The Kadambari of Bana
Category: Novels
Level 8.74 10:26 h
Shudraka rules over a powerful kingdom in Vidisha. A forest-dwelling maiden visits the king and presents him with a magical parrot. Soon after being made comfortable by the king, the parrot begins to speak and offers to tell the king his interesting tale. The Kadambari of Bana is a novel written in Sanskrit in two parts. Banabhatta penned the first half, and his son completed the second half. Read this tale written by two generations of family and published in the 7th century CE.

The Kādambarī of Bāṇa

Bana Bhushanabhatta

Translated by C. M. Ridding

The Kadambari of Bana


The story of Kādambarī is interesting for several reasons. It is a standard example of classical prose; it has enjoyed a long popularity as a romance; and it is one of the comparatively few Sanskrit works which can be assigned to a certain date, and so it can serve as a landmark in the history of Indian literature and Indian thought.

The Author

Bāṇabhaṭṭa, its author, lived in the reign of Harshavardhana of Thāṇeçar, the great king mentioned in many inscriptions, who extended his rule over the whole of Northern India, and from whose reign (A.D. 606) dates the Harsha era, used in Nepal. Bāṇa, as he tells us, both in the ‘Harsha-Carita’ and in the introductory verses of ‘Kādambarī,’ was a Vātsyāyana Brahman. His mother died while he was yet young, and his father’s tender care of him, recorded in the ‘Harsha-Carita,’ was doubtless in his memory as he recorded the unselfish love of Vaiçampāyana’s father in ‘Kādambarī’ (p. 22). In his youth he travelled much, and for a time ‘came into reproach,’ by reason of his unsettled life; but the experience gained in foreign lands turned his thoughts homewards, and he returned to his kin, and lived a life of quiet study in their midst. From this he was summoned to the court of King Harsha, who at first received him coldly, but afterwards attached him to his service; and Bāṇa in the ‘Harsha-Carita’ relates his own life as a prelude to that of his master.

The other works attributed to him are the ‘Caṇḍikāçataka,’ or verses in honour of Caṇḍikā; a drama, ‘The Pārvatīpariṇaya’; and another, called ‘Mukuṭatāḍitaka,’ the existence of which is inferred from Guṇavinayagaṇi’s commentary on the ‘Nalacampū.’ Professor Peterson also mentions that a verse of Bāṇa’s (‘Subhāshitāvali,’ 1087) is quoted by Kshemendra in his ‘Aucityavicāracarcā,’ with a statement that it is part of a description of Kādambarī’s sorrow in the absence of Candrāpīḍa, whence, he adds, ‘it would seem that Bāṇa wrote the story of Kādambarī in verse as well as in prose,’ and he gives some verses which may have come from such a work.

Bāṇa himself died, leaving ‘Kādambarī’ unfinished, and his son Bhūshaṇabhaṭṭa took it up in the midst of a speech in which Kādambarī’s sorrows are told, and continued the speech without a break, save for a few introductory verses in honour of his father, and in apology for his having undertaken the task, ‘as its unfinished state was a grief to the good.’ He continued the story on the same plan, and with careful, and, indeed, exaggerated, imitation of his father’s style.

The Plot of Kādambarī

The story of ‘Kādambarī’ is a very complex one, dealing as it does with the lives of two heroes, each of whom is reborn twice on earth.

(1–47) A learned parrot, named Vaiçampāyana, was brought by a Caṇḍāla maiden to King Çūdraka, and told him how it was carried from its birthplace in the Vindhyā Forest to the hermitage of the sage Jābāli, from whom it learnt the story of its former life.

(47–95) Jābāli’s story was as follows: Tārāpīḍa, King of Ujjayinī, won by penance a son, Candrāpīḍa, who was brought up with Vaiçampāyana, son of his minister, Çukanāsa. In due time Candrāpīḍa was anointed as Crown Prince, and started on an expedition of world-conquest. At the end of it he reached Kailāsa, and, while resting there, was led one day in a vain chase of a pair of kinnaras to the shores of the Acchoda Lake. (95–141) There he beheld a young ascetic maiden, Mahāçvetā, who told him how she, being a Gandharva princess, had seen and loved a young Brahman Puṇḍarīka; how he, returning her feeling, had died from the torments of a love at variance with his vow; how a divine being had carried his body to the sky, and bidden her not to die, for she should be reunited with him; and how she awaited that time in a life of penance. (141–188) But her friend Kādambarī, another Gandharva princess, had vowed not to marry while Mahāçvetā was in sorrow, and Mahāçvetā invited the prince to come to help her in dissuading Kādambarī from the rash vow. Love sprang up between the prince and Kādambarī at first sight; but a sudden summons from his father took him to Ujjayinī without farewell, while Kādambarī, thinking herself deserted, almost died of grief.

