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Bha-sa is one of the earliest and most celebrated Indian playwrights in Sanskrit. However, very little is known about him.

Ka-lida-sa in the introduction to his first play Malavikagnimitram writes - Shall we neglect the works of such illustrious authors as Bha-sa, Saumilla, and Kaviputra? Can the audience feel any respect for the work of a modern poet, a Ka-lida-sa?

So we know he lived before Ka-lida-sa. As the date for Ka-lida-sa varies from the 1st century BCE to the 4th century CE, Bha-sa is dated between the 2nd century BCE and 2nd century CE. Based on the language used, his date is also supposed to be around 5th century BC. The plays of Bha-sa had been lost for centuries. He was known only from mention in other works like the famous text on poetics Kavyamimamsa written during 880-920 AD by Rajashekhara a famous poet, dramatist and critic. In the Kavyamimamsa, he attributes the play Svapna-vasavadatta (Swapnava-savadatta) to Bha-sa.

Plays of Bha-sa

Bha-sa does not follow all the dictates of the Natya Shastra. This has been taken as a proof of their antiquity as post-Ka-lida-sa, no play that did not adhere to the Natya Shastra's rules has been found. Bha-sa allows scenes that contain signs of physical violence to be shown on stage in plays like Uru-Bhanga.This is strictly frowned upon by Natya Shastra.

The Uru-Bhanga and Karna-bhara are the only known tragic Sanskrit plays in ancient India. Though branded the villain of the Mahabharata, Duryodhana is the actual hero in Uru-Bhanga shown repenting his past as he lies with his thighs crushed awaiting death. His relations with his family are shown with great pathos. The epic contains no reference to such repentance. The Karna-bhara ends with the premonitions of the sad end of Karna, another epic character from Mahabharata. Early plays in India, inspired by Natya Shastra, strictly considered sad endings inappropriate.

The plays are generally short compared to later playwrights and most of them draw the theme from the Indian epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana.Though he is firmly on the side of the heroes of the epic, Bha-sa treats their opponents with great sympathy. He takes a lot of liberties with the story to achieve this. In the Pratima-nataka, Kaikeyi who is responsible for the tragic events in the Ramayana is shown as enduring the calumny of all so that a far noble end is achieved., 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved.
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