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174
[POETRY
SANSKRIT


being afraid lest it might throw his own poem into the shade, Hanumān allowed him to cast his verses into the sea. Thence fragments were ultimately picked up by a merchant, and brought to King Bhoja, who directed the poet Dāmodara Miśra to put them together and fill up the lacunae; whence the present composition originated. Whatever particle of truth there may be in this story, the “great drama” seems certainly to be the production of different hands. “The language,” as Wilson remarks, “is in general very harmonious, but the work is after all a most disjointed and nondescript composition, and the patchwork is very glaringly and clumsily put together.” It is nevertheless a work of some interest, as compositions of mixed dramatic and declamatory passages of this kind may have been common in the early stages of the dramatic art. The connexion of the poet with King Bhoja, also confirmed by the Bhoja-prabandha, would bring the composition, or final redaction, down to about the 10th or 11th century. A Mahānāṭaka is, however, already referred to by Ānandavardhana (9th century); and, besides, there are two different recensions of the work, a shorter one commented upon by Mohanadāsa, and a longer one arranged by Madhusūdana. A Dāmodara Gupta is mentioned as having lived under Jayāpīḍa of Kashmir (755-786); but this can scarcely be the same as the writer connected with this work.

The Mudrārākshasa,[1] or “Rākshasa (the minister) with the signet,” is a drama of political intrigue, in seven acts, partly based on historical events, the plot turning on the reconciliation of Rākshasa, the minister of the murdered king Nanda, with the hostile party, consisting of Prince Chandragupta (the Greek Sandrocottus, 315-291 B.C.), who succeeded Nanda, and his minister Chāṇakya. The plot is developed with considerable dramatic skill, in vigorous, if not particularly elegant, language. The play was composed by Viśākhadatta, prior, at any rate, to the 11th century, whilst Professor Jacobi infers from astronomical indications that it was written in A.D. 860.

The Prabodha-chandrodaya,[2] or “the moon-rise of intelligence,” composed by Kṛishṇamiśra about the 12th century, is an allegorical play, in six acts, the dramatis personae of which consist entirely of abstract ideas, divided into two conflicting hosts.

Of numerous inferior dramatic compositions we may mention as the best—the Anarghya-rāghava, by Murāri; the Bāla-rāmāyaṇa, one of six plays (four of which are known) by Rājaśekhara,[3] and the Prasanna-rāghava,[4] by Jayadeva, the author of the rhetorical treatise Chandrāloka. Abstracts of a number of other pieces are given in H. H. Wilson's Hindu Theatre, the standard work on this subject. The dramatic genius of the Hindus may be said to have exhausted itself about the 14th century.

5. Lyrical, Descriptive and Didactic Poetry.—Allusion has already been made to the marked predilection of the medieval Indian poet for depicting in a single stanza some peculiar physical or mental situation. The profane lyrical poetry consists chiefly of such little poetic pictures, which form a prominent feature of dramatic compositions. Numerous poets and poetesses are only known to us through such detached stanzas, preserved in native anthologies or manuals of rhetoric, and enshrining a vast amount of descriptive and contemplative poetry. Thus the Saduktikarṇāmṛita,[5] or “ear-ambrosia of good sayings,” an anthology compiled by Śrīdhara Dāsa in 1205, contains verses by 446 different writers; while the Śārngadharapaddhati,[6] of the 14th century, contains some 6000 verses culled from 264 different writers and works; and Vallabhadeva's Subhāshitāvalī,[7] another such anthology, consists of some 3500 verses ascribed to some 350 poets. These verses are either of a purely descriptive or of an erotic character; or they have a didactic tendency, being intended to convey, in an attractive and easily remembered form, some moral truth or useful counsel. An excellent specimen of a longer poem, of a partly descriptive, partly erotic character, is Kālidāsa's Meghadūta,[8] or “cloud messenger,” in which a banished Yaksha (demi-god) sends a love-message across India to his wife in the Himālaya, and describes, in verse-pictures of the stately mandākrāntā metre the various places and objects over which the messenger, a cloud, will have to sail in his airy voyage. This little masterpiece has called forth a number of more or less successful imitations, such as Lakshmīdāsa's Śuka-sandeśa, or “parrot-message,” lately edited by the mahārāja of Travancore. Another much-admired descriptive poem by Kālidāsa is the Ṛitu-saṃhāra,[9] or “collection of the seasons,” in which the attractive features of the six seasons are successively set forth.

