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N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara and the Genre of Mantrarahasyaprakåßikå Christopher Z. Minkowski Cornell University Introduction The author N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara is best known to the world of Sanskrit letters for

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N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara and the Genre of Mantrarahasyaprakåßikå Christopher Z. Minkowski Cornell University Introduction The author N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara is best known to the world of Sanskrit letters for his Bhåratabhåvad pa commentary on the Mahåbhårata. The Bhåratabhåvad pa (BhBhD) has emerged as the standard companion to the text of the great epic, and has largely eclipsed the many other commentaries written before and after N lakaˆ ha's day. The ma gala passage at the beginning of the BhBhD includes a celebrated verse that has endeared N lakaˆ ha to modern text-critics of Sanskrit literature everywhere, in which he describes himself as what one might identify as a Wissenschaftler of a sort, assembling many manuscripts from different regions, and settling on the best reading of the text. 1 As if authoring the BhBhD were not enough, N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara was also the author of about fifteen other works. Most of these works were also written in the form of commentaries, but most of them have proved to be rather unsuccessful by comparison with the commentary on the epic. I wish to speak today about a group of these relatively lessknown commentaries, written in a style and for a purpose quite different from that of the BhBhD. These are the texts that carry the generic title Mantrarahasyaprakåßikå. 2 Most notable among them are the Mantraråmåyaˆa and the Mantrabhågavata. The purpose of these works is the somewhat improbable project of assembling verses from the Ùgveda Saµhitå, (verses which to us appear to be on some other topic,) and reading them in such a way that they come to narrate the story of the Råmåyaˆa in one case, or the story of the Bhågavata in another, and so on. To date these works have been accorded relatively little scholarly attention. Now, it is sometimes the case that obscure texts deserve to be obscure, and are not studied for a good reason. Nevertheless, I wish to turn your attention to N lakaˆ ha's mantrarahasya texts at this conference so that we might consider them from the point of view of Vedic studies. Needless to say, commentaries of this sort have not been taken very seriously by 1 vs. 6: bahën samåh tya vibhinnadeßyån koßån vinißcitya ca på ham agryam / pråcåµ gurëˆåm anus tya våcaµ årabhyate bhåratabhåvad pa // 2 The colophons all include the term as a generic component of the title: for the Mantraråmåyaˆa, ...ßr n lakaˆ hasya k ti svoddh tamantraråmåyaˆavyåkhyå mantrarahaysaprakåßikåkhyå...; for the Mantrabhågavata, ... ßr n lakaˆ hasya k tau svoddh tamantrabhågavatavyåkhyåyåµ mantrarahasyaprakåßikåyåµ...; for the Mantrakåß khaˆ a, ... n lakaˆ hasya k ti svoddh tamantrakåß khaˆ avyåkhyåmantrarahasyaprakåßikå. Mantrarahasya 2 Vedists as a guide to understanding the meaning and function of the Vedic texts. 3 But it might be fruitful at this moment to reconsider why that is, and to ask some further questions: What is the relationship of these mantrarahasya works to the 'serious' commentaries of Såyaˆa, Uva a, and others? What are the implications for the destiny of the Vedas in the appearance of works of this genre? And finally, what did N lakaˆ ha think he was doing in writing texts of this sort? After all, the result of the sort of academic Vedic studies that has been produced in the last two centuries has been largely to conceptualize the Vedas as ancient, even primordial texts, to de-emphasize their embeddedness in later custodial and practical traditions, and to separate them from their historical vicissitudes. Yet if we wish to know about the historical