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Oujein) in A.D. 544 and ante-dated by 600 years, falls to the ground; and with it Max Müller's theory[1] of an Indian Renaissance inaugurated during the reign of that king. Though Kālidāsa's date thus remains still uncertain, the probability is that he flourished at Ujjayinī about 440–448 A.D. Of the principal poets of this class, whose works have come down to us, he appears to be one of the earliest; but there can be little doubt that he was preceded in this as in other departments of poetic composition by many lesser lights, eclipsed by the sun of his fame, and forgotten. Thus the recently discovered Buddhacharita,[2] a Sanskrit poem on the life of the reformer, which was translated into Chinese about A.D. 420, and the author of which, Aśvaghosha, is placed by Buddhist tradition as early as the time of Kanishka (who began to reign in A.D. 78), calls itself, not without reason, a “mahākāvya”; and the panegyrics contained in some of the inscriptions of the 4th century[3] likewise display, both in verse and ornate prose, many of the characteristic features of the kāvya style of composition. Indeed, a number of quotations in the Mahābhāshya[4] the commentary on Pāṇini, go far to show that the kāvya style was already cultivated at the time of Patanjali, whose date can hardly be placed later than the 1st century of the Christian era, though it may, and probably does, go back to the 2nd century B.C.

Of the six universally recognized “great poems” here enumerated the first two, and doubtless the two finest, are those attributed to Kālidāsa. (1) The Raghuvaṃśa,[5] or “race of Raghu,” celebrates the ancestry and deeds of Rāma. The work, consisting of nineteen cantos, is manifestly incomplete; but hitherto no copy has been discovered of the six additional cantos which are supposed to have completed it. (2) The Kumāra-sambhava[6] or “the birth of (the war-god) Kumāra” (or Skanda), the son of Śiva and Pārvatī, consists of seventeen cantos, the last ten of which were, however, not commented upon by Mallinātha, and are usually omitted in the MSS.; whence they are still looked upon as spurious by many scholars, though they may only have been set aside on account of their amorous character rendering them unsuitable for educational purposes, for which the works of Kālidāsa are extensively used in India; the 8th canto, at any rate, being quoted by Vāmana (c. A.D. 700). Another poem of this class, the Nalodaya,[7] or “rise of Nala”—describing the restoration of that king, after having lost his kingdom through gambling—is wrongly ascribed to Kālidāsa, being far inferior to the other works, and of a much more artificial character. (3) The Kirātārjunīya,[8] or combat between the Pāṇḍava prince Arjuna and the god Śiva, in the guise of a Kirāta or wild mountaineer, is a poem in eighteen cantos, by Bhāravi, who is mentioned together with Kālidāsa in an inscription dated A.D. 634. (4) The Śiśupāla-badha, or slaying of Śiśupāla, who, being a prince of Chedi, reviled Kṛishṇa, who had carried off his intended wife, and was killed by him at the inauguration sacrifice of Yudhishṭhira, is a poem consisting of twenty cantos, attributed to Māgha,[9] whence it is also called Māghakāvya. (5) The Rāvaṇabadha, or “slaying of Rāvaṇa,” more commonly called Bhaṭṭikāvya, to distinguish it from other poems (especially one by Pravarasena), likewise bearing the former title, was composed for the practical purpose of illustrating the less common grammatical forms and the figures of rhetoric and poetry. In its closing couplet it professes to have been written at Vallabhī, under Śridharasena, but, several princes of that name being mentioned in inscriptions as having ruled there in the 6th and 7th centuries, its exact date is still uncertain. Bhaṭṭi, apparently the author's name, is usually identified with the well-known grammarian Bhartṛihari, whose death Professor M. Müller, from a Chinese statement, fixes at A.D. 650, while others make him Bhartṛihari's son. (6) The Naishadhīya, or Naishadha-charita, the life of Nala, king of Nishadha, is ascribed to Śri-Harsha (son of Hīra), who is supposed to have lived in the latter part of the 12th century. A small portion of the simple and noble episode of the Mahābhārata is here retold in highly elaborate and polished stanzas, and with a degree of lasciviousness which (unless it be chiefly due to the poet's exuberance of fancy) gives a truly appalling picture of social corruption. Another highly esteemed poem, the Rāghava-pāṇḍavīya, composed by Kavirāja (“king of poets”)—whose date is uncertain, some scholars placing him about A.D. 800, others later than the 10th century—is characteristic of the trifling uses to which the poet's art was put. The well-turned stanzas are so ambiguously worded that the poem may be interpreted as relating to the leading story of either the Rāmāyaṇa or the Mahābhārata. Less ambitious in composition, though styling itself a mahākāvya, is the Vikramānkadevacharita,[10] a panegyric written about A.D. 1085 by the Kashmir poet Bilhaṇa, in honour of his patron the Chālukya king Vikramāditya of Kalyāṇa, regarding the history of whose dynasty it supplies some valuable information.

In this place may also be mentioned, as composed in accordance with the Hindu poetic canon, the Rājatarangiṇī,[11] or “river of kings,” being a chronicle of the kings of Kashmir, and the only important historical work in the Sanskrit language, though even here considerable allowance has to be made for poetic licence and fancy. The work was composed by the Kashmirian poet Kalhaṇa about 1150, and was afterwards continued by three successive supplements, bringing down the history of Kashmir to the time of the emperor Akbar. Worthy of mention, in this place, are also two works on the life of Buddha, which may go back to the 1st century of the Christian era, viz. the Lalitavistara[12] and the Mahāvastu,[13] written in fairly correct Sanskrit prose mixed with stanzas (gāthā) composed in a hybrid, half Prākrit, half Sanskrit form of language.

Under the general term “kāvya” Indian critics include, however, not only compositions in verse, but also certain kinds of prose works composed in choice diction richly embellished with flowers of rhetoric. The feature generally regarded by writers on poetics as the chief mark of excellence in this ornate prose style is the frequency and length of its compounds; whilst for metrical compositions the use of long compounds is expressly discouraged by some schools of rhetoric. Moreover, the best specimens of this class of prose writing are not devoid of a certain musical cadence adapting itself to the nature of the subject treated. Amongst the works of this class the most interesting are four so-called kathās (tales) or ākhyāyikās (novels). The oldest of these is the Daśakumāracharita,[14] or “adventures of the ten princes”—a vivid, though probably exaggerated, picture of low-class city life—by Daṇḍin, the author of an excellent manual of poetics, the Kāvyādarśa, who most likely lived in the 6th century. Probably early in the 7th century, Subandhu composed his tale Vāsavadattā,[15] taking its name from a princess of Ujjayinī (Oujein), who in a dream fell in love with Udayana, king of Vatsa, and, on the latter being decoyed to that city and kept in captivity by her father, was carried off by him from a rival suitor. The remaining two works were composed by Bāṇa, the court poet of King Harshavardhana of Ṭhānesar and Kanauj—who ruled over the whole of northern India, A.D. 606–648, and at whose court the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Thsang resided for some time during his sojourn in India (630–646)—viz. the Kādambarī,[16] a romantic tale of a princess of that name; and the apparently never completed Harshacharita,[17] intended as an historical novel, but practically a panegyric (praśasti) in favour of the poet's patron, supplying, however, a valuable picture of the life of the time. Whilst these tales have occasionally stanzas introduced into them, this feature of mixed (miśra) verse and prose is especially prominent in another popular class of romances, the so-called Champūs. Of such works, which seem to have been rather numerous, it must suffice to mention two specimens, viz. the Bhārata-champū, in twelve cantos, by Ananta Bhaṭṭa; and the Champū-rāmāyaṇa, or Bhoja-champū, in seven books, the first five of which are attributed, doubtless by way of compliment, to King Bhojarāja of Dhārā.

4. The Drama.[18]—The early history of the Indian drama is enveloped in obscurity. The Hindus themselves ascribe the Drama. origin of dramatic representation to the sage Bharata, who is fabled to have lived in remote antiquity, and to have received this science directly from the god Brahman, by whom it was extracted from the Veda. The term bharata—(?) i.e. one who is kept, or one who sustains (a part)—also signifies “an actor”; but it is doubtful which of the two is the earlier--

  1. Propounded in Note G of his India, What can it Teach Us?
  2. Ed. by E. B. Cowell (Oxford, 1893); trans. by the same, S.B.E.
  3. See G. Bühler, “Die indischen Inschriften und das Alter der indischen Kunstpoesie,” in Sitzungsber. Imp. Ac. (Vienna, 1890).
  4. Collected by F. Kielhorn, Ind. Ant. vol. 16.
  5. Edited with a Latin trans. by F. Stenzler; also text, with commentary, by S. P. Pandit; also repeatedly in India with and without translation.
  6. Text and Latin trans. of cantos 1-7 published by F. Stengler; an English trans. by R. T. H. Griffith; also several Indian editions, with comm.
  7. Text with comm. and Latin trans., edited by F. Benary; with Eng. trans., in verse, by W. Yates; also repeatedly ed. in India.
  8. Editions of this and the three following poems have been published in India.
  9. Māgha probably lived in the 9th century, though Bháo Dáji, in his paper on Kālidāsa, would make him “a contemporary of the Bhoja of the 11th century.”
  10. Edited by G. Bühler.
  11. The Calcutta edition (1835) and that of A. Troyer, with a French trans., based on insufficient material, have been superseded by M. A. Stein's ed. (Bombay, 1892), trans. by Y. C. Datta (Calcutta, 1898).
  12. Ed. and trans. Rāj. Mitra, Bibl. Ind.; trans. S. Lefmann.
  13. Ed. E. Senart.
  14. Ed. H. H. Wilson; again (Bombay Skt. Ser.) pt. i., G. Bühler; ii., P. Peterson; freely trans. by P. W. Jacob.
  15. Ed. Fitzedw. Hall (Bibl. Ind.); with comm. J. Vidyāsāgara (Calcutta, 1874).
  16. Ed. P. Peterson (Bomb. S.S.); with comm. M. R. Kale (1896); trans. with some omissions, C. M. Ridding.
  17. Ed. J. Vidyāsāgara (Calcutta, 1883; with comm. (Jammu, 1879; Bombay, 1892); trans. E. B. Cowell and F. W. Thomas (1897).
  18. Cf. H. H. Wilson, Select Specimens of the Theatre of the Hindus (3rd ed., 2 vols., 1871); Sylvain Lévi, Le Théâtre indien Paris, 1890).