The backdrop of the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa

by Dhrubajit Sarma | 2015 | 94,519 words

This page relates “Mankhaka: his genealogy and date” as it appears in the case study regarding the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa. The Shrikanthacarita was composed by Mankhaka, sometimes during A.D. 1136-1142. The Mankhakosa or the Anekarthakosa is a kosa text of homonymous words, composed by the same author.

Part 6 - Maṅkhaka: his genealogy and date

a) Genealogy of Maṅkhaka

In the history of Sanskrit literature, it is observed that the poets are, generally not so much vocal, in case of giving information regarding their genealogy, place of birth, residence, kith and kin etc. However, there are some, who have provided detailed data, regarding their personal history and Maṅkhaka is among those few poets. There are both internal and external sources in this regard. Maṅkhaka, in the canto III of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, presents a full account his lineage. Herein, he mentions that he lived in Kashmir and that his fore-fathers lived in the province of Pravarapura, i.e. the present Śrīnagar in Kashmir. According to his information, Manmatha was his grandfather, a famous, enemyless, kind, liberal, self-restraint and good looking person. An absolute devotee of Lord Śiva, Manmatha, being a protege of the rulers of Kashmir, he himself favoured the scholarly people and gave gifts to the Brāhmins and thereby, keep at bay the inner sin. He begot the Maṅkhaka’s father Viśvavarta, who was again endowed with the virtues of his progenitor. He was a man of good expressions also.

Viśvavarta adorned the tip of the horns of the cows with gold and thereafter, bestowed those cows to the Brāhmins. The avidyā i.e. ignorance of his mind decreased and as a result, he became able to envisage nonduality having abandoned duality. A humble person, he was a great devotee of Maheśvara. He used to worship an idol of Śiva. He had four sons viz. Śṛṅgāra, Bhṛṅga, Alaṃkāra (otherwise known as Laṅkaka) and Maṅkhaka (also known as Maṅkha or Maṅkhuka). Of the three elder brothers of Maṅkhaka, Śṛṅgāra was the eldest. He was truthful, learned, eloquent, humble, elegant, liberal, wealthy and gifted with poetic capabilities. By dint of his virtues, he was appointed as vṛhattantrapati[1] (i.e. dharmādikārin or a judge, as construed by Jonarāja, the commentator, in the poem.) by Sussala, the then king of Kashmir. Śṛṅgāra was a man of quick action, knower of secrets and sciences, still modest and renowned for his merits. There is the reference of Śṛṅgāra, in Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅgiṇī[2] The next one, i.e. Bhṛṅga was attractive, prosperous, humble, courteous and a person with unfaltering friendship. Alaṃkāra, the third elder brother of Maṅkhaka was a great scholar, a great grammarian, well versed in dialectics, eloquent, a poet, an appreciator of learning and the learned and was celebrated for his virtues. He had opened the doors of the temples, which were, previously coated with thick paste of mud. A man of sweet and harmonious words, Laṅkaka was appointed as an officer in the affairs of peace and war, by Sussala and Jayasiṃha, the kings. Kalhaṇa added some more information regarding Alaṃkāra, the posts he held and the works done by him subsequently.[3] Alaṃkāra was an ardent worshipper of Lord Viṣṇu. Maṅkhaka, the youngest of them was well educated, wealthy, tall, familiar with various arts[4], sciences, law and other branches of learning. He was a righteous person, a man of fine demeanour. Because of his virtues, Jayasiṃha appointed Maṅkhaka as prajāpālanapuruṣa i.e. an officer in the affairs of protection of subjects. It may be mentioned here that there is difference of designations of the two brothers of Maṅkhaka in the account of Maṅkhaka and Kalhaṇa. While Maṅkhaka refers to Alaṃkāra as the minister for peace and war[5], Kalhaṇa mentions him as the chief of the high treasury and as the officer holding charge of the king’s outer court and as minister for justice.[6] However, both of them refers to Śṛṅgāra as judge. Again, Maṅkhaka calls himself as an officer in the affairs of the protection of subjects[7], but Kalhaṇa mentions him as a minister for peace and war.[8] Actually, Maṅkhaka refers to the earlier posts and Kalhaṇa mentions the subsequent posts held by them. Because, Maṅkhaka had written his Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, sometimes between, A.D. 1136-1142, whereas, Kalhaṇa wrote his chronicle in A.D. 1148-1150.[9]

