Harshavardhana referred to as Harshadeva,
was the King of Sthanesvara between 606 and 648 A.D. He was himself a man of
letters and patronised Bana, Mayura, Matangadivakara and others. He is the
author of a Nataka Nagananda and two Natikas Ratnavali and Priyadarshika in Sanskrit.
Bana’s reference to his patron as a writer and Hieun Tsang’s mentioning the
Nagananda as Harsha’s work set aside their alleged authorship of Bana or any
other poet in the court of Harsha.
Naagananda in five acts depicts
Jeemutavahana as a self-sacrificer. He lays down his life to save a snake
Sankachuda from Garuda. He is restored to life through the grace of Gauri. This
play is considered the best of Harsha’s three plays.
Ratnavali in four acts deals with the
love of Sagarika, the princess of Simhaladwipa and Udayana of Kausambi. The
play is modelled upon the Malavikagnimitram of Kalidasa. The vision conjured by
the magician and the change of costume taken up by Sagarika to escape being
detected by Vasavadatta are invented by the author. Sagarika’s identity got
established by her gem-necklace (Ratnavali) which gives the title to the play.
deals with Udayana’s love. Here Aranyika is the beloved to enjoy the King’s
love. In the presence of the queen Vasavadatta, her marriage with Udayana is
enacted. Aranyika plays the role of the queen and Udayana plays his own part
undetected by the queen.