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Brhaddesi of Sri Matanga Muni (Set of 2 Volumes)

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Item Code: NAL595
Author: Kapila Vatsyayan
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Centre For The Arts, MOTILAL BANARSIDASS PUBLISHERS PVT. LTD.
Language: Sanskrit Text With English Translation
Edition: 1994
ISBN: 8120810309
Pages: 650
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.0 inch x 7.5 inch
Weight 1.70 kg
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Book Description


About the Book

Brhaddesi is a landmark in Sangitasastra for more than one reason. It is the solitary text that forges link between Natyasastra and Dattilam on the one hand and Abhinava Bharati on the other, the gap extending over more than five hundred years. Its direct influence on later texts like Sangita Ratnakara and its commentaries is obvious in various ways, be it nada from the Tantric stream or the etymology of various terms or the description of ragas. The fact that it is co-eval with the emergence of the special style of bhasya in various systems of philosophy has lent it a unique halo in the form of its scholastic style, indirect reference to quite a few systems of philosophy and incorporation of the Tantric tradition.

Speaking of Sangita, Brhaddesi is the first extant text to describe raga, to introduce sarigama notation, to usher in a fresh approach towards sruti, suara, grama, murchand etc. and to establish the concept of desi and its counterpart marga.

The present publication presents the first critical edition of this well known, but almost inaccessible text, with variant readings. an English Translation facing original, textual notes and annotations.

Although the text is still incomplete, for want of the discovery of a manuscript, this edition will serve the Purpose of study and research so far as it goes and the field covered is not small by any means.

About the Author

Dr. Prem Lata Sharma, a distinguished scholar of Musicology, Sanskrit and Hindi graduated from Delhi; post-graduated in Hindi, Sanskrit and obtained Doctorate in Sanskrit (Studies in Bhakti Rasa based on Sri Rupa Goswamin from Banaras Hindu University. Having received advanced training in vocal music from the illustrious Pandit Omkar Nath Thakur, she started her career as ateacher of music, its theory, history and philosophy and held the post of Professor and Head of the Department of Musicology in the Banaras Hindu University. She was the Chairman of U.P. Sangita Nataka Akademy, Lucknow (1983-86) and Vice-Chancellor of the Indira Kala Sangita Visvavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.), (1985-1988).

Author of several noted publication including the critical editions of Rasavilasa (1952), Sangitaraja (1963), Sahasarasa (1972), Ekalinga-mahatmya (1976), she also translated many notable works in Hindi from Bengali; She supervised the English translation of Sangita Ratnakara (two volumes of which have already been published).Prof. Sharma is widely acclaimed to have done pioneering work in initiating and establishing the serious study of primary (Sanskrit) sources on Indian music.



Brhaddesi and more so its Puranic author Matanga Muni have been well known in Sangitasastra for more than one millennium. The text has been profusely quoted in texts of Sangitasastra upto the 17th century. But for two or three centuries it had gone into oblivion. There was no access to it in the nineteenth century and the first of the present century, until Pt. K. Sambasiva Sastri edited and published it in the Anantasayana Granthavali No. 97 (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series) in 1928. The Following excerpts from his introduction would throw light on the Mss retrieved by him.

“I would add, before concluding, that the presents work though incomplete has been published on account of its rare merit and that manuscript of this work was Travancore’s contribution to the exhibition held at the All India Conference of Scholars and Artists at Indore in 1921.

“The edition of the work is based on two palm-leaf manuscripts in Malayalam characters obtained from the poonjar Raja, North Travancore. One of these manuscripts marked as ka is exceedingly worn out; it is about four centuries old and wanting in the first leaf as well as four leaves from the 41st. The other manuscript marked as kha is fragmentary, ending with a portion of the Jatiprakarana.

“The work ends abruptly (p. 154) and so we conclude that there are subsequent parts of the text yet to be discovered.”

The text, available to Pt. K. Sambasiva Sastri, is incomplete and it has not been possible to discover another manuscript in the last seventy years, that could accord access to the complete text.

In 1980 I suggested to my student Sri Anil Bihari Becohar to take up critical study of Brhaddesi including reconstruction of the text on the basis of citations or references available in various texts from Abhinava- Bharati of Abhinavagupta to Raga-Vibodha of Somanatha. He took up this subject for his doctoral research and started collecting and collating citations and references. As his supervisor, I continued to struggle and grapple with the problems of reconstruction of the text on the basis of the material collected by him, in collation with the Trivandrum edition. Sri Beohar was awarded the Ph. D. Degree in 1986. Almost immediately after this Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Member Secretary of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, conceived the publication of a series of Kalamulasastra (Fundamental Texts on the Arts). It was decided that so far as Sangitasastra was concerned, Dattilam and Brhaddesi should be in the first priority.

The text-reconstruction out by me during 1980-85 has now been thoroughly revised and the work of English translation, textual notes and annotations was taken up by me in 1988.

This work is presented in three volumes, the first one covering the first chapter dealing with the following topics: 1.Desi, 2 Nada, 3 Sruti, 4. Suara, 5. Grema-murchana, 6. Varna-alankara, and 7. Pada-giti.

The second volume will include the chapter on Jati, Raga, Bhasa and Prabandha (text, translation and notes).

