Malatimadhava (study)

by Jintu Moni Dutta | 2017 | 52,468 words | ISBN-10: 8120813057 | ISBN-13: 9788120813052

This page relates ‘Life of Bhavabhuti’ from the English study on the Malatimadhava of Bhavabhuti:—A Prakarana type of Drama in ten acts revolving around the love-story of Malati (from Padmāvatī) and Madhava (from Vidarbha). This study discusses the history of its author and the literary, social, religious, historical and cultural aspects of the Malatimadhava.

Part 1a - The Life of Bhavabhūti

Bhavabhūti has given considerable information about his ancestors in the prologues of his plays viz., the Mahāvīracarita and the Mālatīmādhava. From this information it can be known that Bhavabhūti’s ancestors were Brāḥmaṇas of the Taittirīya branch of the Kṛṣṇa Yajurveda. They belonged to the kāśyapa gotra. They were very pious Brāḥmaṇas who observed vratas, performed Vedic sacrifices like the vājapeya and maintained the sacred fires. They were so venerated for their Vedic learning and piety that they came to be regarded as paṅktipāvana. They were known by the family name of Udumbara and they were expounders of the philosophy of Braḥman.[1] They perpetually devoted themselves to manifold holy studies for ascertaining truth and not with the object of gaining victory in disputation. They acquired wealth for the performance of sacrificial rites and for the construction of works of public utility but not for luxury. They were anxious to lead a conjugal life for progeny but not for carnal pleasures. They also cared for life only for the performance of religious austerities but not for enjoyment.[2]

In this family, with such illustrious ancestors a person was born, whose name was Mahākavi. Bhavabhūti was the fifth in descent from him. Bhaṭṭagopāla was the grandfather of Bhavabhūti. The name of his father was Nīlakaṇṭha and his mother’s name was Jātukarṇī.[3] In the Mālatīmādhava Bhavabhūti is described as Śrīkaṇṭha-pada-lāñcana.[4] Jagaddhara, a commentator of Mālatīmādhava opined that Bhavabhūti was the poet’s real name; Śrīkaṇṭha being a title conferred on him on account of the presence of Śrī the goddesses of speech in his throat.[5] The word lāñcana in Sanskrit was used to denote a title. V.V.Mirashi in his book, has stated that Several commentators have taken Śrīkaṇṭha to be the real name of the poet on the analogy of Nīlakaṇṭha, the name of his father.

They mentioned the traditional story that the poet became known by the name of Bhavabhūti after he composed a beautiful verse, cf.

kāṃ tapasvi gatoavasthāmiti smerāviva stano /
vande gauridhanaśleṣabhavabhūtisitānano
/[6] .

The commentator Vīrarāghava on the Mahāvīracarita and the Uttararāmacarita said that Śrīkaṇṭha was the proper name and Bhavabhūti was the title.[7] The commentator Tripurāri, on the Mālatīmādhava held the same view.[8]

Bhavabhūti belonged to south India and in this regard definite information is found in the Mālatīmādhava which showed clearly that Padmapura was the birth place of Bhavabhūti and it was situated in Vidarbha.[9] Jagaddhara, an old commentator of the Mālatīmādhava identified Padmanagara with Padmāvatī.[10] The scene of Bhavabhūi’s Mālatīmādhava was laid in Padmāvatī. It was stated in this Prakaraṇa itself that a minister of Vidarbha sent his son Mādhava to Padmāvatī with a view to bringing about his marriage with the daughter of the chief minister of that place[11]. It shows that Padmāvatī was not in Vidarbha. The Mālatīmādhava described minutely the environs of Padmāvatī, the rivers such as Pārā, Sindhu, Madhumatī and Lavana flew in its vicinity, the waterfall of the Sindhu and the temple of Śiva situated at the confluence of the Madhumatī and the Sindhu.[12]

It was stated by V.V. Mirashi in his book that Cunningham was the first to make a conjecture about the location of Padmāvatī. He showed that the description suits the town of Narvar lying about twenty miles to the south-west of Gwalior. The river near Narvar was even known as the Sindhu. Pārā was known by the name of Pārvatī. The Madhumatī and the Lavana then bore respectively the names of Mahuvar and Nun. There was an old fort at Narvar. The purāṇas told that nine Nāga kings ruled from Padmāvatī and it was noteworthy that coins of Nāga kings were actually found in the vicinity of Narvar. On this evidence Cunningham identified Padmāvatī with Narvar. Later, M.B Garde, director of the Archaeological Department, Gwalior state, proved it by Archaeological excavations that Padmāvatī was not identical with Narwar itself but with the village pawaya in its neighbourhood. M.V. Lele had attempted to identify Padmapura, the birth place of Bhavabhūti, with this Padmāvatī.