destiny of the Vedas, it is useful to consider their uses and meanings exactly in the later periods of their existence. N lakaˆ ha's mantrarahasya works, then, can be taken as one example of a late development in the story of how Vedic mantras came to be preserved, transmitted, interpreted and used. What I shall argue here is that the appearance of this mantrarahasya genre, though in some ways a continuation of certain strands of exegetical thought available in the tradition, represents a turning point in the treatment of Vedic authority by Vaidika intellectuals. Let me first turn to some biographical and textual information about N lakaˆ ha and his work, and then give a brief survey of his mantrarahasya texts. N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara and his Works N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara, son of Govinda SËri and Phullambikå, was a Marå h speaking Brahmin of the Gotama gotra who flourished in the second half of the 17th Century, and whose family had been established in what is now Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra. 4 N lakaˆ ha moved from KarpËragråma on the banks of the Godåvar to Banaras, where he understook the study of Veda and Vedå ga, M måµså, Írauta, Yoga, Íaiva texts, Tarka, and especially Advaita Vedånta. 5 His teacher for Advaita Vedånta was 3 Already Aufrecht, in his Catalogus Catalogorum vol.1(1891), described the Mantrabhågavata as a selection of 200 Vedic verses which are perverted into a reference to Råma and Krishna. In fact the factual description is erroneous and based on the concluding verses of the text. See below note P.K. Gode, N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara, the Commentator of the Mahåbhårata - his Geneaology and Descendants, ABORI 23 (1942): Also W. Printz, Bhå å- Wörter in N lakaˆ ha's Bhåratabhåvad pa usw., KZ 44 (1911): See the passages from N lakaˆ ha's work cited in P.K. Gode, The Exact Date of the Advaitasudhå of Lak maˆa Paˆ ita (A.D. 1663) and his possible identity with Lak maˆårya, the Vedånta teacher of N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara, the Commentator of the Mahåbhårata, Poona Orientalist X, 1-2 pp Reprinted in Studies in Indian Literary History III (Poona: 1956), Mantrarahasya 3 Lak maˆårya, whom he mentions in the introduction and / or conclusion to many of his works, and who Gode has argued was the same person as Lak maˆa Paˆ ita of Benares, the author of the Advaitasudhå and of the Såracandrikå commentary on the Råghavapåˆ av ya. 6 In addition to his commentary on the Mahåbhårata, N lakaˆ ha composed commentaries on the Íivatåˆ avatantra in 1680, on the Gaˆeßag tå in 1693, on the Harivaµßa, on the Rudrasårasaµgraha, and on Appaya D k ita's Vedåntic work, the Ratnatrayapar k å. 7 He wrote an independent work on Advaita, the Vedåntakataka, and a doxographic work of the Advaitan type, the a tantr såra. He wrote an independent work on a ßrauta topic - the question of whether a widower can perform Vedic sacrifices - entitled the Vidhurådhånavicåra. N lakaˆ ha also produced a short work that attempted to reconcile the cosmographical views of the Puråˆas with those of the astronomical Siddhåntas, the Saurapauråˆikamatasamarthana. 8 N lakaˆ ha dedicated his commentary on the Íivatåˆ avatantra to AnËpasiµha, Mahåråja of Bikaner from , a noted bibliophile and sometime general in the service of Aurangzeb. 9 In fact, N lakaˆ ha says in the colopohon to the work that he was commissioned to write the commentary by AnËpasiµha. 10 None of N lakaˆ ha's other works was explicitly dedicated to a ruler. No study has yet been made of N lakaˆ ha's 'situatedness' in the cultural, much less political, historical moment in which he lived, as indeed no such study has been made of most learned authors writing in Sanskrit who lived in the 17th century. 