Malatimadhava (study)

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

This page relates ‘Date 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 1b - The Date of Bhavabhūti

Sanskrit authors did not generally give any information about the age in which they lived. There were some quasi-historical works such as the Harṣacarita of Bāṇabhaṭṭa, the Vikramāṅkadevacarita of Bilhana, but they which contained more of poetry than of history. The only exception to this was the Rājataraṅginī of Kalhana, a well-known historian of Kashmir. Unlike several other Sanskrit authors, Bhavabhūti had indeed given considerable information about his ancestors, original home and learning, but had maintained silence on his patron and his date.

Therefore, in the light of other evidences the date has been fixed here.

(1) The Rājataraṅginī of Kalhana, written in the twelfth century A.D., had included some verses describing the victory of Lalitāditya-Muktāpiḍa, a well-known king of the karkoṭa dynasty, over Yaśovarman, king of Kanauj. The meaning of these verses are—

(a) As the sun dried up a mountain stream by its hot rays, so king Lalitāditya destroyed in a moment the forces of Yaśovarman and obtained the title of pratāpāditya (The sun of valour).[1]

(b) To persons adept in statesmanship the king of Kānyakubja appeared wise, for showing his back to mighty Lalitāditya.[2]

(c) Being vanquished by him i.e. Lalitāditya, Yaśovarman who was himself a poet and was waited upon by Vākpatirāja, renowned Bhavabhūti and other poets became a panegyrist of his good qualities. [3]

Among these verses the last verse alluded that Bhavabhūti was a court poet of Yaśovarman, king of Kanauj. Again, Vākpatirāja was another court poet of the same king and he was the author of the prākṛt kāvya Gauḍavaho (sanskrit, Gauḍavadha), which describes the digvijaya of Yaśovarman and his slaying of the king of Gauḍa (west Bengal). He was therefore contemporary of Bhavabhūti as he had referred to him respectfully in a gāthā of his work. He said -Bhavabhūti was indeed, like the ocean, like drops of nectar churned out of the ocean, there appeared in his description of the story some excellent ideas from Bhavabhūti's kāvyas.[4] From the wording of this gāthā it can be inferred that Bhavabhūti was a senior colleague of Vākpatirāja in the court of Yaśovarman, and that he was not living when Vākpatirāja composed his Gauḍavaho. From the reference to the annular solar eclipse in a verse of the Gauḍavaho,[5] Jacobi has calculated its date as the 14th October A.D. 733. Bhavabhūti must have flourished before this date, i.e. in the first quarter of the 8th century A.D. Bhavabhūti was patronized by Yaśovarman, the king of Kanauj. Hence his date can be determined by fixing the date of the king of Kanauj. An inscription of Yaśovarman had indeed been discovered at Nālandā, but as it was not dated, it served no purpose in this connection. But approximately Yaśovarman's date can be fixed from the description in the Rājataraṅginī that he was defeated by king Lalitāditya -Muktāpiḍa of Kāśhmīr.

(2) Lalitāditya was a king of the karkroṭa or Nāga dynasty. He was preceded by Durlabhavardhana, Durlabhaka, Candrāpiḍa and Tārāpiḍa of this family. Kalhana had given the right periods of these and other kings in his work. Kalhana wrote his Rājataraṅginī in the twenty -sixth regnal year of king Jayasiṃha. The period from the accession of Lalitāditya to the date of the composition of the Rājataraṅginī in A.D. 1148-49 was 455 years, 7 months and 11 days.[6] Deducing this period from A.D. 1148, it was found that A.D. 693 as the date of Lalitāditya's accession. Kalhana told that this Kashmiri king ruled for 36 years, 7 months and 11 days. So, he must be referred to the period A.D. 693-730.

The date does not, however, agree with that of the annular eclipse calculated by Jacobi. The date of Lalitāditya's reign fixed above on the evidence of the Rājataraṅginī contradicted the date of the annular eclipse which occurred during Yaśovarman's campaign as described in the Gauḍavaho. There must be some mistake in the account of Kalhana. This mistake can be corrected with the aid of chinese works. The chinese had apparently a better sense of history. The chinese annals of the Tang dynasty stated that Tehent'o lo pili (who was evidently Candrāpiḍa, the second predecessor of Lalitāditya) sent an embassy to the chinese emperor to seek his aid in repulsing the attack investiture insignia to the Indian king in A.D. 720. These dates, which appeared fairly reliable that Chandrāpiḍa was succeeded by Tārāpiḍa in A.D. 689. So, there must be a mistake of at least 31 years in Kalhana's calculation. Lalitāditya seemed, therefore, to have reigned from circa A.D. 724 to A.D.761. This agreed with the date A.D.733 of the annular eclipse which occurred during the campaign of Yaśovarman, for he was later defeated by Lalitāditya.[7]

(3) The chinese chronicles said that a king of central India named 1 cha-fon -mo had been correctly identified with Yaśovarman, who, from this account, seemed to have come to the throne in circa A.D. 725. He was thus a cotemporary of Lalitāditya (A.D. 724-761) and the annular eclipse mentioned in the Rājataraṅginī may well have occurred during his campaign.

(4) According to several Jaina authors, Yaśovarman was ruling in Vikrama Samvat 800 or A.D. 743. His son Āmarāja was converted to Jainism by Bapabhaṭṭi after he was initiated as a monk in Vikrama Saṃvat 807 (A.D.750). According to the Prabandhakoṣa of Rājaśekhara, Bappabhaṭṭi was raised to the dignity of Sūri in Vikrama Saṃvat 811 (A.D.754) after Ᾱmarāja's accession. These dates seemed to be reliable. So, Yaśovarman seemed to have closed his reign in circa A.D. 752. He may, therefore, be referred to the period A.D. 725-752.This agrees with the date of the annular eclipse. Vākpatirāja seemed to have completed his Gauḍavaho in circa A.D. 735, after Bhavabhūti's death. Bhavabhūti was Vākpatirāja’s senior colleague in the court of Yaśovarman. Therefore, His literary activity may, therefore, have occurred in the period A.D. 700-730.

(5) The date fixed above for Bhavabhūti's literary activity is corroborated by the following available evidence of Sanskrit literature

(i) Bhavabhūti's works bore clear impression of those of Kālidāsa. In the second act of the Mālatīmādhava, Kāmandakī cited the love-marriages of Duśyanta, Śakuntalā and Pururavā-Urvaśī in order to persuade Mālatī to elope with Mādhava.[8] These were evidently suggested by Kālidāsa's plays, the Śakuntalā and the Vikramorvarśīya. Again in the 9th act of the same play, Mādhava, grieving over separation from Mālatī, asked a cloud to carry his message to his beloved.[9] This was clearly suggested by a similar incident in Kālidāsa's Meghadūta. Besides, Bhavabhūti seemed to have borrowed some ideas and expressions from the works of Kālidāsa.[10] Also there was a similarity in the description of a child in the Abhijñānśākuntalam and the Uttararāmacaritam.[11] Besides, the recognition scene in the Uttararāmacaritam, in which Rāma concluded from various proofs that Kuśa and Lava were his sons, recalled a similar scene in the Abhijñānśakuntalā in which Duṣyanta did the same in regard to Sarvadamana. These similarities in incidents, ideas and expressions were so striking that none can doubt that Bhavabhūti was indebted to Kālidāsa in respect of them. Kālidāsa was proved to have flourished in circa A.D. 400. Hence, Bhavabhūti must have flourished after Kālidāsa.

(ii) Bāṇabhaṭṭa flourished in the court of Harṣa (A.D. 606-647). In the beginning of his Harṣacarita he had eulogised his predecessors of their works but he made no mention of Bhavabhūti or his plays. Similarly, the gadya -kāvya Avantisundarīkathā of Daṇḍin did not refer to Bhavabhūti or his works, though it mentioned several other Sanskrit and prākṛt poets like

Kālidāsa, Sarvasena, Pravarasena and others. Daṇḍin is referred usually to the sixth century A.D., but he seemed to have flourished a little later. P.V. Kane places his literary activity in A.D. 660-680.[12]

The above points give the earlier time of Bhavabhūti's date which was A.D.700. The later limit of his date can be determined by following evidences -

Apart from above evidences there were several other references regarding Bhavabhūti or his works after A.D.800. As for instance, in his Kāvyālaṅkārasūtravrtti Vāmana has cited some illustrations from Bhavabhūti's works. For instance, after defining the Gauḍī style in it, Vāmana had quoted verses from the Mahāvīracarita as an illustration of it.[13] Again, after defining the figure Rūpaka, Vāmana had cited the another illustration from the Uttararāmacarita.[14] Vāmana flourished in circa A.D. 800. Bhavabhūti must have become famous before the date. Again, Rājaśekhara, in his Bālarāmāyaṇa, had put a verse in the mouth of the sūtradhāra.[15] In the verse, Rājaśekhara called himself an incarnation of Bhavabhūti. Rājaśekhara was a court -poet of the pratihāra kings, Mahendrapāla (A.D.885-910), and Mahipāla (A.D. 910-917) ect. He must therefore, have lived in the period A.D. 850-950. Bhavabhūti had flourished long before it and had attained great renown.

Dhanika, (A.D. 974-1000) the author of the commentary Daśarūpāvaloka on Daśarūpaka,[16] and Bhoja (A.D. 1010 -1055) of the Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇa have cited illustrations from Bhavabhūti’s plays in their works. Soḍḍhala, the author of Udayasundarīkathā was a court poet of the Śilāhāra kings Chittarāja, Nāgarjjuna and Mummuṇi. In that work, which was completed before A.D.1050,he had eulogized Bhavabhūti as follows -Venerable in this world was the noble Bhavabhūti, the leader of the caravar on the highway of literature.Being guided by his works as the flag of a caravan leader, the people followed poets.[17] Kuntaka (circa A.D. 1000), the author of the Vakroktijīvita,[18] had referred to Bhavabhūti as the author of muktaka verses charming with attractive composition. He had cited illustrations from all the three plays of Bhavabhūti.[19]

Abhinavagupta (A.D.980-1020) had, in his commentary on Bharata's Nāṭyaśāstra, cited verses from the Mahāvīracarita and the Mālatīmādhava as illustrations.[20] Several verses of Bhavabhūti were collected in Sanskrit anthologies. Among these the Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa [21] ,the earliest known sanskrit anthology of Vidyākāra (11th century A.D.), cited 31 verses with the poet's name and anonymously.

After all, the foregoing discussion shows that rhetoricians and anthologists from A.D. 800 onwards had cited Bhavabhuti's verses with or without his name. In view of all this it can be determined that Bhavabhūti flourished during early 8th century A.D.

Footnotes and references:


yaśovarmādrivāhinyāḥ kṣaṇātkurvan viśoṣaṇam /
nṛpatirlalitādityaḥ pratāpādityatāṃ yayou // Rājataraṅginī,4.134


matimānkānyakubjendraḥ pratyabhātkṛtyavedinām/ dīptaṃ yallalitādityaṃ pṛṣthaṃ datvā nyaṣevat // Ibid.,4.135


kavirvākpatirājasrībhavabhūtyadisevitaḥ /
jito yayou yaśorvarmā tadguṇastutivanditām // Ibid.,4.144


bhavabhūtijaladhinirgatakāvyāmṛtarasakaṇā iva sphuranti / yasya viśesā adyāpi vikaṭeṣu kathāniveśeṣu // Gauḍavaho,V.799


rosadhūtacaraṇāyāstrailokyalakṣīvichūḍhanū purachāyam / / vivarabhaketubhinnam rabibimvaṃ vigalati nabhasi // Ibid.,V.829


Suru,N.G. ed. Vakpatirāja’s Gauḍavaho, Introduction,p.42


Vide, Sinha, Raghunath., (ed.), Rājataraṅginī of Kalhana,Introduction,p.89






kaccitsaumya vyavasitamidaṃ bandhu / Meghadūta,110 malinamapi himāśorlakṣma lakṣmīṃ tanoti // Abhijñānaśākuntalam,I.20 viṣvagbibhratsurapatidhanurlakṣma lakṣmīvadetat / Mālatīmādhava,IX.25


ālakṣyadantamukulānanimittahāsai/ ravyaktavarṇaramaṇīyavacaḥpravṛttīn / aṅkāśrayapraṇayinastanayānvahanto /
dhanyāstadaṅgarajasā malinībhavanti / Abhijñānaśākuntalam,VII.17 aniyataruditasmitaṃ virājatkatipayakaumaladantakuṅmlāgram / vadakamalakaṃśiśoḥsmarāmi skhaladasamañjasamugdha jalpitaṃte //


Kane,P.V., History of Sanskrit Poetics,p.93






babhūva vālmikabhavaḥ purā kavistaḥ prapede bhuvi bhatṛmeṇṭhatām/
sthitaḥ punaryo bhavabhūtirekhāyā sa vartate sampratiṃ rājaśekharaḥ //


Vide,Tripathi, R.S. (ed.), Daśarūpaka of Dhanañjaya with the commentary of Avoloka of Dhanika,pp.8,9,23,32,35


mānyo jagatyām bhavabhūtiranyaḥ sarasvate vartmani sārthavāhaḥ / vācampatākāmivayasyadṛṣṭvā janaḥ kavīnām nupṛṣṭhameti //
Udayasundarīkathā.,ed. by C.D. Dalal,p.154


De, Sushil Kumar., Vakroktijīvita of Kuntaka , p.71


Ibid.,pp.12, 39, 211


Kane, P.V., (ed.) Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharatamuni with the Commentary of
Abhinavabhāratī, p.222


Kosambi,D.D. & Gokhale, V.V. The Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa of Vidyākara, p.37

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