Published On: Fri, Feb 17th, 2017


In this series we bring to you some works from Sadāsvāda written by K.V. Mohan. Sadāsvāda is travelogue of authors Journey through Sanskrit literature where he finds vastness of Sanskrit literature. Sanskrit literature which covers an enormous array of genres from profound philosophical speculation to emotional tear-jerkers to sword-and-sorcery fantasy fiction to sharp satire and beyond. This series presents some selected verse from Vast Sanskrit literature, explains its context and discusses it literary features.

Literally, “one-stride-overcome-all-world-plane”, meaning “He who covered all worlds with just one stride”. ‘vikrama’ also means ‘courage’ or ‘strength’, and coupled with ‘eka’ can also be understood to mean “He who conquered all worlds with his strength alone”.
This phrase is from Banabhatta’s Kadambari (Sentence 2 of the prose). Banabhatta is widely regarded as the greatest writer of ornate Sanskrit prose, and the Kadambari his magnum opus. The story of the Kadambari, an incredibly engrossing love-tale covering multiple janmas (rebirths) of its characters, comes from the ancient epic stream of the Brhat-katha. While the tale itself can rank among the jewels of world literature, it is Bana’s breathtaking genius in composing majestic Sanskrit prose that makes the Kadambari irresistible. Descriptions of the minutest details – like say the footstool of a king – involve such brilliant wordplay, metaphors and cultural references that one is left wondering how anyone could possibly know so much, be so talented and observe so keenly.
The story begins by introducing the great King Shudraka. After describing him with sentence so ornate that it could make even the most manifestly powerful emperor blush, Bana does a second take with a line that is much shorter, but one which probably packs an even stronger punch. He says of Shudraka:
नम्नैव यो निर्भिन्नाराति-हृदयो विरचित-नारसिंह-रूपाडम्बरम्, एक-विक्रमाक्रान्त-सकल-भुवन-तलो विक्रम-त्रयायासितं जहास इव वासुदेवम् |
namnaiva yo nirbhinnārāti-hṛdayo viracita-nārasiṃha-rūpāḍambaram, eka-vikramākrānta-sakala-bhuvana-talo vikrama-trayāyāsitaṃ jahāsa iva vāsudevam.
namna-eva – With just his name
nirbhinna-arāti-hṛdayo – Break apart enemies’ hearts
viracita-nārasiṃha-rūpāḍambaram – Taken on the loud bombast of a half-man, half-lion form
vikrama-trayāyāsitaṃ – Who tired himself with three steps
” The King, who could break apart enemies’ hearts with just the mention of his name, and who conquered all worlds with just one stride (or, ‘with his strength alone’), seemed as if to laugh at poor Vishnu, who had to take on the loud, bombastic form of Narasimha, and who tired himself with three steps (as Vamana).”
One pun, two mythological references, four BahuvrIhi’s each deserving a page of commentary, untranslateably brilliant choice of words (rūpāḍambaram, vikrama-trayāyāsitaṃ) – all in a nonchalant second sentence of an introduction. Truly, the pleasures of Bana are divine.

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