Vasantasena , Noble Courtesan’s love affair with ‘Brahmana Merchant’! (Post No.7540)

Written  by London Swaminathan               

Post No.7540

Date uploaded in London – – 5 February 2020

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That magnanimity is no close preserve of birth and lineage, and that a debasing environment is no impediment to what is intrinsically noble, is patent in the character of Vasantasena , presented by Bhaasa  in

‘Daridra –Charudatta’ and by Shudraka  in

‘Mrichhakatika’ . It has got to be recognised  also that the lure of conventional romance and the profusion of seductive love accessories on the lines of the Kamasutra , as presented in the Mrichhakatika, serve not to demoralize the real woman in her, and in spite of her  ignoble birth she gets united at last to her lover

Charudatta, who is by birth a Brahmana , but by profession a merchant now reduced to poverty.

The high position of the courtesan is recognised not merely in the Kamasutra but also in the Artha-shastra ; and in classical Sanskrit convention  these are not mean forces to reckon with.

In spite of the mean and vulgar machinations of  brutal

Shakara , Vasantasena has the satisfaction to see  that her love for the brahmana  merchant, which is based on intrinsic merit , is appreciated and validated.   The depositing of her ornament casket with her lover almost at the first introduction, her sincere and heart felt inclination to religious performances , her liberality, which is evinced by her granting ransom to her chief attendant maid, her pleasure in giving full play to  the motherly instinct , her reverential reference to Charudatta’s wife  and the cheerful way of meeting her privations to the point of  being almost beaten to death are but clear evidences of  her totally uncourtesan like leanings.

To her maid’s query whether she was after a prince or a potentate, she gives an emphatic reply:

“My girl, it is a question of loving , not applying the trade of a courtesan”. Charudatta’s boy, who plays with a Little Earthern Toy Cart (this is the title of the play)  and seems to be depressed because his playmates of the  merchant  square play with the golden carts , she consoles him by saying : “Don’t worry, my child, you shall have a golden cart to play with”.

When the boy’s attendant maid introduces Vasantasena as his mother, he is not reconciled, but utters  knowingly,

“You are not telling me the truth. If she were my mother, she would not have such beautiful jewels”.

To this  Vasantasena says ,

“Child, your naïve lips utter cruel words …. There now I am your mother . Take these ornaments and make a golden cart for you.”  She has seen many sordid things in life, but her mind is not debased. In spite of her vile associations, her mind was not defiled; but rather, as the hero puts it, ‘she is worthy of the homage that one accords to a goddess’. In her, discrimination and passion are well balanced, discrimination leading to modesty and passion to steadfastness in affection.

My comments

We have beautiful dramas written in Sanskrit by Bhasa, Kalidasa, Visakadatta and Shudraka which were staged at least 1600 years before Shakespeare. Each one has many beautiful characters who will beat Shakespeare’s characters.

The society described in those drams is entirely different from what we read in Manu Smriti and other Smritis (Hindu Law books. Even Mahabharata has characters like Dharma vyadha and Ramayana, a Valmiki. If these dramas are from 3rd century BCE (Bhasa’s 13 plays), then we can’t place Manu nearer to that period. Either the anti- Shudra remarks are interpolations or later additions .

Another thing is a Brahmin merchant it is like hot ice cream. And that Brahmin merchant was loved by a courtesan of ignoble birth. This is a picture from Shudraka of second century CE (Mrchhakatika- Little clay Cart).

Though I have not read the drama in its Sanskrit original, I have read its Tamil translation by Pandithamani Kathiresan Chettiyar. It was prescribed for Tamil language paper in Undergraduate Studies in Madurai University. It is a drama touching various facets of society. I place Kalidasa’s three dramas on the basis of his 200 out of 1500 similes found in Sangam Tamil literature (See my 20 plus research articles in this blog). Even if scholars don’t agree with me, Bhasa’s 13 plays are definitely before Kalidasa.

If we put all these plays together and study the society, it will show a liberal society with catholic outlook. If we add the society as wee see in Sangam Tamil literature and Buddhist Jataka Tales we will have more support for the liberal views. Kabila, the Brahmin poet who contributed over 200 poems to the 2500 poem Sangam corpus, goes to a chieftain and introduces himself “I, the brahmin, have brought these daughters; marry them”. But those two are not his own daughters, but the daughters of his beloved friend and the great philanthropist Pari, who was a kshatriya ruler. So we see a society with catholic outlook from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

 The above write up about Vasantasena is taken from ‘Great women of India’ published in 1953 by the Advaita Ashrama; those who have read the dramas on Vasanta sena only can appreciate this critical review. It must be made compulsory to study the ancient dramas at school level and college level. If we do it before we study Shakespeare it will make us proud. An ocean of drama literature is in Sanskrit up to 18th century. Almost a continuous production of dramas for 2000 plus years. Unfortunately, we lost all ancient Tamil dramas.

tags – Vasantasena, Charudatta, Love, Courtesan ,


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7 Jan 2020 – SHE WAS A COURTESAN FROM TIRUVELLORE NEAR CHENNAI. HERE IS HER INTERESTING STORY. … Tamil and Vedas … A lampoon by a contemporary writer Chnna Venkanna, throws some light on Mangamma’s life. › tag › goldsmiths › tag › goldsmiths

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15 Apr 2017 – Silappadikaram, the Tamil epic, is the story about Kannaki and … He advised the mighty king Cheran Senguttuvan about the good things in life (Dharma). … and courtesan Matavi, the mighty lord of the Cheras, asked Matalan:. › 2018/06/07 › sea-is-a-channel…



7 Jun 2018 – Mricakatika of Sudraka (second century CE) describes the eight courtyard building of courtesan Vasantasena. There is a beautiful description …

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