The Matsya Purana (critical study)

by Kushal Kalita | 2018 | 74,766 words | ISBN-13: 9788171103058

This page relates ‘Rasa (sentiment) in the Matsyapurana’ of the English study on the Matsya-purana: a Sanskrit text preserving ancient Indian traditions and legends written in over 14,000 metrical verses. In this study, the background and content of the Matsyapurana is outlined against the cultural history of ancient India in terms of religion, politics, geography and architectural aspects. It shows how the encyclopedic character causes the text to deal with almost all the aspects of human civilization.

Part 3 - Rasa (sentiment) in the Matsyapurāṇa

Rasa or sentiment is accepted as the soul of poetry by the Sanskrit rhetoricians. Though views are divergent in their approach to the importance of sentiment yet in a way or other they unanimously regard rasa as the most significant element of poetry. The term rasa is derived from the root ras which means to relish or to taste.[1] Bharata has said that without sentiment no meaning can be determined.[2] According to the Rasasūtra of Bharata, sentiment results from the mutual relation of vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicāribhāva.[3] Here, vibhāva is the determinant, anubhāva means consequent and vyabhicāribhāva is the transitory state. When a sthāyibhāva i.e., permanent mood comes to the contact of these vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicāribhāva it turns into a sentiment through the process of generalisation. The presence of sentiment in drama or poetry is essential.

Bharata has enumerated eight sentiments only.[4] Mammaṭabhaṭṭa has termed vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicāribhāva as cause, effect and accessories of a sentiment respectively. The permanent moods with the help of vibhāva etc. are manifested as sentiments through suggestive power of words.[5] Viśvanātha Kavirāja has declared sentiment as the soul of poetry.[6] According to him when vibhāva, anubhāva and vyabhicāribhāva help the permanent feelings like love etc. for its manifestation in the heart of a connoisseur, then it attains the condition of a sentiment.[7] In his words, only sentiments can be said to be the principal element among the constituents of a poetical construction and others remain the secondary elements helping in the realisation of the sentiment in a way or other. Thus, a poetical composition should possess sentiment as its essence.

Viśvanātha Kavirāja has mentioned about nine types of rasa including the type called Śānta.[8] They are:

  1. Śṛṅgāra (erotic),
  2. Hāsya (comic),
  3. Karuṇa (pathetic),
  4. Raudra (furious),
  5. Vīra (heroic),
  6. Bhayānaka (terrible),
  7. Bībhatsa (odious),
  8. Adbhuta (marvelous) and
  9. Śānta (quietude).

The permanent mood of these sentiments are:

  1. rati (love),
  2. hāsa (laughter),
  3. śoka (sorrow),
  4. krodha (anger),
  5. utsāha (energy),
  6. bhaya (fear),
  7. jugupsā (disgust),
  8. vismaya (astonishment) and
  9. śama (tranquility).

Though metrical compositions, Purāṇas are not poetry in strict sense of the term. Hence, strictly speaking theses works cannot be established as possessing any particular sentiment as their main sentiment. Even then this branch of Sanskrit literature is not devoid of poetical elements in anyway. Like figures of speech, sentiment is also used here as a tool of exhilarating the beauty of the narrations as and when necessity arises. Matsyapurāṇa being an encyclopedic work deals with numerous topics. As such it is hardly possible to carry descriptions with intense sentiment. Still, descriptions reveal the presence of sentiments like Vīra, Bhayānaka and Śṛṅgāra and also of Karuṇa, Raudra and Adbhuta more or less. But, whatever found is enough for realisation of a particular emotion which ultimately turned into a full-fledged sentiment. So, here is a discussion of these sentiments.


The 149th Chapter of the Matsyapurāṇa starts with the description of battle fought between the Suras and the Asuras. When Tārakāsura became powerful with the blessings of Lord Brahmā, he wanted to reach heaven defeating Indra. Indra, too, knowing this was ready to subdue the enemies. Both the parties tried their best to win the battle. The warriors not caring for their lives and with great enthusiasm fought with each other aiming at victory only. The army was comprised with infantry, chariot warriors, cavalry etc. All kinds of weapons suitable for battle were used freely. Darkness began to suffuse the whole sky as weapons were showered in the atmosphere and as the battle grew severely none could recognize one another but only the weapons. A long description of this fierce battle has been depicted in the following chapters where the valour of both the parties is well portrayed. So the overall excitement prevalent throughout these chapters is apt condition for producing Vīrarasa or the heroic sentiment which has energy as its permanent mood.[9] In the previous chapter i.e., in the 148th Chapter it is hinted regarding the preparation of the armies which automatically excited the sentiment as the preparation for winning the battle is regarded as the exciters of heroic sentiment. [10]

Again in the 43rd Chapter, the valour of mighty king Arjuna is narrated in course of the description of Yadu dynasty. Arjuna, the son of Kṛtavīrya in the lineage of Yadu had thousand arms and thus conquered the seven continents by righteous war. The virtuous monarch he protected the Earth against the doers of evil and at the same time he was unrivalled in performing sacrifices, in giving alms, practicing asceticism, learning of scriptures and in prowess as well.[11] King Arjuna once defeated the valiant Rāvaṇa with his prowess and stunned Rāvaṇa with his five arrows and imprisoned the former in his own kingdom, i.e., Laṅkā.[12] So, these kinds of narration give rise to the spark of heroic sentiment in the mind of the reader or the listener but in a subordinate position only.


In the same narration of the valorous deeds of Kārtyavīrya Arjuna one can meet with the feeling of terror when the fearful deeds of Arjuna creating terror in the minds of river Narmadā and of the serpents are narrated. Arjuna by his power of thousand arms agitated the river water in his gambols the sight of which created terror in the mind of Narmadā river who ultimately surrendered herself to the king.[13] The king even caused fear in the minds of serpents also. Sometimes Arjuna agitated the ocean with his thousand hands. On such occasions all the aquatic animals, be it the large shark or small fish would be powdered and dissolved in the waves and the wind being agitated by his thousand arms would break the foam of the ocean. At that time the mighty serpents clustering around the Mandara mountain trembled with fear thinking that there might be again churning of ocean where they would be employed again. These narrations establish the impact of fear in the mind of the reader which contribute towards the momentary relish of the sentiments of Bhayānaka as terror is the permanent mood of this sentiment.[14] The supporting cause i.e., ālambana vibhāva of this sentiment is one who can create terror and its action excites the terror again.85


The delineation of Śṛṅgāra or sentiment of erotic is found in the playful acts of the Apsarās and the Gandharvas as noticed by king Pururavā in course of his staying at the hermitage of sage Atri in Kailāsa Mountain. The nymphs after collecting flowers offered these to their husbands, while some decorated their hair with the garlands of flowers made by their lords.[15] In this way, the hermitage surrounded by beautiful lake, varieties of flowers, animals etc. create the feeling of peace and serenity and make the atmosphere more lively and romantic for the love-birds. Some of them were engaged into amorous enjoyment with their husbands in a solitary arbour, abundant with beautiful flowers. After bathing some of the nymphs began to dry their wet hair and their lords saw them with eyes full of love and desire.[16] Some were decorating and dressing with beautiful garments and ornaments with mind being fully occupied with the thoughts of their husbands only. Such narrations give rise to the sentiment of Śṛṅgāra which has love as its permanent mood.[17] The beauty of the nymphs is the cause of the love here whereas the atmosphere of the hermitage excites the feeling more. Erotic sentiment is of two kind, viz., sambhoga and vipralambha (love in union and love in separation) respectively. In the aforesaid descriptions, all elements of sambhoga can be found where the Apsarās and the Gandharvas enjoy the love in each other’s company. Therefore, the taste of love can also be relished by a reader from such descriptions found in the Matsyapurāṇa.

Besides these sentiments the other sentiments like Karuṇa, Raudra and Adbhūta have just left their impression only to the work. For instance when Nārada tells about the future husband of Pārvatī, the mention of the grief-stricken condition of Himācala[18] can only let the reader to imagine the sorrow of a father but cannot elevate it to the enjoyment of the feeling of sorrow which ultimately would turn into the sentiment of pathos. Likewise, when Madana, the God of love penetrated Lord Śiva with his arrow for diverting the mind of the Lord towards Pārvatī, Śiva made Madana reduce to ashes by the fire of His third-eye.[19] Here also, the descriptions left the impression of fury in reader’s mind but cannot make ground for the rise of a full-fledged sentiment, i.e., the sentiment of anger.

Footnotes and references:


Vaman Shivram Apte, The Student’s Sanskrit English Dictionary, p. 465


na hi rasādṛte kaścidapyarthaḥ pravartate/ Nāṭyaśāstra, p. 82


vibhāvānubhāvavyabhicārisaṃyogādrasaniṣpattiḥ, Ibid., Vṛtti on VI.32, p. 82


śṛṅgārahāsyakaruṇā raudravīrabhayānakāḥ/ bībhatsādbhutasaṃjñau cetyaṣṭau nāṭye rasāḥ smṛtāḥ// Ibid., VI.15


kāraṇānyatha kāryāṇi sahakārīṇi yāni ca/ ratyādeḥ sthāyino loke tāni cennāṭyakāvyayoḥ// vibhāvānubhāvāstat kathyante vyabhicāriṇaḥ/ vyaktaḥ sa tairvibhāvādyaiḥ sthāyī bhāvo rasaḥ smṛtaḥ// Kāvyaprakāsa, IV.27, 28


vākyaṃ rasātmakaṃ kāvyam…./ Sāhityadarpaṇa, I.3


vibhāvenānubhāvena vyaktaḥ saṃcāriṇā tathā/ rasatāmeti ratyādiḥ sthāyībhāvaḥ sacetasām// Ibid., III.1


śṛṅgārahāsyakaruṇaraudravīrabhayānakāḥ/ bībhatso’dbhuta ityaṣṭau rasāḥ śāntastathā mataḥ// Ibid., III.182


utamaprakṛtirvīra utsāhasthāyibhāvakaḥ/ Ibid., III.232


vijetavyādiceṣṭādyāstasyoddīpanarūpiṇaḥ// Ibid., III.233


na nūnaṃ kārtavīryyasya gatiṃ yāsyantikṣatriyāḥ/ yajñairdānaistapobhiścavikrameṇaśrutena ca// Matsyapurāṇa, 43.24


evaṃ badhvā dhanurjyāyāmutsiktaṃpañcabhiḥśaraiḥ/ laṅkāyāṃmohayitvātusabalaṃrāvaṇaṃbalāt// Ibid., 43.37


lalatā krīḍatā tena pratisragdāmamālinī/ ūrmi bhrukuṭisantrāsāccakitābhyetinarmmadā// Ibid., 43.31


bhayānako bhayasthāyibhāvo…./ Sāhityadarpaṇa, III.23585 yasmādutpadyate bhītistadatrālambanaṃ matam/ ceṣṭā ghoratarāstasya bhaveduddīpanaṃ punaḥ// Ibid., III.236


kāciduccīya puṣpāṇi dadau kāntasya bhāminī/ kāntasaṃgrathitaiḥ puṣpai rarāja kṛtaśekharā// Matsyapurāṇa, 120.7


kācit pṛṣṭhakṛtādityā keśanistoyakāriṇī/ śilātalagatā bhartrā dṛṣṭā kāmārtacakṣuṣā// Ibid., 120.20


śṛṅgaṃ manmathodbhedastadāgamanahetukaḥ/ uttamaprakṛtiprāyo rasaḥ śṛṅgāra iṣyate// Sāhityadarpaṇa, III.183


nāradaṃ pratyuvācātha sāśrukaṇṭho mahāgiriḥ/ saṃsārasyātidoṣasya durvijñeyā gatiryataḥ// Matsyapurāṇa, 154.147


babhūva vadane netraṃ tṛtīyamanalākulam/ rudrasya raudravapuṣo jagatsaṃhārabhairavam// Ibid., 154.250

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