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Source, exegesis, and translation: Sanskrit commentary and regional language translation in South Asia.


A range of remarkable transformations marks India's literary history in the late medieval to early modern period. (1) Established forms of literary composition, prevailing exegetical practices, and new creative genres such as the regional-language translation began to share spaces in a literary culture marked by complex intersections and convergences that linked the efforts of multi-lingual poets with professional pedagogues and wider audiences for literature. What follows is an exploration of some of these relationships, particularly the strong affinities Sanskrit commentaries share with translations of Sanskrit poems into regional languages and new adaptations of older Sanskrit works in the same language. These translation efforts (both inter-lingual and intra-lingual) reveal a deep familiarity with the methods and procedures of Sanskrit commentaries and employ them to mediate, reorient, and sometimes displace Sanskrit literary texts in varying forms, degrees, and contexts. They also represent a new kind of exegesis, whose functions in the pedagogical cultures of South Asia overlap with the work of the traditional commentary. These translations represent, therefore, not only inaugurating moments in the literary history of regional languages but also reflect philosophical shifts in attitudes toward literature, embodying debates and ideas forged in pedagogical contexts and reproduced in new creative forms.

With the emergence of new literary cultures in South Asia, Sanskrit commentaries inevitably began to share their functions with regional language translation. Translators, in turn, absorbed and adapted commentarial practices for their own creative purposes. One important tactic appears to have been the adoption of the Sanskrit commentary's surface text and/or its itinerant compositional strategies. Thus, for example, syntax is often reordered into a standard prose order; synonyms are strategically inserted for explanatory or creative effect; meanings implied or suggested in the original are unpacked and expanded in the reformatted commentary or translation. Other standard practices of commentators are, as expected, dropped by translators: citations from texts on lexicography (Amarakoth, etc.) and grammar (P[]nini's s[]tras), for instance; identification of particular alamk[]ras; and, most visibly, multiple readings or interpretations for any given lexical or semantic unit in the root text. Another important feature usually found ain both Sanskrit commentaries and regional-language translations is the inclusion of a pointed preface. Because commentators and translating poets are anxious about how successful they were in rephrasing or representing their source text, their introductory remarks reveal a strikingly similar attitude to their root texts. Both, at turns, affirm their loyalty to the original's intent and profusely praise the Sanskrit poet. Sensing that they are rewriting the original-- the commentators through a special kind of paraphrase and the translator through an audacious presumption that a classic original can be somehow replicated and even, perhaps, reformed in another language--the commentator and the translator unsurprisingly find themselves apologetic.

The case of the widely read Naisadh[]yacarita (or Naisadhacarita, Nc) is particularly instructive for sorting out the dynamic and often complicated interrelationships of commentary and translation during the first several centuries of the second millennium. The Naisadhiyacarita (often just called Naisadh[]ya) is a mah[]k[]vya composed in the twelfth century by poet and philosopher Sr[]harsa. It famously recounts the early life of the epic hero-king Nala. The poem bookends a canonical formulation of the five Sanskrit court epics (pa[]camah[]k[]vya) and has long held a cherished place in the traditional system of Sanskrit education. Naturally, as foundational documents of Sanskrit pedagogical culture, commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya abound. Glossa and interpretive commentaries of the poem proliferated soon after its initial appearance. Their prefaces especially suggest that a lively academic culture of contestation and pedagogical debate accompanied the poem's reception; in these opening statements Naisadh[]ya commentators often defiantly uphold the merits of their contribution and denigrate the work of others in a spirit of robust competition. Indeed, between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, writing a worthy commentary on the Naisadhiya apparently conferred upon its author the title of mahamahopadhyaya, something akin to a university professorship. (2) Alongside its Obvious significance for commentators, the mahakavya was also a lightning rod for translation and adaptation. The Naisadhiya is perhaps the first and most important Sanskrit mahakavya to be translated into regional premodern Indian languages and intralingual Sanskrit versions. As objects of outright translation, these mah[]k[]vyas served as models for both imitation and rhetorical innovation. In this regard translations of the Naisadh[]ya played a crucial role in establishing the status of several newly emerging regional literary cultures.

Among the multiple literary re-workings of this masterpiece, three examples are considered below to -demonstrate the richly interwoven textures of commentary writing and translation in premodern India. The first is Bh[]lan's fifteenth-century Gujarati work Nal[]khy[]n (Nal[]); the second Srindtha's Telugu grngara-naisadham (or Naisadhamu) (SrN) from the late four-teenth century. The final work considered is Krsndnanda's thirteenth-century Sanskrit poem Sahrday[]nanda (Sahrd). Examined alongside verses translated from the Naisadhiya in these creative works are the corresponding commentaries on these verses in three standard commentaries of Saharsa's poem: the Dipika ("Illustrator") of Cartclupanclita from the thirteenth century, fourteenth-century Mallin[]tha's J[]v[]tu ("Enlivener"), and Narayana Bectarkara's sixteenth-century Prak[]sa ("Illuminator"). While not implying that regional language translators of the poem and post-Naisadhiyacarita Sanskrit poets for whom Sr[]harsa's poem--is an intertext--were intimately familiar with formal commentaries, or themselves commentators (although some of them apparently were), it does appear that a commentarial consciousness closely allied to that found in Sanskrit commentaries informs their translations in ways that invite close analysis. Collectively, I argue, these documents participate in a larger project of translatio studii that takes place over several centuries and reveal, in part, the diversity of literary practices during what Sheldon Pollock (1998) has called "the vernacular millennium."


With the composition of the Nal[]khy[]n, Bh[]lan inaugurates a new genre of Gujarati literature known as the []khy[]n, a form which transports metrically tight, but thematically loose, verse composition (pada-m[]l[]) into a formal narrative (akhyan) dimension with clear boundaries or links (kadavu). In rendering the Nala episode of the Mahabharata into Old Gujarati, Bh[]lan explicitly clarifies the great epic as his source text while implicitly engaging with, in an obviously intertextual relationship, the Naiyadhiyacarita. In articulating a Gujarati literary consciousness through his Nal[]khy[]n--this is the first time the word []khy[]n is used and the first time the language (bhaka)-- is called something akin to Gujarati (gufara-bh[]k[])-- Bh[]lan's prefatory remarks position the poet and his work in terms of the Sanskrit literary world's cultural capital through an economic code of power disparity: the mighty, wealthy, and successful Sanskrit literati contrasted with the lowly, poor, and downtrodden Gujarati (Nal[]khy[]n 1.1-1.5). (3)

While Bh[]lan claims his chief intertext to be the Nala episode found in Vy[]sa's Mah[]bh[]rata (the word used in Nal[]khy[]n 1.2 is campu), it is clear, as will be seen below, that Sr[]harsa's Naiyadh[]ya is the most important source text for Bh[]lan's depiction of Nala's life up until his union with Damayant[]. Notably, Bhalan mentions neither the Naisadh[]ya nor Sr[]harsa and, therefore, does not consider his work to be a translation of the k[]vya. A close look at his translation, however, discloses to what extent his Gujarati rendering of the Nala story lexically and syntactically coincides with the paraphrases found in Sanskrit commentaries on the Naiyadh[]ya. In the fourth kadavu [canto, literally 'link of a chain'] of the Nal[]khy[]n, Bh[]lan combines two of Sr[]harsa's descriptions of Nala's outstanding character (details found in Naisyldh[]ya 1.14 and 1.16) and constructs a passage of six verses that condenses and reorders the semantic content of Sr[]harsa's verses. In Naisadh[]ya 1.13 Sr[]hara suggests that Nala was more powerful than the Sun. In verse 1.14, he continues with this theme:
  tad-ojasas tad-yascasah sthitavimau vrtheti citte kurute
  yad[] yad[]/tanoti bhanoh parivesa-kaitav[]t
  tad[] vidhih kundalan[]m vidhor api // Nc 1.14
  Whenever the thought comes to the Creator that those two are
  redundant in the presence of Nala's brilliance and eminence,
  he draws a circle around them to cross them out--that's the
  illusive halo around the Sun and the Moon.

Here there is an implicit comparison of the Sun and Moon with king Nala's magisterial qualities: powerful brilliance, associated with the Sun, and the ubiquitous celebrity enjoyed by the Moon. The complex image combines several desires on the part of the poet: to profusely praise Nala, to create correspondences between Nala and the radiant orbs in the sky, to draw attention to the infrequent optical phenomenon of the halo that sometimes form around these orbs, and finally to fancy the Creator as a sort of amanuensis (a scribe or a merchant) and his creation a manuscript or accounting book in need of occasional correction through crossing-out or, in this case, circling the mistake.

The peculiar density of Sr[]harsa's verse prompts the commentators to fill in a few details to clarify the image for the audience. In their response, however, is lost the Sanskrit verse's attention to sonic effects and its clever suggestion of the Creator as scribe or, as we see in Bh[]lan's work, as merchant:

  yad[] yad[] vidhir brahm[] iti citte
  kurute cintayati. ititi kim? yat tasya nalasya ojasah
  pratapasya sthitau saty[]m tasya yasasas ca
  sthitau saty[]m imau s[]ry[]-candramasau
  vrtha mrs[]. prat[]pena yasas[] ca
  s[]rya-candrayoh k[]ryasya krtatv[]t
  tad[] vidhir bh[]nor vidhor api
  parivesa-kaitav[]t kundalat[]m tanoti
  yatr[] kila adhikanz bhavati tato rekhay[]

  Whenever the Creator thinks of Nala's powerful
  brilliance and his eminence, the Sun and the Moon
  apper unnecessary. What was the thought? In light
  of the brilliance and meinence of that Nala, the Sun
  and the Moon are useless, that is to say, false.
  Nala's brilliance and eminence fulfill the duties of
  the Sun and the Moon. Thus, the Creator--in the guise
  of putting a halo around them--makes a circular
  (cancelling) mark around them, Customarily, where
  something is redundant, it is circled.


  tasya nalasya ojah tejah prat[]pah ity arthah
  tasya tath[] tasya nalasya yasah tasya sthitau
  satt[]y[]m imau bh[]nu-vidh[]
  vrth[] nirarthakau iti clue yad[] yad[]
  kurute vivecayatity  arthah. vidhih tad[]
  tad[] parivesah paridhi  parivesas to paridhir
  upas[]ryaka-mandale ity amarah. evam kaitavam
  chalam tasmat bhanoh s[]ryasya vidhor api candrasya
  ca kundalandm  atiriktata-succaka-vestanam ity arthah
  karoti. adhlkaksara-varjan[]rtham lekhak[]divad
  iti bh[]vah ... atra pr[]krt[]sya
  parivesasya pratisedhenaprakrtasya kundalanasya sthapanat
  apahnutir alankarah ... pr[]cin[]s tu
  parivesa-misena s[]ry[]-candramasoh
  kundalanotpreksan[]t s[]pahnavotpreks[]
  set c[] gamy[]
  vya[]jak[]prayog[]d ity []huh.

