BANA (also known as Banabhatta) was a seventh century Sanskrit scholar and poet. He was Court Poet during the reign of King Harshavardhana (606-647 ad;
besides Kadambari, one of Bana's principal works is the Harshacharita, abiography of the king. The other works attributed to him are
Gandikasataka and a drama, the Parvatiparinaya.
Dr Padmini Rajappa pursued her cherished goal of mastering the Sanskrit language under the guidance of teachers in the Department of Sanskrit, University of
Poona and from the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
Translated with an introduction by PADMINI RAJAPPA
The Parrot Speaks
The Parrot Continues
Early examples of Sanskrit prose are found mainly in sacred literature. Some of the Vedic samhitas–like the Krishna Yajur Veda—contain prose
sections. The Brahmanas and the Aranyakas are for the most part composed in prose, while the Upanishads are a mixture of prose and
poetry. The early prose of the scriptures is simple but it charms the readers with its delightful similes and metaphors. Secular Sanskrit literature, on the other hand, has
always shown a partiality to metrical composition—talented poets are known to have gone to the extent of rendering existing prose works into verse in the genuine
conviction that they were thereby refining and purifying the works concerned.
However, the tyranny of metre could not continue without being challenged, at least by some writers. Prose—being a freer medium—made it certainly easier for
writers to give full rein to their creative imagination without being shackled to metrical precision. With the full development of samasa, the grammatical
technique of forming compound words, prose is believed to have come into its own; it is said that writers could now express several
ideas together, succinctly. On reflection however, they perhaps merely exchanged one form of tyranny for another, for what they wrote was certainly not the
simple easy prose of the early days.
The three most important prose writers in classical Sanskrit were Subandhu, Bana and Dandi (Dandin), all of whom lived in the late sixth and early seventh
centuries ad. All the three wrote more or less the same kind of prose, ornate and complicated in different degrees. All the three were burdened with the necessity of
using compound words. Subandhu is thought to be the earliest and the most difficult to read.
Dandi is probably the most readable of the three. Two works are credited to him, namely, Kavyadarsha, a work on poetics, and
Dashakumaracharitatm, a collection of stories describing the adventures of ten princes. Although in Kavyadarsha he does commend the style of writing
characterized by long compounds, in his own creative work, Dashakumaracharitam, he tempers it with racy idiomatic language. His stories are realistic and full
of humour and his characters are drawn from all stations of life, both high and low.
Banabhatta, with whom we are here concerned as the author of Kadambari, is also a product of the same culture. His language too is anything but easy,
with long compounds packed into long sentences that run to several pages. He too gets lured by the tempting charms of the Sanskrit language only to lose his way in
verbal mazes. And he is prolific in the use of figures of speech or alamkaras, especially in the descriptive passages that abound in his work. In fact almost
every idea in these passages is couched in a literary figure of speech. Although many of his alamkaras are indeed beautiful, in the midst of such profusion it is inevitable
that unhappy and laboured similes and inappropriate metaphors should at times creep in, as they do in Kadambari.
But despite these disconcerting habits that he shares with his literary contemporaries, Kadambari is a beautiful work, a
fascinating fairytale told with great feeling. Bana's strength lies in his skill as a storyteller and a creator of characters vibrant with life and individuality. Besides, he
is a writer who reveals his own mind through his characters; he expresses his opinions and convictions through them, a feature not common among Sanskrit writers.
The mind that is thus revealed is amazingly modern, humane and sensitive, especially for the seventh-century India in which he lived.
