The backdrop of the Srikanthacarita and the Mankhakosa

by Dhrubajit Sarma | 2015 | 94,519 words

This page relates “Literary genius of Mankhaka” 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 7 - Literary genius of Maṅkhaka

The genius of Maṅkhaka is evident, especially the literary genius of Maṅkhaka comes to the light, while going through his works. The literary genius of Maṅkhaka has been revealed throughout the dissertation, however, herein this segment, it is specially dealt with. Maṅkhaka himself holds that the genius or śakti[1] is the root of a poem. This reflects the opinion of Mammaṭa, according to whom, without it, no poetry can be created, even if created by any means and then also, the poet will be an object of ridicule.[2] Not only genius, the learning is also considered by Maṅkhaka as an integral component required, for creation of a poem. Maṅkhaka was fortunate enough to possess both the factors. A close examination on the works of Maṅkhaka testifies the fact that he was successful simultaneously in composition of a mahākāvya and also a koṣa text. His acquaintance with various branches of learning is proved through his multifarious references, found both in the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita and the Maṅkhakośa. Maṅkhaka’s eruditition is noticed in various branches of knowledge such as the Vedas, Vedāṅgas, grammar, rituals, prosody, astronomy, astrology, philosophy, Āyurveda, Dhanurveda, Dharmaśāstra, Arthaśāstra, Kāmaśastra, music, arithmetic, Aśvaśāstra and Gajaśāstra, Nāṭyaśāstra, rhetorics, epics, botany, zoology, science of birds and last but not the least the Purāṇas, kāvyas and the kośas.

In the Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, Maṅkhaka refers to the Vedas by the terms Trayī[3], by Śruti[4], by Veda itself in XVII. 46. He mentions Ṛk[5], Sāman[6], Yajurveda[7], Atharvaveda[8], Vedavid.[9] Of the Vedāṅgas, the grammar gets priority in his works. Maṅkhaka refers to Sūtrakṛt i.e. Pāṇini, Vārtikakṛt i.e. Kātyāyana and Iṣṭikṛt i.e. Patañjali[10], technical terms like pada[11], gaṇa and divādi[12], dhātu and kriyā.[13] The knowledge in rituals of Maṅkhaka has been reflected by the reference of the threefold sacrificial fires[14], terms like kratu, yājñika and piṣṭacaru[15], stotra, vedikā and śāstra[16], also abhicāra, soma, manyu, āhuti, yāga etc.

His thorough knowledge in prosody has been proved by his employment of so many metres in the poem. Again, his acquaintance with the astronomy has been noticed through his reference to the planets as grahas[17], sun as the emperor of the planets[18], passage of the moon through the zodiac[19], reference of the planets saumya i.e. Mercury, kāvya i.e. Venus, aṅgiras i.e. Jupiter and bhauma i.e. Mars.[20] Again, he refers to the astrologers as mauhartikas[21], speaks about the good omen of the gods, due to a particular position of planets, that is the situation in the eleventh house in a horoscope[22], refers to the inauspiciousness of premature lunar eclipse[23], emergence of ketu and of concurrent rising of many suns and occurrence of earthquake[24] etc.

His profound knowledge in Indian philosophical systems will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. Maṅkhaka’s knowledge in Āyurveda or the science of medicine is inferred from his references of an eye-disease named paṭala or cataract, Wherein, there is a coating over the eyes[25], another eye-disease in which the eyes get swollen and become reddish, also speaks about the fever sannipāta, due to doṣa in vāta, pitta and kafa[26], uses the words gada i.e. disease and bheṣaja i.e. medicine[27], refers to manojvara or mental disease[28], also refers to the method of preparing of drugs[29], refers to the medical treatment of an eye-disease.[30] He opines that there break out diseases like blindness, indigestion, swelling etc. in the absence of oṣadhipati i.e. a physician. His knowledge on Dhanurveda comes to manifestation by Maṅkhaka’s reference to the bow[31], bow-string[32], varuṇāstra[33], āgneyāstra[34], brahmāstra[35], vaiṣṇavāstra.[36]

