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From The Bibliophile Library of Literature, Art, & Rare Manuscripts, Volume I, compiled and arranged by Nathan Haskell Dole, Forrest Morgan, and Caroline Ticknor; The International Bibliophile Society, New York-London; 1904; pp. 31-49.





[The earliest extant Sanskrit drama; attributed to King Sudraka, who is said to have reigned in the first or second century B.C.]

THE first scene represents a court in front of Caru-datta’s house. His friend Maitreya — who, although a Brahman, acts the part of a sort of jovial companion, and displays a disposition of mixed shrewdness and simplicity — laments Caru-datta’s fallen fortunes, caused by his too great liberality. Caru-datta replies thus —


Think not, my friend, I mourn departed wealth:
One thing along torments me, — that my guests
Desert my beggared house, like to the bees
That swarm around the elephant, when dews
Exhale from his broad front; but quickly leave
His dried-up temples when they yield not sweets.

Maitreya— The sons of slaves! These guests you speak of are always ready to make a morning meal off a man’s property.


It is most true, but I bestow no thought
On my lost property, — as fate decrees
Wealth comes and goes; but this is torture to me, —
That friendships I thought firm hang all relaxed
And loose, when poverty sticks closest to me.
From poverty ’tis but a step to shame —
From shame to loss of manly self-respect;
Then comes disdainful scorn, then dark despair
O’erwhelms the mind with melancholy thoughts,
Then reason goes, and last of all comes ruin.
Oh! poverty is source of every ill.

Maitreya— Ah well, cheer up! Let’s have no more of these woebegone memories. What’s lost can’t be recovered.


Good! I will grieve no more. Go you, my friend,
And offer this oblation, just prepared,
Unto the gods, and mothers of us all.

Maitreya— Not I.

Caru-datta — And why not, pray?

Maitreya— Why, what’s the use, when the gods you have worshiped have done nothing for you?


Friend, speak not thus, for worship is the duty
Of every family; the gods are honored
By offerings, and gratified by acts
Of penance and restraint in thought and word.
Therefore, delay not to present the oblation.

Maitreya— I don’t intend to go; send some one else.


Stay quite then for a little, till I have finished
My religious meditations and prayer.

They are supposed here to retire, and a voices is heard behind the scenes: —

Stop! Vasanta-sena, stop!

The heroine of the play now appears in front of Caru-datta’s house, pursued by the king’s worthless but wealthy brother-in-law, called Samsthanaka, who is an embodiment of everything vicious and mean, in exact contrast to Caru-datta.

Samsthanaka— Stop! Vasanta-sena, stop! Why do you run away? Don’t be alarmed. I am not going to kill you. My poor 33 heart is on fire with love, like a piece of meat placed on a heap of burning coals.

Vasanta-sena — Noble sir, I am only a weak woman.

Samsthanaka— That is just why I don’t intend murdering you.

Vasanta-sena — Why then do you pursue me? Do you seek my jewels?

Samsthanaka— No, I only seek to gain your affections.

At this point the frightened Vasanta-sena discovers that she is close to Caru-datta’s house. He is not only loved by her, but greatly respected as a man of honor; and under cover of the evening darkness, now supposed to have supervened, she slips into the courtyard of his house by a side door, and hides herself. A companion who is with the king’s brother now counsels him to desist from following her, by remarking: —

An elephant is bound by a chain,
A horse is curbed by a bridle and rein;
But a woman is only held by her heart —
If you can’t hold that, you had better depart.

Samsthanaka, however, forces his way into Caru-datta’s house; and there finding Caru-datta’s friend and companion Maitreya, thus addresses him: —

Take this message to Caru-datta. — Vasanta-sena loves you, and has taken refuge in your house. If you will deliver her up, you shall be rewarded by my everlasting friendship; if not, I shall remain your enemy till death. Give this message, so that I may hear you from the neighboring terrace; refuse to say exactly what I have told you, and I will crush your head as I would a wood apple beneath a door.

He then leaves the stage.

Maitreya accordingly delivers the message. Soon afterwards the heroine Vasanta-sena ventures into the presence of Caru-datta, asks pardon for intruding into his house, requests him to take charge of a golden casket containing her ornaments as a deposit left in trust, and solicits his friend’s escort back to her own house.

Maitreya is too much alarmed to accompany her, so Caru-datta himself escorts Vasanta-sena home.

