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Indian Kavya Literature : The Wheel of Time (Volume - 7, Set of 2 Parts)

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Item Code: NAC345
Author: A. K. Warder
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 9788120820289
Pages: 1018
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
Weight 1.42 kg
About the Book

A new evaluation of Indian literature is long due. The author observes that there has been a “systematic disparagement of Indian culture during the 19t1 and 20Ih centuries”, which became a “mighty industry with countless ramifications”. Further, he argues that literature should be presented on its own terms without any “colonial bias” or “anti-colonial outbursts”. He also adds, “in the development of human consciousness India has played no small parts” and “Indian Kavya Literature brings us, in the form of art a great and characteristic part of epic of human consciousness, that it becomes worth reading.”

The chief interest of this work lies in its literary criticism to evaluate “the great tradition of the Indian literature, which up to now has remained practically unknown to all but a few Sanskritists” [or Indologists]. With the growing popularity of ‘comparative literature’, this work becomes highly useful as it presents a kaleidoscopic view of the features of Indian poetics, portraying the characteristics of the style of every composer in the real situation of life; in his/her own socio-cultural milieu as viewed in the literary panorama set by the author himself with his vision of Indian cultural history as a whole.

From the Jacket

This volume, on the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (A.D.), starts with Vidyakara’s retrospect over anonymous poets (named ones having mostly found their places in earlier volumes). After some smaller anthologies, a few novels and Mankhaka’s mythological epic we come to a historical epic. History is the most substantial source of matter for literature in the volume. That might seem to contrast with Vol. VI, but as literature its aim is always art, not facts, which narrows the gap. For most Indian authors history is believed to be cyclic, repeating over enormous periods of time, hence our sub-title ‘The Wheel of Time’ (from the Kalacakra Tantra). Kalhana, author of the first historical epic here, mentions the cycles of the Manus in order to situate his story of Kasmira, though afterwards concerned with details during the last one which led to the consolidation of the present ruling family. The calmed aesthetic experience prevails, however, on account of the transience of life. Amaracandra a century later shows (after Bana) that the experience of the Mahabharata is the marvellous. It is not about real life. Dhammakitti (II) returns to the futility of real life, but tries to idealist a few kings and ends with the glorious story of Parakkamabahu I (though he knew this was followed by ruin). Many other katyas from all over India are also based on history, by Sandhyakara, Hemacandra, Arisimha, Balacandra, Jayanaka, Dhammakitti I, Camdabaliddika and others. There are prose biographies by Somadeva Calukya, Kalakalabha and Vacissara and a campu from history, the anonymous Hatthavanagallaviharavmsa. Plays on contemporary history by Yasascandra, Somadeva III, Jayasimha and Harihara survive. Jinabhadra II’s prabandha consists of mere anecdotes. With the Simhasanadvatrimsika, though it is supposed to be about Vikramaditya and Bhoja, we arrive in the world of pure fiction.

Hara II’s is the best epic from this period, rich in detail, philosophical, comically ingenious in its learning. Its legend is from the Mahabharata, but the author’s outlook is strictly Vedist, again humorously so. The objective is Nab’s marriage; therefore, the experience is the sensitive, with strong support from the comic, Parakkamabahu II’s Sinhalese epic on a Jataka legend, a fairy story, is also sensitive and perfectly regular. Vedeha’s mythical Pall epic is irregular, but this may he seen as reflecting the subject matter. Kampan’s epic on the divine Rama seems purely theological: there is no real struggle; Cod cannot suffer. This leaves Ravana as the greatest and tragic hero, Haricandra’s Sanskrit epic on a Jina is of no interest, though he is an imaginative poet and his exposition of Jainism is the clearest.

Vairoana’s undated Maharastri anthology consists only of verses by himself and seems to be autobiographical, though obscure and allusive. He was a Buddhist monk, but still has difficulties with his former wife. The Saiva Addahamanu’s Apabhramsa lyric has a simple theme but a wide emotional range. It is also a display of metres. The anthologists Sridharadasa and Jalhana preserve verses from several otherwise unknown but excellent poets, especially Bheribhankara and Jalacandra, as well as anonymous ones. Medhankara’s Pali poem looks like a minor epic but is a meditation on the Buddha. Few novels survive from this period: Mahendra’s on a case of mixed marriages between people of different religions is the most interesting. Nemicandra II writing in Kannada is fantastic.

A rich theatre is extant from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, besides historical plays mentioned above.

