The Bhagavad-Ajjuka

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The Bhagavad-Ajjuka is, perhaps, the sole major Farcical Comedy in all Sanskrit literature that has continuously led a multiple life: it is at once one of the most philosophical plays and one of the most pungent critiques on philosophical, religious, medical and linguistic systems addressed to the mature imagination. This almost incredible marriage of opposites is possible because, in the main, the disturbing satire for the orthodox lurks inconspicuously behind the pleasantly exciting façade of the playwright’s seemingly philosophical plot. The ordinary or unperceptive reader/spectator rarely sees behind it. Further, there are times when the playwright is entirely concerned with the satire. For instance, the immediate fascination of the whole of the second part of the play is the fall of the façade and the glaring revelation of the farcical – the absurd.

Not any play of the farcical is good for over two centuries of vigorous life, and Mahendra’s success is due to a very careful choice and management of his materials. First of all, he does not condescend to his materials; rather he treats them with utmost seriousness.  The usefulness of this technique is a way of asserting the entire reliability, and importance, of what is conveyed. Secondly, Mahendra is extremely diligent in establishing the inner consistency of the multiple levels of drama which he attempts to present simultaneously.

The style of the play is highly suggestive in view of the multiple levels of meaning and drama that the author explores and presents. Yet, the whole thing is clear to the discerning reader/spectator. The Parivrājaka’s philosophical naiveté is the playwright’s subtlety. The former’s philosophical style is the latter’s ambiguity and irony. The ironic discrepancy between the Parivrājaka’s calm plainness of philosophical style and the richness of the secondary levels of meaning is one of the special sources of pleasure in the work.