Viśvavarta was very much contented by the fame of his four sons and for that, he, as it were, regaining his youth. Once, on the day of Śivarātri, while lying on a bed of kuśa grass, in the temple of Raṇasvāmin, Viśvavarta, abandoned his body and took the joint form of Harihara. Some days after the demise of his father, Maṅkhaka was once undergoing a vow, on the day of Ekādaśī and was sleeping on the terrace of his house, alone at night. While sleeping, he dreamt a dream, wherein, his deceased father appeared before him in that dream, taking the combined form of Harihara and commanded him to compose a poem, in glorification of Lord Śiva. Soon after giving the order, Viśvavarta vanished along with the moon in the sky. Next morning, Maṅkhaka awoke with wonder, pathos and anxiety in his mind, however, he became resolute to comply with the wish of his father and composed the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita as an eulogy to Śiva. From the above information, it becomes evident that Maṅkhaka belonged to an aristocratic, educated as well as wealthy family, supported by the royal family of the kings of Kashmir. While giving reference to his predecessors like Meṇṭha, Subandhu, Bhāravi and Bāṇa, Maṅkhaka seems to be quite confident of his poetic genius. After writing the poem, at the behest of his preceptor Ruyyaka, Maṅkhaka placed it, in the assembly of scholars, gathered in the house of his elder brother, Alaṃkāra. In the court of the scholars, Maṅkhaka was requested by Tejakaṇṭha, an ambassador of Aparāditya, the king of Koṅkaṇa, to compose some verses in praise of a king, so that other poets may recite them in the royal courts of the kings and get eminence in respective courts of the kings. In agreement with the wish of him, Maṅkhaka had written accordingly, wherein he presented Jayasiṃha as a ruling sovereign. From these sketches of the king, it clearly appears that Maṅkhaka was contemporary of Jayasiṃha and the city Pravara was the ancestral residence of the poet right from his grandfather Manmatha.

Thereafter Viśvavarta, the father of Maṅkhaka, along with the four brothers Śṛṅgāra, Bhṛṅga, Alaṃkāra and Maṅkhaka lived there.

b) Date of Maṅkhaka and his Śrīkaṇṭhacarita:

Both from the internal and external evidences, the date of Maṅkhaka, may be determined. Maṅkhaka has mentioned in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita himself, that king Jayasiṃha, the son of king Sussala has appointed him as an officer in the affairs of protection of subjects i.e. prajāpālanapuruṣa[10] (Jonarāja interpreted it as dharmādhikārin i.e. a judge). Again, from going through the contents of the canto III as well as references available in XXV. 61, it is evident that Jayasiṃha was the king of Kashmir of that time. Besides, Kalhaṇa also recorded in his chronicle that Jayasiṃha ruled in Kashmir during the period A.D. 1128-1150.[11] But Jayasiṃha ruled beyond that period also, which Kalhaṇa has not recorded in the Rājataraṅgiṇī However, Jonarāja, being a second writer of the Rājataraṅgiṇī mentions that Jayasiṃha ruled up to the first part of A. D. 1155 i.e. five years more. Therefore, it is found that Maṅkhaka was a contempory of Jayasiṃha, who reigned over Kashmir from A.D. 1128-1155. Moreover, while discussing Jayasiṃha’s religious foundations, Kalhaṇa refers to Maṅkhaka’s reputation for construction of a shrine of Lord Śiva along with a maṭha. It was erected sometimes after A.D. 1145.[12] From this, it can be inferred that Maṅkhaka must have lived at least up to A.D. 1146 (may be till A.D. 1159).

