Ksemendra – The Eleventh Century Kashmiri Poet (A Study of His Life and Works): An Old Book

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Item Code: NAC725
Author: Uma Chakraborty
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Edition: 1991
ISBN: 8170301963
Pages: 300
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
Weight 470 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

So far Ksemendra, the throretician who propounded a new rhetorical thought viz aucitya, has undoubtedly attracted the interest of scholars much more than Ksemendra the poet. The present discourse, however concentrates primarily on Ksemendra, the eleventh century poet of Kashmir. The book is divided into seven Chapters. They are Ch.l The Brhatakathamanjari Ch.2 The Ramayanamanjari; Ch.3 the Bharatamanjari; Ch.4 Satires Ch.5 The Didactic Poems; Ch.6 The Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata and Ch.7 The Dasavatara-Carita. The book also contains an Introduction and conclusion.

Dr. Uma Chakravorty is presently at the Department of Sanskrit, Lady Keans’s College, Shillong, Meghalaya.



So far Ksemendra the theoretician who propounded a new rhetorical thought viz. aucitya has undoubtedly attracted the interest of scholars much more than Ksemendra the poet. The present discourse, however, concentrates primarily on Ksemendra, the eleventh century poet of Kashmir.

The present work was my doctoral dissertation prepared under the supervision of Dr. Janakiballabha Bhattacharyya and submitted to the Calcutta University for the Ph. D. degree several years back. Teaching in a college in Shillong and researching under Calcutta University, presented many obstacles in the preparation of the present work which thus suffers some what from inadequate justice to the subject. I assume full responsibility for its deficiencies.

My one regret is that I could not offer this humble work of mine to my father especially because he it was who introduced me to the various aspects of Indian culture, a legacy I dearly treasure. To-day I remember with a heavy heart the late Dr. Jogiraj Basu of Dibrugarh, who used to guide me like on elder brother in my academic life. I owe my thanks to my uncle Sri Amiya Chakravarti and my sister Smti Swati Maitra for the assistance they rendered during the preparation of the thesis.

The practical guidance which I obtained from Dr. Sukumari Bhattacharji, retired professor, Jadavpur University, in revising the thesis with a view to bringing it up-to-date and getting it ready for press within a rather short time, has made the task much easier for me. My colleague Dr. Pratima Choudhury has given me invaluable help in checking the type-script. I am indebted to Dr. Vasistha Narayan Jha, Director, Centre of Advance Studies in Sanskrit, Poona University, who took keen interest in the publication of my work and in this connection I also thank Shri Naresh Gupta, Director, Indian Books Centre. Delhi.



Narendra was one of the ministers of King Jayapida of Kashmir. Bhogindra was the son of Narendra. Sindhu the son of Bhogindra was the father of Prakanendra and grandfather of Ksemendra, the renowned poet of Kashmir. Wealthy Prakasendra earned good reputation by his liberal and highly charitable enterprises. His son Ksemendra and the grandson Somendra often waxed eloquent with the narration of the charitable nature of Prakasendra.

Ksemendra was born towards the latter part of the tenth century A.D., most probably, during the reign of queen Didda (4.D. 980-1003). He sat at the feet of all the learned scholars of Kishmir, who fourished during that time, drank deep of the fount of learning and earned scholarship in all branches of knowledge. He took lessons in literature from Abhinavagupta who lived during the later half of the tenth and first half of the eleventh century of the christian era and our poet considered himself fortunate having got the chance to be a disciple of Somapada the celebrated teacher of the Bhagavata school of philosophy.’ Ksemendra, thus, entered into the literary world being guided by all the worthy teachers an earned proficiency in all branches of knowledge current in Kashmir during his time. On account of his hydra-headed genius he is rightly referred to as a polymath by all scholars of modern time.

