It is hardly necessary to write a foreword to a work the interest of which speaks for itself. In an agricultural country like India one would expect to find a good number of old works bearing upon agriculture or agricultural operations: but it is surprising that such Sanshrit works are not numerous. The present work, small as it is, is one of three or four such treatises which are known to exist; and it is a happy idea to edit it critically from available manuscripts and make it readily accessible to those who are interested in the subject.
The present edition is based upon the collation of three manuscripts obtained from different sources and a printed edition ; and all important variants to the text-reading are faithfully recorded. It is noteworthy that two of these manuscripts are in Bengali characters, while the printed edition and the remaining manuscript in Dvanagari are based apparently on Bengali originals. This is a point in favour of the edtors’ and suggestion of the probable Bengal provenance of the work.
Although associated with the name of a sage of hoary antiquity, one must confess to a doubt with regard to the rather early date (11th century A.D.) claimed for the present work. Even if systematic, the work is not exhaustive ; and it has all the appearance of a compilation. It is possible that it absorbs a great deal from a floating traditional literature which is now lost. The fact that some of its verses are ascribed by Raghunandana to some other authors would perhaps point to the same direction. There is much again in this work which finds an echo in the innumerable agricultural proverbs which are to be found in the various languages of India, and which in Bengali are seen in the apocryphal collection which goes by the name of khana. These proverbs crystallise the scattered experience of ages within the limits of cryptic but wise utterances. The editors have rightly drawn attention to some parallelisms to be found in the sayings of Khana. I feel I am not entitled to express an opinion on the technical matter contained in the present work; but from what it says about meteorological forecasts of rainfall, about omens and portents, about auspoicious time for sowing and similar topics, which preponderate, it seems to me that the work is more like a Sanskrit version of the collective weather-wisdom of the popular vernacular proverbs.
It is difficult for this, among other reasons, to fix an absolute date from an examination of its contents. But the work appears to contain much that is old, and will, therefore, appeal to those who are interested in this subject of never failing interest.
Agriculture as been playing a vital role in the economy of India ever since the dawn of Aryan civilisation, as is evidenced by countless references to it scattered in various works starting with the Rgveda. It is, therefore, natural to expect specialized works on this subject. Curiously, however, the Krsi-parasara is the only work in Sanskrit, known hitherto, devoted exclusively to the different agricultural operations; this fact alone underlines the importance and interest of this work.
The work, entitled Krsi-sasana, is nothing but a compilation of passages, referring to agriculture, culled from different sources. The anonymous MS. No.5276, called Krsi-sastra (Appendix), in the Govt. Oriental MSS. Library,1 Madras, is of no practical value or interest dealing as it does only with the time suitable for some of the items of agricultural operations; the modest object of the work is indicated in the second verse where the author promises to set forth the time for agricultural operations (samayam krsi-karmanab)
Despite the great interest and importance of the Krsi-parasara, it has not yet received as much attention of scholars as it deserves. The Vangavasi edition of the work, printed forty years ago, has long been out of print. Moreover, being presumably based on a single MS., IT does not note the variant readings excepting one or two which might be marginally noted in the MS. At the disposal of the editor, and suffers from lapses, grammatical and otherwise.
The Bengali translation, accompanying the text in the said edition, and the English translation by S.P. Roy Choudhuri, based on the printed text, are necessarily defective. It is with a view to constituting the text, as accurately as practicable, that the present critical edition has been undertaken. The text, presented here, is based on a collation of as many MSS. As could be procured and also of the printed text.
The help that has been derived from the previous workers in the field has been acknowledged in proper places. Any suggestion regarding the improvement of the work or any new information regarding the subject will be gratefully received, and attempts will be made to improve the work in that light if and when another edition is brought out.
The editors express their grateful thanks to Dr. S. K. De for the Foreword.
Title of the work
The work, as we find it in the present edition, opens with a verse telling us that sage Parasara is relating Krsi-karma-vivecanam. This word appears to have been used only to denote agricultural operations in general, and not to indicate the name of the work. The colophon of our text names it as Krsi-parasara, and agrees with MS. D in this respect. According to the colophon of the printed text, the title of the work is Krsi-Samgraha, while it has been named Krsi-paddhati in the India Office MS., and Krsi-tantra by Jogesh Chandra Roy in this Ancient Indian Life (p. 30).