  Whenever the creator recognizes that Nala's powerful
  radiance renders useless the sun and the moon, he
  makes a halo around them. Amara's lexicon understands
  this halo to be a "secondary sun." On the pretext of
  creating a halo, the Creator is actually making an
  indicatory mark to cancel the redundancy of the Sun
  and the Moon--just like a scribe or an author to erase
  an extra syllable or letter. The trope here is apahnuti
  (concealment, denial) since the scribal mark-- not the
  putative subject of the image (the halo)--is superimposed
  onto or blocks the image of the halo, the putative
  subject. Earlier poeticians say that it is another trope
  known as sapahnavotprek.yel (poetic fancy through
  dissimulation/concealment): a "cancelling mark"
  (kundalan[]) is imaomed to exist around the Sun and
  Moon under the pretext of a halo, and this has to be
  understood implicitly because no explicit words (such as
  "like") point to this trope.


  vidhir brahma yad[] yad[] iti p[]rvoktam
  citte rnanasi kurute vic[]rayettity arthah
  tad[] tad[] bh[]noh s[]rya sya
  vidhor api candrasya ca parivesct-kaitav[]t
  parivegt-vy[]j[]t kuhdalan[]m
  vaiyarthyas[]cakam rekh[]-mandalam karoti.
  ititi kim? tad-ojaso nala-prat[]pasya tad-yas'aso
  nala-yafasag ca sthitau satyjm imau sarya-candramasau
  vrtha niwrayojandv iti tad-ojasas tad-yaiasa.s ca
  hetor MM! vrtha sthitav iti v[].
  s[]rya-candr[]bhyam yat karah[]yam
  tan-neda-tejo-yascobliy[]m eva kriyate.
  s[]rya-tulyam candra-tulyam c[]smin dvayam.
  parivesasya k[]d[]citkatv[]t yad[]
  yada ity uktarn ... vrth[]-likhita-granthasya
  kuhdalanay[] lopah kriyate tathety arthah.

  Whenever the thought that Nala is more brilliant than
  the Sun [from the previous verse, Naiyadhiva 1.13]
  enters the mind of the Creator, he then makes a circle
  around the Sun and the Moon, indicating them as
  redundant, since sometimes they have an illusive
  halo around them. What was the Creator's thought?
  That Nala's powerful brilliance and his eminence make
  the Sun and Moon not even worth mentioning useless,
  in other words; or that the two orbs are useless on
  account of the fact of Nala's brilliance (like the
  Sun's) and eminence (like the Moon's).

  Either way, the Sun and the Moon are themselves useless, as their
  functions are performed by Nala. The word "whenever" indicates the
  fact that only sometimes do the Sun and the Moon appear to have halos.
  These halos look like the cancelling marks used to indicate the
  deletion of scribal errors.

These three passages paradigmatically reveal the commentator's tendency to unravel, reconstruct, supplement, and ultimately expand on the artistic ellipsis the Sanskrit poet has manufactured to veil and obstruct unambiguous understanding. In the examples above, each commentator unravels the carefully arranged paratactic syntax of Sr[]harsa's composition in order to reconstruct an easy assessment of the poet's main image: that it was the Creator's intention in producing the occasional optical event of the halo around the Sun and Moon to speak to the redundancy of these orbs since Nala excels both in the very qualities for which they are known. This halo is then imagined as the scribal custom of putting a circle with a pen around the items one wants to ultimately cross out or erase, the implication being that sometimes the Creator sets up the Sun and Moon to require cancellation since they are unnecessary in the presence of Nala.

The commentaries also supply, where necessary, the implications the poet skillfully leaves out. Sriharsa does not explicitly mention the Creator as a scribe nor does he spell out the correspondences between Nala and the celestial bodies in the sky. The actual scribal act implied by Sr[]harsa's mention of the cancelling mark (kundalan[]) is explicitly elucidated only by the three commentators. When Bhalan translates this verse from the Naisadhiya in three stanzas (4.10-12), he seems to bring to his expression an explanatory consciousness reflected in commentarial practice:
  candra s[]raya p[]khali kundald[]m
  thai chi varas[]ti / tih[]m kalpan[]
  m[]h[]kavi n[] mani ehav[]
  []v[] v[]ta // Nal[] 10
  On rainy days, sometimes a halo appears behind the
  Sun and the Moon. This inspired an imaginative
  thought in the great poet's mind.

  nalan[] tej-r[]piyu suraya yasarupi
  sasi dekh[] / brahm[] s[]c[]
  j[]th[] ju[] antargati
  []vekh[] // 11 Seeing
  Nala's brilliance in the Sun and Nala's
  eminence in the Moon, the
  Creator deliberated with himself, "
  Which Sun and Moon are real?

  Which ones are false?"

  jim n[]m[]m j[]th[]m
  j[]n[] te vanik le[]ni
  v[]li / tima dhy[]tde j[]th[]
  jani ravislascini kund[]li // 12 And then,
  just as a merchant catches a mistake in his
  accounting book and draws a circle around it, so
  too did Brahma put a halo around the Sun and Moon.

Like the Sanskrit commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya, Bh[]lan's verse expands Sr[]harsa's terse, compacted expression. Resonant of N[]r[]yana's reading that the expression "whenever" in NaiSadhiya 1.14 reflects the infrequency of the natural optical phenomenon of the halo occurrence, Bh[]lan makes it a point that the halo "sometimes appears" behind the Sun and Moon "on rainy days." Whereas the Sanskrit commentaries have recourse to the discourse of poetics on trope (alank[]ras'a[]tra) to cite the imaginative element of the image alluding to the technical figure of concealment (apahnuti), for example-- Bh[]lan makes explicit that the poet had an "imaginative thought" and then goes on to make unambiguous the correspondence between Nala and the luminous orbs ("seeing Nala' s brilliance in the Sun and Ma's eminence in the Moon"). By specifying and analogizing the nature of the Creator's scribal work with that of a merchant who goes over his account books at the end of the business day ("just as a merchant catches a mistake in his accounting book and draws a circle around it"), Bh[]l[]n creatively exploits the source text's inherent invitation for polyvalent interpretation. Whereas the Sanskrit commentators almost unanimously explain the scribe's convention as the intertext that makes the analogy clever, Bh[]l[]n converts the coded scribe/manuscript metaphor to merchant/accounting ledger without losing anything from the original conceit but, presumably, adding something illustrative for his immediate audience.

It is noteworthy that while Bh[]lan shares practices with Sanskrit commentators, he also collapses the ideas into a metrical couplet (doh a) to mirror the aesthetic concision of the Naisadh[]ya and also to replicate, though not necessarily reproduce, the stylistic condensation of Sr[]harsa's semantic intentions. We again see this in Bhalan's rendering of Naisadh[]ya 1.16, whose content he strikingly reorders, to come before the details in verse 1.14. Sr[]harsa's verse reads as follows:
  vibhajya merur no yad arthis[]t-krto no
  sindhur utsorga-jala-vyayair month / am[]ni
  tat tena nijayaso-yugam dviph[]la-baddh[]s
  cikur[]ti sirah-sthitam // Nc 1.16 Not carving
  up the golden mountain Meru and giving it away to
  the needy; not rendering the ocean into a desert--or
  a desertinto an ocean-- by ritually offering water
  when giving. He thought of these two faults as
  sitting on his head and, therefore, he tied up his
  hair in two buns, two black marks on his reputation.

Here the trope is more transparent than in the previous verse cited. Nala ties two buns on either side of the part in his hair(4) as reminders to himself of his dharmic oversights: not having dismantled and given away the golden mountain to the poor and not having emptied the ocean of (or filled the desert with) a water offering which, according to dharmas'[]stra custom, goes hand-in-hand with the ritual of gift-giving. The two bunches of hair are jet black, it must be assumed, and the color black in Sanskrit poetic convention (kavi-samaya) marks unmeritorious actions.

The Sanskrit commentators dutifully analyze the semantic components of Sr[]harsa's verse, paraphrasing its basic ideas and explicating both his clear and opaque allusions:

  tena r[]jn[] dv[]bhy[]m
  phal[]bhv[]m baddh[]s
  cikur[]h kes[]h sthitam tat nijam
  ayaso-yugam ak[]rti-dvavam am[]ni.
  yat may[] meruh parvato vibhajya
  khand[]-krtya arthis[]d na krta
  idam ekam avastah. yac ca may[] sindhuh
  samudra utsarga-jalasya samkalpodakasya vyayair
  marur na krto nirjalasya na krtah. dvit[]yam
  idam ayasah. s[]manta-baddh[]h
  kasa ev[] kirtih krsna-varnatv[]t.

 "The first blemish: 'That I did 1201 divide up
  Mt. Meru and make it available to the needy.'
  And that, did not render the ocean a desert by
  emptying it of water ritually offered along with
  the gifts to the needy.' This is the second
  blemish on my reputation." The hair tied up on
  either side of the part in the middle-- black in
  color--reflects this damaged reputation.


  meruh hem[]drih vibhajya vibhakt[]-krtya
  arthisat arthibhyo deyah ... sindhuh samudra
  utsarga-jalanam vyavaih d[]n[]mbu-
  praksepair marur nirjala-deso na krta iti tat-
  tasm[]t tena nalena dviph[]la-baddh[]
  dvayoh ph[]layoh sirah-p[]rsvayor
  baddh[] raksit[] iti y[]vat ...
  vil[]sinam pums[]m s[]mantita-siro-
  ruhatv[]d cikur[]n[]m dviph[]la-
  baddhatvam iti bh[]vah dvidh[]
  vibhakt[] iti y[]vat ... sirah-sthitam
  mastaka-dhrtam iti bh[]vah. nijam sviyam
  ayasco-yugam apak[]rti-dvayam p[]rvokta-
  vyay[]karana-janitam iti bh[]vah. am[]ni
  kesa-r[]pena dvidha-sthitam sva-sirasi
  ayaso-yugam eva tisthat[]ti amanyata ity
  arthah ayasasah p[]pa-r[]patv[]t
  krsna-varnanam kavi-samaya-siddham
  tath[] ca m[]linyam vyomni p[]pe
  ity []di ... kesesu  k[]rsnya-s[]my[]d
  ayaso-r[]panam iti vyasta-r[]pakam.

