Literary traditions of Sanskrit and Prakrit were highly synchronized for the last two millennia, giving a fillip to arts, cultures and literary creativity. Pravarasena’s Setubandha (or Ravanavaho), a fifth-century composition excellent example of this synchronization, and it has exercised unmistakable influence on Bharavi and Magha.
This volume, Prof. K. K. Handiqui’s English translation of Setubandha with detailed introduction and notes, is a monumental work of the past century in Prakrit Mahakavyas.The author h as undertaken this onerous task with amazing accuracy and analytical acumen. In this “critical translation”, Prof. Handiqui recovers and clarifies the original meanings, Pravarasena’s intenions and implicationsof poetic expression in Setubandha. While doing so, he has consulted vast mass of Sanskrit commentaries, without compromising his own authority. Therefore it brings to one’s attention Pravarasens’s meticulous style and his use of Prakrit language. This is the first comprehensive edition of Setubandha that includes the original text in Prakrit with its chaya in Sanskrit, a complete translation in English with exhaustive notes.
This scholarly title should invoke keen interest among the academia of Sanskrit and Prakrit, students and researchers,as it represents a significant phase in the development of kavya, after Kalidasa.
Prof. Krishna Kanta Handiqui (1898-1982) was a noted Sanskritist and one of the foremost educationists of modern India. He was the founder –principal of the J. B. College, Jorhat (Assam) which was the first non-government degree college of north-east India. Among his many contributions as an Indologist are his acclaimed first-ever English translation of the Setubandha of Pravarasena and a detailed study of Somadeva’s Yasastilaka.
Literary traditions in Sanskrit and Prakrit have gone hand-in-hand for more than two millennia in India. A unique bond existed between them leading to the rejuvenation of arts, cultures and literary creativity. Great poets of Sanskrit also wrote in Prakrit. If the lyrics of Gahasatasai made an everlasting impact on classical Sanskrit poetry, the great epics as well as Sanskrit Mahakavyas formed models of the poets of Prakrit. SEtubandha or Ravanavaho by Pravarasena is an excellent example of this synchronization between was also a gifted Sanskrit poet as is evident from a number of subhasitas in old anthologies attributed to him.
The English translation of Setubandha with detailed “introduction” and notes by Prof. K.K. Handiqui has been one of the most monumental works of the past century in the field of Prakrit Mahakavyas. This translation was published by Prakrit Text society of Ahmedabad under the general editorship of Prof. H. C. Bhayani. The work was not easily available for so many years.
A number of editions of Setubandha are presently available. Besides the Kavyamal edition printed with the commentary of Ramadasabhupati and Sanskrit College edition (1957) by Shri Radha Govind Vasak, there are editions with Hindi translations by Dr. Asha Kumari and Dr Harishankar Pandey published from Varanasi. The need for an English translation of the poem with an authentic edition of the text was acutely felt in academic circles for a long time. Hence the present edition. The English translation by Prof. Handiqui is being printed here for the first time with the original poem and its Sanskrit rendering.
Marked with an amazing accuracy and analytical acumen, the study by Prof. Handiqui presents Setubandha in a holistic perspective. Bhayani had rightly termed Handiqyi’s rendition of Setubandha as a “critical translation”, adding that “no recent work of Prakrta literary scholarship matches the present work in richness of the exegetical materials culled after a meticulous scanning of numerous commentaries so as not to miss any significant detail”.
With the maturity of an extraordinary scholar, Prof. Handiqui recovers and clarifies the original meanings, author’s intentions and implications of poetic expressions in Setubandha. In doing so, he has copiously consulted the vast mass of Sanskrit commentaries, but has not let down the authority of his own.
In a very elaborate introduction Prof. Handiqui has comprehensively dealt withal the aspects of Setubandha, he has meticulously examined the issues of authorship, date and sources of the epic, has also taken into account the textual problems as well as the socio-cultural background of the poem.
I am extremely grateful to Mrs Ahalya Gogoi for having taken pains to make this work available to Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan (RSKS) and giving us permission to produce this new edition. I specially want to thank Shri Susheel Mittal and D.K. Print world for collaborating with RSKS in bringing out this important treatise and for their meticulosuness in carrying out the printing work. I am confident that the publication of this work will further stimulate the study of Prakrit literature.
The Setubandha is the only extant Prakrta Mahkavya that has come down to us from early times. The date of composition makes it a notable link in the evolution of the Mahkavya in Prakrta and Sanskrit. Further, as pointed out in the Introduction, the Setubandha has exercised umistiakable influence on Bharavi and Magha; and its importance lies in the fact that it represents a significant phase of the development of kavya poetry after kalidasa. Pravarasena’s poem is often quoted in Almkara works which points to the esteem in which it is held by Sanskrit writers on poetics.
The Setubandha, also called Ravanavaho, was critically edited by S. Gold Schmidt, and published for ht first time in 1880 at Strassburg then in Germany. A German translation of the text followed in 1884 as the second volume of the work. The Setubandha was published in India by the NIrnaya Sagar Press, the second edition of which appeared in 1935. The only merit of this edition is that it contains the commentary of Ramadasa on the poem as well as the Sanskrit chaya. Goldschmidt had utilized this commentary in manuscript, and had also access to an imperfect manuscript of the commentary of krshnvipra.
It was on the basis of the above materials that I had commenced translating the Setubandha from Prakrta. But after translating a few hundred verses, I realized the need to consult other commentaries besides that of Ramadasa; and at my request my lamented friend Dr P.K. Gode, Curator, Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona was kind enough to obtain for me transcripts of several unpublished commentaries from different manuscript libraries in India. The commentaries appeared to be of great value for a critical study of the poem, and it was thought advisable to include extracts from them as a supplement to the translation. The correction and revision of these extracts compiled from transcripts of imperfect manuscripts involved considerable time and labor; but a study of the commentaries encouraged me to undertake the translation anew with a better idea of Pravarasena’s style and use of the Prakrta language.
The translation generally follows Godlschmidt’s edition based on the text of Ramadasa. It will however be seen that it does not always agree with the printed text of Goldschmidt, or that of the Nirnaya Sagar edition, because , except in a few cases, I have followed Ramadasa’s readings only when they agreed with those of his predecessor kulanatha. The relevant details have been explained in the opening section of the Introduction; and in all such cases of discrepancy, reference may be made to the Extracts where the reading of the principal commentators including Ramadasa have been clearly shown as far as they could be ascertained.
The extracts include substantial portions of the important commentaries of krsnavipra, Madhavayajvan and Kulanatha besides occasional excerpts from certain other commentaries. Detail of all the commentaries utilized for this work and information about the original manuscripts will be found in the relevant section of the Introduction.
The book has been in the press for several years, and had to be printed at different places under difficult conditions. This stood in the way of continuous pagination necessitating the division of the volume into two parts.
In conclusion, I wish to pay homage to the memory of Dr P. K. Gode for his kindly help and co-operation which enabled me to continue working almost without interruption.
Dr A.N. Upadhye at whose suggestion I had undertaken this work passed away to my great sorrow shortly before the publication of the volume. Without his help and encouragement it would have been difficult for me to complete the task in my declining years marked by ill-health and bereavement. I express my sincere gratitude to him.
I am indebted to Shri D.D. Malvania, Secretary, Prakrit Text Society, for his unfailing courtesy and earnest efforts to expedite the publication of the volume.
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