Long ago the Acharya had said that we should study the navasAhasA~Nkacharita (NSC). But being truants we ignored his sage words. Years later we felt that we should relieve the enactments of the rAjpUt rulers we had played as kids and felt the need for authentic material. That is when we turned back to the navasAhasA~Nkacharita, but with the AchArya no longer around we are not sure that we could extract its sense in totality. The name of this kAvya is derived from sAhasA~Nka, who is chandragupta-II vikramAditya the pinnacle of gupta glory. The new sAhasA~Nka, the protagonist of this kAvya, is sindhurAja the king of the paramAra rAjpUt, whose dynasty was to be adorned by the great bhoja-deva. The author is a certain parimala padmagupta the son of mR^igA~Nkadatta. The epic is based on this historical character but imitates the rAmAyaNa or the Illiad in its core motif. The king sindhurAja with his minister ramA~Ngada were on a hunt in the vicinity of the narmada when the king shoots a deer of the nAginI shashiprabhA. This leads him to making an acquaintance with her, but before he could propose marriage to her, she vanishes on hearing an incorporeal voice and returns to her father. He then pursues her by jumping into the narmadA and passing through a subterranean grotto [a very common Hindu motif found in the rAmAyaNa – as the vAnara-s were searching for sItA and also in the dashakumAra of daNDin]. The goddess of the river tells him that he can win the nAginI only if he can get the golden lotus from the king of the asura-s, who is interestingly name vajrA~Nkusha, and give it to the father of shashiprabhA. The goddess also tells him to meet a brAhmaNa named va~Nku to get advice on his quest of the golden lotus. The king sends a message to shashiprabhA of his intention to get the using a parrot who is actually a nAga cursed by a student of kANva to become a parrot. Then king goes on his quest by first reaching va~Nku’s domain. There he is given a pomegranate by an ape. As soon as he accepts it’s the monkey becomes a vidyAdhara, shashikhaNDa the son of shikhaNDaketu [he had been cursed by va~Nku to become an ape as he was trying to seize a maiden in the brAhmaNa’s Ashrama]. This shashikhaNDa then summons his own army of vidyAdhara-s to aid the paramAra rAjan. He also gives the king a vimAna that flies due to the vidyAdhara’s magic to set forth for the campaign. The parrot on delivering the message to the princess regains his form as the curse is lifted and returns to the king as ratnachUDa, a nAga. The ratna on his crest illumines the path for the army of sindhurAja to reach the asura capital of ratnavatI.
There the rAjan sent a message to the asura vajrA~Nkusha via ramA~Ngada asking him to hand over the golden lily to the paramAra or else face war. vajrA~Nkusha refuses and states that he not the paramAra would take shashiprabhA. Duly the war breaks out between the asura-s one side and the vidyAdhara-s, nAga-s and paramAra-s on the other. In course of the fierce fight ramA~Ngada killed the asura’s son while navasAhasA~Nka himself killed vajrA~Nkusha by cutting his head off with a shara. Then he crowned ratnachUDa as the king of ratnavatI. With his minister bearing the golden water lily the king went to bhogavati the capital of the nAga-s. There he saw the temple of shiva known as hATakeshvara and he performed his worship there. Then was married to shashiprabhA to whom he gives the golden lotus. Before they return to dhAra his father-in-law the nAga king gives him a sphaTika li~Nga made by tvaShTar. He takes the li~Nga and first goes to ujjayini and worships a li~Nga of rudra there. Then he goes to dhAra his clan’s capital and installs the li~Nga received from the nAga-s there.
Who are the hUNa-s defeated by paramAra-s in this work? I wonder if the conventional explanation is correct at all in this regard.