  Having not divided up the golden mountain Meru and
  given it away to supplicants and having not made the
  ocean a desert by pouring "giving-waters" (by
  emptying the ocean of its waters), that Nola bound
  up his hair by dividing it into two bunches around
  a part in his hair something that fashionable men
  ordinarily do with their hair. These two hair
  divisions reflect the aforementioned pair of
  blemishes on his reputation. He thought these
  two to sit on his head in the form of his divided
  hair. Nala's hair is metaphorically identified as
  moral defect because it is just as black.


  yana:tena nalena tat tasmat k[]ran[]d
  dvabhyam ph[]labhy[]m bh[]gabhyam
  baddh[]h samyamit[]s cikur[]h
  kes[]h eva nijam sv[]yam ayalaso
  'k[]rter yugam amany amanyata. sirasi
  s[]mantasyobhayabhdge sthit[] kes[]
  na bhavanti ak[]rti ak[]rti-dvayam eva.
  tat kim? yad yasm[]n may[] nalena merur
  hemadrir vibhajya khandaso vidhaya arthisad
  yacakayatto rthy-adhino deyo va na krtah.
  tath[] sindhuh samudra utsarga-jala-vyayair
  d[]ne kriyamane ye jala-vyay[]
  jala-d[]n[]ni tair marur nirjala-deso
  na krtah. d[]nam hi jala-purvakam bhavati.
  yadva--marur utsargajala-vyayaih sindhur na krtah.
  tad-akarana-laksanapayasah-sthane dviphdla-baddhdh
  kesa eva jata ity arthah. sarvasva-dane 'pi ydvad
  etad dvayam na krtam tavan nalo na tutoseti bhavah.
  eten[]sy[]yaso-leso 'pi n[]stiti
  sucitam. laukikoktir api--apak[]rtih sirasi
  sthita iti.

  Nala considered the two sections of his parted
  hair to be a pair of stains on his reputation.
  In other words, it was not hair that was lying
  on both sides of the part in the middle of his
  head, but rather it was the two marks of his
  damaged reputation. What were they? "That I,
  Nala, had not divided up the golden mountain
  Meru and given it away to those in need." And
  also, "that I had not made the ocean into a
  desert by draining its water." Or else: "that
  I had not made a desert out of the ocean by
  following the custom of ritually offering water
  before giving away gifts." Because of not doing
  this, in the place of these indiscretions, the
  hair was tied up in two parts. The idea here is
  that even if he had to give everything away to
  accomplish these two things, until he did that
  Nala was not satisfied. That would indicate
  that he didn't deserve even a hint of reproach.
  There's a saying: "A bad reputation sits on
  your head."

In keeping with the rhetorical nature of commentary writing, the commentators (especially N[]r[]yana) often take a diagnostic approach to Sr[]harsa's language by reorienting the structure of the verse into a dialogue to explore multiple meanings or layers buried beneath the obvious lexical units of meaning. Thus, for example, commentators depict Nala as verbally restating his self-understanding that the two portions of his parted hair represent his two sins of omission. In this regard Bh[]lan follows the lead of the commentators in structuring his own version of Sr[]harsa's verse as a dialogue that extends to three verses (Nal[]khyan 4.7-9):
  nala siri bi ambod[] bandhy[]
  kart[]m t[]m mala sn[]na /
  s[]ma kalanka rahy[] siri bi e
  j[]nu r[]ya nidana // Nal[] 7
  While washing away impurities, two blemishes
  remained. Nala tied up his hair into two
  buns, knowing full well why.

  vihic[] meru m[]hagiri n[]pyu
  p[]tra tani t[]m p[]ni / tu
  s[]m d[]n kary[]m mi
  mah[]m[]h[]m mani moti e
  k[]ni // 8 He did not apportion the great
  golden mountain Meru to give it away to
  worthy people. "What kind of generosity did
  I perform on this earth?" he lamented to himself.

  br[]hmanani t[]m var[]na
  karant[]m sindhu na thyu m[]ruadi / tu
  sum punya kary[]m mi manas[]m cint[]
  p[]mi h[]di // 9 "Why didn't the ocean
  become a desert when I gave to poor Brahmins? Where's
  the the merit in my actions?" This thought arose
  deep in his bones.

Bh[]lan narrates the sequence of events by first emphasizing the corporeal representation of Nala's "blemishes" with the word kalanka: indicating both a "stain" on Nala's head and, at the same time, a "black mark" on his character. While mirroring the dialogic frame the commentators give to the scenario from the source text, however, Bh[]lan notably adds his own commentarial emphasis to Sr[]harsa's implication that Nala thought deeply about his short-comings. He does this by repeating twice, with two distinct phrases, the detail that Nala knew "full well" what he had done wrong and that the thought about it "arose deep in his bones."

This mode of extending an inherited commentarial consciousness with his own is apparent throughout Bh[]lan's text and suggests that, like the commentators, his own attitude as a translator and creative artist tends both toward extending the source poem's semiotic potential and, simultaneously, toward displacing it with his own.


Like Bh[]lan's Nal[]khy[]n, Sr[]n[]tha's fourteenth-century Telugu poem Srng[]ra-naisadham or, as it is commonly called, the Naisadhamu marks important "firsts" in the history of regional-language literary cultures. As Bhalan inaugurates the akhyan in Gujarati, Sr[]natha's Naisadhamu is a model poem of the prahandha genre in Telugu, integrating verse structures into a single coherent narrative with clear movements and breaks. Perhaps more significant is the fact that the Naisadhamu is the first-known translation of a Sanskrit mahakavya into a regional Indian language. Whereas Bh[]lan effectively translates Sr[]h[]rsa's verses here and there, Srinatha seems to be the first to explicitly assert his path-breaking enterprise of translating a Sanskrit mah[]k[]vya. Sr[]n[]tha, near the end of his composition (Naisadhamu 8.202), provides a statement of his translation's methodology, rendered as follows by Narayana Rao and Shulman:
  The erotic poem made by the great Bhatta Harsa, who
  traveled paths unseen by other poets, is here
  rendered into Telugu in a way that makes use of the
  special features of the language, to touch the hearts
  of the wise--following the sound of the text, aiming
  at the poet's intention (abhipraya), keeping the
  poetic feeling (bh[]va) in view, supporting the
  mood (rasa), embellishing the figures of expression
  (alank[]ra), taking care of propriety (aucitya)
  and avoiding impropriety (anaucitya), closely obeying
  the original. This Telugu obeying the original. This
  Telugu Naisadhamu will last as long as the moons,
  the stars, and the sun. (5)

At least from the point of view of reproducing the "poet's intention" and avoiding improper interpretations, Srinatha's statement above echoes more or Less something a Sanskrit commentator might articulate. In fact, one tradition identifies the Telugu poet Sr[]n[]tha as himself a Sanskrit commentator on the Naisadh[]ya. On the strength of several manuscripts from collections such as Rajendra Lal Mitra's catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts, Krishnamachariar and M. Sesagiri S[]stri, among others, believe that the very same poet who composed the Naisadhamu may also have written a commentary called the Naisadhiyaprak[]sa or the Pr[]kasana. (6) The small fragment we have from the Pr[]katsana's preface (cited in Jani 1957: 72) shows the commentator Sr[]n[]tha as a bit cranky and intolerant of the incompetent commentaries others have written:
  pranamya maulin[] vandy[]n samprad[]ya-
  vidah satah / ty[]jyam ty[]iyam
  asad-v[]kyam sadalpam api likhyate // ye
  sad-artham aj[]nanto vrth[]-vacana-vistaraih /
  d[]shayanti k[]veh k[]vyam dhik t[]n
  pandita-m[]ninah // yadi kham karato  gatv[]
  sindhor upari k[]yati / tatkim sa vetti
  g[]mbh[]ryam ratn[]ni ca tad[]gaye //

  Bowing my head to those who are virtuous and praiseworthy
  and who know tradition, I write this commentary
  abandoning what should be abandoned as wrong and replace
  it with something that's right, even if it is brief. Damn
  those prideful scholars who, themselves being ignorant of
  correct meaning, spoil the poet's poem with their
  worthlessly wordy expositions. If a crow goes up to the
  sky and hovers above the ocean cawing, then what does it
  know of the depth and the jewels therein?

Not revealing much about the nature of the commentary itself, the above passage merely trumpets the shorter Pr[]kas'a commentary's superiority over other, more verbose commentaries. The possibility that Sr[]n[]tha, author of the Telugu Naisadhamu, might also be the Sanskrit commentator of Naisadh[]ya is intriguing but in no way necessary to see the ways in which the Telugu translation often coincides with the logic of Sanskrit commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya.

Like a commentator, Sr[]n[]tha wants to make the original accessible to his audience and, therefore, pays careful attention to Sr[]harsa's often willful misappropriation of words and syntax. As a translator and creative artist, however, he tries to reproduce as much of the sound and idea of the original without voiding his ambition to produce a distinctive work that will "last as long as the moons, the stars, and the sun." His self-admitted task, therefore, is to create a unique work that will nevertheless "obey" the original. Chief among his strategies to avoid misrepresenting or violating the aesthetic pleasure of the original text is to emphasize, as Narayana Rao and Shulman note (2008: 5), "an explicit focus on the sounds of the original (sabdam 'anus[]rinciyunu)." In this regard Srinatha differs from Bh[]lan in terms of the ways in which the two translators incorporate the functions of commentary into their work. While both take up strategies familiar in Sanskrit commentary, condensing or expanding or restructuring their source, Bh[]lan contentedly translates the source along the lines of a traditional commentary's conceptual understandings, without trying to make his poem sound or resonate like Sriharsa's. Srinatha intends, on the other hand, to capture the peculiar force of Sr[]harsa's "sound" and thereby produces a far more dazzling feat of translation. One can say that Bh[]lan is content with translating the idea whereas Sr[]n[]tha strives also to reproduce the expression of the Naisadh[]ya's verses.

