The 'Little Clay Cart' (Mrcchakatikā) as sacrificial theater

Deciphering the 'anthropology' of the Nātyashāstra

[This Mrcchakatikâ Digest has been visited 2949 times since 05 May 2010]

Sunthar Visuvalingam

[Introduction will be completed when essay is terminated. Text in red shows subsequent revisions to original paragraphs posted at Abhinavagupta forum.]

This comprehensive hermeneutics of the Mrcchakatikā has been decades in gestation since my doctoral research in the early 80s on the 'semblance of humor' (hāsyābhāsa) and the enigmatic role of the vidūshaka in Sanskrit theater. My PhD thesis offered a partial analysis of at least two episodes in the play: the sleep-talking Maitreya (vidūshaka) insistently handing over the jeweled necklace vouchsafed by Vasantasenā to the thief Sharvilaka, and his 'inadvertent' dropping of the jewels at the court to publicly incriminate his master Cārudatta  of having murdered his mistress for her gold. Despite frequent references subsequently, in various articles over the years and especially on our Abhinavagupta forum during the first decade of the 21st century, it was during the fall of 2009 that I began a series of posts analyzing key motifs and episodes in detail. The aim was not just to offer a sacrificial reading of the profane comedy, but also to use its 'performative semiotics' to interpret Hindu culture as a whole. Begun on 05 May 2010, the essay below aims to provide the definitive framework and conceptual keys not only to understanding this magnificent and largely underestimated play, but also to shed new light on the Nātya-Shāstra, as a practical manual of applied Vedic 'anthropology' that seeks to transform human life in its totality into sacrificial theater.

Though readers may approach this essay in their own ways, some familiarity with the (problems posed by the) drama becomes necessary along the way to appreciate the exegesis. I would recommend first reading the play (Ryder's mostly reliable poetic translation is available online) in its entirety for enjoyment, then referring back to the relevant scenes and dialogues as you read each paragraph of this essay. If the argument seems to move too fast at times or some interpretations seem strained, please refer to the two digests of my postings to the Abhinavagupta forum: the pre-essay explorations (digest 1 of Sep-Oct 2009) and the annotations that accompanied each paragraph below (digest 2 of May-June 2010). To streamline this already essay and maintain the focus on the play, keeping the religio-cultural background to the minimum required for intelligibility, I have had to leave out many parallels and elaborations. After having thus 'digested' the whole essay, please reengage the play directly once more to see for yourself whether these 'extra-dramatic' insights have enhanced your understanding and enjoyment of the "Little Clay Cart" and of Hinduism itself.

Related threads, essays, and entries at svAbhinava:

Sunthar V., "The 'Little Clay Cart' (Mrcchakatikā) as sacrificial theater” (Essay) - Digest 1: Sep-Oct 2009 / Digest 2: May-June 2010

Digest: Religious ways of being artistic: Hindu Aesthetics

Digest: Religious ways of being artistic: Hindu Aesthetics (notes towards work-in-progress - August-September 2009)

Dialogue The 'semblance' of rāga, rasa, and hāsya: The Lapak Jhapak approach to Bollywood, Indian aesthetics and Vedic ritual (May - June 2009)

Sunthar V., Towards an integral appreciation of Abhinavagupta’s aesthetics of Rasa” (2005)

Doctoral thesis: Abhinavagupta's conception of humor: its resonances in Sanskrit drama, poetry, Hindu mythology and spiritual praxis (1984)


Celebrated as the triumph of 'secular' theater in an otherwise pervasively religious culture, the 'Little Clay Cart' (Mrcchakatikā) is 'in-deed' a solemn yajnã disguised and promoted as worldly entertainment accessible to all. The ('pre-classical') dīkshita (brahmin Cārudatta ) regressed into the impure, evil, incoherent condition (stuttering villain Śakāra) of the womb (courtesan Vasantasenā = wife Dhūtā) from which he was reborn by redeeming himself through a substitute victim. Key plot motifs have been elaborated in a manner that makes full sense only when replaced within a sacrificial hermeneutics: (Brahmin) impoverishment and (Buddhist) renunciation, gambling (Samvāhaka) and theft (Sarvilaka), kingship (Āryaka) and regicide (Pālaka), marital union and erotics of the courtesan, (criminal) execution and (human) sacrifice, 'matricide' and rejuvenation, joking (narma) and riddling (bráhman), Vedic framework and Tantric notations, humor and its semblance. The 'playful' title symbolically equates the bullock carts—through the 'mistaken identities' of their occupants—with the golden womb of the Soma sacrifice. The articulation between the profane and sacrificial readings of the play pivots around the 'comic' role of the 'great brahmin' (Maitreya), the hero's 'deformed' alter ego who entertains ritual affinities with the implacable villain otherwise bent on destroying his friend and master.

Whereas comparative anthropology consists primarily of theoretical abstractions generated at that mobile and unstable interface where the 'human sciences' are applied to ritual, myth, social organization, and the collective behavior of non-Western cultures, 'Sanskrit' theater—on the model of Vedic ritual praxis itself—may be best understood as tacit (self-) knowledge embedded in performance.

Dedicated to the cherished memory of Prof. FBJ Kuiper

King Shūdraka’s 'Little Clay Cart' (Mrcchakatikā) is a delightfully profane comedy pregnant with ‘lawful irregularities’ that make complete sense only when its intricate plot is recognized to be an ingenious dramatization of the (inner meaning of the) Vedic sacrifice (yajña). The dire penury of the brahmin hero Cārudatta  reflects the ascetic condition of the ‘consecrated’ (dīkshita) sacrificer about to undertake the ritual enterprise, that is, undergo through a semiotic process a controlled regression to the maternal womb to be reborn with a fresh lease on life. This womb-state of the (‘preclassical’) dīkshita, which was characterized by impurity, evil, entropy, and incoherence, is embodied by Cārudatta ’s mortal enemy, the villain Śakāra, who is characterized primarily by his comic ‘deformation’ of meaningful language through vituperative (vidūshana) speech. The embryonic regression is at the same time an (inner) experience of (premature) death from which the sacrificer redeems himself through a substitute (typically animal) victim. Hence, the plot is woven around the ‘criminal’ Cārudatta ’s (aborted) execution for the (attempted) ‘murder’ committed by Śakāra, who is however forced to take the place of the sacrificial scapegoat at the last moment. This symbolic identity of hero and villain is mediated above all by the deformed clown Maitreya, the inseparable ‘great brahmin’ (mahābrāhmana) friend of Cārudatta , who ‘inadvertently’ betrays his master at crucial junctures of the play, as when he drops Vasantasenā’s jeweled necklace at the courtroom thereby incriminating Cārudatta  publicly of her murder. The maternal womb into which the dīkshita regressed was that of his lawful wife and indispensable (though passive) partner, Cārudatta ’s devoted and noble wife Dhūtā, for the real sacrificer was (not the male alone but) the sexed couple (dampatī). Because this reunion with the ‘mother’ was at the same time a conjugal union, the sacrificer’s ‘rebirth’ implied his symbolic identity with his own son (Rohasena). In the Mrcchakatikā, the symbolic role of the feminine principle has been split between the ‘pure’ Dhūtā, the dutiful mother of Rohasena, and the voluptuous courtesan Vasantasenā, who is granted her much yearned status of lawful bride at the very end. Not only is the latter addressed as ‘mother’ (amba), a common appellative of the hetaera, she is explicitly identified as such to Rohasena and is moved by her maternal instincts to deposit her golden jewelry in his little clay cart, thus justifying the traditional title of the drama. Because the embryo is experientially merged with the womb, the (initiatic) ‘death’ of the sacrificer also amounts to a (symbolic) ‘matricide’ and, because this ‘criminal’ regression is undergone to rejuvenate the self, the ritual acquisition of the Soma has been translated into the murder of the courtesan-mother for the sake of her gold. That the ‘prostitute’ Vasantasenā represents the (maternal) ‘womb of the sacrifice’ is confirmed by the unseen origin of the irresistible passion that binds her to Cārudatta  and the eventual scene of her murder: the Love God’s dilapidated (jīrna) garden which belongs to the villain Śakāra. The latter’s bullock cart that brings her ‘unexpectedly’ to their fateful tryst in the garden is likewise a mobile replica of the womb, identified thereby with Rohasena’s toy cart, which is to be transformed through her innate generosity from perishable clay into immortal gold (hiranya-garbha). The sacrificer par excellence was the dharmic king, who was for the same reason the primary sponsor and patron of royal temples, festivals, and of theatrical performances that he sometimes even authored (Shūdraka). Though the Mrchhakatikā exceptionally depicts a rebellious kingdom revolting against an unrighteous king (Pālaka), it has deftly exploited the symbolic resources of the ‘evil’ dīkshita to transform his assassination and the usurpation of his throne by the ‘noble’ Āryaka into a sacrificial act. The ‘ironically’ named ‘Protector’ (pālaka), who is engaged behind-the-scenes in his own royal sacrifice,  is killed at that exact moment when the sacrificial beast is to be slain and Cārudatta  himself would have been executed.The conflation between the royal and plebian levels of the dramatic action is ensured by the far more visible and impetuous brother-in-law, Śakāra, who assumes the king’s mantle and abuses his authority with impunity. The sacrificial death and rebirth of the king, enacted on his behalf by Cārudatta , has been translated into a political revolution. The play ends self-consciously with a revelation of being all ‘make-believe’, as when Cārudatta  insists that the villain forced to take his own place, bound to the stake, be ‘liberated’ (mocita), just like the slain sacrificial animal (pashu). This entire comedy, constructed artfully as a continuous mesh of dialogue and interaction, its incongruities evoking (the semblance of) humor, is a sacred enigma (bráhman) that offers the keys to its own solution, to those who ask it the right questions.

Reduced to innocuous, even inanimate, symbols like the sacrificial altar (vedi) within the patriarchal Vedic religion, the feminine principle was subsequently elevated into the Tantric mother-goddess to be incarnated especially in the temple-courtesan, whose ritual function was so vital to the wellbeing of the kingdom as to be accorded royal privilege and status. Cārudatta 's tranquil meditation at home (Act I) is suddenly interrupted by Vasantasenā, who is fleeing the relentless sexual pursuit of Śakāra and his accomplices, the Vita (gallant rake or courtier) and Ceta (servant). They attempt to gratify this "fish-eating destroyer of families" with promises of fish and meat. In his inimitably garbled flights of rhetoric, the villain assimilates his prey more than once to Draupadī with himself assuming the roles of abductors like Rāvana, especially Duhshāsana intent on seizing her forcibly by the hair.  His palpitating heart is consumed with lust like a lump of meat thrown onto a blazing heap of charcoals. The lotus buds dropping from the chaplet of this 'tutelary goddess of the city' (nagara-devatā) are compared repeatedly to a trail of red arsenic powder mined with a chisel. She calls out in vain to her own attendants, all of whom bear names intimately associated likewise with the season of love, spring (vasanta). As she passes Cārudatta 's side-door on the left in pitch darkness, Śakāra foolishly fears aloud, and is heard by Vasantasenā, that she might escape into her lover’s home. Whereupon the pursuing Vita, discovering the noble recipient of her true love, betrays his overbearing patron by directing her to remove her telltale ornaments before doing so. At this very moment, the maid Radanikā emerges carrying the sacrificial 'offering' (bali), at Cārudatta 's behest, to propitiate the (typically fearsome) 'mothers' (mātrkā) at the crossroads. While Vasantasenā snuffs out the flame with her skirt and slips unnoticed into the house, Śakāra with unsheathed sword mistakenly violates Radanikā whom he seizes by the hair, goading her to cry out “Īshvara, Shankara, Shambhu,“ as if she had become the (helpless) Shakti of Shiva. The 'great brahmin', who has followed the maid with the relit candle, threateningly raises his 'crooked' (kutilaka) staff upright against the penitent and prostrate Vita and then, realizing his mistake, brandishes it menacingly at the real villain, who slinks away grudgingly with his servant. When Cārudatta  originally asked his friend Maitreya to take the bali (a term that typically suggests an animal victim) to the crossroads, the 'great brahmin' first refused claiming worship to be useless for the gods never show their favor, and then because, like right and left in a mirror, everything turns out topsy-turvy for the likes of a (perverse) brahmin like himself. He also fears being ambushed in the dark by courtesans, royal favorites, and the like, to be swallowed up whole as is a mouse by a snake greedy for frogs; the Vita subsequently compares the fleeing prostitute to a female snake. The royal suitor's  (attempted) 'rape of the tutelary goddess' assumes its full significance only when we realize that this 'fantasmatic' scene takes place immediately after Cārudatta , upon the reluctant Maitreya demanding do to know what he’ll be doing remaining at home, plunges into (momentary) meditation (samādhi) on the object of his devotion, presumably with the intention of accompanying the offering himself. Though we are never told what the latter is, the 'great brahmin' compares the flame lighting the way—that he has just relit from the inmost quadrangle of the home after it had been extinguished by the invisible courtesan but which is again fluttering 'fearfully' against the draft of the outside breeze—to "the heart of a goat being led to the sacrificial post" (pashu-bandhopanītasyeva cchāgalasya hrdayam). When Cārudatta  throws his cloak at Radanikā ('Fanged') for her to wrap Rohasena against exposure outside to the cold breeze, he realizes that she is actually his most gratified beloved, Vasantasenā, whom he now explicitly extols as "a goddess fit to be worshipped" (devatôpasthāna-yogyā). Since Rohasena is introduced abruptly and inexplicably only in this context, the candle flame is being identified with the son, which also defines the relationship between the Agnihotrin and his cherished fire extinguished only at death with his fragile consciousness to be ‘fathered’ into immortality. The reason there is no further mention of the bali-offering before Act I concludes with the inseparable friends accompanying his heart's desire back to her mansion, is that the real (left-handed) propitiation of the 'menstruating' goddess has already taken place at this very 'crossroads' where the path of of the devout worshipper collided with and merged into that of the would-be rapist. The death-rebirth motif has been retained here in the highly mitigated sequence of the flame from the domestic hearth being snuffed out to be relit, torches too being rendered superfluous as the full moon (king Soma) emerges to light their way back to Vasantasenā's mansion. The courtesan vouchsafes her ‘coveted’ jewels to the impoverished merchant (thus giving Act I its title), despite knowing full well that the ‘casket of love’ sought by her assailants was actually her body prized higher than gold. Maitreya, introduced to us by the exiting stage-manager at the end of the prologue, had brought to the poor brahmin the jasmine-scented cloak that the object of adoration now wraps so lovingly around herself. Cūrnavrddha had sent this mysterious gift from off-stage with specific instructions to hand it over upon his master completing the domestic worship, which turns out to be a 'Kaula' scenario prefiguring the final Act (X) when, condemned to the stake, Cārudatta  himself becomes the anointed victim in a 'sacrifice' to the Goddess that is otherwise wholly Vedic.

The Vedic sacrifice carefully structured the adult (ritual) order (rta) around the womb of chaos (nirrti) that it sought to contain at its very center, exploit constructively, and ultimately transcend. The unpredictability of chance (daiva) that pervades, disrupts, and rewards human endeavor (purusha-kāra), otherwise regulated and constrained by socio-religious law (dharma), is represented by the dice-game, which is therefore both widely reviled as an addictive self-destructive pastime and esoterically prized as the crowning principle of 'freedom' (svātantrya). As the gambler par excellence daring to risk-it-all in order to win-it-all-back-with-more, the king, the pillar of the world, was obliged to play at dice with the officiating brahmán at crucial junctures of the solemn sacrifice. Born into our 'lease' on life as bundled debt (rNa), we pursue our goals (purushārtha) through (calculated) 'gambles' on borrowed 'money' so much so that we owe our various creditors, ultimately Death, our very ('human') being. Act II begins with the lovelorn Vasantasenā musing with her maid Madanikā on the unequalled virtues of the poor Cārudatta . She wants to offer herself 'freely' but fears the self-respecting brahmin, unable to repay her favor, would then make himself inaccessible. As she admits her wily subterfuge of assuming the role of creditor by having left her ornaments as a deposit, the scene shifts abruptly to the royal score-keeper (sabhika) Māthura and another gambler in hot pursuit of Samvāhaka, who owes them ten gold-pieces that he is unable to pay up. The bankrupt loser had found his opportunity to escape while Māthura was engrossed with (balancing) the scoreboard (dyūta-lekhaka). He flees lamenting his continuing addiction to the accursed dice despite their having ruined him in every way. Passing a derelict temple, he decides to cover his tracks by walking backwards into the shrine-room (garbha-grha) to assume the immobile role of the missing (idol of the) goddess (devī-bhavishyāmi). Observing that his footprints come to an inexplicable dead-end, his pursuers retrace them back to the temple where, feigning ignorance, they deliberately begin an ardent round of dice before the idol. As each takes his turn, the penniless Samvāhaka is unable to restrain himself from demanding to have another go at his lady (mis-) fortune. Caught and held fast, the sophist tries to wiggle out a moratorium on his debt, but is eventually obliged to sell himself (as an indentured servant) for the ten gold pieces to any passerby on the royal highway, unfortunately there are no takers. Just as he is being brutally dragged around by Māthura, there chances upon the scene another 'loser', who however continues to sing in praise of gambling as "a kingdom without a throne," the be-all-and-end-all of life, almost to the point of worshipping the dice. When Darduraka scoffs at Māthura for being obsessed with a mere trifling amount, the latter ridicules him in turn for assuming the indifferent airs of the wealthy when all he can afford for clothing is a tattered threadbare rag. Though Māthura claims to be a swindler ever playing a crooked game, he calls Darduraka "immoral" who returns the compliment as a slur on his whole ancestry. At this point, the score-keeper gets back to business with a vengeance by hitting Samvāhaka, who bleeds from the nose and falls flat on the ground. Māthura then resumes his exchange of blows with Darduraka. The latter blows dust into his eyes, allowing both to escape, Samvāhaka into Vasantasenā's mansion and himself to join the prophesied future king Āryaka, When the wretch throws himself upon her protection declaring he is being pursued by a (mere) creditor, the wealthy courtesan tells Madanikā to reopen the side-door. Māthura and the gambler, who have followed the blood trail to her door, decide to lie in wait to ambush their debtor. The refugee in the meantime explains to his benefactress that he is actually a 'shampooer-cum-masseur' (samvāhaka) by profession, he used to be in the personal service of the (over-) generous Cārudatta  but has been reduced to gambling after his master had surrendered all his wealth. Vasantasenā is so delighted that she treats her unfortunate guest as if he were the unattainable object of her adoration and hence master of her mansion. She removes her own bracelet and sends it with her maid to his creditors as if this ransom were coming straight from Samvāhaka himself. When Madanikā accosts them asking which of them is the gambling-master, the latter thinks the lascivious prostitute is soliciting him, and rebuffs her for want of money. Delighted to receive the recompense as a security, Māthura now asks the maid to tell that "scion of a respectable family" (kula-putra) that he is again welcome to join them in enjoying the throws of the dice. The grateful masseur now offers to repay his redemptress by practicing his "dainty art" in her service, an offer that Vasantasenā politely declines, redirecting him to Cārudatta . Dishonored as a gamester, Samvāhaka precipitously adopts the vows of the renouncer beseeching her to ever remember that this gambler, who was a shampooer, had now become a Buddhist monk. The sacrificial logic that binds these three seemingly disparate identities is found in the erotic ascetic Shiva, whose favorite pastime is playing and cheating at dice with the Goddess. Both Darduraka and Samvāhaka are penniless 'ascetics' (tapasvin): the former, who has only a threadbare rag, asks how the latter could be so addicted to gambling without due self-mortification. While describing his wretched alter ego as (unusually) tall and lanky, carefree Darduraka himself poses with one foot on the ground and the other raised up vertically towards the sun, as if he were the pillar (sthānu) of the world. Though the wealthy king is an inveterate 'sensualist' (samvāhaka), he renounces and even gives away all upon undergoing the dikshā to become the ascetic Shiva to gamble with life-and-death: this self-surrender has been exaggerated and extrapolated into (the figure of) the 'heterodox' Buddhist monk. The embryonic regression is a fusion with the 'maternal' wife that transforms the sacrificer (dampati) into the primordial androgyne (ardha-nārīshvara), which is why Samvāhaka walks backwards into the 'womb' of the temple to assume the pose of the Goddess. His 'feminization' is a (symbolic) 'castration' translated into the broken nose that bleeds his way (back) to the courtesan who, in the symmetry of the previous Act, had herself entered her lover's home through the side-door. For this masseur-gambler-monk is ultimately none other than the 'prodigal son' (Cārudatta ) counting on the ever-indulgent mother for indefinite extensions to his lease on life.

The Vedic cosmogonic act par excellence was Indra, the king of the gods, smiting the dragon Vrtra with his thunderbolt (vajra) to inaugurate the New Year. Locating Brahmā's staging of the first dramatic performance within these festivities (indra-maha), the Nātya-Shāstra has conserved this paradigm in the ritual preliminaries (pūrva-ranga) to the play proper. The respective gifts of Indra, Varuna, and Brahmā to the theater were the victory pole (jarjara = vajra), pot (bhrngāra) and crooked staff (kuTilaka) borne by the vidūSaka. In the 'procedure (prayoga) with the jarjara, however, the stage-manager (sūtradhāra) Brahmā—with Indra to the right as assistant (pāripārshvika) and flanked on the left by the vidūshaka bearing the netherworldly pot—strides across the public stage wielding the triumphant jarjara. The Rigveda often represents the 'serpent' (ahi) of drought as (coiled around) an impenetrable mountain that must be pierced. The human deed behind this mythical breaking through the demonic 'resistance' (vrtra) to release the life-giving waters was the slaying of the victim attached to the sacrificial post. Since the yajña dramatizes an embryonic regression assimilated to sexual union, the ritual murder is equated to a violent rape where Indra's 'weapon' is the erect phallus and Varuna's pot the womb. The dīkshā thus constitutes the 'deathly' ascetic phase whereby the sacrificer conserves and concentrates his life-force towards the 'traumatic' breakthrough of (giving re-) birth (to himself). Not only does the whole community identify with the royal protagonist and thereby participate in the annual renewal of their shared cosmos, they actually give birth to the (all-encompassing ritual identity of the) king. Gambling having restored his 'autonomy' (svātantrya) beyond the reach of others, the masseur is now firm in his resolve to become a renouncer. Just as Samvāhaka is setting off with head held high, he hears excited shouts offstage that Vasantasenā's scent-elephant has gone rogue breaking the post to which it had been chained. Eager at first to take a good look at the courtesan's prized trophy, the novice monk remembers his vow of abstinence and proceeds without distraction on the royal highway (rāja-mārga). A flamboyantly dressed and jubilant Karnapūraka, who appears intimate with the courtesan, barges in rudely to boast of his heroic exploit just now that she has been cheated of witnessing. The townspeople were scrambling with their children in terror before the bloodthirsty elephant that had already killed its keeper; female ornaments such as anklets, jeweled bracelets and girdles were flying apart helter-skelter. Frolicking through the capital Ujjain as if it were a pond of blooming lotuses, KhuNTa-MoDaka ('post-breaker') encountered a Buddhist monk so paralyzed with fear that he had dropped his staff, gourd, and alms-bowl. Spraying the wretch with water, the raging beast seized and lifted him lengthwise between its tusks, while the crowd kept crying: "the monk is being killed!" As it heaved a dangling mass of broken chains, Karnapūraka—rather, this servant (dāsa) that the noble lady (āryā) had nourished with rice-balls (piNDa)—began sprinting zigzag and, all the while calling out the score (dyūta-lekhakam udghuSya udghuSya), deftly seized an iron-bar from a nearby shop to challenge the rogue elephant. Smiting a furious blow, the impetuous champion freed the monk from the jaws of the monster that towered like a peak of the Vindhyā mountain. Cheering Karnapūraka with shouts of "bravo," the entire city swelled over to his side to look like a crowded boat unevenly balanced with its extra load. Unable to find any ornaments on his own person, a passer-by heaved a sigh and simply threw his cloak over the hero. Vasantasenā asks her gallant to check for the fragrance of jasmine but the cloak is too drenched with the ichor of the rutting elephant. When they identify its mysterious owner instead by the name inscribed on it, the overjoyed mistress rewards Karnapūraka with an ornament for the mantle of her lover: Cārudatta . The 'hero-worshipping' goddess wraps it lovingly around herself, just as at the end of Act I, as the (self-) offering (bali) of her ardent devotee (dāsa), and everyone remarks how splendidly it 'becomes' her. Act II ends with the courtesan and her maid mounting their balcony to gaze outside upon the noble Cārudatta  walking home from this primal scene. We have witnessed the 'settling of scores' through images of rape, murder, and birth kaleidoscoped into an ingeniously crafted reenactment of the Indra's cosmogonic feat where the serpent-trunked 'rogue' elephant (nāga) has assumed the role of Vrtra. The tusker frolicking in the lotus-pond is a stereotyped metaphor for exuberant lovemaking, and the intimate ornaments being ripped apart are those of the courtesan herself assimilated to the chains dangling from her favorite pet as it is impetuously smitten with the vajra-like rod. Karnapūraka's betrays his sexual prowess by his very name, for he is the (full-) 'filler' (pūraka) of the ('ear'-) womb (karna). Sacred jasmine, its fragrance overpowered by the rutting secretions of the scent-elephant, is the aphrodisiacal plant dear to lovers. The union takes place in the 'left (-hand) way' (vāma-caraNena) with the ingestion of reproductive (khuNTa-moDaka = kuNDa-modaka/golaka) substances, for the 'masseur' had been welcomed back to the 'game' as a 'Kaula initiate' (kula-putra). Anointed (abhiSeka) as the dīkSita by the elephant's spray, the Buddhist monk, with his 'exposed head' (prakata-shīrsha) 'upright' and body stretched lengthwise into a 'limbless' (vihastam) pole at the mouth of the beast, was 'liberated' (mocita) just like the slain sacrificial victim. The whole city has assumed the pregnant figure of its tutelary goddess 'bearing an uneven load' to 'deliver' the resplendent king nourished with 'rice-balls' from her maternal hand. Split between Karnapūraka and the Buddhist monk, Cārudatta , the sacrificer who offers up his own self through the substitute victim, is restituted whole through the transfer of his cloak. More than reenacting the 'trauma of rebirth', Vedic cosmogony appears to be a reliving of the very moment of conception, imbuing Vrtra with the resistance of the maternal egg: the vajra penetrates the womb only to 'break through' to the moment of inception, such that Indra is reborn as his own creator. The courtesan declines (her mother's request) to bathe at the beginning of Act II, because she is still menstruating, and leaves it to the Brahmin to accomplish this worship in the form of the dice-game while she herself is intent on (making) love (rantum). Madanikā addresses her as ‘princess’ (bhartr-dārikā) when asking whether her lover is the king, royal favorite (‘brother-in-law’ Samsthānaka?), venerable brahmin, or rich merchant, before being guided to the conclusion that he is poor Cārudatta , because the ‘hero’ (nāyaka) is a condensation of all these identities. The 'self-made' sacrificer is not so much calling out the score as erasing it altogether from the scoreboard (Prakrit ugghusiya could be both udghuSya and udghRSya in Sanskrit) of those of us who are able to 're-conceive' and give birth to oneself.

