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Ksemendra and His Times

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Item Code: NAO994
Author: Sarla Khosla
Publisher: Pratibha Prakashan
Language: English
Edition: 2001
ISBN: 8177020501
Pages: 239 (16 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details 9.50 X 7.50 inch
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The work deals with the socio-religious History of Kashmir in 10th & 11th c. A.D. It is bassed on original works of Ksemendra & allied sources including the upto date archaeological evidences.

Except the octagerian writer Ksemendra no one has written about the corrupt life of common man in Kashmir. He in his satirical style, teaming will jokes has not spared from thieves and prostitutes to Kayastha and Judges. The psychological study of contemporary society e.g. foreign students, vanika, wife & Kuttani. & Mathadesika, barbarele has been illucidated as told by the poet with an aim of guiding the stray youth and eradicate the social abuses of the society.

Full justice is done to the Religious Condition before & after 10th-l1th c. A.D. Customs & manners of the time, and how they are still lingering in the worship of Siva (Amarnath Yatra) & Devi (Ksira Bhavani fair) and customary feast so.

Infact Dr. Sarla Khosla has recorded the traditional Buddhist Philosophy upto the conception of ten Avataras. This is also perhaps done by the author for the first time.

The work contains rarest photograph including that of `Kutani’, the most recent excavation from Pandrathan' near Srinagar.

About the Author

Dr. Sarla Khosla is an eminent scholar of Buddhism, starting from History of Buddhism in Kashmir she has written, Gupta Civilisation, Ascvaghosa and His Times, Historical Evolution of Buddha Legend, Lalita-vistara and the Buddha Bhakti and Epithots and a number of research articles. Her present work Ksemendra and His Times highlights the contemporary cults and faiths and the Buddhist philosophy in 10th & 11th c. A.D. advocated by Ksemendra to improve the deteriorated morale of society (in 10th & 11th c. A.D.). Out of stray references in Poet's works she has woven the political, social and religious History of the time, which perhaps is done for the first time.

Infact she has shifted History out of Philosophical, Critical, Satirical and Detective works.


In India the recollection of previous life' is a common feature in the history of saints. The tradition plays a major part in reminding the achievements and life of different stages, kings, etc.

The Jatakas are the previous births stories of Gautama Buddha narrated by himself. How much these stories are really attached with him and mixed with gathas is a matter of research and beyond the scope of this volume.

These Jatakas (550) are interesting specimens of Buddhist literature. In addition to magnifying the qualities of Bodhisattva destined to attain Buddhahood, these stories throw a flood of light on the contemporary civilization and culture.

The Jatakas do not give connected life of Buddha. The beginning of well-connected life of Buddha can be traced in Suttapittaka and Mahaparinibbana Sutta (ancient and original). Here (M.P.N. Sutta) only early part of Buddha's life is given which is "mosaic and composed of earlier Suttas" belonging to later tradition (H.I.L. Winternitz, pp. 17-40).

The connected life of Buddha is given in the Mahavastu enlarged with the Jatakas. Asvaghosa's (1-2nd c. A.D.) Kavyas Saundarananda and Buddhacarita narrate the life of Buddha and discuss philosophy in Sraddhotpada Sutra and Sutralamkara.

Ksemendra's Avadankalpalata gives the life story of Buddha along with his philosophy. He has explained the original teachings of Buddha (Hinayana). But there is an echo of Mahayana form of Buddhism also when he stresses on the attainment of Boddhisattvahood.

Dasavataracarita tells about the foresight and broadmindedness of the poet. He seems to suggest that people who worship Visnu, when fall, would take shelter in His avatara - Buddha and hence his faith which showed an easy path for the salvation. They would not fall a prey to Tantrism which was fast engulfing the society.

His Narmamala, Desopadesa, Kalavilasa and Samayamatrka, cry with the abuses of the society. He not only suggests ways to improve in these works, but has written Carucarya, a little volume of 100 verses with the same purpose.

His Aucityavicaracarca, Suvrttatilaka and Kavikanthabharana go a long way to introduce new ideas in the history of poetics. I would not be doing justice to the poet without repeating that his ‘auciti' has replaced his Guru Abhinavagupta's theory of Dhvani.

In addition to these above-mentioned works this volume includes Caturvarga-samgraha, Darpadalana, Sevya-sevakopadeda and stray references from the Ramayana-manjari and Bharatamanjari.

All the efforts have been made to bring forth the socio-religious and economic life of the people, even from the stray references found in the above works.

The work is divided into five chapters including separate chapters on Dasavataracarita and Avadanakalpalata. Here prostitute and Kuttani are also discussed as far as possible avoiding indecent descriptions. As prostitutes seem to be very important part of the society, a few details have also been given in the introduction.

The chapter on religion not only elaborates in different prevailing cults in the valley, but the Buddhist philosophy also in details.

To complete this volume, I am highly obliged to Dr. Lokesh Chandra for providing not only photostate copies of most of Ksemendra's works, which being out of print were beyond my reach, but for guiding me also at every step.

My thanks are due to Shri A.S. Bist, former restorer of the National Museum, Delhi, for getting me most of the rare photographs attached herewith.

I am thankful to (Late) Dr. B.R. Grover, Chairman ICHR, New Delhi, for all the assistance he has given me to see this work published.

My thanks are due to Dr. Radhey Shyam Shukla of Pratibha Prakashan, Delhi, who has taken special pain to read the proof of this volume and has published it.


