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Shudraka – Sanskrit Dramatist – Short Biography

Shudraka, a Sanskrit dramatist, is acclaimed as the author of the play Mrcchakatika. His identity, however, has remained a matter of contention among scholars. According to one view, Sudraka was an anonymous writer who attributed his work to a king of what name to gain the favor of the court. Sudraka was a king of the Andrabhritya dynasty.

A commentator of Amarakosha thinks that Sudraka is synonymous with Vikramaditya, Sahasanka, Sakantaka, Agnimitra, Hala and Saptavahana.

Kalhanna, Rajasekhara and Bana present him as a brave king. He is also referred to in Kathasaritasagara and Vetalapancavimsati. The exploits of King Shudraka are narrated in Dasakumaracarita and Avanti Sundarikatha of Dandin. Scholars like Pischel, Macdonnel and Karmarkar are led to think that Mrcchakattika was jointly written by Sivamara I and Sivamara II of South India, under the name Sudraka in the 6th century CE.

In fact, the only information that we find about Sudraka as an author of Mricchakatika is from the prologue of the play itself. Here it is stated that Kind Sudraka wrote this play.

He was very handsome, brave and foremost among dvijas. He was well versed in Rig Veda, Sama Veda, mathematics, fine arts and science of elephants. He got back his lost eyesight through the grace of Shiva. He performed  the Asvamedha yajna with great pomp, and after enjoying a long life of one hundred years and ten days, ended his fulfilled life by self-immolation.

It is rightly observed that this prologue is an interpolation by someone other than Sudraka.

The probable date of Sudraka is between the fourth and the sixth century CE. Mricchakatika is a mirror of urban life and court intrigues. It has all the merits of a perfect play that is suited to the stage and as such has been one of the popular Sanskrit plays to be staged by students, amateurs and professionals.