So far is an epitome of the first act.

At the commencement of the second act a gambler is introduced running away from the keeper of a gaming house, named 34 Mathura, and another gambler to whom the first gambler has lost money, who are both pursuing him.

First Gambler — The master of the tables and the gamester are at my heels: how can I escape them? Here is an empty temple: I will enter it walking backwards, and pretend to be its idol.

Mathura— Ho there! stop, thief! A gambler has lost ten suvarnas, and is running off without paying. Stop him, stop him!

Second Gambler —He has run as far as this point; but here the track is lost.

Mathura— Ah! I see, — the footsteps are reversed: the rogue has walked backwards into this temple which has no image in it.

They enter and make signs to each other on discovering the object of their search, who pretends to be an idol fixed on a pedestal.

Second Gambler — Is this a wooden image, I wonder?

Mathura— No, no, it must be made of stone, I think. [So saying, they shake and pinch him.] Never mind, sit we down here, and play out our game. [They commence playing.]

First Gambler [still acting the image, but looking on and with difficulty restraining his wish to join in the game. Aside] — The rattling of dice is as tantalizing to a penniless man as the sound of drums to a dethroned monarch; verily it is sweet as the note of a nightingale.

Second Gambler — The throw is mine, the throw is mine!

Mathura— No, it is mine, I say.

First Gambler [forgetting himself and jumping off his pedestal] — No, I tell you it is mine.

Second Gambler — We’ve caught him!

Mathura— Yes, rascal, you’re caught at last: hand over the suvarnas.

First Gambler — Worthy sir, I’ll pay them in good time.

Mathura— Hand them over this very minute, I say. [They beat him.]

First Gambler [aside to Second Gambler] — I’ll pay you half if you will forgive me the rest.

Second Gambler — Agreed.

First Gambler [aside to Mathura] — I’ll give you security for half if you will let me off the other half.

Mathura— Agreed.

First Gambler — Then good morning to you, sirs; I’m off.


Mathura— Hullo! stop there, where are you gong so fast? Hand over the money.

First Gambler — See here, my good sirs, one has taken security for half, and the other has let me off another half. Isn’t it clear I have nothing to pay?

Mathura— No, no, my fine fellow: my name is Mathura, and I’m not such a fool as you take me for. Don’t suppose I’m going to be cheated out of my ten suvarnas in this way. Hand them over, you scoundrel.

Upon that they set to work beating the unfortunate gambler, whose cries for help bring to his rescue another gamester who happens to be passing. A general scuffle now takes place, and in the midst of the confusion the first gambler escapes. In his flight he comes to the house of Vasanta-sena, and finding the door open, rushes in. Vasanta-sena inquires who he is and what he wants. He then recites his story, and makes known to her that having been once in the service of Caru-datta, and having been discharged by him on account of his reduced circumstances, he has been driven to seek a livelihood by gambling. The mention of Caru-datta at once secures Vasanta-sena’s aid; and the pursuers having now tracked their fugitive to the door of her house, she sends them out a jeweled bracelet, which satisfies their demands, and they retire. The gambler expresses the deepest gratitude, hopes in return to be of use to Vasanta-sena at some future time, and announces his intention of abandoning his disreputable mode of life and becoming a Buddhist mendicant.

The third act opens with a scene inside Caru-datta’s house. The time is supposed to be night. Caru-datta and Maitreya are absent at a concert. A servant is preparing their sleeping couches, and commences talking to himself thus:

A good master who is kind to his servants, even though he be poor, is their delight; while a harsh fellow, who is always finding fault and has nothing but his money to be proud of, is a perpetual torment from morning to night. Well, well! one can’t alter nature; an ox can’t be kept out of a field of corn, and a man once addicted to gambling can’t be induced to leave off. My good master has gone to a concert. I must await his return; so I may as well take a nap in the hall.

Meanwhile Caru-datta and Maitreya come back, and the servant delivers Vasanta-sena’s golden casket, saying that it is his turn to take charge of it by night. They now lie down. 36

Maitreya— Are you sleepy?


I feel incontant sleep, with shadowy form
Viewless and wayward, creep across my brow
And weigh my eyelids down; her soft approach
Is like Decay’s advance, which stronger grows
Till it has mastered all our faculties.
And life is lost in blank unconsciousness.

