Kadambari of Bana

Kadambari of Bana

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Item Code: IHG095
Author: Padmini Rajappa
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9780143064664
Pages: 422
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7.8 Inch X 5.2 Inch
Back of the Book

“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 live 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 character vibrant with life and individually.

Kadambari is a lyrical prose romance that narrates the love story of Kadambari a gandhava 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 frosts mountains gardens sunrises and sunsets and love in separation and fulfillment gardens sunrises and sunsets and love in separation and fulfillment. Featuring an intriguing parrot narrator the story progress as a delightful romantic thriller in which the earthly and the divine blend in idyllic Splendour.


Early examples of Sanskrit prose are found mainly in sacred literature. Some of the Vedic smahitas like the Krishna Yajur Veda Contain prose sections. The Brahmanas and the Arayakas 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 refining and purifying the works concerned.

However the tyranny of metre could not continue without being challenged at least by some writers. Pros being a freer medium made it certainly easier for writers to give full rein to 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. On reflection however they perhaps merely exchange one from 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 Dando 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 though 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 Darshakumarachartiam a collection of stories describing the adventures of ten princes. Although in Kavyadarsha he dopes commend the style of writing characterized by long compounds in his own creative work, Darshakumarachartiam he tempers it with racy idiomatic language. His stories are realistic and full of humour and his characters are drawn form all station 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 figure of speech or alamkaras especially in the descriptive passages that abound in his work. In fact almost every idea in these passages in 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 labored similes and inappropriate metaphor 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 fairly told with great feeling. Bana’s strength lies in his skill as a storyteller and a creator of character vibrant with life and individuality. Besides he is a writer who revels his own mind 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 if 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 Pratukuta on the banks of the Shona River a tributary of the Ganaga 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 friend’s drummer’s bamboo cutters and music teacher’s astrologers workers of spells and magicians. He rubbed shoulders with erudite Brahmins as well as thieves’ gamblers and plain rogue. 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 wandering that Bana met king Harshavarshana. After several vicissitude the relationship between poet and king stabilized and Bana spent a long tie mar the court of king Harsha.

Bana probably borrowed the plot of Kadambari form 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 Calles Kathasarithsagara an Ocean of story Rivers. Makarandikopakyanam which figures in this compendium bears enough similar to Kadambari for us to concede that Bana must have taken the plot albeit in a skeletal form from it. However with his considerable skills as a storyteller he develops it in his own way. He introduces many changes in the plot he invents new character and alters the nature of several others sot 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 form 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 delightful romantic thriller played out in the magical regions between this world and the other in which is unperceived by the speakers themselves. Thus Kadambari as we now have it 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 Uttararadha the first and the second halves. Whatever is written by Bana himself goes as Purvardha although id one considers the length of the work alone it constitutes more than half. His son Bhushanabhatta or Pulinabhatta wrote the second half the Uttararadha. The son is full of humility in undertaking to finish his fathers work cut short by death. He compares himself to a farmer sin who merely gathers the fruits of the labor 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 introduce in the Purvardha have been satisfactorily gathered up and braided into a neat plait by him. In fact the Uttararadha 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. Bhushanabharra could hardly have depended on the fable Makarandikopakyanam because most of these events are nor 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 message to sustain the vibrancy of Bana’s characters. Further by making the future cast its shadow on the earlier events Bhushanbhatta sustain the suspense skillfully. Vilasavathis inexplicable unease at her sons departure the increasing depression of Chandapida 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 behaviors. Perhaps there were compelling reasons for Bhushanbhatta to introduce this scene. Did he feel it necessary to intensity the potency of Mahashveta’s curse on Vaishamoayana by adding the angry fathers to it? Or was he trying to give some scope to the raudrta rasa to come into play worthwhile doing it at the cost of reducing only the reader can decide.

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 literature by completing the work so creditably>


Acknowledgements vii
Introduction ix
Prologue 1
The Parrot Speaks17
Jabali Speaks 51
Mahashveta Speaks 139
The Parrot Continues 353
Epilogue 373
Glossary 383
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