The trend of modern scholars, writers and readers is changed. They want an insight into the life style of the people in addition to political, social, religious and economic conditions of the country.

Though Kashmir has produced a host of writers, Bilhana (1088 A.D.) the famous writer of Vikramankadeva Carita, Kathasaritsagara (1063-1081), who wrote to divert the troubled mind of Suryavati the wife of king Ananta and the mother of Kalasa. The most famous octagerian writer of Kashmir in 10th and 11th c. has been Ksemendra.

To understand the works of such a great poet, it became essential for me to study the conditions prevailing previous to Ksemendra— which forced him to adopt satarical style. Nilamata Purana gives a glimpse of cultural and literary importance of 6th and 7th c. A.D. So I have tried to give all possible details of social, religious and economical life of the people, high and low, rich and poor as told by Ksemendra.

Ksemendra has given special attention to the women of Kashmir. Queen Suryavati held the reigns of administration. A Buddhist nun acted as go-in-between Kayastha's wife and a kamuka. A Kuttani and prostitute swayed the society.

A matha-desika enters the home of a Kayastha fearlessly and corrupts the ladies of the home.

This shows women enjoyed full freedom in Kashmir in the referred century.

Whatever subject or character Ksemendra has selected he has given an interesting and highly realistic picture. His knowledge of the character or profession is so complete that one cannot help wondering. The style selected by him is sacrificial and the motive is to bring reform and elevate the moral standard of the masses.

The character of a tapasvi or a Buddhist monk or a nun is depicted dubious and doubtful. The monk spends the night with harlots and leaves by the cock's crow early in the morning. Similarly a tapasvi looses his self-control in the company of a prostitute (Samaya., II. 89).

The guru, forgetting his high ideals, is extremely low-charactered man. He is a great crook and has no or little knowledge of his subject. He cheats from officer to a common man. He is full of Mina, krodha, mada, lobha and moha (sexual desire, anger, pride, greed, worldly affection and attachment) and is the guru of pupils' wives (Des. , VIII. 2-4).

Vaidya (physician) does not know who was ‘Caraka' (Da., VIII.34) and has not even the elementary knowledge of medicine. He is rather the killer of patients and looter (plunderer) of the wealth of the rich. (Ibid., 33-35).

The tutor (teacher) somehow finds a way in the house of Kayastha. Instead of teaching children he frightens them and manages his income by indulging in the wives and ladies of the house.

The student of Gaudadesa (Central India) who came to study in Kashmir, finding no entry in the study-course, roams in the Kashmir valley day and night. He does not spare a prostitute to a Vanika in cheating.

Vanika is a special character. He is extremely clever. Kalavilasa (VIII. 4-18) describes his ways of cheating customers. He uses sixteen types of weighting measures: some with four strings, other with short strings and some with many strings. Some measures tilt in front (puronamna), some tremble (baatabhranta), some are light (tanvi) and some are heavy (guru), some have little holes in the lower part, some have lead in the lower part (nyastaparda), some have a cut in the sides, etc. Sometimes he pretends of theft and runs away with the gold.

In Samayamatrka and Kalavilasa the prostitutes and Kuttanis are fully exposed.' The pilgrimage of Kuttani to emass wealth and the night and morning scenes in a prostitute are worth nothing. Ksemendra has told us about the journey of Kuttani in the valley and outside with a motive to tell the geography and land route in and out of Kashmir. The character of Kuttani and the arts she applies to loot the people from a passer-by to the rich are woven vividly and interestingly in it.

In tact the poet has brought all the loop-holes and absurdities of society without reservation in a satirical style. All his jokes and stories are meant to drive away the evils of society and not to criticise but to warn them of their weaknesses. His Kavikanthabharana, Aucityavicaracarca and Suvrttatilaka display his deep knowledge of poetics.

His devotion and regard for Buddha is seen in Bodhisattva-vadanakalpalata. These avadanas are of great importance as in simple kavya style they discuss the difficult Buddhist philosophy: Bhava-cakra, twelve-linked formulae pratitya-samutpada, four truths, astangikamagga, samyak-sambodhi, three ratnas (sila, samadhi and prajna), and paramitas. The paramitas or perfections mentioned are : charity, moral character, patience, diligence, contemplation and wisdom. Prajnapramita is the most important as it is the jnana which leads to emancipation.

Every verse of an avadana begins with a salutation and ends with the gist of its teachings. This work has the qualities of a kavya-sastra as well, santa rasa prevails throughout the work. It is full of madhurya guna. Ksemendra in addition to being a writer of kavya had the knowledge of Ayurveda, medicines, diseases and cures, etc. His knowledge about these subjects is witnessed in Avaddnkalplatc1 (Ava. 47, 60, 57, 85, 44 etc.) and in other works

His works are not written like Kalhana as the history of Kashmir. Kalhana has taken kings and their staff as the motive of his writing. Ksemendra has taken the life of miscellaneous contemporary society with a motive to eradicate the abuses of the time. To achieve this end Ksemendra's works provide enough religious, social and political (not much) information of the time. His works, like many Sanskrit poetry and prose works provide information about the contemporary customs and manners, religious — trends and cults, social life, economic condition (a reflection) and at the same time give a reflection of the tradition.

No doubt he is a first rate writer of the life of common man in Kashmir. He is a poet of wit and humour. He says that there is no dirth of rich, but intellectuals or learned are scarce to find, is true for all the times.


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