Cārudatta ’s jasmine-scented cloak, like the embryonic sheath (placenta, chorion, etc.), belongs as much to the maternal womb as to the embryonic dīkSita, which is why Vasantasenā keeps wrapping it so fondly around herself. The Rigvedic ideal was to prepare for ‘immortality’ (amrta) here and now even while living out the “hundred years” of a full terrestrial term. By inwardly dying—repeatedly and well before one’s time—the aging process was retarded, the metabolic fire (agni) rekindled, the lease of youth renewed. The Soma had to be stolen from its jealous custodian, the Gandharva musician, for this golden elixir belongs not to the mundane self of the adult sacrificer but to an-other, the ‘great brahmin’ who embodies the regression to the fetal state (bhrūNa = 'brahmin learned in the secrets of the Veda') no longer his own. Act III begins with Cārudatta  and Maitreya returning from a late night music concert to doze off with the latter guarding on his own person the deposit entrusted by Vasantasenā. To regress is to transgress, to cheat in the dice-game, translated here into theft, the illegitimate acquisition of wealth. Blinded by love, doting mother-night shrouds her wayward son, the burglar Sharvilaka, intent on violating other homes, as he slithers into their compound though a narrow breach, scraping his sides like a snake shedding its worn-out body. The bold adventurer prefers his independence to the 'decent' professions of law-abiding cowards who prey on the gullibility of fellow human beings. He surveys the wall for a damp spot rendered pregnable through corrosive saline exudations that would produce no sound for a wide enough secretive hole to be bored and without him having to encounter the sight of a woman. This son of Kārttikeya finds such a spot eroded by daily ablutions to the morning sun beside a rat-shoveled dirt-heap. Expert in the properties of bricks, the thief plies his art religiously by choosing a ‘hole in the wall’ (title of Act III) shaped as a bulging pot (pūrNa-kumbhā) calculated to amaze innocent onlookers the following day. The brahmin profanes his sacred thread—the all-purpose tool in his burglary-kit for tricky challenges such as picking locks and unpicking ornaments—by using it as his forgotten measuring tape. Just as the last brick is being removed, he is suddenly bitten by a cobra and gesticulates the effects of poison, before recovering by using the cord as a ligature. For security, he thrusts a dummy manikin through the breach before emerging into the interior illuminated by a golden flame. He sprinkles water across the floor, ensures the couple is indeed fast asleep, and then notices all the musical instruments lying around. There seems to be no gold hidden beneath the floor, for the magic seeds he scatters do not pop. Just as he is leaving disappointed, Maitreya talks in his sleep urging Cārudatta  to take the gold wrapped up in his bathing trunks for he 'sees' something like a thief. The latter now sees the casket but decides against robbing a brahmin of even higher stature than himself. However, the clown threatens to curse 'Cārudatta ' for disobeying the ardent wish of a brahmin (or cow), such that Sharvilaka is obliged to comply. Extinguishing the flame by releasing an insect, the thief attempts to seize the casket but Maitreya complains that his hand is cold, such that the thief has to first warm it under his armpit before taking possession of the gold. All the while he curses his self-degradation, for his father never accepted a gift whereas the son is stealing for the sake of the courtesan Madanikā. When 'generous' Maitreya nods back into slumber, like a merchant relieved of his wares, Sharvilaka wishes that this blessed "great brahmin" may sleep (live) for a hundred years. Radanikā intrudes just then. He is about to strike but desists upon discovering a woman. Instead he repairs to Vasantasenā's mansion. When the maid apprises the household of the burglary, Cārudatta  keeps admiring the supreme artistry of the breach as if the heart of his house had exploded with fear at the undue contact with an unsavory character. Maitreya is relieved at having handed over the casket to his trusting friend, who thinks the fool is joking as usual. When the loss is recognized, the noble Cārudatta  consoles himself that the thief did not have to leave empty-handed, but promptly faints when reminded that the ornaments were a mere deposit. The vidūshaka proposes denying the whole transaction, not just the theft but the original safekeeping, but the honest merchant is incapable of lying. Swooning at the thought of her husband's dishonor, Dhūtā now vouchsafes her own jeweled necklace, a precious heirloom, to Maitreya as recompense. She bestows it as her obligatory gift to a brahmin to complete the religious vow she had been observing. Cārudatta  makes Maitreya promise to hand over his wife's ornament to Vasantasenā begging her indulgence for having inadvertently gambled her original deposit away. Before purifying himself for the performance of his morning prayers, Cārudatta  instructs the breach, glaring evidence of the crime, to be sealed so as not to incur the censure of passers-by. This precarious earthly domicile is the replica of the aging body of the sacrificer, which must be breached to access the inner pot-womb (kumbhā is also a derogatory term for ‘prostitute’). The burglar's esoteric science of Vedic semiotics craves our admiration through his artistry in applying it ingeniously to the most profane deeds. The 'noble son' (kula-putra) of a brahmin well-versed in the four Vedas, this professional dedicated to the path of ritual (karma-mārga) is a left-hand adept "intent on the sole exploit of bringing the highest disgrace on the household" (para-grha-dūSana-niścita-eka-vīram). The 'anatomical' precision that locates the site of the breach confirms that the intruder is slithering like a phallic snake (back) into its (maternal) burrow. The 'fatal' serpent bite and the self-sacrificing extinguishing of the light, all confirm the 'death' of the sacrificer before his cold hand actually grasps the life-renewing Soma. Maitreya is not ‘joking’ when he insists having handed over the jewels to Cārudatta , for the 'crafty' burglar is ultimately the ritual alter ego of the sacrificer. The transgressive implications of the burglary are underlined by the vidūSaka's resorting to contrary speech in repeating the maid's exclamation with incredulity: "what, you wench! a hole has cut a thief in the wall?" The Vedic sacrificer likewise deposited a manikin as substitute amidst the bricks of the altar (vedi). Nobody witnessed anybody giving or receiving anything, because the ‘solitary hero’ (eka-vīra), averse to the opposite sex, achieves within himself the yogic alchemy that others, including Abhinavagupta, sought through (more than just the sight of the face of) a woman (dūtī): hence, the quivering that is the symptom of trance (āveśa). Act III opens against the still reverberating echoes of the music concert because the vidūSaka, so fastidious in his tastes, is a Gandharva, who has mastered the Sāma-Veda. The Soma hidden in the bathing trunks is stolen not directly from the courtesan-wife but through the mediation of the 'pregnant' bráhman (-priest), who embodies the semiotic resources that give (re-) birth to the sacrificer: hence his ‘supreme-brahminhood’ (su-brahmaNya) Kārttikeya, the patron of thieves, is the younger brother of the pot-bellied Ganesha, whose fiery appetite is as voracious as that of the great brahmin. Cārudatta  assimilates sleep descending inexorably from his brow to the relentless onset of old age, and when his execution ‘unexpectedly’ metamorphoses into reunion with his beloved, he is blessed with the prospect of living out his life “for a hundred years” (end of Act X). Drenched in elephant-rut at the end of the previous Act (II), the jasmine cloak 'bequeathed' by 'old-fellow-falling-flakes-of-mortar' (cūrNa-vrddha) represents pure undifferentiated sexuality, released from the crystallizations of ego-feeling and personhood, which makes it also the shroud of death (eros = thanatos) from which the sacrificer is reborn.

Variegating and enhancing our dramatic interest, even prefiguring the fulfillment of the central plot, the minor characters of the subplot also serve to develop ritual motifs that would be unbecoming as character traits (gambling, theft, violence, obscenities, and so on) in the main protagonists (except perhaps for the villain, especially Śakāra). The 'connections' (bandhu) of the sacrificial semiotics that establish homologies with the profane world are translated here into intimate human 'relations' even (imagined) relatives (bāndhava). Secrets briefly whispered between them not only speak of love and other dramatic intrigues while avoiding their repetition before an impatient general audience, but also serve as markers to the initiated prompting us to recognize the ritual nature of these unspoken deeds. Not only does the love between Sharvilaka and Madanikā mirror that between Cārudatta  and Vasantasenā, further spice is added to Act IV through naughty innuendos that exaggerate the amorous relationship between the (thieving) sacrificer and the (maid of the) courtesan into scandalous suggestions of an illicit affair between Sharvilaka and Vasantasenā, Cārudatta  and Madanikā. As he is arriving with the stolen gold to redeem his Madanikā from servitude, Sharvilaka confesses his guilt and apprehension even while celebrating his intrepid exploit. His travails through the night repeat earlier ritual motifs: avoiding homes inhabited by women, freezing himself into a pillar to escape the king's posse. His description of Madanikā's beauty when he sets eyes upon her would be more befitting of Vasantasenā: "excelling Cupid (by her charms), she seems the very embodiment of sexual dalliance (Rati)" (IV.4) Noticing their amorous mood and mutual gazing, Vasantasenā simply observes unnoticed from the window without interrupting them. When he confesses the crime committed on her behalf, Madanikā chastises him for risking his body and sullying his character, whereas her mistress observes that had the handsome fellow really sinned his mien would have looked troubled. Sharvilaka protests: "I never rob a woman of her ornaments, a brahmin's wealth, gold amassed for a sacrifice, a child from the lap of its nurse, for my mind is ever steadfast in its discrimination between right and wrong, even when committing a theft" (IV.6). He then tells her to request Vasantasenā: "Please wear in secret this ornament made exactly to the measure of your body out of love for me" (IV.7). The puzzled Madanikā protests that it makes no sense for a courtesan to wear an ornament invisible to her admirers. Upon learning that he had unwittingly stolen the now familiar ornament from Cārudatta 's home, both courtesans swoon, but Sharvilaka assures Madanikā that he had wounded no one. When she exclaims "precious (news)," the jealous thief imagines her to be relieved on behalf of her (secret) 'lover' (priyam) Cārudatta . Then follows an extended diatribe against the professional fickleness and coquettish greed of courtesans, comparing them to female snakes, in a manner more befitting the vidūshaka (Act I). Significantly, he compares them to (fragrant) flowers (or jasmines) growing in the cremation-ground (Cārudatta 's ubiquitous cloak), before exclaiming with vehemence: "O you villain, accursed Cārudatta ! Here, you cease to exist!" Madanikā rebukes the "incoherent babbler" (asambaddha-bhāSaka), with this canonical slur on the 'great brahmin', revealing that the ornament indeed belongs to Vasantasenā and had been left as a deposit. When she whispers its secret purpose into Sharvilaka's ear, her lover begins to castigate his own folly and becomes the ardent pupil of her feminine intuition: "For women are 'learned' (paNDit) by their very nature, whereas men have to learn their 'cleverness' from the scriptures (śāstra)" (IV.9). Madanikā tells him to return the ornament to its current owner, but when he demurs that this would be imprudent, she proposes the win-win resolution of becoming a 'relative' (sambandhī) of Cārudatta  to give the deposit (back) to her mistress, its original owner. She then ushers her visitor into Cupid's shrine to wait there while she announces to the courtesan: "a brahmin has come from Cārudatta ." When the incredulous Vasantasenā asks how she knows this, the (maid-) courtesan replies: "Don't I know my own connections (sambandhi)?" When he announces, supposedly on Cārudatta 's behalf. "please take back this casket, difficult to guard given the dilapidated state of my domicile," Vasantasenā's reply (to Cārudatta ) is "your honor should take Madanikā!" Only then does she enlighten the bewildered thief that his game is up, by clarifying that "I was told by the noble Cārudatta  to give Madanikā to whomever brought the ornament," as if Cārudatta  himself were bestowing Madanikā. She hails her carriage for the shamefaced liar to take away his bride-to-be. As the carriage leaves, they overhear the commotion outside as the police enhance their watches now that king Pālaka had thrown his potential usurper Āryaka into a dreadful dungeon. Forced to choose, Sharvilaka sends the carriage on with Madanikā to the home of the merchant Rebhila, so that he may proceed to instigate rebellion and liberate, through a vehement deed, his dear friend Āryaka seized like the lunar orb by the (serpentine) jaws of Rāhu (the demon of the eclipse). Through such 'connections' this episode further emphasizes the ritual significance of the (non-) 'theft' the previous night and prefigures (Act VI) the (mistaking of the) bullock cart (śakata of which śakatikā is the diminutive) as the symbolic locus of the (abortive) union of Cārudatta  and Vasantasenā, itself the erotic expression of the (future) king's dominion over his territory. It is immediately followed by the arrival of the vidūSaka (Maitreya) bringing Dhūtā's ornament to be likewise announced to Vasantasenā as "a brahmin from Cārudatta !" For the chief exception to the dramaturgic separation of the noble protagonists from their inferior counterparts prominent in the subplots is the 'great brahmin' who holds the hidden keys to the (sacred) enigma (brahma-bandhu).

Through his embryonic regression, the Vedic dīkshita not only acquired the Soma but became identical with the immortal person (purusha) within the brilliant orb of the Sun. Hence, a golden statue (the mannequin in Act III) was placed between a lotus-leaf below, the amniotic waters within the female altar (vedi), and three pierced bricks above, the increasingly subtle states of awareness leading to his veritable and universal self. The Hindu temple subsequently freezes this (inner) sacrificial drama onto the microcosm of the cavernous ‘womb-house’ (garbha-grha), where resides the often anthropomorphic image of the central divinity, topped by a magnificent spire (shikhara) aspiring heavenward so as to encompass the three worlds and heralded by a towering archway (gopuram) over its outer entrance.  Act IV of the Mrcchakatikā extends the frequent homology of the palace with the temple, which identifies the royal sacrificer with his transcendent object of worship, also to the seven-quadrangled mansion of the courtesan.  As the maid ushers Maitreya from the outermost gate all the way through to the central enclosure, the wonderstruck brahmin describes the sights that greet him in every quadrangle. Whereas Rāvana earned the privilege of jaunting on his aerial car Pushpaka only by dint of painful penance, this 'great brahmin' is regally escorted by a retinue without the least exertion on his part. The splendid gate, besprinkled with water and besmeared with greenish cow-dung, is decorated with fragrant flowers. Its soaring summit seems to aspire out of curiosity to scan the very ceiling of heaven. The jasmine garland suspended from the lofty ivory arch tosses in the wind to be easily mistaken for the trunk of (Indra's royal elephant) Airāvata. Thickly inlaid with diamonds, the golden panels of the gate are as adamantine as the chest of a great demon and torture the desires of the indigent. Forsooth, its beauty forcibly arrests the eye even of the indifferent (like himself). As he enters the first quadrangle, he also sees the gate-keeper sleeping comfortably like an erudite brahmin. Though enticed by rice-balls mixed with curd, the crows shun these oblations for their white color renders them indistinguishable from the painted plaster. In the second, he spots a monkey securely bound in its stable like a thief, while an elephant is fed by its keepers with rice-balls mixed with ghee. The third quadrangle is littered with half-read books, board-games, courtesans accompanied by their aged gallants carrying picture-boards with paintings, and skilled in the amorous arts of uniting and quarrelling. The fourth resounds with various musical instruments, including a lute played upon with nail-strokes, placed upon the lap like an indignant maiden jealous with love. Youthful courtesans sing sweetly, like bees intoxicated with the honey exuding from flowers, while being taught to dance and rehearse a drama overflowing with the erotic sentiment (śrngāra). The fifth quadrangle overpowers and excites his palate with its appetizing odors, including his favorite 'sweetmeats' (modaka), and the sight of a butcher-boy washing the entrails of a slain (sacrificial) animal (paśu), so much so that he yearns to have his feet washed and be invited to regale himself to his belly's content at this sumptuous buffet. Indeed, with its bastard pages and courtesans decked in a variety of ornaments, the mansion seems to be heaven (svarga) itself with its bevies of musicians (gandharva) and nymphs (apsaras). When queried, these bastards (bandhula) explain how—engendered like elephant-cubs by strangers on other women to be fed by alien hands in the homes of others— they are of 'unspeakable' (avācyā) virtue. The sixth is littered with rainbow-colored precious gems that jewelers are fashioning into ornaments amidst much merriment, side-glances, laughter, ever-flowing wine, and love-making, on the part of men, even those who have forsaken their family and wealth to be deserted in turn by the satiated courtesans. The seventh quadrangle is aflutter with birds of every description, including an inebriated cuckoo singing like a procuress, royal swans following lovely damsels as if trying to learn their gait, and tamed cranes sauntering about like ancient eunuchs. While happy pairs of cooing pigeons perched in snug dovecots are kissing each other, the caged parrot is reciting a Vedic hymn like a brahmin whose belly is overflowing with curds and rice.  In the central (eighth) enclosure he encounters the courtesan’s silk-clad bastard brother adorned with a superfluity of gorgeous ornaments as he totters about and flails his limbs. Maitreya asks enviously what penance is needed to become Vasantasenā's brother, but immediately shrinks from this blossoming, attractive, and fragrant Campaka tree growing in the cremation-ground and fit only to be shunned. Then he sees enthroned on a lofty seat the courtesan's pot-bellied mother clad in a garment embroidered with flowers with her greasy feet squeezed into a pair of shoes. The incredulous clown exclaims that to accommodate the expansive belly the entrance to the abode must have been built only after this she-ghoul (Dākinī) had been installed, just as is the architectural procedure for the idol of the great god Shiva. The maid chides the disrespectful knave and explains that the mother is suffering from quartan fever. The clown bursts out laughing to invoke the blessings of such a fever on his brahmin self, at which the exasperated maid tells the incorrigible wretch to drop dead. Not to be defeated, the jester scoffs back at the "daughter of a whore" that such a fat bloated belly would be better off dead, and that, reduced to such a condition by having intoxicated herself with spirits, liquors, and wines, this hag of a mother would feast a thousand jackals. He abruptly asks the maid whether they have any sailboats faring abroad for trade, only to immediately retract his question observing wryly that her breasts, hips, and thighs are themselves sailboats on the ocean of lust that has affection for its limpid waters. He confesses that in Vasantasenā's mansion, with its eight quadrangles, he has seen the three worlds all in one place and is at loss whether to call it the home of a courtesan or of Kubera (the god of wealth) himself. The maid finally ushers him into a beautiful orchard lush with flowers of every variety and rivaling Indra's (Nandana) pleasure-garden. There he sees a silken swing large enough to accommodate a woman's hips and an oblong well as red as twilight with its lilies and lotus blooms, whose luster resembles the rising sun. Before him stands an Ashoka tree that, having only recently sprouted blossoms and foliage, looks like a brave warrior in the thick of battle, clotted all over with congealing blood. When he lowers his eyes to see Vasantasenā standing below, she asks the vernacular brahmin-clown in Sanskrit to be seated. He communicates his master's message: "I lost that golden casket at gambling, in the confident belief that it belonged to me. And I do not know where that gambling master, the king's emissary, is gone." While the maid congratulates her mistress for her noble lover having metamorphosed into a gambler, Vasantasenā herself is pleased by his magnanimity in hiding its theft and loves him all the more for his white lie. When Maitreya hands over the jeweled necklace as recompense, she laughingly asks him to tell the worthy Cārudatta  turned gambler in her name that she intends to visit him the same evening. Though he expresses compliance, the vidūSaka is inwardly apprehensive of her motives and leaves determined to dissuade his master from having anything to do with the courtesan. As she hands the necklace to the maid and they prepare to leave to sport in Cārudatta 's company, an untimely storm gathers to cloud the sky and transform day back into night. 

The coupling ascetic-and-courtesan motifs that adorn the outer walls of the Hindu temple, not just at Khajuraho, beckon the devotee to realize within the mystical union of the God (linga) and the Goddess (yoni). The very terminology that the Nātya-Shāstra deploys to describe its canonical (five) ‘junctures’ (sandhi) overlaps those of temple architecture, suggesting the ritual (pre-) determinations of the psychological dynamics of the worldly play: mouth-entrance (mukha), antechamber (pratimukha), womb (garbha). Cupid's temple that the "brahmin from Cārudatta " has to enter in order to meet Vasantasenā is the womb-house where the irresistible attraction between the maternal whore and the filial sacrificer was originally conceived: Maitreya's lavish jaunt is an extravagant gloss on what the thief had experienced in burglarizing his alter-ego's rundown dwelling. Because the self is universalized through the dīkSā, the awestruck clown sees the whole world mirrored within the microcosmic body of the palatial temple, key images are drawn not only from other Acts but also (inter-textually) from other theatrical enactments by rival playwrights of the same sacrificial schema. The more outlandish images are often funhouse reflections that distort his already sinister appearance only to better reveal the true nature of the great brahmin. The Vedic brahmin (śrotriya) dozing within the entrance is the (Gandharva) 'gate-keeper' from whom the thieving sacrificer had to steal the Soma in the previous Act (III). The ravenous crows that shun the oblation-balls (pinda) resembling white flakes of mortar multiply the degraded 'great brahmin' (mahā-brāhmaNa) who (symbolically) eats (bits of) our castaway bodily sheaths even today in Benares. The virile brown monkey (vRSā-kapi of Rigveda X.86) bound to prevent thieving identifies the vidūshaka not only with Sharvilaka, but also with Āryaka fettered in the royal dungeon like the dīkshita to the sacrificial stake (yūpa). The elephant fed with rice-balls mixed with ghee will in time step outside the theater to become our revered pot-bellied Ganesha, whose crooked trunk already swings with a royal flourish from the ivory archway of the gopuram. For he cannot resist modakas and even the disgusting raw entrails of the sacrificial animal cannot stop the mouth of the carnivorous 'great' brahmin from watering. The caged parrot surely mocks our temple priests, who repeat their 'meaningless' mantras by rote before the deaf idol, on behalf of those among us more intent on the hoary secret of the all-too-maligned Veda. Such is the invisible sacred canvas, hidden so carefully beneath the fool's profanities, upon which is painted an incongruous bestiary of revelry, decadence, and lovemaking; gandharvas and apsarases frolicking in this Bollywoodian extravaganza of heaven on earth. The erotic play that the young courtesans are rehearsing is this very one in which the vidūshaka himself is acting and that we are now deciphering. Like the serpent-thief (Act III), the birds (and the bees?) that people the penultimate quadrangle are the 'twice-born' (dvi-ja) worshipping, even if only vicariously from among us unwitting spectators, at the temple of Love. Enthroned in the sanctum sanctorum is the pregnant ‘mother’ suffering from periodic fever, her feet sorely deformed by over-pronation and edema. There was no need to squeeze in this enormous idol of the 'great god' (mahā-deva) through the door-jambs for, tottering about in her vicinity and flailing his limbs, the bastard brother superfluously wrapped like a pampered toddler is the maturing embryo within the womb-house (garbha-grha), the cremation-ground from which the dikshita will be reborn (śava = shiva). The wine-drinking great brahmin invokes her pregnancy on himself because this bloated belly, a feast for a thousand grateful jackals, belongs to the androgynous divinity (Samvāhaka as God/dess in Act II), embodied by the yajamāna (re-) 'conceiving' himself. The courtesan-sailboats are the eroticized carriages (yāna-pātra) that enable this sacrificial 'embryogony' immortalized by the (toy bullock-) cart (mrc-chakaTikā), which is transformed into gold only after the union symbolized here by the 'sex-swing'. The celestial pleasure-garden, where the Hindu Aphrodite receives the precious ornament, is the menstruating womb from which the royal sun will be reborn after the pitch darkness of the stormy night. The Ashoka tree—beneath which chaste (satī) Sītā in Lanka kept pining for her Rāma and queen Māyā died giving birth to the Enlightened One—assimilates the blood spilled in the sacrifice (of battle) with the (re-) generative fluid, for this 'sorrowless' tree blooms in Indian folklore when kicked by a virgin who has just reached puberty. Only the pure (inwardly) celibate (brahma-cārin) sacrificer can undergo this dangerous embryogony without premature abortion: hence the great brahmin's strenuous indifference that, through the mouth of Sharvilaka, was a veritable diatribe against the courtesan (-to-be-wife). The yet unmarried Vedic student, who obscenely abused a promiscuous (pumś-calī) prostitute before coupling with her publicly in the Mahāvrata, was another ritual model for vidūshaka. Because this 'vicious brat' (duSTa-baTuka) through his multiple avatars embodies the inimical dīkshita-state of his alter-ego the sacrificer, his cooperation-cum-rivalry with the latter can even be expressed as (more than a mere) death-wish: Sharvilaka dispatches Cārudatta  to inexistence, the maid tells Maitreya to drop dead. The score-keeper who 'castrates' Samvāhaka and rebuffs Madanikā's imagined solicitations is likewise the (great) brahmin (gambler) performing the worship for the indisposed courtesan. Maitreya claims that no one knows where game-keeper, Cārudatta 's creditor, has gone, because he is already here before us on the king's business. And because the dīkshita returns to 'sorrow-free' (ashoka) oneness with the womb, this inner death (-wish) may be translated into killing the mother: Sharvilaka prepares to strike at Radanikā, Maitreya wishes the mother dead. This is why Act IV begins with a maid approaching the lovelorn Vasantasenā, engrossed in the fond portrait she has just drawn of noble Cārudatta  on her picture board, to inform the courtesan that her mother wants her to enter the veiled bullock-cart awaiting her at the side-door. When she asks whether her true love has sent for her, the maid clarifies that an ornament worth ten thousand gold pieces has come along with the carriage. Upon inquiring who the suitor is, she is told it is the selfsame king's brother-in-law, Samsthānaka. When the cowering maid asks her irate mistress what to tell her procuress (inebriated cuckoo in the seventh quadrangle), Vasantasenā responds: "If you wish that I should live, I should never again be ordered to such a liaison by mother." Like the 'squealing' Rāvana, who assumes the saffron robes of a renouncer (sannyāsin) to abduct the plough-born earth-goddess Sītā to the womb of Lankā, the (ritual) 'reviler' (vidūshaka) is a consummate musician who has mastered the secrets of the four Vedas. And like the great brahmin, the ten-headed demon-king, whom the exemplary Rāma beheads before consigning Sītā to the flames (satī) by accusing her 'unjustly' of infidelity, is the epic's larger-than-life projection of the royal dīkshita.

To be skin-drenched by the torrential downpour from the overcast sky of the monsoon months, the womb-season of the Hindu year, so joyously welcomed by the scorched soil of the Indian summer is to be revivified by the oceanic feeling. The Rigvedic Indra, whose cosmogonic deed seems to bear ancient memories of releasing the trapped waters from a long winter, became the storm-god riding his white elephant Airāvata and wielding the thunder-bolt (vajra) amidst flashes of lightning to deliver the pregnant clouds. These shape-shifters were yet another moving canvas upon which the world's pageantry could be inked: the ultimate Rorschach test for the vying sacrificial imagination. They were above all elephants, Indra's chargers, sucking up the subterranean waters to spray them back from heaven onto the grateful earth (V.21). This was the season for remaining at home, when forlorn maidens yearned impatiently to reunite with their lovers traveling in distant lands. Driven by the turbulence within, the abhisārikā braves the dangers of "The Storm"  (title of Act V) for the typically adulterous union with her paramour. Vasantasenā's nocturnal tryst at the home of Cārudatta , though 'legitimate' for a courtesan, has suspect connotations that shed penetrating light on the symbolic darkness that surrounds the transgressive erotics of the abhisārikā.  Apprehensive at Maitreya's delay in returning (Act IV), Cārudatta  describes the varied animal responses to the storm's onset: peacocks dancing with upraised fans, agitated swans eager to depart, white cranes trumpeting against the black mists (V.1). Dark-hued Vishnu clad in the yellow of lightning's silken robe wields his conch (V.2-3), as a river of molten silver falls impetuously from the cloudy womb (V.4). The wind scatters the swirling figures that keep (re-) embracing like mating flamingoes, amidst shoals of fish, dolphins, swans, and lofty mansions (V.5), as if the earth were drowned in the merging of sky and ocean. Like the dark Kaurava army, the storm-clouds re-enact the all-encompassing epic (mahābhārata): Duryodhana's gleeful peacock pride; defeated at dice, Yudhishthira ceases to coo; the Pāndava ('white') swans desert the forest for their year incognito (V.6). Before meeting her hosts, the Vasantasenā engages her Vita in a prolonged exchange of verses further describing the storm. Bashfully engaging in amorous sports, she is Cupid's delicate weapon causing grief to noble housewives but also the goddess of wealth Lakshmī herself (V.12). The parched frogs pelted by rain drops are drinking in the water with mud-smirched mouths; the fickle lightning darts about like a lowborn woman (V.14). Night is an angry forbidding co-wife blocking Vasantasenā's way and thundering:"foolish woman, why are you here when our lover sports with me alone, endowed with such plump cloud-breasts (V.15). With drums rumbling and banners flashing, king-cloud, rapid as the wind, discharges a torrent of arrows that obscure the moon as if receiving tribute aplenty from a weakened foe (V.17). Then follow three verses (V.19-21) comparing clouds to dark-hued elephants: enraged in rut, cowering before arrows in battle, obeying Indra's command. The cloud canopy is the gray roof and the falling torrents the surrounding walls of a house in which the whole world is sleeping bereft of all movement, unconscious of day and night (V.24). As they approach her destination, overt associations with Indra multiply and she even directly addresses the king of the gods: intensely heated by Indra's vajra, the liquefied sky seems to be falling (V.25); the sky dances with the torrents of arrows discharged from Indra's (rain-) bow (V.27); do not block my path and roar as if I had ever been in love with you (V.29); just as you falsely assumed the guise of the sage Gautama to seduce his unsuspecting wife Ahalyā, so too am I suffering the pangs of love (V.30); you cannot stop women on their way to their lovers (V.31). Finally, Vasantasenā chides lady lightning for not commiserating with a damsel like herself, siding instead with her harsh male companion, the tormenting cloud (V.32). Dazzling like the slippery gold chain on Airāvata's chest or the lamp illuminating Indra's abode, the womb of the mountain-shatterer, lady lightning relents by showing her beloved's home (V.33). The poetry becomes even more erotic after she dismisses the Vita and joins her hosts. Cārudatta  compares the raindrops dripping from the Kadamba flower perched on her ear and besprinkling the fulsome pitcher of her breast to a royal prince being consecrated as heir-apparent (V.38). As the sky weeps at the plight of the moon, tears shower through the cracks between the thickly packed clouds like lotus-stalks piercing through the mud (V.44). When Cārudatta  waxes how reddish lightning embraces the whole sky like a willful mistress cleaving eagerly to her cloud-lover (V.46), impatient Vasantasenā hugs him impetuously. Whereas the vidūshaka starts abusing the "bastardly" storm for being so uncouth as to frighten her ladyship with lightning, his friend retorts: "Let these showers pour ceaselessly for a hundred years, hurling their lightning bolts that have graced me with the tight embrace of the beloved, otherwise so inaccessible to the likes of myself" (V.47). For "blessed indeed are the lives of lovers whose bodies are pressed against the passionate bodies, wet and cool with rainwater, of their mistresses come of their own accord" (V.49). He then points out how the storm is ravaging the already precarious condition of his dilapidated dwelling: "the torn canopy is clinging somehow to its supporting pillars (stambha) but the ends of their close-bricked pedestals (vedi) have been shaken loose; the painted wall with its cracked lime plaster (cūrNa) is thoroughly drenched by the torrents (V.50). As they take shelter within, Indra's (rain-) bow appears as if the sleepy sky were stretching up its arms and yawning to reveal its lightning-tongue (V.51). For this omnicolored archway represents the totalization of the Vedic sacrificer as he dissolves his limited self within the amniotic waters of the now all-encompassing womb. The transgressive dimension of the sexual union, the adulterous passion that consumes the abhisārikā (our original Rādhā), is replaced here with the 'incestuous' connotations of the 'maternal' courtesan. The warring princes (of the epic), (imperious) elephants, (enraged) Airāvata, (promiscuous) Indra, 'auspicious' (Shree-) Lakshmī, (benevolent) Vishnu, the consecration of the pitcher-breast, all converge to assimilate their necessary union to the cyclical renewal of sovereignty. The Hindu king, who husbanded royal festivals like that of Indra to ensure the fertility of the earth, was himself reborn as her son within this sacrificial meteorology. Despite their masculine grammatical gender so amply exploited in these lyrical brushstrokes of the storm, the female clouds of monsoon India bore the rain-child, the elixir vitae, as a nine-months old embryo in the atmospheric ocean of their womb: "the first red bull, born out of the placenta (jarAyu-ja), born of windy clouds comes thundering with rain" (Atharvaveda 1.12.1). 

