Thursday, June 3, 2010

Indian Drama - THE TOY CART

List of Characters

Palaka The king of Ujjain

Aryaka A cowherd, who becomes king of Ujjain after overthrowing Palaka.

Charudatta A noble Brahman of Ujjain

Vasantasena A beautiful dancing-girl

Sansthanika The brother of king Palaka

Rohasena The five year old son of Charudatta

Maitreya The servant of Charudatta

Sthavaraka The driver of Sansthanika

Madanika Slave girl and pupil of Vasantasena

Sarvilaka Lover of Madanika

Vardhamana Servant of Charudatta

Once upon a time there lived in Ujjain a wicked king, called Palaka, who paid no heed to the laws of god and gave no honour to the Brahmans. So evil had he become that his subjects prayed often that someone would overthrow his throne. At last a holy man prophesied that one Aryaka, a cowherd of giant strength and stature, would achieve that for which all in the kingdom longed. At first, it did not seem as if the prophecy could come true: for, directly Palaka heard of it, he sent his guards, who seized Aryaka and flung him into prison.

At the time that king Palaka ruled in Ujjain, there dwelt in that town a most generous and handsome Brahman, named Charudatta, and a lovely dancing-girl, called Vasantasena. Indeed such were the latter's beauty and her skill in her art that her fame had spread far and wide and the townspeople thought her the greatest glory of their city.

One day Charudatta met Vasantasena in the gardens of the temple of Kamadeva, the god of love; and no sooner had the two met than they instantly fell in love with each other. Charudatta would willingly have wooed Vasantasena and made her his wife, but so open: handed had he been that he had given away to holy men and beggars the great riches that he had once owned. He was therefore poor while Vasantasena was rich, and he was too proud to live on a rich wife's bounty.

But Vasantasena had no such scruples and she would gladly have given Charudatta all her wealth to win him for a husband. To gain her wealth thought of a device. One rainy evening she took with her a casket of jewels' and went towards Charudatta's home. She meant to tell him that she was afraid that thieves might break into her house and take the jewels, and to beg him to keep them for her.

Unhappily, on the way Vasantasena met Sansthanika, the brother-in-law of king Palaka. He had great power, but he was a wicked man and used his power for evil. Directly he saw Vasantasena alone in the road, he tried to seize her and drag her to his home. With great skill Vasantasena slipped from his grasp and ran as hard as she could towards Charudatta's house. She reached it just as Charudatta, having ended his evening worship, was about to send his servant Maitreya to offer outside the house a handful of rice to the household gods. Maitreya opened the doer and, unseen by Charudatta and Sansthanika, Vasantasena slipped inside the house. Sansthanika, searching for her in vain outside the house, guessed that she must be inside and sent a haughty note to Charudatta, ordering him to hand her over.

‘A common wanton,’ he wrote, ‘has fled and has taken refuge in your house.. If you will give her up, you will be rewarded by me fairly. If you refuse, become my eternal enemy.’

Charudatta, on reading the note, learnt for the first time that the beautiful girl whom he loved was inside his house. In spite of the great influence Sansthanika had over king Palaka, Charudatta was far too noble to win his favour or escape his hatred by handing her over, so he gave the prince's messenger no answer. He welcomed Vasantasena and thanked her for trusting herself to his honour,’ Then', said Vasantasena, ‘if you are not displeased with me, jet me trust in you still more. Keep for me this casket of jewels. I was beset by robbers on the way here and they may be waiting for me outside. If you keep the jewels, I shall know them to be safe.’

‘Certainly, fair lady,’ answered Charudatta, ‘I will keep your jewels until such time as you need them. But I and my men will see you home.’

With these words he and all his menservants armed themselves and led Vasantasena safely past Sansthanika. As the latter had only two servants with him and Charudatta a great number, he did not dare try to seize her. Muttering threats of vengeance, he let them pass unmolested, and Charudatta brought Vasantasena safely to her house.