Authorship and date
Both the title of the work and its colophon associate the name of Parasara with it. There are many proofs of its high antiquity. In the first place, the versification throughout the work tends to prove that it belongs to a period anterior to the rise of the Nibandha literature which dates back approximately to the eleventh century A.D., if not earlier. None of the well-known Smrit-digests or Nibandhas is written in verse though, of course, there are innumerable verses cited from various authorities. Again, the author o the present work cites only two authorities, viz., Manu and Gargya, contrary to the usual practice of Nibandha-karas whose abound in quotations not merely from earlier works but also from contemporary ones. This is a singular feature which makes it probable that the work was composed before the rise of the Nibandhas. It may also be noted that the work is written in a fashion which is rarely met with in the Indian literature after the eighth century A.D., since when the attention to the Indian scholars has mainly been directed towards the exposition to the recognised Smrti texts and to the preparation of digests and commentaries in the various branches of learning by reconciling divergent views and by giving the author's own conclusions. Hence, it will not, perhaps, be absolutely unreasonable to suggest a period earlier than the eighth century when the work might have come into being, i.e. in the period during which the original Dharma-sastras were yet being composed. The reference to Gargya in the work does not help us materially in fixing its date, because the date of Gargya himself is as yet uncertain.
A good deal of difficulty arises from the name 'Parasara'. If he be the same person as mentioned by Yajnavalkya in the list of traditional authors of Dharmasastra, the work then must be earlier than Yajnavalkya, and should be placed between 100 and 600 A.D. the work contains a citation of Parasara as an authority-a fact which tends to prove the author to have been different form the well-known author of the Dharmasastra. But, the practice of the author referring to himself in the third person is not uncommon in Sanskrit literature. Whoever this Parasara may be, and whatever his date, the name is certainly very old.
Here a question naturally arises as to whether the author of the Krsi-parasara can be the same as the author of the well-known Parasara-smrti which is regarded as the highest authority in the Kali Age. While there are no external evidences on the matter, the internal evidences fail to prove anything conclusively. If both the Parasaras are regarded as identical, it becomes difficult to account for the complete absence of verses from the Krsi-parasara or of any reference to it in the portion of the Parasara-smrti dealing with agriculture. It is idle to argue that the Smrti only incidentally refers to agriculture, and that the lack of reference to the Krsi-parasara is merely accidental; because, the Smrti devotes no less than about a dozen verses to this particular topic. On the other hand, it also seems a bit strange that the author of the Krsi-parasara does not refer to the chapters on agriculture contained in his own Smrti work. Moreover, while the Smrti dwells at length on the question of castes in relation to agriculture, the Krsi-parasara appears to be scrupulously silent on this point. Had the author of the latter been also the composer of the Smrti work, he could have hardly resisted the temptation of putting in a word or two on the caste-duties on which Manu and other authoritative Smrti works have given their definite opinion, and of which he him-self has spoken a good deal in his own work. An evidence against the alleged identity of the two works is to be found in the difference between the rules, provided by the tow, about the particular kinds of bulls to be rejected for the purpose of cultivation. According to the Smrti, the bulls of the following descriptions are to be avoided.
But, as shown below, the Krsi-parasara does not mention many of these kinds while adding many new descriptions. The Krsi-parasara lays particular stress on the colour of the animals, while the other work is silent on this point. Had the works been of the same author, we could not have expected such a difference of views.
One point is, however, significant. Though, in the Smrti, Parasara, in accordance with traditional ideas, has prescribed agriculture for non-Brahmanas, yet he does not seem to be very keen about making the rule rigid in consideration of the importance of agriculture in daily life. As a matter of fact, Parasara allows agriculture to Brahmanas only under certain restrictions about the number of bulls to be employed by them; and certain atonements are to be undergone by them to wash off the sin of ploughing. This attitude of the author, which is not one of condemnation, may be supposed, though on very shaky grounds, to explain the complete absence of any reference to castes in the Krsi-parasara. It may as well be that the purely secular nature of the work on agriculture did not afford any scope for the inclusion of the duties of castes. Hence, the identity of the authors of the two works may be possible. Among the minor points of agreement between the two, the number of bulls to be yoked together for cultivation deserves mention. In this respect, the striking similarity of the verses, found in the two, leads one to consider them to be of the same hand. For the reasons, stated above, we cannot form any definite opinion about the identity of the authors of the Parasara-smrti and the Krsi-parasara. Some of the verses, found in the Krsi-parasara, are ascribed by Raghunandana to different authors-a fact which seems to throw some light on the date of the author of the Krsi-parasara. Some of these verses are attributed to the Rajamartanda and others to Varaha. From certain literary evidences, P.V. Kane, in his History of Dharmasastra (Vol. I, p.276), establishes that the Rajamartanda was a book by King Bhoja of Dhara. Certain fairly reliable evidences lead the same scholar to conclude that the date of Bhoja must have been between 1000-1055 A.D. From the references to these authors by Raghunandana, one cannot come to any conclusion as the borrowing might have been from these authors by that of the Krsi-parasara or vice versa, or both might have drawn upon a common source. If the author of the Krsi-parasara be supposed to be the borrower, he must have lived at least towards the end of the 11th century A.D. Had the borrowing been in the other way, the author may be reasonably supposed to have lived at least half a century before the rise of Bhoja, i.e. about the middle of the 10th century A.D. whoever the borrower, as one of them must have been, one may, from these data, safely place the author of the Krsi-parasara in the period between 950-1100 A.D., a date which is certainly very old.
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