 The four aims of life (purushārtha) legitimized by Hindu tradition are ego-configurations stretched out between indulgence and transcendence. The aggressive pursuit of wealth (artha) secures the wherewithal for the measured satisfaction of (erotic) desire (kāma) by restraining, channeling, and 'rationalizing' the underlying libido. Commitment to the socio-religious order (dharma), in turn, ensures the relative stability of material well-being even while further relaxing the natural tyranny of sex instinct. Progressive damming, sublimation, and transmutation of the life-force, deliberately reinforced by ascetic discipline, culminates in the paradoxical possibility of transcendence through unleashing the 'barrage' as erotic consummation (bhoga = mokSa). This self-deconstruction is externalized in the public drama of the sacrificial cycle, whereby the lord of the earth generously dispossesses himself of all his ego-investments to (re-) unite with the wife-mother and uproot the (banyan) tree (aśvattha) of attachment (rāga) at its prenatal source. In contradistinction to the munificent 'protective' (pālaka) role of the king amidst his 'ordered' subjects as the 'walking' Vishnu on earth, Shiva-Rudra represents the dīkshita in both phases: renunciatory (sensuous Samvāhaka turned Buddhist monk in Act II) and transgressive (gambler Darduraka and thief Sharvilaka rushing to join Āryaka). The polarity constitutive of the erotic ascetic is expressed mythologically through the creative tension inherent in the god's androgynous union with his gambling consort, (Gaurī-) Pārvatī, Mother of the Universe. Whereas lovelorn Cārudatta  gives himself over to the sensuous pleasures of their stormy union, the inner detachment that grounds the sacrificial play is embodied by the uncouth vidūshaka: by reviling the lowly maids he is attacking the wellspring of desire. Despite all the tantalizing allures of Vasantasenā's dwelling that titillate the poor fool's carnal appetite, his great brahmin self maintains this steely resolution even within the libidinal womb of this temple (garbha-grha) of love (kāma). Though the refined Sanskrit-speaking heroine, whose stage-patron is the goddess of learning Sarasvatī herself, is assimilated to a tutelary goddess because of her vital socio-religious function, the mercenary aspect of her ritual vocation simultaneously exposes her to public censure, especially when contrasted to the devotedly monogamous housewife who ensures human reproduction, both physical and moral. Hence the peculiar benediction of the parting Vita, her chaperon, the courtier: "The birthplace of hypocrisy, deceit, treachery, falsehood, the perfidious abode of amorous sports, where the stock-in-trade is the festival of lovemaking, may you succeed in easily selling off the wares marketed by the courtesan's profession: your 'courtesy' (dākSiNya)!" Vasantasenā herself distrusts Madanikā's appreciation, at the beginning of Act IV, and dwells on their false courtesy born of unavoidable promiscuity. Maitreya returns from his unwilling errand cursing the inveterate greed and lack of courtesy camouflaged beneath her coquettish manners, polite demeanor, and derisive laughter. He feels so insulted at not being welcomed with a cup of water, let alone some dainty sweetmeats (food being the clown's stock euphemism for sexual enjoyment), that he never wants "to set eyes again on the face of the slave-born harlot." Intent on weaning his friend off his amorous folly, he informs Cārudatta  that the errand has failed, precisely because the whore had seized the jeweled necklace, the (wifely) essence of the four oceans, in exchange for her 'worthless' gold casket that they could neither eat nor drink before it was stolen. Notwithstanding his characteristic haughtiness elsewhere, even before the king, this counselor-in-love bows his head in supplication and invokes his (great) brahmin-hood to insist that the guileless merchant stay away from the courtesan, who is as troublesome and difficult to get rid off as a pebble in the shoe. The resigned Cārudatta  protests that, in any case, he has no means to win over such a demanding beloved, who can be bought only with money, though he inwardly recognizes that she can be 'bought' only with virtue. Observing from Cārudatta 's long sighs and vacant looks that these admonitions are only inflaming his passion, the astute Maitreya comments: "love is indeed perverse (vāma)!" The first thing Vasantasenā asks upon entering is: "where is that gambler of yours?" which Maitreya takes as the supreme compliment to his companion, before pointing her to the garden of dried-up trees, which is barren of food and drink. She hits Cārudatta  with flowers asking: "O gambler! do you find the evening delightful?" When the maid laughs at the brahmin's naiveté in asking what she had in mind coming in such a stormy night, her mistress cautions that he is shrewder than he seems. Vasantasenā, the maid claims, has come to find out the true (monetary) value of the wife's necklace that she has "lost in gambling believing it to be her own, and no one knows where the gaming-master, the king's emissary, has gone." When Maitreya protests that she is repeating the exact words he himself had uttered to cover up the theft of the gold and accomplish his errand (end of Act IV), she asks him take (back) the stolen casket as recompense. The fool keeps gazing at it pensively admiring its skilled (counterfeit) craftsmanship until the sarcastic maid enlightens him that they are one and the same. Cārudatta , delighted, realizes their game is up when Maitreya swears on his brahmin-hood as to its genuine identity. The improbable situation is explained through a whispered chain of secrets, to which we the audience are again not privy, suggesting that something else altogether is going on (semiotically). The destitute Cārudatta  reaches to reward the maid, the harbinger of joyous tidings, with the ring missing on his finger only to feel ashamed, but Vasantasenā loves him all the more for the vain gesture. Maitreya tells him to cheer up, laughingly asks the courtesan to return his bathing trunks in which her gold had been secured, then asks the maid, who again laughs at his naiveté, whether she intends to sleep here. The brahmin has been repeatedly warning that the 'avaricious' courtesan was expecting more by way of recompense than the meager necklace, with Cārudatta  each time replying simply that she would leave satisfied. The desire for wealth is willfully equated to carnal pleasure through the gold finery adorning the courtesan's precious body and deposited for safe-keeping in the great brahmin's codpiece. Spurning the abundant self-serving 'generosity' of the royal Samsthānaka, Vasantasenā's overpowering love is as selflessly exclusive as that of the mother for her poor, helpless, newborn bereft of all possessions. With nothing left of his own to purchase her ultimate pleasure, the sacrificer has to surrender his life-essence and his self-possession for the obscure object of his primal desire: the golden womb (hiranya-garbha) of Cupid's temple where their shared passion was mutually conceived. That this 'enjoyer' (bhogī) inwardly remains a yogī is disclosed by the playwright in his opening benedictory invocation (nāndī) of the prologue: "His bended knees the knotted girdle holds, fashioned by doubling of a serpent's folds; his sensive organs, so he checks his breath, are numbed, till consciousness seems sunk in death; within himself, with eye of truth, he sees the All-soul, free from all activities. May His, may Shiva's meditation be Your strong defense; on the Great Self (Brahman) thinks he, knowing full well the world's vacuity" (I.1). As for the thrill of Vasantasenā's fair arm: "May Shiva's neck shield you from every harm, that seems a threatening thunder-cloud, whereon, bright as the lightning-flash, lies Gauri's arm" (I.2, both Ryder translation). The blazing fire of love, kindled in Abhinavagupta's 'original sacrifice'  (ādi-yāga), is self-consuming.

Externalizing the 'shamanic' experiences of many ‘visionaries’ (rSi), the Vedic symbolic universe was a shared ‘enigma’ (bráhman often in the plural) that was collectively maintained and spontaneously (re-) created through intricate poems (rch). Until two reputed seers confronted each other in exhilarating bouts of agonistic improvisation that might be largely unintelligible to the majority of the audience, there was uncertainty as to who had better mastered the esoteric codes, their interconnections, and underlying principles. The insightful artistry of the Vedic ‘shaman’ was measured by his dexterity in articulating the nodes (bandhu) of the ordered adult cosmos (sát) back onto their hidden roots in the womb of chaos (sato bandhum asati nir-avindan). By ‘incorporating’ the recitation of hymns (rch), singing of melodies (sāman), and repetition of formulas (yajus), subsequent elaboration (brāhmana) of the (Soma-) sacrifice harnessed this semiotic system to dramatize the 'embryogony' of the twice-born sacrificer (yajamāna). The central mystery remained the transgressive act, punishable by death, of Prajāpati’s incest with Speech (Sarasvatī, Ushas-Dawn, etc.) inherited by the deer-skinned dīkshita. After the Rigvedic corpus was codified into a ‘final’ Revelation (śruti), the obligatory retention of banalized question-and-answer sessions at critical junctures of the sacrificial drama kept alive the ancient principle that the teacher-disciple relationship was to be established, and sacred knowledge acquired, within an inherently agonistic encounter. The life-and-death context was retained in the ‘philosophical’ debates of the Upanishads where the impertinent ‘over-questioner’ (ati-pracch) ran the explicit risk of his disoriented grey matter exploding out of a shattered head. The universal penchant to engage in puerile riddling, not just as brain-teasers for children, has been nurtured and generalized in Indian folklore for its hallowed pedagogic role. Fossilized in the classical sacrifice, its creative impulse has been nourished and amplified through the collegial competition of ‘secular’ poets for worldly honors at the royal courts, often against the participating king himself. Vasantasenā's imminent arrival is announced to Cārudatta  by her servant Kumbhīlaka, a playful replica as it were of the brahmin clown. The drenched messenger spots Cārudatta  in the drought-stricken orchard but, finding the gate shut, hints his presence by pelting the brahmin "jackanapes" (duSTa-baTuka) with lumps of mud as if he were a wood-apple (kapittha) tree. When his friend surmises that the culprits must be the pigeons playing on their roof-terrace (vedikā), the vidūshaka brandishes his upraised wooden staff, threatening to bring the "bastard" down like an over-ripe mango. Grabbing him by the sacred cord, the lover restrains the brahmin from disturbing his fellow pigeon dallying with his mate. Hit with yet another clod, Maitreya now welcomes the visitor inquiring why in such terrible weather. "You see, she's here" - "Who's she, who's here (kā eSā kā)" - "She. See? She." "Look here, you bastard! What makes you sigh like a half-starved old beggar in a famine, with your 'she-she-she'?" - "And what makes you caw like a crow (for the oblations as in Acts IV and X) at the Indra festival with your 'kā kā kā'  (who-who-who)?" When the perplexed clown again asks who "she" is, Kumbhīlaka proposes to enlighten Maitreya with a series of riddles. Having vowed to put his victorious foot on his opponent's head, the indignant fool gets it wrong every time and has to retrieve the correct answer from Cārudatta : "In what season do mango-trees bloom?" - "In summer, you jackass." - (Laughing) "Wrong!" Cārudatta  responds via Maitreya: "You fool, in spring, in vasanta." Kumbhīlaka: "Who guards thriving villages?" - "Why, the guard." - (Laughing) "Wrong!" Maitreya reports, this time adding the expletive himself: "The army, you jackass, the senā." When Kumbhīlaka asks him to join the two together and say them fast, Maitreya says: "Senā-vasanta." - "Say it turned around." - Maitreya turns himself around: "Senā-vasanta." - "You fool! you jackanapes! Reverse the padas (feet or words)!" - Maitreya turns his feet backwards still saying: "Senā-vasanta." - "You fool! Reverse the words!" - Maitreya ponders before finally getting it: "Vasanta-senā." He then informs Cārudatta , "your creditor is here," leaving the the bankrupt merchant puzzled, for how could he have one in the family? At which, Maitreya clarifies that Vasantasenā is at the door. When the lover professes disbelief (at his good fortune) and chides Maitreya for deceiving him, the latter calls the "jackass" over, who confirms: "Yes, she's here. Vasantasenā is here." The joyful Cārudatta  rewards the gleeful bearer of good tidings with his mantle that had already graced his mistress at the end of Acts I and II. The interpolation of this silly riddling just before their actual meeting betrays the true significance of the union of the sacrificer (cāru-datta = ‘offering to the fire’) and the embodiment of lust (vasanta-senā = ‘spring’s army’). To solve the enigma is to relive and hence commit its hidden incest. While the dīkshita answers correctly through his great brahmin proxy, the confounded clown underlines the transgressive import of these exchanges through the universally attested resort to contrary speech (inverting words and phrases, uttering meaningless sounds) and behavior (turning backwards and reversing his ‘metrical’ feet) that draw our attention to the meaning of (the courtesan and) her name. The very repetition of “who-who-who” and “she-she-she” is assimilated to (the sexual) hunger that defines the vidūshaka as a glutton across all of Sanskrit drama. Though everywhere a ‘brat’ ridiculed by suffixing the derogative particle (-ka) to the stem ‘kid’ (baTu), baTuka here underlines the regression to the maternal womb undergone by the 'infantile' dīkshita, the 'polymorphous pervert' whose 'evil' (duSTa) is plainly manifest for all to see in the royal villain, Śakāra. The English 'jackanapes', which means both mischievous brat and monkey, is most appropriate because the ugly clown is invariably assimilated to a brown monkey (kapi), whose Rigvedic (X.86) prototype is the 'mother-molesting' Vrishākapi. The vidūshaka's crooked staff was fashioned from the wood of the (bilva or) kapittha tree, associated with both monkeys and elephants. Its curd-fruit later became sacred to the crooked-trunked Ganesha, for its roundness makes it the equivalent of the modaka. When Śakāra ordered the great brahmin to repeat verbatim his vengeful pledge to Cārudatta  on how their love-triangle would be resolved by the latter's death, he threatened to otherwise crush the brat's head between the doorjambs like a rounded kapittha fruit (Act I). The vidūshaka's head, like that of a newborn baby molded by the prolonged labor of the mother's hips (door jambs of Vasantasenā's mansion?), is indeed deformed into the inverted V-shape of a crow's foot (kāka-pada). Erecting his crooked staff to fell the love-bird like a ripe mango (another metaphor for erotic pleasure) is inherently ambiguous: a murderous repudiation of sex that is in itself an aggressive phallic deed (as in Act I). 'Potty' (Kumbhīlaka) and 'prostitute' (kumbhā) are both derived from (the 'pregnant') kumbha or pot (-hole), through which the thieving sacrificer gained access to the golden Soma: their identification is complete when the male herald is rewarded with the mantle intended for the courtesan. The mother to whom we still owe our biological existence is symbolically merged with the Brahman (Māthura, the king's gambling master in Act II) to whom the dīkshita owes his spiritual (re-) birth. What the abrupt insertion of this gratuitous riddle as a comic diversion into this critical juncture of the profane play really suggests is that the entire drama, constructed artfully as an interwoven plot of speech, song, acting, and sentiment is a sacred enigma that offers the keys to its own solution, at least to those who know to ask it the right questions. The Fool remained silent a few moments to reflect because, as the clownish embodiment of the 'inarticulate' (anirukta) OM-kāra, he is that great do-nothing brahmán priest in whom all the scattered nodes of the Vedic sacrifice converged. To understand the all-encompassing storm is to comprehend our universe.

Hindu music derives from the Sāma-Veda, which elaborated and refined the tonalities of the triple-accented Rig-Vedic verses, recited around the pressing of the Soma, into melodic scales. Wordless sounds and the willfully distorted sounds of words became the privileged and pleasing medium for rendering the inarticulate unstructured (anirukta) dimension of the sacrifice. The primary cantor (udgātr) and his two assistants began their songs (sāman) with meaningless syllables such as OM and HUM that became integral components of mantra in all the (especially tantric) Indic religions. The Sāman tradition distinguished between songs still intelligible to village audiences and those sung in the secrecy of the forest, the former probably opening out to artistic improvisation (ūhā) and the latter turning inwards to be reabsorbed (ūhya) as mystical sound (nāda) into the womb of silence. The scented (gandha) Gandharva, half-masculine warrior and half-effeminate musician so tightly coupled with the dancing water-nymph (ap-saras) as to be drenched as a bisexual embryo, is the mythical projection of this esoteric Vedic milieu (Vasantasenā's fifth quadrangle in Act IV). The rudimentary scales were gradually extended, rearranged, and (re-) conceptualized into the Indian octave that continues to be rendered by classical musicians. Vocal music remained superior as the natural avenue to the innermost self, so that the outer form of privileged instruments like the lute (vīNā) were assimilated to the human body (the 'indignant woman' plucked with the nails fancied by Maitreya in Vasantasenā's fourth quadrangle). Ideally, the human virtuoso should be able to roam freely across the combined range of the vocal chords of both a man and a woman, and even well beyond. Words are reduced to and amplified by the aesthetic possibilities of the varying rhythms and melodic frequencies: even apparent noise is perceived as pregnant with meaning. The shamanic roots of Hindu music are revealed in the derivation of the seven notes from distinctive animal cries:  shadja (peacock), rishaba (bull, skylark), gandhara (goat), madhyama (heron), panchama (cuckoo, nightingale), dhaivata (horse), and nishāda (elephant). The Vedic fire altar is bird-shaped, the form in which many sacred meters, such as the gāyatrī, are also visualized, and the ‘meaningless’ recitations have been themselves assimilated to ‘primitive’ bird songs (seventh quadrangle). The Rāmāyana burst forth with the note FA (mā niSāda…= ma-ni-sa-dha?) when the compassionate soul of the ‘original’ (ādi) poet Vālmiki began resonating helplessly to the heart-rending sound of a heron cruelly deprived of her mate in the midst of lovemaking. The most accomplished and knowledgeable gurus thus appear in folklore as famished donkeys hideously braying their inimitable perfect octave or as horse-headed—kinnara (kim-nara) or kimpuruSa, literally: "is (it really) a man?"—musicians, who neigh the chromatic scale in what sounds to us like reverberating 'cacophonic' laughter. The (male) Gandharvas bore irregular onomatopoeic names ending in long (feminine) vowels such as Hāhā, Hīhī and Hūhū. By conservatively retaining the gāndharva form unchanged in the ritual preliminaries, the classical theater ensured that the free improvisation and mixing of song genres (dhruvā) in the profane play remained shaped and inspired by such sacred paradigms. Kumbhīlka bursts onto the stage proclaiming: "Listen, you humans (mānavāh)! The more it rains in sheets, the wetter my skin gets; the more the cold wind beats, the more I shake and fret." Then laughing loudly: "When I sing like a donkey, playing the seven-holed flute and seven-stringed lute, who can compare with me? Not even the Gandharva Tumburu (the horse-headed patron of Hindu music) nor Nārada (the quarrel-mongering musician of the gods)." At the beginning of Act III, Cārudatta , enters rhapsodizing on Rebhila's exquisite concert to the unmoved vidūshaka, who finds nothing more laughable than a woman speaking Sanskrit (like Vasantasenā) or a man singing in a sweet high-pitched tone. The former noisily snuffles, soo-soo-soo, like a young heifer with a new rope through the septum of her nose, while the latter seems to be mutering mantras like an old priest (purohita) wearing a garland of dried-up flowers: certainly not to my taste. Cārudatta  protests at the great brahmin's fastidiousness: richly textured, sweet, clearly articulated, laden with emotion, graceful, and charming, the music was so "beyond words" (of praise), that methinks it was some woman concealed (within Rebhila) who (really) sang (III.4). He then provides, in a single verse, a connoisseur's highly technical appreciation of the exquisite performance, which is still resounding in his heart and pervading his bodily frame (III.5). When the thief breaks in soon after into their sleep, however, it is their inner apartment that seems to be the conservatory for it is littered with instruments (drum, flute, panava, lute, etc.) and manuscripts, so much so that he is convinced that this is the home of a theater professor (nāTyācārya) that ought to be left unmolested. Cārāyana, the monkey-faced donkey-voiced Vidūshaka, who sings and dances at the king's wedding in Rājashekhara's play, Viddha-shāla-bhañjikā, is a 'reputed' master of the Gandharva-Veda. The great brahmin is actually the fastidious stage-manager, who thus participates in his own production, disguised before our eyes, as this caviling philistine. The play opens with this 'wire-puller' (sūtra-dhāra) alone in a music hall wondering where all the actors have gone, before realizing that "the home of a sonless man, one without true friends, the quarters to a fool (the vidūshaka or his audience?) are empty, as is everything to a poor man" (I.8). Having just finished the (overnight?) music concert, this (great) brahmin (Brahmā in the ritual preliminaries) had been practicing so hard that his reddened eyes are blazing like those of the gluttonous Vidūshaka (pingāksha), who represents the Agni-Soma. He immediately calls his wife to bring him a hearty breakfast for his very limbs are drooping with 'hunger' from the strenuous exercise, so much so that the whole world appears edible to his omnivorous appetite. For all sensory impressions serve as 'food' (annam) to further stoke the all-devouring sexualized fire of (Abhinava's supreme) Consciousness. The consummate union of this pregnant brahmin (gandharva) and the manly courtesan (apsaras), the asinine Kumbhīlaka sings his inimitable serenades from the inner source of his very being, the cold soaking maternal womb. Hence also, the wet cold hands with which the sacrificer-thief (Sharvilaka) attempted to seize the gold (Act III), only to leave his courtesan-wife (Madanikā) with the 'effeminate' maestro Rebhila when their ride together in the androgynous carriage was aborted for the sake of the future king (Act IV). The music we humans enjoy emerges from and ultimately leads back to the primordial 'unstruck sound' (anāhata nāda) resonating—to the dancing beat of Shiva’s hourglass drum (Damaru)—within the heart of the (incestuous) ‘original’ sacrifice (ādi-yāga). The stormy union is hence consummated under the totalizing spectrum (seven holes, strings, and colors) of the rainbow canopy to the live concert of the falling rain "resounding shrilly on the leaves, rumbling on the branches, harshly on the stones, fiercely on the puddles, like the lutes struck to the keeping of time at a musical concert" (V.52, closing verse).  This synaesthetic symphony that embraces light, touch, and all the other senses is called the ‘Bhairavian octave’ (bhairvāSTakam), in the neuter gender because of its homogenizing compenetration (sāmarasya) of the male (Bhairava) and the female (Bhairavī).  Vedic music is an androgynous orgy that climaxes in the primordial braying of Bhairava (the 'original' rāga) and the chromatic neighing of the all-pervading ('final' rāga) Bhairavī.  

The wife’s presence was indispensable for executing the sacrifice for its ultimate agent was the couple conceived as a biunity. Rāma needed at his side a golden (statue of) Sītā even after having cruelly banished her for (the mere gossip of) having succumbed to the advances of the 'great brahmin' Rāvana. Despite still embodying the womb (hiranya-garbha) from which the dīkshita was reborn, the wife had been reduced to a passive role reflecting and befitting the chaste mater familias, upon whose sequestering depended the conservation and transmission of the patriarchal tradition. Though the weaker sex was thus made subservient to the socio-religious constraints of physical and moral reproduction, Hinduism has simultaneously recognized and exalted the 'untouchable' feminine as indispensable to the spiritual regeneration of the 'twice-born' sacrificer and, implicitly, the dispenser of ultimate self-knowledge. The macho Sharvilaka comes around to recognizing in his beloved courtesan the repository of an innate wisdom that evades the lifelong scholarly exertions of the male pandit. These conflicting imperatives are expressed through the stark opposition between the plain devoted housewife, who found self-fulfillment in practically worshipping her father, her husband, and eventually her son, and the refined self-willed courtesan, who was adored by the entourage of suitors vying for her fickle attention. Torn between the ritual purity required of the highborn lady and the transgressive authenticity that Tantric soteriology found in the 'freedom' of the low-caste woman, this polarity constitutive of the brahmanical tradition was 'resolved' primarily at the symbolic level starting with their 'maternal' role within the (preclassical) sacrifice. The Mahāvrata included the public copulation accompanied by obscene abuse between a lascivious hetaera and a brahmin student (brahmacārin), who is among several ritual models for the phallic aggressiveness of the vidūshaka. The imperial Ashvamedha required the chief queen to unite with the dead horse, the (victim substituted for the) royal sacrificer, while invoking (her identity as) the 'mother' (ambā, ambikā, ambālikā), an appellative also used for the courtesan and the goddess (of learning, Sarasvatī). The effective exclusion of the brahmin housewife from equal participation in the sphere of Vedic learning and religion, as such, is reflected in her vernacular self-expression in the ‘Sanskrit’ plays, so much so that, by the time of Ānandavardhana, the sentiment of love (shringāra-rasa) was identified more with sweet (‘coarseness’ of) Prākrit than with the (not just grammatical) rigors of Sanskrit. Though the NS patroness of the heroine is Sarasvatī, it is Vasantasenā alone who converses fluently in Sanskrit even with the great brahmin. Wealthy courtesans—who trained lifelong in all the arts and taught (the privileged sons of) merchants and kings to become refined ‘gentlemen’ (ārya)—not only performed pious acts of public charity but served indispensable ritual functions in the temple and in auspicious ceremonies like weddings. The lute-playing Sarasvatī, goddess of learning, is herself the heavenly projection of the hetaera (apsaras) of the Vedic ritual. Her semiotic centrality reveals itself in her identification with the ‘fickle’ Speech (Vāc), wooed by gods and demons alike, that constitutes the Veda. So much so that Bhavabhūti, the great poet-dramatist, could refer to himself in an invocatory stanza, as “this brahmin whom the goddess of speech follows around like a whore.” Woken up late morning after their love-storm, languid Vasantasenā, for whom it is still night, again asks: "where is that gambler of yours?" When her maid replies that Cārudatta , having ordered his servant Vardhamānaka to ready her carriage overnight, is awaiting her at the rundown (jīrNa) Pushpa-karandaka garden, she is eager to feast her eyes, finally, upon the beauty of her beloved. The courtesan has not only entered the innermost recess of the domestic sanctuary but has already won over the heart of the whole household. She is still apprehensive that his entourage might be distressed (at her intrusion) but, on being told they will feel so only when she leaves, declares that she'll then be the first to regret parting. At her behest, the maid takes the jeweled necklace back to her 'sister' (bhaginī = 'born of the same womb') in love, saying: "Bought by the merits of the honorable Cārudatta , I am therefore also your slave. So please let this be an ornament around your neck."  Though Vasantasenā had reassured the maid that Cārudatta  would not be offended, Dhūtā sends back her necklace, the token of her husband's favor, protesting the impropriety and insisting that their beloved is himself her greatest ornament. Radanikā enters trying to pacify Rohasena, who has been deprived of the golden cart (of a neighbor) he had been playing with and that his poor father cannot afford. She tries to to amuse him by showing Vasantasenā, whose heart is spontaneously gladdened by this unadorned moon-faced infant. Learning his identity, the courtesan, wanting to be embraced, immediately takes him into her lap. For he resembles the father's form in beauty, as she observes, and also in character, so much so that the noble Cārudatta  finds much self-gratification in his filial reflection. Radanikā tells the sobbing Rohasena that this stranger, who attempts to allay his distress by promising a golden cart of his own, is actually his mother. When the child remains incredulous, for the courtesan, unlike his mother, is decked in ornaments, she is deeply touched by his innocence and strips them all off weeping: "Here, I have now become your mother. So take these ornaments and have a golden cart made of them." Even then he refuses to believe the weeping mother, who has to wipe away her tears before putting her gold into his clay cart, from which the (sacrificial) drama draws its (otherwise inexplicable) title. Rohasena, whose name alludes to the color red (roha) and assimilates the 'fiery' child to the morning sun, is the sacrificer, who has been 'waxing' (vardhamāna) in the darkness of her womb, which is why (the aging) Cārudatta  is awaiting her in the (since rundown) flower-garden where their love was originally conceived. Instead of wearing the pearl necklace (end of Act IV), itself the wifely ransom for her stolen gold (end of Act III), Vasantasenā equates both ornaments with the sexual favor demanded of and granted to the husband (end of Act V); instead of taking back her heirloom for the gold that had already been returned, the devoted wife insists that the courtesan keep her treasured wedlock for this very reason. Like Night and Day, the twin Vedic sisters who delivered the ruddy sun, both 'mothers' respond to the husband's and the child's distress at the loss of the gold with the exact same words: "Ah, mighty Fate! the destinies of men, uncertain as the water-drops which fall upon a lotus-leaf, seem to thee but playthings!" (Dhūtā ad III.26). Indeed, the whole play revolves from the beginning not only around the courtesan's desire to find true love as the poor brahmin's lawfully wedded (co-) wife, but around her symbolic identification with pure Dhūtā. Intended to facilitate and camouflage this sacrificial purpose, the unlikely 'bonds' (bandhu) of mutual respect, connivance, and sharing between these otherwise opposed embodiments of self-willed eroticism and patriarchal reproduction, must have already evoked a novel and nuanced sensibility that resonates especially well with contemporary spectators. The modern woman, who insists on taking (re-) possession of her own body even while freely assuming her traditional responsibilities towards partner and progeny, could well draw (more than just sexual) legitimacy and inspiration from this composite figure of the courtesan-wife. Determined and molded by preexisting ritual schemas, 'Hindu' aesthetics nurtures and generalizes a shared sense of 'propriety' (aucitya) that renders superfluous moral constraints and their inevitable transgression.