Narayana Rao and Shulman give an illustrative example in comparing Naisadh[]ya 8.24 and Naisadhamu 4.7. First, here is their translation of Sr[]harsa's verse, which catches a playful yet emotionally charged moment in the story, as Damayant[] invites (in a roundabout manner) the as-yet-unidentified messenger Nala to rest after his long journey (2008: 8):
  nivedyat[]m hanta sam[]payanto
  Sir[]sa-kosa-mradim[]bhim[]nam /
  p[]dau kiyad d[]ram imau pray[]se
  nidhitsate tuccha-dayam manas te // Nc 8.24
  Could we kindly be informed? How far, alas, does
  your less-than-compassionate heart hope to
  torment your two feet that have once and for all
  put an end to the pride the softest of flowers
  might have had in their softness?

In their translation, Narayana Rao and Shulman have attempted to capture the circumlocutions of the original, admitting, however, that the "Sanskrit syntax is far more complex than [their] English." Traditional commentators unravel the verse's syntax and intended meaning for their audiences in expected ways. Thus, Mallin[]tha briefly reforms Damayant[]'s long question as "how long does your pitiless heart want to torture your feet?" Collapsing the modifier "less-than-compassionate" (tuccha-dayam) to "pitiless" (niskrpa), he clarifies that "how far?" (kiyad d[]ram) really means "how long?" (kiyac ciram). N[]ray[]na gives a more involved treatment, first by recasting Sr[]harsa's expressions with a more etymologically informed analysis and then by restating what he feels the poet actually intends to say. For example, like Mallin[]tha, he provides a requisite synonym for the expression tuccha-dayam but strategically chooses it to fit closer to the original expression. In rendering "less-than-compassionate" as krp[]-s[]nyam "with an absence of compassion," he cites the Arnarakosa for justification: sunyam tu vasikam tuccha-riktake. Near the end of his comment, Narayana summarizes what he thinks Damayant[] is really saying to Nala: "A person lacking pity makes a weaker person continue on a journey. Having come all the way here, you should just rest. From here, where do you have to go off to now?" (niskrpah purusah sukum[]ram janam pr[]yase prerayati. atr[]gamanenaiva sr[]nto 'si id[]n[]m itah kva gant[]siti bh[]vah). While Damayanti is referring to herself as "pitiless" here (if she cannot offer respite to the weary messenger), one may also see her statement as a subtle and indirect reproach of Nala himself, for unnecessarily making a vulnerable and delicate person like herself (sukum[]rarp janam) keep up with the verbal exertion (pray[]se) of getting Nala to stay put and reveal himself to her.

Though executed far more artistically by Sr[]n[]tha, something akin to N[]r[]yana's understanding seems to be present in the Telugu poet's translation of this verse. Like the Sanskrit commentators, Srinatha has also, as Naryana Rao and Shulman point out (p. 9), "straightened out the Sanskrit statement" into one that conforms to "normal spoken Telugu syntax." In doing so, the poet has paraphrased the basic sense, keeping intact the trope comparing. Nala's feet with the softest of flowers. But, as the two scholars emphasize, the tone has been changed. Here is their translation of Naisadhamu 4.7:
  nava-sirisa-sumambula navakamunakun canna-dammula
  boni niy adugudammul' / enta d[]rambu
  nadipimpan iccagincen []kk[] nirdayamaina
  n[]y ullam 'ipudu SrN // 4.7 Your lotus feet
  are like siblings to the softest of flowers.
  How far has your unkind heart made them walk?

Along the lines of N[]r[]yana's explanation of Damayant[]'s true intent, Sr[]n[]tha replaces Sr[]harsa's playful indirectness of Damayant[]'s appeal for Nala to stay in his translation with a certain immediacy and intimacy. As Narayana Rao and Shulman make clear (p. 9), "the Telugu poem speaks directly, as a woman in love might express her compassion for her lover"; "She is truly sorry," their comment continues, "that he has had to walk so far, and she doesn't want him to go any farther (away from her)." Rather than prosaically reveal the inner meaning of Sriharsa's convoluted expression in Sanskrit, as the commentator Narayana does, Srinatha collapses the commentary's gloss and the source's tropes into a beautiful verse that effectively does the work of both and yet transcends a crude synthesis.

Multiple examples can be adduced to demonstrate how Sr[]n[]tha's creative genius is tied to commentarial practices familiar to him. A more technical example of this confluence of interpretive practice comes from the eighth canto of the Naisadhamu, where Sr[]n[]tha translates verse 19.60 of the Naisadh[]ya. The nineteenth canto of Naisadhiya provides a lengthy description of morning as the newly married King Nala is awakened by his royal panegyrists (his vait[]likas). In verse sixty of this sarga, the poet fancies a vignette of two birds in rapt conversation. A crow apparently asks a question to a cuckoo bird, who then fashions a reply in his own. bird language. Sr[]harsa imagines a connection between the inarticulate matutinal chatter of these birds and homophonous morphemes in a Papini an sutra and wonders rather factitiously--if perhaps the two birds might be having a spirited morning discourse about grammar. The Sanskrit verse is framed in malini meter:
  iha kim usasi prcch[]lamsi-kim-dabda-r[]pa-
  pratiniyamita-v[]c[] v[]yasenaisa
  prstah / bhana phani-bhava-s[]stre t[]tanah
  sth[]ninau k[]viti vihita-tuh[]-
  v[]g-uttarah-kokilo's bh[]t // Nc 19.60

The basic sense here is that, in the morning at dawn (iha usasi) one may wonder if a crow (v[]yasa)-- in repeatedly employing some declensional form of the Sanskrit word for 'what' (kimsabdar[]pa)-- is in fact asking about the two substituted forms optionally replaced by the Paninian affix tat (t[]tanah sth[]ninau kau), the answer to which (tu hi [the markers for second-person singular forms in parasmaipada and atmanepada voice respectively]) is delivered by the kokila to the crow. Could their dialogue be enacting, the poet mischievously wonders, the technical terminology found in the phanibhavas[]stra or (as the alternate reading of it by least two Sanskrit commentators has it) the panibhavasastra, which would render the compound as referring to Patanjali's Mah[]bh[]sya (phanibhavasastra) or to Panini' s Astadhyayi itself (panibhavasastra)? The Paninian sutra in question is 7.1.35 tuhyos titan []sisyanyatarasy[]m. The s[]tra indicates that the imperative markers tu and hi can optionally (anyatarasyam) be replaced by the affix tat when a benedictive sense (asih) is intended. (And so, instead of j[]vatu, for example, we get forms like j[]vat[]t.) In essence, then, as the Sanskrit commentaries on the verse make clear, the crow is cawing something like kau kau ('which two, which two') and the kokila is whistling back with tu h[] tu hi.

Clearly, a verse like this proves very difficult to render in any language other than Sanskrit, intricately tied up with technical issues of Sanskrit grammar as it is. Sr[]n[]tha translates it with the following one in Telugu:
  pr[]tahkalamu v[]yasambu
  panin[]patyoktasastrambulo t []tansthanulu
  ceppud' 'evvi? yanucandanab oppa kau kau yanan /
  c[]turyamb' alar[]ran
  uttararnu vispastambuga kokila-vratamb' icce
  tuh[] tuhi yani grh[]r[]mapradesambulan
   // SrN 8.19

Aside from changing the meter (Sr[]n[]tha employs the Sanskritic s[]rdulavikr[]aitam meter), both Sr[]harsa's and Sr[]n[]tha's stanzas mean essentially the same thing: two birds in conversation, the one asking the other (in the poet's imagination) about a technical point of grammar. The semantic parallelism between the two is conspicuous and unsurprising since Sr[]n[]tha fashions his poem in the shadow of a well-formulated translation scheme that he works out in the preface to his composition. The principles he lays out for himself here include that where appropriate, he will try to reproduce Sr[]harsa's usages without subverting the Sanskrit poet's narrative choices nor his intended complexity of expression. In other places, Sr[]n[]tha is liberal in his impulse to emend the source text where there is perceived linguistic, aesthetic, or moral impropriety. The Telugu poet also condenses the Naisadh[]ya's lengthy cantos by collapsing several verses (sometimes as many as six) into a single verse, essentially pruning what is Sr[]harsa's penchant for exergasia--to exhaust a single theme--in verse after verse with lush description or extravagant references to an array of cultural intertexts. And there are several other such "rules" of translation that Srinatha imposes upon himself in the Srng[]ra-Naisadham. (7)

The superficial parallelism in meaning between the two verses aside, however, it is worth scrutinizing the places where Sr[]n[]tha chooses not to mimic the Naisadh[]ya's diction. It is in these variant expressions that one may explore the role played by the hermeneutic consciousness of Sanskrit commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya in informing the creative choices of Sr[]n[]tha. Comparing these two verses again makes evident that the rich academic discourse that accompanied the Sanskrit sources had an important function in mediating the dialogue between the Sanskrit source and the regional language translation. The very first word of the verse, for instance, finds Srinatha collapsing the Sanskrit iha ... ussai with pr[]tahk[]lamu ('in the morning'). This revealingly resembles the gloss of virtually every Sanskrit commentator on the verse, where prabhate or pratah-kale paraphrases Sriharsa's iha ... usasi. Sr[]n[]tha translates with the closely resonant Telugu pr[]tahk[]lamu.