(188–195) Meanwhile news came that his friend Vaiçampāyana, whom he had left in command of the army, had been strangely affected by the sight of the Acchoda Lake, and refused to leave it. The prince set out to find him, but in vain; and proceeding to the hermitage of Mahāçvetā, he found her in despair, because, in invoking on a young Brahman, who had rashly approached her, a curse to the effect that he should become a parrot, she learnt that she had slain Vaiçampāyana. At her words the prince fell dead from grief, and at that moment Kādambarī came to the hermitage.

(195–202) Her resolve to follow him in death was broken by the promise of a voice from the sky that she and Mahāçvetā should both be reunited with their lovers, and she stayed to tend the prince’s body, from which a divine radiance proceeded; while King Tārāpīḍa gave up his kingdom, and lived as a hermit near his son.

(202 to end) Such was Jābāli’s tale; and the parrot went on to say how, hearing it, the memory of its former love for Mahāçvetā was reawakened, and, though bidden to stay in the hermitage, it flew away, only to be caught and taken to the Caṇḍāla princess. It was now brought by her to King Çūdraka, but knew no more. The Caṇḍāla maiden thereupon declared to Çūdraka that she was the goddess Lakshmī, mother of Puṇḍarīka or Vaiçampāyana, and announced that the curse for him and Çūdraka was now over. Then Çūdraka suddenly remembered his love for Kādambarī, and wasted away in longing for her, while a sudden touch of Kādambarī restored to life the Moon concealed in the body of Candrāpīḍa, the form that he still kept, because in it he had won her love. Now the Moon, as Candrāpīḍa and Çūdraka, and Puṇḍarīka, in the human and parrot shape of Vaiçampāyana, having both fulfilled the curse of an unsuccessful love in two births on earth, were at last set free, and, receiving respectively the hands of Kādambarī and Mahāçvetā, lived happily ever afterwards.

The plot is involved, and consists of stories within each other after the fashion long familiar to Europeans in the ‘Arabian Nights’; but the author’s skill in construction is shown by the fact that each of the minor stories is essential to the development of the plot, and it is not till quite the end that we see that Çūdraka himself, the hearer of the story, is really the hero, and that his hearing the story is necessary to reawaken his love for Kādambarī, and so at the same time fulfil the terms of the curse that he should love in vain during two lives, and bring the second life to an end by his longing for reunion. It may help to make the plot clear if the threads of it are disentangled. The author in person tells all that happens to Çūdraka (pp. 3–16 and pp. 205 to end). The parrot’s tale (pp. 16–205) includes that of Jābāli (pp. 47–202) concerning Candrāpīḍa, and Vaiçampāyana the Brahman, with the story told by Mahāçvetā (pp. 101–136) of her love for Puṇḍarīka.

The Story as Told in the Kathā-Sarit-Sāgara

The story as told in the Kathā-Sarit-Sāgara of Somadeva differs in some respects from this. There a Nishāda princess brought to King Sumanas a learned parrot, which told its life in the forest, ended by a hunt in which its father was killed, and the story of its past life narrated by the hermit Agastya. In this story a prince, Somaprabha, after an early life resembling that of Candrāpīḍa, was led in his pursuit of kinnaras to an ascetic maiden, Manorathaprabhā, whose story is that of Mahāçvetā, and she took him, at his own request, to see the maiden Makarandikā, who had vowed not to marry while her friend was unwed. He was borne through the air by a Vidyādhara, and beheld Makarandikā. They loved each other, and a marriage was arranged between them. The prince, however, was suddenly recalled by his father, and Makarandikā’s wild grief brought on her from her parents a curse that she should be born as a Nishāda. Too late they repented, and died of grief; and her father became a parrot, keeping from a former birth as a sage his memory of the Çāstras, while her mother became a sow. Pulastya added that the curse would be over when the story was told in a king’s court.

The parrot’s tale reminded King Sumanas of his former birth, and on the arrival of the ascetic maiden, sent by Çiva, ‘who is merciful to all his worshippers,’ he again became the young hermit she had loved. Somaprabha, too, at Çiva’s bidding, went to the king’s court, and at the sight of him the Nishāda regained the shape of Makarandikā, and became his wife; while the parrot ‘left the body of a bird, and went to the home earned by his asceticism.’ ‘Thus,’ the story ends, ‘the appointed union of human beings certainly takes place in this world, though vast spaces intervene.’

The main difference between the stories is in the persons affected by the curse; and here the artistic superiority of Bāṇa is shown in his not attaching the degrading forms of birth to Kādambarī or her parents. The horse is given as a present to the hero by Indra, who sends him a message, saying: ‘You are a Vidyādhara, and I give you the horse in memory of our former friendship. When you mount it you will be invincible.’ The hero’s marriage is arranged before his sudden departure, so that the grief of the heroine is due only to their separation, and not to the doubts on which Bāṇa dwells so long. It appears possible that both this story and ‘Kādambarī’ are taken from a common original now lost, which may be the Bṛihatkathā of Guṇāḍhya. In that case the greater refinement of Bāṇa’s tale would be the result of genius giving grace to a story already familiar in a humbler guise.

References to Kādambarī in the Sāhitya-Darpaṇa and Elsewhere

The author of the Sāhitya-Darpaṇa speaks of the Kathā as follows: ‘In the Kathā (tale), which is one of the species of poetical composition in prose, a poetical matter is represented in verse, and sometimes the Āryā, and sometimes the Vaktra and Apavaktraka are the metres employed in it. It begins with stanzas in salutation to some divinity, as also descriptive of the behaviour of bad men and others.’ To this the commentary adds: ‘The “Kādambarī” of Bāṇabhaṭṭa is an example.’ Professor Peterson corrects the translation of the words ‘Kathāyām sarasaṃ vastu padyair eva vinirmitam,’ giving as their sense, ‘A narration in prose, with here and there a stray verse or two, of matter already existing in a metrical form.’ According to his rendering, the Kathā is in its essence a story claiming to be based on previous works in verse, whether in this case the original were Bāṇa’s own metrical version of ‘Kādambarī,’ or the work which was also the original of the Kathā-Sarit-Sāgara story.

The story of Puṇḍarīka and Mahāçvetā receives mention, firstly, for the introduction of death, contrary to the canon; secondly, for the determination of the nature of their sorrow, and its poetic quality, and consequent appeal to the feelings of the reader. Firstly: (§ 215) ‘Death, which is a condition to which one may be brought by love, is not described in poetry and the drama, where the other conditions, such as anxiety, etc., are constantly described, because it, instead of enhancing, causes the destruction of “Flavour.” But it may be spoken of (1) as having nearly taken place, or (2) as being mentally wished for; and it is with propriety described (3) if there is to be, at no distant date, a restoration to life.’ The commentary takes the story of Puṇḍarīka as an example of the third condition, and describes it as a ‘case of pathetic separation.’ Secondly: (§ 224) ‘Either of two young lovers being dead, and being yet to be regained through some supernatural interposition, when the one left behind is sorrowful, then let it be called the separation of tender sadness’ (karuṇavipralamhha). The commentary gives Mahāçvetā as the instance, and continues: ‘But if the lost one be not regainable, or regainable only after transmigration in another body, the flavour is called the “Pathetic” simply, there being in this case no room for any admixture of the “Erotic”; but in the case just mentioned — of Puṇḍarīka and Mahāçvetā — immediately on Sarasvatī’s declaration from the sky that the lovers should be reunited, there is the “Erotic in its form of tender sadness,” for desire arises on the expectation of reunion, but previously to Sarasvatī’s promise there was the “Pathetic”; such is the opinion of the competent authorities. And as for what some say in regard to the case of Puṇḍarīka and Mahāçvetā, that “moreover after the expectation of reunion, excited by Sarasvatī’s promise to that effect, there is merely your honour’s variety of “love in absence,” (§ 222) the one which you call “being abroad” (§ 221) — others hold it to be distinct, because of the presence of that distinction, death, which is something else than merely being abroad.’ These are the passages in which direct mention is made of ‘Kādambarī,’ and in § 735, which defines special mention (parisaṃkhyā) as taking place ‘when something is affirmed for the denial, expressed or understood, of something else similar to it,’ the commentary adds: ‘When founded upon a Paronomasia, it is peculiarly striking, e.g., “When that king, the conqueror of the world, was protecting the earth, the mixture of colours (or castes) was in painting, etc,” — a passage from the description of Çūdraka in “Kādambarī” (P. 5).’

References to Bāṇa in other works are given by Professor Peterson, so that three only need be mentioned here. The first I owe to the kindness of Professor C. Bendall. In a collection of manuscripts at the British Museum (Or., 445–447) ‘consisting chiefly of law-books transcribed (perhaps for some European) on European paper in the Telugu-Canarese character,’ one, Or., 446 c., the Kāmandakīya-Nīti-Çāstra, contains on folios 128–131 a passage from ‘Kādambarī’ (pp. 76–84, infra) on the consecration of a crown-prince, and the duties and dangers of a king. It forms part of an introduction to the Kāmandakīya-Nīti-Çāstra and occurs without any hint of its being a quotation from another work. The author of the Nalacampū not only writes a verse in honour of Bāṇa, but models his whole style upon him. A curious instance of the long popularity of ‘Kādambarī’ is that in the ‘Durgeçanandinī’ by Chattaji, an historical novel, published in 1871, and treating of the time of Akbar, the heroine is represented as reading in her boudoir the romance of ‘Kādambarī.’

The Interest of ‘Kādambarī’

It may be asked What is the value of ‘Kādambarī’ for European readers? and to different persons the answer will doubtless be different. Historical interest, so far as that depends on the narration of historical facts, appears to be entirely lacking, though it may be that at some future time our knowledge from other sources may be so increased that we may recognise portraits and allusions in what seems now purely a work of romance. But in the wider sense in which history claims to deal with the social ideas that belong to any epoch, ‘Kādambarī’ will always have value as representing the ways of thinking and feeling which were either customary or welcome at its own time, and which have continued to charm Indian readers. It is indeed true that it probably in many ways does not give a picture of contemporary manners, just as a mediæval illuminated manuscript often represents the dress and surroundings prior to the time of the illuminator, so as to gain the grace of remoteness bestowed by reverence for the past. In India, where change works but slowly, the description of the court and city life, where all the subjects show by outward tokens their sympathy with the joys and sorrows of their ruler, as in a Greek chorus, is vivid in its fidelity. The quiet yet busy life of the hermits in the forest, where the day is spent in worship and in peaceful toils, where at eve the sunbeams ‘linger like birds on the crest of hill and tree,’ and where night ‘darkens all save the hearts of the hermits,’ is full of charm.

The coronation of the crown prince, the penances performed by the queen to win a son, the reverence paid to Mahākāla, also belong to our picture of the time. The description of Ujjayinī, surrounded by the Siprā, is too general in its terms to give a vivid notion of what it then was. The site of the temple of Mahākāla is still shown outside the ruins of the old town. A point of special interest is the argument against the custom of suicide on the death of a friend. Candrāpīḍa consoles Mahāçvetā that she has not followed her lover in death by saying that one who kills himself at his friend’s death makes that friend a sharer in the guilt, and can do no more for him in another world, whereas by living he can give help by sacrifices and offerings. Those, too, who die may not be reunited for thousands of births. In the ‘Kathā-Koça’ a prince is dissuaded from following his wife to death because ‘Even the idea of union with your beloved will be impossible when you are dead’; but the occurrence of the idea in a romance is more noteworthy than in a work which illustrates Jain doctrines. The question of food as affected by caste is touched on also (p. 205), when the Caṇḍāla maiden tells the parrot that a Brahman may, in case of need, receive food of any kind, and that water poured on the ground, and fruit, are pure even when brought by the lowest. Another point to be remarked is the mention of followers of many sects as being present at court. Çiva, especially under the name of Mahākāla at Ujjayinī, receives special worship, and Agni and the Mātṛikās (p. 14) also receive reverence. The zenanas include aged ascetic women (p. 217); followers of the Arhat, Kṛishṇa, Viçravasa, Avalokiteçvara, and Viriñca (p. 162); and the courtyard of Çukanāsa has Çaivas and followers of Çākyamuni (p. 217), also Kshapaṇakas (explained by the Commentary as Digambaras). The king, however, is described as having an ūrṇā (the hair meeting between the brows), which is one of Buddha’s marks; but the Commentary describes the ūrṇā as cakravartiprabhṛitīnām eva nānyasya, so probably it only belongs to Buddha as cakravarti, or universal ruler. This shows that the reign of Harsha was one of religious tolerance. Hiouen Thsang, indeed, claims him as a Buddhist at heart, and mentions his building Buddhist stūpas, but he describes himself as a Çaiva in the Madhuban grant, and the preeminence yielded in ‘Kādambarī’ to Çiva certainly shows that his was then the popular worship.

Another source of interest in ‘Kādambarī’ lies in its contribution to folklore. It may perhaps contain nothing not found elsewhere, but the fact of its having a date gives it a value. The love of snakes for the breeze and for sandal-trees, the truth of dreams at the end of night, the magic circles, bathing in snake-ponds to gain a son, the mustard-seed and ghī put in a baby’s mouth, may all be familiar ideas, but we have a date at which they were known and not despised. Does the appeal to the truth of her heart by Mahāçvetā in invoking the curse (p. 193) rest on the idea that fidelity to a husband confers supernatural power, or is it like the ‘act of truth’ by which Buddha often performs miracles in the ‘Jātaka’?

The Style of ‘Kādambarī’

The unsettled chronology of Indian literature makes it impossible to work out at present Bāṇa’s relations with other Sanskrit writers. Professor Peterson, indeed, makes some interesting conjectures as to his connection with other authors of his own country, and also suggests, from similarity of phrase, that he may have fallen indirectly under the influence of Alexandrian literature. Be that as it may, he has been for many centuries a model of style, and it is therefore worth while to consider briefly the characteristics of his style compared with European standards. The first thing that strikes the reader is that the sense of proportion, the very foundation of style as we know it, is entirely absent. No topic is let go till the author can squeeze no more from it. In descriptions every possible minor detail is given in all its fulness; then follows a series of similes, and then a firework of puns. In speeches, be they lamentations or exhortations, grief is not assuaged, nor advice ended, till the same thing has been uttered with every existing variety of synonym. This defect, though it springs from the author’s richness of resource and readiness of wit, makes the task of rendering in English the merit of the Sanskrit style an impossible one. It gives also a false impression; for to us a long description, if good, gives the effect of ‘sweetness long drawn out,’ and, if bad, brings drowsiness; whereas in Sanskrit the unending compounds suggest the impetuous rush of a torrent, and the similes and puns are like the play of light and shade on its waters. Bāṇa, according to Professor Weber, ‘passes for the special representative of the Pāñcālī style,’ which Bhoja, quoted in the commentary of the ‘Sāhitya-Darpaṇa,’ defines as ‘a sweet and soft style characterized by force (ojas) and elegance (kānti), containing compounds of five or six words.’ But style, which is to poetic charm as the body to the soul, varies with the sense to be expressed, and Bāṇa in many of his speeches is perfectly simple and direct. Owing to the peacefulness of ‘Kādambarī,’ there is little opportunity for observing the rule that in the ‘Kathā’ letters ‘ought not to be too rough, even when the flavour is furious.’ Of the alliteration of initial consonants, the only long passage is in the description of Çukanāsa (p. 50), but in its subtler forms it constantly occurs. Of shorter passages there are several examples — e.g., Candra Caṇḍāla (infra, p. 127); Candrāpīḍa Caṇḍālo (Sanskrit text, p. 416); Utkaṇṭhām sotkaṇṭhaṃ kaṇṭhe jagrāha (Ibid., p. 367); Kāmaṃ sakāmaṃ kuryām (Ibid., p. 350); Candrāpīḍa pīḍanayā (Ibid., p. 370). The ornament of çlesha, or paronomasia, which seems to arise from the untrained philological instinct of mankind seeking the fundamental identity of like sounds with apparently unlike meaning, and which lends dramatic intensity when, as sometimes in Shakespeare, a flash of passionate feeling reveals to the speaker an original sameness of meaning in words seemingly far apart, is by Bāṇa used purely as an adornment. He speaks of pleasant stories interwoven with puns ‘as jasmine garlands with campak buds,’ and they abound in his descriptions. The rasanopamā, or girdle of similes, is exemplified (p. 115), ‘As youth to beauty, love to youth, spring to love’ so was Kapiñjala to Puṇḍarīka. Vishamaṃ (incongruity) is the figure used in ‘the brightness of his glory, free from heat, consumed his foes; constant, ever roamed’ (p. 48). It can scarcely be separated from virodha (contradiction) — often used, as in ‘I will allay on the funeral pyre the fever which the moon, sandal, and all cool things have increased’ (p. 195) — or from vicitram (strangeness), where an act is contrary to its apparent purpose: ‘There lives not the man whom the virtues of the most courteous lady Kādambarī do not discourteously enslave’ (p. 159). Arthāpatti (a fortiori conclusion) is exemplified in ‘Even the senseless trees, robed in bark, seem like fellow-ascetics of this holy man. How much more, then, living beings endowed with sense!’ (p. 43). Time and space would alike fail for analysis of Bāṇa’s similes according to the rules of the ‘Sāhitya-Darpaṇa.’ The author of the ‘Rāghavapāṇḍavīya’ considers Subandhu and Bāṇa as his only equals in vakrokti, or crooked speech, and the fault of a ‘meaning to be guessed out’ (‘Sāhitya-Darpaṇa,’ § 574) is not rare. The ‘Kāvya-Prakāça,’ in addition to the references given by Professor Peterson, quotes a stanza describing a horse in the ‘Harsha-Carita’ (chap. iii.) as an example of svabhāvokti.