The Mother-Goddess flourished at the public crossroads, where radical Shākta tantricism, nurtured by ongoing tribal acculturation, continued to clash and merge with the orthodox rites of the brahmin householder (Act I). Midwifed by the purified semiotics of the classical yajña, embryogonic regression was effectuated through (transgressive modes of) sexual union in the Kaula rituals, thereby legitimizing a hybrid praxis that restituted as it were the 'preclassical' figure of the dīkshita. This shared universe was centered on and maintained by the sacrificer par excellence, the Hindu king. In uniting with the temple-courtesan, the god-king completely identified himself with the embodied goddess: hence, the secret identity of the 'Lord of the World' (Jagan-nātha at Puri) as the (dark) Mother (Kālī). The androgyne transcends the psychophysical dualism, the night-and-day that is constitutive of our cosmos and manifest most intimately and controllably in the alternation of the (solar right and lunar left) breaths. "The Swapping of the Bullock Carts" (Act VI) dramatizes this soteriology by identifying the doubled conveyance with "the little clay cart" (mrc-chakaTikā), the golden womb of the king giving birth to himself. While Vasantasenā mistakenly boards Samsthānaka's empty cart headed for Pushpakarandaka, the fugitive Āryaka mounts Cārudatta 's cart that was meant to take her to their preordained tryst at that same flower garden. Amidst much commotion in the city at the news of his escape, the veiled Āryaka, freed by his friend Sharvilaka while the dawning sun was but half-arisen (VI.11), appears with an iron chain dangling from one foot, like an elephant that had just broken free from its post (VI.1). Observing the decrepit condition of the house and comparing the misfortune of its impoverished owner to his own, the tearful wretch enters Cārudatta 's unlocked side-door (VI.3). Vardhamānaka arrives just then and calls for the courtesan, cautioning that the bullocks are skittish because of their new nose-rope. Anxious to escape, Āryaka knowingly enters from behind in her stead. The driver mistakes his clanking chain for her tinkling anklets and, noting the increased load, drives away only to be intercepted by two of king Pālaka's captains, Candanaka and Vīraka, intent on aborting a political revolution. Accosted, Vardhamānaka protests: "This is Cārudatta's cart conveying Mistress Vasantasenā. I am taking her to the old garden Pushpakarandaka to meet him." The ('cool') Candanaka ('sandalwood'), for whom Cārudatta  and Vasantasenā are to be worshipped as ornaments to their capital city of Ujjain (VI.14), wants to allow the carriage to pass without inspection. But the ('fiery') Vīraka ('little hero') insists that the king's business should be their first priority. Overhearing from within, Āryaka marvels how, though sharing a single purpose, the pair could be so opposed in their manner and intent, like the same (sacrificial) fire manifesting both at the auspicious wedding and upon the dreaded funeral pyre (VI.16). After going back-and-forth as to which of the two should take the initiative, Candanaka—whose inspection, Vīraka concedes, amounts to that of king Pālaka himself—enters and is entreated for protection that he grants without much ado. In a dilemma when faced with the implications, Candanaka opts for Āryaka, who is risking Cārudatta 's life by riding in his cart and is, after all, a friend of Sharvilaka to whom this turncoat captain also owes his life. He gets down uneasily saying:  "I saw the gentleman—[correcting himself] I mean, the lady Vasantasenā, and she says 'Is it proper, is it gentlemanly, when I am going to visit Cārudatta, to insult me on the highway?'"  When this 'slip of the tongue' arouses Vīraka's suspicions, his partner spins a tale about how southerners, like himself, never talk straight and, depending on their mood, use "he, she, gentleman, and lady" quite indiscriminately regardless of gender. As Vīraka insists on checking for himself, Candanaka decides to stir up a quarrel deliberately in the manner of folks from Karnataka. This takes the form of a mutual exchange of 'unspeakable' insults, accompanied by generous bouts of derogatory sign-language, as to their respective ancestries. Candanaka claims he knows Vīraka's caste (jāti) but his own noble ancestry prevents his heart from saying it aloud, "for what good will come of breaking open a wood-apple (kapittha)" (VI.21). Challenged, he alleges that his interlocutor is an expert with the scissors and other paraphernalia (of a low-born barber) catering to scrubby beards, who has somehow become the king's officer (VI.22). At which the latter insinuates that his fellow-captain is an ugly upstart hailing from a family of great drummers (untouchable tanners, VI.23). When the unrelenting Vīraka tries to force his way into the cart, Candanaka drags him back by the hair and kicks; following a scuffle, Vīraka storms off to take their case before a court of law. The rebel now instructs Vardhamānaka to declare at further roadblocks that the cart had been inspected by (both) "Candanaka and Vīraka." He hands "Mistress Vasantasenā" a triumphant sword, which suffices to reassure Āryaka, whose right-arm throbs, of his purpose being fulfilled (VI.24). Having pledged allegiance out of newfound devotion, the welcome ally also receives in return the explicit favor of the prophesied king. Invoking the protection of the divine trinity of Brahmā, Vishnu, and Shiva, along with the Sun and Moon, Āryaka's rescuer urges him to slay all his foes, just as the mighty Goddess (Pārvatī) slew the twin-demons Shumbha and Nishumbha (VI.17). As Vardhamānaka drives away, Chandanaka, who has just made an enemy of Vīraka, the chief constable and king's favorite, looks towards the back of the stage and decides to join (the erstwhile thief) Sharvilaka, whom he suddenly sees following close on Āryaka's heels. The androgyny of the unborn king has been repeatedly underlined: the chain dangling from the prisoner's foot is equated to the snapped anklets of the courtesan resounding when her rutting elephant KhuNTa-moDaka was subdued in the cosmogonic feat of sexual aggression (end of Act II); the new nose-rope on the skittish oxen, which the great brahmin had already associated with the female courtesan speaking in masculine Sanskrit (beginning of Act III), suggests the inner (yogic) homogenization of the male and female breaths; the veiled Āryaka is addressed in both genders and eventually identified with the great Goddess. Given most relief in this scene, however, is the transcending of duality, the poles between which every moment of our life wavers (vikalpa = thought and alternative), by exaggerating their opposition into a veritable conflict (sanghaTTa) that creates the rare interval through which consciousness can slip past, back into its own natural state. Foreshadowed in the 'immoral' scuffle between Darduraka and Māthura that allowed the gambler to escape into Vasantasenā's side-door (Act II) and prefiguring the vacillation of the two untouchable executioners that keeps the 'murderer' alive long enough to reunite with the 'dead' courtesan (end of Act X), Tweedledum-and-Tweedledee have indeed granted, between their very quarrelling, safe but narrow passage (back) to the garden-womb: for it is by neutralizing Shumbha-and-Nishumba that the king becomes the Goddess. Abhinavagupta equates this esoteric 'non-dual' principle to the calendrical 'equinox' (viSuvat) celebrated across the ancient world, still so in India and especially Nepal. At Bhaktapur, the central event of the Bisket spring festival, derived from the slaying of the two serpent-breaths in the royal act of sexual intercourse, is the aggressive colliding of the chariots of Bhairava and Bhadra-Kālī synchronized with the annual erection of the phallic (Indra-dhvaja =)  linga (= yūpa), followed by a violent tug-of-war between the two halves of the city for possession of (the chariot of) the god-king. This inner conflict, already inherent in the Rigvedic semantics of the term mithuna (= opposed moities), has been aestheticized in Hindu erotics into the obligatory love-quarrel: before parting, the Vita had advised the courtesan, who is already a consummate professional, to get angry and make her lover just angry enough, such that reconciliation enhances their mutual enjoyment (V.35). The ultimate aim, repeated throughout the play and revealed here (Act VI) yet again, is to break open the otherwise impenetrable shell of the wood-apple.

Caste-hierarchy was the systematic application and extension of the sacrificial dynamics, the exclusive preserve and responsibility of the brahmins, to the growing whole of a diverse society. The twice-born kshatriya (aristocrat) or vaishya (farmer or merchant) had to undergo rigorous discipline to ensure his ritual purity in order to undertake the classical sacrifice as a temporary brahmin. The primacy of the yajña, the central and structuring principle of Hindu society, was assured by placing the brahmin at the sanctified head of the cosmogonic person, protected by aristocratic hands and nourished by the thighs of the producers, the 'god-on-earth' (bhū-deva) whose feet were worshipped by the servile (śūdra) laborers (PuruSa-Sūkta, Rigveda X.90). Organic impurity, however, is not simply an extrinsic attribute imposed arbitrarily upon a social class but our inborn constitution: birth, death, excretion, hair and nail growth, sweat (even from sacrificial exertions), nature's biological intrusion into cultural existence, made temporary 'untouchables' (cāNDāla) of even the most otherworldly brahmins. Despite its purification into a semiotic apparatus withdrawn from and transcending the real world of everyday life, the paradigmatic sacrifice still remained focused on its original raison d'être: the death-and-rebirth of the impure dīkshita from the maternal womb. The manifold eruptions of bodily filth were concentrated and exaggerated into the disgusting exudation of menstrual blood which was 'irrationally' assimilated to the blood spilled by the sacrificed male victim, to suggest that the ultimate aim of the embryonic regression was (to relive) the moment of conception. Going 'beyond good and evil', the transgressive dīkshita, exemplified above all by the king, was hence not only a delinquent (gambler) criminal (thief and murderer) but also the lowliest of untouchables. The contrived quarrel between the two captains (Act VI) is an exchange of 'unspeakable' insults as to their respective ancestries: Candanaka insinuates that Vīraka is a low-born barber, the latter retorts that his fellow-captain is an untouchable tanner, who necessarily handles (the skins of) carcasses. Darduraka openly calls gambling-master Māthura, the king's emissary, a man of "perverse caste" (dur-varNa) for killing a human for a mere ten pieces of gold (II.13), provoking mutual allegations of "professional lapse" (khaNDita-vRtta), which is tantamount for these blackguards to falling from their caste (-duties). In the final scene, the condemned Cārudatta , who is escorted by two cāNDāla executioners, surrenders his sacred thread at the impure cremation-ground before this 'dead'  brahmin can be reunited with his redemptress, Vasantasenā. These mutual allegations of low-caste origins and defiling contact with impurity in the course of his embryonic regression highlight the (ritual) 'untouchability' of the king (whatever his real birth-caste). This is why this "Little Clay Cart" that celebrates the coronation of the herdsman Āryaka has been attributed by tradition to a king named Shūdraka, devoted to the practice of the Vedic sacrifice. Conversely, the (auspicious) courtesan's (otherwise polluting) menstruation, is insisted upon throughout: dripping a trail of lotus-buds as red as her mouth (Act I); indisposed to bathe and worship (Act II), assimilated to a heifer (speaking 'male' Sanskrit) through her bored nostrils (Act III); standing beneath a scarlet Ashoka tree in fresh bloom beside an oblong channel crimson with flowers (Act IV). Practiced since time immemorial by Hindu women to reduce the discomfort of the menstrual discharge and to ease labor-pains, nose-piercing—mūkutti in Tamil (mūkku 'nose' + kutti 'pierce') and nath in Hindi, since popularized through the hippie migrations into punk culture at large—draws its significance from Vedic embryogony: the deflowering of a virgin is equated to the removal of her nose-ring by the husband. The recurring motif of the pierced nostril, which renders the paired bullocks skittish (Act VI) and that the villain later inflicts on the Buddhist monk (Act VIII), signifies the androgyny (dampati) of the (otherwise 'male') dikshita through the 'homogenization' (sāmarasya) of the alternating breaths. For this exposed member of the human face is associated with the hidden genitals not only of the man, as in the 'castration' of 'goddess' Samvāhaka (Act II), but also of the woman, thus generating the 'absurd' image of the menstruating male. The inevitable polarization of the Hindu symbolic universe between the explicit model of the classical sacrifice and the transgressive valorization of impurity within the closed circles of radical (Kaula) tantricism has found expression in our dual reading, exoteric and esoteric, of the celebrated 'realism' of this entertaining drama. Because the 'promiscuous' actors had to play so many roles, including those of untouchables, they were always of the non-twice-born shūdra caste: names for an actress, such as sairandhrī, were practically pejorative labels for prostitute (which is how the the villain addresses the refined Vasantenā). Ordinarily barred from listening to Vedic recitation and learning Sanskrit, the Shūdra played a key semiotic role in the pre-classical ritual, even if only to be beaten and robbed of his Soma, or to revile the sacrifice 'enviously' from its edge, making it impossible to decide whether he was within or outside its arena. Even after the language of the gods consolidated its hold upon the world of men, the ritual qualification of being 'twice-born' was largely conflated with the cultural attainment of being a refined 'gentleman' in the honorific address of Arya. Because the sacrificial play deployed so many brahmin protagonists to creatively encode the inner meaning of the entire range of orthodox ritual life, these outcastes must have been initiated into the ancient mysteries through the alternative avenue of radical tantricism. The stage-manager (sūtra-dhāra), at the very least, must have had a profound understanding of the sacrifice to be able to craft the play according to its esoteric principles. To enact the Mrcchakatikā such that the 'joints' (sandhi) between the sacred and the profane were expertly articulated is beyond the comprehension, let alone ability, of most certified priests, who recite the Vedas by rote or perform the rituals by the rule-books (Maitreya's observations in beginning of Act III and in the seventh quadrangle of Act IV). Abhinava insists that the Sanskrit-speaking sūtradhāra be correctly addressed as an "Aryan scion" (ārya-putra) in the prologue, because this Shūdra is "initiated (dīkshita) into the great sacrifice of the Veda (in the form of) theater." This stage manager, who already personifies Brahmā in the ritual preliminaries, switches to the vernacular when he steps into 'make-believe' world of The Little Clay Cart to assume no less a role than that of the (ritual) 'reviler' (vidūshaka) and to artfully wield his signature staff, Brahmā's own crooked present to the Sanskrit theater. The obscenely idiotic 'manikin' is always addressed as 'Arya' and treated deferentially by his inseparable friend, the hero-sacrificer: for Abhinava, the Kaula initiation not only trumps its more 'constricted' (sankoca) Vedic precedent but restores the latter to all its fullness (vikāsa). In the traditional context, where the pure ritual domain remained hemmed in by a rigorous network of taboos and injunctions, such transgressive sacrality would be indistinguishable, to the uninitiated, from hedonistic acts of profanation. Like his alter-ego the 'pregnant' king, the all-encompassing clown eludes neat 'anthropological' classification: the often ambiguous ranking assigned to a caste-group (jāti) in the real-life drama of Indian society was determined not only by its degree of purity but also by its sacrificial role. Abhinavagupta's ongoing 'synthesis of Indian culture' was already prefigured by the 'great brahmin' (mahā-brāhmaNa = cāNDāla).

Cārudatta 's abrupt translocation from his decrepit home, where his son's cart has just been filled with the earlier stolen gold, to the rundown garden, where he awaits his own cart bearing the maternal Vasantasenā, is the dramatic device used to suggest that it is the 'impoverished' sacrificer himself, who is being reborn for a renewed lease on life. By occupying the seat reserved for the courtesan to adopt this very trajectory, "Āryaka's Escape" (Act VII) not only partakes in the merchant's sacrificial fate but reveals the androgynous state of the (royal) dīkshita. Cārudatta  and Maitreya are in the meantime enjoying the beauty of the old garden, comparing its trees to merchants showing off their wares (VII.1), while fretting over Vardhamānaka's inexplicable delay, perhaps blocked by other vehicles or due to a broken axle (VII.2). Just then the carriage arrives with Āryaka inside cursing the fetters that make alighting to escape on foot far  too risky (VII.3). On second thoughts, he decides to stay on to meet the 'great soul' (mahātmā), to whose virtues he already owes his life, not only to satisfy his curiosity but also because of the trust inspired by his reputed integrity of character (VII.4). Asked to help the courtesan dismount, the reluctant Maitreya lifts the curtain and observes aloud that it is Mr. (not Ms.) Vasantasenā who has arrived. As the impatient lover chides the vidūshaka for his inopportune jests, Āryaka notes that the carriage-owner is attractive not only to the ears but also to the eyes. Cārudatta  is surprised to discover this large-built stranger, endowed with bodily marks of (royal) greatness, reduced to such a plight (VII.5). On learning his identity, he instructs Vardhamānaka to remove the fetters and, fearing the royal wrath, has Maitreya eventually throw them into a well to avoid detection by the king's spies (VII.8). The grateful Āryaka declares that Cārudatta , who would rather sacrifice his life than abandon this refugee beseeching his protection (VII.6), has bound him with the even stronger fetters of love. When the vidūshaka chips in sarcastically to propose, now that condemned prisoner has been freed, that his friend take on these fetters, so that they might get going from the place, Cārudatta  damns the thought: "Fie! Peace, for shame! (dhik śāntam). After absolving Āryaka of any guilt for having sneaked so unceremoniously into his cart, Cārudatta  insists that he continue in the cart for the disabling fetters have only just been removed making it difficult for him to walk, whereas a bullock-cart would evoke no suspicions in this pleasure garden. Then follows a rapidly interwoven exchange of mutual regard between royal and the common sacrificer before Āryaka takes his leave. Cārudatta : "seek safety with thy kinsmen" | Āryaka: "I have found thee, blessed kinsman (bāndhava)." | "Remember me, when thou hast cause to speak" | "Could I ever forget my own self?" | "May the immortal gods protect thy way." | "Thou didst protect me in most perilous days" | "Nay, it was fate (bhāgya) that protection lent." | "But thou wast chosen as fate's instrument." Cārudatta 's heart remains uneasy and distressed for he has been cheated of the sight of his beloved, and he takes the twitching of his left eye for a bad omen (VII.9). To make matters worse, he is confronted with the inauspicious sight of an approaching Buddhist monk, such that they feel obliged to leave the garden by a different path to avoid meeting him. Āryaka is not to be seen again, despite the play revolving around the renewal of (Pālaka's even more invisible) kingship, because henceforth 'relative' (bandhu) Cārudatta  has willingly taken on, with the fetters, his very identity as the (royal) sacrificer. Throwing of the broken chain, like the umbilical cord of a newborn baby, into the maternal well underlines again that freedom (from this worldly prison) is to be gained by returning to the womb, which explains the great brahmin's choice of words in telling his (ritual) protégé to "(sexually) unite" (sam-gacchasva) with the fetters that have arrived instead of with the ardently desired courtesan. Whereas the redeeming possibilities of the heavenly desire (svarga-kāmo yajeta) invested in and for the sacrifice have been expressed through the endearing love between Cārudatta  and Vasantasenā, the dark side of this maternal bond, manifested in his bodily premonitions such as the twitching of the wrong eye, have been displaced onto his rival Samsthānaka, who is likewise awaiting the carriage in another part of his garden. When asked to wait a while until the disheveled Vasantasenā had adorned herself, Vardhamānaka decides to take the cart to fetch the cushions that he had forgotten (we flashback to Act VI). Samsthānaka's servant, Sthāvaraka, enters at this very moment to fetch his master, the king's brother-in-law, from the same garden but finds his way blocked by other village carts. He spots a suspicious man furtively heading off in the opposite direction upon seeing him, just like a fugitive gambler from the gaming master, and wonders who that may be. As he forces his way through the crowd, he parks at the side-door to Cārudatta 's orchard to get down and put his shoulder to the wheel of another stranded driver. Having heard the approaching wheels, Vasantasenā mounts the wrong cart, feeling her right eye twitch ominously but confident that the sight of Cārudatta  will allay her apprehensions. Upon returning, Sthāvaraka, though surprised at how heavy the cart feels, attributes this to the fatigue of his exertions just now, and proceeds anyway to the villain awaiting them at the Pushpakaranda garden. It is again at this very moment that Āryaka appears to steal into the orchard. Just as the (royal) sacrificer is equated to a thief (Act III) through the subsequent sight of Sharvilaka on the heels of (Cārudatta 's cart bearing) Āryaka, so too is he identified here with the escaping gambler (Act II). By putting his shoulder offstage to what can only be Vardhamānaka's wheel, Sthāvaraka  is trying to tell us, if we did not already suspect, that there is ultimately only a single (symbolic) cart transporting the androgynous dīkshita to his/her tryst with 'destiny' preordained by the 'perverse' logic of the Vedic sacrifice.

The deadly return to the life-giving womb is relived by the bound dīkshita simultaneously as an incestuous (re-) union and as a matricide: the individual aim of the sacrificial semiotics is to take the place of the mother and thereby give birth to oneself as a free agent no longer constrained, unconsciously, to keep repeating primal scenarios. The psychodynamics of the maternal bond is thus defined by not only irresistible attraction (Cārudatta ) but also intense hostility (Samsthānaka) that may be expressed through killing or being killed by the mother. The worldly entertainment of our 'secularized' (prakaraNa) plot allows us to have our cake and eat it: the royal villain gets to kill the 'whoring mother' while providing the beggared merchant the plausible motive to be condemned to the stake for killing the beloved. The depiction of Samsthānaka and his Vita awaiting the royal carriage mirrors the scene of Cārudatta  and Maitreya awaiting Vardhamānaka's arrival. The courtier points out the beauty of the garden, where the blossoming trees encircled by creepers are men enjoying happiness in the company of their wives (VIII.7). The king's brother-in-law goes on to compare the monkeys hanging gracefully from the topmost branches to bobbing jackfruits. When the Vita asks the "bastard" to sit on a stone slab, Samsthānaka, impatient at Sthāvaraka's delay, keeps pining for Vasantasenā, who continues to haunt him like the words of a wicked man. Blazing overhead like an enraged monkey dangerous even to look at, the midday sun (VIII.10), so tormenting the earth that the listless world has taken shelter in the shade, further inflames the villain's hunger. To keep himself amused, Śakāra breaks into songs; each time the sarcastic Vita compliments this Gandharva, the latter attributes his sweet voice to the spicy concoctions he has been consuming, including dainty cuckoo-flesh. Just then the carriage arrives and the reckless villain orders his cowed servant to drive it into the garden over the broken part of the enclosing wall. The aghast driver is relieved to find the cart miraculously intact and the oxen and himself still alive after forcing his way through. The villain peeks in and gets such a fright that he jumps down and clings to the Vita: "friend, you're dead! Inside sits a demoness who will steal us or a thief who will gobble us up." When the Vita surmises that the shadow of the cloaked driver might be the cause of this midday hallucination, the oaf entreats in vain his filial (putraka) Sthāvaraka to take a second look at the woman inside. Upon recognizing the occupant, the courtier chides the courtesan for abandoning her resplendent swan for this crow (VIII.16), whom she had already spurned, all for the sake of money or at the mother's bidding. When she divulges the interchange of carriages, the gallant tries to fool his patron outside that she is indeed an ogress and that they had better walk back home on foot for the exercise. The king's brother-in-law nods in agreement but immediately has second thoughts about the ignominy of being seen proceeding through the capital without his carriage by the gods and brahmins. Unable to transform poison into medicine, the courtier announces that it is indeed Vasantasenā, who has willingly assumed the role of the abhisārikā to join him in this pleasure-garden. The royal villain, overjoyed that she has finally come to this supreme man none other than lord Vāsudeva himself, attempts reconciliation for having offended her (in Act I). But  when he falls at her feet, the courtesan, though addressed fondly as "mother, momma" (mātah ambike), angrily kicks her (would-be) slave (dāsa) for his uncouth (an-ārya) propositioning. The perverse 'son' is furious that this precious head of his, kissed so lovingly by his venerable "mother and mummy" (ambikā-mātRkābhih) and which had never bowed even to the gods, has been so kicked by this she-jackal as if he were a supine carcass (mRtāngam VIII.19). When the servant clarifies how he had to park briefly next to Cārudatta 's orchard, the jealous royal suitor starts yelling at the born-whore to dismount, but she feels honored (alamkRtā) by his abuse at her coming to meet his rival here as an abhisārikā.  He threatens to drag her down by the hair with these two hands that had been so yearning to caress her to the tune of a hundred blandishments (VIII.20). The Vita intervenes to help Vasantasenā dismount but she stands apart. The villain, burning with anger that has accumulated since her original slight (Act I), decides to kill her. Too cowardly to do so himself, he first tries to induce the courtier to do the dreaded deed by promising him an embroidered cloak with hundreds of tassels, and to feast him with dainty meats (VIII.22). As the horrified Vita closes his ears at the thought and karma of killing this innocent ornament of the city (VIII.23-24), the villain keeps insisting, in vain, that his friend suffocate her with his cloak. With favors of gold, food, and status, he then attempts to persuade Sthāvaraka, but the upright servant likewise refuses to compromise his character despite his master resorting to blows. Sending the servant away, he girds up his loins to kill Vasantasenā. But the gallant Vita seizes the villain by the scruff of the neck and shakes his head violently as warning. The coward faints screaming that he is being killed by this dependent, whom he had nourished with meat and ghee, but who has turned enemy, now when real business (kārya) is at hand. Claiming that the proud courtesan's rebuffs are due to bashfulness before the Vita, he seeks privacy by sending the latter away in search of the servant (VIII.30). Suspecting foul play, the Vita reassures the beseeching Vasantasenā and entrusts her as a 'pledge' (nyāsena) in the hands of the villain, who readily promises to let her 'perish' (nāśena, both Sanskrit meanings are rendered by the single Prākrit word: NāśeNa). The suitor plays gallant by decorating himself with a bunch of flowers and entreating his beloved to approach, thereby fooling the old brahmin still hiding nearby into leaving for good. Vasantasenā, steadfast in her refusal, declares that every effort should be made to serve the man, whose character reveals his noble birth (kula-śīla-vān), though he may be destitute, for thereby the love (kāma) of a courtesan (paNa-strī) finds refuge in a like (worthy) personage (sadRśa-jana-samāśrayah VIII.32). Moreover, having resorted to a mango-tree she will not betake herself to a lesser (palāśa) shrub. The villain, furious at her constant remembrance even as she persists in abusing him, decides to crush the helpless woman along with the poor rival enshrined in her heart, challenging him to save her, for even the great Indra 'the royal ape' (vāli-putra, along with a jumble of other odd heroes) cannot save her now (VIII.34). As he is about to strike, Vasantasenā calls out first for her mother (mātah), despairs at dying without having fulfilled her love, then, suppressing her shameful urge to cry out aloud, keeps bowing to the noble Cārudatta . Ordering the born-whore (garbha-dāsī), still calling out the name of that same "villain" (pāpasya), to keep remembering (smara smara), he seizes her by the throat and keeps strangling until she falls unconscious. He then boasts gleefully:  "(I've killed) this wicked woman, a basket of faults (doSa-karaNDikā) and the home of all immodesty, who, her end being near, came full of love (raktā) to sport with the one who has already arrived. But why bother to glorify the valor of my arms? This breathless (nih-śvāsā) mother (ambā) has died a good death (su-mRtā), like Sītā in the Bhārata" (VIII.36). "Seeing the Pushpakarandikā deserted, I frightened her all of a sudden. Not wanting me who wanted her, the whore has been killed by my wrath unleashed. My brother and my father have missed a real treat—she, like (my) mother, Draupadī (māteva sā draupadī)—for they have not borne witness to this heroic deed of the son" (VIII.37). What we have witnessed, before our very eyes, is the matricidal reunion of the (royal) sacrificer (Āryaka = Cārudatta  = Samsthānaka = Pālaka), a qualifying (inner) exploit beyond the imagination of our 'statesmen' today.

 The 'basket of flowers' (puSpa-karaNDikā), the paradisiacal pleasure-garden where the undivided love between sacrificer and mother was conceived, is the 'basket of faults' (doSa-karaNDikā), the womb of the 'original sin' that makes a hell of life-on-earth. The 'little son' (putraka) Sthāvaraka, the bullocks, and the carriage, which was squeaking like an old hog, remain intact after forcing their way in through the bumpy narrow passage because the expected initiatic death and the dissolution of the mortal frame were inner processes, the rejuvenated dīkshita eventually escaping the primal scene of this unspeakable crime the same and only way he had come (back) in. Hence the repeated allusions to death especially in the jaws of the ogress occupying the cart, and the eroticized killing of the mother-substitute. Where the public portrayal of the moral or spiritual exemplar would be blemished by such violent and selfish notations, the death of the mother and/or the son is made incidental. Queen Māyā simply dies giving birth to the Enlightened One under the Ashoka tree. Sītā, humiliated, offers herself up to the flames after being rescued by Rāma from the island-womb of Lankā, and is eventually swallowed up by (her original identity as) mother-earth. Conversely, the golden deer—that the 'cupidity' of this perennial exemplar of the chaste wife obliges her devoted husband to pursue and kill—keeps calling out "Rāma, Rāma" as it dies. For this dharmic king par excellence is but the epic embodiment of (the redemptive mantra that is the inverted name of) Death (ma-Rā-ma-Rā-ma...), and is prefigured by the male heron whose tragic slaughter, amidst the distressed cries of its inseparable mate, called forth the pathos of the Rāmāyana from the shattered heart of the sage Vālmīki. The 'evil' Śakāra repeatedly 'confuses' the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, because he is well aware that the chaste Sītā and the polyandrous Draupadī are likewise artful projections of the Mother, who is addressed in terms (ambikā, mātRkā, etc.) that identify—at the willful cost of syntactic distortions reminiscent of Rigvedic poetry—the courtesan with the (auspicious) Goddess (Shrī). Worshipped as the terrible Bhairavī in Nepal, the menstruating Draupadī, who assumes the incognito role of hair-dresser (sairandhrī) in the womb-episode (Virāta-parvan), was likewise seized by her tresses and violated, as the royal villain had already attempted in the very first Act (I). The psychodynamics of the maternal bond is thus defined by not only irresistible attraction (Cārudatta ) but also intense hostility (Samsthānaka) that may be expressed through killing (as when Parashurāma unquestioningly decapitated Renukā or when the breast-feeding infant Krishna sucks dry the ogress Pūtanā) or being killed by the mother (as in self-sacrifice to Kālī). To rob the womb of the Soma is to become its androgynous Gandharva guardian, which is why the (maternal) ogress is also the thief (Sharvilaka), who (end of Act VI) was clinging on to the cart pregnant (vardhamānaka) with the (future) king (Āryaka). Hence, to satisfy his growing appetite, the laughing Śakāra sings in the raging midday heat of love even as the drenched bisexual Kumbhīlaka had done to herald the reunion in the midst of the rainstorm (Act V). This musical shower, the sudden release of the bound libido through the 'death' of the 'impoverished' adult ego, already disinvested from the outside world, soaks the inner 'embryo' in a voracious sexual hunger. Vrshākapi (RV X.86) is sacrificed for blatantly molesting his 'mother' Indrānī such that the coveted virility of this obscene brown monkey is transferred, amidst allusions of feasting, to his loyal companion, the royal Indra. The deformed vidūshaka, who is assimilated to a mischievous brown (kapila) monkey (kapi) in practically all the plays despite the silence of the Nātya-Shāstra, is likewise the all-devouring and inseparable friend of the hero-sacrificer protected by Indra. This simian replica of the dīkshita appears as the emblem of choice on Arjuna's banner (dhvaja) fluttering in the midst of (the sacrifice of) battle, such that one of his ten secret names is Kapi-Dhvaja, and as Hanumān, the privileged messenger bearing Rāma's ring, the token of recognition, to forlorn Sītā beneath the Ashoka tree. This is why the hungry villain not only sees the thieving monkey everywhere—hanging from the tree-tops, glaring at him as the royal sun, a princely disguise for his rival—but also eventually in himself. Vālmīki himself was a murderous robber waylaying the innocent, who started despairing when he realized that none of his kith-and-kin, the beneficiaries of his criminal vocation, refused to share his guilt and karma, and finally kept repeating the redeeming (tāraka) mantra of Death (ma-Rā) until a termite-mound (valmīka) grew around to enclose him in its womb. Though the Vedic yajña revolves around the transfer of (the above) 'original sin' onto a (animal) victim tied to the wooden sacrificial stake (yūpa), this 'scapegoat' (Cārudatta ) is unmistakably identified with the (royal) sacrificer. As the Vita returns, having persuaded the servant to come back, they come across an anonymous woman killed by a falling tree that he curses for its wicked deed. He invokes the gods to shield them from this bad omen that further aggravates his misgivings about (the fate of) Vasantasenā. When the courtier demands that his protégé return his pledge, the villain first denies the truth by claiming that she had already left after his friend and keeps spinning contradictory stories. He finally admits to having betrayed the trust, swears having killed her, and shows the listless body, as evidence of his first and foremost exploit (śūra-tvam). The servant attempts to revive the swooning Vita by protesting his own primary guilt at having brought her here thoughtlessly in the first place, while the criminal laughs that his friend too has breathed his last. The courtier laments the lost virtues, beauty, and joie de vivre of Vasantasenā, the refuge of people like him, and demands to know what purpose this embodiment of sin (pāpa-kalpa) has served by felling the sinless splendor of the city (nagara-śrī, VIII.39). When the Vita, apprehending that this depraved criminal might attempt to blame him, attempts to leave, the 'untouchable' Śakāra holds fast to his disgusted friend: "Ah you! having yourself killed Vasantasenā, where are you escaping after having pinned the guilt on me? Now I have been rendered so helpless." Promising a hundred gold pieces and a precious variety of rare coins, he declares: "Let this my transgressive exploit be common to all of mankind" (eSa doSa-sthānam parākramo me sāmānyako bhavatu manuSyakānām, VIII.40). He simply laughs when his mentor rejects his share in the crime and refuses to have anything more to do with this protégé (VIII.41). Instead he tells him to cool down, that they should step into the nearby lotus pool and sport in its waters. Hurling accusations of having killed Vasantasenā in his overgrown (jīrNa) pleasure-garden, the villain seizes the fleeing brahmin with the intention of charging him before his brother-in-law, the king. When the courtier draws his sword, the frightened villain shrinks back and lets the 'coward' leave to join Sharvilaka, Candanaka, and the other revolutionaries. He now attempts to bribe the reluctant Sthāvaraka with wearing his gold ornaments when not on public display on his own body, failing which, he sends the servant to go and await his arrival in the elephant-corniced upper terrace of his palace. Before following, he ensures that Vasantasenā is 'well (in-deed) dead' (su-mRtā), starts covering her body with his cloak, but desists upon recalling his engraved name recognizable by some noble (ārya). So he covers her with a heap of dried leaves, and decides to file a charge against his rival at a court-of-law for having enticed Vasantasenā to his dilapidated garden and killed her for her gold: "For the destruction of Cārudatta , I'll invent a new fraud (kapaTam = stratagem), as horrible as the slaughter of a (sacrificial) animal (cow) in a holy city" (VIII.44). The royal murderer's cloak of death is identical to the one, soaked in elephant-rut, that Vasantasenā had wrapped so lovingly around herself because it bore her lover's name (end of Act II). Killed by a falling tree, equated to a merchant-lover (VII.1 and VIII.7), the carcass, soon to be devoured by jackals, is the "mother" whom the great brahmin had wished dead (IV.30). By first insisting that his companions murder the beloved and then that the unspeakable crime be the common bond of our humanity, this perverse 'comedy' reveals that the 'innocent' Cārudatta  has indeed taken on our original sin, we the spectators of this Hindu tragedy.