The knowledge on Dharmaśāstra is observed from Maṅkhaka’s reference to the four goals of human life viz. Dharma, Artha, Kāma and Mokṣa[37], observance of a vow on the day of Ekādaśī[38] etc. The familiarity with the theories of the Arthaśāsta is exhibited by his reference to the term ṣāḍguṇya[39] i.e. six measures of royal policy viz. sandhi, vigraha, yāna, āsana, dvaidhī-bhāva and saṃśraya. The four political upāyas[40] i.e. expedients viz. sāma, dāna, bheda, daṇḍa are also referred by Maṅkhaka.

The poet’s knowledge in Kāmaśāstra or the science of love has been testified by his references to amorous activities of the young couples in the entire fifteenth canto. Also, there is the mention of nail-marks on the bosom[41] and cheeks[42] of the females, teeth-marks on their lips[43], reference of technical terms like puruṣāyita or viparītarati.[44]

Maṅkhaka refers to various technical terms of Saṅgītaśāstra or music, which proclaim his knowledge in that field also. As for example, he refers to the pañcama tune as rāgarāja, found in the sound of the cuckoo[45], also mentions about the musical mode bhinnaṣaḍja.[46] He opines that the Gandharvas are skilled in music.[47] The arithmetic has been referred to by the term gaṇanā or counting, use of the words āya and vyaya i. e. income and expenditure.[48] He mentions that the Kāyasthas were entrusted with the task of keeping the record of accounts.

Maṅkhaka’s acquaintance with the Aśvaśāstra or the science relating to the horses and Gajaśāstra or the science concerning elephants has been inferred from his references to the āvartas[49] or the locks of curling hair hanging backwards of a horse, reference of the variety of elephant named bhadra[50], gandhasindhura[51], gandhagaja[52] or gandhadantin.[53]

Maṅkhaka’s familiarity with the Nāṭyaśāstra has been observed from the references of the technical terms such as raṅgatala, unmālaka as well as tāṇḍava[54], also, raṅgapīṭha[55], daṇḍapāda[56], aṅgahāra[57], tāla[58] etc. Again, his expertise in rhetorics or sāhityavidyā[59] has been displayed by Maṅkhaka’s reference to the technical terms like rasa[60], rīti[61], vaidarbhī[62], mārga[63], guṇa[64], alaṃkāra[65], anuprāsa, citra, yamaka and śleṣa[66], vakratā[67], kilakiñcita[68], proṣitabhartṛkā[69], abhisāra[70], abhisārikā[71], also some technical terms, such as sandhi, nāṭaka, ārabhaṭī and javanikā[72] or nicolaka[73], pūrvaraṅga[74], sūtradhāra[75], prastāvanā[76], raṅgapīṭhi[77], naṭa[78] etc., testify that Maṅkhaka was very much keen in dramaturgy. Again, there are some references from the great epics also, such as mentioning of Vālmīki as ādyaḥ kaviḥ[79], lifting of the Kailāsa by Paulastya i.e. Rāvaṇa[80], Rāvaṇa’s sword named candrahāsa, separation of Rāma and Sītā, Rāma’s building of a bridge over the ocean[81] etc.

Moreover, some references from the Mahābhārata are such as Śiva’s showering of gold on Marutta[82], releasing of Śveta from the clutches of Yama by Lord Śiva[83], Arjuna’s encounter with Śiva, disguised as Kirāta[84], reference of Droṇa[85] and the royal sage Śveta[86] etc. Not only that, the plot of the poem, viz. the tripuradahana story appears to be culled from the Karṇaparvan, (chapter 33-34) of the Mahābhārata The reference to botany is noticed from the mention of growth of Kanakaketakī in the spring season[87], shrinking of Kunda flower in the spring[88], vegetables discharging lustre.[89] In addition to that, poet refers to the natural hostility, existing between a horse and a buffalo[90] as well as between an elephant and a lion.[91] Maṅkhaka’s acquaintance with the science of birds has been inferred from his reference to the reddish mouth of a parrot[92], sweet voice of a male cuckoo[93] giving out the note in pañcama tune[94], the cuckoos being nurtured at their early life, by other birds like crows.[95]