The time of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is sometimes, between A.D. 1136-1142 and that of the Maṅkhakośa (Maṅkhakośa) otherwise known as Anekārthakośa (Anekārthakośa), is A.D. 1155-1159. Therefore, roughly the literary journey of Maṅkhaka may be assigned to the period from A.D. 1136-1159 i.e. the 3rd and 6th decade of the 12th century A.D. The date of composition of Maṅkhaka’s Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is being discussed in the following passages—

It has been unanimously granted that Maṅkhaka is the author of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita. However, regarding the date of composition of this poem, there is divergence of opinion. Scholars like B.N. Bhatt, comments that this poem has been written in the 12th century A.D.[13] Though the comment was based on Bühler’s report, however, the scholar does not discuss it further. B.C. Mandal on the other hand, discusses it elaborately. Generally, it is said that the date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is sometimes, between A.D. 11351145. At first, this date was assumed by Bühler and most of the scholars confirm his opinion. Again, M.A. Stein is of the opinion that it is sometimes, between, A.D. 1128-1144 and prefers a closer date to A.D. 1144.[14] P. V. Kane holds that the date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is about A.D. 1140.[15] Though Bühler’s report goes near to most probable date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, however, it falls short in determining the upper limit of the date as well as the evidences provided by him in fixation of the lower limit are not satisfactory and they are insufficient. Bühler assigned the date of Govindacandra, the king of Kanauj (mentioned by Maṅkhaka) as to be between A.D. 1120-1144.[16] Bühler follows here the view of James Prinsep, however, the inscriptional evidences are opposite to this view. To name a few, the Kamauli copper plate inscription, the Bhadaini Temple, Banaras copper plate inscription etc. assign Govindacandra’s time as A.D. 1114. The popular view regarding his reign, is also between A.D. 11141155. Thus, the lower limit of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita cannot be fixed, conclusively in A.D. 1145. But, it may be fixed, rather in A.D. 1155, on the basis of the evidence of the poet’s reference to Jayasiṃha, who reigned in Kashmir, during A.D. 1128 -1155. Maṅkhaka himself mentions that, just after the composition of the poem, he has placed his poem before the assembly of scholars, therefore, he might have written the poem between this period of Jayasiṃha’s reign. The upper limit of the date of composition the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, cannot be earlier than A.D. 1136.[17] The reasons for this assumption are as follows—

Maṅkhaka mentions about Jalhaṇa, the minister of peace and war of Rājāpurī, present in the assembly of scholars. In the Rājataraṅgiṇī of Kalhaṇa, there is the reference of Somapāla, the king of Rājāpurī of that time of Kashmir. He had gone through frequent conflicts as well as political alliance with Jayasiṃha and final settlement was made in the middle part of A.D.1133. There was another Jalhaṇa also, the writer of Somapālavijaya, may be identified with the above mentioned minister, was sent by Somapāla, to the assembly held under Alaṃkāra. But as the political scenario was not stable, therefore, he might not send Jalhaṇa earlier than A.D. 1133. Besides, the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita was presented before the assembly just after its composition, hence the date of composition of the poem must not be earlier than A.D. 1133. Again, it is very probable that Maṅkhaka must have written his poem in a peaceful period of the rule of his benefactor and there was chaos as well as strife in Jayasiṃha’s reign up to the middle part of A.D. 1136. Stein also refers to the later period as ‘peaceful interval’.[18] Hence, the date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is to be fixed in the subsequent period of A.D. 1136. Thus, the upper limit being fixed as to be A.D. 1136, the lower limit of the date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita should not be placed later than A.D. 1142. The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita was composed in the rule of king Jayasiṃha during the period A.D. 1128-1155, therefore, it must have been written not later than A.D. 1155. Maṅkhaka is found to have mentioned about Aparāditya, the ambassador of the king of Koṅkana. Though there is a problem of identification, Maṅkhaka might have mentioned about Aparāditya I (belonging to A.D. 1139), not Aparāditya II (of A.D. 1186-1187, wrongly identified by Bühler). The first known date of his immediate successor Harapāladeva is A.D. 1149, therefore, the date of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita cannot be later than A.D. 1149. Again, Maṅkhaka had written his poem before Kalhaṇa wrote his magnum opus, and as already stated Kalhaṇa wrote it sometimes, during A.D. 1148-1150.[19] Therefore, the lower limit of the date cannot be later than A.D. 1148.