Ramacandra established a Jaina theatre in Gurjara, with legends and fictions. He was followed by Devacandra, Balacandra (a ‘tragedy’) Ramabhadra (the best) and Meghaprabha (a shadow play), as well as some rasakas. Yasaspala wrote an allegorical play purporting to be Historical, Hastimalla in Tamilnadu composed four Jaina plays according to the Digambara tradition. Non-Jaina playwrights were equally productive and more varied:

Prahladanadeva, Vigraharaja IV Cahamana, Sankhadhara (a comedy), Jayadeva I (a ragakavya), Vatsaraja (six excellent plays all of different types). Madana, Jayadeva II, Somesvara (the brahman), Subhadra, Vijayapala, Ravivarman and Kavivallabha.

All these Katyas were intended for the entertainment of contemporaries.

The author, Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit in the University of Toronto, is an old fashioned philologist who reads the primary sources in Sanskrit and the Prakrits.


According to The Wheel of Time [5748], conceived astronomically, history repeats itself in small cycles, the ‘ages’ [5221, and no human or divine power can control it. Civilisation and barbarism alternate. This explains the temporary rise of barbarism, the destruction of (good) dharma, of the siddhantas of science, philosophy and all culture, in spite of the expected working out of the effects of good actions. But it seems these effects are merely delayed until the arrival of the longed-for Emperor Kalkin, who will annihilate the barbarian dharma and re-establish the way to ‘release’ [5751].

History vamsa in kavya mainly takes the form of epic, apparently deriving from the narratives of tradition itihasa [5808ff.] and the more recent vamsavalis, within the chronological framework of antiquity purana. The two greatest historical kavis whose works are extant appear in this volume: Kalhana [5810ff] and Dhammakitti (II) [7165ff]. They are great historically in the sense that they are interested in the specific details of events and for the most part avoid the distortion of generalisation. But in both the final significance of [heir narratives is the teaching of renunciation in the face of so many futile kings. In this they are remarkably similar, but perhaps guided by the usual interpretation of the Mahabharata [99] as foundation of historiography in India, producing the calmed experience.

This interpretation, though it can be fitted to the Critical Edition of the Mahabharata, seems not to have been the original sense of the heroic poem. Bana evidently took the Mahabharata as marvellous, a model for his own Harsacarita [1646], with the heroic as cause [58]. Amaracandra [6782, 6856], beginning and ending his Balabharata in heaven and omitting almost all the direct religious instruction, appears to restore the essence of the old heroic and marvellous story. It is more like a fiction than history [6859].

Kalhana and Dhammakitti also assumed they were writing kavya, literary works: not scientific history but poems productive of aesthetic experience. They believed the detailed description of battles and the discussion of political and economic matters would enhance the experience, if integral to the narrative, contributing the essential causes of emotion [5822, 5831ff., 7210ff.]. Like almost all kavis, these three were writing for contemporaries [5814, 7209, 6780], for performance by an actor. Amaracandra offered his Brahman family the ideas of Vyasa [6782, 6857ff], not those of Krsna and only a little of Bhima (mostly on kingship). At the end, when Yudhisthara before finding heaven dreads Time [6844], we seem brought back to The Wheel of Time. The Jaina version of the cycles is reiterated in Amaracandra’s other epic. In Haribhadra’s Apabhramsa epic we have a Jaina tradition of ten incarnations of Baladeva [5891], corresponding to those of his brother Krsna (Visnu) and to the Buddhist eight (plus two) sages munis [5750, 5752], all of whom destroy demons or barbarians or ignorance. Kalhana and Dhammakitti seem not to be much interested in cycles but in detailed narrative or in renunciation: in ends or an end, not a beginning [5815ff., 5839f., 7173, 7218].

From tradition, the biography as a kavya form is implied to have originated as one branch, by Kautalya [423]. Somesvara (III Calukya) in writing a biography of his father [5920] traces the family from the Lunar Dynasty of Budha and Pururavas [5924], events being determined by divine providence (especially Siva). He also compiled an encyclopaedia, the Manasollasa, which begins with topics of dharmasastra and arthasástra, virtue and wealth, also branches of tradition according to Kautalya. To these Somesvara has rather naturally added more numerous topics of pleasure [5921]. Thus tradition seems to grow into literature. Kalakalabha begins his biography of a Hoysala emperor in heaven [7383], like Bana, and does not concern himself with the mere human ancestry of this incarnation of the God Kumara.