Next, we notice that Sr[]n[]tha chooses to retain the core of Sriharsa's playful verse by citing the Paninian affix-marker tatan, while showing with his substitution panin[]patyoktas[]tram that he rejects the most common reading phanibhavas[]stra in favor of an alternative found in commentary. Sr[]n[]tha's choice reflects a significant commentarial antecedent. The early Sanskrit commentators disagree about the correct reading here: all commentators, except C[]ndupandita, seem to favor the reading that refers to Pata[]jali's Mahabhasya (that is to say, "the sastra produced by 'phani' or Sesanaga," i.e., Patanjali. (8) But the thirteenth-century commentator Candupandita insists that phanibhavasastre sire is the wrong reading and should be emended to panibhavathstre, taking the reference to be to Mini's Astadhyayi itself. He explicates panibhavah as papino'patyam, cross-referencing Panini's sutra 6.4.165 gathi-vidathi-kesi-gani-paninas ca to arrive at his conclusion. In all likelihood the reference is probably to the Mahabhasya, as there is a long discussion in the Bhasya on sutra 1.1.53 which questions the replacement by tat of the entire endings tit and hi and not just their final sounds. Still, since Patalijali does not deal with the actual sutra 7.1.35 (tuhyos tatan asisyanyatarasyam), Candupandita is justified in thinking that the poet's explicit mention of the sutra in the verse signals that his intention was to refer to, Pirtninrs work and not to Patanjali's. Regardless of the correctness of the textual quibble, Sr[]n[]tha chooses to supersede the most common reading and side with C[]ndupandita's interpretation by rendering the source text's panibhavas[]stra with his own panin[]patyoktas[]stra, which follows C[]ndupandita's explanation panino patyarn. While there is no attempt here to link Sr[]n[]tha with Candupandita historically, it is likely that Sr[]n[]tha is aware, along with the Sanskrit commentators, of the technical issues of grammar involved with the verse and clearly this grammatical consciousness informs his own creative choices.

Furthermore, we may observe the most marked parallel between the Sanskrit commentaries and Sr[]n[]tha in the second and fourth padas of his verse. Sr[]harsa merely suggests the actual sounds of the birds being repeated again and again by indicating that the crow used some form of the Sanskrit word kim and the kokila's response was tuhi. The Sanskrit commentators unpack their poet's implication by staging the dialogue explicitly. Candupandita renders the crow's repeated cawing as kim kim and the kokila's repetitive reply as tuh[] tuh[], while the fifteenth-century commentator N[]r[]yana has the crow abrasively repeating kau kau, while the cuckoo tuh[] tuh[] ("which two, which two?"; "tu and hi, tu and hi"). (10) Sr[]n[]tha apparently shares NSr[]n[]tha apparently shares N[]r[]yana's view and incorporates the commentary-like gloss into his own verse. And so, rather than merely implying the sounds as Sriharsa does, Sr[]n[]tha downloads the entire commentarial expansion into his verse. Unlike Bhalan, Sr[]n[]tha chooses not to reconfigure the details of this verse into a prosaic, explanatory mode. His translation seeks both to reproduce Sr[]harsa's image and imaginative analogy and also to echo the rhythms of Sr[]harsa's verse. In this way, he makes the image more comprehensible for the reader, by expanding the implied dialogue between the two birds, but does not take the moment out of its immediate context by explaining the fancy the way a Sanskrit commentator might. Mallin[]tha, for example, summarizes verse 19.60 after glossing its lexical terms in the following way:
  paksi-prabhrt[]n[]m avyakta-dhvan[]
  yasya cetasi yad udeti sa tathaiva manah-kalpitam
  prak[]sayati. evam ca kavir ayam t[]d[]
  k[]ka-dhvanim k[]v iti kokila-dhvanim ca
  tuh[]ti kalpayitv[] k[]v iti
  tuh[]ti ca k[]ka-kokila-k[]jitena
  p[]rvokta-prasnottaratvam utprekyate.
  prabh[]tam j[]tam k[]k[]dayah
  paksinah k[]jantiti bh[]vah.

  The indistinct sounds of morning birds awakens an
  imaginative thought in the poet who, imagining the
  crow to say kau and the cuckoo tuh[], fancies
  the previously recounted question-and-answer
  dialogue between the crow and the cuckoo. The idea
  here is built on the fact that birds, such as the
  crow, warble when the morning comes.

Were Sr[]n[]tha composing for "children" and the "dull-witted," as Bh[]lan makes clear he is doing in his preface, he might have composed a verse along the lines of the prosaic explanation Mallin[]tha provides above. (11) Clearly, however, his translation of this verse is meant for learned Telugu audiences and Sanskrit scholars alike.


It appears that, at least in part, regional language translations like the Nal[]khy[]n and the Naisadhamu serve the function of Sanskrit commentaries without necessarily supplanting the continued production of commentaries in certain academic or institutional contexts. Translations like Bh[]lan's render the Sanskrit text's dense poetic tropes, lexicon, and syntax comprehensible and accessible for local audiences that include both the Sanskrit and non-Sanskrit literati. Where Bh[]lan's translation seeks some form of dynamic equivalence with Sr[]harsa's poem, giving primacy to the Sanskrit text's content, Sr[]n[]tha seeks both a formal semantic and morphological equivalence with its source text. His translation condenses, expands, and makes more accessible the source text--also commentarial practices and aims but goes further in many cases not only to reproduce the sonic and semantic effects of the Sanskrit source in a new regional idiom but also to refine and enhance it. Alongside this trend of regional-language translations working in tandem with the Sanskrit commentaries as conduits of Sanskrit literary production for diverse audiences, another kind of work also invites attention in this regard: the intra-lingual translation. (12) One remarkable example from the Nala tradition, from the thirteenth century, is the Orissa poet Krsn[]nanda's Sahrday[]nanda. (13) This poem appeals to the Sanskrit reader's previous experience of listening to (or reading) the Naiyadh[]ya, and, in reproducing word clusters and images used by Sriharsa, it relies on meta-linguistic reference to create a wholly new equivalence with its source text.

Krishnamachariar explains in his History of Classical Sanskrit Literature (1972: 184) that Krsn[]nanda's "indebtedness to Naisadhiyacarita being apparent, it is easy to fix his time between Sr[]harsa and Visvan[]tha, thus placing him at about the thirteenth century." An interesting conjecture, cited in numerous places including by Krishnamachariar himself, holds that Krsn[]nanda (like Sr[]n[]tha) himself wrote a Sanskrit commentary on the Naisadh[]ya as well. If this commentary did exist, it could be considered one of the earliest on the poem, contemporaneous with Candupandita's. In his Hindi introduction to the text, Vachaspati Dvivedi provocatively surmises that Krsn[]nanda's Sahrdayananda might not have survived the centuries were it not for its relationship with the Naisadhiya. (14) This hypothesis about its receptive history may have roots in a famous citation of a verse from the Sahrdayananda in the popular fourteenth-century poetics manual S[]hityadarpana, where Visvan[]tha cites a verse from the Sahrdayananda as an example of clear expression (prasada-guna). (15)

The number of examples in Sahrdayananda that reflect commentarial processes of amplification, abbreviation, and selective paraphrase are, even from a brief study of this text, numerous. The few critics who have looked at the Naisadhiy[]carita and the Sahrday[]nanda together do not explore the source/commentary angle any further than citing its possible connection. Instead, they cobble together a set of similarities and differences that exist between the two works, starkly noting the divergence in style and texture. Dvivedi writes that in Sr[]harsa's verse naturalness of expression is compromised by the burden placed on the poem by excessively complicated conceits. (16) He contrasts Krsn[]nanda's verse favorably to Sr[]harsa's in the following characteristics (Dvivedi 1968: 22): there is "natural-ness" to his descriptions; unlike in Sr[]harsa, there is little flashy "artistry" and showing off; there is also no forcing of sound effects like alliteration (anupr[]sa) and repeated phoneme "twinning" (yamaka); finally, Krsn[]nanda's verse does not cross the line between "poetry" (k[]vya) and "scholarship" (s[]stra), and there are no abstruse allusions inaccessible to the "ordinary" reader (1974: 184). Krishnamachariar concurs in his comparative assessment: "[Krsnananda's] poetry is very charming and in this respect contrasts very favorably with the work of Sriharsa, on which tradition says he wrote also a commentary." In forming their judgments comparing Sr[]harsa's and Krsn[]nanda's styles, both Dvivedi and Krishnamachariar seem to be influenced by the Sahityadarpana's citing of a S[]hrdayananda verse as a model of clear and natural expression--incidentally, the most important functional feature of the Sanskrit commentary.

Steering clear of typical comparisons between the two works' structural, thematic, and stylistic approach to rendering the Nala story, the following examples emphasize the intersection of a "translating" and "commentarial" consciousness evident in Krsn[]nanda's composition. Like Bh[]lan (and unlike Sr[]n[]tha), Krsn[]nanda never explicitly mentions Sr[]harsa. Both Bh[]lan and Krsn[]nanda, however, do pay their homage to the "great poet," which may reasonably be taken to refer to Vyasa, to Sr[]harsa, or to both. Following the pattern whereby South Asian poets and commentators begin their composition with a nod to the divine and a humble (and also defensive) contextualization of themselves within a lineage of great master poets, Krsn[]nanda offers an obligatory homage to Sarasvati and Vispu in 1.1 and 1.2 and then completes the familiar gesture of humility in verses 1.3-1.7, reminiscent of Kalidasa's opening to Raghuvamsa but cast in language more attuned to Sr[]harsa's style.(17) Though neither Bh[]lan's nor Krsn[]nanda's poems are openly acknowledged as translations--as Sr[]n[]tha's is--both are informed by distinct hermeneutic practices and the impulses that guide them. The translating consciousness of the Sahrday[]nanda, as would be expected, differs from the regional language translations in significant ways. Unlike Bh[]lan and Sr[]n[]tha, there is no "non-Sanskrit" audience for whom the poet translates the verses from the Naisadhiya. In actuality then, calling it a translation signifies more its relationship to Sanskrit commentaries on the Naisadhiya (and to other classic mahakavyas, as is shown below) than to the actual source text. It is clear that in several places Krsn[]nanda reproduces Sr[]harsa's diction directly in his verse, while in most cases he paraphrases--in the ways Bh[]lan and Sr[]n[]tha do--a Naisadhiya commentary-like gloss and inserts it skillfully into his own work.

Take, for example, the famous scene where Nala first encounters the gold hamsa bird (hiranmaya-hamsa) that will shortly become his go-between with Damayanti. Na[]sadhiyacarita 1.117 and 1.118 describe the scene as follows:
  payodhi-laksm[]musi keli-palvale riramsu-
  hamsi-kalan[]da-sadaram / sa tatra citram
  vicarantam antike hiranmayam hamsam abodhi
  naisadhah // Nc 1.117 Near a pleasant pool
  which had the ocean's loveliness, Nala awoke
  to a hamsa bird made of gold, stirring nearby,
  absorbed in the indistinct cooing of its
  aroused beloved.

  priy[]su b[]lasu rata-ksam[]su
  ca dvipatritam pallavitam ca bibhratam / smararjitam
  r[]ga-mah[]-ruhankuram misena
  ca[]cvos carana-dvayasya ca // 1.118 For his
  beloveds-- submitting--to their arousal-- he was
  bearing a pair of leaves with tender shoots, in the
  guise of his red beak and feet, born
  of Love and sprouts of Passion's red tree.

The most marked word in the first of these verses is "awoke," which in Sr[]harsa's text is the wrist form abodhi, a word that Sanskrit commentators gloss with any number of terms conveying the more logical meaning of "saw"--that Nala saw the bird. Mallinatha and C[]ndupandita, for example, gloss abodhi with the perfect form dadarsa (18)--the very same word used by Krsn[]nanda in Sahrday[]nanda 1.60:
  mukhe priy[]v[]h pranay[]nubandh[]d
  b[]lam mrn[]lankuram arpayantam /
  sarojin[]-patra-nisaunam ekam hiranmayam hamsam
  asau dadarsa // Sahrd 1.60 Nala saw a hamsa made of
  gold, sitting on the leaf of the lotus, serving his
  beloved's mouth fresh lotus sprouts, out of love.

While keeping the metrical resonance of the source exactly intact to create a formal equivalence, the replacement of the suggestive usage of the marked verb signifying "[spiritual] awakening" (abodhi) to a more literal gloss of "seeing" (dadarsa) suggests a commentator's touch and also deflates the Vedantin Sriharsa's allusive connection of the gold haipsa and the atman to which, in allegorical readings of Nasadhiya, Nala "awakens" when he confronts it. (19) Krsnananda, unlike later modern commentators, seems uninterested in the Advaita resonance of Nala's encounter with the bird.

In addition to the pregnant replacement of the word abodhi with dadarsa, Sahrdayananda 1.60 also collapses the two involved descriptions of Nala's first sighting of the hantya in Naisadhiya 1.117 and 1.118 into a single verse that manages to carry virtually verbatim a portion of the source text with an important divergence that reflects a commentator's pointed intervention. What Nala sees in the Sahrdayananda after recognizing the male hamsa is only one beloved of the bird; the Nala of Naitcadhiya sees multiple beloveds. On the surface, this may merely reflect an aesthetic choice (making singular Sriharsa's pluralization). More likely is that Krsnananda's imagery reflects a creative choice made by a poet with a commen-tator's awareness of the complex idea embedded under the surface of Sriharsa's language. The Naisadhiya verses present quite a complicated image upon whose sense the commentators do not agree. Narayana's idea seems to be that there are two beloveds--one experienced in lovemaking and one relatively inexperienced. The hamsa, therefore, gives tender lotus sprouts to the young one whom he loves less than the experienced beloved, to whom he gives the lotus leaves. Krsnananda seems to focus only on the young beloved, making a point that the hainsa placed the sprouts directly in her mouth, implicitly with his own mouth-- giving her, as Narayana suggests, something akin to a loving kiss. (20) He does not pluck the leaves for a second beloved but merely sits on the lotus leaf. Mallinatha echoes this explanation and cites the verse as exhibiting a suggestive force that is built on complex tropic structure (alankara-dhvani); he lists at least four complex semantic tropes (arthalankara) in the verse: metaphor (rupaka), concealment (apahnuti), hyperbole (atisayokti), and poetic fancy (utpreksa). In order to reduce the complexity and yet keep the most charming suggestion in Sriharsa's verse intact-- that the male hamsa effectively kisses the female as he delivers the stalk into her mouth with his mouth--Krsnananda astutely abbreviates the image to say only that the bird served "his beloved's mouth" out of love.

By and large, commentators' practices of expansion or contraction provide Krsn[]nanda with a creative prompt rather than an explanatory one. The Sahrday[]nanda tends not to mimic the specific imagery of the Naisadh[]ya' s conceits (as we see in the two regional language poets) but rather echoes its tone--playful, prone to piling one trope upon another, and deeply referential (to itself and to cultural intertexts)--without generating the renowned complexity of Sr[]harsa's composition. Thus, for instance, he suggests Sr[]harsa's clever etymology of Damayanti's name by providing one of her father Virasena or of Nala; (21) he has Kamadeva describe Damayanti's beauty from head to toe (nakha-sikha-varnana / padadi-kesanta) in a few verses rather than reproducing Nala's elaborate mental description of Damayanti in canto seven of the Naisadh[]ya; he replaces the famous "lament of the hamsa" verses from the Naisadh[]ya (harnsa-vilapa) with similar ones addressed to a monkey that Nala encounters and frees out of compassion while hunting (Sahrdayananda 1.56). Krsn[]nanda's consciousness of the Naisadh[]ya' s tone and texture is found everywhere in the early cantos of the Sahrday[]nanda, as is his deep awareness of the possibilities that exegetical modalities of expression hold to further his creative aims. The following verse from the second canto of the Sahrdayananda reflects the ways in which the poet Krsn[]nanda channels Krsn[]nanda the commentator:
  vidh[]ya madhyam sutanos tath[] tanum
  babh[]va tad-bhanga-bhay[]kulo
  vidhilt / yad esa pascat trivali-misad amum
  cak[]ra haimair valayair vrtam tribh[]h //
  Sahrd 2.56 So slender he made that delicate
  Damayanti's waist that he feared it might snap.
  And so, right afterwards, the Creator protected it
  with three golden harnesses--conjured ad the three
  flesh folds around her mid-section.

Krsn[]nanda's clever verse stands as a sequel thematically to Naisadh[]ya 2.34 and 2.35 and its form creatively contracts Sriharsa's exergasia in form (only one verse)--something commentators often do by simply ignoring the second verse as repetitive (punar-ukta) and, therefore, superfluou--s and simultaneously expands Sr[]harsa's invocation of the corporal phenomenon of trivali through an etymological analysis familiar to commentarial modes of observation. (22) In 2.34 Sr[]harsa imagines the Creator sculpting Damayant[]'s body with four fingers on the front and the thumb in the back: the four fingers produce three thin folds of flesh above her naval (trivali) and the thumb fashions the arched curvature of her back; in 2.35 Sriharsa fancies the indentations left by the four fingers squeezing her waist as the three flesh-folds and the decorative gold chain women wear around their waist:
  udaratn nata-madhya-prsthat[]-sphutad
  angustha-paden[] mustind /
  krtam dama-svasuh // Nc 2.34 Made beautiful
  was the mid-section of Dama's sister by the
  Creator's fist around her belly: three
  flesh-folds squeezed out between the spaces
  of the four fingers; the arch in the lower
  back made by the thumb's indentation.

  udaram paribh[]ti mustin[] kutuki
  ko 'pi dama-svayuh kimu / dhrta-tac-catur-
  anguliva yad-valibhir bh[]ti sahema-
  k[]ncibhih // 2.35 Is someone curious
  about the mid-section of Dama's sister? Is
  he measuring it with a fist? The four fingers
  holding it appear with three folds and a
  decorative gold chain.

Krsn[]nanda takes the imagery from both Naisadh[]ya verses but creates a wholly novel image: the three folds (and the gold chain) from Sr[]harsa's verses are converted in his verse to be three gold harnesses meant to protect her delicate waist. The Creator, Krsn[]nanda implies, fears Damayanti's waist to be too fragile and so, under the pretext of the trivali, he fashions three golden belts to protect her body from breaking. Krsn[]nanda is playing on the related words vali (fold or wrinkle) and valaya (decorative belt or the old-fashioned 'girdle'). Mallin[]tha analyzes the grammatical implication of this move in Sr[]harsa's text, which Krsn[]nanda is also clearly aware of--that the dvigu compound trivali (three folds of flesh) can be uncoupled and the word vali pluralized to valaya (see Mallin[]tha on Naisadh[]ya 2.34). The play lies in the fact that the term valaya itself is a noun which means 'belt or decorative girdle'. Once again, Krsn[]nanda's creativity-- the verse is beautifully alliterated--fuses the word games played by poet and commentator.


Many more examples could be cited from the Sahrday[]nanda, as well as from Nal[]khy[]n and Naisadhamu, to illustrate a conscious process of complex kavya translation during the middle centuries of the second millennium C.E., involving not only the Sanskrit source text but also the implied commentarial theories and actual practices that attended that source. Toward this end this essay has attempted to contribute to the ongoing conversation on the subject of "vernacularization" in South Asia.(23) By culling several passages from two inter-lingual, regional-language translations of the Sanskrit classic Naisadh[]yacarita and complementing them with passages from an intra-lingual translation in the form of the Sanskrit poem Sahrdayananda, I have aimed to explore the level of intimacy that these creative texts share with the hermeneutic documents that serve and preserve the Sanskrit source poem. I have argued that commentaries mediate the conversation between the creative texts of Sanskrit literary culture and the new regional-language literatures that blossom after the thirteenth century. Commentaries also supply techniques, functions, and a creative logic all their own to these new literary cultures and inevitably become secondary themselves, as they share with regional-language translations the function of being bearers of Sanskrit literary culture to new audiences, precisely those for whom the translations are designed.

The very fact that regional-language poets thought seminal Sanskrit texts to be "translat-able" implies a belief in their accessibility to non-Sanskrit audiences, challenging the notion that Sanskrit texts were untranslatable and thereby fixed on their static, canonical perches. Vigorous traditions of debate on poetics and rich experimentation with creative and exegetical forms seem to have been actively going on in the schools and salons of late medieval India. Commentaries and translations reflect the results of these institutional deliberations. Just as many modern English translations of Sanskrit literary texts reveal a strong influence of Sanskrit commentaries when they are available, or a commentarial consciousness akin to Sanskrit commentaries, it is not unreasonable to assume a similar process for Sanskrit commentaries and the nascent literary forms of India's regional languages emerging in the early centuries of the second millennium. To an ear attuned to the English language, the aesthetic ellipsis and presumed contexts of the Sanskrit original might not syntactically or semantically process very well; inserting a translated commentarial gloss or creating a new one to facilitate some sensible equivalence is often the only way to perform an act of translation. Complicated by other needs (transcending mere understanding), a similar phenomenon of translation seems to have been in operation since the first inter-and intra-lingual translations of seminal Sanskrit literary texts produced in second-millennium South Asia.