The whole household is soon buried in slumber, when a thief named Sarvilaka is seen to approach. His soliloquy, while he proceeds to accomplish his design of breaking into the house, is curious, as showing that an Indian burglar’s mode of operation in ancient times differed very little from that now in fashion. Moreover, it appears that the whole practice of housebreaking was carried on by professional artists according to certain fixed rules and principles, which a master of the science, named Yogacarya, had embodied in a kind of “Thieves’ Manual” for the better training of his disciples. It is evident, too, that the fraternity of thieves, burglars, and rogues had a special presiding Deity and Patron in India, much in the same way as in ancient Greece and Rome.

It may be noted also, as still more curious, that the particular burglar here introduced is represented as a Brahman, that he is made to speak the learned language, Sanskrit, and to display acquaintance with Sanskrit literature; while all the subordinate characters in Indian dramas, including women of rank, are represented as speaking one or other of the provincial dialects called Prakrit. Here is part of the burglar’s soliloquy: —

I advance creeping stealthily along the ground, like a snake wiggling out of its worn-out skin, making a path for my operations by the sheer force of my scientific craft, and artfully constructing an opening just big enough to admit my body with ease.

This friendly night which covers all the stars
With a thick coat of darkness, acts the part
Of a kind mother, shrouding me, her son,
Whose valor is displayed in night assaults
Upon my neighbors, and whose only dread
Is to be pounced upon by royal watchmen.

Good! I have made a hole in the garden wall, and am now in the midst of the premises. Now for an attack on the four walls of the house itself.

Men call this occupation mean, which thrives
By triumphing o’er sleeping enemies.
This, they say, is not chivalry but burglary:
But better far reproach with independence,
Than cringing service without liberty;
And did not Aswatthaman long ago
O’er power in night attack his slumbering foe?

There follows a little of the burglar’s plain prose —

Where shall I make my breach? Ah, here’s a rat hole — this is the very thing we disciples of the god Skanda hail as the best guide to our operations, and the best omen of success. Here then I must begin my excavation, that is clear; but how shall I proceed? The golden-speared god has taught four methods of making a breach: namely, — pulling out baked bricks, cutting through unbaked ones; soaking a mud wall with water, and boring through one made of wood. This wall is evidently of baked bricks, so they must be pulled out. Now for the shape of the hole. It must be carved according to some orthodox pattern: shall it be like a lotus blossom, the sun, a crescent, a lake, a triangle, or a jar? I must do it cleverly, so that to-morrow morning people may look at my handiwork with wonder, and say to each other, “None but a skilled artist could have done this!” The jar shape looks best in a wall of baked bricks. Be it so: now, then, to work! Reverence to the golden-speared god Karttikeya, the giver of all boons! Reverence to Yogacarya, whose chief disciple I am, and who was so pleased with his pupil that he gave me a magical pigment, which, when spread over my body, prevents any police officer from catching sight of me and any weapons from harming my limbs. Ah! what a pity! I have forgotten my measuring line. Never mind, I can use my Brahmanical cord, — a most serviceable implement to all Brahmans, especially to men of my profession. It serves to measure a wall, or to throw round ornaments which have to be drawn from their places, or to lift the latch of a door, or to bind up one’s finger when bitten by insects or snakes. And now, to commence measuring. Good! the hole is exactly the right size; only one brick remains! Ah! botheration! I am bitten by a snake: I must bind up my finger and apply the antidote that’s the only cure. Now I am all right again. Let me first peep in. What! A light gleams somewhere! Never mind! the breach being perfect, I must creep in. Reverence to Karttikeya! How now! two men asleep! Are they really asleep, or only shamming? If they are shamming, they won’t bear the glimmer of this lamp when passed over their faces; — they are fast asleep, I believe — their breathing is regular, their eyes are firmly closed, their joints are all relaxed, and their limbs 38 protrude beyond the bed. What have we here? Here are tabors, a lute, flutes, and books; why, I must have broken into the house of a dancing master; I took it for the mansion of a man of rank. I had better be off.

Maitreya here calls out in his sleep: —

Master, I am afraid some thief is breaking into the house; take you charge of the golden casket.

