How does the Indian concept of rasa speak to the essence of The Little Clay Cart, and how does the cart function both as a metaphor and a major plot device in this play?

Rasa speaks to the essence of The Little Clay Cart because, like the term itself, the integrity and virtue that propels Śūdraka’s play is simultaneously essential yet elusive. The cart itself could speak to rasa, because its function could be seen as important yet indefinable.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rasa speaks to the essence of The Little Clay Cart because rasa is a term that describes an ineffable essence. That is, when people speak of rasa, they are, paradoxically, talking about something that can’t be precisely talked about. Rasa is the feeling, mood, or state that underpins the drama. Alas, that feeling, mood, or state remains too abstract and diffuse to capture.

Thus, to directly talk about the rasa of The Little Clay Cart becomes a futile endeavor. The best one can do is point to the elements in Śūdraka’s play that hint at its rasa. Again, to actually describe the rasa in clear, precise terms would counter the fundamental meaning of rasa.

Since rasa refers to the essence of the play, think about the central character of the play, Cārudatta. Like rasa itself, the virtue of Cārudatta is hard to grasp. In act 1, the courtier makes an attempt to describe Cārudatta’s character.

A tree of life to them whose sorrows grow,

Beneath its fruit of virtue bending low;

Father to good men; virtue’s touchstone he;

The mirror of the learned; and the sea

Where all the tides of character unite.

Of course, Cārudatta is not actually a tree, a mirror, or a sea. He is a father, but not in the sense that the courtier means. These are metaphors. The agile integrity of Cārudatta is attached to the rasa that propels his narrative. There is something that is motivating him that can’t be reduced to a concrete, literal set of words.

The cart, too, could function as an outgrowth of the rasa. As with the rasa, the cart maintains a slippery identity. The gold cart that Rohasena, Cārudatta’s son, used to play with was taken away. His clay cart, thanks to Vasantasenā, then morphs into a gold cart. Similar to the rasa, the cart is visible and central, yet it eludes fixed categories.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial