Naishadha-charita of Shriharsha

by Krishna Kanta Handiqui | 1956 | 159,632 words

This page relates Introduction to Narayana’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 Nārāyaṇa’s commentary

The standard commentary on the Naiṣadha is the Prakāśa of Nārāyaṇa; at any rate, it is the most popular. Nārāyaṇa was the son of Narasiṃha Paṇḍita whose surname is stated to be Bedarkar in the colophon at the end of each Canto. The title Bedarkar seems to suggest that Nārāyaṇa was a native of Mahārāṣṭra.

Nothing is definitely known about Nārāyaṇa’s date. It is, however, certain that he is earlier than 1637 a.d., as there is a manuscript of his commentary written in Saṃvat 1693, being No. 368 of 1884-87 preserved in the Bhandarkar Institute.[1] On the other hand, his work is later than Medinīkoṣa, as he quotes this lexicon in the gloss on 1.91, the quotation being found in the printed edition. Medinīkoṣa is assigned to about the fourteenth century,[2] and one of the earliest writers to quote it is Rāyamukuṭa who wrote his commentary on Amarakoṣa in 1431 a.d.[3] If we assume that Medinīkoṣa began to be popular in the fifteenth century, Nārāyaṇa who quotes from it may be assumed to be later than 1400. He is of course earlier than 1637.

It is possible that Nārāyaṇa was acquainted with the commentary of Mallinātha.

In his gloss on 1.86 Nārāyaṇa says

“campako[p?]ari bhramaro na tiṣṭhatīti kecit | tatra tiṣṭhati paraṃtu mriyate iti prāmāṇikāḥ”.

This looks like a summary of Malli’s remarks on 1. 91—

“na ṣaṭpado nandhaphalīmajighrat” ityādau alīnāṃ campakasparśābhāvaprasiddheriti cenna, spṛśantyeva | kiṃtu spṛṣṭā mriyante tāvataiva sparśābhāvaprasiddhiriti kvacit kīrtitaḥ parihāraḥ.

Even if we regard Nārāyaṇa as later than Mallinātha, that would not conflict with the probable date of Nārāyaṇa suggested above.

Considering the bulk of his commentary, Nārāyaṇa quotes only a small number of authors and works. He refers to the Bhāṣyakāra, Kaiyaṭa and the author of Padamañjarī, the well-known commentary on Kāśikā, in the gloss on 14.55.[4] Haradatta is quoted under 15.89, and appears to be the same as the author of Padamañjarī. Most of the lexicographical quotations are from Amara and Viśvaprakāśa, and quotations from the latter work sometimes show variations from the printed text.[5] Under 19.45 Nārāyaṇa quotes Amaraśeṣa which is quoted also by Mallinātha, the citation being practically the same in both the commentators.[6] There are quotations from Halāyudha’s Abhidhānaratnamālā,[7] Medinīkoṣa, and Dharaṇi[8] and Yādava.[9] The lexicographer Ajayapāla is quoted several times,[10] and there are references to Kṣīrasvāmin and a Vaidyakanighaṇṭu under 22.59 and 20.21 respectively.[11] Vasantarāja’s work on augury is referred to in the gloss on 15.76, and Sārasindhu, which seems to be a work on the science of horses, is quoted under 1.73. In the gloss on 22.113 there is an interesting quotation from a Kalākoṣa, which describes a method of removing stains from cloths.[12] Among Purāṇas, Nārāyaṇa refers to the Bhāgavata,[13] the Bhaviṣyottara,[14] the Kāśīkhaṇḍa[15] and the Liṅga,[16] and quotes the Skanda,[17] the Padma,[18] and the Garuḍa.[19] There is also a number of anonymous quotations, the most important being under 14.88{GL_NOTE::} and 15.42, 89.[21] A treatise on cookery (sūpaśāstra) is quoted under 1.5.

Quotations from philosophical authors are practically absent, but under 22.36 there is a reference to the views of Vyomaśiva, Śrīdhara and Udayana on the Vaiśeṣika theory of darkness. These views are actually found in Vyomaśiva’s commentary on Praśastapādabhāṣya, Śrīdhara’s Nyāyakandalī and Udayana’s Kiraṇāvalī, and a brief summary of them will be found in Appendix I. Nārāyaṇa seems to have been familiar with the works of Udayana, as he quotes him also to illustrate the use of a word occurring in Naiṣadha 5.105.[22]

The Prakāśa of Nārāyaṇa has practically ousted every other commentary on Naiṣadha. Nārāyaṇa does not deal with the figures of speech, but pays all his attention to interpretation and grammar. The popularity of his work is due to the fact that he tries to explore all possible meanings, which explains the large number of alternative interpretations found in his commentary. Like Īśānadeva, he sometimes gives Vernacular equivalents of Sanskrit words, some of which have been included in the Vocabulary.

Footnotes and references:


I owe this information to the Curator Mr. P. K. Gode.


See Winternitz—Geschichte, Vol. III, p. 415.


See R. G. Bhandarkar’s Introduction to Mālatīmādhava edited by him.


101a. “bhāṣyakārasya kaiyaṭasya padamañjarīkārasyāpi mate chandasyevaittvaṃ naśimanyoḥ, na bhāṣāyām |”.


See Vocabulary under “kedāra” and “kalam[b/v?]a”.


“‘koḍaḥ kālo'sitaḥ paṅgurmandaśchāyāsutaḥ[?] śaniḥ’ ityamaraśeṣaḥ”. For Mallinātha’s citation see p. XXXV.


Under 19.27; 22.19 etc. The citation from Halāyudha under 15.33 (“patrapāśyā lalāṭikā”) is not found in his lexicon, but in Vaijayantī.


Under 3.42. Dharanikoṣa is quoted by Sarvānanda (op. cit.).


Under 2.80. The quotation is found in Vaijayantī.


Under 7.66; 8.92; 13.12.


See Vocabulary under “ikṣu”.


tailaṃ ghṛtena taccoṣṇajalairṭugdhena[?] kajjalam |
nāśayedambarasthaṃ tu malaṃ kṣāreṇa soṣmaṇā ||


Under 21.60. See also the gloss on 21.119.


Under 15. 83. Bhaviṣyottarapurāṇa is quoted also by Abhayatilakagaṇi who wrote his commentary on Hemacandra’s Dvyāśrayakāvya in 1255 a.d. See the edition in B. S. S. under 3.8; 5.141 etc.


Under 22.80.


Under 19.58.


Under 15.55.


Under 21.42.


Under 21.7.


See Vocabulary under “cintāmaṇimantra”.


See Notes 15.42 and Vocabulary under “mahājyaiṣṭhī”.


“‘anupasthitaparipanthibhiḥ’ ityudayanācāryaḥ”.

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