As regards religious lyrics, the fruit of sectarian fervour, a large collection of hymns and detached stanzas, extolling some special deity, might be made from Purāṇas and other works. Of independent productions of this kind only a few of the more important can be mentioned here. Śankara Âchārya, the great Vedāntist, who seems to have flourished about A.D. 800, is credited with several devotional poems, especially the Ānanda-laharī, or “wave of joy,” a hymn of 103 stanzas, in praise of the goddess Pārvatī. The Sūrya-śataka, or century of stanzas in praise of Sūrya, the sun, is ascribed to Mayūra, the contemporary (and, according to a tradition, the father-in-law) of Bāṇa (in the early part of the 7th century). The latter poet himself composed the Chaṇḍikāstotra, a hymn of 102 stanzas, extolling Śiva's consort. The Khaṇḍapraśasti, a poem celebrating the ten avatāras of Vishṇu, is ascribed to no other than Hanumān, the monkey general, himself. Jayadeva's beautiful poem Gītagovinda, which, like most productions concerning Kṛishṇa, is of a very sensuous character, has already been referred to.

The particular branch of didactic poetry in which India is especially rich is that of moral maxims, expressed in single Didactic poetry. stanzas or couplets, and forming the chief vehicle of the Nīti-śāstra or ethic science. Excellent collections of such aphorisms have been published—in Sanskrit and German by O. v. Böhtlingk, and in English by John Muir. Probably the oldest original collection of this kind is that ascribed to Chāṇakya,—and entitled Rājanītisamuchchaya,[10] “collection on the conduct of kings”—traditionally connected with the Machiavellian minister of Chandragupta, but (in its present form) doubtless much later—of which there are several recensions, especially a shorter one of one hundred couplets, and a larger one of some three hundred. Another old collection is the Kāmandakīya-Nītisāra,[11] ascribed to Kāmandaki, who is said to have been the disciple of Chāṇakya. Under the name of Bhartṛihari have been handed down three centuries of sententious couplets,[12] one of which, the nīta-śataka, relates to ethics, whilst the other two, the śṛingāra- and vairāgya-śatakas, consist of amatory and devotional verses respectively. The Nīti-pradīpa, or “lamp of conduct,” consisting of sixteen stanzas, is ascribed to Vetālabhaṭṭa who is mentioned as one of “nine gems.” The Amarū-śataka,[13] consisting of a hundred stanzas, ascribed to a King Amaru (sometimes wrongly to Śankara); the Bhāminī-vilāsa,[14] or “dalliance of a fair woman,” by Jagannātha; and the Chaurasuratapanchāśikā,[15] by Bilhaṇa (11th century), are of an entirely erotic character.

6. Fables and Narratives.—For purposes of popular instruction stanzas of an ethical import were early worked up with existing Fables and narratives. prose fables and popular stories, probably in imitation of the Buddhist jātakas, or birth-stories. A collection of this kind, intended as a manual for the guidance of princes (in usum delphini), was translated into Pahlavī in the reign of the Persian king Chosru Nushirvan, A.D. 531-579;

  1. Edited (Bombay, 1884, 1893) by K. T. Telang, who discusses the date of the work in his preface; transl. H. H. Wilson; German, L. Fritze; French, Victor Hehn.
  2. Translated by J. Taylor (1810); by T. Goldstücker into German (1842). Edited by H. Brockhaus (1845); also Bombay (1898).
  3. Another play, composed entirely in Prākṛit, by Rājaśekhara (c. A.D. 900), the Karpūramanjarī, has been critically edited by Sten Konow, with English translation by Ch. R. Lanman, Harvard Or. Ser. (1901).
  4. Ed. Shivarāma Raoji Khopakar (Bombay, 1894).
  5. Rājendralāla Mitra, Notices, iii. p. 134.
  6. Ed. P. Peterson (Bombay, 1888).
  7. Ed. P. Peterson and Durgāprasāda (Bombay, 1886).
  8. Text and translation by H. H. Wilson; with vocabulary by S. Johnson; with German vocabulary by Stenzler (1874); often, with commentary, in India.
  9. The first Sanskrit book published (by Sir W. Jones), 1792. Text and Latin translation by P. v. Bohlen, edited, with notes and translation, by S. Ayyar (Bombay, 1897); partly translated, in verse, by R. T. H. Griffith, Specimens of Old Indian Poetry.
  10. Ed. Klatt (1373); German transl. O. Kressler (1906).
  11. Edited by Rājendralāla Mitra, Bibl. Ind.; with translation and notes (Madras, 1895).
  12. Translation, in English verse, by C. H. Tawney.
  13. Ed. R. Simon (1893).
  14. Edited, with French translation. by A. Bergaigne (1872); with English translation, by Sheshādri Iyar (Bombay, 1894).
  15. Edited by P. v. Bohlen (1833); with German translation, W. Solf (1886); English translation by Edwin Arnold (1896).