Ksemendra was born with a refined taste. The favourable atmosphere at home in which he was brought up and the natural splendour and beauty of Kashmir also acted in harmony in the making of the poet. The poet by birth was a worshipper of Lord Siva. But, the vast and well-assimilitated learning of him rendered his mind dynamic and catholic. In course of time he was deeply touched by the noble and sympathetic ideals of the great Personality of Buddha and rightly offered his homage to the religious master in the form of the Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata- a work narrating the story of Buddha through a series of lives. But his dynamic mind soon guided him towards Vaisnavism. And, towards the decline of life, he endeavoured to earn the supreme bliss by resorting to the all- comprehensive religion of Lord Visnu.

Ksemendra started his poetic life with the composition of the epitomes of the great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the highly popular stories of the Brhatkatha of Gunadhya, no more extant Most probably he thought that the composition of epitomes of the great poetic works of the past was the essential task of a would be poet.

The Brhatkathamanjari an abridged edition of the Brhatkatha of Gunadhya was composed in 1037 A.D.,1 seems to be the first work of the poet and then he wrote the RãmJyanamaja1 add the Bharatamanjari All these compendiums are written in verses.

The reference of another epitome in poetry, viz., the Padyakadambari, an abridged edition of the Kdambari of Banahatta, is also met with but the manuscript of the work is no more available. We would like to say that the first stage of Ksemendra’s life in a poet ended with the composition of these epitomes.

The all-round education of Ksemendra did make of him a stern moralist. The observation of the moral degradation in the administrative body and in society deeply pained him He refused to remain silent. He came up with a chastising rod in the shape of his satires which exaggerated the vices and corrupt practices rampant in the contemporary society of Kashmir. But this negative attitude is not adequate for reforming a society unless and until positive moral principles are set up for the society for practising. To achieve this end, he composed the didactic poems.

A glance back to the history of the centuries in which the poet flourished may help us in forming a correct impression of the administrative body and society of Kashmir which were corrupted to the very core and prompted the astute moralist Ksemendra to criticise so ruthlessly. A short period was not able to degrade the people belonging to all the categories to that extremity. They took years to go down to that deplorable state.

The ideal king Avantivarman (A.D. 855/6-883) did not at all think of extending his domain. Moreover with good rule he brought about stability in the administrative system. But his son Sankaravarman (A.D. b83-902) did not follow the principles of his lather. He launched expeditions in different directions and consequently had to meet expenses of maintaining a large standing army. “Though the king’s military expeditions did not result in any considerable success, yet their expenses appear to have been a severe drain on the resources of Kashmir. To meet this, the king was driven to take exceptional measuies for raising revenue which caused severe hardship to the 1.eople’.’ And a large number of officers who were thoroughly corrupted were appointed to realise the taxes from the subjects. Indiscriminately, the king tortured all the wise people who were in charge of the sixty-four temples situated in different corners of the country with a view to seizing the wealth from those temples which would help him in the easy movement of the expeditions.’ In no time, the number of officers appointed for the realisation of taxes increased like anything; but very little of the amount extorted by those corrupted officers from the subjects by the application of cruel means, was deposited to the royal treasury. And, the inefficiency of the succeeding kings helped a lot in the growth of corruption which in every form had its start during the reign of king Sankaravarman.

Sunil Chandra Ray in his Early History of Kashmir, describes the political condition of Kashmir in the following way, “The political history of Kashmir after ankaravarman’s death is a sordid tale of jealousy, intrigue and intestine conflicts. Presence of a number of claimants for the throne and their rivalry prevented the proper working of the government. The impotency of the authority was fully exploited by the Tantrins who in their close military organisation resembled the praetorian guards of Rome and abused their strength in the same shameless manner. The pretenders of the throne were anxious to purchase their favour, and no sooner had one succeeded in winning them over than it was snatched away by another who had paid higher price for it. Nothing was considered too high for the price of the crown and to attain it. to quote the words of a former chef minister of the valley. ‘kings squandered their revenues, queens bartered their honour, the son intrigued against his father, and the father set assassins upon his offspring all lost their sense of truth and dignity for the acquisition, however temporary of the fatal reward”



