The backdrop of the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa

by Dhrubajit Sarma | 2015 | 94,519 words

This page relates “Adherence of the Shrikanthacarita to the norms of a mahakavya” 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 1 - Adherence of the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita to the norms of a mahākāvya

Maṅkhaka’s Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is a standard mahākāvya from the standpoint of the canons laid down for a mahākāvya by the ālaṃkārikas. It has been observed that Maṅkhaka has strictly followed the rules and regulations of the alaṃkāraśāstra, regarding the definition of a mahākāvya.

Daṇḍin[1], in his Kāvyādarśa, presents the salient features of a mahākāvya as follows—

It should be divided into cantos. It should start with salutation or benediction or representation of facts. It should be based on historical events or the story of the good. Its hero should be intelligent and of the dhīrodātta variety. It should contain the depiction of city, sea, mountain, seasons, sun-rise, moon-rise, sports in garden and water, drinking, amorous sports, separation, marriage, battle and prosperity of the hero etc. It should be decorated by alaṃkāras. It should not be concise. It should be full of the rasas. It should be composed in harmonious chandas. At the end of each sarga, there should be a change in the employment of chandas. Daṇḍin, further states that if, a poem continues giving pleasure to the readers, then it does not matter at all, even if, it lacks some of the afore-mentioned features.

Viśvanātha afterwards, provides the characteristic features of a mahākāvya, wherein, he has incorporated some additions, along with some already mentioned characteristics, given by Daṇḍin. They are as follows—

The mahākāvya is a poetical composition, written in a number of cantos. The hero of it should be a deity or a kṣattriya of a noble family, characterized by firmness and generosity of heart. Or a number of kings belonging to the same noble family may be its heroes. Of the erotic, heroic and quietistic, any one flavour should be the principal in it, all the other flavours being auxiliary therein. It should contain all the dramatic junctures. The story, pertaining to some virtuous character or characters, must be derived from history, such as the Mahābhārata, or from any other source. It has for its fruits (i.e. the final objects obtained by the hero or the like), all the four of the class consisting of the great objects of human desire, viz. merit, wealth, enjoyment and liberation, or it has only one of them. It begins with a salutation to a deity or a benediction, or simply with the mention of a matter, leading into the main story of the poem. Sometimes, it begins with a reproach of the malicious or the like, and a eulogium of the good. It consists of cantos, more than eight in number, neither too short nor too long, each canto comprising stanzas composed in some particular metre, but ending in those of a different one. Again, sometimes however, there is found one canto, composed in a variety of metres. At the end of each canto, the subject of the succeeding canto should be hinted in. The sun and the moon, day and night, morning and evening, noon, twilight and darkness, ocean and mountain, woods and hunting, the seasons, the enjoyment and separation of lovers, saints, heaven, city, sacrifice, military march, counsel, marriage, birth of a son etc., are to be delineated in it, according to occasion, together with their attendant incidents and circumstances. It is to be named after the poet, the story, the hero or the like, while the designation of a canto is to be after the principal matter contained therein.[2]

Now, almost all the characteristics of a mahākāvya are noticed in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita such as—

The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita is divided into twenty five sargas. It starts with the salutation to gods and goddesses with a plead for benediction. The subjectmatter is also hinted in.[3] The theme of the poem is based on the famous story of the Mahābhārata and the Purāṇas. The hero of the poem is of dhīrodātta type. It is to be noted here that, in this poem, there is the depiction of the poet’s country (III. 1-20) and of city (III. 21-30), mountain (IV), spring season (VI), swinging sports (VII), flower-plucking (VIII), water-sports (IX), evening (X), moon-rise (XI, XII), toilet (XIII), drinking (XIV), amorous sports (XV), battle (XXIII) and triumph of the hero (XXIV). Again, the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita has been decorated by several alaṃkāras. This poem is not a concise one, rather a voluminous epic, having twenty five cantos. The rasas have been very well suggested in it. The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita has been set in twenty nine chandas. Again, there is the variation of chandas, at the end of each sarga and use of chandas is varied. In the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, there is the praise of the good and condemnation of the wicked (II). Along with these, the rule that a mahākāvya should have more than eight sargas, has also been followed in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, as it contains twenty five cantos. The title of the poem has been given by the name of the hero i.e. Śrīkaṇṭha or his deeds i.e. Śrīkaṇṭhacarita.

This way, it has been noticed that the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita adheres to almost all the essentials of a mahākāvya as defined by the Sanskrit ālaṃkārikas. As stated earlier, Maṅkhaka strictly adheres to the norms of a mahākāvya, however, it slightly hinders in exhibiting his creativity. However, these restrictions of rhetoric regulations could not be able to destroy the poet’s poetical calibre and it bears unmistakable mark of the expertise of Maṅkhaka as a composer of a mahākāvya. His mahākāvya is also noticed to be based on the Purāṇas and the whole range of Purāṇic literature has left influence on his poem. The poem becomes successful in giving pleasure to its learned readers also. The Śrīkaṇṭhacarita proves the hypothesis that Maṅkhaka had complete capability to write a mahākāvya. Thus, it is a fine example of Sanskrit mahākāvya, as it follows truly almost all the canons laid down for a mahākāvya, by the Sanskrit rhetoricians.

Footnotes and references:


Kāvyādarśa., I. 14-20


sargabandho mahākāvyaṃ tatraiko nāyakaḥ suraḥ/
sadvaṃśaḥ kṣattriyo vāpi dhīrodāttaguṇānvitaḥ/
ekavaṃśabhavā bhūpāḥ kulajā bahavo’pi vā/
śṛṅgāravīraśāntānāmeko’ṅgī rasa iṣyate/
aṅgāni sarve’pi rasāḥ, sarve nāṭakasandhayaḥ/
itihāsodbhavaṃ vṛttamanyadvā sajjanāśrayaṃ/
catvārastasya vargāḥ syusteṣvekaṃ ca phalaṃ bhavet/
ādau namaskriyāśīrvā vastunirdeśa eva vā/
kvacinnindā khalādīnāṃ satāṃ ca guṇakīrtanaṃ/
ekavṛttamayaiḥ padyairavasāne’nyavṛttakaiḥ/
nātisvalpā nātidīrghāḥ sargāḥ aṣṭādhikā iha/
nānāvṛttamayaḥ kvāpi sargaḥ kaścana dṛśyate/
sargānte bhāvisargasya kathāyāḥ sūcanaṃ bhavet/
varṇanīyā yathāyogaṃ sāṅgopāṅgā amī iha/
kavervṛttasya vā nāmnā nāyakasyetarasya vā/
nāmāsya sargopādeyakathayā sarganāma tu/
     Sāhityadarpaṇa., VI. 315-325


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., I. 56

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