A selection of the earliest existing plays by a major dramatist in classical Sanskrit
Bhasa is one of the most celebrated names in classical Sanskrit literature. He lived and wrote about two thousand years ago. Though his dates have not been conclusively established, it is certain that Bhasa preceded Kalidasa, the great poet and dramatist of ancient India, who has praised Bhasa by name in one of his own plays.
Bhasa's works were considered lost and it was only in the beginning of the twentieth century that some of his plays were recovered. Six of these, which form the present collection, are based on the Mahabharata, which provides a thematic unity to the plays. Bhasa's strengths were his skilful melding of dialogue, legend and dramatic action. The comparatively short and fast-paced plays in The Shattered Thigh are remarkable in their nearness to modern idiom despite their antiquity.
Of the six plays in this collection fourâ€”The Middle One, The Envoy, The Message and Karna's Burdenâ€”are one-act plays evoking tragic and heroic emotions. Five Nights and The Shattered Thigh have three and two acts respectively. The latter is a tragedy in which the hero dies on stage, an innovation that is very unusual in Sanskrit drama.