Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Introduction to Vidyadhara’s commentary of the English translation of the Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha, dealing with the famous story of Nala (king of Nishadha) and Damayanti (daughter of Bhima, king of Vidarbha), which also occurs in the Mahabharata. The Naishadhacharita is considered as one of the five major epic poems (mahakavya) in Sanskrit literature.

Introduction to Vidyādhara’s commentary

The extracts from Vidyādhara’s commentary given in the Notes are from the following manuscripts.

(1) No. 454 of 1895-1902 belonging to the collection in the Bhandarkar Institute written in Saṃvat 1732 or 1676 a.d., as stated at the end of Canto XXII.

This manuscript is well-written on thick and smooth paper, and fairly complete, but contains some extraneous matter incorporated from other commentaries. It often quotes Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita’s commentary, sometimes by name; for example, under 2.32 (iti caṇḍavyākhyānam); under 2.22 (tathāca cāṇḍūviracitabhāṣyam); under 12. 110 (... caṇḍavī vyākhyā). There are also verses[1] on which the manuscript simply reproduces Cāṇḍū’s gloss and gives nothing of Vidyādhara. At the end of Canto XXI, it goes as far as quoting the verses which describe Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita’s parentage and occur in the colophons of his commentary.[2] The manuscript quotes even from Nārāyaṇa’s commentary, and on 18. 148-53 simply reproduces the latter’s gloss. On 17. 196, 197 it inserts the corresponding portion of Jinarāja’s commentary.[3] It is certain that the commentary of Vidyādhara was not available to the scribe in its complete form, and he made up for the deficiency by borrowing from other commentaries.

(2) No. 415 of 1887-91 belonging to the same collection as above and written in Saṃvat 1442 or 1386 a.d.[4] I have called this Ms. B.

Ms. B contains only a fragment of Vidyādhara’s commentary, namely, a portion of Canto XII and Cantos XIII, XVII (with a few pages missing), XXI and XXII. The curious thing about this manuscript is that it attributes the commentary to a Cāṇḍū Mahākavi, whose name appears at the end of Canto XXII. It was, as a matter of fact, lent to me as a manuscript of the commentary of Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita, but it has nothing to do with the latter, and agrees in contents, as far as it goes, with the commentary of Vidyādhara noticed above. Besides, in spite of the mention of Cāṇḍūkavi as the author of the commentary, the manuscript quotes at the end of Canto XXI the Pratīka of the verse “līlādhotita............”, which recurs in the other manuscript at the end of several Cantos and describes Vidyādhara’s authorship of the commentary (see below).

The comparatively early date of Ms. B is noteworthy, but it is only a fragment, and not as well-written as the later manuscript. A comparison of the two manuscripts shows that the later manuscript is far more diffuse than B, and contains matter omitted in the latter. It seems certain that the commentary of Vidyādhara was revised and somewhat enlarged by a later hand, and it is this version that is preserved in the later manuscript. In making extracts from Vidyādhara, I have, in the case of the relevant cantos, collated them with Ms. B and noted the more important variants and additions. In spite of being a fragment, B often preserves the text of Vidyādhara better than the later manuscript. From 21. 158 to the end of the Canto the latter simply reproduces Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita’s gloss; B, on the other hand, gives what is no doubt Vidyā’s own interpretation. The case of Canto XIII is again puzzling. Here the two manuscripts do not agree, and we do not know which of the two versions represents Vidyādhara’s work. In the Notes on XIII. 36 I have quoted the interpretations found in both the manuscripts, which will show the divergence between the two in respect of this Canto.

The later manuscript gives certain details about Vidyādhara and his commentary. The following verse occurs at the end of several Cantos.

saṃsevyā sumanovarairnavarasagnollāsinī śobhanā |
cittāsecanake nalasya carite vaddhāspadā yā sadā
ṭīkā kāntiguṇānvitā jayati sā sāhityavidyādharī ||

It will be seen that the name of the commentary is Sāhityavidyādharī, so called from the title Sāhityavidyādhara assigned to our author in another verse which occurs frequently in the manuscript. We further learn that a physician named Rāmacandra was his father and Sītā his mother.

The date of Vidyādhara is fairly certain. He is earlier than Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita who refers to him in the beginning of his commentary on Naiṣadha.

The following statement occurs at the end of the eleventh Canto in the later manuscript of Vidyādhara (No. 454 of 1895-1902)—

“ityaparārjuna-caulukyacūḍāmaṇi-rājanārāyaṇāvatāra-bhujaba-lamalla-mahārājādhirāja-śrīmadvīsaladevasya bhāratībhāṇḍāgāre naiṣadhasya ekādaśamo'dhyāyaḥ”

It will be seen that there was a manuscript of Naiṣadhacarita in the library of king Vīsaladeva of Guzarat, also called Aparārjuna,[5] who reigned til1 1264 a.d.[6] We know, as a matter of fact, that a manuscript of Śrīharṣa’s poem had been brought by the poet Harihara to Vastupāla, the minister of king Vīradhavala, the predecessor of Vīsaladeva.[7] We know also that Vastupāla had the manuscript copied, and a transcript of the same may have found its way to the royal library. However that may be, Vidyādhara’s commentary was based on the text preserved in the library of Vīsaladeva, and he probably lived during the reign of this king. He is of course earlier than 1297 a.d., the date of Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita’s commentary, and we shall not be wrong if we assign him to the fifties or sixties of the thirteenth century.