Bana tells us something of his personal life in his other great work, Harshacharita. So we know that he was born the son of a wealthy Brahmin in a town
called Pratikuta on the banks of the Shona River, a tributary of the Ganga, sometime towards the end of the sixth century ad. His mother died while he was still a child
and his father too passed away when Bana was but fourteen years of age. Then followed several years of wandering around the country in the company of congenial
companions drawn from all walks and all stations of life. He seemed to have counted among his friends, drummers, bamboo cutters and music teachers; astrologers,
workers of spells and magicians. He rubbed shoulders with erudite Brahmins as well as thieves, gamblers and plain rogues. He had women friends as well. These
bohemian years no doubt broadened his mind and instilled in him a healthy irreverence towards many of the established orthodoxies. It was in the course of his
wanderings that Bana met King Harshavardhana. After several vicissitudes the relationship between poet and King stabilized and Bana spent a long time at the court
of King Harsha.
Bana probably borrowed the plot of Kadambari from a fable preserved in one of the dialects of Prakrit, essentially as oral tradition. In the eleventh
century a Kashmiri poet named Somadeva, having rendered several of these tales into Sanskrit verse, put
them together in a compendium called Kathasarithsagara—An Ocean of Story Rivers. Makarandikopakyanam, which figures in this compendium, bears
enough similarities to Kadambari for us to concede that Bana must have taken the plot, albeit in a skeletal form, from it. However, with his considerable skill
as a storyteller, he develops it in his own way. He introduces many changes in the plot; he invents new characters and alters the nature of several others to make the
story more effective. In the process he removes the brittleness of the original story. He introduces enough realism into the kavya to prevent the characters
from becoming two-dimensional stereotypes. Like modern writers he weaves skeins of suspense into it concealing the real identity of several of the characters till the
very end, including that of the hero Chandrapida. Again like modern writers he uses the dramatic technique of irony by making his characters use words the real
significance of which is unperceived by the speakers themselves. Thus Kadambari as we now have it is a delightful romantic thriller played out in the magical
regions between this world and the other, in which the divine and the earthly blend in idyllic splendour.
Bana died without completing Kadambari. We now have the kavya in two parts, a Purvardha and an Utttarardha, the first and the second
halves. Whatever is written by Bana himself goes as Purvardha, although if one considers the length of the work alone it constitutes more than half. His son
Bhushanabhatta or Pulinabhatta wrote the second half, the Uttarardha. The son is full of humility in undertaking to finish his father's work cut short by death. He
compares himself to a farmer's son who merely gathers the fruits of the labour of his father who has done all the work, sowing good seeds in fertile soil and caring for
the crop until it grows and ripens.
Bhushanabhatta does not say if his father discussed his work with him. But we do find that all the threads introduced in the
Purvardha have been satisfactorily gathered up and braided into a neat plait by him. In fact the Uttarardha is more eventful than the Purvardha with the resolution
of all the 'mysteries' introduced in the beginning. The 'death' and 'resurrection' of Chandrapida and the revelation of his real identity, the story of the antecedents of
Vaishampayana, the parrot, the revelation of the real identities of Patralekha and Indrayudha, all these take place in the Uttarardha. Bhushanabhatta could hardly have
depended on the table Makarandikopakyanam because most of these events are not found in it. Even more commendable is the congruity in the characters as
they appear in the Purvardha and in the Uttarardha. By deft touches he manages to sustain the vibrancy of Bana's characters. Further, by making the future cast its
shadow on the earlier events Bhushanabhatta sustains the suspense skilfully. Vilasavathi's inexplicable unease at her son's departure, the increasing
depression of Chandrapida himself on his way back to Hemakuta the second time and the terrible flagging of his spirit as well as the dreary appearance of the once
beautiful lake, all these poignantly portend the approaching calamities.
The only jarring note in the Uttarardha is the somewhat unseemly and venomous outburst of uncontrolled fury on the part of the venerable minister Shukanasa
over his son's strange behaviour. Perhaps there were compelling reasons for Bhushanabhatta to introduce this scene. Did he feel it necessary to intensify the potency
of Mahashveta's curse on Vaishampayana by adding the angry father's to it? Or was he trying to give some scope to the raudra rasa to come into play which
is otherwise absent in the work? Whether it is worthwhile doing it at the cost of reducing the nobility of Shukanasa's character is something only the reader can
The plot of Kadambari as conceived by Bana is too good for the story to have been left incomplete; despite the occasional display of awkwardness and
the somewhat tortuous style of
writing the son has done yeoman service both to the father and to lovers of literature by completing the work so creditably.