Sarvilaka — What! does he see me? Shall I have to kill him? No, no, it’s all right, — he’s only dreaming and talking in his sleep. But sure enough, he has hold a casket of jewels wrapped up in an old bathing dress. Very good! I will relieve him of his burden; — but no, it’s a shame to take the only thing the poor creature seems to possess; so I’ll be off without more ado.

Maitreya— My good friend, if you won’t take the casket, may you incur the curse of disappointing the wishes of a cow and of a Brahman.

Sarvilaka — The wishes of a cow and a Brahman! These are much too sacred to be opposed; so take the casket I must.

Accordingly, he helps himself to the casket, and proceeds to make good his escape.

The noise he makes in going out rouses its inmates, and they discover that the house has been robbed. Caru-datta is greatly shocked at the loss of Vasanta-sena’s casket, which had been deposited with him in trust. He has only one valuable thing left, — a necklace or string of jewels, forming part of the private property of his wife. This he sends by Maitreya to Vasanta-sena as a substitute for the casket.

The fourth act commences with a scene in Vasanta-sena’s house. The burglar Sarvilaka is seen to approach, but this time with no burglarious designs. It appears that he is in love with Vasanta-sena’s slave girl, and hopes to purchase her freedom by offering as a ransom the stolen casket of jewels, being of course ignorant that he is offering it to its owner.

As he advances towards the house, he thus soliloquizes: —

I have brought blame and censure on the night,
I’ve triumphed over slumber, and defied
The vigilance of royal watchmen; now
I imitate the moon, who, when the night
Is closing, quickly pales beneath the rays
Of the ascending sun, and hides himself.
I tremble, or I run, or stand aside,
39 Or seek deliverance by a hundred shifts,
If haply from behind some hurried step
Appears to track me, or a passer-by
Casts but a glance upon me; every one
Is viewed by me suspiciously, for thus
A guilty conscience makes a man a coward,
Affrighting him with his unrighteous deeds.

On reaching the house, he sees the object of his affections, the female slave of Vasanta-sena. He presents her with the casket, and begs her to take it to her mistress, and request in return freedom from further service. The servant girl, on seeing the casket, recognizes the ornaments as belonging to her mistress. She then reproaches her lover, who is forced to confess how they came into his possession, and to explain that they were stolen entirely out of love for her. The altercation which ensues leads him to make some very disparaging remarks on the female sex generally. Here is a specimen of his asperities, which are somewhat softened down in the translation: —:

A woman will for money smile or weep
According to your will; she makes a man
Put trust in her, but trusts him not herself.
Women are as inconstant as the waves
Of ocean, their affection is as fugitive
As streak of sunset glow upon a cloud.
They cling with eager fondness to the man
Who yields them wealth, which they squeeze out like sap
Out of a juicy plant, and then they leave him.
Therefore are men thought foolish who confide
In women and in fortune, for their windings
Are like the coils of serpent nymphs, insidious.
Well is it said, you cannot alter nature;
The lotus grows not on the mountain top,
Asses refuse to bear a horse’s burden,
He who sows barley reaps not fields of rice:
Do what you will, a woman will be a woman.

After other still more caustic aspersions, the thief Sarvilaka and his lover make up their differences, and it is agreed between them that the only way out of the difficulty is for him to take the casket to Vasanta-sena, as if he were a messenger from Caru-datta, sent to restore her property. This he does: and Vasanta-sena, who, unknown to the lovers, has overheard 40 their conversation, astonishes Sarvilaka by setting her slave girl free and permitting her to become his wife, thus affording a practical refutation of his charge against women of selfishness and want of generosity.

Soon after the departure of the lovers, an attendant announces the arrival of a Brahman from Caru-datta. This turns out to be Maitreya, who is honored by an introduction into the private garden attached to the inner apartments of Vasanta-sena’s house. His passage through the courts of the mansion, no less than seven in number, is made an occasion for describing the interior of the splendid residence which a Hindu lady of wealth and fashion might be supposed, allowing for a little imagination, to occupy.

The description affords a striking picture of Indian life and manners, which to this day are not greatly changed. The account of the courtyards will remind those who have seen Pompeii of some of the houses there, and will illustrate the now universally received opinion of the common origin of Hindus, Greeks, and Romans. Of course the object of Maitreya’s visit to Vasanta-sena is to confess the loss of the casket, and to request her acceptance of the string of jewels from Caru-datta as a compensation. The good man in his simplicity expects that she will politely decline the costly present tendered by Caru-datta as a substitute for her far less valuable casket of ornaments; but to his surprise and disgust she eagerly accepts the proffered compensation, and dismisses him with a few complimentary words, — intending however, as it afterwards appears, to make the acceptance of Caru-datta’s compensation an excuse for going in person to his house, that she may see him once again and restore to him with her own hand both the necklace and casket.

