India as Seen In The Kuttani-Mata of Damodaragupta

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Item Code: NAC180
Author: Ajay Mitra Shastri
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788120813366
Pages: 313 (40 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.0 inch X 5.8 inch
Weight 500 gm
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The Kuttani-Mata of Damodaragupta is one of the few works in the history of classical Sanskrit literature the time and locate of the composition where of can be ascertained with a fair degree of certainty. We learn fro Kalhana that Damodaragupta occupied a high position under the Karkota-Naga king Jayapida Vinayaditya who ruled over Kashmir in the closing years of the eighth and early years of the ninth centuries A.D. a critical study of the internal evidence indicates that the work was probably composed a few years after the close of Jayapida’s reign.

As indicated by the title the text aims at exposing the secrets of the whole craft of prostitution in the form of the advice of an experienced bawd (Kuttani) to a courtesan and from this point of view it occupies a unique place in the whole range of Sanskrit literature for the account is based into only on the standard erotic texts like Vatsyayana’s Kama-Sutra but draws copiously upon the poet’s personal observations of the actual state of affairs in Post Jayapida Kashmir. But the poem has a much wider scope than its professed theme and covers the entire gamut of contemporary life of Kashmir in particular and northern India in general. The present work attempts a critical evolution of this evidence in the light of relevant literary and archeological data. In the process new light is thrown on several important questions.

About the Author

Ajay Mitra Shastri (born 1934) was awarded the Ph.D. degree of the Nagpur University in 1962 for his thesis entitled Studies in the Brhatsamhita of Varahamihra. He joined the Nagpur University as a Lecturer in Ancient Indian History Culture and Archaeology in 1957 and was appointed a reader in 1965.

Dr. Shastri is widely known for his valuable contributions to various aspects of early Indian history and archaeology. His publications include over 150 research papers and twelve books some of them edited and in collaboration besides contribution to well known series like Cambridge History of India (Vol. II) and Comprehensive History of India (Vol. IV).


When I went to London in the early forties for my Ph.D. Degree I was told by my teacher the late Dr. L.D. Barnett that if I wanted to study under him. I had to avoid literary antiquarianism for my thesis and that I had to work on some solid subject pertaining to history, art or archaeology. At that time I had to agree with the views of Dr. Barnett but after my return to this country I in consultation with the late Dr. V.S. Agrawala came to the conclusion that Sanskrit Prakrit and Pali literature had strata of information which had to be sifted analytically to study the culture of a period which could be further checked by archaeological data. We in our humble way carried out research on this principle and were surprised at the richness and enormity of information which had to be sifted analytically to study the culture of a period which could be further checked by archaeological data. We in our humble way carried out research on this principle and were surprised at the richness and enormity of information contained in Indian literature for drawing a picture of the social and cultural life of the Indian people. Dr. Ajay Mitra Shastri in his India as seen in the Kuttani-mata of Damodaragupta I am happy to say follows the same principle and has studied the text so rigorously that hardly any information worth noting has escaped his attention. As a matter of fact his study not only give a picture of the life and work of the people of Kashmir in the ninth century but as Damodaragupta was a great traveler the information which he has gathered in the Kuttani-mata gives a picture of the life and culture of northern India as well. After all literary antiquarianism is not a pure bunkum but yields scientific data if used with caution.

Dr. Shastri is not only a good Sasnkritist but is that the same time endowed with the historian’s critical approach. This rare combination has enabled him more than anybody else to understand and analyze the text properly. Like his other writings the present work is marked by his great erudition and is a solid piece of historic-textual research. His researches on the data of Damodaragupta add a fresh chapter to the history of Sanskrit literature. In the various chapters of the book he throws interesting light on contemporary religious and socio-economic life administration education and literature and the state of fine arts. Of particular interest in his brief but enlightening discussion of the institution of courtesans in the eighth century A.D. Though the work is based on the Kuttani-Mata copious data have been drawn from archaeological sources and literary works like the Raja-tarangini Nila-mata and Ksemendra’s writings besides the Kama-Sutra and the one act plays incorporated in the Caturbhani to Supplement and corroborate the information supplied by Damodaragupta.

In once again offer my felicitations to Dr. Shastri for bringing out such an interesting study of a much neglected text. The information which he has critically studied is of great interest not only for a correct understanding of the institution of courtesans but also of other aspects of the life of the Indian people during the early mediaeval period.


It was for the first time in the year 1965 that I went through the Kuttani-mata and realized the rich crop of cultural material which stood in the need of being properly harvested and made available to students of the cultural history of ancient India. Originally I thought of publishing a long paper but with the progress of my study I realized that the subject required a sufficiently large monograph if I were to be judicious and honest to my undertaking. Accordingly I engaged myself in an exhaustive critical study of the text which for obvious reasons consumed much more time than expected earlier. The completion of the work was further delayed by other preoccupations meantime however, I published three papers on certain aspects of the subject in internationally reputed periodicals which attracted wide attention and evoked eloquent appreciation and encouraged me to complete the work in a comparatively shorter time than would have been the case otherwise.

