Preview of the Mattavilāsaprahasanam in the Bhagavadajjukam

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Mahēndravarman’s Bhagavadajjukam is not only an extempore composition to instruct the Vidūṣaka in the essential requisites of the prahasana (farcical comedy), but also a prelude/preface to the Mattavilāsaprahasanam, though the title of the play is not spelt out by the Sūtradhāra. The Sūtradhāra simply says that he is going to put on a prahasana within a week at the royal palace and that he will begin by arranging the music for it.

The prahasana that the Sūtradhāra proposes to put on seems to be the Mattavilāsa which is referred to in the Māmaṇḍūr inscription as “mattavilāsādi-padaṁ prahasanōttmam”. It is also worth noting that this play is mentioned along with the Bhagavadajjukam in a single śloka. The Bhagavadajjukam is referred to as “hāsyaṁ” which, as a synecdoche, recalls the compound word Hāsya-rasa – the predominant rasa in a prahasana. And as the Bhagavadajjukam is meant to illustrate the prahasana, it can be expected to give a detailed account of the way the Hāsya-rasa is worked out and made to manifest in a prahasana. All these details, perhaps, seemed, according to Mahēndravarman, to be necessary requisites for the audience to properly respond to and appreciate the unprecedented (apūrva – Mattavilāsaprahasanam 18) prahasana called the Mattavilāsaprahasanam.

Both in the Nāndī and in the prastāvanā of the Bhagavadajjukam, the Sūtradhāra implies, in a very subtle way, that the play is an illustration of the prahasana and also that it is a nāṭaka-prakaraṇa. And as he is concerned with “the best of prahasanas” (prahasanōttamam), namely the Mattavilāsa, he seems intent on acquainting the spectators/readers, in a very subtle way, with the gist of the Mattavilāsaprahasanam. Therefore, just before the Vidūṣaka, in his role as Śāṇḍilya, confesses to his having developed insight into the Prahasana, the Sūtradhāra in his role as the mendicant (parivrājaka) uses the key word “matta” (intoxicated/drunk 225) which seems to be a direct reference to the Mattavilāsaprahasanam. And when the Vidūṣaka (in his role as Śāṇḍilya) tells him, “No, no, you’re mad/demented (unmattaḥ)” (226), once again, there is a direct reference to the Mattavilāsaprahasanam. The word ‘matta” is enough to acquaint the audience with the title Mattavilāsaprahasanam. It also gives, in a single word, the gist of the plot of Mattavilāsaprahasanam from the beginning of the play-proper till the end of the Kapālī’s encounter with the Buddhist monk. Similarly, “unmattaḥ” gives the gist of the episode in which the Kapālī, along with Dēvasōmā, the Buddhist monk and the Pāśupata, faces the madman and recovers his skull bowl.