bANa and mayUra
bANa and mayUra are reputed to have had a major rivalry in the court of the great emperor harShavardhana of sthAnIshvara. We had earlier noted one of mayUra’s greatest poetic master pieces the mayUrAShTaka which was composed on baNa’s beautiful wife leading to much tension between them. It was brought to our attention by the great paNDita that the verse regarding the tripura-dahana that we had cited before was actually a work of bANa from amaru’s collection of subhAShita-s. We consider that verse one of the greatest miniature master pieces of the virtuoso. This lead us to stumble upon a verse of mayUra on the same topic that bears striking resemblance to that of bAna, suggesting that they possibly tried to out-do each other by producing similar verses. Both verses have the same striking blend of the amorous, terrifying and the tragic tropes:
saMvyAnaaMshuka-pallaveShu taralaM veNI-guNeShu sthiraM mandaM ka~nchuka-sandhiShu stana-taTotsa~NgeShu dIptArchiSham |
Alokya tripurAvarodhana-vadhUvargasya dhUma-dhvajaM hasta-srasta-sharAsano vijayate devo dayArdrekShaNaH ||
saMvyAna= upper garment; aMshuka=blouse; pallava=fringe of the dress; taralam=tremulously; veNI-guNa=strands of tresses; sthiraM=firmly; mandaM=slowly’ ka~nchuka-sandhi= borders of the bra; stana-taTotsa~Nga= the contours of the breasts; dIptArchiSham= blazes into a flame; Alokya=sees;
tripurAvarodhana-vadhUvargasya= Attacking the throngs of tripura ladies; dhUma-dhvajaM= column of smoke; hasta= hand; srasta= drops; sharAsano= bow; vijayate= victory to; devo= the god; dayArdrekShaNaH= eye moist with pity.
Roughly: Victory to the god who with eyes most with pity looks on at the column of smoke attacking the throngs of tripura ladies, tremulously [seizing] the fringes of the upper garments and blouses, firmly [seizing] the strands of their tresses and slowly moving upon the borders of their bras and the contours of their breasts blazes into a flame.
Here is bANa’s repeated for comparison:
kShipto hastAvalagnaH prasabham abhihato .apy AdadAno .aMshukAntaM gR^ihNan kesheShv apAstash charaNa-nipatito nekShitaH saMbhrameNa |
Ali~Ngan yo .avadhUtas tripura-yuvatibhiH sAshru-netrotpalAbhiH kAmIvArdrAparAdhaH sa dahatu duritaM shAmbhavo vaH sharAgniH ||
kShipto=cast off; hastA= hands; avalagnaH= adhering to; prasabham=forcibly; abhihato= pushed away; .apy= moreover ; AdadAno= taking; aMshuka= dress; antaM=fringes; gR^ihNan=seized kesheShv=hair (locative plural); apAstash=thrown off; charaNa= foot; nipatito= fallen down; nekShitaH= not looked at; saMbhrameNa=perturbed/fear (instrumental singular)
Ali~Ngan= embrace; yo= which; .avadhUtas= shaken off; tripura-yuvatibhiH= tripura maids; sAshru-netrotpalAbhiH= tear-laden eye-lotuses (instrumental plural); kAmiiva= like a lover; ardrAparAdhaH= transgression of an affair; sa=he; dahatu=burn; duritaM=sins; shAmbhavo=of shaMbhu; vaH= you; sharAgniH= arrow fire.
Roughly: Though cast off he grasped their hands, moreover though forcibly pushed away he took hold of the fringes of their dress, though thrown off he got into their hair; though in fearful awe he was not looked at, he fell at their feet like a lover guilty from the affair with another; thus, though shaken off by the tripura maids, with their lotus eyes laden with tears, did the fire from shaMbhu’s missile embrace them; may he burn your sins.
Another effort on the identical theme is that of the obscure poet ma~Ngala who is cited by many poets at least after the 900s of the CE:
sindUra shrIr lalATe kanaka-rasa-mayaH karNa-pArshve .avataMso vaktre tAmbUla-rAgaH pR^ithu-kucha-kalashe ku~NkumasyaanulepaH |
daityAdhIshaa~NganAnAM jaghana-parisare lAkShika-kShauma-lakShmIr ashreyAMsi kShiNoti tripura-hara-sharodgAra-janmAnalo vaH ||
sindUra= vermilion; shrIr= auspicious mark; lalATe=on fore head; kanaka-rasa-mayaH=gold and mercury burnished; karNa-pArshve .avataMso= earrings of the earlobes; vaktre=on mouth; tAmbUla-rAgaH=betelnut paste; pR^ithu-kucha-kalashe= broad pitcher-like breasts; ku~NkumasyaanulepaH= smearings of ku~Nkuma; daityAdhIshaa~NganAnAM= of the women of the lord of the daityas; jaghana-parisare= around the hips; lAkShika-kShauma-lakShmIr= rich carmine-dyed silk; ashreyAMsi= infelicities; kShiNoti= removes; tripura-hara-sharodgAra-janmAnalo=fire born from the discharge of the arrow that destroyed the three citadels; vaH= your
May fire born from the discharge of the arrow that destroyed the three citadels, which [burns] like the auspicious vermilion on mark on the forehead of the women of the lord the daitya-s, like the gold and mercury burnished earrings on their lobes, the betelnut paste on their mouths, like the ku~Nkuma smearings on their broad pitcher-like breasts and like the rich carmine-dyed silk around their hips, remove your infelicities.
This verse by ma~Ngala, while ornate, at least to our tastes, seems a less smooth than those of the masters bANa and mayUra. In any case these verses offer some interesting lifestyle information about the early medieval period of Hindu India: 1) Three terms of female attire: ka~nchuka, aMshuka and saMvyAna suggest that multiply layered upper garments were worn by women since at least the 600s of the CE contrary to the claims made based on the iconography.
2) ma~Ngala’s verse provides evidence for lAkShika, i.e. the carmine dye extracted from the scale insect Laccifer lacca being used to dye silk. Of course other uses of the lAkSha (AV-vulgate 5.5), as a plaster for bone fractures, or in making flammable structures (the kaurava plot in the bhArata), or to extract medicinal compounds are widely seen in old Sanskrit literature.