As the celebrated poet-historian Kalhana tells us Damodaragupta the author of the Kuttani-mata occupied the high office of dhi-saciva or prime Minister under Jayapida Vinayaditya the Karkota king of Kashmir who flourished in the last quarter of the eighth and the first quarter of the following century A.D. The poem therefore may be justifiably supposed to reflect the contemporary Kashmiri life though be it stated it nowhere mentions the Happy Valley by name. As has been suggested in the opening chapter of the present work the non-mention of Kashmir is probably deliberate though we have unambiguous traces of the author’s acquaintance with contemporary Kashmir. On the other hand the scenes of the episodes narrated in the text are laid at Varanasi Pataliputra and Mt. Abu which are all described in a realistic manner. The reliability of the account of Varanasi and Arbuda in Particular is amply borne out by literary and archaeological evidence. Although Kerala and Devarastra are also casually mentioned the author does not evince much acquaintance with the South. It may therefore be reasonably assumed that that the poem depicts contemporary North Indian Life. Keeping this fact in view I have spared no pains to corroborate and supplement the information supplied by our work from other sources both literary and archaeological.

The present work is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter which is introductory in nature deals with such preliminary questions as the discovery and captions of the poem its appreciation from a literary and historical standpoint and the sources of the stories related in it and Damodaragupta’s life and times. An important feature of this chapter is a full discussion of the historical data enshrined in the poem which it has been pointed out for the first time bear out Kalhana’s evidence regarding Damodaragupta’s date. It has further enabled us to fix more precisely the date of the Kalacuri royal poet Mayuraja Anangaharsa who can now be convincingly placed in the latter half of the eighth century A.D. The Following chapter is devoted to a discussion of the political data furnished by Damodaragupta. Contemporary religious conditions form the subject matter of the third chapter while the next chapter is claimed by an analytical study of the data bearing on social life. These two chapters actually form the core of the present monograph. While dealing with the religious conditions it has been shown convincingly that the correct reading of the relevant name in verse 736 of the Kuttani-mata is Kalasevara and not Kamalesvara which is found in a majority of manuscripts and adopted by all the modern editors of the text. As suggested by its title our poem affords rich material on prostitution which among other topics if fully discussed in Chapter IV. In the next chapter attention is focused on the information concerning educational practices and valuable literary references enshrined in the poem. It will be noticed that the work is particularly rich in information on erotic poetics and dramaturgy. The second section of this chapter forms something like a running commentary on the poet’s erudition to which attention has been invited in the opening chapter. The sixth chapter treats of data bearing on contemporary economic conditions including coinage in connection with which has been discussed for the first time the bearing of the mention of Kedara on the date of our poet. The wealth of information on the contemporary state of fine arts particularly music dance and drama found in the text is analyzed in the concluding chapter. The geographical references scattered in the Kuttani-mala are studied in an appendix.


Foreword by the Late Dr. Moti Chandra ix
Preface xi
Abbreviation xv
List of Illustrations xvi
Chapter I
The Kuttani-Mata and its Author
The Kuttani-Mata : Its Past Popularity Loss and Rediscovery in Modern Times1
The Title 5
Damodaragupta and his times 5
Historical Data in the Kuttani-Mata 6
The Story 20
Sources of the story 24
When was the Kuttani-Mata Composed? 31
Damodaragupta as a poet 31
Damodaragupta’s Erudition 39
Kuttani-Mata as a source of Cultural History 41
Chapter II
Political Theory and Administration
Political Theory 45
Administration 46
Chapter III
Religious Conditions
Saivism 59
Vaisnavism 68
Other Deities 74
Other Objects of worship 80
Religious Practices 85
Beliefs and superstitions 93
Purpose of Religious 94
Purusarthas 94
Buddhism 95
Jainism 97
Chapter IV
Social Life
Social Organization 101
Family 105
Marriage and Position of Women 106
Prostitution 110
Ideal Female Form 126
Personal Names and Titles 128
Food and Drinks 130
Dress and Ornaments 133
Hair-Styles 146
Toilette 148
Sports and Pastimes 154
Furniture 161
Correspondence 162
Customs and Manners 164
General Life 165
Chapter V
Education Learning and Literature
Education 171
Literature 174
Chapter VI
Economic Conditions
Agriculture 193
Flora 196
Fauna 200
Industries and Occupations 204
Slavery 209
Coins and Media of Exchange 209
Chapter VII
Fine Arts
Music 217
Dance 220
Drama 224
Other Arts 229
Architecture 230
Geographical References
Physical Features 235
Countries 238
Localities 239
Select Bibliography 245-259
Index 261-276
Additions 277-278
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