The fifth act opens with a scene in Caru-datta’s garden. A heavy thunderstorm is supposed to be gathering, when Maitreya enters, salutes Caru-datta, and informs him of the particulars of his interview with Vasanta-sena. The rain now begins to descend in torrents, when a servant arrives to announce that Vasanta-sena is waiting outside. On hearing this, Maitreya says: —

What can she have come for? Oh! I know what she wants. She considers the casket worth more then the necklace of jewels, and so she wants to get the balance out of you.

Caru-datta — Then she shall go away satisfied.


Meanwhile some delay occurs in admitting Vasanta-sena, which is made an occasion for introducing a dialogue between her and her attendant, in the course of which they are made to describe very poetically the grandeur of the approaching storm: the sudden accumulation of dense masses of threatening clouds, the increasing gloom followed by portentous darkness, the terrific rolling of thunder, the blaze of blinding lightning, the sudden outburst of rain, as if the very clouds themselves were falling, and the effect of all this upon the animals, — some of which, such as the peacocks and storks, welcome the strife of elements with their shrillest cries. In her description of the scene, Vasanta-sena speaks Sanskrit, which is quite an unusual circumstance, and an evidence of her superior education (no good sign, however, according to Eastern ideas), — the female characters in Indian dramas being supposed to be incapable of speaking anything but the ordinary provincial Prakrit. Vasanta-sena is ultimately admitted to the presence of Caru-datta, and before returning the necklace practices a little playful deception upon him as a set-off against that tried upon herself. She pretends that the string of pearls sent to her by Caru-datta has been accidentally lost by her; she therefore produces a casket which she begs him to accept in its place, This, of course, turns out to be the identical casket which the thief had carried off from Caru-datta’s house. In the end the whole matter is explained, and both casket and necklace are given over to Caru-datta; and the storm, having now increased in violence, Vasanta-sena, to her great delight, is obliged to accept the shelter of his roof and Is conducted to his private apartments. This brings five acts of the drama to a close.

At the commencement of the sixth act, Vasanta-sena is supposed to be at Caru-datta’s house, waiting for a covered carriage which is to convey her away. While the vehicle is preparing, Caru-datta’s child, a little boy, comes into the room with a toy cart made of clay. He appears to be crying, and an attendant explains that his tears are caused by certain childish troubles connected with his clay cart, which has ceased to please him since his happening to see one made of gold belonging to a neighbor’s child. Upon this Vasanta-sena takes off her jeweled ornaments, places them in the clay cart, and tells the child to purchase a golden cart with the value of the jewels, as a present from herself. While this is going on, the carriage which is to convey her away is brought up to the door, but is 42 driven off again to fetch some cushions accidentally forgotten by the driver. Meanwhile an empty carriage belonging to Samsthanaka, — the worthless brother-in-law of the king, — which is on its way to meet him at an appointed place in a certain garden called Pushpa-karandaka, happens to stop for a moment, impeded by some obstruction in the road close to the door of Caru-datta’s house. Vasanta-sena, having been told that Caru-datta’s carriage is ready, and waiting for her, goes suddenly out and jumps by mistake into the carriage of the man who is most hateful to her, and the very man who is represented as persecuting her by his attentions in the first act. The driver of the empty vehicle, quite unaware of the passenger he has suddenly received, and finding the road now clear before him drives on to meet his master. Soon afterwards the empty carriage of Caru-datta is brought to the door, and in connection with this incident an important part of the underplot of the drama is then introduced.

The seventh act continues this underplot, which, although ingeniously interwoven with the main action of the drama, is not sufficiently interesting to be worth following out in this epitome.