Bhavabhūti was acquainted with various branches of knowledge as he has given references to them in his Mālatīmādhava. He himself stated in the introduction of the Mālatīmādhava that he had mastered the Vedas, the Upaniṣadas and the philosophical ideas of Sāṃkhya and Yoga.[13]

V.V. Mirashi opines that Bhavabhūti’s works were replete with references to the study of the Vedas, the performance of vedic sacrifices and saṃskāras, the hermitages of sages, the offering of madhuparka to guests, the innocent and playful life of the students dwelling there and so forth, which spoke his deep respect for vedic learning. [14] Bhavabhūti had profound knowledge in Vedas, Brāhmaṇas and Upaniṣads.

For instance there was a blessing to the celestial person who rose from the dead body of the Śūdra ascetic Śambuka, cf.

yatrānandāśca modāśca yatra puṇyāśca sampadaḥ/
airājā nāma te lokāstejasāḥ santu te dhruvāḥ

This verse was a clear echo of the Ṛgvedic verse, cf. yatrānandāśca modāśa mudaḥ pramuda āsate/ [16]

Moreover, Bhavabhūti was familiar with the Brāhmaṇa works, reflection of which was found in several passages of his plays. As for instance in the Mahāvīracarita [17] , the saying of Viśvāmitra, with reference to Śatānanda, the family priest of Janaka was a clear echo of the similar passage in the Aitereya Brāhmaṇa.[18] Again in the Uttararāmacarita, the mention of Lava about the number and description of soldiers guarding the Aśvamedha horse [19] was in accordance with the dictates of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa.[20]

Apart from these Bhavabhūti had mastered the Upaniṣads also.In the 4th act of the Uttararāmacarita, Janaka said that though he was overwhelmed with grief by the abandonment of his daughter Sītā, he could not think of ending his life by suicide for the sages said that the sunless regions enveloped in pitchy darkness were assigned to those persons who committed suicide.[21] Here,he extracted words from Īśopaniṣad.[22] This description apparently signifies Bhavabhūti’s knowledge of Upaniṣads.

Like the Vedas and Upaniṣadas, Bhavabhūti had studied the several philosophical systems also. Bhavabhūi has used the technical term arthavāda of the Pūrva-Mimāmsā in words of Rāma in the 1st act of the Uttararāmacarita.[23] He had mastered the Uttaramimāṃsā or Vedānta philosophy also.The Advaita Vedānta of Śaṅkarācārya, who flourished after Bhavabhūti, is known as Vivarta-vāda and which was noticed in Bhavabhūti’s plays.[24]

Bhavabhūti had mastered the Yoga systems of philosophy. There were numerous references to the Yoga system in his works. In his advice to Jāmadagnya in the 3rd act of the Mahāvīracarita, Vaśiṣṭha referred to several technical terms of Yoga like the four attitudes (bhāvanas) such as (maitrī) friendship, the lustrous mental vision free from sorrow (viśoka cittavrtti) and the truth bearing intellect which were derived from the Yoga-Sūtra of Patanjñali.[25] Moreover, in several passages of the Mālatīmādhava the references of Yogic concept were found.[26] In the Mālatīmādhava, Saudāminī said that she had attained the miraculous power of transport (ākṣepiṇī siddhi) by her practice of Yoga as also by the service of the guru, austerities, tantra and mantra. She was called Yogisvarī therein. By her miraculous power she was shown to have flown hundreds of miles from far-off Śrīśaila in the south with Mālatī and Mādhava. Kapālakuṇḍalā also had attained the same miraculous power.

Moreover, Bhavabhūti had made a deep study of the science of Erotic. In the Mālatīmādhava, he had stated that he had included daring deeds as described in the Kāmasūtra.[27] Thus, Bhavabhūti possessed knowledge of different subjects.

