ANSWER: A play
- Mantrankam is the third act of Bhasa’s celebrated Sanskrit play Pratijna Yougandharayan , written sometime between 2 and 3 AD.
- It is spread over just half a dozen pages but the chakyar or performer with his artistry and talent, spins it into a labyrinthine narrative packed in equal parts with philosophy, political wisdom, statecraft, ribaldry, even some scatology.
- It is an entire 41-day enactment.
- It is a fascinating mix of the sacred and the profane, religious and secular, folk wisdom and dialectics, and a hard play to master even for veterans. Mostly, today, the play is performed in an abbreviated version over five or at most ten days.
- Mastering Mantrankam is considered the peak of a chakyar’s skills. Anyone who can acquire this vaakchaturyam (wordskill) is believed to be good enough to play any other role. And the only way to master it is through observation of the great masters at work.