Jayanaka’s biographical epic contains a lot of historical detail and shows his antiquarian interest, with a hero descended from both the Sun (from whom Visnu struck a flash of light) and the Moon (the regular Lunar Dynasty) as well as being an incarnation of Visnu [6353ff, 6375ff]. The biographical epics of Sandhyakara and Hemacandra are both ‘decorative’ citra, double meaning or grammatical, but manage to work in a fair amount of historical detail. The latter’s history of Gurjara [5937] is extended in both directions by the (plain) epics of Arisimha [6675-8], Somesvara (the brahman) [69411 and Balacandra [7041], as well as enriched by Somaprabha’s Prakrit campu dialogue between Hemacandra and King Kumarapala [6126-30].

Dhammakitti I in his short Pali epic on the history of the Tooth (relic of the Buddha) describes mostly the miraculous adventures of this relic in India [6327ff]. Despite the miracles, King Guhasiva of Kalinga, facing defeat, felt forced to send the Tooth to Sihala for safety, where it arrived in +370-1 [6345]. The last canto describes its reception there, where it performed a rather minor miracle and King Kittisirimegha established an annual festival to honour it (which is still observed today). This lay Buddhism of miracles and festivals seems in striking contradiction with the philosophy which forms the basis of it, but the lesson of history surely is that only in this popular guise could such a tradition survive. We may compare with this epic the anonymous campu History of the Hatthavanagalla Monastery, where the miracles are assimilated to the results of former actions [7242ff]. Here King Sirisanghabodhi of Lanka (early +4) becomes a bodhisatta, sacrificing his life, and the Monastery and a shrine were constructed in his memory. Marvellous things were reported there but the buildings were destroyed by the Colas. In the +13 the ‘scholar’ King Parakkamabahu II persuaded the Tooth relic to work a new miracle at his capital and then rebuilt the Monastery. Thus the original Buddhist historical tradition [610] is continued. The Buddhist version of the ‘cycles’ is reflected in Buddharakkhita’s poem [6312], Vacissara’s ‘biography’ of the (great) Pagoda at Anuradhapura [7138ff] and in Sinhalese for example by Mayurapada [7336ff].

Jinabhadra (II)’s ‘prabandha’, a collection of prose historical anecdotes, not in chronological order, shows the Jaina view of post Vikrama (or post-purana) events dislocated by the false dating of Vikramaditya [6890ff.]. This is literature, not history. Towards the end he calls several of his stories ‘illustrations’ udaharanas [6921], reminding us of the remaining branch of tradition according to Kautalya, to which this prabandha might be assigned. The legend of Vikrama and Bhoja in the Simhasanadvátrimsika [7729ff] is entirely fictitious.

Yasascandra’s Mudritakumudacandra is a historical play in that it purports to present an actual debate before the King of Gurjara in which a Digambara is silenced and defeated by a Svetambara (since when Gurjara has been a stronghold of the Svetambaras). King Vigraharaja IV Cahamana of Sapadalaka is the subject of a fragmentary historical play by Somadeva (III), in which he defeats the Turks (Turuskas), barbarians, invading through Vahika (Panjab) and marries a princess the Turkish Commander had intended to take for himself [6134ff]. Jayasimha’s Hammiramadamardana on how Vastupala defeated the Turks is an interesting and well-constructed play on contemporary politics and war [6696ff]. Harihara’s heroic play Sahkhaparabhava presents Vastupala’s victor31 in another war, over the King of Lata [7080]. Madana’s natika Parijatamanjari [6620ff] might be related to contemporary history as Rajasekhara’s Viddhasalabhanjika may be [3714]. Yasahpala’s allegorical play shows a victory by Kumarapala over ‘Delusion’, with the help of Hemacandra. Jaina tradition later gives an actual date (+1160) for the King’s acceptance of their teaching, as if it is a historical fact.

Relatively numerous plays survive from the +12 and +13, despite enormous losses. A Svetambara Jaina theatre appears to have been established by Ramacandra in Gurjara, with a series of plays representing Jaina versions of tradition (Rama, etc.), as well as fictions. He was followed by Ramabhadra [6097ff] with an even better entertainment, by Meghaprabha with a shadow chaya play (apparently a new type) [6090ff], Balacandra’s tragedy (with a fool and much comedy in it) [7012ff] and others. There are also some Apabhraipa rasakas [6724ff, see 358, 360, 367, 421]. Among non Jaina playwrights should be noted Prahladana [61 40ff], Vigraharaja (on Arjuna and the Kirata), Sankhadhara (a comedy) [615lff], Jayadeva I (a ragakavya) [6419ff],Jayadeva II [6651ff], Somevara (the brahman) for an excellent play on Rama [6956ff], Ravivarman [7596ff], Vijayapala [7081], Kavivallabha [7629ff] and above all Vatsaraja [6472ff] not just for illustrating six different types-of-play including the cooperation, fight and rape but for writing six most enjoyable theatre pieces. Finally, Hastimalla offers us a Digambara Jaina theatre surprisingly different from the Svetambara but at least equally good [7429ff].