The Sanskrit commentary had been the primary mode by which readers overcame textual difficulties and enhanced their understanding, by which teachers taught grammar lessons and promoted elegant usage of the Sanskrit language, and by which critics separated by time and by space could share in a community built around the source text. Rita Copeland (1991) has argued that processes of translatio studii in the European Middle Ages involved tense disciplinary debates in the Latin academy around the use and circulation of commentaries and vernacular translations of Latin classics. Many of these debates, she argues, were focused on struggles over the primacy of grammar or rhetoric in institutional contexts of pedagogy, with commentaries favoring a focus on grammar and translations on rhetoric. Along analogous lines, could regional-language translations of Sanskrit texts be understood, in part, as new expressive modalities of an exegetical consciousness meant to challenge the need for, and influence of, Sanskrit commentaries? When they function within institutional and pedagogical contexts, Sanskrit commentary generally follows a style that focuses on problematic language details, in the process illuminating points of grammar, lexicon, and trope. Despite their ubiquitous claims to merely serve the text, they seek also to control the text, to displace it, to rewrite it, or perhaps even to supplant it. The paraphrase they offer in the spirit of elucidation is itself a kind of translation of the text. While the commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya may primarily be documents embroiled in disciplinary debates over correct reading and institutional certification, they also function, in an important way, as translations. Even the more rhetorically inclined commentary, such as N[]r[]yana's Prakata, reflects a tension between the Sanskrit commentator's impulse toward hermeneutic obligation (met by the explication of the text's grammar) and hermeneutic desire (met by varying levels of attention to the rhetoric of the text).

In the case of Bhalan, Sr[]n[]tha, andKrsn[]nanda, the point is not that the poets were necessarily reading commentaries and "translating" them. Even if the tradition that Sr[]n[]tha andKrsn[]nanda wrote commentaries on the Naisadh[]ya is not accurate, the point here is that these poets' work is nevertheless informed by a consciousness that is imbued with the Sanskrit commentaries on Sr[]harsa's poem. While Sanskrit commentaries continued to be produced for specialized contexts even after the emergence of translations as functional commentaries on Sanskrit kavya, in some measure the latter provided a more uninhibited space for rhetorical exploration. As these translations themselves entered into a pedagogical domain occupied traditionally by Sanskrit commentaries, it is probable that something akin to what Copeland argues were conflicts between the claims of rhetoric and grammar in the academic discourses of the European Middle Ages could have arisen in a South Asian context, within the theoretical systems of textual production and textual interpretation that collectively comprise Sanskrit literary discourse (sahityasastra). As a commentary on the original, the regional-language translation emphasizes the rhetoric of the source text. The latent translating impulse of formal commentary, on the other hand, is often buried in its attention to the details of grammar and the task of pedagogy. Unlike the Sanskrit commentary's ambivalent underplaying of its taking over the authority of the source text, the translation allows for more freedom to carry out this authoritative move. Whereas the commentator's ostensible service to the source text is a sine qua non, the translator can choose to be faithful or to radically emend, as each of the poets discussed above do. In light of their role in academic institutions, commentaries often have little leeway to veer from their conformity to the style and substance demanded from the contexts of their production.

Generally, the translation into a regional language is a creative act first, and only then a commentary. On the other hand, the commentator is free to provide multiple explications and to let his inventiveness wander, either in the circumscribed world of grammatical possibility or through the invocation of wide cultural reference. The translator can generally only make one choice. These poets' exegetical interests lie not only in transferring the Sanskrit masterpiece to a form accessible to Sanskrit and non-Sanskrit audiences, but also in "cleaning up," where necessary, the excesses or deficiencies of the master Sanskrit poet. The very textual characteristics that mark the Sanskrit commentary constitute an oblique mechanism for displacing the text. The translation of the Sanskrit text into the regional language, however, represents not so much a displacement of the authoritative source text as an appropriation of the hermeneutic function and perhaps the very form of the academic discourse that mediates between the source text and the translation. The resultant creative text then functions as both new source and repository of hermeneutic practice. Naisadhamu and Nal[]khy[]n, as much as they purport to rewrite the Naisadh[]ya, also serve as commentaries on it. They themselves were, inevitably, the subjects of their own commentarial tradition. (24)

Without more studies on the reception of canonical Sanskrit mah[]k[]vyas, it is difficult to gauge to what extent one can generalize this discussion of commentary and translation away from the specific literary history of the Naisadh[]ya and toward a broader theory of translatio shalt? in South Asia. Indeed, the Naisadhiya's literary history seems ideally situated in many respects to attract the kind of attention I have given it here, since it is the most heavily commented-upon and most widely translated mah[]k[]vya in Sanskrit. With approximately fifty known Sanskrit commentaries on the poem and multiple translations and adaptations, the Naisadhiya stands apart from most other mah[]k[]vyas. (25) Also telling is the number of creative works written by known or attested commentators of Naisadh[]va. (26) Despite its well-traveled record, it seems unlikely, however, that the Naisadh[]ya is unique. Sanskrit sources, Sanskrit commentaries, regional language translations and their commentaries, and newer Sanskrit and regional-language works fundamentally tied to their older sources occupy a shared domain in ways that have perhaps escaped notice in a milieu that privileges each of these source-types as semi-autonomous developments of literary culture. Perhaps studies of literary developments in all phases of South Asia's history may find it fruitful to see hermeneutic and creative discourses commingling within broader institutional contexts, spurred on by shifting disciplinary agendas and newly emergent codes of literary production and reception. Taken together, they may offer an example of a process by which the creative text, the commentary, and the adaptation of commentary into creative text operated in South Asian contexts and in all probability still operates. (27)


Copeland, Rita. 1991. Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages, Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Dvivedi, Vachaspati. 1968. Sahrdayananda of Mah[]kavi Sr[]krsnananda. Varanasi: Chowkhambha Vidyabhavan.

Goldman, Robert. 1992. Translating Texts Translating Texts: Issues in the Translation of Popular Literary Texts with Multiple Commentaries. Translation East and West: A Cross-cultural Approach. Pp. 93-105. East-West Center: Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa.

Hallisey, Charles. 2003. Works and Persons in Sinhala Literary Culture. In Pollock 2003a. Pp. 689-746.

Jani, A. N. 1957. A Critical Study of Sriharsa's Naisadhacaritam. Baroda: Oriental Institute.

Jaydev, Jani. 1997. Naisadhamah[]k[]vya with C[]ndupandita's Commentary. Jodhpur: Rajasthan Oriental Research Institute.

Krishnamachariar, M. 1974. History of Classical Sanskrit Literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Lal, Mohan, ed. 1992. Encyclopedia of Indian Literature, vol. 5. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

Mansinha, Mayadhar. 1962. History of Oriya Literature. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

Narayana Rao, Velcheru. 2003. Multiple Literary Cultures in Telugu. In Pollock 2003a. Pp. 383-436.

Narayana Rao, Velcheru, and David Shulman. 2002. Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press.

--. 2008. Notes on Naisadhamu. Unpublished manuscript.

Patel, Deven M. 2006. The Evolution of a Sanskrit Literary Culture: A Study of the Naisadha Tradition in Light of Its Commentaries and Receptive Histories. Ph.D. diss., Univ. of California, Berkeley.

Forthcoming. Text, Code, and Commentary: Religious and Mystical Readings of the Naisadhiyacarita-mahakavya. To appear in Proceedings of the 13th World Sanskrit Conference, Edinburgh (July 2006).

Pollock, Sheldon. 1998. India in the Vernacular Millennium: Literary Culture and Polity, 1000-1500. Daedalus 127: 41-74.

--. 2003. Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out. In Pollock 2003a. Pp. 39-130.

--. ed. 2003a. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press.

--. 2006. The Language of the Gods in the World of Men. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press.

Sanadhyashastri, Devarsi, ed. 1984-87. Naisadhacaritam with J[]v[]tu Commentary of Mallin[]tha. Krishnadas Sanskrit Series, vol. 52. Varanasi: Krishnadas Akademi.

Sharma, Shivadatta, ed. 1998. Naisadhacaritam: Sriman-narayana-tika-viracitaya vyakhya. Lucknow: Uttara-pradega Samskrta Samsth[]na.

Shastri, C. N. 1987. "Commentary--Telugu," in Encyclopedia of Indian Literature, vol. 1, ed. Amaresh Datta. Pp. 766-68. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

Shastri, K. K., ed. 1957. Bh[]lanakrta Nal[]khyana. Vadodara: Pr[]cina Gurjara-grantham[]l[], M.S. University.

Shulman, David, and Yigal Bronner, 2006. A Cloud Turned Goose: Sanskrit in the Vernacular Millennium. Indian Economic & Social Review 43: 1-30.

Until, N. P. 1977. Nala Episode in Sanskrit Literature. Trivandrum: College Book House.

Yashaschandra, Sitanshu. 2003. From Hemacandra to Hind Svar[]j: Region and Power in Gujarati Literary Culture. In Pollock 2003a. Pp. 567-611.

(1.) Important discussions of this subject include Pollock 2003, which contains essays on the literary histories of Sanskrit and India's regional literatures; Pollock 2006, which comprehensively treats the role Sanskrit literature played historically in India's regions; and Shulman and Bronner 2006, an introductory essay on the complex role of Sanskrit literary culture in many of the regions of South Asia and, in particular, southern India. See also Robert Goldman's essay (1992) on Sanskrit commentary and translation practices in the late medieval and early modern period.

(2.) Writing commentaries on other important works of Sanskrit culture like Mammata's K[]vyaprak[]sa and Udayana's Ny[]yakusum[]njali also conferred such an honor on their scholarly authors. In recent times the entire Naisadhiya was a required text for advanced university students to receive an []c[]rya degree in Sanskrit scholarship. See Patel 2006: 11.

(3.) See Yashaschandra 2003: 580-81, 588 for a lengthy discussion on Bh[]lan and his pivotal role in the formation of early Gujarati literary culture.

(4.) Sr[]harsa's word is dvi-ph[]la (two bunches of hair) while Bhalan uses the word amboda in his translation --still the modern Gujarati word for the single bun women generally tie at the lop of the hack of their head.

(5.) Narayana Rao arid Shulman 2008: 5. The passages provided here (and that follow) are taken from a preliminary unpublished essay entitled "Notes on Naisadhumu." Some form ot it will shoriy become available as part of a forthcoming volume on Sr[]n[]tha by these authors. I thank them both for their personal assistance in the Roman transliteration of the Telugu text.