11 N lakaˆ ha also wrote the works belonging to the mantrarahasyaprakåßikå genre. The extant texts bear the titles Mantraråmåyaˆa, Mantrabhågavata, Mantrakåß khaˆ a, and possibly the Mantraßår rika. Evidence from his commentary on the Harivaµßa shows that 6 P.K. Gode, The Exact Date of the Advaitasudhå, Gode has also suggested that the Nåråyaˆa T rtha whom N lakaˆ ha mentions as his teacher is identical with the author of the Bhå abhå åprakåßikå and other works. N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara, New Catalogus Catalogorum 10 p See also Gode, N lakaˆ ha Caturdhara, 146ff. 8 See C. Minkowski, N lakaˆ ha's Cosmographical Comments in the Bh maparvan, Puråˆa, forthcoming, for bibliography. 9 See David Pingree, Astronomy at the Court of Anupasiµha, in From Astral Omens to Astrology, From Babylon to Bikaner, Serie Orientale Roma 78, (Roma: Istituto Italiano per L'Africa et L'Oriente, 1997), The vss. are cited in Haraprasad Shastri's Descriptive Catalogue of the Sanskrit manuscripts in the Collections of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal vol. 8 (1939) Cat. No. 5968, Accn. No iti... ßr mahåråjådhiråja-karˆamahåßaya-sënunå ßr mad-anëpasiµhena prerita- etc. Sastri, Catalogue p See Sheldon Pollock, Sanskrit Literary Culture From the Inside Out, in Sheldon Pollock, ed. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). Mantrarahasya 4 N lakaˆ ha experimented with the style in that commentary as well. 12 Haraprasåd Íåstr, in his description of the Íivatåˆ avat kå, 13 notes that N lakaˆ ha refers to himself as having completed at that time a Mantraråmåyaˆa, Mantrabhågavata, and Mantramahåbhårata. 14 Since the Íivatåˆ avatantra was completed in 1680, N lakaˆ ha had completed the Mantraråmåyaˆa and Mantrabhågavata before that date. Of these mantrarahasya texts, the Mantraråmåyaˆa and the Mantrabhågavata must have been the most well-received. There are about a half-dozen known manuscripts of each one. Both texts have been published twice in this century. 15 More on them in a moment. There is one manuscript of the Mantrakåßikhaˆ a described by Haraprasåd Íåstr in the catalogue of the Vedic manuscripts of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 16 This work takes 47 Vedic verses and interprets them in such a way as to reveal the Skandapuråˆa's Kåß khaˆ a, the most celebrated t rthamåhåtmya of the sacred city of Kåß, N lakaˆ ha's adopted home. The Mantraßår rika is listed only by title in the Punjab University catalogue of manuscripts, with the information that it is Vedåntic. 17 Given the other works by N lakaˆ ha which have the parallel titles beginning with mantra-, it would seem to be a work that reads Vedic verses as expounding Vedåntic philosophical principles. 18 Mantraråmåyaˆa and Mantrabhågavata As mentioned above, these two works appear to have circulated somewhat more widely in manuscript form, and they have both been edited and published twice. Both texts 12 See P.L. Vaidya, ed. The Harivaµßa (Poona: BORI 1969 ), L, where he mentions some 60 Vedic passages treated in the commentary in the style discussed below. 13 See above, note There is, however, no extant text entitled Mantramahåbhårata. Furthermore, in checking through the introductory passage in two manuscripts of the Íivatåˆ ava kå I find reference to the MBhg and MR - ASB G23323 folio 3r, line 1 - but no reference to a Mantramahåbhårata. My thanks to Prof. Anil Sarkar of the ASB for providing me with copies of ASB 5968 and ASB The MR was published in Bombay in 1910 at the Ve kateßvara Steam Press and edited again by Råm Kumår Råy in Våråˆas in 1988 as Tantra Granthamålå 16 (Pracya Prakashan). The MBhg was published in Bombay in 1903 by the Ve kateßvara Steam Press. It was re-edited by Íraddhå Cauhan in Jodhpur in 1969, Rajasthan Puråtana Granthamålå 112. Note that Cauhan based her edition on two MSS not listed in the NCC, one from RORI Jodhpur, the other from the Råmk pålu Íarma MSS collection in Jaipur. 16 A descriptive catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Government collection under the care of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. 2 (1923) Cat. No. 181, Accn. No My thanks to Prof. Sarkar for providing me with a copy of this manuscript as well. A study of the text is forthcoming. 