Regular epics begin with Mankhaka [5766ff] and Vagbhata (I) [5862ff]. Irregular in its metrical structure is Haribhadra (II)’s Apabhrama epic [5878ff]. By far the best in this period is the Vedic and sensitive composition of Hara II [6l68ff]. Vedeha’s Samantakutavannana is a short and irregular Pali epic [6256ff]. Vastupala’s epic also is sensitive and remarkable as one of several kavyas by Jaina authors on subjects from Brahmanical tradition [6684ff]. Second only to Harsa is Amaracandra, mentioned above [6782ff]. Somesvara’s mythical Surathotsava [6922ff] and Haricandra’s Dharmasarmabhyudaya [7684ff] are both regular epics, Jinapala’s Sanatkumaracakricarita most irregular [7O82ff]. Parakkamabahu (II)’s is a perfectly regular epic, in Sinhalese [7227ff], Kampan’s in Tamil [7714ff]. A number of very short epics in Tamil are extant, mostly on contemporary kings but hardly historical. Medhankara’s Jinacarita, though a concise life of the Buddha is not an epic but aims to ‘recollect’ the essentials and is a kind of meditation [7349ff].

For lyric poetry we have several anthologies in this volume, showing contemporary taste though most of the verses are older. Vairoana [5623] composed his own verses, but his own date is at present quite uncertain. Jaina compositions such as Somaprabha’s Suktimuktavali are mostly doctrinal [6124]. The epics, as usual, include many descriptions [6279ff]. Hymns are exercises in imagination [6306], but tend to word play [6309ff]. A Sripala quoted byJaihai3a [7849ff] may be the +12 poet [6121]. At the end of the +12 we find a group of lyric poets in Suhma [6398ff]: Umapatidhara, Saranadeva, Govardhana, Dhoyika, King Lakmanasena and especially Jalacandra [6446ff]. From Sindhu, Addahamaju’s Samneharasayu is a long Apabhramsa lyric in many metres. By chance, some beautiful Sinhalese lyrics from the +6 or later have been preserved [7120] and should have been illustrated above. They indicate what has been lost. From the +12 and +13 only epic and prose narratives in Sinhalese survive. From Maharastra we have two Sanskrit lyrics by Utpreksavallabha, probably of the early +13 [7839ff].

After Santisuri’s tedious ‘entire’ novel, Mahendra’s Nammayasumdari criticising the social convention that, in the event of a mixed marriage, the wife should switch to the religion of her husband and, conjecturally, the anonymous Malayasumadri full of incidents and ‘fate’, no more novels seem to be extant from Gurjara in the +12 and +13. Only Abhayadeva’s sargabandha, despite its form, is a novel in content? Though of no interest. Nagadeva’s allegorical novel is a paraphrase of an earlier work. In Kannada two novels survive from c. +1200: Nemicandra II’s ‘romantic’ Lilavatiprabandha (a campu) [6461ff], whose heroes first meet in their dreams, like Subandhu’s, and Devakavi’s Kusumavali.

There is not so much old criticism available on the authors of this period as on those of Vols. Il-VI (cf. Vol. IV p. viii, bottom third). So our approach must be different, less analytical. Only Harsa II attracted much interest among subsequent critics whose works we possess (Sobhakaramitra, Sridharadasa, Sarngadhara, Amrtananda, Visvesvara, Vallabhadeva, Appayya and especially Jagannathamisra). Mankhaka is quoted by a few (Ruyyaka, Sobhakaramitra, Vallabhadeva). Some +12 and +13 authors (Buddhakaragupta, Bheribhankara, Indrakavi, Umapatidhara, Saranadeva, Govardhana, Jayadeva, Jalacandra, Madana, Somesvara the brahman, Utpreksavallabha and others) are quoted by the anthologists Vidyakara, Sridharadasa, Jalhana and Sarngadhara. Amaracandra is quoted by Jalhana and praised by Nayacandra along with Hara II. This does not provide a wide view and for the flourishing theatre of these centuries there is practically nothing except the illustrations from Ramacandra’s plays in the Natyadarpana. Camdabaliddika’s Apabhramsa Prithvirajarasa [7118] is quoted by Jinabhadra II [6903, 6908], though it is extant only in a Braj version of perhaps the +17. This seems to confirm the impression that in Northern India before the +14 only Apabhrama and the Prakrits were current as literary languages alongside Sanskrit, whereas in the South we have found Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Sinhalese.