The astonishing longevity of Hinduism has been largely the intended result of the careful incorporation within the Vedic core of its own negation. The sacrificial logic did not hesitate to replace the Shūdra reviler (apagara) with the heterodox (e.g., Jaina) monk who suddenly appears out of nowhere to condemn the priestly enterprise, thereby adding a 'theological' dimension to the inbuilt ritual (self-) subversion. The often virulent Buddhist critique from without of vital brahmanical institutions—such as scriptural authority, animal sacrifice, and caste-hierarchy—were thereby symbolically assimilated to the de-structuring vituperation (vidūSaNa) of the 'great brahmin' at the heart of the sacred drama. Such confrontational abuse was even deliberately courted and welcomed as (envious) praise (abhigara), as attested by the doctrines and behavior of ascetic (brahmin) currents like the Pāshupatas and Kāpālikas that were exaggerated (naiSThika) prolongations of the vows of the dīkshita well beyond the sacrifice proper as intended for orthodox householders. The consecrated sacrificer (Cārudatta -Maitreya) was polarized between the inner attitude, publicly valorized, of ascetic detachment and outer conduct that comprised stigmatized elements of ritual transgression (Maitreya-Śakāra). The Buddhist monk bridges these two contradictory poles: pushing the renunciatory ideal far beyond the confines of brahmanism to appear dangerously 'nihilistic' (nāstika)—the god-fearing Cārudatta  leaving the pleasure-garden takes pains to avoid (the sight of) his "inauspicious" alter ego (end of Act VII)—he is for the same reason a 'moral' eyesore to the Vedic adept of transgressive sacrality. Hindu (sannyāsin) and Buddhist (bhikSu) mendicants wore saffron robes that displayed their inner death to the world: while the sannyāsin no longer performed the sacrifice because he had already internalized its fires, the shaved head of the bhikshu was proof of his (re-) birth within the (new) dharma. The honest monk is hence caricatured into assuming the unwitting role, kicking-and-screaming, of the Vedic dīkshita. Act VIII opens with the ex-masseur-gambler Samvāhaka trespassing into the garden to wash his freshly-dyed robe in its lotus-pond. He sermonizes on the transitory nature of the world: restrain your appetite, remain wide awake listening to the drum of meditation, for these cunning thieves, the sense-organs, steal away your long accumulated religious merit (dharma, VIII.1); he surely attains heaven, who having killed five men, the woman, and the impotent outcaste, protects the settlement (VIII.2); why shave the head and face when the heart remains unshaved?  Shave the heart and the bald pate will befit you indeed! (VIII.3). Samsthānaka unexpectedly appears, threatens to crack his head like a red radish at a drinking party, and starts beating the trespasser, who seeks refuge in the Buddha. Ever since a certain mendicant had offended him, the villain bores a hole through the nose of every bhikshu he encounters before driving him like a cow. The Vita stops him from striking a world-weary mendicant wearing the red robes of renunciation, and seeks to distract his royal master to their surroundings: where noble deeds are done by the sylvan trees, the refuge of the homeless, the garden lies unguarded like the (licentious) heart of the wicked, like a newly acquired kingdom to be enjoyed, unconquered, without restraint (VIII.4). Beseeching kindness, the monk politely addresses his oppressor as "servant" (upāsaka), which the fool takes as a deliberate insult meaning barber. When the Vita clarifies that he is being exalted as a (fellow) 'worshipper' (of the Buddha), the narcissist demands even more eulogy. The obliging monk calls him "blessed" (dhanya) and "holy" (punya) that are now (mis-) taken as insinuations of being a 'materialist' (money-minded, from dhana), a 'watering trough' and even a potter, such that the Vita has again to 'decipher' the praise. When the monk explains his intrusion, the royal owner of this "best of all gardens" is deeply offended at his washing the stinking robe, all stained with stale bean porridge, in his lotus-pond where only dogs and jackals drink, in whose waters he himself, the best of mortals, has never deigned to bathe. As the "bastard" prepares to kill the wretch with a single blow, the Vita points out that the bhikshu has only just taken to the ambulatory vocation (pravrajita), evident from the clumsy manner in which he wears his robe (VIII.5). When Samvāhaka confesses to being a novice, the villain starts beating him again demanding why he did not become a renouncer from the moment of birth. As his hostage keeps supplicating the Buddha, the villain consults the privacy of his own heart, which tells him that the victim should simply drop dead. The Vita wants the monk to leave in peace, but his frivolous companion insists on one precondition: he should throw mud into water without sullying the latter or, better still, amass water into a ball and throw it at the mud. His mentor laments at the earth groaning under the weight of fools, whose thoughts and deeds are all perverse, whose bodies are like so many pieces of stone, mere tree-like outgrowths of flesh (VIII.6). The monk too starts to gesticulate cursing, which the Vita interprets as praise to the royal clown, who demands more of the same from the obliging heretic before he leaves. When Śakāra later attempts to flee from the primal scene after strangling Vasantasenā, he again risks encountering the ubiquitous monk approaching with his just washed robe. The murderer fears being denounced if seen, for the monk has turned inimical ever since Śakāra had bored a hole through his nose. So he jumps over the half-fallen breach of the enclosing wall declaring: "Here I am, flying at the greatest speed in the sky, across the earth, and through the netherworld, like (the monkey) Mahendra soaring over the Hanumat summit in the city of Lankā" (VIII.45). Samvāhaka wonders where to dry his robe: monkeys might grab it if hung from a branch, it would become dusty if laid on the ground, so he spreads it out over the heap of dried leaves. He recites again the motto of his faith (dharma) on having to 'kill the woman' (VIII.2), but begins to have misgivings about seeking heaven without first having paid off his debt of ten gold pieces to Vasantasenā. For the 'freed' slave considers himself bought by his fellow devotee of the Buddha. Just then the 'dead' woman stirs beneath the wetted heap of wind-dried leaves that seems to stretch out wings (VIII.46). Samvāhaka recognizes the ornamented hand that allayed his fear and uncovers his redemptress. The well being too far away, the filial monk lets his reddened robe drip over her when she pants for water. Revealing his identity, the ex-gambler, fans with its hem the just delivered maternal figure, who sighs that, as a courtesan, she were better off dead. Without touching the beauty, the ex-masseur preserves his vow of chastity by helping her stand upright holding on to a tree-clinging creeper. He starts leading the still wobbling convalescent to a nearby convent, run by a sister-in-the-faith, adjuring passers-by that, though they see a celibate monk and young lady together, he is (still) observing the pure dharma: "he is truly a man, who is restrained in (the exercise of) his hands, mouth, and senses; what can the royal clan (rāja-kula or court) do to or for him? the next (supreme) world is in his hands!" (VIII.47). The eroticized killing was an androgynous (re-) union with the mother, the esoteric meaning of boring a hole through the nose. Trespassing into the 'wicked' heart of this primordial pleasure-garden, to be enjoyed fully like the womb-kingdom of Lankā, the (royal) sacrificer must drop dead. Like (Shiva-) Darduraka's threadbare garment that looks better rolled up into a ball (Act II.10), the filthy robe represents the sacrificer's worn-out (jīrNa) body (Bhagavad-Gītā II.22) being (re-) immersed into the rejuvenating amniotic waters. To (re-) unite clods of water and mud is to go back even further and relive the moment of conception. The scarlet-clad monk resembles the warrior bathed in clotted blood assimilated, through the blossoming Ashoka tree (IV.31), to the menstruating courtesan. Hence, the matricide invites the Vita to sport with him in the 'defiling' pool, where he claims never to have bathed (till now). The baggy diaper confirms that the newborn has just emerged from the bird-shaped sacrificial altar (vedi, seventh quadrangle in Act IV).  By calling the brown monkey the great Indra and the summit Hanumān, the 'fool' hints at the hidden identity of the sovereign Rāma and his simian 'messenger' while affirming the universalization of the sacrificer's self as he resurrects from the uterine crime-scene. Having neutralized his five senses, it is the royal ascetic who has killed the maternal nescience (avidyā = māyā) thereby immolating the now impotent 'untouchable' ego, to assume his designated role as trustworthy protector of the body politic (grāma, VIII.2). The unwilling role of the honest bhikshu in this sacrificial 'comedy' explains why, by the end of the twentieth-century, the surviving depositaries of the secret science needed to renew 'Hindu' kingship (in Nepal) were invariably 'brahmin' Vajrācāryas.

The incestuous (re-) union was an obligatory matricide that transformed the sacrificer into the most heinous criminal. The universalizing monarch was at the same time the upholder and enforcer of law-and-order (dharma), personally responsible for meting out justice equitably to all his subjects. Ontological (invisible but common to all humanity) rather than performative (deliberately relived by the sacrificer), this original sin, which had to be confessed yet camouflaged through the devious speech invested in the crooked staff (kuTilaka) of the great brahmin, rendered the king and the highest Vedic initiates legally unfit to bear testimony in court-cases. Whereas we ordinary folk seek everyday 'justice' based on the legal conventions that govern and sustain all human intercourse, the royal dīkshita is the semiotic pivot of a transgressive sacrality entrusted with the more challenging task of ensuring the proper articulation of our 'ordered world' (sát) with its underlying, encompassing, and regenerative chaos (ásat), both external and internal (RV X.129). When these two perspectives, moral and metaphysical, clash head on in a cynical dramatization of 'criminal law', the result can only be a 'miscarriage' of justice. Having readied the courthouse, the beadle Shodhanaka avoids being seen by the approaching villain of ill-repute. Then arrives the gaudily attired Śakāra, who has just bathed to his heart's content in gardens in the intimate company of females like a Gandharva of well-proportioned limbs (IX.1). He keeps re-doing his hair: knotted, matted, flowing, curled up, let loose (muktā), pompadour, "a picturesque wonder of a king's brother-in-law" (IX.2). A larva gnawing its way out of the lotus-bulb, he has devised a great stratagem out of his predicament. Wondering where to shift the blame, he remembers the poor and hence defenseless Cārudatta  as the designated scapegoat. He enters the court of justice to lodge a written complaint and initiate "The Trial" (title of Act IX). Instead of occupying any of the readied seats, he sits down on a rectangular turf of dūrva grass. The Judge, arrives flanked by a Shreshtin (guild warden) and a Kāyastha (scribe), discussing the intricacies, difficulties, pitfalls, and contingencies of the judicial process, given the opaqueness of people's thought-processes and motives. Contending parties, swayed by self-interest and hiding their own liabilities, often speak of deeds that no one ever saw and that are far removed from the province of the the law; compounded by the back-and-forth litigation, the faults accumulate to the point of implicating the king himself in the blameful miscarriage of the law;  (IX.3). Remaining outside the law, the vengeful hide their own offences while charging others of crime that no one ever saw; partaking in the guilt of defendant and plaintiff alike, even the learned counsel are lost in sin (IX.4). Little praised, the true judge is more often the object of odium (IX.3-4). He should therefore be an expert in jurisprudence, skilled in unraveling the sly threads of fraud, eloquent, never prone to anger, equally impartial towards friends, strangers, and relatives, deliver the verdict only after careful investigation of the facts of the case, a protector of the weak, the scourge of scoundrels, righteous, without greed even when tempted with bribes, intent on ferreting out the real truth, and able to avert the king's anger (IX.5). As soon as the court opens, the villain presses his case: "I am the best of men, a human, Vāsudeva (himself), the royal state treasure of the brother-in-law (rāSTriya-śyāla)." When the aghast beadle reports back, the Judge likens his presence to an eclipse at sunrise foretelling the death of some 'great man' (mahā-puruSa), and wants the litigant to leave for there is no slot today. The rebuffed hothead threatens to complain to king Pālaka, his brother-in-law, and also to his sister and mother, to have the judge replaced. Hastily invited to make his deposition, the unpredictable fool is now confident of compelling the intimidated court to believe whatever he claims to be the case. True to his royal character, he enters announcing his own well-being while making it clear that their own happiness rests in his hands. Asked to be seated, he insists on sitting wherever he likes: feigning first to take the seat of the Shresthin or of Shodhanaka, then imposing his hand on the Judge's head as his rightful place, before resigning himself to sitting on the floor. Requested to state his case, he begins by praising the (mallaka-like) greatness of his family: "my father is the king's father-in-law, the king is the son-in-law of my father, I myself am the king's brother-in-law, while the king is my sister's husband" (IX.6). When the Judge, who like everyone else has heard it all, insists on the primacy of character over lineage, the litigant makes it clear from the outset that the king will not do anything to him even if found guilty. In his daily upkeep of the best of all gardens, rundown Pushpakarandikā, he saw—or perhaps did not see—as fate would have it, a female corpse sprawled on the ground: he recognized from its ornaments the unsuspecting Vasantasenā, the precious gem of their capital, strangled by some greedy villain. Inadvertently adding "but not by me," he quickly covers his mouth before he spills out even more. When the shrewd Judge tells his assistants to record "not by me" as the first line of the complaint, the bungler, silently comparing his (self-) undoing to a starving beggar having gulped down scalding milk porridge, 'clarifies' that he had not actually seen it happening (na nu bhaNāmi mayaiva drSTā). Asking what all the fuss is about, he rubs out the opening statement with his foot. The 'witness' deduces the cause of death from her swollen neck and the motive from her bare limbs. The Judge distinguishes for our benefit two kinds of complaints: one depends on (sustained counter-) arguments between plaintiff and defendent, the other on facts to be ascertained through his own wisdom. So they send the beadle to fetch Vasantasenā's mother, who arrives with great apprehension and is welcomed as an "old bawd" by Śakāra. Legal necessity forces the ashamed procuress to confess that her daughter had gone to the merchant's quarter to enjoy the pleasures of youth at the home of the illustrious Cārudatta . Cautioning the beadle to treat the next witness with utmost deference, the court now sends for Cārudatta , whose noble lineage and character is well-known to the king. Disadvantaged by poverty, the suspect comes fearing the worst, wondering whether Pālaka had somehow learned, perhaps through his spies, of his having been an accomplice in Āryaka's escape (IX.9). The (royal) sacrificer's matricide, climaxing in the drawn out (orgasmic) sigh of the (unwitting) abhisārikā, was a (consensual) sexual union (which is why the reviving courtesan had protested to the bewildered monk that "nothing happened here that was not fitting"). The gold ornaments that Vasantasenā had pledged to Cārudatta , only to be stolen, are her precious body that the royal mentor had pledged to the murderous Śakāra. The ever-changing (citra) wondrous (vi-citra) hairdo—ascetic (jūTaka), maidenly (bālā), coquettish (kuntalā), menstrual (muktā), royal (ūrdhva-cūDā)—of the 'preposterous' narcissist expresses the universalization (viśva-rūpatā) of the self. His 'well-proportioned limbs' (suvihitair angakaih, probably in the neuter gender) are those of an androgyne in whom are merged the musician-genies (gandharva) and water-nymphs (apsaras) sporting in all the garden-pools of the world. His 'lowly' quadrangular seat is the Vedic altar (vedi) made of cow-dung bricks bound together by dūrva grass. Whereas the ascetic dimension of the dīkshā is reflected in Darduraka's tattered rags (II.10) and the monk's plain and sullied robe (VIII), the royal pomp that concludes the sacrifice is displayed in 'gaudy' splendour (ujjvala) upon emerging from his carefree frolics in the amniotic waters. The likewise resplendent Karnapūraka, who appeared mysteriously to perform the scarcely intelligible cosmogonic deed (end of Act II), is none other than this devious 'gambler' now arbitrarily erasing the judicial 'score' with his (left) foot (vāma-caraNena) to absolve himself of any (self-) indictment. This royal 'brother-in-law' is, moreover, none other than the toddler clad in the silken cloak and decked with a 'superfluity' of ornaments in the temple-womb (innermost quadrangle, ad IV.29). The ubiquitous embryonic sheath belongs as much to the 'dead mother' who selflessly gives him  (re-) birth. What the braggart inspired by the 'megalomania' (ātma-stuti) of the Vedic Indra has been trying to tell us, is already known to the Judge on whose head he might as well be seated: 'princess' (bhartr-dārikā, beginning of Act II) Vasantasenā, the monk's sister-in-the-faith, is really the wife of Pālaka. The royal villain is (the 'evil' dīkshita role assumed by) his own brother-in-law, the king, who indeed 'saw' the (sacrificial) crime (nanu mayaiva drSTā)— that no one else really witnessed—because he committed the matricide in the innermost recess of his psyche, well beyond the wretched province of human law.

The (royal) sacrificer (Indra) underwent an ascetic regime (upper-world) before his embryonic regression to the netherworld (Varuna) to reemerge incarnating the whole universe (Brahmā). This cooperative convergence of the 'three worlds' (tri-bhuvana) to inaugurate the New Year is enacted in the cosmogonic jarjara-prayoga of the ritual preliminaries (pūrva-ranga). Flanked by the Assistant-Hero (nāyaka) bearing Indra's weapon (jarjara) on his right and the Vidūshaka bearing Varuna's (womb-) pot (bhrngāra) on his left, the Brahmā-Sūtradhāra (stage-manager) takes three strides across the stage, before wielding the jarjara in a triumphant gesture that dispels the 'demonic' (asura) forces of darkness beyond the boundaries of the ordered cosmos. The inevitable tension between the upper and nether worlds is dramatized instead in the following 'three men's talk' (trigata) among the same mythico-ritual protagonists transformed into stage-characters. The Assistant-Indra makes positive remarks intended as an audience-friendly preface to the sacrificial undertaking that is the play proper, only to be 'refuted' (vīdūSita) by the incoherent, enigmatic, ridiculing interrogations of the Clown-Varuna. The reconciliatory Sūtradhāra-Brahmā, standing in-between, hence intervenes to (re-) integrate the 'deconstructive' challenge and thereby reinstate the constructive propositions made on behalf of everyone, including the playwright and royal patron. This triadic dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis provides the structural framework of the play, which is why the trigata is projected throughout the play as dialogic interactions between multiple sets of three personages, whose roles keep shifting even while maintaining the underlying dynamics. The crucial, and entertaining, difference within the worldly plot is that the vidūshaka now represents Brahmā, bearing the latter's crooked staff (kuTilaka), and hence cooperates with and backs the hero-Indra in the accomplishment of his life-aim (puruSārtha), just as the brahmán-priest labors on behalf of the sacrificer and the purohita (chaplain) succors the king. As the embodiment of the totality, however, the deformed clown still comprises a nether-worldly, oppositional, 'evil' dimension that keeps subverting the hero's best-laid plans through a characteristic 'bungling' attributed quite 'innocently' to his folly. The all-encompassing AUM is the patron ('protector') of the Fool because this sacred syllable is as 'meaningless' (anirukta) as his nonsensical utterances, without which the sacrificial drama would not realize its plenitude of meaning. The triadic dialectic is so central to Hindu political theory that the entire plot of the Mudrārākshasa revolves around how the 'wily' (kuTila-mati) Cānakya, brahmin minister to Candragupta Maurya, tricks his implacable opponent Rākshasa ('demon' = Varuna) into willingly assuming his own integrative role (Brahmā) beside his docile royal protégé (Indra):  'demonic' Cānakya (brahma-rākshasa) is, in all seriousness, the 'great brahmin' of this 'historical' intrigue. In the romantic comedies (nāTikā), which afford little scope for a villain, this 'counselor in the scientific art of love' (kāma-tantra-saciva) displays his contrariety by keeping the hero's (overpowering) passion in check as illustrated here by Maitreya. The specificity of the likewise 'political' Mrcchakatikā is that the ontological perversity (ásat) underlying the vidūshaka's comic interventions has been displaced onto and gleefully exaggerated by the babbling Śakāra, while the 'genial' Maitreya (from mitra = 'friend') tacitly colludes with the royal villain to 'frame' his unsuspecting protégé into the (pre-) designated role of sacrificial victim. When the odds are stacked up against Cārudatta  such that the Judge is obliged to evict the accused from his privileged seat in the witness stand, he cries out first to his inseparable friend: "Oh Maitreya, what has befallen me today? It is sure to end in my destruction. O my wife, born in a spotless brahmin family. O Rohasena, ever rejoicing in vain distractions (para-vyasanena), you certainly do not see my calamity" (IX.29). He wonders why Maitreya, whom he had sent to get news of the missing Vasantasenā and to return the gold ornaments she had deposited in Rohasena's toy cart, tarries so long. The faithful companion now appears carrying the ornaments with which she had adorned the child before sending him to the (real) mother, for "it was fitting for her to freely give but not for us to accept the precious gift." On the way, he meets the distressed Rebhila, learns that his dear friend has been summoned to the law-court, and decides to inquire there first: "Cruel and oblivious to the next (supreme) world, I...a woman, or rather (pure) Eros (rati) herself, without any qualification...the rest (the verb) will be filled in by this person (the villain)" (IX.30). Pressed further, Cārudatta  whispers in his ear and, when asked who says so, points out his accuser: "this wretch (tapasvin), the instrument of fate." Though the accused has already told the court she went home, nobody will believe an impoverished man. The indignant Maitreya chides all the gullible 'gentlemen' (āryāh) present for believing that this once liberal philanthropist—who had endowed their capital Ujjain with monasteries, gardens, temples, tanks, wells, and sacrificial posts—would allow poverty to drive him to such a vile act for a mere trifle. He turns his wrath on the royal brother-in-law challenging the "bastard, profligate libertine, slanderer, buffoon, monkey decked in gold ornaments" to repeat the charge before him: "Just wait, you son of a bawd, just wait!  I'll shatter your head into a hundred pieces with this wooden staff, which is as crooked as your heart." Not to be outdone, the angry villain appeals to the courtroom: "Listen ye gentlemen! My quarrel or lawsuit is with Cārudatta . Why then should this crow-foot-pated fellow break my head into a hundred pieces? No way, you slave-born 'mischievous brat' (duSTa-baTuka)! Maitreya raises his wooden staff and repeats his words, whereupon the furious Śakāra starts beating him. As the two 'revilers' (vidūshaka) pound each other, the ornaments drop down from Maitreya's armpit to be recognized by Śakāra as belonging to the wretched (tapasvinī) woman. The motive having been so readily provided, the magistrates bow their heads as the villain triumphantly points to the framed culprit. "Falling at such a time (from your person), as my fate would have it, this array of ornaments will fell me as well" (IX.31). Maitreya urges him to tell the truth (about the gems having been deposited for Rohasena), but Cārudatta , already shorn of his beloved, simply despairs: "The clouded royal vision can no longer perceive the truth of this matter; to speak out would only invite further humiliation and an inglorious end" (IX.32). The fatal (re-) alignment of (astrological) forces is best reflected in the Judge's pithy lament: "By the side of Jupiter, powerless and opposed  by Mars, has suddenly appeared this other (malefic) planet (graha), like a smoke-trailing comet (ketu = descending lunar node = serpent's tail)" (IX.33). When the magistrates tell Vasantasenā's mother to identify the ornaments, she claims that, though similar, they are not the same. The scoundrel accuses the "old bawd" of having betrayed their identity with her eyes though denying it with her tongue. When the magistrates insist, she admires their (counterfeit) workmanship but pretends not to recognize them. The sympathetic magistrates see a way out here for the accused, but honest Cārudatta  refuses to claim their ownership that he attributes to Vasantasenā. When pressed to account truthfully for their provenance, however, he refuses to elaborate, such that the villain charges him with cunning deception. Innocent and born into a sinless family, the despairing lover, for whom life has become meaningless without Vasantasenā, veritable 'gem of a woman' (strī-ratnam), has no longer any heart to defend himself (IX.37-38). Now that the penniless Cārudatta  himself has cleared all doubt, Śakāra insists on capital punishment. As the guards arrest him, the weeping mother, who insists that she is, after all, the real plaintiff, begs mercy for her "dear child" and wishes him long life (dīrghāyuh). The real culprit shoos away the meddlesome "born-whore" and leaves the stage congratulating himself for having inflicted on the scapegoat something in-deed so worthy of himself. Maitreya's 'innocent' betrayal of his dear friend and alter ego, already prefigured by his proactive role in the theft of these jewels by the otherwise unwilling Sharvilaka (Act III), makes him the deliberate accomplice of the royal villain, whose vengeful words he had repeated verbatim and so "craftily" to his trusting protégé (end of Act I). For the time-honored role of the (rāja-) purohita, whether Hindu brahmán or Buddhist Vajrācārya, was to regenerate the realm and ensure the longevity of the king, by teaching him to die well before his time.