Apart from his great skill in describing natural phenomena like sunrise and sunset, forests and rivers and depiction of character Bana excels in delineating several
rasas in varying degrees of intensity. It is these rasas that make Kadambari a beautiful work. And it is the elegant portrayal of the rasas that has earned for Bana the
title of Mahakavi.
What is a rasa? The Sanskrit writers on poetics believe that whenever a particular emotion, love, fear or anger or something else is portrayed on stage or in the
pages of a book it creates a response in the spectator or the reader by activating certain innate emotional capacities present deep within him. As a consequence he
experiences the same emotions, not in any personal or realistic sense, but in a universal way that he shares with others exposed to the same artistic event. This would
constitute the manifestation of rasa. It is thus a purely aesthetic experience, and no matter what the dominant emotion created, enjoyment would be intrinsic to it.
Bharata, the author of the Natyashastra, who probably lived in the first century bc talks of eight basic emotions or sthayibhavas. They are
rati (love), hasa (humour), shoka (sorrow), krodha (anger), utsaha (energy), bhaya (fear), jugupsa (repugnance)
and vismaya (wonder). These may give rise to eight rasas: shringara (the erotic), hasya (the comic), karuna (the pathetic),
raudra (the furious), vira (the heroic), bhayanaka (the terrible), bibhatsa (the odious) and adbhuta (the marvellous). Rasas are the
very soul of any literary work—prose, poetry or drama.
Love or shringara in both its manifestations, vipralamba (separation) and sambhoga (union) is the dominant rasa of
Kadambari, which is a love story—the romantic love between Chandrapida and Kadambari, as well as that of Mahashveta and Pundarika forms the
dominant emotion of the story. It is the charming depiction of the first appearance of this love that leads to the rise of the romantic sentiment, the shringara rasa. The
beauty, valour and nobility of Chandrapida, the ascetic other-worldly splendour of Pundarika, the charming naivete and unconscious voluptuousness of Kadambari,
the unusual ethereal loveliness of Mahashveta shining through her ascetic appearance, the magical charm of the Acchoda Lake and Hemakuta, the bursting forth of
spring, the divine fragrance of the parijata flower, all these are the necessary ingredients that create the ambience for the rise of the rasa; the extreme sensuality
of the love experienced by the characters, who act out their intense erotic feelings for the lover, forms a
powerful catalyst. The love itself is projected in a larger-than-life mode with an immensely exaggerated portrayal of the emotions, while the time scale in which it
develops is extremely compressed, which gives it extraordinary urgency. No sooner do they meet than they fall in love intensely. No sooner do they fall in love than
they are in the grip of uncontrollable, overwhelming passion. No sooner does fate separate them than they fall into terrible despair, with the physical taking complete
control again—Kadambari wilts and takes to her bed. Mahashveta would have done the same thing but before she reaches that stage Pundarika dies, succumbing to
the enormity of his physical longing for her. Chandrapida's heart splits when confronted with the utter hopelessness of his love for Kadambari. The rapidity with which
the romance unfolds, the highly exaggerated expression of the emotions and the extreme physicality of their manifestation both in the first flowering and in the
vipralamba stage, all these together create the shringara rasa.
Vipralamba shringara is of course inextricably mixed with shoka or sorrow. There is a great deal of it in Kadambari in the distress of the lovers in separation. In
addition Bana skilfully portrays the parental agony of the king and Vilasavathi as well as Manorama and Shukanasa over the fate of their dear children.
But shoka is overshadowed first by shringara and then by adbhuta, the sense of the marvellous which pervades the whole work creating a magical atmosphere.
