Kaumudīmahōtsava is a drama written in the middle of the seventh century CE, by Queen Vijayabhaṭṭārikā (Vijjakā) of Karṇāṭa. This drama is unique in that it is one of the few known works of Sanskrit literature composed by a female author. Spanning five acts, this drama falls under the category of nāṭaka, closely following the rules of dramaturgy laid down in Bharata’s nāṭya śāstra. The plot of the drama is based on the political climate of the era, revolving around the power struggle within the royal family of Magadha. The poetess beautifully weaves the romance between the protagonists Kalyāṇavarman and Kīrtimati, into the main plot of Kalyāṇavarman’s acquisition of the kingdom, thus showcasing the interplay between srṅgārarasa and vīrarasa.
The first and second acts of this nāṭaka are prescribed for study as part of the Karnataka Sanskrit University’s syllabus for first year BA Sanskrit students. The storyline of the first act begins with Kalyāṇavarman, the rightful heir to the Māgadha empire, living incognito as a student in the hermitage of Jābāli. While he plans to rescue his kingdom with the help of his minister Mantragupta from the clutches of the tyrant Caṇḍasena, he meets Kīrtimati, the princess of Mathurā, and they fall in love. In the second act, Kīrtimati’s confidante, the court jester, and a female mendicant discuss the lovers’ mutual longing and decide to unite them.The ascension of Kalyāṇavarman to the throne without any bloodshed and his marriage to Kīrtimati form the rest of the story.