Karma, the inexorable law of cause-and-effect, that has provided the ethico-religious framework regulating outer conduct and inner attitude within the Indic world is the generalization of the (belief in the) efficacy of 'ritual action' (karma) that constitutes the Vedic sacrifice. Since experience within our individual life-spans often does not corroborate the expectation that meritorious efforts be rewarded and vicious inclinations be punished, such 'injustice' is attributed, especially at the popular level, to the unconscious deeds of multiple past lives. The law of karma is thus translated into the doctrine of reincarnation (punar-janma) and the human imperative of directed effort (puruSa-kāra) has to be supplemented by the recourse to unrelenting Fate (daiva) that expresses the inscrutable will of the gods (deva, from same root div- to 'play' or 'gamble'). Because the sacrifice is universally centered around a ritual murder that amounts to voluntary suicide through a substitute victim, the dramatization of its 'perverse' logic into the 'karmic' language of human justice inevitably 'fatalizes' The Trial. On the way to testify, Cārudatta  is confronted at every hesitant step by portents of his impending Fate. As the slaves of the law keep summoning, a raven croaks hoarsely; my left eye twitches violently; evil omens that leave me dispirited (IX.10). A crow perched on a withered tree faces the sun while casting its left eye on me, confirming a dire calamity (IX.11). The astrological symbolism here is of the Sun (radiant self) falling under the debilitating shadow of his inimical son, the ravenous Saturn (shroud of death). Coiled asleep across my path with its swollen belly, a kingly serpent, its luster black as antimony, suddenly fixes its eye on me and darts forth enraged baring its quivering forked tongue and four white fangs (IX.12). The premonition of this Martian serpent, whose (astrological) tail (ketu) will soon clinch the fate of the Jovian hero (IX.33), was prefigured in the (comparison of the preying courtesan to a) frog-hungry black (female I.22) snake intent on swallowing a mouse. Though the (mother-) earth is not wet and slippery, I keep stumbling; my left eye throbs again and again my left arm quivers; another (ominous) bird of prey (śakuni) keeps screeching (overhead); all hope is fled for everything bespeaks a most cruel death (IX.13). Invoking the gods for safety, Cārudatta  marvels: "With ministers drowned in deep thought for waters, attorneys for waves and shells, spies waiting in line for sharks and crocodiles, the noxious (himsra) refuge of elephants and horses, teeming with garrulous pettifoggers for (scavenging) herons, harboring clerks for serpents, with its shores ever-eroded by political maneuvering, this palace of justice is a veritable ocean infested with murderous (himsra) denizens" (IX.14). To top it all, he knocks his head while entering: my left eye throbs, the raven shrieks, the serpent barred my path, may the gods guarantee my well being (IX.15). Impressed by his noble countenance and candid demeanor, the Judge is immediately convinced of his innocence, for the external form never betrays the inner character (IX.16). When he is offered a seat with courteous deference, the plaintiff angrily protests at legal procedure granting such "unrighteous" privilege to a woman-killer but haughtily resigns himself. Vasantasenā's mother silently congratulates her daughter's choice for bestowing her youth and openly wishes that "my son live long," but Cārudatta  hangs his head in shame when the Judge probes into his (intimate) relationship with the courtesan. The villain accuses him of concealing the money-motivated murder out of shame or cowardice, but remains confident that the king will not let the truth be suppressed (IX.17). The embarrassed lover blames youth, rather than his character, for his (degrading) intimacy with the courtesan. When the Judge insists that the course of justice, however obnoxious, requires that he tell the truth without prevarication and reservation (IX.18), the accused asks with whom his lawsuit lies. As the royal villain arrogantly claims this honor and repeats his charges, the wronged Cārudatta  responds that litigation with this 'blabbering' (asambaddha) fool would be most unbearable. Pressed further regarding her whereabouts, he claims that Vasantasenā went home, but Śakāra keeps insisting that he lured the unsuspecting beauty, adorned with hundreds of jewels, to the Pushpakarandaka garden where he strangled her with the noose of his arms. Cārudatta  calls him an "incoherent babbler" (asambaddha-pralāpin): "Your lying face, though not drenched by the sky-borne waters of the rain-cloud, darkens like the blue jay's wingtips and loses its luster like the lotus in winter" (IX.19). For the incredulous Judge, to impute a crime to Cārudatta  is like weighing the Himalaya, king of mountains, swimming across the ocean, capturing the wind (IX.20); he repeats, aloud, his initial observation on how inner rectitude is impressed upon external form (IX.16). The plaintiff protests such partiality in a legal proceeding, but the Judge tells the "fool" (mūrkha) to get lost: "You, a (lowborn) commoner are presuming to explain the (inner) meaning of the Veda and yet your tongue does not fall off; you are gazing steadfastly at the noonday sun and yet your eyes are not struck blind; you are thrusting your hand into the blazing fire and yet it remains unscathed; you are maligning Cārudatta 's good name and yet the Earth does not swallow you whole (IX.21). Having given away the undreamt treasures of the ocean to leave behind only its mass of waters, how could this great man (mahātmā), the unique abode of virtue's gems, commit such a crime resorted to only by cowards?" (IX.22). Reinforcing this sentiment, the mother tearfully recalls how the poor merchant had compensated the theft of the gold deposit with a jeweled necklace that was the essence of the four oceans, and curses the villain for imputing his own baseness. Just as Cārudatta  is confessing his ignorance as to whether Vasantasenā returned home on foot or in a carriage, in dashes the enraged Vīraka to lodge his own complaint against Candanaka. Nursing a bitter hatred for his fellow captain, for the humiliating kick, he stayed awake brooding till it somehow dawned (IX.23). He recounts the incident and, in response to the Judge's query and to the plaintiff's glee, clarifies that the closed cart belonged to Cārudatta , that its driver had claimed he was taking Vasantasenā to the Pushpakarandaka to sport there with its owner. The Judge is distraught: "Shedding its pure light, the moon has been eclipsed by Rāhu (ascending node = serpent's head); the clear water has been muddied by the falling in of the banks" (IX.24). At the court's behest, the police-chief rides off to verify the crime scene and returns to confirm that there is in fact a dead woman being devoured by jackals. The Judge begins to despair: "The more acutely this case is investigated, the more complicated it becomes; alas, the threads of evidence mesh together well, but my judgment staggers like a cow stuck in the mud" (IX.25). Cārudatta  reflects to himself: "Just as bees swarm around the flower at its first blossoming to drink the honey, so too, do a man's troubles multiply through his vulnerabilities in a time of calamity" (IX.26). When the Judge insists that he confess the truth, the accused merely responds: "When a perverse soul, blinded by passion and intent on slaying another, whose virtues inflame his jealousy, testifies falsely prompted by his inborn evil nature, are his lies to be accepted instead of being investigated (IX.27)? I, who would never blight a creeper's beauty to pluck and gather its blossoms, how could I ever grab a weeping woman by her long tresses, shining darkly as the wings of bees, and slay her?" (IX.28). Samsthānaka forces the magistrates to demonstrate their impartiality by evicting Cārudatta  from his seat of privilege, such that he now sits on the bare ground. Dancing in joy at having shifted (the burden of) his evil deed onto another's head, the royal villain usurps his seat and asks the accused to look him in the eye and confess to the murder. It is in this framed moment of dire helplessness that Cārudatta  (repeating IX.27) inwardly calls for Maitreya. Caught within the pincer of its head (rāhu) and its tail (ketu) of the judicial serpent, the unsullied moon find itself eclipsed within its belly. Like the lowly 'sin-eating' mahābrāhmana, who officiates at funerary rituals, the 'great brahmin' had already been assimilated to a crow cawing for the oblations (piNDa, of flesh) at the Indra festival, itself the public exteriorization of the Vedic sacrifice. Despite his full knowledge of the royal villain's devious machinations, the scapegoat prefers to look upon him as the instrument of the mortal fate that the sacrificer has willingly assumed. Sacrificial 'justice' is based on the ontological assumption that we are all born criminals.

Man is defined by Vedic 'anthropology' as the only (animal) victim (paśu) that is also capable of duly offering the sacrifice. Though violence in deed, word, and thought was otherwise taboo for the brahmins, the revealed injunction (vidhi, also another name for Brahmā as 'Fate') ordained the regular immolation of (the animal substituted for) the (cosmic) 'man' (puruSa, RV X.90). Hence the (astrological and other) portents that in Act IX presage the destruction of a "great man" (mahā-puruSa) or "great soul" (mahātma). More than a ritual murderer, the consecrated sacrificer was thereby obliged to commit the most heinous transgression in traditional Hindu society, which is why the royal villain assimilates his 'deceitful' plot (kapaTam) to scapegoat Cārudatta  to a willful desecration "as horrible as cow-slaughter in a holy city" (VIII.44). The 'inviolable' fusion of the brahmán and the maternal cow (go-mātā) is itself the symbolic precipitate of the sacrificial ideology, for the embryonic regression and rebirth of the androgynized dīkshita was mediated by the semiotic machinery invested in the 'womb' of the bráhman (as distinct from his biological mother): the obligatory 'matricide' was hence necessarily a brahmanicide. This dialectic of 'transgressive sacrality' underlies the systemic complicity between the brahmanical law-books that prescribe the most 'terrible penance' (mahā-vrata) for the 'out-casted' brahmán-slayer and the spiritual praxis of the 'untouchable' Kāpālika adepts of the brahmanicide Bhairava. Through the mouth of the 'innocent' Cārudatta , the play hence incriminates the entire palace of justice as being imbued with murderous (himsra) intent disguised as judicial procedure (IX.14). This overarching sacrificial ideology could never have survived, much less consolidated its hold over the (pre-Islamic) subcontinent, if not for its ability to recruit ambitious and enterprising political upstarts from whatever caste and transform them into dharmic kings who, whatever their own personal sectarian (even 'heterodox') proclivities, championed the 'orthodox' Vedic socio-religious order. Constituting a single biunity with his (Brahmā) vidūshaka, the (Indra-) hero (nāyaka) of the Sanskrit theater, though outwardly conforming to his 'aristocratic' (kSatriya) social identity and remaining deferential to his priestly purohita, is himself the 'great brahmin' (mahābrāhmaNa): the 'untouchable' dīkSita offers up his body to the gods such that his rebirth is tantamount to a 'universalization' embracing the entire body politic and, in principle, the whole cosmos. In Katmandu, this is expressed through the symbolic overlap between the annual Indra festival centered around the royal palace and the festival of (Pachali) Bhairava celebrated primarily at his 'peripheral' open-air shrine (pītha) to the south of the capital. When the Indra pole (dhvaja) is felled at the end of the royal festival it is carried in funerary procession to the cremation-ground to be burned in the perpetual flame of Bhairava before being cast into the Bagmati river, the Nepalese Gangā. Conversely during the annual Pachali Bhairava festival, there is a procession from the pītha to the royal center that culminates in the buffalo-victim being sacrificed, in the presence of the (Virgin) Goddess (Kumārī), right in front of the palace-gate. Every twelve-years in a ritual officiated by a 'brahmin' Vajrācārya, there was an exchange of swords (khaDga-siddhi) between the Nepali king and the androgynous Bhairava or Bhairavī (separate cycles, but both wear the same costume) incarnated by a low-caste Buddhist gardener, followed by the universalization of his 'body' (politic) through the cycle of dances performed by these gardeners (mālā-kāra) across the realm. Represented here by the imprisoned Āryaka awaiting his doom in the royal dungeon, a heavy chain still dangling from his foot, the (self-) sacrificing king may be also considered, not just ironically, as the (willing) 'victim' of this preexisting 'criminal' ideology that legitimizes his rule and establishes (the eventually 'mythicized' pedigree of) his dynasty. Though the magistrates decide on Cārudatta 's guilt upon discovering Vasantasenā's ornaments, the actual punishment for her murder depends on the king. They dispatch Shodhanaka with the caveat that (the authoritative law-code of) Manu has ordained that a brahmin, though a heinous criminal, is not to be killed, and that Cārudatta  therefore be banished from the realm with his property intact (IX.39). However, Pālaka's cruel sentence is that the condemned be taken in public procession to the accompaniment of drum-beats to his impalement at the southern cremation-ground. Because he killed Vasantasenā for a paltry sum of money, her gold ornaments should be tied around his neck, as a warning to others that such an offence will be visited with the same disgrace and punishment. (The self-indicting) Cārudatta  surprisingly blames the very court that has shown him so much sympathy—partiality to the point of extending loopholes that he chose to decline—while seeming to absolve the unrighteous tyrant against whom is already brewing a revolution, in which he is after all a de facto accomplice: "Hurled into the fire of such judicial quandaries by their (ministerial) counselors (mantrin), the protectors of the earth (mahī-pāla) are indeed reduced to a pitiable plight (IX.40). By such white crows who bring disgrace upon the king's administration, thousands of innocent souls have been and are still being killed" (IX.41). Maitreya, requested to convey a final salute to the mother and to look after the son, asks how the tree could be nourished when its very roots have been cut. But Cārudatta  protests: "The son is the bodily substitute of men who have crossed to the other world. So please bestow on Rohasena that precious affection that you have borne for me" (IX.42). When his dear friend in perpetuity despairs at life in his absence, Cārudatta  simply insists that he wants to be shown Rohasena. The Judge orders the beadle to get rid of this "brat" (baTu) and to charge the untouchables (cāNDāla) with the execution. Again invoking the 'great brahmin' to explain the dire calamity that has suddenly befallen him (IX.29), the persecuted hero curses all his prosecutors as he resigns himself to his fate: "If you had proved my guilt instead through poison, water, or scale, my body today would have well deserved the saw; but killing me, a Brahmin, relying simply on the allegations of a foe...with sons and grandsons you will now surely go to hell" (IX.43). The implacable villain, who had conveniently left the courtroom just before the sentencing, is himself the royal 'brother-in-law' behind-the-scenes, who insists (contrary to Manu) on the death verdict. The brahmin victim, who must march with the 'stolen' ornaments hung around his neck (but without a crown of thorns) in solemn procession to his calvary at the southern cremation ground is none other than the royal "monkey decked in gold" who had usurped his privileged seat on the witness stand. The 'confusion' as to whether these gold ornaments are 'really' the same or indistinguishable 'counterfeits'—a question that had already perplexed Maitreya to the amusement of the maid in Act V—is simply a (cryptic) 'disclosure' (IX.34) that they are ultimately the soma, the 'immortal' life, promised by the sacrificial death. The 'vulgar' (prākRta, low-caste) fool, who could look directly at the blazing midday sun without being blinded, as if it were (just) an enraged monkey (VIII.10)—like the ominous crow that casts its left eye on the doomed Cārudatta  (IX.11)—and later demands that the accused confess looking him directly in the eye, is able to interpret the Veda without his tongue falling off (IX.21) because the king, privileged above the rest of his caste (including most brahmins who parrot the scripture), has been initiated into its true meaning. The innocent victim's 'blood-libel' and indiscriminate curse upon his judges—which would amount (despite the reversal of roles) to Jesus, the Lamb of God, cursing the House of Pontius Pilate instead of the High Priest at the Jewish Temple—might seem prima facie an indictment of the sacrificial ideology that would impale him (even if not on the Cross) for an ontological 'crime' that is, after all, (as the royal murderer himself had insisted) "common to all humanity" (VIII.40). Ultimately, the white crows are those of us, not just among the spectators, who keep legitimizing the killing (and not only in 'just' wars) of thousands upon thousands through 'rationalizations' doctored to preserve our 'humanist' self-image.

The Vedic brahmin (agni-hotrin) kindled and nurtured (the god of) fire (= consciousness) Agni (roha-sena  = 'ruddy warrior') as his son, who in turn—as the funerary fire, the 'eater of corpses' (kravyād)—gave his progenitor birth into immortality: the child is the father of the man. The embryonic regression inwardly transforms the adult sacrificer into the infant (baTu) he once was, his own enemy, a 'polymorphous pervert' (duSTa-baTuka) through whom he is 're-born' to a fresh lease of life. While this 'filial' (self-) reproduction is translated, within the framework of patriarchal succession, into the idealized father-son (Cārudatta -Rohasena) bond, the brunt of the (royal) dīkshita's evil was taken on by his alter ego, the brahmán-priest (purohita), whose hidden transgressive dimension finds comic expression in the vidūshaka. Since all three roles are but facets of the single sacrificer projected as distinct 'persons' onto the (ritual) drama, such notations (contrariety, death, etc.) are found, at least in a disguised manner, in all of them. Though he eventually entrusts the care of (his own 'postmortem' life through) his son to his 'great brahmin' friend, Cārudatta 's choice of words in invoking Rohasena (and Maitreya in the same breath) "ever rejoicing in futile and malicious injury towards others" (para-vyasanena, IX.29) immediately anticipates the 'treachery' of the overgrown 'brat' (baTu), who is shooed away at the end by the scandalized Judge. Conversely, the death of the 'infantilized' sacrificer was already expressed in Act I where the 'chilled' Rohasena was to be covered with the jasmine cloak of death after the flame accompanying the sacrificial offering (bali) for the mother-goddesses snuffed out. Both Rohasena and Maitreya offer to be executed in Cārudatta 's stead in Act X, which begins with his life being compared to a lamp running out of oil. This sacrificial triad of upright father, devoted son, and loyal mentor finds its inverted reflection in the murkier relations between royal villain (Śakāra), coachman servant (Sthāvaraka), and contemptuous companion (Vita). Samsthānaka keeps addressing (Acts VIII and X) his indentured chauffeur mockingly as "my little son" (putra-ka) for, by driving the maternal courtesan in the villain's bullock-cart to the pleasure-garden, Sthāvaraka substitutes for Rohasena, in whose cart she had just deposited all her gold ornaments. The 'apparition' of the demoness-thief, the cart's inexplicable occupant, is attributed to his filial silhouette. Ordering, cajoling, and bribing—especially through the privilege of donning his royal jewelry—his stubborn 'son' to kill Vasantasenā, is yet another way of underlining that her murder at his own hands is in-deed a matricide. Sthāvaraka, who had just 'died' forcing the cart through the narrow entrance of garden-womb, will again revolt against his sadistic 'father' in the final Act (X). The (Agni-) purohita embodies the infantile dīkSita who (re-) 'fathers' the sacrificer: their relative status is likewise marked by a tense ambivalence that borders on hostility. While the secular monarch, the pivot of the temporal order, is subordinated to the pure brahmán—the repository of Vedic knowledge who submits only to the jurisdiction of king Soma—the 'god on earth' (bhū-dêva) nevertheless depended on his aristocratic (kSatriya) and agriculturalist-merchant (vaiśya) patrons for protection and livelihood. Though degraded by close association with the court and sharing in the inevitable 'sins' of his royal patron, the 'great brahmin' still affirms his 'precedence' (puro-hita = 'placed before' oneself) at every opportunity. Always on familiar terms, the king typically addresses the Fool as 'dear friend' (priya-vayasya) and puts up with his remonstrations in good humor. When Vardhamānaka arrives at the Pushpakarandaka garden and Cārudatta  requests Maitreya to help 'Vasantasenā' dismount (Act VII), his friend retorts: "have her feet been bound by chains that she can't get down by herself?" When Āryaka reveals himself in her stead, it is Vardhamānaka whom the merchant now tactfully asks to remove the chain. When the inseparable comrades return from the concert at the beginning of Act III, the servant Vardhamānaka brings water, offering to hold the vessel while Maitreya washes Cārudatta 's feet. The indignant Maitreya protests: "Hey friend! this bastard wants to hold the water and make me, a brahmin, wash your feet," and is assuaged by Cārudatta , who proposes that his 'noble' (ārya) friend pour the water while the servant washes his feet. Cārudatta  then instructs him to wash "the brahmin's" feet as well, and this time the Fool protests: "What's the good of water for my feet? I'll have to roll over again on the bare ground like a beaten ass." Vardhamānaka observes: "Ārya Maitreya, you are indeed a brahmin!" The latter responds: "Yes, like the (harmless and despised) dundubha among serpents, so am I a brahmin among brahmins," but the amused servant insists on washing his feet as well. The complex hierarchy beneath the apparent 'equality' between the sacrificer and the brahmán priest is in this way both expressed and 'resolved' through a joking relationship.  Despite jealously guarding his rank and prerogatives against the least hint of encroachment, the gluttonous brahmin freely eats humble pie to ensure the wellbeing of his sometimes errant protégé. Seeing the futility of all efforts to dissuade his lovelorn friend, Maitreya is reduced to imploring: "This Brahmin that I am bows down, falling on his head, that you desist from further involvement with that courtesan" (start of Act V). While the hero (nāyaka) and his vidūshaka are characterized by mutual deference, tact, and ultimate commonality of purpose, the friction underlying this 'parasitic' relationship between patron-and-officiant is exaggerated and parodied in their mirror inversion: the incorrigible villain (prati-nāyaka) and his reluctant mentor. Hence this otherwise uncalled-for scene, where the royal 'brother-in-law' addresses his Brahmin courtier (viTa, rake) as supreme (parama-) guru, worthy of the greatest respect, most intimate confidence (abhy-antaraka), and precedence in all matters, who should therefore be the first to inspect the interior of the miraculously unscathed (womb-) cart. As the Vita seeks to oblige, the frivolous tyrant reprimands the old Brahmin for his presumptuous arrogance and reclaims the right, as the owner of the vehicle, to get in first. When the Vita protests that he was only doing his master's bidding, Samsthānaka insists that the parasite should have declined and yielded precedence, such that the baffled companion is instead obliged to fawn: "after you, my master!" When his mentor subsequently swoons at seeing Vasantasenā's lifeless body, Śakāra chuckles: 'Well, well, master is dead!" And when the murderer, promising him all manner of gifts, attempts to shift the blame, the brahmin finally decides to severe the bond: "Stop laughing and feel sorry. Fie, a curse upon such friendship that debases and humiliates! May I never come into contact with you again" (VIII.41). For by enjoying the largesse of his patron in the form of (obligatory and obliging) 'gifts' (dakSiNā), the officiating brahmán priest 'consumed' the sins of the sacrificer: the deformity of the vidūshaka has been inherited, in all its detail, from the brahmin (of the Ātreya clan), who took upon himself the impurity of the royal dīkshita as he emerged from the purifying bath (avabhrtha) at the end of the (imperial) horse sacrifice (aśva-medha). Which is why the laughing (anti-) 'hero' immediately tells his (erstwhile) mentor to "cool it" and play with him in the filthy lotus pool. The villain's Guru—who had remained from the beginning inwardly partial towards Cārudatta , favoring his courtship of Vasantasenā over the sexual harassment from his own royal patron, and finally throwing in his lot with the other (revolutionary) side—is the mirror-image of Maitreya, who 'inadvertently' betrays his own noble master. Hence the only encounter between them, when Maitreya interrupts and 'thwarts' Śakāra's attempt to rape the 'Mother' (Vasantasenā-Radanikā), begins as a hostile confrontation and is immediately transformed into complicity (Act I). The ritualized regulation of the 'sociological' contradiction inherent in the caste-system, the contest for preeminence between kSatriya (or vaiśya) patron and brahmán officiant is, at the same time, the external dramatization of the 'psychological' polarization of self: the consecrated (dīkshita) sacrificer (Cārudatta -Śakāra) regresses to the womb (Vasantasenā and her mother), becomes his own enemy, commits matricide that is simultaneously brahmanicide, and is reborn as his own son (Rohasena-Sthāvaraka), through a ritual process that is mediated by the brahmán-purohita (Maitreya-Vita). 

The developmental distance that separates the early embryonic condition, no longer accessible to consciousness, and the extroverted self-awareness of the adult ego is represented within the (mystic) 'neurophysiology' by the polarization of the spinal cord stretched out vertically between the 'root foundation' (mūlādhāra) and the cerebral neocortex that orientates our way through life. Regressive access to the 'water of life' is therefore typically expressed through the mytheme of decapitation: the human head is replaced by a 'demonic' (horse-, elephant-, or other) animal counterpart that divulges the secret of the Soma. In Kāpālika praxis, the ascetic adepts of the brahmanicide Bhairava consume their food, assimilated to 'immortal' nectar (amrta), from a (brahmin) 'skull' (kapāla) that serves as begging bowl. Modeled on the initiatic death, the Hindu funerary rites assimilate the (victim-) corpse (śava) to the dīkshita (śiva) such that midway through the cremation the skull is cracked (kapāla-kriyā) with a bamboo staff to 'liberate' the life-force, transforming the chief mourner (typically the eldest son) into a homicide (patricide). The spinal column is suddenly collapsed such that its two poles are symbolically merged: the (inverted) skull is assimilated to a (womb-) pot (which is likewise shattered). The regression could be achieved not only through a combination of yogic restraint of the extroverted senses and the affirmation of 'autonomy' (svātantrya) through tantric violation (aggressive and/or sexual impetuosity), but also through sudden insight into the ultimate meaning of the symbolic (upper-worldly) order (sát) as being rooted in the womb of chaos (ásat). The unexpected (self-) realization (aham brahmāsmi) of the riddle of existence during the enigma-contest (brahmodya) always comes at the cost of 'losing' one's head: the dire threat of the overconfident (ati-pracch) questioner's (sclerosed) gray matter exploding into a hundred pieces is at the same time a tacit promise to the sincere  open-minded seeker of (self-) knowledge. The spinal trunk is moreover assimilated to an inverted banyan (aśvattha) tree, with roots deeply entrenched above and branches growing downwards here below, that must be hewed down at its very roots with the axe of non-attachment by the true knower (as opposed to mere cantor) of the Veda (BG XV.1-4). This is the (deliberate) uprooting that the great brahmin (secretly) wishes in his 'lament' (end of Act IX) for his dear friend, condemned to death for 'matricidal' murder: the sacrificial stake (yūpa), measured to the height of the sacrificer, was hewn from and assimilated to a ('maternal' shamī) tree. The judicial deus ex machina of the wicked falling tree, discreetly assimilated to a charitable merchant-lover, that killed (an anonymous woman mistaken for) Vasantasenā, assimilated to a clinging creeper-mistress, not only confirms Cārudatta 's (symbolic and ontological) implication in the crime but sheds further light on the ritual significance of Śakāra's matricide. Maitreya thus raises his (phallic) staff to shatter Śakāra's head only when Cārudatta  has been stripped off his (presumed) 'innocence' through the discovery of the dead body and only after the villain has usurped his protégé's privileged seat. The 'crookedness' (kuTilaka) of this gesture intended to reveal the 'perversity' of the heart lies in the identification of hero and villain within the single figure of the consecrated (dīkSita) sacrificer. Through this transgressive gesture, the great brahmin, whose crow-foot pated (kāka-pada) skull is deformed like that of a newborn baby, delivers before the public gaze the hidden gold treasured within the maternal womb, which is why he his finally dismissed as a 'brat' (baTu) by the contemptuous judge. Located at the perineum where it is said to govern (excretion and) sexual reproduction, the 'root bulb' (mūla-kanda) is also represented by the phallic radish (kanda-mūla). As soon as the villain apprehends the Buddhist mendicant, he threatens to crush his head like a "red radish (rakta-mūlaka) at a drinking party (āpānaka)" (Act VIII), The embryonic regression towards the moment of birth, and eventually the moment of conception, is also experienced as a 'sexualization' of consciousness and is often (though not necessarily) induced by the orgiastic practices of the left-handed Kaula rites. The cremation-ground image of Shiva copulating with the terrible Goddess standing over his supine corpse (śava) is a mythical projection of the actual practice and experience of Kāpālika and Aghori adepts. Maitreya's decisive intervention, befitting a brahmin-dog guarding its own kennel, to 'thwart' the concerted rape (Act I) is actually its consummation as suggested by his ambiguous exchange with Radanikā as to who is being humiliated and by whom. When the 'great brahmin' (mahā-brāhmaNa), who cannot distinguish right from left (wrong), raises his crooked staff to batter the offender's head like a dry bamboo, the Vita, his counterpart in the opposing trio, drops his sword and falls at his feet for mercy. Though paraphernalia and terms of address such as the (crooked) staff, (great) brahmin, deformed (crow-foot) head, (evil) brat, (brown) monkey, (rounded) sweetmeats, (all-devouring) hunger, (hard-shelled) fruit, and so on, are prescribed by the dramaturgical treatises and/or by convention, the actual references to them are rarely gratuitous for they clarify the hidden meaning of the immediate interaction or even provide the semiotic keys to parallel episodes elsewhere in the play. Immediately upon the departure of the brahmin Vita, reconciled with the 'great brahmin' through mutual recognition so as to be now accused of complicity by his own ward, Śakāra thus addresses Maitreya as a "crowfoot-pated wicked brat" (kāka-pada-śīrSa-mastaka duSTa-baTuka). The significance of the (fallen) sword with which Śakāra had threatened to slice the head of his "Draupadī" and its preceding role in the inversion of norms is made apparent by the 'foiled' rapist, who grasps the weapon by its wrong end before he slinks away from the murky scene of this outrage: "Like a jackal pursued by squealing dogs and bitches [in rut?], I seek the safety of my lair, bearing on my shoulder this unsheathed sword having the skin-color of the radish and (that was only just) reposing in the scabbard" (kośa-suptam, I.53, cf.I.27 for Vasantasenā as the jackal pursued by a pack of dogs to which Maitreya seems the latest addition). Śakāra had earlier addressed the courtesan as the "casket of lust" (kāmasya mañjūSikā, I.23): the (now) 'unsheathed' (nir-balkalam) sword had been 'sheathed' in her treasured 'vulva' (kośa). The phallic sword plays the same cosmogonic role in the hands of the Newar Bhairava-dancer as does Indra's vajra in the ritual preliminaries to the drama and the iron bar that the mysterious Karnapūraka, nourished so tenderly on the courtesan's rice-balls, wields to strike the rogue elephant in the final scene of Act II. The ingenious 'mistaking' of Radanikā for Vasantasenā by the gang of three (and vice-versa by Cārudatta ) serves to implicate the complicit maid and the great brahmin in the scandalous (Kaula) 'orgy' (melapa) being 'celebrated' on their very doorstep. Maitreya and the Vita agree not to 'distress' Cārudatta  with news of this 'humiliation' and the violated Radanikā, true to her name, obligingly ('bites' and) keeps her lips sealed. Embodying Cārudatta 's own dīkshita aspect, the vidūshaka alone, the unavoidable intermediary in all the transactions involving the treasured Soma (even receiving the wife's jeweled necklace as his own dakSinā before offering it to the courtesan), enacts all these 'comical' transgressions and enjoys blanket immunity on account of the 'minority' (baTu) conferred by his presumed folly. While the ritual context and meaning of the villain's evil-doing remains unrecognized without elaborate exegesis, the sacrificer's innocence, goodness of heart, nobility, and purity of conscience are thereby carefully preserved throughout the play. The Hindu 'unconscious' is not so much an abstraction—with its psychological, sociological, and linguistic axes—to be deciphered by the external ('Indological') gaze from the behavior of the dramatis personae, but the carefully staged 'performance' of a precise self-understanding that has its hidden 'supra-conscious' roots in the ontogeny of the individual and the phylogeny of the species.

