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Saduktikarnamrita


Saduktikarnamrita an anthology of Sanskrit verses compiled by Shridharadasa in the shaka era 1127 (1205 AD), the 27th regnal year (rasaikavisha) of laksmanasena (c 1178-1206 AD). From the introductory verses of the Saduktikarnamrta it is known that Shridharadasa's father, Shri Vatudasa, was the greatest of the feudatory chiefs (mahasamantachudamani) of Laksmanasena as well as his friend. In the colophon Shridharadasa describes himself as mahamandalika or a great ruler of a mandala, an administrative unit.

Shridharadasa's Saduktikarnamrta (excellent sayings which are like nectar for human hearing) is the second anthology of Sanskrit verses compiled in ancient Bengal, so far discovered, the first being Vidyakara's subhasitaratnakosa. Whereas Vidyakara's anthology contain 1738 verses, the precise number of verses quoted in Saduktikarnamrta is 2377. These two anthologies contain 623 common stanzas.

The Saduktikarnamrta consists of five sections called Pravaha or stream and each pravaha has been divided into several vichis or waves. The titles of these pravahas are: Amarapravaha which deals with gods; Shrngarapravaha, themes of love and lovers and descriptions of different seasons; Chatupravaha, flattery of various types; Apadeshapravaha, miscellaneous themes dealing with deities such as Vasudeva, Mahadeva, geographical features like samudra (ocean), nadnadi (rivers), jewels like marakata (emerald), animals like singha (lion), gaja (elephant), mrga (deer), flowers like padma (lotus), ketaki (the screwpine flower), trees like Ashoka (flamboyant tree), birds like kokila (cuckoo), Suka (parrot), chataka (swallo) and Uchchavachapravaha, which contains verses on manusya (human beings), birds like Vaka (heron), Chakravakaka (curlew) and other themes like kavi (poet), kavyam (poetry), manasvi (greatmen), daridragrhi (poor householder), jara (age) vrddha (old man), kala (time).

Shridharadasa's sources of compilation are Sanskrit kavyas of classical authors such as Kalidasa, Bhavabhuti, Amaru, Rajashekhara as well as many Bengali authors, some of whom were his contemporaries. He also seems to have drawn many verses from Vidyakara's Subhasitaratnakosa. He quotes poets such as Yogeshvara, Shatananda, Abhinanda, Dharanidhara, Varaha, Achala, Vallana, Manovinoda, Subhanka, Chakrapani and Laksmidhara, all probably Bengali poets or at least easterners of the Pala kingdom, the core of which comprised Bengal and Bihar. Some of these poets belong to the so-called 'rustic school of poetry'. Shridharadasa also quotes verses of some well-known poets like Jayadeva, Umapatidhara, Sharana, Dhoyi and Govardhana - all Sena court poets. Shridharadasa also draws from verses of the royal poets Vallalasena, Laksmanasena and Keshavasena. King Laksmanasena was also a patron of Shridharadasa.

The whole period of Sena rule in Bengal (c 1097-1225 AD) was a period of Brahmanical ascendancy. During this period, the cultivation of Sanskrit language and literature reached its peak in Bengal. Shridharadasa reveals great devotional fervour in his anthology by quoting as many as 475 verses on different Brahmanical deities, reflecting a greater leaning to Vaisnavism than to other faiths. It is interesting to note that this compiler's patron, Laksmanasena was a devotee of Visnu. There are also some anonymous verses in the Saduktikarnamrta.

Shridharadasa compiled the anthology mainly to provide the common people with literary works which would serve them with means of relaxation and would suit varying moods and literary taste. They could benefit from the age-old wisdom embodied in some of the verses. The anthologies contain descriptions of the joys and sorrows of the common man, the charms of feminine beauty, the flattery of the rich, and the familiar sights of daily life, such as rivers, hills, trees and flowers. Thus Saduktikarnamrta not only contains literary gems, but is also an invaluable source of ancient Bengal's socio-economic and cultural history. [Shahanara Husain]

Bibliography SC Banerji (ed), Saduktikarnamrta of Sridharadasa, Calcutta, 1965; HH Ingalls (tr), An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry, Vidyakara's Subhasitaratnakosa, Harvard Oriental Series, 44, 1965.