In + 1300 India was approaching the great turning point in the +14 when the aggression of Islam was turned back at Vijayanagara. Apart from The Wheel of Time, hardly anything in this volume foreshadows that. Here and there a kingdom stands against the Turkish invaders, always, it seems, perfectly confident in its superior strength and especially in the support of the gods or, more fundamentally, of the laws of nature. For thousands of years civilisation had prevailed against barbarism. The supernatural powers guaranteed it, at least until the final dissolution of the cycle, when everything disintegrated. That lay in an unimaginably distant future. So the Indian kingdoms felt perfectly secure. If a neighbour went under, that must be due to his lack of virtue, as a result of past actions. If at last a kingdom fell, it perished utterly, as Kalbana observed of Gandhara, the Sahi Country [5810]. Thus perished Pancala, Magadha and other ancient realms. But even then in Avanti, Gurjara, Jejakabhukti, Kalinga and further south all seems normal.

No real threat to Indian civilisation looms over this literature. Utter confidence prevails, indeed complacency, as if the terrible holocaust in the north meant nothing, or those were unimportant, unorthodox lands mainly Buddhist in their culture and therefore unworthy of the concern of a Vedist. There was a far greater awareness of the barbarian invasions of India in Tibet, though it was protected by the northern mountains, so there seems to be a cultural divide between the Indus and Ganges basins to the north and everything to the south. But that is rather speculative. At any rate the +13 kingdoms of Malaya (Avanti), Gurjara, Jejakabhukti, Kalinga and everywhere to the south belong to the history of India before the turning point when the struggle against the invading Turks became a conscious fight to preserve the heritage of India.

What is history in kavya? Myths from the Puranas tell that men are descended from gods [6783]. Long lines of kings then emerge, until the later parts report history that is confirmed by independent sources (e.g. of the Mauryas) [619, 714, 7146, Appendix to Vol. II]. As we follow back in time from this history towards the myths, the events become uncertain, the chronology artificial and humanly impossible. On the way, we find fantastic stories of the kings elaborated here and there. The greatest of these is of the ‘Bharata’ battle, narrated in the Mahabharata. This interrupts the line of Paurava or Kaurava or Bharata kings of the Lunar Dynasty.

Vicitravirya died childless: his half-brother Vyasa (the author!) was the real father of Dhrtarastra and Pandu. But Pandu also could have no offspring: his wives had sons by various gods. The regularity of polyandry (Satyavati, Kunti, Draupadi, etc.) suggests a Tibetan origin of this story. Among these sons, Bhima slaughtered all those of Dhrtarastra in the battle. Arjuna, son of the god Indra, had a grandson Parikit killed in the womb by a missile. Stillborn, Parikit was miraculously resurrected and eventually succeeded as king. Thus the later ‘Bharatas’ were descended from Indra. The Purana lines of kings end with some of the Vakatakas and a bare mention of the Guptas’ (no individual names) on the lower Ganga. Vikramaditya (Candra II Gupta who killed the last Saka) will follow. Here, instead of action being made history, history has been replaced by fiction. No true details survive about Vikramaditya except that (after killing the Saka) he ruled in Ujjayini.

After Vikramaditya, almost every state in northern India traced its history from him or his provincial governors: Kasmira, Gurjara, Magadha, Kalinga, Nepala, Medapata, Maharastra, etc. The far south in its scattered traditions knows nothing of him and Ceylon, which alone has preserved an accurate record form the time of Asoka Maurya to the +19,, has no mention of him.

Such is the pattern of Indian history as reflected through Amaracandra, Kalhana, Dhammakitti and a few other kavis shoes works are extant. But literary criticism by definition takes on interest in actual history, which is merely one kind of source of narrative and of suitable emotional material for kavya [403, 405f., 425ff.]. Aesthetic truth, not facts, must prevail in art.

Thanks are due to Dr. H.C. Bhayani for invaluable help in obtaining material and to my wife help with the index.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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