The (divine) 'Mother' whom Hindus worship is a constitutive psycho-genetic inheritance most proximately embodied but not exhausted by the biological mother. Represented in myth and ritual by the (amniotic) waters, the original state of fusion between the embryo and the womb intrudes into present adult awareness through the oceanic feeling, which is accompanied by (intimations of the) loss of individuality and oneness with the whole universe. The Vedantic (self-) realization of the absolute Brahman, which spells the death of the 'individual' (jīva) consciousness, is hence often expressed through metaphors of ephemeral raindrops darting about on a waxy lotus-leaf or rivers flowing (back) into the indivisible ocean (samudra). The rectangular Vedic altar (vedi), which was equated to the generative organ (yoni) and the womb (garbha) through the placement of a lotus leaf, was thus conceived as lying atop, surrounded by, and encompassing the four oceans. Upon the leaf was placed the gold plate, representing both agni (fire) and soma, that the sacrificer wore around his neck during the dīkshā. Like butter, the immortal soma was retrieved from the watery depths through a process of 'churning' (manthana)—-term also used for the generation of agni through friction—a central cosmogonic myth that was the primary theme of a dramatic genre (samavakāra) that had long become extinct. Such regressive techniques inevitably release all the accumulated psycho-physical toxins before the subconscious surrenders the precious pearls from its depths. Protected by the sacrificial armor, only the ascetic Shiva, the mythic projection of the dīkshita, can safely consume this vicious poison (halāhala), and even then his wife, the Goddess, has to intervene by almost strangling the compassionate blue-necked (nīla-kaNTha) god before it descends further down his throat. Not only had the royal villain been sporting androgynously in the ubiquitous waters of the lotus-pool, he seats himself upon arrival on (the vedi formed by) a square turf of dūrva grass (Act IX). The schemer immediately discloses the embryogonic framework for the 'miscarriage' of justice that he is about to engineer by comparing himself to a larva gnawing its way out of the lotus bulb. The already apprehensive Cārudatta  likens the court to a boundless ocean, eroding the shoreline, whose 'noxious' (himsra) inhabitants are ever conspiring to deceive and kill. The consummation of his love had been likewise drowned within a torrential downpour that had fused sky, earth, and sea into a seamless watery expanse (Act V). This union had been ushered in by the great brahmin striking out murderously with his upraised staff at the male bird dallying with its mate in the overhead dovecot. Earlier the thief had sprinkled the floor of Cārudatta 's home with water before 'robbing' the great brahmin of the gold. This is the context within which the procuress-mother, who had all along been insisting that Vasantasenā sell her body to the highest bidder, undergoes a sudden change of heart and elevates the wifely pearl-necklace (ratnāvalī), eulogized as the essence of the four oceans, above the arrayed worth of her own daughter's ornaments (as Maitreya had been insisting already in Acts III-V). Just as the courtesan's gold is equated to the immortal soma by explicitly questioning its identity each time it changes hands—from thief to courtesan and back to Cārudatta , from Maitreya through the villain back to her mother—so does the pricelessness of the wife's necklace reveal its true significance as opposed to mere jewelry. Dhūtā's insistence that her (de facto rival and) future co-wife keep the mortgaged heirloom even after the stolen gold had been restituted serves only to highlight this maternal role of the courtesan-wife. Symbolically, Vasantasenā herself is the 'pregnant mother' whom the irrepressible vidūshaka had wished would drop dead to provide a feast for a thousand jackals (IV.30) and who now keeps addressing the despairing lover as "my dear son" for whom she ardently wishes a complete span of life, in much the same manner that when alive she had 'adopted' Rohasena and generously bequeathed him her gold (start of Act VI). Abandoning the mercenary streak that would spell the death of her daughter (Vasantasenā's 'premonition' at the end of scene 1 of Act IV), the self-sacrificing 'mother' now embraces her (future) son (-in-law) with a love that almost condones her murder. But the Vedic sacrifice, even when enacted internally as an embryonic regression, is a technically sophisticated (even cesarean) 'operation' of which the living repository is the brahmán-priest. Interrupting his errand to return the golden casket to Vasantasenā, Maitreya's 'unexpected' appearance at the court is a detour occasioned by his 'chance' meeting with the 'androgynous' Gandharva maestro, the merchant Rebhila, with whom the 'infatuating' (madanikā) courtesan was now staying (end of scene 2 of Act IV): through his aggressive mediation, it is as if the maternal courtesan (mātrkā) herself were 'delivering' the Soma to the villainous dīkshita. The term for the 'armpits' (kakSa-yoh, dual), in which the thief was obliged to warm his cold wet hands before seizing the outstretched gold (Act III), already meant 'hiding place' in the Rigveda or 'inner recess' and is used to highlight that its referent is "the most concealed part of the human body" (Monier-Williams dictionary). The same treasure now falling from Maitreya's (usually feminine) 'girdle' (also kakSā), practically into Śakāra's lap, serves to underline the implicit process of rebirth from the bráhman as the womb of the sacrifice. The sacrificial meaning of the circuitous transactions involving the jewelry might have been even better illustrated by the semantics of the term kukSi, had it not been already problematic since the Rigveda (typically applied to Indra and likewise in the mysterious dual: kukSī) thus making the reference unintelligible to contemporary spectators: belly or abdominal cavity, interior of anything, womb, cavity in general, cave or grotto, valley, ocean-cavity such as a bay or gulf, and sheath of a sword (kośa above). Ultimately, this pregnant 'great brahmin' represents the androgynous sacrificer—Cārudatta  intent on (re-) uniting with Vasantasenā—taking the place of both parents to give birth to himself as a truly 'autonomous' (svatantra) consciousness, an esoteric principle already expressed in the Shatapatha Brāhmana (Part 3, VII.4.1.14, 9) through the notion of 'self-government' (sva-rājya). The 'big-bellied' (mahodara is the name of Ravana's vidūshaka in Mahādeva's Adbhuta-DarpaNa) Ganesha has borrowed many of his traits, starting with his ravenous appetite, from this (supposedly) 'stupid' clown of the Sanskrit theater: the golden soma is expressed in all his dramas through the 'stereotyped' craving for rounded sweetmeats (modaka). The Mrcchakatikā transitions from the prologue with the stage-manager inviting Maitreya to graciously accept the obligatory offerings from the ritual feast that his wife has been preparing. The play proper thus begins with the vidūshaka lamenting those times of Cārudatta 's prosperity, when he fed day and night on modakas, emitting savory effusions of breath (the loud burping through which appreciative Hindus convince their hosts they have indeed had their fill). Seated on the threshold of the inner quadrangle and surrounded by hundreds of dishes, the satiated  connoisseur delighted in poking his dainty fingers only to shove them aside, like a skilled artist dabbing all over his palette, the classic iconographic portrayal of our 'great lord of the hosts' (mahā-gaNapati) indulging his palate. By introducing himself in this self-depreciating manner while bringing the embryonic sheath of death-and-rebirth for his friend, the hero-sacrificer, this great clown of a brahmin, with his crooked staff, is telling us to worship the elephant-trunked 'Remover of Obstacles' (vighna-vināyaka) at the very beginning of our undertaking, exemplified by this play, transformed thereby into a sacred yajña.

The ultimate aim of the embryonic regression is to relive the moment of conception, the spermatozoon's forcible penetration of the ovum wall, their tantric fusion being depicted by geometrical diagrams (yantra) as the sacred union of Shiva as a (white) 'drop' or 'point' (bindu) and Shakti as a (red) seed (bīja). Vedic cosmogony thus depicts Indra's phallic vajra as triumphantly piercing through an enveloping force of resistance (vrtra), often personified by a scaly dragon (ahi = 'snake'), to release the waters of life and other inaccessible treasures. (Ahi-) Vrtra is also represented as (a snake enveloping) an impenetrable peak, which reappears in subsequent Hindu mythology as the Krauñca mountain pierced by the lance (vel in Tamil) of Kārttikeya, the patron god of the burglar who forces his entry to steal the golden soma (Act III). The just released ovum is also a clod of earth bobbing on the (primordial) waters before stabilizing itself (becoming affixed to the wall of the uterus), which is expressed through the mythological conceit—a tale narrated to Hanuman precisely while he is flying to the island-womb of Lanka—of the originally flying mountains being forced to settle on and stabilize the earth after their wings were clipped off by Indra's vajra. The miniaturized globe is again dragged down, along with the Vedas, by a 'golden-eyed' (hiraNyākSa) demon to the ocean bed to be retrieved with the tusk of the boar-snouted incarnation (varāha) of Vishnu, who then marries the rescued earth-bride. Many tribal myths trace the founding of their human settlement to a clod of earth floating downstream from the source before becoming affixed to the river bank at their current location. Across the belt stretching from the Nile delta through the 'land of the two rivers' (Mesopotamia) to the Gangetic plain, the annual flooding transformed the high ground of the urban settlement into the primordial mound of archaic cosmogony. By flowing back northwards in Benares, mother Gangā, who was believed to be menstruating when muddied by the monsoonal overflow, attempts to return to her own source at the 'mouth of the cow' (gau-mukh). Such universal projection of embryogonic regression onto sacred geography was integrated, within the Hindu context, into the schematics of the Vedic sacrifice. Just as the dīkshita and the brahmanicide had to retrace the motherly Sarasvatī river back to her source (plakSa-prasravana), likewise the skull-bearing Bhairava, the mythical projection of the brahmanicide dīkshita, was absolved of his heinous crime by dipping in the menstruating Gangā at Kapāla Mocana during that propitious 'fish-womb' (matsyodarī) conjunction, when Benares was reduced to the primordial mound by her backward flowing waters. From the (inverted) esoteric perspective, the brahmanicide is precisely what renders the moment of conception accessible to the transgressive dīkshita: the 'terrified' Indra takes refuge in the primordial waters or deep inside a lotus stem after smiting Vrtra, because the latter is often (implicitly) a brahmin, like his other victim, his soma-drinking purohita, ('tricephalous') Trishiras-Vishvarūpa (of 'universal form'). The 'impenetrable' ovum membrane is represented in Hindu ritual by the hard-shelled fruit of the wood-apple, which refers both to the bilva (bel in Hindi) sacred to Shiva, with its trifoliate leaves assimilated to his trident, and the kapittha. Newar virgins reaching puberty are ceremoniously married (ihi) to a bel, hence to Shiva himself as their first husband, and can never be widowed, despite the death of successive husbands, as long as the fruit remains whole and intact. The kapittha (kapi = 'monkey'), often confounded with the bel, is called by various significant names such as wood-apple, monkey- (which would include the vidūshaka), elephant- (hence sacred to Ganesha), or curd- (which fills the belly of the great brahmin) fruit. The crooked staff (kuTilaka), with which the vidūshaka strikes out at objects of sexual desire and threatens to break heads, was hewn from the wood of a bilva or kapittha tree (or from bamboo, which is what the funerary priest uses for the kapāla-kriyā). The cracking of the skull, enacted in later Hindu worship through the breaking of an husked coconut by either striking it with a thick blade or simply smashing it against the ground in front of the idol, is thereby assimilated to splitting the ovum. The sexual dimension becomes overt in Hindu mythology, where the execution of the sacrificial victim is overlaid with the transgressive theme of (attempted) rape. The popular pilgrimage to the Vaishno Devi shrine (Jammu, Kashmir), for example, is modeled on the itinerary of the 'evil' Shaiva ascetic Bhairava-nātha pursuing for nine months the pure goddess, who had refused to succumb to his lascivious advances during his 'propitiation of the virgin' (kumārī-pūjā). This disciple of the yogi Gorakhnāth chases her through a narrow womb-cave (garbh-joon) and is decapitated at the summit, the sinner's dying repentance transforming him into her foremost devotee. Here too we find the ubiquitous (Bāna-) Gangā, which spouted forth when the Goddess fired an arrow (bāNa) into the ground to quench the thirst of her servant, the 'heroic long-tailed monkey' (Langoor Vīr), and where she washes her disheveled hair. This is the mythico-ritual  background, taken for granted by the initiated among the audience, to the great brahmin's threat to smash the skull amidst the double-entendre of the (villain's attempted) rape of the menstruating tutelary 'goddess' (Act I). Uttering his dire threat of fatal vengeance in a court of law, the jealous Śakāra orders Maitreya to repeat his words verbatim loudly and 'craftily' (sa-kapaTam) before Cārudatta  such as to reach his own ears while seated back at the dovecot-shaped terrace of the royal palace: he threatens otherwise to crush the great brahmin's head between the door-jambs like a rounded (gulika) wood-apple (kapittha). When Kumbhīlaka resorts to an unconventional method to attract the attention of this 'wicked brat' (Act V), Maitreya likens himself to a fenced kapittha tree pelted with lumps of earth (as when urchins steal forbidden fruit). Śakāra's own head would be the wood-apple, though not mentioned explicitly, that the crow-foot pated vidūshaka attempts to break into a hundred pieces at the pivotal court scene (Act IX). The 'wicked' male bird dallying with its mate in the overhead dovecot that Maitreya rushes to strike down with his upraised staff like a ripe mango (Act V), just before the consummation of the lovers' union, thus represents the present Cārudatta  and the absent Śakāra seated in his dove-cot terrace, both hero and villain being merged into the single figure of the dīkshita. The semiotic glossary provided by Maitreya in his marveling description of the courtesan's womb-mansion (Act IV) describes its seventh quadrangle as populated by pairs of happy pigeons, perched comfortably in snug dovecots and engrossed in exchanging kisses: in their midst, a caged parrot reciting Vedic hymns, like a brahmin whose belly is stuffed with rice and curds, a funny reflection of the modaka-obsessed vidūshaka himself. When the heart of the fickle villain orders the Buddhist monk to be killed unless he flings together a clod of mud and a lump of water so that they fuse to form a homogenous (sāmarasya in Tantric parlance) mass, this is his own 'preposterous' manner of revealing that his matricidal dip-in-the-pool to follow is meant to trigger an embryonic regression to the moment of conception. The semiotic basis for this 'perverse joke' may be found in the assimilation of the spreading lotus to the primordial waters and a leaf thereof to the floating earth, incorporated within the construction of the fire-altar as prescribed by the Shatapatha Brāhmana (Part 3, VII.4.1.14, 8-9). The villain's first and foremost royal feat that his mother (and family) was cheated of witnessing is the same 'birth of the hero' that the flamboyant iron-bar-wielding Karnapūraka had boasted of to his maternal Vasantasenā, the cosmogonic breakthrough of smiting her favorite elephant as impenetrable as a mountain peak (end of Act II). Beneath the linear progression of the narrative plot is the spiraling repetition of the same primal scene, heaping layer upon semiotic layer to clarify and amplify its multidimensional meaning that would otherwise amount to delirious 'nonsense' within the discrete logic of the flow of events and of human motivations.

The inner autonomy conferred by the Vedic dīkshā was underlined through the assimilation of the sacrificer, even a brahmin or a merchant, to the sovereign or through a similar conceit elevating him to the most eminent citizen of the kingdom. Identified as such with Indra, king of the gods, his immolation was equated to the annual felling of the New Year pole that was carried discreetly in a late night funerary procession to the southern cremation ground to be cast into the nearby (river assimilated to the) Ganges before being hacked to pieces and fed to the perennial fire. This Indra festival reenacting the cosmogonic conflict between 'good and evil', the divine (deva) and the demoniac (asura), was the prototypal occasion for Brahmā's first ever presentation of the Sanskrit theater. Vedic 'anthropology' reduces 'Man' to a beastly criminal to be offered up in (self-) sacrifice to realize the divine spark (agni) of consciousness that infuses his being with (a semblance of) humanity: this is why all worldly activities, particularly the life-cycle ceremonies (samskāra), were modeled on and assimilated to the yajña. Though aspiring for heaven, the 'brahmanized' dīkshita is equated to an impure 'untouchable' to be publicly shunned as the scapegoat designated for execution; he takes on the sins of the community and serves as its renewed bridge to the otherworld. The triadic framework of Shaiva soteriology, where the bound and finite soul (paśu) aims to become the 'Lord' (of beasts = paśu-pati) derives, starting with its very terminology, from this ritual conception, where the 'fetters' (pāśa) to be cut asunder are those that bind the victim to the stake. Cārudatta 's refusal to vindicate himself and 'voluntary' public confession is comparable to the 'anointed' goat shaking its head (when water is sprinkled on its ears) to confirm its vigorous assent. The sacrificer is not only transformed into an eucharist to be feasted upon to revitalize communal solidarity, but reduced to a (pre-) embryonic state represented by rice-balls (piNDa). During the (post-) funerary (śrāddha) rites, these oblations are offered to learned brahmins and also to crows, the scavenging birds coming thereby to represent the (often reluctant) 'sin-eating' mahābrāhmaNa. The 'great brahmin' consumes the human cadaver assimilated to the victim of a sacrifice, as is well attested for the funerary rites of the kings of Nepal. That this ghastly scenario is also the vehicle for inner rebirth from the womb of the sacrifice, embodied by the maternal brahmin, is also expressed through the image of a (sacred) cow giving birth to (itself as) a calf: at the end of life-cycle ceremonies the obligatory gift (dakSiNā) to the officiating brahmin is typically a cow accompanied by its calf. Death and (re-) birth are symbolically so intermeshed that the delivery of a newborn is likewise marked by a lingering state of impurity from which the human mother emerges only gradually. Committing the murderous crime and undergoing the sacrificial death was aimed at breaking through to and reliving the moment of conception, which is why the male dīkshita is also depicted as a menstruating androgyne. The (re-) generative fluid is represented not only by the blood periodically oozing from a woman's body, but also displaced onto tears streaming from the eyes, or swirls of dust emitted by mother earth. Act X begins with the two 'untouchables' (cāNDāla) proudly declaring their expertise in various sophisticated and novel methods (decapitation, impalement, etc.) of execution and reassuring their victim that he would not feel a thing (X.1). They compare the lusterless Cārudatta , garlanded with oleander (kara-vīra) flowers, to a lamp whose oil has run out (X.2), which recalls the bali scenario (Act I), where the flame palpitated like the heart of a goat being led to the sacrificial post and its wick was abruptly extinguished by the goddess in human form. His dusty body, drenched with tears, covered with funeral flowers, and besmeared with (blood-) red sandal-paste, is an oblation (bali) as it were for the crows cawing so harshly (X.3). The cāNDāla executioners chide the onlookers for wanting to witness Death's sharp-edged axe hewing this sturdy and righteous tree that had for so long been the refuge of birds in the form of the virtuous (X.4). Cārudatta  wonders at the inscrutability of fate, for his body, smeared with rice flour and sesame powder, is imprinted all over with red sandal-paste imprints of the extended hand: though a man, he has been reduced to a (sacrificial) beast (puruSo'ham paśū-kRtah, X.5). Their eyes welling up with tears at my plight and unable to save me, the citizens curse our 'mortal lot' (martyam dhik) and bless me with the words "may you attain heaven" (svargam labhasva, X.6). The cāNDāla-executioners again scold the curious crowd, for the (inauspicious) spectacle of a virtuous man being executed is to be shunned like that of the transit (sankrama) of a celestial body, (the) Indra (pole) be carried away (pravāhyamāNa), and a cow giving birth (go-prasava, X.7). Though bereft of clouds and lightning, the sky weeps profusely for this most eminent (nagarī-pradhāna-bhūte) of citizens about to be slain by the decree of fate (X.8): actually the victim is being bathed by the torrential downpour shed by the women thronging (X.9) the overhead balconies and thrusting their faces out through the windows (X.11). Such is the profusion of tears that no dust is stirred up from the besprinkled path as the condemned man is led on to his tryst with destiny (X.10). At each proclamation station, the executioners recall his illustrious lineage and repeat that the punishment is to set an example for having lured Vasantasenā to the dilapidated Pushpakarandaka garden where he strangled the courtesan for a trifle, and that he had confessed when he was apprehended with the booty. The despondent Cārudatta  rues his twisted fate: the scion of a lineage (gotra) that has been sanctified by the performance of hundreds of sacrifices and by the chanting of Vedic hymns is now being declaimed by vile (untouchable) humans, so different from his forbears, as a criminal condemned to death (X.12). Shutting his ears and shuddering at this ignominy, the helpless victim calls out passionately to Vasantasenā, whose nectarine kiss has turned into poison (X.13). As the executioners shoo away the spectators from this ocean of merit, a bridge for the virtuous to cross over the miseries of this world (X.14), the abandoned Cārudatta  observes his (former) associates covering their faces with the ends of their garment and shrinking away (X.16), for all friendship is self-interested (X.15). A learned brahmin dozed comfortably (on a belly full of curd-rice like the Veda-reciting parrot in the seventh quadrangle?) in the first quadrangle of Vasantasenā's mansion amidst the crows that shun the offerings of rice-balls for they seem as whitewashed as the inedible plaster (cūrNa) that symbolizes the aging (vRddha) flesh of the sacrificer (Cārudatta  = CūrNavrddha). Caught drooling at the butcher boy washing raw entrails in the fifth quadrangle of the same Act (IV), the vidūshaka asking "who, who?" (kā kā in Act V) had, on the contrary, been already compared to a hungry crow cawing at the Indra festival. Cārudatta  now resembles the battle-scarred warrior whose body blooms with clotting blood to whom the 'menstruating' Ashoka tree was compared (IV.31) and red imprints of the extended hand heralded the virtuous (satī) widow immolating herself on her husband's funeral pyre. Bathed in the 'tears' of the womenfolk, the 'feminized' and already dying dīkshita, trudging through the wetted dust of the royal road to the place of execution, is regressing to the moment of conception and (re-) birth. By 'voluntarily' admitting his (ontological) guilt and undergoing the 'ignominy' of the dīkshā, the 'criminal' Cārudatta  has remained faithful to the tradition of his illustrious lineage of Vedic sacrificers.

The death-and-rebirth scenario underpinning the promise of heaven (svarga) that motivates the yajña is invested above all in the sacred cord that adult males of the 'twice-born' (dvi-ja) castes are obliged to wear at all times. Before this investiture (upanayana), the 'boy' (baTu), even if born into a pious brahmin family, is considered an unregenerate śūdra and continues to dine with his mother, who might still be feeding him from a shared plate. The candidate starts wearing a specially shaped gold necklace before the investiture ceremony, which was inaugurated by the worship of Ganeśa, the 'great brahmin' in iconic form: donning the thread was followed by receiving the gift of (a piece of) deerskin that the dīkshita wore during the (soma-) sacrifice. In ancient times, the upanayana marked the beginning of a prolonged period of Vedic study as a 'celibate student' (brahmacārin) begging for alms under the tutelage of a qualified guru. Having become a householder (snātaka), the young adult devoted himself to the assiduous study of the Veda or the meticulous observance of ritual prescriptions, or, better still, did both. The sacred cord so defines the innermost identity of the ārya that he takes a spare when traveling and remains immobile, even arresting his breathing, until the snapped string is hastily replaced. Having turned the crowd away, the executioners lead on the condemned criminal upon whom have been conferred the signs of the (sacrificial) victim (datta-vadhya-cihnam) along the royal road (rāja-mārga). As Cārudatta repeats the lament addressed to friend Maitreya, chaste wife Dhūtā, and especially his unregenerate son, so engrossed in vain distractions as to be heedless of another's pain (IX.29), Rohasena's voice is heard offstage calling out for his father. When the untouchables show surprise at their 'noble' (ārya) brahmin captive requesting a favor from their impure hands, Cārudatta explains to these two, the best among their caste (sva-jāti-mahattara) and certainly worthier than the unrighteous (king) Pālaka, that he merely wants to gaze for the last time upon his son's face so that he might attain heaven. As the auspicious-faced boy is ushered in accompanied by Maitreya, Cārudatta despairs that junior, with such tiny hands, is too small a vessel to offer adequate libations of water to his thirsty soul (X.17). Having nothing of value on his person, the destitute father bequeaths his bare cord, this most precious ornament that girds the brahmins when they sacrifice to the gods and ancestors (X.18). When Goha, now omitting the honorific label of (twice-born) 'gentleman' (ārya), promptly orders Cārudatta to move along, the cāNDāla is reprimanded by his partner Ahīnta for exploiting the vicissitudes of fate (X.19) as a pretext to cease showing due respect, for do we not "continue to worship the moon even when eclipsed" (X.20)? Rohasena demands where they are taking his father, who responds: "Bearing the oleander wreath around my neck, upon my shoulder the stake, impending death in my heart, I am the goat (aja) keeping its tryst with the fatal blow (āghātam) of the sacrificial (adhvare) butcher (śāmitram)" (X.21). Goha protests that the veritable sinners and 'untouchables' are those who ordered the execution, not we who simply happened to be born into a cāNDāla family (X.22). And when the son asks why they are so intent on murdering his father, they squarely blame the king's order while blessing the boy with "long-life" (dīrghāyuh), all the more so when he insists on being killed in his father's place. Cārudatta is moved to embrace his tearful son with a heart already soothed by this all-in-all of love (X.23), this foretaste of heaven, even while reaffirming his transformation into the sacrificial goat (X.21). Looking around, the abandoned victim repeats, now as an aside, his bitter observation on the betrayal of friendship (X.16), but is interrupted this time at the third line by the vidūshaka's profession of loyalty unto death: "even foes have smiles—(Maitreya:) My good men, let my dear friend Cārudatta go free, and kill me instead—(Cārudatta: Heaven forbid! [He looks around] Now, I understand) for men with Fortune biding; but friends prove faithless when good fortune ends" (X.16). When he repeats, now aloud, how the pity-streaming eyes of the womenfolk above continue to bathe him with tears (X.11), Goha again shoos away the male onlookers for wanting to gaze upon a good man who, his hopes destroyed by shame, resembles a golden pitcher drowning in the well when the rope has snapped (X.24). Cārudatta keeps mourning that the heavenly nectar of Vasantasenā's kiss has been transformed into the poison of shame (X.13). As Goha proclaims, at Ahīnta's urging, the sentence yet again, the despairing lover feels he has fallen into so unregenerate (an-ārya) a state, where shame has obscured his virtues, that death has become preferable, were it not for the pain in his heart at hearing: "I (you) murdered her" (X.25). It is at this point that the scene shifts abruptly to Sthāvaraka fettered in the villain's palace tower. Whereas the umbilical cord was cut to deliver the newborn from maternal dependence into its separate vocation through life (pravRtti), the regressive perspective (nivRtti) of sacrificial rebirth assimilates the (fatal) sundering of this fetter to (ultimate) deliverance from worldly bondage. The sacred cord (yajñopavīta) worn by the twice-born is therefore intrinsically ambiguous: while ritually qualifying the boy, till now tied to his mother's apron strings, to become (first a short-lived 'ascetic' and then) a married snātaka committed to discharging his ancestral obligations, it insinuates that this privilege is predicated on the wearer's continued ability to slither back into the womb that was never entirely left behind. The embryonic regression of the dīkshita is hence underlined by 'caricaturing' the sacred cord into the snakes that always adorn the ascetic Shiva and sometimes the 'pregnant' Ganeśa; by its (almost) snapping, as when Cārudatta  holds the vidūshaka back by his thread when he rushes off staff upraised to strike down the pigeon (Act V); and/or putting it to ridiculous uses: like a 'twice-born' serpent casting off its worn-out slough, the brahmin burglar burrowing through the pitcher-shaped hole-in-the-wall to steal the golden soma defiles his 'measuring tape' by using it as a ligature when dying breathless and immobilized by snakebite (Act III). Though eclipsed by an unseemly fate, the dīkshita 'on the road to royalty' (rāja-mārga) remains (king) soma, the (full) moon who illuminated the royal road after the 'worship of the goddess' (end of Act I). Now 'feminized' into a sinking golden pitcher, he regresses, bathed in the 'tears' of the womenfolk, into the likewise maternal well where Āryaka's broken fetters were thrown (end of Act VII). The necklace of the upanayana bears the symbolic burden of the stolen ornaments that the 'matricide' was condemned to wear around his neck on the way to the place of execution (end of Act IX). Before investiture with this second umbilical cord, the 'polymorphous pervert' remains ritually a śūdra and, after undergoing the consecration, the adult again becomes an 'untouchable' dīkshita: this is why the 'great brahmin' who embodies this impure regressive state is contemptuously called a 'brat' (baTuka). Since the dīkshita dies to give (re-) birth to himself through the sacrificial obstetrics, he may be considered his own son (Rohasena) fathered and mothered by the ('evil brat' of a) brahmán priest. The Hindu on his deathbed traditionally clung to the 'umbilical' tail of a docile cow that was necessarily accompanied by its calf, both of which were gifted to an obliging brahmin. To bequeath the sacred cord to the now regenerate son is to suffer the death of personal identity, traverse the impurity of the womb, be reborn with the foretaste of heaven after having drunk of the elixir of long life.