The third volume will contain a comprehensive critique of the text and its contents, authorship, date, style, earlier authorities etc., exhaustive glossary, word-index, sloka-index, bibliography and textual appendices.

The scheme of the presentation of textual is as follows:

Almost all available reading variants have been noticed alongwith the reconstructed text in small types below the word or syllable concerned. Unless otherwise indicated, the source of the variants is the Trivandrum edition; wherever the source is different, numbers have been incorporated in the text or in the variants as the case may be; corresponding notes have been included in Patha-uimarsa (textual notes). Words or sentences added to the printed edition have been put in square brackets[ ].

In verse-numbers the Trivandrum edition has been followed, but there have been some modifications because-(i) some arya’ verses have been treated as prose in the edition and they have been restored to the sequence of verses, (ii) Some verses haven not been treated as citations in the edition, whereas they have now been identified as citations and hence they are not numbered as forming part of the text and (iii) sometimes regrouping of verses has been done according to the context.

The prose portions have been split context-wise and have been numbered as anucchedas, comparable to paragraphs. This will facilitate reference and retrieval.

The diagrams of samuadin, anuvadin and vivadin svaras were extremely confused in the edition, they been reconstructed according to the description in the text.

Interpretative and explanatory material has been presented under Vimarsa (annotations) according to numbers in the translation. These are pointwise explanations. The totality of each concept will be reviewed in the glossary and the whole text in its totality will be reviewed in the Critique. Thus some overlappings will be inevitable, but they will facilitate an understanding og the subject-matter. Speaking of overlappings, it was not possible to maintain a water-right compartmentalisation between textual notes and annotations, because the reconstruction of text cannot be dissociated from the content or meaning and the work of explanation or interpretation cannot be dissociated from the reconstructed text. Even so, the division is useful and logical.

A word about the translation. It has been my attempt to bring the original to the reader with its flavour and nuances; if in this attempt the idiom of the English language has been violated, I owe an apology. My only submission would be that this is not a transcreation of creative literature, this is a presentation of ‘scientific in a different language. Hence the criteria of judgement should be different from those applied to translation of creative literature.

Technical terms have not been translated because that is virtually impossible; rough equivalents have generally been given in paranthesis and if an equivalent has been found adequate, the original word has been given in paranthesis in order to help the reader in indentifying the equivalence.

The indebtedness to Dr. Anil Bihari Beohar, Lecturer in Musicology, Indira Kala Sangita Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.,) has been acknowledged in the title page. Once again, I acknowledge with affection his labour and patience with the onerous task undertaken by him. To Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, I own a deep debt of gratitude for her constant inspiration and encouragement, My sincere apologies are due to her for the delay in completing this work, caused by both personal and professional reasons. To Dr. Bettina Baumer, Hony. Co-ordinator, Kalakosa office of I.G.N.C.A. in Varanasi, goes my heartfelt gratitude for her constant support, both moral and material. My younger sister Dr. Urmila Sharma has provided valuable assistance in reading the proofs; I express my loving gratitude to her. My affectionate thanks go to Dr. N. Ramanathan, Reader, Department of Music, Madras University, my former student, for going through the first half of the press-copy (upto the section on grama-murchana) in 1988, while I was at Khairagarh.

I thank Dr. C.B. Pandey, Editor, and Dr. (Smt.)Advaitavadini Kaul, Asstt. Editor, for seeing the book through the Press.




This volume completes the available text of Brhaddesi up to the chapter on prabandhas. It begins with the treatment of Jati, goes on to grama-ragasand their bhasas according to Yastika and Sardula, has very fragmentary portion on desi-ragas and concludes with the chapter on prabandhas. The bulk of the text is almost double of that included in the first volume. The salient features of the treatment of these topics in our text have been pointed out here and there in the Vimarsa, but these are only point-wise explanations. The critique to form part of the third volume will present a review of the contents of the total text. This will involve looking backward and forward through anterior and posterior texts.

The Introduction to the first volume includes the scheme of the presentation of textual material as well as the policy of translation. It is needless to repeat all that here. Acknowledgements;

I am deeply indebted to Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, Academic Director, IGNCA, for her constant support, inspiration and encouragement. The indebtedness to Dr. Anil Behari, Beohar, Lecturer in Musicology, Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh (M.P.) has been acknowledged in the title page. Dr. Urmila Sharma Research Officer, IGNCA has provided valuable assistance in scrutinizing the reconstructed text and in reading the proofs; I express my loving gratitude to her. My affectionate thanks are due to Dr. N. Ramanathan, Reader, Department Music, Madras University, my former student, for going through the press-copy and some of the proofs.

His scrutiny helped in correcting many discrepancies. Dr. (Ms.) Niharika Lal has provided assistance in checking the type-script and proofs of the entire English portion; my hearty thanks go to her. I am deeply thankful to Dr. Satkari Mukhopadhyaya, Co-ordinator, Kalakosa, IGNCA and Dr. Bettina Baumer, Hon. Co-ordinator, Kalatattvakosa, Varanasi Office, IGNCA for their moral support.

I heartily thank Dr. C.B. Pandey, former Editor and Dr. (Smt.) Advaitavadini Kaul, Asstt. Editor, for looking after the typesetting and printing of the book.


Volume I

Volume II

Sample Pages

Volume I

Volume II

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