Friday, October 3, 2014



                                                Dr. Chilakamarthi Durga Prasada Rao
                                                                                         3/106, Premnagar, Dayalbagh,  

                        The Mahabharata is considered to be one of the greatest epics of our country.  Its greatness lies not only in quantity but also in quality.
                   Epics are of two kinds.  One is Parikriya while the other is Purakalpa.  The former is of single hero while the latter is of many.
परिक्रिया पुराकल्प इतिहासगतिर्द्विधा
स्यादेकनायका पूर्वा द्वितीया बहुनायका
                   The two epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the examples of those two respectively.  The Mahabharata is also considered to be an encyclopedia of Indian knowledge and wisdom as it deals with all the aspects of the four Purusharthas, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha which cover complete human life.  It is also unique in nature as it consists of more than five thousand roles of different characteristics, no one being similar to the other.  The influence of the Mahabharata on Indian life is highly remarkable.  The Mahabharata is divided into 18 parvas (chapters). Sage Vedavyasa was the author of the Mahabharata.

                   The Mahabharata was originally written in Sanskrit and later it was translated into several Indian languages in course of time.  The trio of poets Nannaya, Tikkana and Yerrana translated it into Telugu. Their translation, being independent in nature, left an indelible impression among the hearts of Telugu people.

 It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no poet in Telugu literature who was not influenced by those three poets to a greater or lesser extent.  It is also not an exaggeration to say that no other Indian language has produced such a great deal of literature as in the Telugu version of the Mahabharata. Since the Mahabharata is a treasure house of knowledge and wisdom, it is considered as a Dharmasastra by dharmikas, a philosophical treatise by philosophers, a treatise of ethics by ethicists, a great poetry by poets, as aesthetics by rhetoricians, as epic by the scholars of epics, and a collection of Puranas by pauranikas.

                   Kavya is of two kinds.  While Sravya, as the name implies, can only be read (heard), Drisya is eligible both to be read and seen (enacted or staged).  Hence Drisya is more advantageous than Sravya as it can be read and visualized as well.  Drisyakavya is coined as a Rupaka.  It again is of ten types among which Nataka is said to be more comprehensive than the rest.  Though the variety of Rupaka is comparatively a latter-day entry in Telugu literature, hundreds of Rupakas (dramas) were written in Telugu basing on the two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.  The dramatists of Andhra selected some important episodes from them, that can be enacted aesthetically and receive the attention of the spectators.  Even of those two, the events of the Mahabharata are more plausible and nearer to human experience than those of the Ramayana.  The dramas, based on the Mahabharata are more numerous than those of the Ramayana.  The dramas can be classified under three heads.

1.     Dramas confined to an episode of a particular parva of the Mahabharata.
Example:-  Draupadiparinayamu of Chilakamarthi Lakshminarasimham.
2.     Dramas based on the story of the entire Mahabharata.
Example:- Sampurnanabharatamu of K.Subrahmanya Sastry.
3.     Dramas written on the characters of the Mahabharata.
Example:- Maharathikarna of N.V.Subbarao.

It is very interesting to note that every important episode of every parva of the Mahabharata has been dramatized.  This reveals how deeply the Mahabharata has influenced the people of Andhradesha. Most probably the number of dramas in Telugu derived from the Mahabharata far out weigh those rendered in other Indian languages. Let us now have a close perusal of them in a systemic and chronological order.

Adi parva , the first of all the parvas, is endowed with interesting topics such as the vow of Bhishma, birth of Pandavas, the burning of the house of lac, the marriage of Hindimba with Bhimasena, swayamvara of Draupadi and the marriage of Subhadra.    The dramas written on this parva are based not only on the Mahabharata, but also on Vijayavilasa and other related works.  The first and the fore most available drama on the Mahabharata was Draupadiparinayamu, a 5-act play, of which Chilakamarthi Lakshminarasimham was the author.  He was not only a great scholar of Sanskrit, Telugu and English but also a great patriot, who contributed his might for the freedom of our country.  He dramatized the story of Draupadi’s marriage in his drama Draupadiparinayamu in 1889.

              The drama starts with the coronation of Dharmaraja and ends with the marriage of Pandavas with Draupadi.  The burning of the house of lac, the slaying of Bakasura as well as Hidimbasura by Bhimasena, the episode of Angaraparna and Draupadi’s swayamvara are the important items that are dramatized.  Another great poet,  Hota Venkata Krishnayya, a versatile scholar, authored a drama Draupadi swayamvaram in 1904.  He introduced new characters such as Suvinda, the disciple of Vedavyasa and Narada, the divine sage, to make the original more effective.  A few years later,  Kondamudi Nrisimha Kavi composed a drama Panchaliparinayamu in 1907.  His 5-act play introduced many deviations to the original story.  Similarly Draupadiparinayamu and two dramas with the same title Panchaliparinayamu were written by Dronamraju Sitaramayya in 1911, Dharmavaram Krishnamacharyulu (1924) and Ayyagari Veerabhadrarao (1926).