Similarly vira rasa too is ambient throughout the work in the heroic personalities of the three great royals, Shudraka, Tarapida and Chandrapida, in the ascetic power
of the sage Jabali, as well as in the quiet heroism of the two women—Mahashveta with her arduous ascetic discipline and the shy, innocent Kadambari taking on the
awesome responsibility of caring for Chandrapida's body. Together these two rasas raise the experience of romantic love to levels not attainable among the merely
mundane and conventional sequence of events. It is only proper that such a larger-than-life romance should be played out in the midst of celestial marvels and
characterized by endeavours of awesome magnitude.
Fear and disgust have no place in an ethereal romance. Bana therefore contrives a little to bring in a few touches of these emotions. He introduces a description
of a desolate forest with a Chandika temple built on one side of it and administered by a tragi-comic Dravida Dharmika, a south Indian priest. A very tenuous
connection is then established between the main narrative and this digression. Bana makes Chandrapida pass through this forest on his way back to Ujjayini in a
distressed state of mind, having left Hemakuta in some confusion as to whether Kadambari loves him or not. He worships at the temple and pitches camp there for a
few days finding some relief from his mental agony in the antics of the eccentric Dravida priest. The only purpose of this episode seems to be to give some scope for
the sentiments of disgust and unease, if not fear, to come
into play. The dry desolation of the forest, the ever-present fear of attack from wild animals, the half-dried wells with leaves rotting in the scanty water giving out
a stench, the gruesome remnants of the animal sacrifices carried out in the temple—all these combine to give rise to a strong sense of disgust mixed with a sense of
unease. Tantalizing hints of human sacrifice add to the sense of disquiet. In the Uttarardha, Bhushanabhatta describes a chandala settlement in similar fashion
but fails to match the vividness of Bana's descrption of the forest.
There is humour in Kadambari, but it plays, not surprisingly, a subordinate role. There is one graphic description of a funny situation, the spectacle of the vassal
kings in riotous confusion to bid farewell to King Shudraka, who having dismissed his court, was merely going in to have his bath. Similarly the description of the
disfigured body of the Dravida Dharmika and his eccentricities is meant to be a comic diversion. A more subtle humour lurks in Bana's tongue-in-cheek description of
the exaggerated fragility of the Gandharva women of Kadambari's antapura. But his best effort lies in endowing his main characters, Tarapida and
Chandrapida with a delightful sense of humour that finds expression at unexpected places in the narrative.
A kavya without alamkaras is no kavya at all. Alamkaras are adornments, figures of speech that embellish the language and help to express an idea in a
picturesque and striking manner. Properly used, alamkaras could convey emotion effectively and heighten the mood. On the other hand indiscriminate use of these
figures of speech merely to exhibit the command of the writer over the language would defeat their very purpose by making the writing tedious to read and rob it of all
emotional content. Anandavardhana, the author of Dvanyaloka, a well-known treatise on Sanskrit poetics, lays down stringent rules
for the use of alamkaras in any piece of work. Alamkaras may be used only to evoke a rasa; in fact it should flow naturally in the build-up of the rasa, in the
brimming of the emotion; the poet should never make a special effort to insert figures of speech as special effects. While many of Bana's figures of speech fill the
prescription admirably there are several that do not.
Bana uses similes (upama) and metaphors (rupaka), utpreksha (poetic fancy which suggests that the subject and object of comparison may be
identical on the strength of some similarity), atishayokti (hyperbolic expression), parisankhya (enumeration) and virodha (contradiction) to
name but a few. He is especially effective in handling utprekshas in the descriptive passages in Kadambari. The series of utprekshas that he uses in describing
the magical beauty of the Acchoda Lake is a good example. They bring out graphically the vastness of the lake and the amazing clarity of its waters. To the poet the
lake appears as though the quarters have melted, as though the very expanse of the skies has liquefied and flown down, as though Mount Kailasa has melted, as
though moonlight itself has taken a watery form ....