Again, Kalhaṇa refers to Alaṃkāra as bāhyarājasthāna i.e. a minister holding the charge of the outer royal court and also as the rājasthānīya i. e. chief justice. He was included in Jayasiṃha’s troops at the time of the mission against the Śiraḥśila castle, which happened in the beginning of A.D. 1144. Therefore, it appears that Alaṃkāra held the position of a judge at that time and also in the middle of A.D. 1143. It is also found from Kalhaṇa’s account that before he held the post of a judge, Alaṃkāra had been in the post of superintendent of great treasury (vṛhadgañjā) i.e. before the middle of A.D. 1143. Kalhaṇa does not mention any other post occupied by Alaṃkāra before A.D. 1143. But Alaṃkāra has been found as holding the post of minister of peace and war in Maṅkhaka’s poem. Kalhaṇa being a writer, later than Maṅkhaka, mentions only about the subsequent posts held by Alaṃkāra and Maṅkhaka cites the earlier ones. From this, it is surmised that the poem Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, must have been written before A.D. 1143. Thus, the lower limit of composition of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita cannot be later than A.D. 1142.

This way, the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita of Maṅkhaka must have been composed sometimes, between A.D. 1136-1142 and most possibly it was composed to a date, closer to A.D. 1136.[20]

Footnotes and references:


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., III. 50


“Śṛṅgāra too, who was a judge (tantrapati), and a man of virtue, constructed a Maṭha, a garden and an oblong tank by (the hill of) Śrīdvāra.” English translated of Rājataraṅgiṇī, M.A. Stein, vol. II, viii. 2422, p.187; also in viii. 2426, page 188, Kalhaṇa opines- “The Maṭha which Śṛṅgārabhaṭṭa erected by the side of the Bhaṭṭārakamaṭha, did not enjoy particular fame, being like a well by the side of the full ocean.”


“Alaṃkāra, the superintendent of the great treasury (bṛhadgañja), embellished the land by constructing bathing-huts (snānakoṣṭhaka), Maṭhas, Brahmapurīs), bridges and the like.” (verse 2423). Later on, Alaṃkāra figured as chief justice (rājasthānīya) also, in viii. 2557, 2618, 2671


kalāṣu bharatśāstranirdiṣṭāsu, commented by Jonarāja on Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., III. 65, page 42


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., III. 62; XXV., 61


Stein, M. A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, VII. 2423; VIII. 2557, 2618 respectively


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., III. 66


Stein, M. A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, VIII. 3354


Ibid., Stein, M. A., vol. I, Introduction, page 6


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., III. 66


Stein, M.A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, vol. I; vol. II, VIII. 3404.


Ibid., Stein, M.A., VIII. 3354.


Bhatt, B.N., Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., page 104


Stein, M.A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, vol. I, Introduction, page 12.


Kane, P.V., Sāhityadarpaṇa., Introduction, page vi.


Bühler’s report, page 51


Mandal, B.C., Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., page 57


Stein, M.A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, vol. I, Introduction, page 126


Stein, M.A., Rājataraṅgiṇī, vol. I. i. 52 and footnote also, Introduction, page 6 and Ibid., vol. II, viii. 3404 etc.


Bhatt, B.N., Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., page 63

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