The Little Clay Cart

by Sudraka

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Last Updated on November 16, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597


A once-wealthy Brahmin who donated his fortune to various causes and community members, Chārudatta is a kind-hearted man who spends his life helping others. He is a virtuous man who struggles to determine his place in the class hierarchy, as he lacks the material trappings and financial luxury of his peers but does not wish to be wealthy at the expense of others. Although he is happily married with a young son, Chārudatta falls for a wealthy and attractive courtesan named Vasantasenā, and their affair almost leads to his execution. His love for Vasantasenā is often foolish but also strong. Eventually, his wife grows to accept the lovely mistress into their family. The new king rewards Chārudatta’s virtue and kind nature by restoring his fortune and making him an official member of the new court.  


Vasantasenā is a wealthy and attractive courtesan. After a chance encounter with Chārudatta at a local temple, she falls in love with the poor Brahmin. She is a sought-after woman and holds immense social prestige, yet her feelings for Chārudatta are true, as she is willing to act as his mistress and, eventually, his second wife. Because Vasantasenā is well regarded, she has many suitors, including the king’s brother-in-law, a wealthy and entitled man Sansthānaka. She spurns his affections, telling him that her heart belongs to Chārudatta. Her disinterest almost leads to her demise; Sansthānaka takes her rejection as a grave insult and attempts to murder her. However, Vasantasenā survives the assault and saves her lover from execution. 


Sansthānaka is an angry man who allows jealousy to consume him, leading him to violence and murder. As the king's brother-in-law, Sansthānaka holds a high socioeconomic position, which he feels entitles him to whatever he wishes. When the object of his affection, the lovely Vasantasenā spurns him, he does not know how to react. The blow is worsened when he realizes that she has rejected him in favor of Chārudatta, a lowly Brahmin who has wasted his fortune on others. Reality is too much for Sansthānaka to handle, so he flies into a blind rage, determined to exact retribution on the woman who hurt him and the man for whom she rejected him. Sansthānaka’s plan nearly works; he thinks he has dispatched Vasantasenā, and he almost succeeds in getting Chārudatta executed as a murderer. However, his evil plans are disrupted, leading to his arrest. Ultimately, he is released, having learned the error of his ways and released the corrupting jealousy which led him to act as he did. 

King Palaka

King Palaka is Sansthānaka’s brother-in-law. He holds a superior position, but he is not a legitimate king. A cruel ruler, King Palaka sentences Chārudatta to death, despite his innocence. However, he is ultimately overthrown by the rightful ruler and exiled. 

Prince Aryka

The rightful ruler is Prince Aryka. Unlike Palaka, Aryka is a kind ruler who treats his subjects well and rewards the virtuous. He returns Chārudatta’s fortune and offers him a place in his government. 


Chārudatta’s son Rohasena is a young boy during the play, which takes its title from one of his toys: a little clay cart that he wishes was made of gold. The cart is a major plot point, as Vasantasenā, trying to make him feel better, fills the little clay cart with her gold jewelry. The gift of this jewelry soon becomes irrefutable evidence in Chārudatta’s trial. 

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