On Charudatta’s return home, he entrusted Vasantasena's jewel-casket to two of his servants. Vardhamana was to guard it by day and Maitreya by night.

Now it so happened that a Brahman, named Sarvilaka, loved deeply a beautiful pupil- of Vasantasena, called Madanika. Madanika loved him in return, but she was Vasantasena's slave. Without her freedom, she could not marry Sarvilaka. Sarvilaka had not the means with which to buy Madanika's liberty. At last, mad with passion he plotted to rob some rich citizen's house, and with its plunder buy Madanika from Vasantasena. He did not know that Charudatta had given away all his riches. All he knew was that he lived in a. big house. Supposing him to be rich, Sarvilaka broke into his house by making a hole in the wall. Inside, Maitreya lay asleep, Vasantasena's casket in his hand. Softly Sarvilaka took it from him, leaving him still unconscious, and withdrew as he had come.

Next morning, when Charudatta's household awoke, the casket: was nowhere to be seen. But the hole in the wall showed-that a thief had taken it. Charudatta was in despair. Rather than that Vasantasena should think he had taken it himself, he sent her, by Maitreya, a lovely necklace, the last jewel left in his house. With the necklace, he sent a message that. he had pawned her casket to raise money for play and that the man to whom he had pledged it had fled with it. In the mean time, however, Sarvilaka had gone to Madanika and shown her the casket by which he meant to buy her freedom. Madanika at once recognised it as Vasantasena’s. Vasantasena overheard the two telling and, learning what Sarvilaka had done for Madanika, gave her to him as a gift. Then she resolved to tease Charudatta by telling him a story similar to his own. She went herself to Charudatta’s house and said, ‘Charudatta, tell me the value of your necklace, for I pledged it at play and the keeper of the tables has run away with it. In the meantime please accept, in place of it, this golden casket.’

So saying, she gave Charudatta back the golden casket, stolen by Sarvilaka. As he put out his hand to take it, she fell into his arms.

Next day Charudatta went from his house early, leaving word to Vasantasena to follow, While she was dressing, Rohasena, Charudatta's five year old son by a former marriage, entered her room weeping. The child of a rich neighbour had that day received as a gift a toy cart, all of sold. Rohasena had asked for a similar toy, but all his nurse could do was to make him a to ycart of clay. Rohasena was so unhappy at this, that he ran crying into Vasantasena's room. Vasantasena gave the nurse some jewels with which to buy a gold toy cart for Rohasena, and then went to get into the litter that would take her to Charudatta.

Unhappily, by great ill fortune, she got into the wrong litter. It so chanced that Sansthanika's servant, Sthavaraka, was driving his master's bullock-carriage past Charudatta's door. Charudatta’s driver, on the other hand, had taken his cart to the back of the house, to fetch some more cushions. So Vasantasena, not-knowing Charudatta's cart by sight, slipped by mistake into Sansthanika's bullock-carriage and was driven by Sthavaraka to his master's -garden.

When Sthavaraka had driven Vasantasena away, Charudatta's cart returned to the front of the house. As it waited for Vasantasena, there crept into it the cowherd Aryaka, who had been imprisoned by king Palaka as a pretender to his throne. He had just killed his jailor and escaped from prison. Pursued by the king's guards, he sought and found refuge in king Palaka's carriage. King Palaka's coachman, thinking Vasantasena had entered the carriage, drove to where Charudatta awaited Vasantasena in a flower-garden. Charudatta opened the carriage door for Vasantasena to alight. But Aryaka stepped out instead and threw himself as a suppliant at Charudatta's feet.

‘Rise,’ said Charudatta. ‘I cannot betray one who comes to me as a suppliant, even if I thereby lose my life.’

‘Pardon me, Charudatta,’ replied Aryaka. ‘Pardon me for entering your carriage without leave.’

‘Nay, Aryaka,’ answered Charudatta, ‘your use of my carriage was an act of courtesy to me.’ Then, turning to his servant Vardhamana, he said, ‘Strike off his chains.’