Footnotes and references:


tatra kecittaittirīyiṇaḥ kāśyapāścaraṇaguravaḥ paṅktipāvanāḥ pañcāgnayo/
dhṛtavratāḥ somapīthino udumbaranāmāno brahmavādinaḥ prativasanti /
Vide, Kale,M.R., (ed. &trans.) Mālatīmādhava of Bhavabhūti, p.7


te śrotriyāstatvaviniścayāya bhūri śrutaṃ śāśvatamādriyante /
iṣṭāya pūrtāya ca karmaṇearthāndārānpatyāya tapoarthamāyuḥ / / Ibid., I.5


tadāmuṣyāyaṇasya tatra bhavataḥ sugṛhītanāmno bhaṭṭagopālasya pautraḥ pavitrakīrternīlakaṇṭhasyātmasaṃbhavobhaṭṭaśrīkaṇthapadalācñano
bhavabhūtirnāma jātukarṇīputraḥ // Ibid.,I.p.8


śrīkaṇṭhapadalācñano bhavabhūtirnāma // Ibid.


śrīḥ sarasvatī kaṇṭhe yasya sa śrīkaṇṭhaḥ/ tadvācakaṃ padaṃ lāñchanaṃ ciḥnaṃ yasya saḥ/nāmnā śrīkaṇṭhaḥ/prasidhyā bhavabhūtirityarthaḥ//
Jagaddhara on Ibid.,p.8


Cf., Mirashi, V.V., Bhavabhūti, His Date, Life and Works,p.57


śrīkaṇṭhapadalācñanaḥ/ pitṛkṛtanāmedam/ bhavabhūtirnāma, sāmbā punātu bhavabhūtipavitramūrtiḥ ślokaracanāsaṃtuṣṭena rājāñbhavabhūtiriti khyāpitaḥ //
Vide, Karmakar, R.D., (ed. & trans.), Mālatīmādhava of-Bhavabhūti, Introduction,p.viii


nāmnā śrīkaṇṭhaḥ prasidhyā bhavabhūtirityarthaḥ/
bhavabhūtiriti vyavahāre tasyevanāmāntaram/ Ibid.


asti dakṣiṇāpathe vidarbheṣu padmapuraṃ nāma nagaram //


padmanagaraṃ padmāvatī nāma prasidhau/ Jagaddhara on Ibid.,p.7


devarātena mādhavaṃ putramānvīkṣikīśravaṇāya kuṇḍinapurā dimāṃ padmāvatīṃprahiṣṇvatāsuvihitam / Ibid.,I.p.14


pārāsindhusaṃbhedamavagāhya nagarīmeva praviśāvaḥ / Ibid.,IV.p.93


yadvedādhyanaṃ tathopaniṣadāṃ sāṃkhyasya yogasya ca / jāñnaṃ tatkathanena kiṃ nahi tataḥ kaścidguṇo nāṭake // yatpauḍitvamudāratā ca vacasāṃ yaccārthato gauravaṃ / taccedasti tatastadeva gamakaṃ pāṇḍityavaidagdhyayoḥ // Ibid.,I.7


Vide, Mirashi, V.V.,Op.cit.,p.59






na tasya rājyaṃ vyathate na bhraśyati na jīryati /
tvaṃ vidvān brāhmaṇo yasya rāṣtragopaḥ purohitaḥ // Mahāvīracarita,II.18


kṣatreṇa kṣatraṃ jayati balena balamaśnute / yasyaivaṃ brāhmaṇo vidvān rāṣṭragopaḥ purohitaḥ //
Aitereya Brāhmaṇa,VIII.25


Kane,P.V.(ed.&trans.) Uttararāmacarita of Bhavabhūti, IV.p.88


nanu mūrkhāḥ paṭhitameva yuṣmābhistatkāṇḍe / kiṃ na paśyaya pratyekaṃ śatasaṃkhyāḥ kvacino daṇḍino niṣaṅgiṇaśca rakṣitāraḥ tatprāyameva balamindraṃ dṛśyate // Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,XIII,4,2,5


andhatāmisrā hyasūryā nāma te lokāstebhyaḥ pratividhīyante ya ātmadhātinaḥ ityevamṛṣayomanyante /
Vide,Ray,Saradaranjan.(ed.&trans.)Bhavabhūti’s Uttaracharita,IV.p.380


asuryā nāma te lokā andhena tamasāvṛtāḥ / tāṃste pretyābhigachanti ye ke cātmanojanāḥ // Īśopaniṣad,3


arthavāda eṣaḥ /doṣaṃ tu kacñitkathaya yena sa pratividhīyate //
Vide, Kane,P.V.Op.,cit.I,p.26


eko rasaḥ karuṇa eva nimittabhedādbhinnaḥ pṛthak pṛthagivāśrayate vivartān/
brahmaṇīva vivartānāṃ kvāpi vipralayaḥ kṛtaḥ/ Ibid.,VI.6


Yogasūtra, I.13




auddhatyamāyojitakāmasūtram / Ibid.,I.4

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