Apart from these, Maṅkhaka possessed tremendous knowledge on Purāṇic myths and legends, which is evident from the following references-there are mythological descriptions of Śiva’s figures[96], decorations[97], kāmadahana[98], defeating of Gajāsura[99] and Andhakāsura[100], annihilation of Dakṣa’s sacrifice[101], reference of Viṣṇu, Brahmā, Indra, Kṛṣṇa, Harihara, Pārvatī, Skanda, Kāmadeva, Rati, Candra etc. There are also some very short references of Agastya, Aditi, Agni, Apsaras, Arjuna, Balarāma, Bṛhaspati, Viśvāmitra, Diti, Kadru, Gaṅgā, Gaṇeśa, Lakṣmī, Kāmadhenu, Kubera, Kinnaras, Vidyādharas, Mārtaṇḍa, Paraśurāma, Śeṣanāga, Śukra, Sūrya, Yama, Yamunā, Varuṇa, Vāyu and Vāsuki etc. Along with these, the poet uses the term hantakāra[102], a word explained in the Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa,[103] employs the word vṛṣa[104], in the meaning of dharma, similar to the Purāṇas. Moreover, Maṅkhaka’s knowledge in the kāvyas is certified by his reference to various poets of previous times like Meṇṭha, Subandhu, Bhāravi and Bāṇa[105], also Rājaśekhara and Murāri[106], as well as so many contemporaneous poets, cited in the last canto of his poem.

Finally, there are ample examples scattered in the poem Śrīkaṇṭhacarita, that prove the unfathomable knowledge of Maṅkhaka in the koṣas or the lexicons. He got a rich diction as well as vocabulary. He employs nine different synonymous words to mean water[107], same is the case with Hara and Agni.[108] Again, he uses some words in double meaning[109], some famous words in rare meaning[110], uses some rare words[111] also, some stanzas again have double meanings.[112] All these actually demonstrate Maṅkhaka’s mastery over the kośas. The whole of the Maṅkhakośa is a glaring proof of his proficiency in the sphere of lexicography.

Footnotes and references:


kasyāpi śaktiprabhavādudeti tatkāvyamahārahasyaṃ/
kliṣṭo gurūṇāṃ sadaneṣu nityaṃ kaścidbudhaścetayate na vā yat//
     Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., II. 4

Jonarāja (Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., II. 4, page 15) as well as Mammaṭa (Kāvyaprakāśa., Ullāsa I, page 8) gives exactly same comment—śaktiḥ kavitvabījarūpaḥ saṃskāraviśeṣaḥ/


yāṃ vinā kāvyaṃ na prasaret prasṛtaṃ vā upahasanīyaṃ syāt/
Kāvyaprakāśa., I, page 8


Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., I. 16; XVI. 31; XXV. 89


Ibid., XVII. 30, 46


Ibid., XX. 35


Ibid., XX. 35; XIX. 20; XXV. 92


Ibid., XX. 36


Ibid., XX. 33


Ibid., XVII. 30


Ibid., III. 57


Ibid., XXV. 42, 43


Ibid., XVII. 5


Ibid., XXI. 32


Ibid., III., 4; XXV. 87


Ibid., V. 42


Ibid., XX. 30


Ibid., XII. 61; XVI. 9; XX. 6


Ibid., XVI. 9


Ibid., XI. 72


Ibid., XII. 40


Ibid., XII. 39


Ibid., XX. 6


Ibid., XIII. 30


Ibid., XVIII. 59


Ibid., V. 16


Ibid., XVII. 63


Ibid., III. 15


Ibid., XVII. 47


Ibid., XI. 4


Ibid., V. 21


Ibid., XII. 4


Ibid., XII. 5


Ibid., XXIII. 3, 56


Ibid., XXIII. 37


Ibid., XXIII. 39


Ibid., XXIII. 39


Ibid., XX. 7


Ibid., III. 72.


