The Little Clay Cart Characters


Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Chrudatta, a wise and honorable young Brhmana left impoverished after spending his fortune for the welfare of others. In love with and loved by Vasantasen, he is falsely accused of her murder and condemned to die. As he is being prepared for execution, Vasantasen appears just in time to identify the true murderer and save her lover’s life. Chrudatta’s fortune is restored, and he is made an official at court by the new and just king, ryaka.


Vasantasen, a wealthy courtesan who is in love with Chrudatta. When she goes to the park to meet her lover, she is set upon by Samsthnaka, who chokes her and leaves her for dead. She is rescued by a Buddhist monk. While Chrudatta is being falsely accused and tried for her murder, she is being nursed back to health. She appears at the place of execution in time to save her lover’s life.


Samsthnaka, King Plaka’s brother-in-law. Enamored of Vasantasen and madly jealous of her attentions to Chrudatta, he chokes her, leaves her for dead, and accuses his rival of the murder.


ryaka, a captive prince freed through the efforts of Sarvilaka and Chrudatta. He later deposes King Plaka and restores to Chrudatta his fortune and his rightful place in the world.


Sarvilaka, a thieving Brhmana, Prince ryaka’s friend and liberator. He steals the jewels left by Vasantasen in Chrudatta’s care and buys his bride, Madanik, with them.


Madanik, Vasantasen’s slave and confidant, whom Sarvilaka purchases as his bride.


Rohasena, Chrudatta’s son, to whom Vasantasen gives a little gold cart to replace a clay one, which is all his father is able to afford.


Maitreya, a poor Brhmana, Chrudatta’s friend and confidant.


Plaka, the unjust king deposed by Prince ryaka.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Buitenen, J. A. B. van, trans. Two Plays of Ancient India: The Little Clay Cart, The Minister’s Seal. New York: Columbia University Press, 1968. Buitenen’s introduction describes how the purported author, Sudraka, employed what may, in the context of ancient Sanskrit literature, be called “borrowing” privileges in the creation of the play, which is a completion of an earlier, incomplete work. Offers a synopsis of the play.

Keith, Arthur Berriedale. The Sanskrit Drama in Its Origin, Development, Theory, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964. Accessible and well-indexed guide to Sanskrit drama. Somewhat dated but still a good starting place for further study.

Ryder, Arthur William, trans. The Little Clay Cart (Mrcchakatika): A Hindu Drama Attributed to King Shudraka. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1905. Ryder’s introduction discusses authorship, the method of translation, and an outline of the plot.