Aryaka had freed his hands but fetters still bound his ankles. These Vardhamana struck off at his master's bidding.

‘Now you are free,’ said Charudatta.

‘Nay,’ replied Aryaka, ‘you have bound me by still firmer chains to yourself.’

Charudatta bowed and said, ‘The king's guards will be here directly. Flee hence as swiftly as you can.’

‘Farewell, then, noble Charudatta,’ said Aryaka. ‘Farewell. Perhaps we may meet again. I shall gather round me a band, and either drive the wicked Palaka from his throne or perish in the attempt.’

While Aryaka was fleeing in Charudatta's cart, Sthavaraka brought Vasantasena to Sansthanika's door. Sansthanika, thinking that Vasantasena had come of her own free-will, was at first overjoyed and treated her with every courtesy. But when he learned from her own lips that she loved Charudatta and that she hated and despised him, his love turned to a fury of range. He first ordered his servants to kill her. When they. from pity, refused, he rushed at her and strangled her. Then he covered her body with leaves and imprisoned his servants, so that they should not give evidence against him.

This done, Sansthanika went to the court of justice and laid a complaint against Charudatta, that he had killed Vasantasena. There was no evidence against Charudatta. but the judges feared the power of the king and they knew the far our shown by him to his brother-in-law. Nevertheless, even so, they might have let Charudatta go free, had not his servant, Maitreya, by chance entered the court to witness his master's trial. He had in his hands the jewels that Vasantasena had given Rohasena's nurse in order to buy the boy a toy-cart of sold. Charudatta had refused a accept her present and had told his servant to return it. Maitreya tried to say a word on his master's behalf, but Sansthanika bade him be silent and struck him. As Maitreya reeled under the blow, Vasantasena’s jewels dropped from his hands.

Sansthanika picked them up with a cry of joy. ‘Here are poor Vasantasena's jewels’ he said. ‘See, Charudatta gave them to his servant. Maitreya to sell.’

‘Whose are these jewels?’ the judges asked Charudatta.

‘They are Vasantasena's,’ replied Charudatta.

‘No more evidence is needed,’ said the chief of the judges. ‘Charudatta is guilty of the murder of Vasantasena. Had he been an ordinary man, we should have sentenced him to death. But, as he is a Brahmin, the king alone can sentence him. Officer,’ he added, turning to one of the guards, ‘put the case before the king and tell him that Charudatta has been found guilty of murder. But as he is a Brahmin, the laws of Manu forbid his execution. At most, he may be exiled from the kingdom.’

The officer took the message to the king. Meanwhile the wicked Palaka, not heeding the judge's counsel, directed that Vasantasena's ornaments should be hung round the prisoner's neck and that, in Spite of his priestly caste, he should be dragged round the city, with drummers proclaiming his crime should thereafter be impaled in the burning-ground to the south of Ujjain.

The Chandalas or low-caste executioners seized Charudatta and dragged him round the city, proclaiming him everywhere to be a murderer. ‘This is Charudatta, son of Sagaradatta, by whom the dancing-girl Vasantasena has been robbed and murdered. He has been convicted and condemned to death, and we are ordered by king Palaka to put him to death. So will his majesty ever punish those who commit crimes hateful alike to earth and heaven!’

The executioners, being kind men, went as slowly as they could, hoping against hope that a reprieve would come. One, Chandala, said, ‘When my father was about to depart to heaven, he said to me, "Son, whenever you have a condemned man to execute, go slowly Never act in haste. Perhaps some kind, rich man may buy the criminal's freedom; or a son may be born to the Raja . and a pardon proclaimed; or an elephant may break loose and, in the confusion, the culprit may escape; or perhaps there may be a new king and he may set free all prisoners."