Ibid., VI. 4.


Ibid., XIX. 20


Ibid., XV. 14, 31


Ibid., 32


Ibid., XIV. 45; XV. 33


Ibid., XV. 35, 36, 38, 39, 44, 50


Ibid., VI. 47, 58.


Ibid., XVI. I.


Ibid., XVI. 55


Ibid., VI. 70


Ibid., XX. 22


Ibid., XVIII. 49; Jonarāja comments-bhadro gajajātiviśeṣaḥ/
page 262


Ibid., XIII. 4; XIV. 22


Ibid., XV. 23


Ibid., XVIII. 38


Ibid., I. 3.


Ibid., X. 32; XVIII. 55


Ibid., I. 19, 46; V. 18; VI. 27; XXIV. 10


Ibid., V. 48


Ibid., XVIII. 50


Ibid., XXV. 64


Ibid., I. 37; II. 8, 11, 30, 32


Ibid., II. 6, 30, 33


Ibid., II. 41


Ibid., II. 15


Ibid., II. 14, 49


Ibid., II. 32, 49


Ibid., II. 42


Ibid., II. 11, 14, 30


Ibid., XIV. 44


Ibid., IV. 46


Ibid., XI. 33, 41


Ibid., X. 26, 28, 38; XI. 30, 32, 41; XVI. 3


Ibid., V. 48


Ibid., XVIII. 55; Jonarāja interprets the term nicolaka as javanikā/
page 264


Ibid., XIX. 53; XXI. 52; XXII. 14, XXIV. 8


Ibid., I. 2; XVII. 67


Ibid., XVII. 67


Ibid., XVIII. 55


Ibid., VII. 42


Ibid., XXV. 60


Ibid., IV. 21


Ibid., XI. 10


Ibid., I. 12


Ibid., IV. 9


Ibid., V. 32


Ibid., XXV. 56.


Ibid., V. 9.


Ibid., VI. 67


Ibid., VI. 71


Ibid., XXIV. 24


Ibid., XVI. 54; XX. 20; XXII. 30


Ibid., XXIII. 14


Ibid., VI. 19


Ibid., VI. 14, 24, 32; VIII. 8, 30


Ibid., VI. 47, 58


Ibid., VI. 10, 11


Ibid., V. 11, 43, 44; I. 48


Ibid., I. 1, 9, 10; V. 15, 22, 30


Ibid., I. 2; V. 21


Ibid., V. 14


Ibid., V. 16


Ibid., V. 17


Ibid., II. 26


Bhatt, B.N., Śrīkaṇṭhacarita., footnote, page 69,
cf. grāsapramāṇaṃ bhikṣā syādagraṃ grāsacatuṣṭayaṃ/
agrāccaturguṇaṃ tattu hantakāraṃ vidurbudhāḥ//
Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, Bibliotheca India edited, 29, Sts. 35-36


Ibid., III. 33


Ibid., II. 53


Ibid., XXV. 74


Ibid., IX. 1, 7, 14, 22, 28, 35, 38, 40, 41


Ibid., I. 1-17


Ibid. III. 53, 54; IV. 6, 8, 9; XVIII. 42, 49; XIX. 33-37; XXI. 32, 51


The word kavi has been used in the meaning of a poet, means a swan also (II. 1); tīrtha in the sense of water (III. 16) etc.


śalāṭu (II. 48), kurala (XIII. 25), pāthas (V. 6), caṣaka (VIII. 6), anutarṣa (XVIII. 1), nivirīsa (XVIII. 4), apaghana (XXIV. 23) etc.


Ibid., III. 52, 53

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: