Today's Beautiful Gem: `Naagaananda' - A Synopsis of a drama by Sri Harsha.

Sri Harsha, last of the great medieval North Indian kings, wrote three dramas in Sanskrit, viz., priyadars'ika, ratnAvali and nAgAnanda. The last one is based on a Buddhist legend. jImUtavAhana is a prince of vidyAdharas. He has a friend by name mitravasu. Mitravasu has a beautiful sister called malayavati. One day Malayavati has a dream in which gaurI reveals to her her future husband. She narrates the contents of her dream to her friend while Jimutavahana overhears this. By the efforts of vidUSaka (court jester), Malayavati and Jimutavahana meet and exchange their tender affections. She had to leave when a hermit calls her. Both the lovers are sick with the hurt of Cupid's arrows. Mitravasu offers the hand of his sister to his friend. Not knowing that Malayavati and his lady love are one and the same person, Jimutavahana rejects this offer. On the other hand, Malayavati is aware of the fact that the attraction of her love is indeed Jimutavahana, her brother's friend. She attempts to end her life, but is saved by her friends. At this juncture Jimutavahana appears and shows the picture he drew of Malayavati. The lovers are reconciled and the marriage takes place. At about this time, he loses his kingdom. However, he is not perturbed and gladly accepts the tidings.

Jimutavahana and Mitravasu were strolling on the beach one day. They come across a hill of bones and wonder what they are. They soon learn that to satisfy the appetite of the divine bird garuDa, each day a serpent is offered to him and the bones of the dead snakes in turn grew into a hill. (Garuda and the Nagas are mortal enemies.) Jimutavahana wants to put an end to Garuda's atrocity. He offers himself in lieu of s'ankhacUDa, that day's offering to Garuda. Sankhacuda's mother appreciates his selflessness, but refuses his offer. Jimutavahana, Sankhacuda and his mother enter the temple to pray before the offering. There Jimutavahana again offers himself as a substitute and is borne away. While he was borne away in the skies, a jewel from his crown lands at the feet of his parents and Malayavati. Sankhacuda also comes out of the temple and tells Garuda of the sacrifice. But it is too late and Jimutavahana expires as his parents arrive at the scene. Garuda is ashamed. Gauri who revealed to Malayavati her future husband makes her divine presence and brings back the dead prince to life. By a rain of amRta (nectar), the dead snakes also are revived. Garuda promises never again to attack the snakes. The sanctity of life and the abhorence of violence were thus brought out tenderly in this drama by Harsha. A few passages from Nagananda tomorrow!

Om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao