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Dying to redress the grievance of another: On praya / prayopavesa(na) in Kalhana's Rajatarangini.

In this essay, I examine selected narratives in the Rajatarangini that
invoke a specific practice of suicide by starvation, what is referred
to as praya, prayopavesa, and/or prayopavesana. Commonly attested in
the legal literature as well as in the epics, praya is normally
deployed there to redress financial grievances, to force debtors to pay
their due. The use of the practice in the Rajatarangini is often quite
different from this, however: Kalhana suggests that Brahmins, and
others, engaged in the fast-unto-death not only to redress their own
(financial) grievances, but also the grievances of others. In
particular, Kalhana presents praya as a tool used to compel Kashmiri
kings to conform to the dharmasastric strictures of good government, to
promote policies favoring not only Brahmins but also other, non-Brahmin
subjects. The existence of such a form of the fast-unto-death is
significant, for it signals a potentially unselfish use of caste,
however imperfectly and corruptly the Rajatarangini shows it to have
been applied: by threatening their own deaths and promising thereby the
karmic and social consequences of brahminicide, Brahmins sought to
compel those sovereigns who pursued their own narrow interests to
better serve the common good. That this is so raises a trio of vital
concerns regarding (1) the nature of the fast and its modern legacies,
and (2) the nature of royal succession, on the one hand, and (3) on the
other, the proper role of social and political elites in premodern
South Asia.


While Hindu law has traditionally forbidden acts of willful self-harm, labeling them sinful, (1) there are, parallel to this proscriptive tradition, various social institutions that make positive use of suicide. (2) In the present essay I propose to examine selected instances of a particular form thereof--death by willful starvation--which was commonly deployed to "redress a grievance," as E. Washburn Hopkins expressed it in the title of his foundational essay on the subject (Hopkins 1900). In particular I propose to survey selected instances of the practice in the Rajatarangini (RT), where Kalhana refers repeatedly to it with the commonly attested terms praya, prayopavesa, or (in one instance at least) prayopavesana. (3) Though Hopkins noted the presence of the practice in the Rajatarangini, he left it out of his study in favor of exemplars culled primarily from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, on the reasoning that the epics predate the historically comparatively late Kashmiri chronicle. (4)

The argument I wish to prosecute is this, that in setting aside the evidence of the RT, Hopkins failed to note a particular type, or facet, of the fast-unto-death, one that may be described as an act of dying to redress the grievance of another than oneself. (5) Specifically, instances of what may therefore be labeled unselfish (or, at the least, partially unselfish) suicides in the RT depict Brahmins, and others, engaging in the fast-unto-death to further what can properly be described as policy aims: they do so to effect changes in the way governance is administered in Kashmir, often for the good of Kashmiri subjects in general and not simply for the limited ends of selected individuals. Such acts raise a trio of vital concerns regarding (1) the nature of the fast and its modern legacies, and (2) the nature of royal succession, on the one hand, and (3) on the other, the proper role of social and political elites in premodern South Asia.


Hopkins offers a heptadic typology of praya that progressively offers increasingly more specialized definitions of the practice. (6) He begins first by surveying what he characterizes as more general uses of the fast-unto-death, followed by exemplars of what, in accordance with the law books of Manu, (7) Brhaspati, (8) and Apastamba, (9) he identifies as its most definitive function--what he refers to as its "legal use" (p. 150) (10)--namely, "the legal aspect of suicide as a means of compelling payment" (p. 146), "according to which the creditor sets out to starve himself to death to compel [such] payment" (p. 150).

Central to this "legal" type of praya is, first of all, the fact that it is deployed to motivate another to conform to one's wishes. That is, one promises to harm the person targeted by the fast if this debtor does not repay the requisite sum. The normal practice was to fast at the door of the debtor's abode, and the one against whom the praya was directed was also expected to fast in a sort of "stomach-duel." (11) The practice thus was clearly intended to lead to a repayment rather than a death, (12) because, as Hopkins put it, "the one who rejects a suppliant and compels him to kill himself, goes to hell" (p. 157).

A second major element of this "legal" use of praya, this "door-sitting," is that it was meant to be practiced only by Brahmins, even if the legal texts cited above did not explicitly say as much, for such a rule was articulated in the epics. (13)

Finally, Hopkins mentions what is a third element of "legal" fasting, namely, that Brahmins were barred from deploying the practice against kings--or, at least this much is said at Ramayana 2.103.17: (14)
brahmano hy ekaparsvena naran roddhum iharhati / na tu murdhavasiktanam
vidhih pratyupavesane
For a Brahmin here has a claim to obstruct men by [lying on] one side
(ekaparsvena), (15) but the conduct [in question] does not [qualify]
with respect to the besieging (pratyupavesana) of consecrated kings

Hopkins has also already noted that such a proscription is unusual, given that the fast was reserved especially for kings in other Indo-European traditions; (16) and it is nowhere explicitly articulated by Manu, Brhaspati, or Apastamba. Praya, however, is habitually directed against the royal sovereign in the RT, normally (though not exclusively) deployed as it is by Brahmins and others to compel the king--or queen--to act.

We shall turn momentarily to instances where the fast-unto-death is utilized to achieve more than the private aims of the individual engaged in it. One may first note, however, that as with all of the seven types identified by Hopkins, praya is occasionally engaged in in the RT precisely and only to further an agent's or agents' personal aims; and it may be shown to have been deployed by those seeking to redress personal, financial grievances, though not without complications.

Take the use of praya in the seventh taranga, for example, where it is cleverly employed purportedly to redress a financial wrong but in reality to thwart King Harsa's invasion of a neighboring kingdom. An opposing monarch, one Samgramapala, whose kingdom was invaded, offered tributes to Harsa that he might spare his men, whom the latter had trapped in a fort he had placed under siege; but Harsa would have none of it.
7.1152 sa tu prthvigirim durgam drstva tadgrahanodyatah / apravisto
rajadhanlm (17) tanmule samupavisat
7.1153 masam abhyadhikam tena tasthusa paripiditah /
praksinannadisambhara babhuvur durgaraksinah
7.1154 tratum samgramapalas tan uricakre dharapatih (18) / kiyantam na
karam bhitah kiyatlr na ca samvidhah
But he [i.e., King Harsa] laid eyes on the Prthvigiri stronghold and,
intent on capturing it, encamped at its base without having entered the
capital. The defenders of the stronghold became thoroughly distressed
as a result of his remaining there [in a posture of siege] for more
than a month, their provisions--food, etc.--having been [eventually]
exhausted. How much tribute did King Samgramapala, alarmed [over their
fate], not promise in order to save them, and how many supplies?

In the face of Harsa's intransigence, Samgramapala deployed another tactic: he bribed an officer of the king's army, who in turn instigated a protest among Harsa's men, a fast-untodeath (praya) engaged in in order to secure hardship wages that the men were persuaded were due to them as compensation for their extended stay outside of their home country (pravasavetana). Harsa could not pay the salary immediately, his treasury being remotely situated (that is, closer to home in Kashmir), and his men therefore chose to abandon the siege.
7.1155 upodhaddrdhye nrpatau sa tadapratigrhnati / lubdham utkocadanena
svicakre dandanayakam
7.1156 amanyamane (19) nrpatau vyavrttim prerita rahah / pravasavetanam
bhuri margitum tena (20) sastrinah
7.1157 taih praye prakrtaprayaih (21) krte sollunthabhasitaih / rajno
durasthakosasya (22) katakah ksobham ayayau
When the king [Harsa], not accepting those [offerings], showed [his]
firmness, he [i.e., Samgramapala] co-opted the avaricious prefect of
police (dandanayaka) with a bribe. Secretly, the arms-bearers were
urged repeatedly by him to seek a salary for living abroad
(pravdsavetana), even while the king gave no thought to turning away
[from the siege]. Once those [men], who were mostly of low character,
engaged in the fast-unto-death under ironical sayings, (23) the king's
army fell into a state of agitation, his treasury being far away.

Here, in sum, we find praya deployed by (non-Brahmin) individuals against a king, all to settle a debt, even if the fast is itself a manipulation. (24) Indeed, one wonders whether Kalhana's narrative self-consciously, if implicitly, invokes the "legal" use of praya to illustrate the ways in which the practice could be and indeed was abused, manipulated in an age when men did not always act as they properly should. (25)

A second example, also drawn from the seventh tarahga, depicts Brahmins who engage in an act of pray a to thwart King Harsa's decree, namely, that they be conscripted, along with all the other subjects, into service as porters in the Kashmir Valley.
7.1088 krtaprayaih (26) sa tatratyaih parisadyais tato nrpah /
niskrayam rudhabharodhivaranena pradapitah
Then the king was compelled by the local purohitas of [Kashmir's]
temples and tirthas (parisadya), (27) who had performed the
fast-unto-death (krtaprdya), to give [them] compensation by annulling
the [obligatory] carrying of heavy loads. (28)

This second example, then, differs in two respects from those Hopkins classed in his heptadic typology: the injury they seek to redress is not a financial one, and the king is the target of the protest. Yet, as with the previous, it illustrates praya deployed by those seeking to redress personal grievances and thus may be distinguished from the primary evidence surveyed in what follows.


Elsewhere, the RT repeatedly presents acts of praya the likes of which are nowhere identified in Hopkins's typology: not only is the royal sovereign regularly the target of the act, as noted already, but Kalhana explicitly counts a ruler's responsiveness to the fast-unto-death as a measure of good governance. Thus, we are told in the sixth taranga that king Yasaskara (r. 939-948) punctuated his temperate reign precisely by responding effectively to the act, by posting his palace guards on watch for suppliants who entered into the fast-unto-death.
6.14 prayopavesadhikrtair bodhitena mahibhrta (29) / prayopavisto
nikatam prapitah kascid abravit
The king, informed by those he appointed to the office of [looking out
for those in the act of] the fast-unto-death (prayopavesadhikrta), had
brought to him a certain man who had taken up the fast (prayopavisto);
he [i.e., that man] said [what follows to that king]...

The full details of the starving man's complaint (found at RT 6.14-41) need not be rehearsed here. Suffice it to say that the plaintiff had been defrauded with the help of a corrupt office recorder {adhikaranalekhaka) (RT 6.38), who accepted a bribe in exchange for falsifying a legal document, and the surreptitiously modified contract guaranteed the plaintiff would suffer a substantial loss. (30)

Kalhana extolls the king's virtue and wisdom by narrating the manner in which he appropriately resolved the dispute: Yas'askara finds proof of the fraud and rectifies the injustice, of which he of course would have remained unaware if his men had not caught sight of the fasting man and given him fair hearing. It is also noteworthy that among the concerns expressed by the plaintiff was the fact that the king's judges (stheya) had regularly ruled against him, even as he engaged in the act of prdya. (31) More generally, this example illustrates the weight that Kalhana placed on the sovereign who would redress the grievances--and I note that it is in this instance a financial grievance--brought by fasting petitioners. The king, far from being exempted from being fasted upon, is instead praised for responding efficiently and effectively to the coercive tactic. (32)

Still elsewhere, the act in question is engaged in by Brahmins who were set to determine who would be anointed king: parisadyas (see n. 27) in the fifth taranga enter prayopavesa while they debated, heatedly and for some time, whom to consecrate. Ultimately, they contravened the wishes of the mother of the last sitting king of Kashmir's Utpala Dynasty. (33) For, rather than following her direction and re-anointing her son Suravarman II (who had been deposed in 939), they appointed to the throne an aspiring young man, the same Yasaskara who, as illustrated above, was said so watchfully to have attended to the petitions of his subjects. We see here, then, an intervention by the brahmins with the greater good of the social order squarely in mind, but with no immediately identifiable target of the fast whom they could threaten, excepting perhaps themselves--the Brahmins would starve if they could not fulfill their obligation in due time judiciously to select the person whom they would consecrate. And, thus, it is the order of society in general that is apparently fasted for, evidently with those Brahmins themselves who were to maintain it being the targets of their own protest. (34)

The Brahmins' intervention comes at a moment of crisis in the Valley, and while the labyrinthine series of coups and restorations to power of the sovereigns of the Utpala Dynasty who follow Samkaravarman (r. 883-902) are worthy of an epic--Mahabharata-like--retelling of their own, here we need dwell further only on the last of these fateful episodes in the history, the one that facilitated Yasaskara's rise. A descendant in the Utpala lineage, Unmattavanti (r. 937-939), secured the throne for himself in part by killing his father, Partha. He reigned for some time, not benevolently, and upon nearing his own end (at RT 5.445-448) he elevated his son, then only a child--this is the aforementioned Suravarman II--to the throne; but the boy was quickly deposed by a coup led by one Kamalavardhana, a general who had served Unmattavanti. The coup soon failed, however, when the Brahmins refused to recognize the general as king. (35) It is following this that the aforementioned debate among the parisadyas,--regarding whom they should anoint--commenced. (36)

While they deliberated, Unmattavanti's wife, the mother of Suravarman II, chose to dispatch royal officials to met with the fasting Brahmins and to attempt to persuade them (the implication is clear) to name her son again as sovereign of Kashmir:
5.468 pitrghativadhus channaputrarajyarthinl tatah / prahinod
rajapurusan parsvam prayopavesinam
Then, the wife of the parricide [king], being intent on her
suppositious son gaining sovereignty, sent the king's men to the side
of those who were engaged in the fast-unto-death (prayopavesin).

Along the way these petitioners came across Yasaskara, who presented himself well and because of his eloquence was conscripted to join them in their effort to persuade the Brahmins to re-consecrate Suravarman II and no other. But on meeting Yasaskara, the Brahmins quickly decide to do otherwise: recognizing his virtues they elect to anoint him ruler of Kashmir.
5.476 drstvaiva (37) tarn daivavasad aikamatyasprso dvijah / dhvanim
rajayam evastv ity uccakair udacarayan
5.477 athabhyasicyata ksipram viprair etya yasaskarah /
ksmadhrtipraudhasamarthyah sanuman iva toyadaih
When by fate the Brahmans merely saw him, they became of one accord and
loudly raised the cry: "Let this one and no other be king." Then, the
Brahmans came quickly to Yasaskara, who was possessed of a tremendous
capacity for maintaining the earth, and sprinkled water on him, just as
a mountain [is sprinked with rain] by clouds. (38)

We here approach our primary evidence, that the fast-unto-death was deployed to redress the grievances of others; for these Brahmins used it to determine who should be king, consecrating one whom they saw as good and who would, in turn, reign over all. It could only have been with the Brahmins' consent and blessing that Yasaskara was ultimately anointed, for the election contravened what the inexorable writ of primogeniture would have produced. Indeed, Yasaskara's right to the crown was entirely tenuous. He was the son of Sugandha, it is true, who by virtue of her marriage to Samkaravarman--who himself conducted a checkered reign that ultimately led to his oppressing his subjects and suffering a luckless demise (39)--was a queen of the Utpala Dynasty. (In point of fact, she herself served on the throne for a short while. (40)) But he also was an illegitimate child, for his father, Prabhakaradeva, was Sugandha's paramour (he is described as sugandhacchannakamuka at RT 5.472b), and Yas'askara was an unknown person in court circles around the time of his eventual consecration. Finally, and most pertinently, with Suravarman II available to reassume the throne and the usurper Kamalavardhana angling for his own election, Yasaskara's was in no way to have been expected. (41)

Still elsewhere, one finds a royal sovereign--the Karkota king Candraplda (42)--literally performing prayopavesana for the sake of another. The one helped by his fast is a Brahmin woman, who had supplicated him while being herself engaged in the fast (prayopavista). Her grievance in need of redress: a Brahmin killed her husband (who himself was also a Brahmin) while he slept, but the killer had gone unpunished. (43)
4.82 kadacana sabhaslnam prsta dharmadhikaribhih / prayopavista rajanam
brahmanl kacid abravit
4.83. tvayi prasasati mahim aho garhanivarhane / sukhasuptasya me
patyur (44) hrtam kenapi jivitam
4.84 esaiva mahatl lajja sadacarasya bhupateh / yad (45) akalabhavo
mrtyus tasya samsprsati prajah
A certain Brahmin woman at some point had entered the fast-unto-death
(prayopavista) [and] asked [as to why she was fasting] by [his] judges
(dharmadhikarin), she said [the following] to the king who was seated
in the sabha: "My husband's life was taken by someone while he was
happily asleep, this while you govern the earth--alas!--[supposedly as
one who is] destroying (-nivarhana = -nibarhana) abuse (garha-). This
itself is a great shame for a king of virtuous conduct (sadacara), if
untimely death touches his subjects."

One should note that the widow explicitly suggests that the very fact that a murder--and a brahminicide no less--has gone unpunished blemishes the king's very record of good governance: It causes shame (lajja) for a lawful king of virtuous conduct, for "the untimely death touches [all] his subjects." And while such a sentiment is perhaps expected, given that similar ideas regarding the king's duties are commonly expressed in the dharma literature (and elsewhere), here it is the Brahmin wife's fast that renders the matter of acute concern.

The problem the king faces, however, is one of evidence: not a shred of it had as yet been produced. He laments this conundrum, only to be reminded of the widow's fast.
4.95 mlayadvaktra ivavadit tatas tarn medinipatih / adrstadose kirn
kurmo vayam atradhikdrinah
4.96 nanyasminn api dandasya prasango 'niscitagasi / kim punar brahmano
(46) dandyo yo dose 'pi vadham vina
4.97 uktveti virate tasmin dvijajayabravit punah / catasrah ksanadah
ksina rajann anasanasya me (47)
Then the Lord of the Earth said to her, his face as if showing despair,
"what can those of us who have authority (adhikarin) do about this when
the fault [of the accused] has not been observed (adrstadosa)? When the
transgression is not proven, there is no occasion for disciplining
(danda) even another [than a Brahmin], (48) to say nothing of a
Brahmin, who is to be punished [only] without [recourse to] capital
punishment, even when [he is] at fault." When, having said as much, he
stopped, the Brahmin's wife again spoke: "four nights of fasting have
passed for me, O King."

And so, he finds a path forward: the king navigates his way out of the bind by himself taking up the solemn act, committing himself to a prdyopavesana (I believe this is the only instance of the use of this term, as opposed to praya and prayopavesa, in the RT) so as to equip himself to redress the widow's grievance.
4.99 tatha sthitayam brahmanyam krtaprayopavesanah / svayam
tribhuvanasvamipadan uddisya so 'bhavat
And he, in that Brahmin woman's presence, himself undertook the fast
unto death, having taken aim [with his fast] at the venerable

This Karkota king, Candraplda, fasted at the feet of the murti of Tribhuvanasvamin to persuade that god to furnish the requisite evidence, which is all that was needed to convict the Brahmin murderer of the Brahmin widow's murdered spouse. And, of course, we are told that Tribhuvanasvamin complied: the evidence was furnished, (49) and Candraplda punished the Brahmin killer, as was appropriate. (50)

In sum, the widow's fast-unto-death one might safely class as the sixth kind of praya in Hopkins's heptadic typology (even as it is directed at the king); but Candraplda's prayopavesana is performed--for his own sake, it is true, for he must preserve his reputation as a king of virtuous conduct--but also for the sake of the widow; and, as well, and as we are told explicitly, for the well-being of his subjects. (51)

In yet another point in the narrative, one finds Brahmins being used--deployed (deceitfully or otherwise)--by those who wish to compel the king to act according to their wishes. Queen Didda's (r. 980/1-1003) nephew Vigraharaja, for example, led a rebellion against her rule on the urging of the various ministers whom she displaced upon assuming the throne, which she did in order to tighten her grip on the reins of power. The precipitating issue was the fact that Didda had kept a lover, one Tunga, and had made him Prime Minister; the ministers displaced by this promotion prompted Vigraharaja to act, all in response to a coup d'etat that involved Didda killing her grandson Bhimagupta (r. 975-980/981), himself having been consecrated only a few years prior.

In seeking to create confusion in the kingdom Vigraharaja induced prominent, and presumably influential, Brahmins to perform the fast-unto-death.
6.336 mukhyagraharan sa prapto vidhatum rajyaviplavam / dhiman
prdyopavesaya drutam pravesayad (52) dvijdn
Upon arrival [to the Kashmir Valley, having been recalled there by the
ousted ministers], he, being wise, efficiently guided those Brahmins
(dvija) whose agraharas were superior to [perform] the fast-unto-death
(prayopaves'a), this to sow confusion in the kingdom.

Leaving the details of this episode aside, the essential point is clear: the Brahmins were deployed to create concern and dissension in the kingdom, all when the sovereignty of the queen was precisely what was at stake. Their disapproval, it is clear, would cast a pall on the very legitimacy of her ascendancy. And while the fast clearly is the product of the ministers' (and Vigraharaja's) maneuvering, it is equally clear that the act, even so induced, had the power to effect change, for Didda saw the need to bribe the Brahmins in order to persuade them to halt it. (53) Yet again, then, we see prayopaves'a associated in the RT with the royal sovereign, and its use could serve to determine who would reign over the Valley and all of its subjects.

But how effectively did Brahmins use the fast-unto-death? The RT tells us that Vigraharaja tried a second time to deploy the Brahmins to curb the power of Didda and her paramour, Tuiiga.
6.343 pravardhamanavairena gudhadutair visarjitaih / prayam
vigraharajena brahmanah karitah punah
His hostility increasing, Vigraharaja again got the Brahmins to perform
the praya, by means of covert messengers whom he sent [to them].

But alas they were yet again bought off, and failed to act with integrity.
6.344 utkocaditsaya viprd bhuyah prayavidhayinah / labdhasthairyena
tungena samnipatyapahastitah
Because they wished to take bribes, the Brahmins who had gotten
together once more to perform the fast-unto-death (prayavidhdyin) were
immediately repelled by Tunga, who had secured his own stability [in

Not without justification, the Brahmins who took Didda's gold were ultimately imprisoned for their transgressions.
6.347 te svarnagrahino (54) viprah sumanomantakadayah / sarve 'pi
baddhas tungena karagdram pravesitah
All the Brahmins who took the gold [from Didda], Sumanomantaka and the
rest, were arrested by Tunga and sent to jail.

Yet again one sees Brahmins engaged in praya in order to depose a sovereign, though they again prove to be dishonest.

Nevertheless, I propose that one must distinguish the one element from the other: the Brahmins of Kashmir may have had--certainly were shown to have had--their failings, but they also had a critical role to play, namely, to deploy praya to depose any unworthy sovereign. For indeed, that prayopavesa was to be used for this purpose--to depose a king--is explicitly stated in the seventh taranga, where Tuiiga is yet again challenged by the fast-unto-death:
7.13 atha tungddibhangaya prayam brdhmanamantrinah / parihdsapure
vipraparisadydn akarayan (55)
Then, the Brahmin Ministers (brahmanamantrin) had the Brahmin
officiants of religious sites (vipraparisadya) perform the
fast-unto-death in Parihasapura in order to overthrow Tuiiga and his

While they show themselves often to have been dishonest, their lack of character did not efface the explicit purpose that their fasting sometimes could serve, to countervail the influence of a corrupted sovereign. Their personal failings do nothing to diminish the fact that the practice was meant to be used to further the ideals embodied by dharma, righteous rule for the kingdom and all its subjects. (56)

A final example perhaps best exemplifies this idea, of dying to redress the grievance of another than oneself. It is perhaps the most significant of all the occurrences of praya in the RT, for it involves the reign of probably the greatest benefactor of the arts and letters in the history of Kashmir, the Karkota king Jayaplda (57)--he was, after all, the patron of no lesser figures than Bhatta Udbhata, Damodaragupta, Vamana, and four other (admittedly lesser-known) poets, Manoratha, Sankhadanta, Cataka, and Samdhimat, among others; and he himself was a poet of some renown. Simply, Jayaplda is heroic in his virtuous reign, we are told, for he governs with all the enlightenment one could imagine of a sovereign, and his generosity to Brahmins was epic. (58)

And yet, he changes, and turns to oppressing his own people.
4.620 athakasman mahipalah prajabhagyaviparyayaih / tyaktva
paitamaham margam yayau pitryena so 'dhvana
4.621 kim digjayadibhih klesaih svadesad arjyatam dhanam / ity
arthyamanah kayasthaih svamandalam adandayat
Then, of a sudden, by changes in the fortunes of his subjects, the king
abandoned the path of his grandfather and traveled along his father's
path. Being asked by the kdyasthas what use there was for the hardships
of world conquest and the like when wealth could be obtained from his
own country, he oppressed (adandayat) his own kingdom (svamandala).

How does Jayaplda express this newfound wickedness? He dismisses the protests of those Brahmins who die in acts of praya.
4.631 sarvakalam brahmananam aho dhairyam akunthitam (59) /
nistrimsasya babhuvur ye tasyapi paripanthinah
4.632 desantaram prayatebhyo ye sesas te vyaramsisuh / vikrosanto na
maranad (60) dharanan napi parthivah
4.633 vipranam satam ekonam ekahena (61) vipadyate / nivedyam etad ity
uce krauryakrdnto 'tha parthivah
Oh, the steadfast firmness at all times of the Brahmins who came to
stand in the way of even him [the king], who was merciless. The
[Brahmins] who remained after those [other Brahmins] departed for
another kingdom, they, crying out the alarm, did not desist from dying,
(62) nor did the king [desist] from procuring [the possessions of his
subjects]. Then, the king, overcome by fury, said, "this [alone] is to
be related [to me]: [if] a century of Brahmins, minus one, dies in a
single day."

Evoking an implicit contrast between culture and power, Kalhana goes on to record slesa verses that express the drastic change in Jayapida's mode of governance.
4.634 viparyastacaritrasya tasya krurasya bhupateh / evam
stutiviparyasah kavyesv api budhaih krtah
The wise ones composed even in their poems reversed laudatory verses to
the pitiless king, who had reversed his [previously good] conduct,
[this] in the following manner:

Kalhana offers two couplets as exemplars: (63)
4.635 nitantam krtakrtyasya gunavrddhividhayinah / srijayapidadevasya
panines ca kim antaram
What difference is there between Panini, who prescribed rules for guna
and vrddhi (gunavrddhi-vidhayin) and completely (nitantam) dealt with
krtya suffixes (krtakrtya), and the venerable king Jayaplda, who
completely (nitantam) accomplished that which is to be done
(krtakrtya), [and] occasioned (-vidhayin) the increase of virtues
(gunavrddhi-)? ::: OR is one whose wickedness (-krtyasya) has been
completely (nitantam) cultivated (krta-) [and] who has dispensed with
(-vidhayin) the increase of virtue (gunavrddhi-)?

4.637 krtavipropasargasya bhutanisthavidhdyinah / srijayapldadevasya
panines ca kim antaram
What difference is there between Panini, who dealt with the preverbs vi
and pra (krtavi-pra-upasarga) and prescribed rules for the nistha
terminations for the past [tense] (bhuta-nistha-vidhayin), and the
venerable king Jayapida, who suborned [himself] to the Brahmins
(krta-vipra-upasarga) and brought about the perfection of beings
(bhutanisthdvidhdyin)? ::: OR who has produced calamities for Brahmins
(krta-vipraupasarga) and has accomplished the destruction (64) of
beings (bhutanisthavidhayinp.

Eventually, the narrator relates, ninety-nine Brahmins die in protest--presumably in a single day, as was demanded--and Jayapida partially relents.
4.638 tulamulydpahartd (65) ca candrabhdgatate sthitah / vipranam satam
ekonam asrnot tajjale mrtam
4.639 tato 'grahdraharanad eva pravirato 'bhavat / vastavydndm hrtam
bhumim na tu nihsesato jahau
And he [King Jayapida], situated on the bank of the Candrabhaga
[River], was seizing [the lands at] Tulamulya when he heard a century
of Brahmins minus one had died in that [river's] water. (66) Following
that, he came to refrain only from seizing agraharas, but he did not
completely relinquish the land of the [other] residents that had
[already] been seized (hrtam).

The Brahmins' deaths produce something, then: their agrahara lands no longer were to be seized. But other residents (vastavya)--does the text refer to non-Brahmins?--are not so lucky as are those who fasted.

How Kalhana wishes the reader to interpret these apparently mixed effects of the Brahmins' intervention is perhaps answered by the immediately subsequent, and rather astounding, development in the narrative (4.640-59). There, the same Brahmins go on directly to confront Candrapida, and they persuade some members of his court to abandon him by pointing out (4.641-42) that Brahmins are not to be humiliated and moreover that, when they are, their rage can mete out a ferocious punishment. A debate ensues between the king and the Brahmins, until one among them curses Jayapida in a fit of anger, and in a manner that symbolically reinforces the notion that Brahmins had a special role in holding the king to the strictures of dharma. The curse the Brahmin issued was this, that through his anger the staff of Brahman (brahmadanda) (RT 4.651d) would befall the king; mayi kruddhe ksanad eva brahmadandah paten na kim? (4.65 lcd) "Why, when I have been (thus) provoked, should the staff of Brahman not fall (upon you) at this very moment?"

Immediately afterward a pole that held up the canopy above him crashed down upon Jayapida's head, leaving him with injuries that soon after, in complication, caused his death. The symbolism, as mentioned already, is clear: Brahmins wield a disciplinary stick (danda) that trumps even the king's--need we recall that the danda is the very symbol of discipline and punishment in the royal context?--and they are to use it when the latter strays from his obligations, with the fast-unto-death a key tool in their efforts.


With this review of the Kashmiri chronicle we find praya to be a perennial concern in the RT. It appears as a tool to compel the king to act and to drive him toward good governance: it was meant to effect globally beneficial policy ends, to uphold dharma for all the sovereign's subjects and not just those who fasted against the crown. In other words, Kalhana describes its use to be, on occasion or in part at least, unselfish. Indeed, to respond efficiently and effectively to this coercive tactic was said by Kalhana to be a sign of good governance. And if further evidence of the use of praya to redress the grievance of another is needed, Kalhana offers the story of Candrapida, who himself takes up the fast, threatening his own death, primarily (as we have shown) for the sake of the Brahmin widow who sought to bring the person who murdered her husband to justice, but also--and as the narrative indicates--to ensure the integrity of the social order that he was obliged by his royal office to guarantee, better securing his own hold on the throne along the way.

Of course, it is not possible to take all the events narrated in the RT as historical fact, but the narrative expresses certain values and, perhaps, social norms and normative behaviors in Kalhana's day. As such, it is significant that it emphasizes the culture of dharma, which clearly is shown therein to befit the just king, just as a sovereign who turns from it is said inevitably to turn to wicked and oppressive policies. Clearly such tendencies, motivated by the temptations of self-aggrandizement of those kings (and queens) who indulged in them, presented a perennial concern to the people of premodern Kashmir, as not only the narrative of the RT illustrates, but as do a range of Sanskrit literary and non-literary works that were of currency in the royal courts of premodern South Asia, as Daud Ali has shown. (67) The Brahmins were to uphold this culture, and their very approval of the king proved to be essential--whether offered during the course of his reign or in anointing him. Indeed, Kalhana elsewhere marks their capacity to withhold approval as a Brahminical weapon, which they could wield to curb the wayward sovereign, in a bit of gnomic wisdom offered in the latter part of the Jayaplda narrative:
4.672cd durvrttasya prabhor anyat pariharan na bhesajam
For a king of bad conduct there is no other medicine (bhesaja) than
shunning [him] (parihara).

Brahmins by shunning the sovereign could call his or her legitimacy in question, and the threat of it, it seems, could help to ensure a more just reign, presumably--or, at least, ideally--not exclusively for the Brahmins who could compel it.

Bearing these dimensions of the fast-unto-death in mind, three implications of this study merit further consideration and further scholarly examination. The first stems from the very mode of protest--the fast--which famously had its own application in modern Indian politics and social life. Hopkins himself had already noted the existence of a legacy tradition in contemporary practice in South Asia, but his article was printed more than a decade before the most famous fasts, those of Gandhi, had even begun to be undertaken. The coincidence of a tradition of fasting for political ends in premodern South Asia with another at the time of the Independence Movement invites the question of whether there was any direct influence of the former on the latter. (68) For not only did the Gandhian fasts present unequivocal instances of political agents of various caste statuses being willing to die to redress the grievances of others than themselves, to redress broad social concerns regarding the shape of Indian political life and the laws that governed it, but it is simultaneously the case that the RT (in contemporaneous, competing translations) served to inform anti-colonial and colonial agents alike in the period in question, as Chitralekha Zutshi has argued. (69)

The two remaining implications of praya being enacted to redress the grievances of others concern premodern South Asian cultural and political life. First, this study highlights the fact that the question of royal succession in premodern South Asia merits further examination. Altekar, for example, hardly addresses the matter apart from noting the essentials: bloodlines defined the normative form of the institution of royal succession, and kings were meant to uphold dharma above and apart from their personal whims or preferences. (70) Yet, as Patrick Olivelle's new rendering of the Arthasastra (Olivelle 2013) illustrates, ancient Indian statecraft anticipates a rather more dynamic and contingent process of succession than any rigid model of primogeniture can capture. Indeed, Kautilya suggests that the minister had quite a degree of discretion in determining how best to guide the kingdom to the next, most qualified sovereign, particularly in instances where the identity of the successor was not unequivocally determined by bloodlines. (71)

Apparently, however, it was not only the close ministers of the king who played a role in guiding the kingdom from sovereign to sovereign, as Kautilya suggests they must, but Brahmins who lived and worked outside the court also were to play a sometimes decisive role in determining who should become king; or at least it is thus in the RT. For as we have repeatedly seen, the Brahmins of the sacred tirthas and temples of Kashmir, the parisadyas or parsadas, repeatedly fasted to secure their own particular purchase on this authority. A more extensive examination of royal succession appears to be in order, one that will be particularly attentive to the internal diversity among the various classes of Brahmins, both inside and outside the court. I intend to take this work up in a future study, for the very diversity of paths to royal succession evinced in the literature--even in the Rajatarangini alone (72)--offers the possibility of developing an enriched understanding of the patterns of royal sovereignty in its most fragile state, the moment when the sole individual possessed of that sovereignty comes no longer to live to wield it.

Finally, praya in the RT evokes a related but distinguishable concern, one regarding the proper role of social and political elites in premodern South Asia. Elitism of various kinds has been much denigrated in recent decades (and not without many good reasons), both in scholarship and the wider popular culture. Yet elites, if their positions as elites may be said to be defined by the fact that they wield an influence in and over the wider social and/or cultural order than their sheer numbers would promise them, are--in my view--inevitably to be found in any civilization, past, present, or future. At question is not whether an elite will take its place in a given social order, but what sort of elites will do so. In Indian antiquity, caste did much unjustly to limit any mobility into this (what is here an etically defined) social class; and the full extent of the horrors produced by caste and other social bigotries will probably never be entirely known. Yet, if Kalhana is to be believed (and the dharmas'astras express similar ideals), premodern South Asian elites--Brahmins and the ruling political class alike--also bore the burden of having to meet certain inviolable responsibilities, for which substantial consequences were threatened if they did not do so adequately. Kings were expected to govern with the interests of all their subjects in mind (even if in practice they often did not), as is exemplified by their need judiciously to punish those who commit murder, as we have seen; and Brahmins--while they could be found to act unscrupulously--are said to have rightly courted their own deaths to uphold what they viewed as a righteous social order, even as caste, and other institutions, did much to stratify society, to privilege those who wrote themselves rather indelibly into its upper echelons, and, frankly, to punish those who were not granted the right to be so fortunately situated.

The point, simply, is that there were (self-imposed) limits to the privilege of India's elites in premodern South Asia, or at least this is how Kalhana's narrative presents matters. Indeed, Kalhana's RT more generally may be read as something of a lament for the transgressions of Brahmins, and kings and queens, who failed faithfully to fulfill their proper social roles. This is not to say that Kalhana's could be mistaken for a properly democratic voice, however, for he undoubtedly has his blind spots, to caste, to gender, and to a host of inequities his own male Brahminical privilege would not have let him feel so palpably on his own skin. (73) And yet, this study presents one strand of Kalhana's narrative that invites one to seek others like it, within and beyond the RT, a narrative that suggests that power had its limits--both political power in the hands of a king and the cultural power of the Brahmin who could threaten to sacrifice himself in order to threaten brahminicide, coercively to bring another to recognize the petitions of those who were aggrieved. Praya had its unselfish uses. Brahmins were in fact sometimes expected to die, or at the least be willing to die, to redress the grievances of others than themselves. That this is so--even if they often failed faithfully or fully to commit themselves to this responsibility--opens a dimension of premodern Brahminical elitism that merits the continued investigation and consideration of those who wish more fully to understand the contours of social and political life in premodern South Asia.




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(1.) Those who commit suicide, or kill another person, are said to be sinners at Apastambadharmasutra 1.28.17: yo hy atmanam param vabhimanyate 'bhisasta eva sa bhavati. The Vasisthadharmasutra (at 23.14) intimates the same and suggests that the relatives of a suicide should not perform the funerary rites. Manavadharmasastra 5.89-90, in turn, states that the water offerings normally presented for the deceased are omitted in instances when the death is caused by suicide. (Also, compare the same with Yajnavalkyasmrti 3.6.) The Gautamadharmasutra (at 14.12) suggests that the relatives of those who die by suicide--various methods are enumerated--are purified immediately, as are those whose relatives die defending cows or Brahmins, or who die due to the king's anger or in battle (see Olivelle 1999: 101-2). Similar prohibitions are also offered in the epics, about which Hopkins (1900: 149-50) says, ". . .the general epic rule is that 'a man who kills himself, atmaha puman, does not go to heaven' [Ramayana] i. 179.20." (See also, e.g., Mahabharata 13.93.4cd: atmatantropaghati yo na tapasvi na dharmavit, quoted by Hopkins and rendered by him as "one who injures his body is not devout.") I further note that Hopkins (pp. 147-50) has cited all the references listed here above.

(For a summary account of suicide, the prohibition against it, and the occasions when said prohibition may be relaxed, one may consult Kane (vol. 2, pt. 2: 924-29); cf. Thakur 1963 and Sircar 1971 (esp. chap. 13, entitled "Religious Suicide," for which see pp. 206-20). See also Baldissera (2011), who offers a thorough survey of the relevant practices and notes the significance of suicide as a means of protest. (I thank an anonymous reviewer of the present article for bringing this essay to my attention.) Finally, see Kolver 1971: 171, where that author seems to follow Hopkins in citing precisely the same passages from the works of Manu, Apastamba, Gautama, and Vasistha found in the latter's article--this to account for the prohibitions against suicide articulated by various authors of legal texts.

(2.) As is well known, a religious death by starvation (sallekhana) has stood as a model path to the end of life in Jaina traditions. Note, however, that the tradition distinguishes this act from what are considered more secular or mundane forms of suicide. For a general account of the practice, see Dundas 2002: 179-81. See also Settar 1989. Suicide by self-immolation, commonly referred to as sari, is also prescribed in certain legal works--what are likely to be late productions, as David Brick has shown--for the widow who outlives her husband. See Brick 2010, which offers an excellent survey of dharmas'astric views on widow burning. See also Weinberger-Thomas 1996, Fisch 1998, Major 2007, and Slaje 2009.

(Finally, to offer a third example, death by suicide has also been identified as the proper end for the yogin, as is articulated, e.g., in the seventeenth chapter of the Malinlvijayottaratantra, for which see Vasudeva 2004: 437-45. (Also see, e.g., Manavadharmasastra 6.31, quoted by Hopkins [p. 150], where death by suicide is the acceptable end for the wandering ascetic.)

(3.) While other instances--one could say types--of suicide in the RT could be examined, the present essay is limited to the fast-unto-death. One noteworthy example of suicide in a different modality (though it also offers an instance of dying for another than oneself) is found in the person of King Meghavahana, who (at RT 3.82-96) sacrificed his own body to Durga for the sake of a Brahmin suppliant.

(For a useful, concise study of suicide (Selbstmord) in Kalhana's masterwork, see Kolver 1971: 159-72, who himself notes the existence of a political use of suicide, though without identifying or exploring what we could term the unselfish uses thereof (see 165-67, and esp., 169-70, where he describes prayopavesa as an "Instrument der Politik").

(4.) See Hopkins 1900: 147. He further suggests there that the value of the epic examples "lies in the fact that they represent not merely what is the rule according to the law-book, but what was regarded as customary." The same could be said of the narratives found in the RT, however.

(5.) I do not wish to suggest that the practice as described in the RT cannot be found in other works, only that it is the prevalent--indeed, the nearly singular--form evinced in Kalhana's text, and that a close examination of the Kashmiri chronicle could have called attention to it.

(Note also that 1 mean here to recognize a practice that is distinguishable from another--a modern form of the tradition in question--that Hopkins was careful to recognize, namely, the assignation of a proxy to perform the act of praya for the sake of a patron. Such instances of fasting involve a narrower institution, the mere presence of a stand-in for an individual pursuing rather more personal aims. The practice here placed in question presents an altogether different phenomenon, involving as it does occasions when individuals engage in the fast-unto-death to further a more wide-reaching aim or set of aims--in particular, to address (in part, at least) the needs and interests of others than themselves. See Hopkins 1900: 157-58.

(6.) See Hopkins 1900: 150-57 for his heptadic typology of the practice in question. The seven types may be enumerated, in brief, as follows.

(i) "Praya is suicide by starvation, undertaken without intent to harm and because of sorrow, or despair." (p. 150)

(ii) "Praya is suicide by starvation, undertaken without intent to harm, but because of disgrace inflicted." (p. 152)

(iii) "Praya is undertaken as a self-inflicted punishment by one conscious of having sinned. Remorse instigates the act, but there is an additional notion that death will be an expiation." (p. 153)

(iv) "Praya is undertaken from despair without intent to harm, but with intent to compel another to do one's will." (p. 153)

(v) "Praya is undertaken by a suppliant, but it is accompanied with a threat to the effect that if the object of desire is not granted vengeance will be taken. The motive here is to excite pity, which failing, recourse is had to force." (p. 155)

(vi) "Praya is undertaken by a suppliant, but is accompanied with the threat that if the object of desire be denied the one who rejects the suppliant will go to hell." (p. 155)

(vii) "Praya, further (but here the word is only implied), is undertaken at the door of the house, the suppliant sitting on sacred kusa-grass, with intent to compel submission, as in the law-books. But no violence is used, and there is no suggestion that the one affected will suffer hereafter. It is expressly said that this recourse is fitting only for a priest, and the situation is likened to that caused by a 'priest robbed of his money.'" (p. 156)

(7.) See Manusmrti 8.49, where one is said to be able to avail oneself of (in Patrick Olivelle's rendering) "traditional strategies" (acarita) to have a debt repaid: dharmena vyavaharena chalenacaritena ca I prayuktam sadhayed artham pancamena balena ca. Olivelle (2005: 307) clarifies in the notes that most commentators understand the term in question, acarita, to refer to the act of fasting at the door of a debtor. He translates the verse in question (p. 169) as follows: "Money loaned may be recovered by invoking the Law, by litigation, by cunning, by traditional strategies, and fifth, by force." See also Hopkins (p. 146), who refers the reader to the same passage.

(8.) See Brhaspatismrti 1.10.94: daraputrapas'un badhva krtva dvaropavesanam I yatrarni dapyale 'rthamsvam tad acaritam ucyate. Hopkins (1900: 146) lists this verse as Brhaspatismrti 11.58 and suggests that the "customary mode" in question must be the same as the one mentioned at Manu 8.49. Jolly (1889: 330) records the verse number as does Hopkins and translates as follows: "When a debtor is made to pay by confining his wife, son or cattle, and by watching at his door, it is termed Akarita (the customary mode)."

(9.) See Apastambadharmasutra 1.19.1: matta unmatto baddha rnikah pratyupavisto yas ca pratyupavesayate tavantam kalam. Olivelle (1999: 30) translates: "[He shall not eat the food of ... a Vedic scholar ... who is married to a Sudra woman;] a drunkard; a mad man; a prisoner; a debtor; and a moneylender who hounds a man who owes him, as well as the man who makes the lender hound him, so long as they are thus engaged." Note that rnikah is an emendation (first proposed by Bohtlingk) of anikah that was accepted by Olivelle (pp. 362-63).

(10.) Cf. also p. 152, where he refers to the "legal form" of praya and to "legal praya."

(11.) See p. 158: "The one 'obstructed' was of course himself obliged to starve with the starving creditor, so that the practice, as far as fasting went, resolved itself into a sort of stomach-duel."

(12.) So much was also suggested to me by Patrick Olivelle (March 15, 2015) at the 225th Annual Meeting of the American Oriental Society in New Orleans, LA.

(13.) Hopkins has noted as much (p. 156): "It is expressly said that this recourse is fitting only for a priest." See also p. 157: "The only one who has a right to exercise constraint of this sort is a priest." Finally, p. 158: "The restriction to a priest must have been in the minds of the legal writers, as it is expressed as a matter of course in the epic."

(14.) This proscription is cited by Hopkins (p. 156) as what is to be found at Ramayana 2.111.14-17. Note that he records a reading of murdhabhisiktanam for murdhavasiktanam (p. 157 n. 1).

(15.) The idea is that one lies on one's side to block the door of the debtor targeted by the fast.

(16.) See p. 158: "It is interesting to find in the epic the explicit statement (lacking in the early law-books) that door-sitting was not permitted against 'consecrated kings,' whereas, according to the ancient laws of Ireland, quoted by Maine, op. cit. p. 280, the creditor might distrain without fasting in the case of a debtor 'not of chieftain grade,' but in the case of a chieftain it was necessary to 'fast upon him.'"

(17.) While Stein's edition records the reading of rajapurim, he subsequently suggested, in the publication of his translation, that rajadhanlm should be read. Vishva Bandhu's Hoshiarpur edition (1963: vol. I: 404) also notes the presence of this variant (recording the verse as 7.1153), though it preserves the reading of rajapurim. (All subsequent references to Vishva Bandhu 1963 are to vol. 1.) I accept the reading preferred in Stein's translation.

(18.) Hultzsch suggests the text should read dharapateh for dhardpatih (Hultzsch 1911: 101, rpt. in Stein 2013: 185).

(19.) Vishva Bandhu (1963: 404), marking the verse as 7.1157, records a variant reading pramanyamane for amanyamane.

(20.) Hultzsch (1911: 101) records a variant reading (really just a modification of word order) tena margitum bhuri for bhuri margitum tena.

(21.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 404), marking the verse as 7.1158, records a variant reading of prakrtaprayaih for prakrtaprayaih.

(22.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 404), marking the verse as 7.1158, records a variant reading of durasthe kosasya for durasthakosasya.

(23.) The present translation of RT 7.1157ab closely follows that of Stein 1900: vol. 1, 358: "Thereupon these [men], who were mostly of low character, began under ironical sayings a solemn fast (praya). . ." (All subsequent references to Stein 1900 are to vol. 1.) Presumably, Kalhana wished to contrast prakrtapraya (7.1157a) with krtapraya at, e.g., 7.1088a (quoted below), signaling thereby the "vulgar" quality of the men and their fast in the present example.

(24.) Baldissera (2011: 552) also offers an interpretation of this episode, labeling it, however, "the strangest extension of the collective hunger strike resorted to for practical ends."

(25.) As Ali and McCrea have suggested, Kalhana clearly intended his text to lament the degradations of society in the kali age. And while I think the eighth tarahga shows Kalhana ending on a more optimistic note, anticipating or at least imagining a possibly different future under the reign of Jayasimha, more so than do either McCrea (see 2013: 197) or Ali (see 2012: 88-90, esp. 90), there can be no doubt that much of the RT serves to suggest that, as McCrea puts it (p. 198), "to tell the real story, the whole story--of a life, a reign, a dynasty, or a kingdom--is, almost inevitably, to tell a tragic story; one that, if we see it clearly, will fill us with a conviction of the futility of all human endeavour and lead us to turn away in despair."

(26.) Here the text was emended by Stein, who reads krtaprayaih where, he reports, all the manuscripts he had consulted record krtaprayah. See Stein 1900: 352 and 1892: 145. Vishva Bandhu (vol. 1: 396), accepting the reading of Stein's emendation, also notes that no manuscript attests to it, all of those examined for that edition reading krtaprayah.

(27.) On the use of the term parisadya in the RT (synonymous therein with parsada) and the corporations of temple and tirtha purohitas designated thereby, see Stein 1900: 67 n. 132.

(28.) Stein (1900: 209 nn. 172-74) explains the term rudhabharodhi, in particular the practice to which it refers, in part as follows: "The nature of the country [of Kashmir], and the absence of proper roads, renders it necessary to use load-carriers in preference to all other means of transport. The system of corvee entailed hereby opens the way for much oppression."

(29.) Vishva Bandhu (1963: 245) notes a variant reading mahibhuja for mahibhrta.

(30.) This episode was also examined in Davis and Nemec 2012.

(31.) See 6.25 krtaprayopaveso 'tha stheyais tais taih pade pade / pratyarthino dattajayaih kim apy asmi parajitah "Now, I, who have performed the fast-unto-death (krtaprayopaveso), somehow have been ruled against at every step by the judges (stheya), who have [repeatedly] rendered judgment in favor of my opponent (pratyarthin)."

(32.) Note also that this example does not appear to suggest that the plaintiff is a Brahmin, and if he was not, this would constitute a second difference from the "legal" use of praya as outlined by Hopkins, in addition to the fact that the king is targeted by the claimant.

(33.) That is, it is the wife of Unmattavanti who tried to persuade the Brahmins to anoint their son. Suravarman II. See below.

(34.) I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer for leading me to rethink this episode.

(35.) See 5.456-67, esp. 456-57 and 464.

(36.) Their disputes are humorously related by Kalhana at, e.g., 5.463: vaimatyena mithas tesam nanyah ko 'py abhyasicyata / ruksabhasananisthyutaih svakurcah sthivanaih param. "Nobody received the water of inauguration by way of the difference of opinion they held with one another; only their own beards [were wetted] by the spittings they ejected in their rough talk." Stein's edition of this verse records a reading accepted in that edition but not in his translation: kurcabhasananisthyiitaih for ruksabhasananisthyutaih. Stein (1900: 234 n. 463) also suggests that one should "emend svakurca sthivanaih for svakurcasth," the latter reading having appeared in Stein's edition. Hultzsch (1915: 281, rpt. in Stein 2013: 247), however, suggests svakurcah should be read for svakurcah, noting it accords better with the verb (i.e., with abhyasicyata). Vishva Bandhu (p. 240) accepts the reading svakurcah, as do I.

(37.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 241) records a variant reading drstaivam for drstvaiva.

(38.) This translation reflects in part that of Stein (1900: 235).

(39.) As suggested above, there is much of interest recorded in the RT concerning the lives of the sovereigns of the Utpala Dynasty, particularly the intrigues that follow all those who come in the line after Avantivarman (r. 855/6-883). Samkaravarman, who succeeded Avantivarman, is no exception. He began well enough, conquering other kingdoms (5.134-56) and founding an eponymous town (5.156) that he furnished with (Saiva) temples (5.158). But he quickly turned to feeding his own appetites by oppressing his own people (5.165-74), perhaps most notably by perverting the scales of commerce and cheating his subjects thereby (5.171). He also introduced the forced carrying of loads into the Valley (5.174, about which see above and n. 28); nor was he generous with learned men (see, e.g., 5.204), which Kalhana counts as the fatal sin of any royal sovereign. Ultimately, he met his demise when, away from the Valley on a military expedition, he was shot in the neck by an arrow fired at him by a disgruntled svapaka (see 5.218-22). His ministers, we are told (5.223-24), concealed his death by manipulating his body with ropes and the like until such time as they could return safely to the Kashmir Valley!

(40.) See 5.243, 5.249.

(41.) This said, Kalhana's narrative also provides Yas'askara with a biography that would reassure those who value more conservative brahminical norms: First, Yas'askara is, according to Stein, a Brahmin (see Stein 1900: 103, para. 98). Second, he is explicitly linked to the royal line through his mother the queen.

(42.) On the dates of his reign, see Stein 1900: 88.

(43.) In that she seeks justice for her husband's murder, one could also understand her to fast in order to redress his grievance in his absence.

(44.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 125) records a variant reading matpatyuh for me patyuh.

(45.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 125) records a variant reading yadakalabhavo for yad akalabhavo.

(46.) Hultzsch (1915: 277, rpt. in Stein 2013: 243) records a variant reading brahmane for brahmano; so too Vishva Bandhu, p. 126.

(47.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 126) prefers the reading rdjann api na sasyate for rajann anasanasya me. The same variant is reported in Stein's edition (1892: 47).

(48.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 126) notes that one manuscript ([SA.sub.3]) glosses anyasmin with sudradau. Stein (1892: 47) notes the same.

(49.) Tribhuvanasvamin tells him to sprinkle rice flour on the ground around the temple, and the one circumambulating it who is the murderer will be seen to have the footprints of a female ghost, who follows the murderer, behind him. See 4.100-104 and Stein 1900: 128-29, esp. nn. 103-4; see also Stein 1892: 47 n. 1 to vs. 4.103, where is recorded a long marginal note from one manuscript that explains the existence of the female spirit who haunts the murderer.

(50.) See 4.105 atha tat karayitva sa drstadose dvijanmani / dandam dandadharas cakre dvijatvad vadhavarjitam "Then, having had that done [which the image of Tribhuvanasvamin told him to do], the twice-born [thus] being proven to have been at fault (drstadosa), he, the punisher [i.e., the king], issued a punishment [upon him], [but] one short of capital punishment (vadhavarjita), since he was a Brahmin."

(51.) A somewhat different interpretation of the story is offered in Baldissera 2011: 536-37.

(52.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 279) records prayojayad for pravesayad. Stein (1892: 103 n. 2 to vs. 336) records the same variant. Hultzsch (1915: 282, rpt. in Stein 2013: 248) recommends reading prayojaya [degrees] for pravesayad.

(53.) See 6.339 taya svarnapradanena sumanomantakadayah / brahmanah samagrhyanta tatah prayo nyavartata "The Brahmins, Sumanomantaka and the others, were contained by her with a gift of gold, after which the fast-unto-death (praya) ceased." Vishva Bandhu (p. 279) records three variants to the reading of sumanomantakadayah: one manuscript ([I.sub.4]) reads svamano[??] for sumano[??] and [??]matuka[??] for [??]mantaka[??], and several other manuscripts ([I.sub.1-3,7]. V, and S) read [??]mattaka[??] for [??]mantaka[??]. These renderings of the name are not inconsistently offered, moreover. See n. 54.

(Kalhana elsewhere laments that Brahmins are (woefully) clever in their uses of prayopavesa, that they cannot be relied upon and can--and occasionally did--go astray (as, the implication is clear, these Brahmins did in desisting from their fast for simple financial gain). See 7.1611 prayopaves'akus'alah s'aktas tv ante na kutracit / mithyasambhdvanabhumir bhupanam brahmabandhavah "Those [Brahmins] who are clever in solemn fasts (prayopaves'a) are thoroughly useless in the end. Vain is the reliance which kings put on wretched Brahmans" (translation Stein's).

(54.) Hultzsch (1915: 282, rpt. in Stein 2013: 248) recommends reading svarnagrahino for Stein's svarnagrahino. So also Vishva Bandhu, p. 280, and I have accepted this reading. Vishva Bandhu also records variants in the reporting of Sumanomantaka's name, with one manuscript ([I.sub.4]) reading [??]matuka[??] for [??]mantaka[??] and several other manuscripts ([I.sub.1-3,7], V, and S) reading [??]mattaka[??]for [??]mantaka[??]. See also n. 53 for parallels found at 6.339.

(55.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 285) records a variant reading akarayat for akarayan.

(56.) Baldissera (2011: 552) similarly suggests that the present story offers an exemplar of what she there refers to as "political hunger strikes."

(57.) On the dates of his reign, see Stein 1900: 94-95.

(58.) See 4.491-502.

(59.) Hultzsch (1915: 279, rpt. in Stein 2013: 245) notes a variant reading in one manuscript (P) of akhanditam for akunthitam.

(60.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 179) notes that no fewer than eight manuscripts read 'numaranad for na maranad.

(61.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 179) notes a variant reading ekahe ced for ekahena. Stein (1892: 68 n. 1 to vs. 633) records the same variant reading.

(62.) I here follow Stein in assuming that the fast-unto-death is implied by what is expressed in 4.632. See Stein (1900: 177 n. 632), where he says of the verse that "Suicide by voluntary starvation (prdyopavesa) is referred to."

(63.) Stein identified these as slesa verses and examined them in some detail; my translations reflect, in part, his. See Stein 1900: 177-78.

(64.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 170) notes that one manuscript ([SA.sub.3]) glosses [??]nistha [??] with nistha sabda iha nasavaci. Stein (1892: 68 n. 1 to vs. 637) records the same.

(65.) Vishva Bandhu (p. 180) notes that several manuscripts read tulamula [??]for tulamulya[??]. Stein (1892: 68 n. 1 to vs. 638) records the same variant.

(66.) Presumably, the deaths were suicides. These were not, of course, deaths by fasting, but context suggests they were deaths intentionally courted in protest of the king's transgressions.

(67.) The concern for the king who neglects his responsibilities for the pursuit of personal pleasure, often at the cost of the well-being and order of the kingdom, is perennially expressed in the sources Ali examines; and the dangers of pleasure are thus extensively explored. See Ali 2004, esp. 240-51.

(68.) Baldissera (2011: 562-66) makes a start at examining this question, noting the resonances of Gandhi's fasts with the forms of suicide in South Asian history that anticipated them.

(69.) See Zutshi 2011.

(70.) See Altekar 1949: 84-89.

(71.) The most relevant passage of the Arthasastra is found at 5.6, under the 94th and 95th topics covered by Kautilya, entitled "transition of regime" and "continuity of sovereignty," respectively. See Olivelle 2013: 267-70. To offer one example, Kautilya suggests (at 5.6.34-36) that, should there be no qualified son to succeed the father, the minister should put forward "a prince not prone to vice, a princess, or a pregnant queen" (citing here Olivelle, p. 269) whom he judges to be fit for rule; and he should promote that candidate by a sleight of hand, recruiting others to pose as independent voices to second the choice.

(72.) To offer a single example of the complexities detailed in the RT narrative, consider the royal succession following Yas'askara. He has not his own son but his relative Varnata consecrated as his successor (see 6.90-92 and Stein 1892: 242-43). The reasons are first, and ironically given his own pedigree, that he worries his son was in fact not his own, but conceived in an adulterous affair, and second--and here reasonably so, again given his own pedigree (and the young Suravarman II he displaced)--he worries that his son, who was very young, would not long survive as a child-king.

(73.) Some of these concerns were explored in Davis and Nemec 2012.
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Author:Nemec, John
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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