The eighth act commences with a scene in the Pushpa-karandaka garden. Our old friend, the gambler of the second act, who has abjured his evil ways, and is now converted into a Sramana, or Buddhist mendicant, appears with a wet garment in his hand. He begins his soliloquy with some verses, of which the following is a slightly amplified translation: —

Hear me, ye foolish, I implore —
Make sanctity your only store;
Be satisfied with meager fare;
Of greed and gluttony beware;
Shun slumber, practice lucubration,
Sound the deep gong of meditation,
Restrain your appetite with zeal,
Let not these thieves your merit steal;
Be ever storing it anew,
And keep eternity in view,
Live ever thus, like me, austerely,
And be the home of Virtue merely.
Kill your five senses, murder then
Women and all immoral men:
Whoever has slain these evils seven
43 Has saved himself, and goes to heaven.
Nor think by shaven face and head
To prove your appetites are dead:
Who shears his head and not his heart
Is an ascetic but in part;
But he whose heart is closely lopped
Has also head and visage cropped.

He then proceeds with his soliloquy thus: —

My tattered garment is now properly dyed of a reddish-yellow color. I will just slip into this garden belonging to the king’s brother-in-law, wash my clothes in the lake, and then make off as fast as I can.

A Voice behind — Hollo there! you wretch of a mendicant, stop, stop.

Mendicant— Woe’s me! Here is the king’s brother himself coming. A poor mendicant once offended him, so now whenever he sees another like me, he slits his nose and drags him away like an ox. Where shall I take refuge? None but the venerated Buddha can be my protector.

Samsthanaka, the king’s brother-in-law, now enters the garden, and laying hold of the luckless mendicant, commences beating him. A companion of Samsthanaka, however, here interposes, and begs that the mendicant be released.

Samsthanaka, then says: —

I will let him go on one condition, namely, that he removes all the mud from this pool without disturbing the water, or else collects all the clear water in a heap and then throws the mud away.

After some wrangling, and a good deal of nonsense of this sort, spoken by the king’s brother, the mendicant is allowed to make off. Nevertheless, he still hangs about the precincts of the garden. In the mean time the carriage containing Vasanta-sena approaches.

Samsthanaka [to his companion] — What o’clock is it? That driver of mine, Sthavaraka, was ordered to be here sharp with the carriage, and has not yet arrived. I am dying with hunger; it is midday, and one cannot stir a step on foot; the sun is in mid sky, and can no more be looked at than an angry ape; the ground is as parched as the face of Gandhari when her hundred sons were slain; the birds seek shelter in the branches; men panting with heat hide themselves from the sun’s rays as well as they can in the recesses of their houses. Shall I give you a song to while away the time? My 44 voice is in first-rate condition, for I keep it so with asafetida, cumin seed, cyperus, orris root, treacle, and ginger. [Sings.]

The driver Sthavaraka now enters with the carriage containing Vasanta-sena.

Samsthanaka — Oh! here is the carriage at last.

On seeing it, he is about to jump into the vehicle, but starts back in alarm, declaring that either a thief or a witch is inside. In the end he recognizes Vasanta-sena, and in his delight at having secured the object of his affection, kneels at her feet in the attitude of a lover. She is at first terrified at the mistake she has made; then in her anger and scorn, spurns him with her foot. This disdainful treatment so enrages the king’s brother-in-law that he resolves to kill her on the spot. He tries first to induce his companion to put her to death, but he will not listen to so scandalous a proposal. Stopping his ears, he says: —

What! kill a woman, innocent and young,
Our city’s ornament! Were I to perpetrate
A deed so foul, who could transport my soul
Across the stream that bounds the other world?

Samsthanaka— Never fear. I’ll make you a raft to carry you across.

To this his companion replies, quoting with a little alteration from Manu: —

The heavens and all the quarters of the sky,
The moon, the light-creating sun, the winds,
This earth, the spirits of the dead, the god
Of Justice, and the inner soul itself,
Witness man’s actions, be they good or bad.

Samsthanaka — Conceal her under a cloth, then, and kill her under cover.

His associate remaining firm in his indignant refusal to have any hand in the crime, Samsthanaka next tries, first by bribes, and then by threats, to force the driver Sthavaraka to do the deed for him.

Samsthanaka— Sthavaraka, my good fellow, I will give you golden bracelets; I will place you on a golden seat; you ahall eat all the dainties from my table; you shall be chief of all my servants, — only do as I bid you.

Sthavaraka — What are your commands?


Samsthanaka— Kill Vasanta-sena.

Sthavaraka — Nay, sir; forgive her, sir: her coming hither was my fault; I brought her here in the carriage by mistake.