The hero belongs to the division described as the high-spirited, but temperate and firm (‘Sāhitya-Darpaṇa,’ § 64), i.e., he who is ‘not given to boasting, placable, very profound, with great self-command, resolute, whose self-esteem is concealed, and faithful to his engagements,’ and who has the ‘eight manly qualities’ of ‘brilliancy, vivacity, sweetness of temper, depth of character, steadfastness, keen sense of honour, gallantry, and magnanimity’ (Ibid., § 89). Kādambarī is the type of the youthful heroine who feels love for the first time, is shy, and gentle even in indignation (Ibid., § 98). The companions of each are also those declared in the books of rhetoric to be appropriate.

Literary Parallels

The work which most invites comparison with ‘Kādambarī’ is one far removed from it in place and time — Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene.’ Both have in great measure the same faults and the same virtues. The lack of proportion, — due partly to too large a plan, partly to an imagination wandering at will — the absence of visualization — which in Spenser produces sometimes a line like

‘A lovely Ladie rode him faire beside
Upon a lowly Asse more white then snow,
Yet she much whiter,’

and in Bāṇa many a description like that of Mahāçvetā’s fairness (pp. 95–97) — the undiscriminating praise bestowed on those whom they would fain honour, the shadowy nature of many of their personages, and the intricacies in which the story loses itself, are faults common to both. Both, too, by a strange coincidence, died with their work unfinished. But if they have the same faults, they have also many of the same virtues. The love of what is beautiful and pure both in character and the world around, tenderness of heart, a gentle spirit troubled by the disquiet of life, grace and sweetness of style, and idyllic simplicity, are common to both. Though, however, Candrāpīḍa may have the chivalry and reverence of the Red Cross Knight, and Una share with Kādambarī or Rohiṇī ‘nobility, tenderness, loftiness of soul, devotion and charm,’ the English hero and heroine are more real and more strenuous. We are, indeed, told in one hurried sentence of the heroic deeds of Candrāpīḍa in his world-conquest, and his self-control and firmness are often insisted on; but as he appears throughout the book, his self-control is constantly broken down by affection or grief, and his firmness destroyed by a timid balancing of conflicting duties, while his real virtue is his unfailing gentleness and courtesy. Nor could Kādambarī, like Una, bid him, in any conflict, ‘Add faith unto your force, and be not faint.’ She is, perhaps, in youth and entire self-surrender, more like Shakespeare’s Juliet, but she lacks her courage and resolve.

The Purpose of ‘Kādambarī’

The likeness of spirit between these two leads to the question, Had Bāṇa, like Spenser, any purpose, ethical or political, underlying his story? On the surface it is pure romance, and it is hard to believe that he had any motive but the simple delight of self-expression and love for the children of his own imagination. He only claims to tell a story ‘tender with the charm of gracious speech, that comes of itself, like a bride, to the possession of its lord’; but it may be that he gladly gathered up in old age the fruits of his life’s experience, and that his own memory of his father’s tenderness to his childhood, of the temptations of youth, and of the dangers of prosperity and flattery that assail the heart of kings, was not used only to adorn a tale, but to be a guide to others on the perilous path of life. Be that as it may, the interest of ‘Kādambarī,’ like that of the ‘Faerie Queene,’ does not depend for us now on any underlying purpose, but on the picture it presents in itself of the life and thought of a world removed in time, but not in sympathy, from our own; on the fresh understanding it gives of those who are in the widest sense our fellow-countrymen; and on the charm, to quote the beautiful words of Professor Peterson, ‘of a story of human sorrow and divine consolation, of death and the passionate longing for a union after death, that goes straight from the heart of one who had himself felt the pang, and nursed the hope, to us who are of like frame with him … the story which from the beginning of time mortal ears have yearned to hear, but which mortal lips have never spoken.’