Bana uses the same figure of speech in trying to convey the unusual loveliness of Mahashveta:
Enveloped in that intense white splendour, she appeared as though she was enshrined in crystal, immersed in milky water, veiled in fine white Chinese silk, as
though hidden inside a mass of white autumnal clouds . . .
A series of metaphors brings out the saintliness, austerity and humanity of the sage Jabali:
He is the rushing waters of compassion, the bridge across the ocean of existence, the very reservoir of forgiveness; he is axe to the dense bower of desire, a
veritable ocean of undying bliss; he is the leading steps for those
descending into the river of study, he is touchstone to the gems that are the various disciplines of knowledge; he is forest fire to the fresh growth that is
attachment, he is the incantation that arrests the serpent of anger, he is the sun that lights up the darkness of delusion . . .
The heroic proportions of the shalmoli tree with the white cotton pods on its top branches are brought out effectively with the alamkara called
The horses pulling the sun's chariot move close to the white-cotton-covered top of the tall shalmoli tree; they are exhausted with galloping around in the skies. Is it
the foam that spurts from the sides of their mouths that is whitening the tops of the high branches?
Parisankhya and virodha are two figures of speech used by Bana to great effect. But both are based on pun on words, which makes translation difficult. Bana
uses parisankhyas to tell us how great the ashrama of Jabali is, a sanctified spot of incomparable peace and purity:
It is a place where there may be impurity in the smoke from the altar but never any in the character of the people; where redness may be seen in the beak of the
parrots but no flush on the face of men due to rage; where sharpness is found on the edge of the kusha grass, but none in the temperament of men, and where the
plantain leaves may sway unsteadily but not in the minds of men ....
In the figure of speech virodha, a phrase, appears to be a contradiction in terms, but only until the pun is resolved. Shudraka is described as mahadoshamapi
sakalagunadhishta and kupatimapi kalatravallabha. The first phrase means, at first glance although he is full of great faults, he is the abode of all
virtues, which is absurd. But the word dosha also means arm.
The hidden meaning of the phrase is although he possesses great strength of arms, although powerful he is still the abode of virtues. Similarly the obvious
meaning of the second phrase is, although he is a bad husband he is the beloved of his wives, which is contradictory. Here the compound word kupati
may be dissolved in two ways. Ku pati means bad husband but kuh pati means lord of the earth, as kuh means the earth.
Therefore the phrase actually means although he is the husband and protector of the earth he is still the beloved of his wives.
There are many figures of speech in Kadambari especially in the passages describing grand palaces, forests, sunrises, sunsets, moonlit nights and so on.
At times Bana gets so carried away by the sheer momentum of the alamkaras following each other in a torrent that infelicitous figures of speech too rush in. There
occurs for instance, in the description of the Vindhya forest the following phrase: chandramurtiriva satatamrksha sarthanugata harinadhyasita cha. Bana is
comparing the forest to the moon. The simile is based in the first place on the pun on the word rksha, which means both 'the star' and 'the bear'.
Anugata means both 'full of or 'filled with' and 'followed by' or 'attended by'. To paraphrase the figure of speech, the Vindhya forest is like the moon because
just as the moon is attended or followed by the stars the forest is filled with bears. Secondly, just as the moon has the deer seated on it (in the form of a mark) the
forest too has deer settled in it. This is mere play on words, which loses all its meaning in translation. But the question is can one at all draw any comparison between
two such dissimilar things as the moon and the Vindhya forest?
Yet another simile likens a region of the same forest to the flag flying on Arjuna's chariot. Kvachit partharathapatakeva varanarakranta: Just as Arjuna's flag is
dominated by the monkey emblem, in some parts, the forest too is overrun by monkeys.
Here too the question arises whether a forest can be compared to one little flag on the basis of a single figure of the monkey appearing on it.