Samsthanaka— Do as I command you. Am I not your master?

Sthavaraka —You are master of my body, but not of my morality. Pardon me, sir, I dare not commit such a crime.

Samsthanaka— Why? What are you afraid of?

Sthavaraka — Of futurity.

Samsthanaka— Futurity? Who is he?

Sthavaraka — The certain issue of our good and evil deeds.

Samsthanaka— Then you won’t murder her? [Begins beating him.]

Sthavaraka — Beat me or kill me, I will not commit such a crime.

Samsthanaka’s companion now interferes and says: —

Sthavaraka says well: he, now a slave,
Is poor and lowly in condition, but
Hopes for reward hereafter; not so those
Who prosper in their wicked actions here, —
Destruction waits them in another sphere.
Unequal fortune makes you here the lord
And him the slave, but there ’t may be inverted,
He to a lord and you to slave converted.

Samsthanaka— What a pair of cowards! One of them is afraid of Injustice and the other of Futurity. Well, I’m a king’s brother-in-law, and fear no one. Be off out of my way, you son of a slave.

The slave Sthavaraka then retreats. The king’s brother, by pretending that the proposal to kill Vasanta-sena was only a joke, and by putting on a show of great affection for her, rids himself next of his companion, who would otherwise have defended her. He then strangles Vasanta-sena. Soon afterwards his companion and the driver of the carriage, unable to repress their fears for her safety, return and find her apparently dead. The king’s brother-in-law horrifies them by confessing that he has murdered her. After much angry altercation they leave him. He then covers up the body with some leaves, and resolves to go before a judge and accuse Caru-datta of having murdered Vasanta-sena for the sake of her costly ornaments. Meanwhile the Buddhist mendicant, having washed his garments, returns into the garden and finds the body under a heap of leaves. He sprinkles water on the face, and Vasanta-sena 46 revives. He is delighted to have the power of making some return to his benefactress, who formerly delivered him from the rapacity of the gaming-house keeper. He therefore does all he can to restore animation, and having at last succeeded, places her in a neighboring convent to recover.

The ninth act opens with a scene in a court of justice. The judge before taking his seat soliloquizes thus: —

How difficult our task! to search the heart,
To sift false charges, and elicit truth!
A judge must be well read in books of law,
Well skilled in tracking crime, able to speak
With eloquence, not easily made angry,
Holding the scales impartially between
Friends, kindred, and opponents; a protector
Of weak and feeble men, a punisher
Of knaves; not covetous, having a heart
Intent on truth and justice; not pronouncing
Judgment in any case until the facts
Are duly weighed, then shielding the condemned
From the king’s wrath, and loving clemency.

Samsthanaka, the king’s brother, now enters in a sumptuous dress and makes his accusation against Caru-datta of having murdered Vasanta-sena. It is proved that Vasanta-sena was last seen at Caru-datta’s house. It is also discovered that some portions of her hair and the marks of her feet remain in the Pushpa-karandaka garden, which leads to the conclusion that her body may have been carried off by beasts of prey. Caru-datta is therefore summoned, and as he enters the court says to himself:

The courthouse looks imposing; it is like
A sea whose waters are the advocates
Deep in sagacious thought, whose waves are messengers
In constant movement hurrying to and fro,
Whose fish and screaming birds are vile informers,
Whose serpents are attorney’s clerks, whose banks
Are worn by constant course of legal action.

The king’s brother-in-law now repeats his accusation; but the judge is not inclined to believe in the guilt of Caru-datta, who indeed makes his innocence clear to the whole court. Unhappily, however, just at this moment his friend Maitreya, who by 47 Caru-datta’s request is seeking for Vasanta-sena, that he may restore to her the jewels she had placed in his little son’s clay cart, hears on his road of the accusation brought against his friend, hurries into the court of justice, and is so enraged with the king’s brother for accusing his friend that he strikes him, and in the struggle which ensues lets fall Vasanta-sena’s jewels. It is admitted that these ornaments are being brought from Caru-datta’s house, and this is thought to be conclusive evidence of his guilt. As a Brahman he cannot legally be put to death; but the king is a tyrant, and although the judge recommends banishment as the proper punishment under the circumstances, the king pronounces his sentence thus: —

Let Vasanta-sena’s ornaments be hung round Caru-datta’s neck; let him be led by the beat of drums to the southern cemetery, bearing his own stake, and there let him be put to death [crucified].