The Plan of the Translation

The translation of Bāṇa presents much difficulty from the elaboration of his style, and it has been a specially hard task, and sometimes an impossible one, to give any rendering of the constant play on words in which he delights. I have sometimes endeavoured to give what might be an English equivalent, and in such cases I have added in a note the literal meaning of both alternatives; perhaps too much freedom may have been used, and sometimes also the best alternative may not have been chosen to place in the text; but those who have most experience will know how hard it is to do otherwise than fail. Some long descriptions have been omitted, such, e.g., as a passage of several pages describing how the dust rose under the feet of Candrāpīḍa’s army, and others where there seemed no special interest or variety to redeem their tediousness. A list of these omissions is given at the end, together with an appendix, in which a few passages, chiefly interesting as mentioning religious sects, are added. I have acted on Professor Cowell’s advice as to the principle on which omissions are made, as also in giving only a full abstract, and not a translation, of the continuation of ‘Kādambarī’ by Bhūshaṇa. It is so entirely an imitation of his father’s work in style, with all his faults, and without the originality that redeems them, that it would not reward translation. In my abstract I have kept the direct narration as more simple, but even when passages are given rather fully, it does not profess in any case to be more than a very free rendering; sometimes only the sense of a whole passage is summed up. I regret that the system of transliteration approved by the Royal Asiatic Society came too late for adoption here.

The edition of ‘Kādambarī’ to which the references in the text are given is that of the Nirṇaya-Sāgara Press (Bombay, 1890), which the full commentary makes indispensable, but I have also throughout made use of Professor Peterson’s edition (Bombay Sanskrit Series, No. xxiv.). For the last half of the Second Part I have referred to an anonymous literal translation, published by the New Britannia Press Depository, 78, Amherst Street, Calcutta.

I have now to offer my grateful thanks to the Secretary of State for India, without whose kind help the volume could not have been published. I have also to thank Miss C. M. Duff for allowing me to use the MS. of her ‘Indian Chronology’; Miss E. Dale, of Girton College, for botanical notes, which I regret that want of space prevented my printing in full; Mr. C. Tawney, librarian of the Indian Office, for information as to the sources of Indian fiction; Mr. F. F. Arbuthnot and Professor Rhys-Davids, for valuable advice; Professor C. Bendall, for his description of the Kāmandakīya-Nīti-Çāstra, and his constant kindness about my work; Mr. F. W. Thomas, of Trinity College, for letting me see the proof-sheets of the translation of the ‘Harsha Carita’; and others for suggested renderings of difficult phrases, and for help of various kinds.

But especially my thanks are due to Professor Cowell for a generosity and unwearied helpfulness which all his pupils know, and which perhaps few but they could imagine. I read through with him the whole of the First Part before translating it myself, so that mistakes in the translation, many as they may be, can arise only from misunderstanding on my part, from too great freedom of rendering, or from failing to have recourse to the knowledge he so freely gives.

‘Vṛihatsahāyaḥ kāryāntaṃ kshodīyānapi gacchati;
Sambhūyāmbodhim abhyeti mahānadyā nagāpagā.’


(1) Hail to the Birthless, the cause of creation, continuance, and destruction, triple in form and quality, who shows activity in the birth of things, goodness in their continuance, and darkness in their destruction.

(2) Glory to the dust of Tryambaka’s feet, caressed by the diadem of the demon Bāṇa; even that dust that kisses the circle of Rāvaṇa’s ten crest-gems, that rests on the crests of the lords of gods and demons, and that destroys our transitory life.

(3) Glory to Vishṇu, who, resolving to strike from afar, with but a moment’s glance from his wrath-inflamed eye stained the breast of his enemy, as if it had burst of itself in terror.

I salute the lotus feet of Bhatsu, honoured by crowned Maukharis: the feet which have their tawny toes rubbed on a footstool made by the united crowns of neighbouring kings.

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