The Sāhityavidyādharī is not a learned work, but it is the earliest known commentary on Naiṣadhacarita, and its author has the distinction of being the first commentator to grapple with the difficulties of Śrīharṣa’s poem. Caṇḍūpaṇḍita praises Vidyādhara’s commentary in the beginning of his work,[8] and other commentators have borrowed from it. It may also be noted that Cāṇḍū frequently mentions certain variant readings with their interpretation, and attributes them to an ‘Anya’.[9] I have verified many of these, and find that they occur in Vidyādhara’s commentary.

There are very few notable quotations in Vidyādhara’s work. In his grammatical explanations he frequently quotes the Kātantra,[10] and we have already mentioned his reference to Kātantravistara. Under 2. 40 he refers to the Vakroktijīvitakāra,[11] and in his gloss on 21. 126-28 he quotes two works on music—Saṃgīta-cūḍamaṇi and Saṃgītasāgara. Pratāpamārtaṇḍa is quoted under 2.24.[12]

Vidyādhara makes the following interesting statement at the end of Canto XVII—

anena sargeṣa śrīharṣa??irājena ātmasarvajñatā abhivyañjitā | itastatsadṛśena anyenā?yasya sargasya?rtharatna?karasya pāraṃ pra?tuṃ śakyate | [13]

aṣṭau vyākaraṇāni tarkanivahaḥ sāhityasāro nayo |
vedārthāvagatiḥ purāṇapaṭhitiryasyānyaśāstrā?yapi |
nityaṃ syuḥ sphuritārthadī?vihatājñānāndhakārā?yasau
vyākhyātuṃ pramavatyamuṃ[?] muvipamaṃ sarga mudhīḥ kovidaḥ ||

mayā tu nijamatyanu?āreṇāya sarg? vyākhyāto vinakṣaṇai?viśepavyākhyayā boddhavyaḥ |

Manuscripts of Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita and Vidyādhara are extremely rare. I learn that there are some fragments of the commentary of the former on the second and fifth Cantos in the Oriental Institute of Baroda, but I had no opportunity of consulting them. With regard to Vidyādhara, Paṇḍit Śivadaita in the footnotes to his edition of the Naiṣadha gives seme extracts from a manusciāpt of the commentary lent by Paṇḍit Nārāyaṇabhaṭṭa Parvaṇīkar of Jaipur. The manuscript, however, goes only as far as 11.6, and apart from a few variant readings, Paṇḍit Śivadatta quotes only the figures of speech mentioned in the Sāhityavidyādharī. Generally speaking, the citations agree with the manuscript used by me.

Footnotes and references:


e.g., 9.71; 6.96; 19.32-34, 43-46, 60-66 etc.


“śrīmānāligapaṇḍitaḥ svasamayāvirbhūtasarvāśramaḥ” etc. This line is quoted also at the end of Canto XIX.


See below (Section on Jinarāja).


The date appears at the end of Canto XXII.


See Paṇḍit Śivadatta’s Sanskrit Introduction to Surathotsava. The date of Vīsaladeva’s accession to the throne is 1243-44 A.D., according to Bühler, while it is 1246 according to R. G, Bhandarkar. It is pushed further back by Dalai in his Introduction (P. XII) to Vasantavilāsa Kāvya (G. O. S.).


Collected Works of R. G. Bhandarkar, Vol. II, p. 75.


See Hariharaprabandha in Rājaśekharasūri’s Prabandhakośa. Nearly the whole of the Prabandha is reproduced by Paṇḍit Śivadatta in his Introduction to Surathotsava. For Vastupāla see Dalal’s Introd. to his edition of Vasantavilāsa and Kathvate’ Introduction to Kīrtikaumudī. The date of Vastupāla’s death is, according to Dalai, 1240 a.d. (Saṃvat 1296).


ṭīkāṃ yadyapi sāṃpapattiravanāṃ vidyādharo nirmame
śrīharṣasya tathāpi na tyajati sā gambhīratāṃ bhāratī |
dikkūlaṃkaṣatāṃ gatairjaladharairudgṛhyamāṇaṃ muhuḥ
pārāvāramapāramambu kimiha syājjanudadhna? kraci? ||


Under 1.135; 1.124; 2.55; 2.62; 3.92; 3.116; 4. 100; 4.110; 4.83; 7.73; 10.89; 18.59; 18.69; 18.126 etc.


See, for example, Notes under 17. 151.


This writer is referred to by Cāṇḍūpaṇḍita also. See Notes 2.13.


See Notes.


Ms. B is here incomplete and breaks off with “margamyā......”

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