with gamblers, loafer parasites and dare devils; people took deep interest in music and other fine arts. 

v The caste system :-
            The caste system had a great hold on the people. The Brahmins and the cows were given high respect and they were ‘Avadhya’. The Sudras were not allowed to recite the Vedas. The kayasthas were compared to serpents. However, the people of different castes could follow various professions; Charudatta himself a Brahmin was a merchant by profession. Viraka and Chandanaka who are respectively a barber and a shoe maker occupy the responsible post of Balpati or Senapati. The Brahmanical religion was very popular along with its God and Godesses; Vows and fasts; ideas about heaven and hell. Buddhism also flourished side by side along with its beliefs in Bhiksus, their peculiar method of wearing; avoiding all contacts with women; addressing the commoner as ‘Upsaka’. The state had  the power of appointing the head of a religious order as today the states have a power to select a Sankarachaya for a math.

v Evils of society (slavery) :-
            There was the evil of slavery in this society. A slave could be bought and could be made a free person on payment. The state could also grant freedom from slavery. Samvahaka in this play offers himself for sale in Act II and Shavarka becomes free by an order of the state. There are many evils in the society like gambling, drinking etc... Shudraka describes the evils in this respect….
            “The city was infested with gamblers and loafers who fomented disturbance; gambling was regulated  under state control.”
            There are also superstitions that have a firm hold upon the people. The evil omens such as throbbing of one’s own eye; the there are other beliefs such as crowing of a crow facing the sun, the sight of a serpent; the eclipse of the sun; the belief in astrology; the influence of the stars are also referred in the play in Act V and VII The another notable thing is from the study of this play it appears that the state was very particular about the safety of the people against thefts - night patrols and sentry pasts are mentioned many times by the author. The common people of the city took part in street quarrels very freely.

v  The Judicial System :-
            We get a very clear idea about the judicial system of Hindu law from the play. The judge was appointed by the king and held the office till the king’s pleasure. Anyone could file a complaint at the court, and judge was bound to pay attention to it. As the judge says in the IXth Act…
 “A judge is the  worst sufferer he must reserve the judgment until all the evidence is presented and sifted; nothing may corrupt him; he must project  the innocence and punish the guilty.”
            The judge’s decision was only a recommendation to the king who was the final authority to decide the punishment. When a criminal was given the punishment of hanging, he was taken in a procession. The criminals could be killed with a sword or eaten by dogs or tortured by a saw. The accused was given full liberty to argue in his favour. And his confession was necessary before the judge declared his decision.   Shudraka has depicted the realistic picture of contemporary – judicial system where no  innocent was being killed. We can find an ideal judicial system in the play.

v  Food Habits :-
            Shudraka describes the minute details of contemporary society. He also mentions the food habits, their life style, clothes in a very exalted manner .Here the author describes the food habits of the people of his age. They ate cooked food with curd or milk. They were very much fond of sweet balls and cakes. Vegetables soups were an important part of their food most of them were addicted to wine.

v Conclusion:-
            Shudraka gives a faithful description of the life and the manners of the people of his society. There is nothing improbable about them except some exaggerations which are inevitable in such plays. That way like ‘Dasa Kamaracharita’, ‘Mrichchhakatikam’ gives us a fair picture of the contemporary society in various aspects.