Bhavabhūti Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Bhavabhūti (BUH-vah-BEW-tee) was born in Vidarbha (modern Berar), in central India, of the Brahman caste. He lived in the court of the Yaśovarman, king of Kanauj, a famous city located on the Ganges River at the rishi hermitage, and was given the title Śrikantha (“Splendid Voice,” or “Throat of Experience”). He was second only to the Sanskrit dramatist Kālidāsa (c. 340-c. 400 c.e.). Bhavabhūti’s plays depict the grandiose and sublime rather than the simple and commonplace. Replete with learning, logic, metaphysics, and passion, his plays are noted for their suspensefulness and characterization, and his plots are considered superior to Kālidāsa’s.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Bhavabhūti’s seven-act Mahāvīracarita (c. 700 c.e.; Maha-vira-charita, 1871) depicts the fortunes of Rāma’s early life as depicted in the Rāmāyana (c. 500 b.c.e., some material added later; English translation, 1870-1889) and focuses on the martial and stirring. Uttararāmacarita (c. 700 c.e.; Uttararamacaritam, 1921) deals with Rāma’s later life. His ten-act Mālatī-mādhava (c. 700 c.e.; The Malati Madhava of Mahkavi Bhava Bhuti, 1954) is a powerful romantic drama in which the theme of love is delicately and purely handled, perhaps the best example of the prakarana, or drama of domestic life. It is also noteworthy because it relates the practice of human sacrifice among the Aghoris and worshipers of Durgā.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Acharya, P. B. The Tragicomedies of Shakespeare, Kalidasa, and Bhavabhuti. New Delhi, India: Meharchand Lachhmandas, 1978.

Borooah, Anundoram. Bhavabhuti and His Place in Sanskrit Literature. Gauhati, India: Publication Board, Assam, 1971.

Devi, Akshaya Kumari. A History of Sanskrit Literature. Calcutta, India: Vijaya Krishna Brothers, 1940.

Harshë, R. G. Observations on the Life and Works of Bhavabhüti. Translated by Jang Bahadur Khanna. Delhi, India: Meharchand Lachhmandas, 1974.