There are facts that bear out the truth of the assertion that the ancient Indians did have a distinct historical consciousness with an independent view of history and that this view had little in common with the historical values of the Occident. In Rajasthan, probably from the 16th century onwards, a series of chronicles and epics were written on various dynasties. The Ajitodaya-mahakavyam of Pandit Jagjjivana Bhatta, then emerges as an important link in this very remote and unbroken chain of Ancient Indian Historiography. Avowedly, an historical epic of the 18th century on Maharaja Ajitsingh of Marwar, this 32-canto work is very useful as a corroboratory Sanskrit source of the History of Marwar in particular and Rajasthan in general. The present study for the first time investigate, anlyzes and discusses quite perceptively the diverse aesthetic elements and politico- historical phenomena weaved in contemporary poetic medium.
I have great pleasure in introducing to the world of scholars the work Unveiling Ajitsingh's Sanskrit Biography: Issues in Marwar History and Sanskrit Poetics by Dr. Sanjay Joshi. It incoporate by and large the thesis under the title the Ajitodaya Mahakavyam : A Historio –Literary Critique that he had submitted for the degree of Ph.D. In Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur in 2001
. The Ajitodaya –Mahakavyam, though presenting faithfully an account of the life of the Maharaja, is composed in ornate classical Sanskrit style answering preeminently the requirements of a mahakavya. It has all the embellishments of it. It is divided in Cantos which are more than eight, it has fiugres of speech, it employs a variety of meters, it is composed in Vaidarbhi and Gaudi styles as per the exigencies of the situations and has description of the natural phenomena. It, in line with many a similar work of the earlier period, is a charming example of an historical account presented in poetic garb.
It is an admitted fact that bald history has little appeal to sensitive Indian mind. Poetry it likes. The Sanskrit writers of all ages in India; ancient, medieval and modern; chose the medium of poetry to convey history. This led to the rise in Sanskrit literature of a genre that has come to be known as historical poem. Starting with the Rajatarangini of Kalhana, it has come to be enriched by a host of works which are as useful for history as they are for literature. Their composers were not ordinary men. They were men of exceptional ability who had the skill to carve poetry out of the drull and drab historical material. They were buffeted by contrary demands on them of being faithful to the account which they seek to present and the medium through which they were to present it and the medium of poetry which would require of them apart from the cold facts. If, in spite of this, they could create works of poetry of abiding interest, it is a tribute to their exceptional talent. It is this talent that draws connoisseurs to their works to glean from them the required historical information or to derive aesthetic enjoyment or both.
Had it not been for these poems much of the history of the medieval and early modern period would have remained shrouded in ignorance. Though the poems were composed by the court poets of the rulers who, being their proteges, and describing their exploits were naturally expected to overarch their limit in objects of the ruler who, being their proteges, and describing their exploits were naturally expected to overarch their limits in objectivity they still conatain material good enough to give a fairly accurate idea of the political, social and economic circumstances obtaining in their thime and have their patrons they also trace their genealogy for which reason also they have their importance.
Dr. Sanjay Joshi, the author of the present study is the pioneer in presenting an analysis of the hitherto little noticed Sanskrit work, the Ajitodaya –Mahakavyam. He has culled successfully the historical information from it and divined its aesthetic worth. A unique study, it deserve warm welcome.
It goes to the credit of Dr. Sanjay Joshi that he has been very thorough in his approach. Nothing worthwhile has escaped his searching eye. His work is a solid contributin to historio –literary studies. Presented influent and flawless expression, it has an appeal of its own. It brings to light through the study of the Ajitodaya- Mahakavyam, a rather little known facet of Marwar history for which it deserve full plaudits.
The following pages represent substantially my Doctoral Disertation that was approved for the degree of Ph.D. by the Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan in 2001. Ajitodaya –Mahakavyam is a work of 18th century Sanskrit literature written in epic –style on a theme of great historical interest and value. Here, Kavivara Jagajjivana Bhatia has chosen to direct his poetical skills toward depiciting the toilsome rise of Ajitsingh (whose celebrated guardian once was Veer Durgadas) to the throne of Marwar and the glory attendent theron . since the work concerns a tumultuous period of Medieval History, its role as a contemporary literatary source, both at the regional and the national level, can hardly be downplayed. Significantly, this elaborate historical kavya was largely inaccessible to the historical researches owing to its existence so far without a translation or commentary either in Sanskrit, Hindi or English. This led us to make a pioneering effort in the direction of comprehensively analyzing and ascertainig the contents and contribution of this major historical narrative of the Later Mughal period for the benefit of the historical and Sanskrit literary community like.
Different scholars on various occasions have entertained the view that the ancient Indians were wanting in historical sense and History was the one weak spot in Indian literature'. And according to some it was in fact, non –existent ( Macdonell,1972 : 10-11).
I do not propose to discuss here the worth and shortcomings of these views in extenso, but merely stress the fact that they project a distorted and narrow vision of the underlying truth of Indian historiography. There are facts that bear out the truth of the assciousness with an independent view of history and that this view had little in common with the historical values of the Occident The ideas of yuga (that includes kalpa, manvantaras, mahayugas and four yugas), moksa, avidya, samsara etc. obviously led to the evolution of a queer and exclusive historical outlook in India, which was clearly different periods and their use by the rulers in their records further confirm the historical outlook of the Indians. The historical sense of the Indians is substaintiated by the carefully maintained list of teachers in various Vedic works, as well as in the writings of the Buddhists, Jains and other religious sects. As a matter of fact, starting from the period of the Vedic Samhitas and the Brahmanas [c. 1500-800 B.C.], embracing the early Buddhist times [post -500 B.C.] and the period of the available Puranas [post 300 A.D.] and continuing up to the time of later royal chronicles and literary works [post -600 A.D], both historical consciousness and historical works were never entirely missing in India.
The Vedic scriptures incorporative three types of historical or quasi-historical compositions : (i) vamas (genealogical sucession of Vedic teachers and their pupils) as well as lists of gotras and pravaras of Vedic Aryans, (ii) gathas and narasamis, and (iii) historical accounts. Gathas and narasamis were historical pieces included in the Vedas and their targets of laudation were generally the rulings kings, valient heroes and gods. The Atharva –veda has reffered to them as distinct branches of learnings. As concrete instances of gathas may ne mentioned those pertaining to Marutta Aviksita and Kraivya Pancala (Aitareya Brahmana, VIII.21 ) and the Rigvedic Indragathas which were metrical compositions on deeds of the war god Indra. The recitation of gathas and narasamsis was considered necessary on the occasions of the Asvamedha –sacrifice and royal consecrations (Katyayana Srautasutra, XX, 2,7). Besides, the danastutis incorporated in the known specimens of historical writing. These accounts of royal charity contain the names of their respective chiefs, who were doubtless actual chiefs, and significantly, also indicate the purpose of the gift and the items of wealth. In addition,'prasatis' as a form of composition are also explicitly, alluded to in the Rigveda (IX,10, 3: rajano na prasastibhih somaso gobhiranjate/ yajno na sapta dhatrbhih /). This seems to suggest the existence of royal eulogies in the Vedic period. Interestingly, all these earlier literary fragments of a historical nature were regarded as the end –product of mere human efforts (Aitareya Brahmana, VII, 18; Katyayana Srautasutra, XV,156, etc.) and consequently less sacred and inviolable than the revealed riks. The Taittiriya Brahmana (I,3,2,6) even calls the gathas and narasmsis as the 'baser kind of brahma' and strictly forbids the acceptance of gifts from one who recites them. the Kathakasamhita (XIV, 5) has further dismissed them as false. It appears of the Vedic religious tradition towards such secular historical fragments in beginning, which, in a way, restricted the proliferation of historical writings in India, at least up to the close of the first millennium A.D. My considered view and observation in this regard have been set forth in the first chapter of this dissertation in this regard have been historical accounts in the Vedas, the account of the 'Dasarajna –battle' is the most important. It testifies the the geographical and historical sense of the author as well as his skill in describing military scenes. Similarly, the stories of theological discussants in the older Upanisads make a distinct class of historical writings. These interclocutions between husbands and wives, father and sons, and princes and learned Brahmins provide striking pictures of contemporary life at the royal court and Brahmin settlements. Under this section, mention may also be made of akhyana and itihasa as two clear-cut forms of Vedic historical compositions. Generally, an akhyana is a historical narrative. While the akhyanas of Sunahsepa (Ait. Brahmana) and Pururavas (Rigveda) are well-known, Devasuram and Pariplavani ('cycle') was set of ten akhyanas on a series of great emperors, meant for recitation in a cycle throughout the year which the sacrificial horse was released to wander freely. The appellation itihasa earlier stood for Puravrtta (ancient events) but subsequently it came to signify all forms of historical writing (vide., Arthasastra, I, iv). The author of Nirukta as well as the Brhaddevatakara had detected allusions to itihasa in the Rigvedic hymns. In Brhaddevata, Sakatayana regards one complete sukta (Rigveda, X,192) as itihasa- sukta (XV, 6,4) itihasa, purana and narasmsis are distinctly referred. Moreover, the two Great Epics, coming later, have also been referred to as itihasa.
The early Buddhist historical compositions alone comprise a vast subject easily classifiable into two types : sacred biography (of the founder) and church –history (activities of the Sangha). A passing reference may also be made to the Tripitaka, Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa, which apart from preserving Buddhist doctrines and biographical matter about Lord Buddha also contain a list of contemporary kings of ancient Magadha.
The Puranic Literature in its turn remarkably illustrates the custom of recording dynastic histories and also includes descriptions of the extraordinary achievments of monarchs and sages. But the Puranic accounts are notorious for making contraditory statements on a certain topic and suffer from serious errros of chronology and judgment. In them mythology and history is inextricably mixed and no distinction is made between fact and fable. Nonetheless, they reflect the prevailing notions of history and an enchanced awareness of past events. Besides, the existence of sutas and magadhas in the Puranic Society as a separate class given to the task of preserving anecdotes and lores of diven e and earthly nature, demonstrates the keen historical consciousness of the age.
Sanjay Joshi is a keen Sanskrit scholar with interest in areas such literary theory, history, religion and artificial intelligence. With a meritiorious academic6:21 PM 10-Jan-19 career, he has also taught Sanskrit in Jai Narain Vyas University, Jodhpur for some time. Dr. Joshi has actively participated in various national and international seminars and has research articles published in reputed journals. Currently, he is holding an important academico –administrative assignment in the Indian Institute of Advanced Study in Shimla.
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