  Preface xi
  Abbreviations xiii
  Introduction 1
  A life history of Ksemendra with a historical background – from the ninth to the eleventh century Kashmir; a list of Ksemendra’s published works; a list of his unpublished works; the scope and purpose of the work.  
  1. The Brhatkathamanjari 13
  Kathapitha – an introduction to the Brhatkathamanjari the main story; the Brhatkathamanjari – an early attempt of Ksemenra; the Brahatkathamanjari – Sanskrit version of Kashmiri Slokasamgraha; the remarks of the earlier western scholars on the Brhatkathamanjari; a literary estimate.  
  2. The Ramayanamanjari 29
  The gist of the story of the Ramayana as narrated by Ksemendra; and e valuation of literary ment with reference to Valmiki’s Ramayana.  
  3. The Bharatamanjari 43
  The story of the Mahabharata as retold by Ksemendra; literary estimate wit reference to the Mahabharata  
  4. The Satires 60
  A. The Narmamala, B. The Desopadesa C. The Samayamatrka D. the Kalavilasa; A. The Narmamala – apparently a satire but inherently bears reformative elements – three cantos – parihasas; first Parihasa – (a) the Grhakryadhipati; (b) the Pumsca laka; (c) the Paripalaka; (d) the Lekhakao padhyata; (e) Ganjadivira; (f) the Margapati of Vyaparika; (g) the Gramadivira; Second and third Parihasa – the tragic story of the proud wife of the niyogin – a living terror to the subjects – the capture and punishment of the whole administrative body.  
  B. Desopadesa – a depiction of the degenerated Society; (a) Durjana; (b) Kadarya; (c) Vesya; (d) Kuttani; (e) Vita (f) Chhatra; (g) Vrddhavarya; (h) Prakirnavarnanam;  
  C. Samayamatrka – the story of the bawd Kankali, her adopted daughter – the prostitute Kalavati, the barber Kanka and others; D. The Kalavilasa the instruction of Muladeva the foremost of the deceitful persons, on his disciple Candgragupta; I Dambha; (ii) Lobha; (iii) Kama; (iv) Vesyavrttam; (v) Kayasthacarita; (vi) Mada; (vii) Gayanas; Suvarnakarotpattih; Nanadhurtavarnanam; (x) Sakalakalanirupanam; Kalavilasa – a satire and a didactic composition.  
  5. The Didactic Poems 95
  A. Sevyasevakopadesa B. Darpadalana, C. Carucarya, D. Caturvargasamgraha; A. Sevyasevakopadesa – an advice to the people with slavish attitude at the royal court; B. Darpadalana – conscientiousness is the virtue which guides a rational beings; (i) Kulavicara; (ii) Dhanavicara; (iii) Vidyavicara; (iv) Rupavicara; (v) Sauryavicara; (vi) Danavicara; (vii) Tapovicara; C. The Carucarya – consisting of hundred verses – each verse containing one moral precept; D. The Caturvargasamgraha – the four ends of human; life – dharma, artha, kama, moksa; (i) Dharma; (ii) Artha; (iii) Kama; (iv) Moksa.  
  6. The Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata 122
  Introduction; The Life history of Buddha; Upliftment of the people belonging to lower category of people; The mode of teaching; The efficacy of Buddha’s teaching; Teacher Buddha as dedicated – his various aspects; The making of Buddha; Illustrations of the cardinal principles of Buddhism; Law of Karma; Philosophy of the Bodhisattvavadanakalpalata; An estimate of Buddhism; Critical notes; Moral precepts.  
  7. The Dasavatara-Carita 215
  Introduction; Matsyavatara; Kurmayatara; Varahavatara; Narasimhavatra; Vamanavatara; Parasuramavatara; Ramavatara; Krsnavatara; Buddhavatara; Karkyavatara; Conclusion of the Dasavataracarita.  
  Conclusion 262
  Bibliography 274
  Index 288

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