17 Labhu Ram, Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Panjab University library vol. 2 (1941), 50. Also F. Kielhorn, A catalogue of Sanskrit mss. existing in the Central Provinces (1874), A reference to the Mantraßår rika in the Mantrakåß khaˆ a, folio 9v, line 1, though not probative, does suggest that text works in the same way as the others discussed here. Mantrarahasya 5 proceed in the same way, though in the Mantraråmåyaˆa an effort is made to narrate the entire Råmakathå, if somewhat unevenly. The Mantrabhågavata confines itself to the life story of K ˆa, and primarily the first half of that story. It is subdivided into four parts of K ˆa's story cycle, identified with events at Gokula and V ndåvana, with the visit of AkrËra and K ˆa's departure, and with events at Mathurå. It appears to have been written after the Mantraråmåyaˆa, for at its conclusion N lakaˆ ha refers to having revealed the story of both Råma and K ˆa as contained in the Vedic verses. 19 The Mantraråmåyaˆa is the longer text, comprising a commentary on 157 Vedic verses. These verses are not evenly spread over the narration of the whole Råmakathå, but rather are clustered in particular on the Båla, Sundara, and Yuddha kåˆ as. 20 The 109 verses of the Mantrabhågavata, as mentioned above, are carefully divided into four titled sections, with round numbers of verses for all sections except the third. 21 Selection of Verses From the contemporary Vedist's point of view these works of N lakaˆ ha are of interest for a variety of reasons. The first questions one might ask are these: what sort of verses has N lakaˆ ha selected, and what has been his criterion for selecting them? The verses of the Mantraråmåyaˆa are drawn primarily from the Ninth and especially the Tenth Maˆ ala of the Ùgveda. Fully 70 of its 157 verses are drawn from the latter parts of the Tenth Maˆ ala. In the Mantrabhågavata, on the other hand, the Third and especially First Maˆ alas predominate. Nineteen of its verses are drawn from the Asyavåm ya hymn alone (1.164). No verse is ever repeated, either within a work or in the other work. On the other hand, adjacent individual verses from the same Ùgvedic hymn appear at extreme ends of the same work, or else in the other work. 22 A handful of Vedic verses drawn from extra-ùgvedic texts are also sprinkled in, almost as if they were a 19 våkyårthe vyåsavålm k padårthe yåskapåˆin / råmak ˆakathåµ mantrair gåyato mama nåyakau // 1 // etacchatadvayam cåµ råmak ˆakathånugam / darßitaµ bhagavåµs tena tu yatåt såtvatåm pati // 2 // The number of vss. in the Mantrabhågavata is, however 109, One of Cauhan's MSS. reads sårddham ßatadvayam cåµ, and this is also the reading recorded in the MS described in ASB catalogue as vol II Cat. No. 177, Accn. No. 5768B. The combined number of vss. in both MR and MBhg is = 266, for which two and a half hundred is a reasonable approximation. 20 The events of the Bålakåˆ a are concluded with vs. 38, of the Ayodhyåkåˆ a with vs. 47, of the Óraˆyaka with vs. 61, of the Ki kindha with vs. 71, of the Sundara with vs. 112, and of the Yuddha approximately with vs Events of the Uttarakåˆ a are only glancingly covered. See below vss. for Gokula, 39 vss. for V ndåvana, 30 vss. for AkrËra, 10 vss. for Mathurå. 22 e.g. ÙV is the third verse of the MBhg, ÙV and 7 its 101st and 102d, and ÙV its last. MR includes ÙV , 2, 4 and 9, while MBhg includes ÙV See Appendix. Mantrarahasya 6 seasoning. 23 There are verses drawn from dialogue hymns, from secular and speculative and dånastuti hymns, as well as from the more statistically common hymns in praise of deities, including especially hymns that praise by reference to mythic narratives. Nevertheless, N lakaˆ ha has avoided to a great extent making use of the obvious choice of Vedic verses, the ones indicated by the anukramaˆ s to be dedicated to Vi ˆu. 24 As suggested by the comments above, N lakaˆ ha's criteria for selection of the verses has very little to do with their sequential order in the Saµhitå. While it is the case that N lakaˆ ha will consciously use two, three, sometimes four consecutive verses from a single Ùgvedic hymn in their sequential order in his text, and occasionally even an entire hymn, he is just as likely to use them in scattered places in the text, or even out of order in a single passage. 