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Subhasitaratnakosa


Subhasitaratnakosa is an anthology of Sanskrit verses compiled by a Buddhist scholar named Vidyakara who lived in Bengal from the latter half of the 11th century AD to c 1130 AD. The first edition of this anthology, containing over a thousand verses, was prepared by Vidyakara shortly before 1100 AD. This first edition's palm leaf manuscript was discovered at the Ngor monastery in central Tibet. A second edition of the Subhasitaratnakosa (treasury of well turned verse), increased in size by about one third, containing 1738 verses, was compiled by Vidyakara himself not later than 1130 AD. A paper manuscript of this expanded edition was found in the private collection of the Nepalese Rajaguru, Pundit Hemaraja. The researches of DD Kosambi have shown that an anthology of Sanskrit verses published by FW Thomas in 1912 under the conjectural title Kavindravachanasamuchchaya from a fragment of a palm leaf manuscript represents the second edition of Subhasitaratnakosa.

About Vidyakara, the compiler of the Subhasitaratnakosa, no details are known. Researches of DD Kosambi have shown that Vidyakara was a monk at the Jagaddala monastery (in varendra) and in the compilation of his anthology he used the manuscripts kept in the library of that monastery. Several of the verses quoted by Vidyakara have references, which seem to be the very shelfmarks of the library of the Jagaddala vihara. It appears from the arrangement of verses that Vidyakara compiled his anthology over a long period, probably as a life-long hobby. It seems probable that with the decline of Buddhism in Bengal and Bihar and the invasion and occupation of North and Western Bengal by Muslims, some monks took the manuscripts of the Subhasitaratnakosa along with other manuscripts to neighbouring countries like Tibet and Nepal.

Of the 275 authors quoted in the Subhasitaratnakosa, only eleven seem to be earlier than the seventh century AD. Again, Vidyakara's favourite authors were close to him in time and place. Vallana, Yogeshvara, Vasukalpa, Manovinoda, Abhinanda were all Bengalis or at least easterners of the Pala kingdom, the core of which comprised Bengal and Bihar. Among the less frequently quoted authors are many Pala princes of state and church whose verses are not found in any other extant work. Among them are dharmapala, Rajayapala, Buddhakaragupta, Khipaka, and Jnanashri. Though Vidyakara quotes verses of classical authors like Kalidasa, Rajashekhara, and Bhavabhuti, he shows a special predilection for eastern or Bengali poets. His favourite authors in order of the frequency with which he quotes them belonged to a period from 700 to 1100 AD. But the Subhasitaratnakosa is eventually an anthology of the middle classical period (700-1050 AD) of Sanskrit.

Vidyakara has drawn verses from four sources: the great kavyas, the plays, small kavyas, and anthologies and stray verses. He has quoted verses mostly from plays, small kavyas and anthologies. The Subhasitaratnakosa has 50 vrajyas or sections. Following the usual norm of all Sanskrit works he begins with a benedictory verse composed by him. As a Buddhist monk, he then quotes verses with praise of the divine human, the Buddha (section 1). The verses on the Buddha are followed by the sections containing the verses on the Bodhisattva Lokeshvara and the Bodhisattva Manjughosa (sections 2-3). Vidyakara includes more verses in praise of Hindu gods than of the Buddha (sections 4-7). Sections 8-13 contain verses on the different seasons. Vidyakara's liking for love poetry is manifest in verses on love in sections 14-26. In the Subhasitaratnakosa there are verses on villages and fields (sections 12, 13, 35). The verses throw light on contemporary society. There are also verses on warfare and heroism (sections 45-46). In the section 49, entitled miscellaneous, we find verses on Hari-Hara, that is to say, love and gnomic verses teaching some point of worldly wisdom. The last Vrajya (section 50) in praise of poets has literary as well as historical value.

Vidyakara's anthology is proof of ancient Bengal's contributions to Sanskrit literature. It also contains valuable information on the socio-economic history of ancient Bengal. It still remains the oldest general anthology of Sanskrit verses. govardhanacharya (Aryasaptashati) and Shridharadasa (Saduktikarnamrta), the court poets of the Sena period, carried on the tradition and enriched Sanskrit anthological literature (Kosakavya). [Shahanara Husain]

Bibliography DD Kosambi and Gokhale (ed), The Subhasitaratnakosa, Harvard Oriental Series, 42, 1957; HH Ingalls (tr), An Anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry, Vidyakara's 'Subhasitaratnakosa', HOS, 44, 1965.