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Friday, May 18, 2012


 

North Indian Inscriptions


 

LITERARY HISTORY

Introductory

       Years ago, the late Max-Müller brought out his famous dissertation on the Renaissance of Sanskrit Literature, where he has asseverated two literary-historical propositions. The first of these is that the Indians did not manifest any literary activity during the first two centuries of the Christian era, as this country was then infested with the inroads of many foreign races. His second proposition is that the real period of the bloom of Kāvya or Artificial Poetry is to be placed about the middle of the sixth century A.D. In fact, his theory was that the first five centuries of the Christian era were a dark age for Sanskrit literature. This theory, no doubt, held the filed for a pretty long period, but has now been completely demolished by literary and epigraphic evidence of an irrefragable character. When Max-Müller propounded this view, the dramas of Bhāsa (circa 300 A.D.) were not brought to light. Little was also known about the literary achievements of Aśvaghōsha who was a contemporary of the Kushāṇa sovereign Kanishka (circa 125 A.D.) and was the author not only of the Buddhacharita, Saundarānanda and Sūtrālaṁkāra but also of the drama Śārīputraprakaraṇa. These works of Aśvaghōsha are genuine kāvyas in strict conformity with the rules laid down by the sciences of Sanskrit Rhetoric. And the very fact that a Buddhist monk thought of setting forth the life of Buddha with the help of the poetic art shows how popular artificial poetry was even in the first two centuries of the Christian era. But we may proceed one step further, and consider for a while what may be gleaned on the subject from the Mahābhāsya of Patañjali who has now been universally placed about the middle of the second century B.C. On Pāṇini IV. 3. 87 there is a Vārtika which says that “an affix, in the sense of ‘made in relation to any subject’, when the thing made is ‘a book’, is dropped frequently when the book belongs to the class of Ākhyāyikās.” In illustration of this Vārtika, Patañjali cites the instances of Vāsavadattā and saumanōttarā, noticing also an exception in the case of Bhaimarathī. This means that in the time of Patañjali at least three Ākhyāyikās were known, namely, Vāsavadattā, Saumanōttarā and Bhaimarathī respectively. Again, it is worthy of note that the first two of these have been mentioned by Patañjali in connection with Pāṇini IV. 2. 60. The actual gloss is: Ākhyān-ākhyāyik-ētihāsa-purāṇēbhyaś=cha ṭhag=vaktavyaḥ. “The affix ṭhak comes in the sense of ‘one who studies’ or of ‘one who knows’ after (the names of) stories (ākhyāna) and narratives (ākhyāyikā), and after (the words) itihāsa and purāṇa.” It is in this connection that Patañjali refers again to Vāsavadattā and Saumanōttarā as Ākhyāyikās but under the forms Vāsavadattika and Saumanōttarika (=one who has studied or is conversant with the Vāsavadattā or Saumanōttarā narrative). In regard to the Ākhyānas also he cites the forms Yāvakrītika, Praiyaṅgavika and Yāyātika which mean “one who has studied or is conversant with the Yavakrīta, Priyaṅgu and Yayāti stories.” It is reasonable to hold that the terms Ākhyāna and Ākhyāyikā used by Patañjali are identical with those employed in treatises of Sanskrit Rhetoric in somewhat later times. It is true that in those times there was a little confusion about the exact signification of Ākhyāna, Ākhyāyikā and Kathā. But if the Harshacharita has been styled an Ākhyāyikā and the Kādambarī a Kathā, it seems that the first word signifies ‘a (historical) narrative’ and the second ‘a romance’. And, further, if it is true that some Ākhyānas were Ākhyāyikās and some were Kathās, as Daṇḍin and Viśvanātha assure us, Ākhyāna must be taken to mean ‘a story’ so as to include both ‘a narrative’ and ‘a romance’. It will thus be seen that many Ākhyānas and Ākhyāyikās were known when Patañjali lived and wrote and that consequently


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