Lakṣanāḍyaḥ

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Both the Bhagavadajjukam and the Mattavilāsaprahasanam are Mahēndravikramavarman’s pioneering works in composing full-length Prahasanas (farcical comedies). In the Mattavilāsaprahasanam, the Naṭī refers to the play as something unprecedented (Nanv-apūrvatayā 18). The expression ‘apūrvatayā’ seems to apply to the Bhagavadajjukam also, when the Vidūṣaka tells the Sūtradhāra, “Though I’m a comedian, I know nothing of farcical comedy, that is, Prahasana” (8). The Bhagavadajjukam is intended by the Sūtradhāra to illustrate the farcical comedy (prahasana) for the benefit of the Vidūṣaka, as is evident from what he says, “Then learn! One can’t learn without being taught!” (9) and also from the Vidūṣaka’s readiness to learn, “If so, it’s you, Sir, who must teach me” (10). The entire play-proper then is an elaborate demonstration of the genre, farcical comedy (prahasana) – a demonstration in which the Vidūṣaka participates along with his master, the Sūtradhāra, and develops full insight into the essential requisites of the farcical comedy, which are woven into the texture of the demonstration, with utmost subtlety. The play is thus both a farcical comedy (prahasana) and a critical treatise detailing the requirements of the farcical comedy (prakaraṇa).

That the play is a creative work as well as a critical treatise is suggested in the Nāndī. The expression ‘lakṣaṇāḍyaḥ’ means both “one of excellent attributes” and “one who is well-versed in critical treatises” (lakṣaṇa-granthas). The second meaning suggests, in a very subtle way, that the Bhagavadajjukam is a Nāṭaka-prakaraṇa. It looks as if Mahēndravarman has responded to the injunction of his predecessors, “Manāk-kāvyārtha-sūcanam” (Matṛguptācārya, Nāṭya-Lōcana 36) – the Nāndī must, in a subtle way, hint at the point of view of the play. The full implications of ‘lakṣaṇāḍyaḥ’ begin to dawn upon the spectators/readers when they make a careful study of the conversation between the Sūtradhāra and the Vidūṣaka, concerning the kind of play the Sūtradhāra proposes to put on.

The Nāndī of the Bhagavadajjukam is quite radical, but within the apparent radicalness there is conformity to tradition – a conformity which also serves the purpose of introducing an innovative method of writing a play. As a consequence, the Bhagavadajjukam is unprecedented not only as a farcical comedy (prahasana) but also as a Nāṭaka-prakaraṇa.