There are other similes, which if taken seriously would be considered inappropriate, infelicitous and uneasthetic; they go against the very rasa that Bana is trying
to invoke. Here is an example of one such simile. The sage Jabali is compared to an elephant of noble proportions. Prashasta varanamiva pralamba
karnabalam. The point of similarity rests on the compound word karnabalam. When applied to the noble-proportioned elephant it means that the animal
has prominent ears and a long tail but when applied to the sage it means he has long hair growing from his ears. The compound when it applies to the elephant means
'he whose ears and tail are long'; when applied to the sage it becomes an adjectival compound meaning 'he whose ear hair is long'. Bala means
a tail as well as hair.
Bana is at his best when he uses swabhavokthi. The writers on poetics are not agreed on whether swabhavokthi might be termed an alamkara at all. Be
that as it may, Bana rises to great heights when simply describing a scene; the comedy of the princes rushing hither and thither at the dismissal of the court by
Shudraka, the beauty of the Pampa Lake, Tarapida talking of his longing for a son, Pundarika's travails on his deathbed, the love play between Kadambari and
Chandrapida or Mahashveta railing in love. With very few figures of speech thrown in, these passages brim with rasa.
The highest achievement of Bana as a creative writer is the delineation of character. In spite of the fabulous nature of the story all the characters in
Kadambari are full of life, and drawn with great subtlety.
According to the literary convention established since the time of Bharata, the hero of a great work must have a great character. He should be of exalted lineage,
and endowed with great prowess and knowledge; he is the dhirodatta nayaka, the valiant-exalted hero. If he has a finer side to his character that exhibits
sensitivity to beauty of all types, then he is a dhiralalita nayaka, valiant-elegant hero. In general Bana follows the traditional prescriptions in casting his hero
Chandrapida. He is the only son of a great king who rules over the whole earth. He is extraordinarily handsome. He is also a brilliant scholar who masters all the
branches of knowledge. His physical prowess is incomparable. His favoured diversion is the thrill of the hunt. Chandrapida has a finer side to his nature as well. He is
keenly sensitive to beauty of all kinds; he is captivated by the beauty of the Acchoda Lake and its surroundings, of the haunting music of Mahashveta as it floats over
the lake. He is well versed in all the arts and his knowledge of music is so profound that he is able to discuss fine points of the mechanics of it with Kadambari's
friends. Clearly Chandrapida qualifies to be a dhirodatta-dhiralalita nayaka.
But Bana, in addition to the prescriptions of tradition contributes something of his own to make Chandrapida come alive, an individual with interesting facets of
personality. He comes through as a young man who has a mind of his own, who thinks for himself and forms his own opinions on matters of significance. One
significant example would be his vehement condemnation of the practice of courting (embracing?) death when a dear one dies even when the dear one happens to be
the husband, an amazingly modern concept.
His virtues no doubt dazzle us. He regards his father with love mingled with respect. He is ever obedient to his father's wishes; he is always deferential to Arya
Shukanasa and is full of warm affection for his friends, Vaishampayana and Patralekha. He is dutiful and hardworking.
But at the same time Bana makes him endearingly human; he is full of irrepressible youthful impulses that captivate us. He forms easy friendships with people
whom he likes, such as Mahashveta, Madalekha and Keyuraka. He loves his mother dearly but he is impatient with her caresses. He is a great prince who goes on a
victory march over his vast kingdom dispensing equitable justice to his subjects and vassals, yet gives in to his impulsive curiosity about the kinnara pair; he
must chase after them. And he must question Mahashveta about her strange life although he is quite aware of her distress at reliving her memories.
He is mischievously amusing when he chooses to be, as when he keeps the gandharva women in splits of laughter with his playful banter on the affair of
the myna and the parrot. A great warrior, a great administrator, yet he is touchingly at a loss how to handle his affair with Kadambari. He is not sure if she really loves
him. With typical adolescent awkwardness he hides his love from his parents and searches desperately for an excuse to go back to Hemakuta.
Kadambari is the heroine or the nayika of the kavya. Bana again follows tradition in making her a maiden born of an exalted lineage. She is of course
extraordinarily beautiful as a nayika should be and very young, thus in every way a suitable partner to Chandrapida. Bana goes out of the way to emphasize her
extreme youth, her artless innocence, and the almost unnatural bashfulness that constantly seizes her and her overwhelmingly affectionate nature. Mahashveta is very
different. When the two women are presented side by side the contrast is striking. They are both gandharva girls brought up in identical fashion, yet Mahashveta, from
the beginning, is shown to be bolder and surer of herself. Attracted by the divine beauty of Pundarika, she takes the initiative in striking up a conversation with him
and Kapinjala. After fate strikes her a cruel blow by felling her lover, she changes her life completely, and becomes an ascetic
with a mission in her life, namely union with her beloved. Her spiritual merit is considerable as the ashrama trees of their own accord shower their choicest fruits
When we meet Kadambari for the first time in the kavya she is surrounded by her friends and attendants spending her time in somewhat childish diversions. Bana
also goes to some length to impress upon us the fragility of Kadambari and her friends, and he seems to use subtle mockery in describing her exaggerated physical
helplessness. With the vivacious and ready-witted Madalekha on one side and the stately Mahashveta on the other, one wonders why Chandrapida falls in love with
Kadambari at all!
Then we see her transform with love. Under the intensity of that novel emotion she gets over her bashfulness enough to reveal her feelings to Chandrapida. She
even sends him the priceless seshahara as a token of her love and then goes and visits him dressed in charmingly simple clothes. But she is still tongue-tied and
quite unable to express her deep love for him in words.
When the curse leads to Chandrapida's 'death', all of a sudden Kadambari finds herself in unprecedented circumstances as she is made to bear the unimaginably
grave and agonizing responsibility of caring for her lover's body, on the proper preservation of which her whole future happiness rests. The exaggerated physical
helplessness and fragility disappear. The crippling bashfulness gives place to quiet self-possession. The frivolous pastimes are abandoned and she too becomes a
woman with a mission in her life, the resurrection of Chandrapida and her union with him. As the story draws to a close Kadambari occupies centre stage, a role
Bana surely intends for her to acquire although it is his son who actually puts the finishing touches to her character.
Let us now take King Tarapida and Arya Shukanasa, king and minister, magnificent men both, each a past master in his own chosen field. Tarapida's greatness
lies in the battlefield,
where valour and strategy shown by him have won him dominion over the whole earth. Shukanasa on the other hand is a scholar profoundly versed in statecraft.
He is almost Kautilyan in the thoroughness with which he manages the affairs of the vast kingdom although he intensely dislikes the political philosophy of Chanakya.
The two are more than king and minister; they are great friends and inseparable, for we almost never meet one without the other. The king defers to Shukanasa's
opinion on all occasions. As the king leans on the arm of the minister as they walk together he seems to lean on him mentally and spiritually as well.
But there is something about the king that makes him greater in our eyes than the erudite wily minister; not merely greater but more lovable, more human. It
appears as though Bana presents the two together only to drive home the subtle difference between the two. The king shows a deep natural wisdom acquired in the
school of life, while the scholarly minister seems bookish. Tarapida has led a fuller life. Therefore he could assume the role of adviser to his erudite minister when the
latter is shaken to the core with the disappearance of Vaishampayana. Shukanasa's reason forsakes him and all his scriptural texts fail to come to his aid. He
succumbs to an uncontrollable rage hurling the most loathsome invectives against his own child without even waiting to find out what exactly has happened. It is then
the king who stops the flow of curses and in the fullness of his experience advises the minister to show compassion to the poor confused youth. He gently chides the
minister for heaping curses on his own child. He talks at length about the aberrations that could occur in the wildness of youth and advises restraint. Later, when he
sees Chandrapida, his only child, 'lying dead' he shows amazing self-control, and wisdom and magnanimity as well in letting the care of Chandrapida remain in the
hands of the young gandharva princess. Again it is Bana's son who wields the brush
for the finishing strokes in a manner that would surely have won the father's approval.
Tarapida is indeed a charming character in literature. As a great king he is full of valour, he is the lord of the earth. He is a great lover who enjoys his women with
abandon. But he is a caring husband too who spares the time to share the joys and sorrows of his wife. When the longed-for son is at last born the king gives himself
wholeheartedly to the raptures of fatherhood. He suffers from no inhibition in demonstrating his tender love for his son. The king's sense of humour is delightful. As he
teases his wife's bashfulness over her pregnancy or his son about his budding manhood we see the warmth and ebullience of his many-sided personality.
Vaishampayana remains a shadowy figure in the background. As the parrot he is the raconteur, although unlike narrators in general he is vitally concerned with
the fortunes of his characters. Both as the son of Shukanasa and as Pundarika we see him only in the death throes of love which leaves him somewhat
When we have Chandrapida condemning the practice of sati or Arya Shukanasa bitterly railing against Kautilyan statecraft known for its deviousness, inhumanity,
and unscrupulous aggrandizement of the ruler at the expense of the subjects it is Bana speaking to us through the mouthpiece of his characters. His humanitarianism
and liberalism take us by surprise for the age in which lived, the medieval age, is certainly not known for either. As a liberal he ridicules the pretensions of many of the
rulers to divinity; he jeers that they may even labour under the delusion that they have two more hands concealed beneath the two that are visible, and a third eye
hidden under the forehead. He is openly critical of the sycophancy that creates and nourishes such delusions in the minds of the rulers. Many of his remarks
and descriptions would fit the ambitions and strivings of many intoday's world.
I have not attempted a literal, word for word translation of Bana's Kadambari. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to bring out the spirit of his
As described earlier alamkaras are plentiful in Kadambari. Many of them depend on pun on words, which are difficult to translate without slipping into
paraphrasing the idea contained in them. I have taken the liberty of omitting altogether those figures of speech which are, to my mind, infelicitous and farfetched. I
have however included a few of them so that the reader might get an idea of how Bana has made use of double entendre to craft his figures of speech.
Finally, there are certain conceits that are peculiar to Sanskrit literature, conceits that one repeatedly comes across in all literary work. They are, just to name a
few: that the cobra carries a gemstone on its hood; that an elephant has pearls inside its temples; that there is an immense store of wealth lying at the bottom of the
ocean; that there is a stone called chandrakanta which melts in moonlight. One encounters most of these in Kadambari.
There are also certain misconceptions with regard to natural phenomena. That the rays of the moon are cool to the touch is the least offending of the lot. At the
other end of the spectrum is the thesis that conception is possible without the male sperm although, according to the saintly wisdom of Jabali, a foetus thus conceived
will perish, if not immediately then sometime soon, without enjoying a full lifespan because it is the male essence that imparts strength to the child both physical and
spiritual. The reader should treat these with indulgence considering the period in which this work was written.
'Learned in sacred literature, a seasoned critic of dance, wily in the game of dice and a connoisseur of human beauty, this parrot called Vaishampayana is the
most wonderful of all the wonderful things in the world;
Bana is among the three most important prose writers in classical Sanskrit, all of whom lived in the late sixth and early seventh centuries AD. It is clear, from his
writings, that his mind was amazingly modern, humane and sensitive. Bana had a healthy irreverence towards many of the established orthodoxies of his time and his
strength lies in his skill as a creator of characters vibrant with life and individuality.
Kadambari is a lyrical prose romance that narrates the love story of Kadambari, a Gandharva princess, and Chandrapida, a prince who is eventually revealed to
be the moon god. Acclaimed as a great literary work, it is replete with eloquent descriptions of palaces, forests, mountains, gardens, sunrises and sunsets and love in
separation and fulfilment. Featuring an intriguing parrot-narrator,the story progresses as a delightful romantic which the earthly and the divine blend in idyllic