(6.) Although no longer extant, a recovered part of the colophon of this commentary indicates that the author was the son of Srikar[]c[]rya and was patronized by Singama N[]yadu (Sarvajna) in the mid--fourteenth century. See Krishanainaehariar 1974: 182 n. 15 and Jani 1957: 74.

(7.) See Narayana Rao and Shulman 2002: 26-27 and Lal 1992: 4171.

(8.) N[]r[]yaria, for example, says: phaninah sesad bhavam utpannam mah[]bhasya-lakyana-s[]stram. Mallin[]tha also clearly explains: s[]stre paniniye mah[]bh[]sye.

(9.) tath[] ca panino patyam p[]ninih. g[]thi-vidathi-kesi-gani-paninas ca iti. phani-bhava ity asuddhah p[]thah. tuhyor iti hi s[]tram panineh na to bh[]syak[]rasya.

(10.) C[]ndupandita renders the implied dialogue of the birds as follows: v[]yaso hi pr[]tah kim kim iti sebdam karoti sa ca prcch[]-vacakah ... tuhi tuhi iti sabdam pr[]tah pikah karoti. N[]r[]yana similarly explains: kau k[]v iti niyata-bh[]sin[] v[]yasena ... k[]kah svabhavat kau kav iti pratham[]-dvivacan[]ntam prasna-sabdam br[]te kokilas ca tuhi tuhi iti.

(11.) Bh[]l[]n, like many of the Sanskrit commentators on Naisadh[]ya, begins the preface of his work with a deferential nod to his sources and to those more learned or fortunate than he. In particular, Bh[]lan congratulates (tongue-in-cheek) those who can enjoy the great sources of Sanskrit literature in the original. It is for "vernacular" audiences, however, who are like "children"/ "uninitiated" (b[]l[]) or the "dull-witted" (muraka-jana), that he has composed his Nalakhyan, according to Bhalan. Since the Gujarati poet is obviously proud of his own work, the playful insincerity mimics, in some form, the self-deprecation one often sees in the prefaces of Sanskrit commentators. See especially Nal[]khy[]n 1.2 naisadha camp[] mah[]bh[]ratamam kavi k[]riti ati l[]dh[] / k[]l[]mne pr[]chava bh[]lane bh[]k[]e e k[]dh[] // "Poet Vyasa wrote about the Nab episode in the Mahabharata and became famous. But Bhalan did it in a regional tongue so that even a child could understand" and Nal[]khyan 1.6 talamaye sakala artha-pada-bandhe bandhum nalakhyan / muraka-jana moho karavane bhalana kave abhimane // "My Nal[]khyan: everywhere word and meaning are joined with rhythmic cadence. Bhalan proudly sings to enchant the dull-witted."

(12.) Shulman and Bronner, in discussing "regional" Sanskrit literature's functional relationship with "vernacular" literary production, observe: "Sanskrit participated along with the vernaculars in the project of inventing and elaborating distinctive regional cultures and identities. Far from occluding such regional distinctiveness or uniqueness, Sanskrit is now employed precisely to articulate it." See Shulman and Bronner 2006: 6. It may be useful to explore elsewhere the ways in which Sanskrit poems like Sahrday[]nanda function alongside texts composed in the "vernaculars" not only to articulate a "regionality" but also to reflect a shared compositional practice heavily reliant on exegetical purpose and strategy.

(13.) Krsnananda, as the manuscript colophons make clear, was a minister from a Kayastha family in Puri. He was born in the Kapinjala kula and held the title (up[]dhi) of "S[]ndhi-vigrahlka mah[]p[]tra" (shared by Vigvan[]tha, author of S[]hityadarpana).

(14.) yah[]m k[]ran hai ki mah[]kavi krsn[]nanda racit sahrday[]nanda mah[]k[]vya bh[] sam[]drt na ho sak[] our kramasha vismrti ke garbh mem vil[]n ho gay[].

(15.) See S[]hityadarpana 8.611. Krsn[]nanda's verse cited here (3.52) reads s[]c[]-mukhena sakrd eva krta-vranas tvam mukt[]kal[]pa luthasi stanayoh priy[]y[]h / b[]naih smarasya sataso 'pi nikrtta-matm[] svapne 'pi tam katham (aham na vilokay[]mi // "Ah, pearl necklace! Wounded by a single prick of the needle, you roll around my beloved's breasts. Cut to the vitals a hundred times by Love's arrows, how is it that 1 don't get to see her even in dreams?"

(16.) is se sv[]bh[]vikat[] nast ho gayi evam atsayokti-p[]rn uktyiyom se k[]vya bojhil ho uth[].

(17.) dosodaye tosam api prapannah khalas tul[]m eti na kausikasya / p[]rvasya sarvatra vipaksat[]sti nisargato nyasya sapaksataiva // dh[]tra khal[]nam ca satam ca kimcid vivecan[]rtham kriyate nct cihnam / parasya dosesu gunesu c[]m[] pramoda-l[]bh[]t prakat[]-bhavanti // pratnasya k[]vyasya ca nutanasya tulyah svabhavah pratibhdsate me / mrjabhir ete nipunaih krtabhih samasnuvate hi gunantaranti // to eva nanam saphalodayah syur muktah prasann[]h kavi-s[]ktayas ca / gunopapatty[] kaman[]ya-gumph[]h kanthe satam y[]h padam []pnuvanti // atretivrtte racita-prabandhe kruddh[] mudh[] m[]stu kavih pur[]nah / na spardhay[] vyomni sahasra-dh[]mnah khadyotakah sv[]m dyutim []tanoti // 1.3-1.7.

(18.) Mallin[]tha on Naisash[]ya / 1.117: hamsam abodhi dadarsetyartha.

(19.) At least two examples from Andhra Pradesh in the twentieth century confirm that the Naisadh[]ya continues to be read as an allegory of spiritual significance from the point of view of Advaita Ved[]nta or Sr[]vidy[] tantra. Sec Patel, forthcoming.

(20.) smar[]rjitam kamotpannam r[]go 'nur[]gas tal-laksano r[]ga-mah[]ruho vrksas tasy[]nkuram bibhratam yath[]-kramam dh[]rayantam ... b[]l[]su priy[]su cumban[]di-vy[]p[]rah.

(21.) Compare Naisadh[]ya 2.18 bhuvana-traya-subhruv[]m asau damayant[] kamaniyatet-madam / udiy[]ya yatas tanu-sriy[] damayantiti tato bhidh[]m dadhau // with Sahrday[]nanda 1.24 labdhartha-k[]marjana-kovidatvam ayam na liyeta kadapi p[]pe / itiva niscitya gurur nirmittais cakara namna nalam []tmajam tam //.

(22.) Sr[]harsa imaginatively exploits the imagery of the trivali and the rom[]vali (delicate line of hair above the naval) in no less than nine verses (2.34-35, 7.81-86, 10.27) through an array of metaphors.

(23.) The interactions between formal and content-related features of Sanskrit commentary writing and regional-language translation are present not only in translations of Sanskrit k[]vya but also in other genres, especially purefria and alamk[]rasastra. Narayana Rao proposes, for example, that Names Telugu translation of the Bh[]gavara Pur[]na can be fruitfully studied alongside the famous commentary of Sridhara on the Sanskrit Bhagavatam to tease out the kinds of relationships I have sought here among Sanskrit karya, commentary. and regional-language translation. Similarly, Narayana Rao suggests, one may also look at the ways in which Sr[]natha incorporates into his poem the language and insights of such works as Mammata's Kavyaprak[]sa, the well-known Sanskrit encomium S[]ryasataka, and Hala's Prakrit Sattasai. I thank Professor Narayana Rao for alerting me to these subjects for future research.

(24.) There are at least two known commentaries of Naiyadhamu in Telugu. the Gudhartha Prak[]sik[] of Ketavarupu Venkata Sastri (late nineteenth century) and the Sarvamkasa Vy[]khya of Vedam Venkataraya Sastri (late nineteenth and twentieth century). See Shastri 1987: 766. The seventeenth-century Gujarati poet Prem[]nand's Nedakhyfin reflects Bh[]lan's translation of the same name much in the way that Bh[]lan's composition does the Naiyadh[]yacarita. See Yashaschandra 2003: 580-81,588.

(25.) In addition to Srinatha's Naisadhamu in Telugu and Bhalan's Nalakhyan, a monumental inter-lingual translation of Sr[]harsa's poem from the pre-modern era is the Tamil Naitatam by Ativirarama Pandiyar (sixteenth century). Jani (1957: 279) notes that other works were modeled in such a way as to appear to he translations. such as the Marathi poet Narendra's Rukminisvayamvara (thirteenth century). Later translations include Gumana Misra's Hindi reworking in 1769 and Raghunatha Pandita's Damayantisvayamvara (seventeenth century), which frankly admits that the poem is a commentary on the Naisadhiya. In his survey of translations and adaptations of the. Nala story, Unni (1977) cites works from Keralite Sanskrit poets of the seventeenth century as being either modeled on the Naisadhiva (Karunakara's Nalacandrodaya) or intended as a continuation of it (Vandarubhatta Madhavan Atithiri's Uttaranaisadhiyacarita). Other works. like the anonymous Nalacaritaprabandha campu, are direct translations. Another important creative reworking of the Naisadhiya comes from the Oriya chautisa tradition (lyrical ballad narratives) which culminated in translations of mah[]k[]vya: the Naisadhiyacarita was for example, recast in Oriya as the L[]banyavati by the royal poet Upendra Bhanja in the seventeenth century. See Mansinha 1962: 114-17.

(26.) These include the Pratinaisadha, a mh[]k[]vya written during Shah Jehan's reign in the seventeenth century and composed by' Naisadhiya commentator Srividyadhara: the drama Ma[]julanaisadha, written by commentator Venkataranganatha in the nineteenth century; and the well-known Sahrday[]nanda (treated above) by thirteenth-century Krsn[]nanda. a reputed commentator of the Naiyadh[]ya whose commentary is attested to but no longer available.

(27.) I thank George Cardona and V. Narayana Rao for their reading of this paper and for their gracious advice for improving it. In addition to this journal's two anonymous readers, I am especially grateful to David Buchta for his insightful suggestions and editorial assistance.

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Author:Patel, Deven M.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Essay
Date:Apr 1, 2011
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