25 The longest passage that uses Ùgvedic verses in the order of their appearance in the Saµhitå appears again to be anomalous by design, in which nearly the entire AkrËra section of the Mantrabhågavata is based on ÙV , which are commented on in that order. 26 Thus there is no suggestion that the sequential order of the Vedic verses, so crucial as an organizational principle in Vedic ritual and recitational contexts, is itself revelatory of the Råmåyaˆa and Bhågavata. Or, put another way, there is no suggestion that the narrative order of the Råmakathå and the K ˆa story cycles finds ''vedamëlatva,' a Vedic basis, in the order of the Vedic verses. What then is N lakaˆ ha's criterion for selecting verses? Is he setting himself as difficult a commentarial task as he can so as to make his work that much more a feat of interpretative bravura? Does he wish to imply that any Vedic verse can be found to be revelatory of Råma and K ˆa? While the answer to both of these questions appears to be yes, N lakaˆ ha's method of selection in general becomes clearer if we consider the evidence of even a small number of his choices in the Mantraråmåyaˆa. Of course the difficulty that N lakaˆtha faces is that the opinion of Vaidikas in his day, as of Vedists in ours, is that the Råma story was simply not a subject treated by the 23 In the MR appears Våj.S. 3.50, while in MBhg appear ÙV Khila II.14.7, KS 7.12, and TB Note that ÙV Khila II.14.7 appears in Scheftelowitz edition of the Khilas, but is not found in the Íåradå manuscript of the ÙV on which Scheftelowitz' edition is primarily based. 24 The Vai ˆava vss. in the ÙV are as follows: ; 1.154; ; 1.156; , 7; Vi ˆu and the gods ; Vi ˆu, Rudra, and Maruts 5.3.3; Indra and Vi ˆu Of these, , 6 and , appear in the MBhg and appears in the MR. 25 Some examples of verse scattering are listed above in note 22. The MR's 139th, 140th, and 141st vss. comprise ÙV , 10, 7. See Appendix for more examples. 26 The AkrËrakåˆ a of the MBhg section comprises 30 vss., of which comprise the first 26. Mantrarahasya 7 authors of the older Vedic literature. 27 By coincidence, however, some terms do appear in the Ùgveda that correspond with the names of characters from the Råma story. N lakaˆ ha can make good use of verses containing these terms. In the most simple examples the names of figures in the ÙV coincide with names in the Råma story. Thus vási ha and vißv mitra appear as proper nouns in the ÙV, as does bharatá. N lakaˆ ha uses verses including these names in the Mantraråmåyaˆa when narrating the portions of the story where Vasi ha, Vißvåmitra and Bharata, respectively, appear. 28 s«tå appears in two verses in the Ùgveda ( ), and both verses appear in the Mantraråmåyaˆa. N lakaˆ ha also makes use of verses containing nouns that are not proper names when he can interpret them to be so. råmá appears twice in the ÙV, and one of those instances (10.3.3) is chosen. Similary the lone occurrence of dáßaratha ( ) is used, one of the seven instances of the term hánu (ÙV ), and one of the three instances of kávandha (ÙV ). N lakaˆ ha works similarly with more common terms such as raghú . 29 In the Mantrabhågavata he makes use of verses that contain, for example, k ˆá and vrajá . 30 Other rare words also suggest themselves: ul khala appears in only one sëkta of the ÙV (1.28). N lakaˆ ha makes use of two verses from the sëkta to tell the story of the infant K ˆa tied by his mother to a butter churn. Since N lakaˆ ha has the direct evidence of the presence of the characters' names in the Vedic verses, he finds a basis for interpreting the remainder of the v
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