                                  The second best episode of this parva is Subhadra’s marriage and it attracted the attention of many authors of Andhradesa, who dramatized the event wonderfully.  The main story of this drama is as follows.  Draupadi, being a common property of all the five pandavas, had to spend one year in the house of each of the five brothers.  If, when she was alone with one of them, any other brother should intrude on their privacy, he must go for exile for one year.  One day some cows of a Brahmin had been stolen by a thief and the Brahmin approached Arjuna and asked him to recover the cows for him.  Arjuna immediately rushed to the place where Dharmaraja and Draupadi were alone.  As per the condition, Arjuna went on his voluntary exile for a year.  During his journey he visited several places and married Ulupi, the daughter of the king of Nagaloka;  Chitrangada, the daughter of Chitrasena and had a son Babhruvahana by her.  Finally, he proceeded to Dwaraka and disguised himself as a monk.  Subhadra, the sister of both Lord Krishna and Balarama was appointed to serve the pseudo monk for his comfortable stay.  Arjuna spent several days being served by Subhadra.  They fell in love with each other.  Finally it ends with their happy union.
     In the name of Subhadraparinayamu three dramas were written by Bethapudi Lakshmikantham in the year 1916, Gandikota Babu  Rao in 1923 and  Chakravartula Venkata Sastry in the year 1961. Besides those three dramas, Ekkirala Krishnamacharya wrote Subhadra in 1952.  In 1921,  Bhagavatula Chenna Krishnamma authored a drama entitled Subhadravijayamu.
              The burning of the house of lac is the third best episode of this parva.  It attracted the attention of many authors who sketched the incident in a dramatic form.  The theme of the drama goes like this.  Dhritarastra sent Pandavas to Varanavata, a city to spend some time there happily.  The people of Varanavata welcomed them with joy.  Some days passed by.  One day Purochana, an evil-minded servant of Kauravas directed them to live in a house specially designed for their comfort.  The house is made of inflammable material.  Yudhisthira, with the help of the hint given by Vidura sensed the plot of the Kauravas and alerted Bhimasena and with the help of a miner sent to them by Vidura, they secretly arranged a tunnel to get themselves out of the danger.  Kauravas were waiting for the opportunity.  One day Kunti, the mother of Pandavas arranged a feast for the poor.  A tribal lady, with her five sons, attended the feast and slept there in the palace.  According to the plan, Purochana set fire to that palace.  But Bhima, who was aware of this, kept his sleeping mother on his back, the twins on his hips, and other two brothers in his arms and walked the entire length of the tunnel and escaped unhurt. The house had been burnt down completely. The ashes of seven bodies (of the tribal woman, her five sons and Purochana ) were found by the people of Varanavata and thought that Kunti with her five sons and Purochan were burnt alive.  They were unhappy at the evil fate of the Pandavas and at the same time felt happy to see that at least Purochana was punished for his sinful act.  The people of Hastinapura felt sad over this incident.  But Dhritarastra and his sons were happy.  Taking this small episode as basis, Viswanatha Sarma of Malladi family wrote a very small drama namely Lakshagrihamu comprising eight scenes, in 1909.

              Bhuvanagiri Venkataramayya wrote a drama of five acts entitled own Hidimba-bhimasenamu (1927), which is very much related to this story.  The burning of the house of the lac, the killing of Hidimbasura by Bhima, Bhima’s marriage with Hindimbi and the birth of Ghatotkacha are dramatized.
              Some more dramas based on the Adiparva are written by other scholars.  Dronapratijna (The vow of Drona) by Jonnalagadda Mritynjaya Sarma is worth mentioning.  Dronacharya, humiliated by the king Drupada, a boy-hood friend, decided to take revenge against him and put an end to his arrogance.  Incidentally, he had an opportunity of teaching archery to the sons of Panduraja and Dhritarashtra.  He imparted all his knowledge to Arjuna and designated him as the best archer among equals.  To Dronacharya, Arjuna became dearer even than his own son, Aswatthama.  The education was over and the time had come to pay gurudakshina.  Then Dronacharya asked Arjuna, to pay gurudakshna by defeating Drupada and drag him alive before him.  Arjuna, as directed by his guru, captured Drupada alive and placed him before Dronacharya.  Drona taunted him vehemently with harsh words by which the king Drupada was put to shame.  But the story did not end there.  Drupada, in to take revenge against Drona, did a severe penance and got two boons.  As the first boon, he was blessed with a daughter, Draupadi, who could marry Arjuna, a great archer, comparable to none and also a son Dhrustadyumna, who could kill the great Dronacharya.