Worldly bondage—from which the ascetic seeks deliverance by uprooting the primordial (sexual) desire (kāma) that all human endeavor is likewise reduced to by the radical tantric—is represented through the fetters (pāśa) that bind the victim to the stake (yūpa) hewn from the tree of life: (inner) renunciation and (symbolic) transgression are integrated into the death-and-rebirth at the heart of the Vedic yajña. During the annual Indra festival in the Katmandu Valley, effigies of the king of the gods tied up in red thread are placed in small cages at the foot of sacrificial masts, especially at key crossroads, or bound with outstretched arms to these crosses as if he were a condemned criminal awaiting execution. For Indra had been caught red-handed by the inhabitants while trying to steal the sacred jasmine (pārijāta) flowers for his mother's worship from these 'trees of sorrow' (nyctanthes arbor-tristis) for which the dew-laden Valley is so reputed. Though the 'mother of god' does intercede to 'liberate' her wayward son with the promise of leading their recently dead kinsmen each year to heaven, the larger mythico-ritual scenario leaves no doubt that this divinized projection of the human king is actually killed, which is why the fallen pole is itself given a funerary procession and cremated. Whereas the sacred cord confirms the twice-born status, the fetters represent the umbilical cord in its negative aspect: by returning to the confinement of the womb to decisively shatter its continuing hold, its wearer willingly dies to be reborn initiated into the deepest mystery of life. When Samsthānaka sent his contemptible slave of a "little son" (putraka) back with the carriage that had brought the courtesan to the rundown pleasure-garden (Act VIII), he did so with the intention of imprisoning this possibly telltale witness to the matricide. Upon hearing the nearby proclamation of Cārudatta's guilt and impending fate, the distressed Sthāvaraka shouts out from the elephant-corniced palace tower that this tree of life, who has sheltered the wellborn youth (kula-putra = 'Kaula initiates') in the guise of ('twice-born') birds (dvi-ja), is innocent. He recounts his own unwitting role, through the interchange of carriages, in her being strangled by the noose (pāśa) of his master's hands for refusing his lustful advances. Too far to be heard but resolved to redeem himself, he braves death by jumping down through the dilapidated window even if it means untimely access to heaven. Miraculously, he finds himself not only unscathed but with the fetters broken by the precipitous fall. When he repeats his eyewitness testimony and accuses his sadistic 'father' of the murder, the relieved Cārudatta compares him to a streaming (droNa) cloud watering a parched harvest (X.26): "I never feared death, only this black ignominy; a guiltless death would be the welcome birth of a son" (X.27), for that small-minded fool, for whom I had borne no enmity, discharged his own sin upon me, as through a poisoned arrow (X.28). His veracity questioned, Sthāvaraka discloses how he had been bound and confined precisely to prevent the truth being known. The royal villain, who has been feasting on rice-cakes accompanied by a pungent stew of meat, fish, vegetables, and sauce (X.29), also heard with great delight the proclamation to the ceremonial sound of the fatal drums. He is eager to see the wretch being led to the place of execution for the sight of an enemy being killed preserves one from sore eyes in the next life. He recalls how, like a worm trapped in a lotus bulb, he had gnawed his way out by bringing about the death of this poor man. Climbing to the tower to witness (the consequences of) his own heroism, the great aristocrat is overcome with envy at the large crowd that has turned up to watch Cārudatta being led south adorned like a young steer and envisions an even greater number of admirers scrambling to celebrate his own execution. Suddenly realizing that the proclamation made just now before his palace tower is no longer being repeated and that his servant has disappeared, the apprehensive villain descends to approach the crowd. The executioners order the onlookers to give way, shut their doors, and remain silent, for there is no telling what this mad bull, whose horns are sharp with wickedness, might do next (X.30). The tyrant urges Sthāvaraka to come back home addressing him as "my little son, my slave," prompting the latter to openly accuse him of scapegoating Cārudatta with his own crime. When this aristocratic pot of jewels protests that there is no reason for him to kill any woman (for her gold), the bystanders take Sthāvaraka's word and declare his master guilty instead. Samsthānaka charges his servant, who had been caught stealing, hence 'thrashed' (mārita) and put in chains, with lying out of resentment. He furtively hands his "son" a bracelet with whispered pleas to retract his story. Sthāvaraka seizes the gold only to denounce the bribe before the onlookers, but his wily master snatches it back as having been stolen from the royal treasury that this "thief" had been appointed to guard. As proof he points to the latter's back and the executioners are forced to assume that the severely branded servant has naturally resorted to fibbing. Cursing his bondage, for nobody is prepared to believe a slave, Sthāvaraka falls helplessly at the feet of Cārudatta, who nobly absolves him of all guilt and praises his dutiful and unselfish efforts, though in vain, to thwart his fate (X.31). Having beaten his servant and driven him away at the executioners' urging, the villain now insists that they kill their victim at once. When Rohasena again offers to sacrifice his own life for his father's freedom, he demands that both father-and-son be killed. The terrified Cārudatta sends his son, in Maitreya's care, to his mother so that they might find safe haven without delay in a hermitage (āśrama, X.32). Unable to continue living without his friend, Maitreya resolves to follow him to death after discharging this errand. As Samsthānaka becomes even more menacing, the executioners drive the boy away for his own safety, close on the heels of Sthāvaraka. The inner conflict between the adult sacrificer and his own dīkshita state is dramatized as (mortal) hostility between (not only patron and priest but also) father and son, displaced here onto the interaction between the royal villain and his own "little son" (putraka) of a slave, who intervenes at the very moment when Rohasena is attempting to save Cārudatta. Sthāvaraka, the driver, who had miraculously survived the forced entry of Vasantasenā's carriage into the aging (jīrna) flower-garden, the womb from which the matricidal dīkshita leaped out through the same breach as if being (re-) born (Act VIII), now himself jumps down through the dilapidated (jīrna) window to his death, only to find himself liberated instead. The shattered chains, clinging to 'Post-Breaker' (Act II) and also dangling from Āryaka's foot to be dragged all the way into the same garden (Act VII), were assimilated to the broken girdle and anklet of the courtesan: hence the great brahmin's obscene and 'absurd' suggestion that Cārudatta 'be conjoined' (sangacchasva = 'copulate') with the maternal 'fetters of love' (sneha-mayāni) before it is thrown irretrievably into the well. The future-king was himself compared to an elephant-cub that had broken free from captivity: hence the prominence given to the elephant-corniced tower where the villain whiles his time, confined his 'little son', and now ascends to watch his own 'sacrificial' undertaking unfolding below in the procession to the execution stake. The golden pitcher (Cārudatta) drowning in the maternal well and the pot of jewels (Samsthānaka) from which the golden bracelet was stolen, both are metaphors for the feminization of this (virile) bull of a sacrificer: whereas the transgressive dimension was dramatized by Śarvilaka's embryonic regression through the jar-shaped breach in the wall (Act III), the juxtaposition of the two sons highlights the likewise fatal (mārita = 'killed') 'infantilization' of the dīkshita. Other than for the mediating role of the great brahmán, this reunion at the Hindu hermitage of son with mother is a mirror image of the preceding Buddhist scenario of the resuscitated courtesan being escorted to monastic reclusion by her born-again monk (end of VIII). To insist that father-and-son be killed together is to translate the horrible slaughter of the victim (paśu) in a holy city (VIII.44) into the 'abortive' delivery of a cow-with-calf.

The archaic sacrifice was a deliberate, controlled, yet authentic confrontation with the horror of death often repeated to imbue the human actor with a permanent and acute awareness of mortality that remains open to intimations to what might lie beyond. Effectively triggered by and culminating in regression beyond the powerful umbilical bond of love to complete, even if momentary, resorption within the maternal principle, this dissolution and reconstitution of the sclerosed egocentric personality could be hence represented by the killing of the dīkshita, mother, son, or (great) brahmin (officiant). Emerging from the square where her son was imprisoned to lead the procession of Newar citizens commemorating their deceased kinsmen, Indra's mother is attired as a disembodied fiend (Dākinī), who haunts the cremation-ground. The prenatal 'anamnesis' (prati-smrti) at the initiate's final moment becomes a recollection of the 'murdered' mother. The executioners beat the proclamation at the third station, but the villain realizes that the citizens no longer believe in Cārudatta's guilt. He obliges the condemned man to confess aloud in the first person by ordering the untouchables to flog the reluctant "brat" (baTuka) with a 'decrepit' (jarjara) broken bamboo or chain (śrnkhala or śankhala = drumstick) until he speaks. As Goha raises his arm to strike, Cārudatta mourns of drowning so deep in the vast ocean of calamity that he no longer knows fear nor sadness; "only the fire of public calumny continues to torment, this compulsion to accuse myself of slaying the one I adore" (X.33). He addresses his fellow citizens directly with the same twisted 'admission' of guilt made in the courthouse: "By my cruel self a woman, why Eros (rati) herself unqualified...he will say the rest..." (IX.30), simply pausing to endorse with "so be it" the prompt interjection "was killed" by the real murderer (cf. IX.38). Reluctant to shoulder responsibility for the brahmin's death, the executioner-pair starts quibbling as to whose turn it is to strike the fatal blow. Goha tries to reckon by 'scoring' (lekha) in various ways, all the while insisting on tarrying were the lot to fall on him. For when his father already had one foot in heaven's door, his last words of advice for son Vīraka were to delay dispatching the condemned soul: a kind patron might ransom the captive at the last minute; the king himself might order the release of all prisoners to celebrate his newborn son; an elephant might break loose allowing him to escape in the excitement; or everyone might be granted a reprieve when the throne is usurped. Extremely nervous at this last prospect, the royal villain, seeing the executioners still engrossed in scoring, draws back taking Sthāvaraka while insisting that they kill Cārudatta at once. Again exculpating themselves of all blame for the king's order, the untouchables ask the dying brahmin to remember the needful (smara yat smartavyam): "though slandered today by a cruel fate, stained by men of high estate, if virtue (dharma) is yet to prevail, then she who dwells in Indra's heaven, or wherever else she may be—my love—may she herself, prompted by her very nature (sva-svabhāvena), wipe out this stigma" (X.34). For they have reached the southern graveyard, the very sight of which suffices to scare the life out of a criminal: the lower half of the corpse shaking as it is torn out by the famished jackals plying their horrid task, the other half still hanging impaled upon the stake, he is welcomed by the grinning mask of (Rudra's) loud laughter (aTTa-hāsa, X.35). Agitated and undone, Cārudatta sits down in agony much to the villain's glee. But when Goha asks whether he is afraid, Cārudatta calls him a fool and repeats the verse on shameless death being as welcome as a newborn (X.27). Goha reassures the despairing soul that even the sun and the moon suffer cyclical eclipse—what to speak of death-fearing mortals, for all that rises falls and vice-versa—urging him to be strong and take heart as he sheds his body like a garment (cf. BG II.22). Having reached the fourth station, they repeat the proclamation, prompting Cārudatta to again invoke his beloved, whose kiss had nourished him with heaven's nectar (X.13). At this very moment, the wandering (pravrajyā) monk appears wondering at the strange turn of fate whereby his newfound vocation has led to reviving Vasantasenā in those dubious (asthāne) circumstances. His sister-in-the-Buddha directs him to lead her on to Cārudatta's home to be completely restored by the sight of her lover. The mendicant decides to take the king's highway, where they behold the tumultuous crowd, as if all of Ujjain had congregated on a single spot to tip the earth with their uneven load. As she interrogates the meaning of it all, the executioners reach the final station and proclaim the sentence for the last time. Cārudatta praises the gods (bhagavatyah devatāh) as Goha again reassures him of a swift death. The brother-and-sister-in-the-Buddha, aghast that the lover is being killed for her murder, press forward through the crowd to comfort him in time. Urged by his executioners, Cārudatta again invokes her innately salvific love (X.34). Goha raises his sword to dispatch the prostrate victim to heaven with a single fierce stroke , but the dreaded thunder-bolt simply drops from his tight fist (X.36). He begs the mercy of the goddess of the Sahyā hills to bestow her favor on the caste of untouchables: if Cārudatta were to attain 'liberation' (mokSa), the whole cāndāla-clan would be blessed with her grace. Resigned to following orders, they now prepare to impale the victim, who keeps invoking the redeeming love of his own goddess (X.34). Bathed in feminine tears and sinking like a golden pitcher, the dīkshita is now drowning in the oceanic (feeling of the) womb to which he had assimilated the noxious courthouse (IX.14). If the great brahmin has left to reunite son with mother, the infantilization of the dīkshita is now underlined by unreservedly calling the 'noble' (ārya) sacrificer an evil brat: this is why the villain remains to witness the execution with the 'murdered' (mārita) slave of a 'son' Sthāvaraka. The (substitute victim of the royal) sacrificer, (to be) beaten with bamboo cane or fetter, is thus identified with (the staff of) Indra (jarjara so central to the ritual preliminaries of the drama), whose impetuous thunderbolt (vajra) is the fallen sword. The unknown element of chance, highlighted in the agonistic gambling scene (Act II), and the neutralization (viSuvat) of dueling opposites, through the clash of the twinned guards (Act VII), converge here, at the narrow short-lived interstice generated by and between the quibbling executioners baffled by the 'scoreboard' (lekhakam), into the descent of grace (anugraha) so central to Zaiva soteriology. Vīraka is also the name of the captain, who had accused him in court. Cārudatta has been framed with a crime the punishment for which is a sacrificial offering both to the (Vedic) gods (and goddesses, bhagavatyah devatāh could be in the feminine) and the bloodthirsty Goddess (Durgā), whose services were performed by untouchables on the edges of human settlement and in remote (dur-ga) aboriginal hills (e.g., Vindhyā-Vāsinī). Immediately 'killed' by the rogue elephant, Samvāhaka's donning the red robes of a mendicant (end of Act II) was a rebirth scenario the implications of which were elaborated through the matricide sandwiched between being told to "drop dead" and resuscitating the murdered courtesan (Act VIII). To chastise the masseur for not having become a monk at birth is to affirm 'perversely' that the sensualist is (truly re-) born only when, having shaved his head, he recognizes this unforgettable hand, which had first allayed his fears. As the renouncer, still treading the 'road to kingship' (rāja-mārga) with the Buddha's blessings, escorts the maternal redemptress from confinement, the whole earth is again pregnant at the destined place of execution where all the citizens have gathered to be reborn with and through the sacrificer. Not even asking "what does it all mean" we participate heartily in this comedy of horror.

 The androgynous ideal embodied in representations of Śiva-Pārvatī as the 'half-female Lord' (ardha-nārīśvara)—the mythical projection of the sacrificial union of husband-and-wife (dampati)—encapsulates the desired fusion of the Vedic dīkshita with the maternal womb to form a single biunity. Divested of all belongings including his self-possession, the now introverted sacrificer undergoes an ascetic regime that facilitates this regressive anamnesis through the prenatal state to relive the moment of conception. The esoteric significance and soteriological intent of the embryogonic regression has been encoded into the ritual kindling of the sacrificial fire (Rohasena) through the (sexual) 'churning' (manthana) of a hollowed-out base with a tapering rod of aśvattha wood until the spark (of Consciousness) is produced that consumes its parents. The preferred material for the supine 'female' was śamī (though it could also be aśvattha) wood while the 'male' was to be of aśvattha growing (from) within the śamī tree, thereby underlining the incestuous character of their fiery union. The aśvattha is called 'śamī-garbha' not only because it is 'born from the śamī' but also because, through a play on the verbal root śam-, it is 'appeased in the womb' or has 'a pacified womb' (śānta-yoni).  In the Rigveda, the victim's blood was and, in principle, still is shed at the stake (yūpa), but in later practice it was discreetly smothered in a separate shed: following this (axio-) logic of the reformed classical sacrifice, to pacify here means euphemistically to kill. The androgynous nature of the fatal union with the maternal principle is most graphically and surrealistically expressed through the (phallic) yūpa poised upright on the edge of the (vaginal) altar (vedi): also made of śamī wood, the post was measured to the height of and hence identified with the Vedic sacrificer. When the monk-courtesan couple see Cārudatta being impaled, they shout "don't! don't! (mā mā) Sirs, here I am, that same unlucky woman for whose sake he is being killed!" The executioners wonder who might be this woman, arms upraised and ample tresses falling over her shoulders, rushing towards them crying "Mā! Mā!" (X.38). They fall upon the prostrate Cārudatta—the female on his breast, the monk at his feet—demanding an explanation. Recognizing the distraught dead woman, the alarmed untouchables move back relieved at not having killed an innocent man.  When the monk arises announcing that Cārudatta lives, they concur that he may live a hundred years, while Vasantasenā joyfully pronounces herself restored to life. As his executioners set off to report to the king, who is engaged in the sacrificial arena (yajña-vāTa), his panic-stricken brother-in-law, seeing the 'womb-slave' (garbha-dāsī) still alive, flees for his life. Recalling that the king's order had been to kill her murderer, the two vigilantes decide to pursue the royal villain instead. Seized by the jaws of death beneath the upraised weapon, the still dazed Cārudatta is perplexed at this unknown woman, who has appeared like a Drona cloud showering upon the drought-withered crop (X.39). As recognition begins to dawn, he remains confused: "Is this a second Vasantasenā? Or the same descending thus from heaven? Is this an apparition of my deluded mind? Could it be that this is that Vasantasenā, who had never died?" (X.40). "Then again, has she returned from heaven simply intent on restoring me to life? Or is this but her look-alike that has appeared here" (X.41). The tearful Vasantasenā rises only to fall at his feet declaring that she is that self-same sinner on whose account he has been reduced to this undeserved plight. Just then, the astonished citizens start crying out with incredulity: "Vasantasenā is alive!" Cārudatta immediately springs upright, his body thrilled by her touch, and with eyes closed, murmurs in a voice choked with ecstasy: "My beloved! Vasantasenā you?" at which she responds: "I am that unlucky woman." Cārudatta now looks upon her with joyful recognition: "Bathing your breasts with streams of tears as I was held fast in the throes of Death, whence did you come like an (esoteric) revivifying lore (vidyā)" (X.42). "You have saved this body of mine, which was about to be felled for your very sake: Oh the power of (re-) union with one's beloved, whereby even the dead are brought back to life!" (X.43). "With your arrival, my darling, this blood-red (rakta) garment now becomes this bridegroom, the (oleander) wreath my (festive) garland, the drums of execution celebrate (our) marriage (instead)" (X.44). Vasantasenā, relieved, asks what her 'noble' (ārya) lover has brought upon himself through his 'inordinate courtesy' (ati-dakSiNatayā). He recounts the experience of 'near-death' at the hands of a foe, impelled by a previously conceived hatred, (who is now) falling into hell (X.45). Vasantasenā closes her ears at the very thought and, when asked who her companion is, identifies him as the ārya who had revived her after she had been killed by that 'ignoble' (an-ārya) villain of a royal brother-in-law. He questions this 'disinterested relative' (akāraNa-bandhu), who now recounts his convoluted itinerary from having been his still unrecognized masseur—through disgust at gambling after having been redeemed by the courtesan and consequent resolution to be a Buddhist monk—to his happening upon the murdered Vasantasenā. They are interrupted by an uproar behind the scenes at the announcement of Āryaka's triumph over his unrighteous foe. In his extreme (ati-) generosity, the (royal) sacrificer has (ritually) 'gifted' (dakSiNa) away all his belongings to the point of offering up his own body and is recompensed with a deferment of his life-sentence by a hundred years. The disinterested relative, who had swung from the vocation of sensual masseur to that of self-abnegating renouncer, is the 'symbolic correlate' (bandhu) of the two extreme poles of Cārudatta's own being. Like Rohasena returning with his mother to the confinement of the āśrama, the newborn-monk-and-courtesan-turned-nun returning from reclusion form the biunity of the embryo-merged-with-the-womb: this is why the mistress of the Buddhist convent was referred to as 'pregnant with the dharma' (dharma-garbhinī end of Act VIII) and they now cry out, in unison, "Mā! Mā!" with the self-reference that could otherwise apply only to the female. Just as the villain's invocation of "mother" (mātrkā, ambikā, etc.) as witness to his heroic exploit was deliberately garbled, syntactically, to refer to the woman he was killing (VIII.37), so too the interjection here also addresses Cārudatta. What strikes the executioners particularly about this (bald) stranger, whose hair is completely undone as if (still) undergoing the menstrual period, is the primal cry of "Mā! Mā!" Their falling together on the Cārudatta's breast and feet respectively suggests that their biunity externalizes the rebirthing that the victim undergoes in the throes of death. Just as recurring doubts whether the restituted gold ornaments are real or counterfeit (and their relative value vis-à-vis the wifely pearl necklace, the essence of the four oceans) pointed to the soma as their ultimate referent, so does his confusion about the identity and provenance of the woman before him invoke an internalized image of the mother. Cārudatta hence keeps his eyes shut at the crucial moment of ecstatic 'recognition' (pratyabhijñā) before he contemplates her outward manifestation. Compared when their love was first consummated to a prince being consecrated (abhiSikta) as heir-apparent with the rainwater dripping from her (womb-) ear (V.38), her perky breast is now bathed in her own copious tears, just as the blood-stained (royal) dīkshita has been himself sanctified by the tears of all the womenfolk. The willing (and menstruating) consort (dūtī) with whom the Kaula adept (incestuously) unites in the salvific union of the 'original sacrifice' (ādi-yāga) is called 'knowledge' (vidyā) because she is the external receptacle and catalyst for a revivifying and already innate Sophia. Detached onto the non-anthropomorphic adoration of the linga-in-the-yoni, Śaivism as ascetic spirituality and as temple-centered religion of love, and 'aboriginal' Śāktism as antinomian worship of the Great Goddess, are both firmly anchored in the Vedic androgyne.

The sacrificial order is organized around the inevitable chaos that is carefully circumscribed, preserved, and contained at the very center where it violently erupts. The transgressive dialectic underlying its ritualized formalism governs both the inner life of its participants and its outer socio-political expression, which converge upon the symbolic figure of the king as the cosmic pivot. The idealized sacrifice continued to provide the structuring model for the ongoing Hindu acculturation of new ethnicities and regional diversities, but the antinomian dimension was necessarily suppressed from its reformed classical codification, which was thereby isolated like its pure brahmin (śrauta) practitioners from the messy reality of the outside world. The original understanding of the significance, role, and finality of these purged elements was, however, carefully conserved in myth, theater, and religious festivals. Vedic esotericism was reworked into the radical tantricism that subsequently intruded into the worldview and practices of elites otherwise still firmly grounded in the orthodox tradition. The completion, fulfillment, and transcendence of the sclerosed sacrificial order through the violent intrusion of the excluded chaos is especially well illustrated by the myth of DakSa-Prajāpati, who refused to invite his ascetic and non-conformist son-in-law Rudra, now despised for being too much of an outsider. When the dishonored daughter Satī commits suicide by offering herself up in despair to the sacrificial fire, her outraged husband disrupts and destroys the great undertaking, going so far as to terrorize and maim the officiating Vedic gods. The vainglorious 'lord of his subjects' (prajā-pati) is abruptly transformed into the decapitated victim, his head being replaced with that of the goat. Indra's cosmogonic slaying of Vrtra was an impetuous deed exteriorizing as myth the inner experience that the (royal) sacrificer undergoes at the (triumphal) stake (banner): his epithet 'foe of (the demon) Bala' (balāri) could just as well mean 'averse to armies' (bala), thereby equating his triumphs in mortal combat to non-violent mastery over self. In Shaiva mythology, this demonic dragon of 'resistance' (vrtra) becomes the impenetrable Krauñca mountain pierced by the golden lance of Subrahmanya-Kārttikeya (the Tamil Murugan), and the transgressive orientation has been underlined through his elevation into the patron god of robbers: for theft was among the five 'major transgressions' (mahā-pātaka) assimilated to the most heinous of all, brahmanicide. The Kāpālika adepts of the soma-doctrine were votaries of Bhairava, the decapitator of Brahmā. Expressed through the hero-vidūSaka couple in the theater, the cooperative rivalry between the ascetic dīkSita and the brahmán priest is embodied by the divine siblings, the austere Kārttikeya and the pot-bellied Ganeśa: the thief stole the soma from and with the blessings of the great brahmin (Act III). The uproar behind the scenes proclaims: "Victory to the bull-bannered (Śiva), the destroyer of DakSa's yajña! Victory thereafter to the six-faced (Kārttikeya), enemy and cleaver of the Krauñca mountain! Victory at last to Āryaka, who has killed his foremost foe to triumph over the earthly expanse with (mount) Kailāsa for its (snow-) white banner" (X.46). Śarvilaka then bursts into the scene to address the citizens: "Hear ye! Having killed that wicked king Pālaka and immediately consecrated (abhi-Sicya) Āryaka as sovereign, verily have I received upon my (bowed) head his remaining command (śeSa-bhūtām) that I personally free the imperiled Cārudatta" (X.47). "Having slain that foe bereft of both armed might (bala) and wise counsel and inspired confidence among the citizenry through our manifest superiority (prakarSāt), we have usurped the oppressive empire (śatru-rājyam) and achieved sovereignty over the whole world, as if it were the (celestial) reign of (the 'foeless') Indra (balāri)" (X.48). Noticing the huge throng before him, Śarvilaka presses forward with haste through the 'rabble' (jālma) hoping that king Āryaka's enterprise would be crowned with success through (saving) Cārudatta's life, and is rewarded with sight of the happy couple, the fulfillment of his master's heartfelt desire. "Aye! How lucky I am to set my eyes again after so long on this lunar orb freed from eclipse to be so splendidly (re-) united with the moonbeams! He has crossed this boundless ocean of misery through (the grace of) his most beloved, so firm in virtue (guNa-dhrtyā) and of exemplary conduct (su-śīla-vatyā), as if she were a boat secured by ropes (guNadhrtyā) and expertly steered (suśīlavatyā)" (X.49). But the ex-thief wonders how, having committed such a 'great sin' (mahāpātaka), he could approach the object of his admiration with a straight face. He resolves that transparency would be most becoming and salutes ārya Cārudatta: "I am that same fellow, guilty of a cardinal crime, who broke into your home and stole the (gold) deposit, now come to throw myself at your mercy" (X.50). His (unwitting) benefactor simply chides: "Don't say so, my friend! You did me a kind favor (praNaya)" and embraces the penitent around the neck. The thief-turned-revolutionary continues: "Intent on preserving (the honor of his) family (kula) and self-respect (māna), Āryaka, so committed to 'patrician virtue' (ārya-vrttena), has slaughtered the evil-souled Pālaka standing within the sacrificial arena (yajña-vāTa-stha) as if he were the beast of offering (paśu)" (X.51). What? "In the midst of the sacrifice he had deployed (vitate yajñe), the beast Pālaka has been slain by that same person, who had once mounted and rode your conveyance (yāna) to seek refuge in you" (X.52). Śarvilaka confirms to the gratified Cārudatta that this is the same Āryaka, whom he had freed after being brought captive from his hamlet by Pālaka to be fettered in the secret dungeon. The liberator now announces that Cārudatta should graciously accept the kingdom of Kuśāvatī on the banks of the Venā that his friend Āryaka, immediately upon enthronement, has bestowed upon his benefactor. Turning around, he orders that the royal sinner (Samsthānaka), that scourge of the nation, be brought before them. Śarvilaka further clarifies that Āryaka has placed the whole kingdom at the disposal of his savior, through whose virtues it was acquired in the first place, lavish credit that Cārudatta repeats with incredulity. At this moment, the captured villain is dragged in bound and desperate. Āryaka's welcome usurpation of the throne, which coincides with Cārudatta's own emancipation and consecrating reunion with Vasantasenā, is equated to the abrupt transformation of the reigning king into the victim of his own sacrifice. The grateful Āryaka owes his sovereignty not simply to the risks taken by Cārudatta in allowing him to escape in his carriage, meant for the courtesan, but because the brahmin took upon himself the willing role of the scapegoat. The semiotic identification of the twice-born (ārya) sacrificer with his royal cexemplaris especially mediated by the Vedic scion Śarvilaka: on the one hand, the burglar steals thee somaa and weds the 'maddening' ((adanikâā) courtesan; on the other hand, the revolutionary rescues Āryaka from prison, is seen trailing the royal fugitive regressing to the garden-womb, wbars the newly anointed king's command like aagarlandd 'already used and cast-off'((śeSa-bhūtām) after worshi, and self-contradicts by claiming to have committed, and self-contradicts by claiming to have committed Āryaka's regicide himself. Whereas the insecure Hindu bride becomes a proud mater familias only upon delivering a patrilineal son, the maternal courtesan castigates herself as that "unfortunate and sinful wretch" who condemned her filial worshipper to life imprisonment: having fulfilled her sacrificial role by submitting tothe matricidthe matricidal reunion, the tutelary earth-goddess reappears to grant deliverance at the dying moment. The unseen sacrifice deployed by Pālaka, only to be interrupted by untimely regicide, is this tragicomedy into which we unsuspecting citizens have been ensnared by king Śūdraka. The ultimate foe of the truly Āryan 'protector' (pālaka) of the earth is the unregenerate beast within that has to be slain to reclaim universal sovereignty: a successful political revolution merely crowns the triumph of self-sacrifice.


Equal access and opportunity for such sexual redemption was affirmed at the very beginning when the courtier chided the fleeing 'goddess' for not welcoming his master's royal embrace however despicable, for the prostitute is a wayside creeper on the (public) road, whose body is but merchandise for sale (I.31): "The erudite brahmin, best among the twice-born, bathes (in water) from the same well as does the lowliest untouchable, steeped in ignorance; the creeper bends beneath the weight of both the (scavenging) crow  and the (proudly resplendent) peacock; others (outcastes) cross in the same boat as do members of the merchant, aristocratic, and priestly castes; like the  well, creeper, and boat, you are a courtesan, who should (therefore) serve all (equally)" (I.32).

The androgynous ideal embodied in representations of Śiva-Pārvatī as the 'half-female Lord' (ardha-nāriśvara) is not simply the sacrificial union of husband-and-wife (dampati) but the embryogonic reunion with the maternal womb: by dying the dīkshita takes the active role of the father to (re-) 'conceive' and of the mother to give (re-) birth to himself as the son. The 'big-bellied' (mahodara) Ganeza, the representation of the 'great brahmin' (mahābrāhmana) as a pregnant male, and his 'ever-youthful' (kumāra) younger brother Subrahmanya, the dīkshita reborn, together serve to clarify the embryogony already implicit in their divine parents. The Hindu marriage rituals even go to the extent, exemplified by the Nagara brahmins, of having the couple to be joined in wedlock undergo a preliminary ascetic phase while impersonating Śiva and Pārvatī. Attempts to pour the amniotic water in which the bride bathed over the ducking bridegroom are the occasion for much merriment, the royal dimension of which is apparent in the .

The various pretexts for the victim's (unexpected) 'liberation' (mokSa) are but facets of a singular logic: the royal sacrificer (Pālaka) shatters his fetters (the elephant Post-Breaker at end of Act II) to be reborn as his own 'usurper' (Āryaka) freed of (worldly) bondage.

 The preferred symbol of this sacrificial embryogony in the Hindu mythico-ritual universe, however, was the sacred cow-with-calf whose slaughter was as taboo as the ultimate crime of brahmanicide.

The gaping jaws of Death that greet him are not only the explosive laughter (aTTa-hāsa) of Rudra—imitated by his Pāzupata adepts who haunt the cremation-grounds—but the irrepressibly loud (ati-hāsa) 'humor' of the mahābrāhmana, who co-engineered his execution.

 The inner conflict between these two poles is dramatized as hostility between patron and priest (as between Śakāra and his Vita especially in Act VIII, and in Maitreya's de facto alignment with the villain's vengeful scheme, especially in Acts I, III, and IX) and between father and son.