The tenth act introduces the road leading to the place of execution. Caru-datta enters bearing the stake, and attended by two Candalas or low outcasts, who are sent to act as executioners.

One of the executioners calls out: —

Out of the way! out of the way! Make room for Caru-datta. Crowned with a garland of oleander flowers, and attended by executioners, he approaches his end like a lamp which has little oil left. Now then, halt! beat the drum! Hark ye, good people all! stop and listen to the proclamation of the sentence: “This is Caru-datta, son of Sagara-datta, who strangled Vasanta-sena in the Pushpa-karandaka garden for the sake of her ornaments, and was caught with the stolen property in his possession; we have orders to put him to death, that others may be deterred from committing a crime which both worlds forbid to be perpetrated.


Alas! alas!
Even my friends and intimate compeers
Pass coldly by, their faces turned aside
Or hidden in their vestments; thus it is
That in prosperity our enemies
Appear like friends, but in adversity
Those we thought friends behave like very foes.

The proclamation is repeated at intervals on the road to the place of execution, and some delay is thus occasioned. Meanwhile 48 an affecting scene takes place. Caru-datta’s little son is brought by Maitreya to bid his father farewell, and the executioner permits him to approach. The boy can only say, “Father! Father!”

Caru-datta embraces him, and says: —

What shall I give my son as a memento?
This sacred cord is all I can bestow;
It is an ornament of Brahmans, better
Than pearls or gold, — the instrument by which
Worship is paid to gods and ancestors.
This take, my son, and wear it for my sake.

The child then, addressing the executioner, says: —

Vile outcast, where are you leading my father?


Crowned with a garland, bearing on my shoulder
The fatal stake, and deep within my heart
Hiding my grief, I hasten to my grave
Like a victim to the place of sacrifice.

Executioner— Call us not outcasts. All wicked men, and all who harm the good, are the only outcasts.

Boy— If you are not outcasts, then why do you kill my father?

Executioner— ’Tis the king’s orders; we are not to blame.

Boy— Kill me instead, and let my father go.

Executioner— Rather, for such a speech live long, my boy.

Caru-datta [bursting into tears and embracing his child]—

This it true wealth, — a child’s devoted love;
A wealth which rich and poor enjoy alike;
A balm to soothe an agitated heart,
Better than cooling sandal or Usira.

The child is of course removed, but another delay is caused by Sthavaraka, who drove Vasanta-sena to the garden, and who, as cognizant of the real facts, had been shut up by his guilty master, the king’s brother-in-law. Sthavaraka, on hearing the noise of the procession on its way to the place of execution, contrives to escape from his prison, and, rushing towards the executioners, proclaims Caru-datta’s innocence and his master’s guilt. Unhappily, however, just at this juncture his master appears on the scene, and declares his servant Sthavaraka, having been imprisoned for thieving, is unworthy of credit, and has made up this accusation out of spite and 49 desire for revenge. Notwithstanding, therefore, the servant’s repeated asseverations, his statements are disbelieved, and his efforts to save Caru-datta prove ineffectual. The procession and crowd now move on to the cemetery, and Caru-datta’s condition seems altogether hopeless, when just as he is led to the stake, and the executioners are about to perform their office, the Buddhist mendicant is seen forcing his way through the crowd, leading a woman, who cries out, “Hold! hold! I am the miserable creature for whose sake you are putting him to death.” This, to the astonishment of every one, proves to be Vasanta-sena herself, resuscitated and restored to health, through the instrumentality of the mendicant. The executioners immediately release Caru-datta; and as the king’s brother-in-law, in utter confusion and terror, is observed to be making off, they attempt to seize him. He appears likely to be torn to pieces by the infuriated crowd; but here Caru-datta gives a crowning evidence of the generosity of his character, by protecting the villain who had come to feast his eyes on the dying agonies of his victim. He is actually, at Caru-datta’s intercession, permitted to make his escape. The play ends in the elevation of Caru-datta to rank and honor, in the happiness of both hero and heroine, and in the promotion of the mendicant to the headship of all the Viharas or Buddhist monasteries.


*  From “Indian Wisdom.” By permission of author and Luzac & Co. 4th edition, post 8vo, cloth, price £1 1s.



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