Slowly as the Chandalas went, yet at last they reached the burning-ground where they had to impale Charudatta. Just as they were about to kill him, Vasantasena broke through the crowd and, throwing herself on Charudatta's neck, proclaimed his innocence and Sansthanika's guilt. The Chandalas sent word to the king and asked for his orders. As they waited, Vasantasena told Charudatta and the crowd her story. ‘After that wicked Sansthanika seized me by the throat and flung me to the ground, I was conscious of nothing. I awoke to see a Buddhist mendicant bending over me. He was by good fortune passing that way and had heard my hand move under the leaves with which Sansthanika had coveted my body. He was a kind man and he at once pulled me out and, throwing water on my face, revived me. When I opened my eyes, he recognised me as one who, before he became a mendicant, had helped him in trouble, In his gratitude, he lifted me to my feet and made me lean on him while I walked homewards, I was very weak because of what I had suffered. The road led me past this spot, and, seeing a crowd, I asked the mendicant to go and enquire the cause. He returned with the terrible news that Charudatta was about to be put to death for murdering me. In a moment my weakness vanished. Heaven seemed to send me wings to fly across the dividing space, and, as you know, I reached his side just in time to save him.’

As Vasantasena finished speaking, another and a larger crowd burst out of the city. They raised shouts of joy and victory. In their midst was Sansthanika, with hands bound behind his back.

‘Glory to Shiva! Glory to Kartikeya! Glory to Aryaka! Glory to the spoiler of foes, the world-conqueror!’ shouted the crowd. At the head of it danced Sarvilaka. the thief who had robbed Charudatta of Vasantasena's jewels in order to win Madanika, her slave and pupil. He told Madanika that he could not wed her until he had earned Vasantasena's pardon. After Vasantasena had pardoned him, he had joined Aryaka and with him raised a band of devoted soldiers. Aryaka had suprised the garrison, seized Ujjain, and, in the fighting, Sarvilaka had killed in single combat the wicked king Palaka.

‘With. this hand, I have killed the evil Palaka!’ cried Sarvilaka. ‘In his place, as the Brahmin foretold, the gallant Aryaka has mounted the throne. Now we will release Charudatta, who helped Aryaka to flee; and Sansthanika shall suffer whatever penalty Charudatta shall order.’

As Sarvilaka spoke, the crowd dragged Sansthanika close to Charudatta. All Sansthanika's insolence and cruelty had gone. The wretched man's sole thought now was how he might save his life. He threw himself at the feet of the man whom he had falsely charged, and cried: ‘Save me, Charudatta! Save me!’

‘Nay, nay,’ cried Sarvilaka. ‘Tell us quickly, Charudatta, what punishment we shall inflict, Shall we saw him in two, impale him, or tie him up and loose wild beasts upon him?’

‘Save me, Charudatta! Save me!’ cried the miserable Sansthanika.

‘How can you expect mercy from me!’ said Charudatta sternly. Then, turning to the mob, he asked, ‘Will you premise to inflict on this villain any punishment, no matter how severe?’

‘Yes, yes,’ shouted the mob. ‘What shall it be? Burn him alive? Impale him, Saw-him in two?’

‘Very well,’ said Charudatta in the same harsh voice. ‘I order that this prisoner…’

‘Yes, yes,’ cried the mob impatiently. ‘Throw him to wild beasts? Burn him alive?’

‘…be at once set free,’ said Charudatta, smiling kindly on the prisoner.’ ‘No hurt shall befall one who comes as a suppliant to my feet .’

The mob murmured at first then, shouting applause, cut the cords that bound the trembling wretch. Directly the coward felt his feet free, he ran off. shouting with delight, and never stopped to take breath until he had hidden himself in a dark corner of his palace.

A few minutes later a messenger brought to Charudatta from Aryaka a sealed letter in which the new king made him governor of Ujjain city and the country round it. Charudatta was now as rich as Vasantasena, and, as no obstacle remained to their union, he took her in his arms and asked her to be his wife. But in their happiness they did not forget the kindly mendicant who had restored her to life The first act of the new governor of Ujjain was to make him head .of the chief Buddhist monastery in the kingdom.

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