There are some motifs here that are reminiscent of daNDin’s novel. In that work the feral brAhmaNa is educated in the tantra-s by a brAhmaNa whose life he saves from savage kirATa-s. He then performs the worship of shiva and is told of a sphaTika li~Nga near which lies the entry to a grotto leading to the netherworld. At the entrance to the cave he finds a copper plate with a prayoga inscribed on it. He performs the specified prayoga in the netherworld and acquires an asurakanyA as his wife who gives him a jewel that he later gifts to his companion rAjavAhana. Of course the overall similarity of themes to the bR^ihat-katha is also quite obvious. Beyond the name “nava-sAhasA~Nka” the paramAra king is already identified with the vikramAditya in many ways in this work: The return from the nAga world to ujjayini the capital of the old gupta monarch is one such point. This trend was to culminate in the legends around bhoja-deva the successor of sindhurAja [e.g.:
asti kShitaUjjayinIti nAmnA purI vihAyasy amarAvatIva
babandha yasyAM padam indrakalpaH shrIvikramAditya iti kShitIshaH ||
or the statement:
atIte vikramAditye gate .astaM sAtavAhane
kavimitre vishashrAma yasmin devI sarasvatI ||
I.e. after the death of vikramAditya and sAtavAhana sarasvatI was now resting in sindhurAja, the protagonist of the novel.]
Interestingly, when the minister narrates the tale of the agnikula origins of the paramAra-s he places it in the context vasiShTha-s struggle with the gAthina. He also states that vasiShTha makes the first paramara using atharvanic spells:
athAtharvavidAm AdyaH samantrAm AhutiM dadau
vikasad-vikaTa-jvAlA-jaTile jAtavedasi ||
Thanks to the aid from paNDita somadeva we were able enjoy more aspects of this kAvya. Reading the verses again underscored the pleasantness of the dhvani of the vaidarbhi style to the years.
chakShus tad unmeShi sadA mukhe vaH
sArasvataM shAshvatam Avir astu
pashyanti yenAvahitAH kavIndrAH
triviShTapaabhyantara varti vastu ||
chakShuH=eye; tat= that; unmeShi=opening; sadA= always; mukha= face; vaH= your;
sArasvataM=eloquence; shAshvatam=eternal; Avis= manifest; astu= be;
pashyanti=behold; yena=by which; avahitAH=attentive; kaviindrAH=chiefs among poets; triviShTapa= celestial/heaven; abhyantara=inside; varti=abiding in/situated; vastu=essence/object/seat.
The text also has a stuti of hATakeshvara sung by the paramAra king (provided unedited):
tIvravrataglapitashailasutAsvarUpa vij~nAnanarmapaTave baTave namaste ||
dehArdhavartigirijAvihitAbhyasUya sandhyApraNAmaviShamA~njalaye namaste ||
nIrandhrasindhujalasiktakapAlamukta ratnA~Nkurasya karaNIM vidhurAtanoti
maulau sadaiva bhavato bhavabhedakartur nirdagdhabhAskaramahAya namo .astu tasmai ||
kandarpadarpashamanAya kR^itAntahartre kartre shubhasya bhujagAdhipaveShTanAya
urvImarudravinishAkaravahnitoya yAjyAmbarochchavapuShe supuShe namaste ||
nIrandhrabhUtidhavalAya gajendra-kR^itti saMvItadehakavalI kR^ita pannagAya
nirdagdhadAnavakulAya vipatkShayaika kAryAya kAraNanutAya namo .astu tubhyam ||
te te yam eva kila vA~NmayasAgarasya pAraM gatAH praNavam Atmavido vadanti
tasmai samAhitamaharShivinidrahR^idya-hR^itpuNDarIkavihitasthitaye namaste ||
uttaMsitendushakalAya kapAlajUTa sa~NghaTTitormimukharAmbaranirjharAya
bhasmA~NgarAgashuchaye vikachopavIta- vyAlendumaulimaNidIdhitaye namaste ||
nAstraM na bhasma na jaTA na kapAladAma nenduH siddhataTinI na phaNIndrahAraH
nokShA viShaM na dayitApi na yatra rUpam avyaktam Isha kila tad dadhate namaste ||