              A drama, entitled Bhishmapratijna, is also available in Telugu.  This drama was written by Malladi Suryanarayana Sastry, in which the vow of celibacy taken by Devavrata, the son of Santanu and the marriage of Santanu with Satyavathi, the daughter of Dasaraja was narrated.  Three dramas are available under the name Bhishamapratijna by Avasarala Seshagirirao, Malladi Suryanarayana Sastry and J. Venkatraju (1968).  There is one more drama titled Pandavajananamu which is also famous.  The authors of this drama were Divakarla Tirupati Sastry  and Chellapilla Venkata Sastry, which duo is popularly known as Tirupati-Venkata-kavulu, and who condensed the events of the entire Mahabharata in to six parts.  In Pandavajananamu the birth events right from Vyasa to the Pandavas are vividly sketched.
Sabhaparva is the second parva of the Mahabharata.  The Rajasuya sacrifices, the killings of Sisupala, the removal of clothes of Draupadi are considered to be the main events of this parva, which are also convenient to be dramatized.  Pandavarajasuyamu written by Tirupati Venkatakavulu is very famous in Andhra.  The theme of the drama is as follows.  Yudhisthira was going to perform the Rajasuya.  It was his duty to honor the guests.  He was not in a position to decide whom he should worship first because it was a delicate task.  But on the advice of Bhishma, he came forward to worship Lord Krishna and he asked his brother Sahadeva to bring the necessary articles of worship.  The puja was over.  No body could dare to raise his finger against Yudhisthira, who was responsible for this though some of the members did not seem to be pleased with the selection.  But Sisupala, the king of Chedi, laughed at the decision of choosing Lord Krishna as the guest of honor and insulted Lord Krishna vehemently in the midst of all that were present in the assembly.  Krishna was trying to ignore the insults of Sisupala.  Finally, having condoned hundred insults, made by Sisupala, he could not bear it any longer and cut the head of Sisupala with the disc, Similarly, Sandepudi Srihari Rao wrote Sisupaliyamu, which depicts the slaying of Sisupala.  The next interesting episode of this parva is the foul dice.  Kauravas sent Vidura to invite Yudhishira for playing dice.  Accompanied by kunti and Draupadi, followed by his brothers, Yudhisthira left for Hasthinapura and was invited cordially by the Kauravas.  Sakuni the maternal uncle of Duryodhana suggested that they should sit down and play a game of dice.  At the very out set Yudhisthira denied the invitation as it would lead to unpleasant situation.  But, later, he was pressurized by Sakuni and accepted to play.  The game started.  Game after game was played.  He began to lose his wealth, his bothers and finally lost himself and even his wife Draupadi in the foul dice,played by sakuni,on behalf of Duryodhana.Duryodhana sent his servant Pratikami to bring Draupadi to the court. Draupadi refused to come to the court with a riddle whether Yudhisthira lost himself first or her. On hearing that Duryodhana became angry and ordered his brother Dussasana to bring her to the court. Dussasana dragged her away to the court. Draupadi had no more tears to weep. She questioned the entire house whether her defeat was legally valid or not. Nobody could dare to oppose the insult done to Draupadi. It was Vikarna, one of the sons of Dhrutarastra who opposed the event. Though his words created a sensation, they did not prevail. Karna stopped him by saying that Draupadi was a slave just like her husbands and he also went the extent of saying that slaves have no right to wear clothes. And he ordered Dussasana the brother of Duryodhana, to remove the garments of them. Dussasana, after observing the voluntary removal of the upper clothes by pandavas , went to Draupadi and began to remove her clothes forcibly. She looked at the entire assembly helplessly for help but in vain. In the beginning she tried to guard herself but finally gave up all her hopes and prayed to Lord Krishna with folded hands. Though Dussasana was pulling her clothes continuously they were getting longer miraculously. Finally getting exhausted, Dussasana gave up his attempt.  Subsequently Dhritarasta, relieved them all by granting boons.  Then Pandavas left Hastinapura for Indraprastha.  They were again called for dice.  They were again defeated in the foul play and left for exile.  Tallapragada Suryanarayana Rao composed a drama Durnayadurodaramu which presented the foul dice that lead Pandavas to exile.  The most important episode of this parva of which a number of dramas were written is the disrobing of Draupadi.  About ten dramas were written on this subject.

1.     Bharatanatakamulu
Dr. Kallakuri Annapurna,
K.S.R. Lakshmi, D.No.26-133, Sarada Nagar, Safilguda,

2.     Andhranatakadarshini
(Bibliography of Telugu stage able plays 1860-1962)
Sri Srinivasa chakravarthi
Jayanti publications
Gopalareddy Road, Vijayawada.   

3. Andhranatakarangacharitra
     Sri Mikkilineni Radhakrishna Murty.

4.     Mahabharata
Kamala Subrahmanyam
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
Bombay – 7                                   

5.     Andhr Mahabhabharatamu
Andhrapradesh Sahitya Academy

6.Telugu dramas the names of which are cited in the article. 

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