(Last Updated on : 06/01/2009)
The Mattavilasa Prahasana, a play that rightfully deserves an exalted status is composed in the 7th century A.D. Composed by non other than, Pallava emperor Mahendravarman I (600-630 A.D.), who ruled over a mighty empire from his capital Kanchipuram (near Chennai in Tamil Nadu). The Mattavilasa Prahasana is a Sanskrit drama and one of India's oldest farcical comedies (prahasanas), along with another attributed to the same author called the Bhag avadajjukam.
Mahendravarman graphically portrays the social life in Mahendravarman I's capital, Kanchipuram with breathtaking objectivity and simplicity. He describes the deteriorating trends of several sects living in this magnificent town and even states the height of corruption among the officials. We also find in it a description of some temples, the rows of flower-shops, and the music played there also interestingly, an inn with the crowd reveling in drinking, singing and merry-making.
The play focuses on the main character Satyasoma, a Kapalika (a sect of Saivites who followed several gruesome practices such as smearing the ashes of the dead over their own bodies and eating from a human skull which they used as an alms bowl) who loses his bowl and its eventual recovery Satyasoma and his lady-friend, Devasoma are portrayed as always being intoxicated.
A Buddhist monk Nagasena, who is an important character in this play, is described as receiving an alms-meal offish and meat. He lists aphrodisiac and betel leaves among the things enjoyed by Buddhists in the monasteries. Nagasena wonders why the codes of the Buddhists do not allow alcohol and women for monks. This play has been utilized by historians as a primary source of data of Pallava history for the invaluable information it provides.
It is clear that in this age when the Bhakti saints, the Alvars and the Nayanmars were making their mark, the Kapalikas and a similar sect, the Pashupathas were looked upon as degenerate as also the Buddhists monks who had succumbed to the pleasures of worldly life.The Mattavilasn Prahammt has been very popular with the Chakiars of Kerala foe the performance of dances (koothu).