Manasara (English translation)

by Prasanna Kumar Acharya | 1933 | 201,051 words

This page describes “age of compilation” which is Preface 7 of the Manasara (English translation): an encyclopedic work dealing with the science of Indian architecture and sculptures. The Manasara was originaly written in Sanskrit (in roughly 10,000 verses) and dates to the 5th century A.D. or earlier.

Part 7 - Age of compilation

So far as the date of the Mānasāra is concerned the indications to the period discussed at great length elsewhere[1] must await final decision till the question of the identification of the author and the treatise have been satisfactorily settled. Up till now no tangible argument or proof has been found as to the possibility of the treatise being the compilation of a number of authors, instead of a single individual, who might have added to it from time to time until it has grown up to its present complete form and thus spreading its time to a long period. Nor has it been possible to say definitely what the title was intended to imply. In the treatise itself Mānasāra has been used in three distinct senses,[2] namely, an individual author of an unknown parentage and time; a class of sage-artists who deal with, the essence of measurement which is the derivative meaning of the term māna-sāra; and, lastly, a treatise containing methods and principles, as well as rules and regulations and illustrative examples of all the principal architectural and sculptural objects for the construction of which. the essence of measurement is required.

The external evidence referring to the treatise and the author is also very meagre. The avowedly architectural compilations like the Saṃgraha[3] referred, to above, which have expressly quoted from the Mānasāra, are also of uncertain authors and dates. The reference of the Agni-purāṇa, of which also the date of compilation, is not quite certain, is very ambiguous. It is stated therein that “above that should be raised a platform together with its neck either for the discharge of refuse or according to the Mānasāra” (not Mānasāra.)[4] A similarly ambiguous reference is made to Mānasarpa, not Mānasāra, as an architect, in two late inscriptions.[5] The only other external reference to the name of Mānasāra in a clearer term is in the Daśa-Kumāra-carita of Daṇḍin of probably the sixth century A.D. Therein Mānasāra is repeatedly mentioned in unmistakable terms as the King of Mālava (Malwa) with whom was engaged in war King Rājahaṃsa of Magadha (Patna); the latter was the father of Rājavāhana, the chief of the ten princes or Daśa-Kumāra after whom the fiction is named.[6]

This King Mānasāra is stated to be the father of one of the ten princes, who is, however, not even the principal character of the fiction. There are no doubt historical facts concealed in a fictitious work. But it is not easy to sift facts from fiction. Historical facts extricated from the complexities of such a fiction can hardly supply the necessary clue to the solution of the problem. Although some vague conclusion has been inferred from the circumstantial evidence about the period in which Daṇḍin, tḥe author of the Daśa-Kumāra-carita, lived, no such vague idea even is available about the period or periods in which the more or less imagiṇary ṃṇiḍeṇṭs described in the fiction might have taken place. Besides, it must be noted that King Mānasāra was not the hero nor even one of the chief characters of the fiction. This Mānasāra, the father of one of the ten princes who are the principal characters, is stated to have been engaged in a war with King Rājahaṃsa, tḥe father of the chief prince, that is all. There is in the fiction no direct or indirect reference made as to the nature of interest which King Mānasāra might have been in the habit of taking in literary or artistic matters; it must, however, be admitted that there was no real occasion for such a reference, but the author. Daṇḍin, himself is held, in his recently discovered works, the Avanti-Sundarī-Kathā in prose and the Avanti-Sundarī-Kathāsāra in verse, to be well learned in architecture of royal and divine structure. In this connection another incident must be taken into consideration. Neither in the three styles mentioned in the treatise Mānasāra under throe geographical names (Nāgara or northern, Vesara or eastern, and Drāviḍa or southern), nor in. the ten types of the most gorgeous buildings bearing again geographical names and provincial divisions (Pāñcāla, Drāviḍa, Madhyakānta, Kāliṅga, Virāṭa, Kerala, Vaṃśaka, Māgadha, Janaka, and Sphurjaka)[7] is included Mālāva, which was presumably the capital city and provincial kingdom of King Mānasāra of the fiction. In the circumstances it would be doubly unwarranted to take any decision as to the possibility or otherwise of King Mānasāra’s direct patronage ox indirect instrumentality in the production of the standard treatise on architecture which, as its title would seemingly indicate, might have been named after him.

Those who are, however, inclined to connect the treatise Mānasāra with this King of Malwa, would assign the treatise to the seventh century, because the author of the fiction, Daṇḍin, was a contemporary of another author Bhāravi, who is mentioned in an inscription of A.D. 634 and also of Harsha of Kanauj who reigned from A.D. 606-648.

On the other hand, in view of tine several facts discussed at great length in the writer’s Indian Architecture, the reader may be inclined to consider more seriously the other items of evidence which, are undoubtedly more authenticated and substantial, though, circumstantial, including those regarding the connection of the Mānasāra with the Matsya-purāṇa (probably of A.D. 450) and the Bṛhat-saṃhitā (probably of A.D. 550).

Lastly, those who have admitted the striking similarities between the treatise of Vitruvius (of about 25 B.C.) and the Mānasāra will have to await the missing link in order to connect these two standard treatises. It is, however, possible to think that instead of any one being directly influenced by the other, both might have drawn upon a common source, namely some unknown work or works, or some floating traditions. In the event of a direct relation being established, the date of the Mānasāra may be a few centuries earlier or later than Vitruvius whose treatise was probably composed twenty-five years before the Christian era.

The writer, however, takes the liberty to conclude this preface by reiterating the fact that this is, like the medical works, the most practical of all Sanskrit treatises, and with the hope that a trial may be given to its methods and principles, its rules and regulations, because the foreign imitation in architecture for a millennium has proved more or less unsuccessful and uneconomical.


Univversity of Allahabad.
February 6, 1933.

Footnotes and references:


See the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 160-198.


See the Preface to the above, pp. ii-iv.


See this preface, pp. xlvii—xlviii.


See the writer’s Indian Architecture, p. 169.


Ibid., pp. 4, note 2; 180, note 5; 171, note 2; 176, note 1.


Ibid., pp. 170-171, 197-198.


For the provinces implied by these see the writer’s Indian Architecture, pp. 173-175.

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