Sanskrit Drama

Sanskrit has a rich tradition of dramas. Some famous dramatists in Sanskrit are:


  • Considered to be the oldest playwright in Sanskrit and father of Sanskrit drama. He is said to have written 13 plays. Plays of Bhasa are divided into three parts:
    • Plays based on Ramayana:
      • Pratima & Abhishek
    • Plays based on Mahabharata:
      • Balacharita, Panchratra,
      • Dootvakya, Karnabhar,
      • Urubhang, Madhyamvyayog,
      • Dyutghatokaksh.
    • Plays based on story of Udayan:
      • Svapnavasavadatta:
      • Dream of Vasavadatta


  • He was a Buddhist scholar who was patronised by Kanishka of Kushan empire. He authored the Sanskrit play Sariputraprakaran.
  • This play is based on the story of acceptance of Buddhism by Sariputra and Maudagalyana, both were one of the closest disciples of Buddha and were the first two male disciples of Buddha.


  • Considered to be epitome of Sanskrit literature. These three sanskrit plays are:
    • Malvikagnimitram: This is a historical play that is based on reign of Pushyamitra Sunga. It tells the story of Sunga prince Agnimitra and his love for a servant girl Malavika. The play tells that Pusyamitra Sunga performed a Rajasuya Yagya and has elaborate exposition on music & acting.
    • Vikramorvashiyam: This sanskrit play by Kalidasa depicts the love story between vedic king Pururavas and apsara named Urvasi, known for her beauty.
    • Abhigyan Shakuntalam: Considered to be most famous sanskrit play. It is based on the love story of king Dushyant and Shakuntala.


  • He wrote Mrichhakatika. This book narrates the love of poor Brahmana Charudatta for the courtesan (Ganika) Vasantasena.
  • This book gives an overview of the society during the Gupta times and does not indulge into the political life as most plays written in this period. Highlights those women professions like courtesan had a high social reputation


  • He wrote Mudrarakasasa & Devichandraguptam. He is considered to be based in 5th or 5th century AD.
    • Mudrarakshasa: This play narrates the ascent of Chandragupta Maurya as Mauryan emperor of India. The book highlights how Chandragupta dethroned the last Nanda ruler Dhanananda with assistance from Chanakya.  
    • Devichandraguptam: This play is based on the story of Gupta rulers. It is based on the story of Ramagupta being humiliated by Saka rulers who captured his wife Dhruvadevi. Ramagupta’s younger brother, Chandragupta the protagonist takes revenge from the Saka rulers, recaptures Dhruvadevi and marries her.

Emperor Harshavardhana

  • Harsha was the emperor of Kannauj during the 7th century. He held literature in high esteem and patronised famous Sanskrit scholars like Bana, Mayur etc. He is credited for writing two small plays – Priyadarshika & Ratnavali & one long play named Nagananda.
    • Priyadarshika: Based on the love story of Udayan and Aranyaka.
    • Ratnavali: Based on the love story of Udayan and Sagarika.
    • Nagananda: Based on Mahayana Buddhism principles. This play was written by Harsha after Harsha had accepted Buddhism as religion.


  • He was poet and dramatist who was the court poet of king Yashovarman of Kannauj (founder of Varman dynasty). His major plays included:
    • Mahavircharita: This play is based on the early life of lord Rama.
    • Uttararamcharita: This play is based on the later life of lord Rama. It depicts Rama’s coronation, abandonment of Sita and their reunion at the end.
    • Malatimadhava: This play is based on the love story and eventual marriage between between Malati and Madhava, both from royal families.


  • He was a Sanskrit playwright based in 7th-8th century AD. He was invited by the Bengal king Adipurusha.He authored the Sanskrit play Venisanhaar which is based on Mahabharata.
  • It depicts how Dushashan held Draupadi by hair open hair (veni) and later Bheem kills Dushashan, the blood of whom is used by Draupadi to tie her hair.
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