bhavabhUti’s avifauna and flora

A good kavI of yore is supposed to have been a naturalist. We had earlier given an example of this in the form of vAkpati’s characterization of the kingfisher. Now we shall provide an example from the collection of bhavabhUti of vidharbha, one the greatest poets of all times. Like vAkpati he was also in the court of the neo-mauryan ruler yashovarman who was overwhelmed by the great Kashmirian conqueror lalitAditya.

kAshmaryAH kR^itamAlam udgatadalaM koyaShTikaSh TIkate nIrAshmantaka shimbi chumbana-mukhA dhAvanty apaH pUrNikAH |
dAtyUhais tinishasya koTaravati skandhe nilIya sthitaM vIrunnIDakapotakUjitam anukrandanty adhaH kukkubhAH ||

kAshmaryAH=Gmelina trees; kR^itamAlam=Cassia tree; udgata-dalaM= spread-out leaves; koyaShTikaSh=lapwing; TIkate=hops up; nIrAshmantaka= river Bauhinia; shimbi=pod chumbana-mukhA= touching mouth; dhAvanty=run; apaH=water; pUrNikAH=hornbills ; dAtyUhais= purple moorhens; tinishasya= of Dalbergia tree; koTaravati= with a hollow; skandhe= branch; nilIya=settles in; sthitaM= situated; vIrunnIDa= tree nesting; kapota=dove; kUjitam=cooing; anukrandanty= cries; adhaH=below; kukkubhAH= red jungle fowl.

Here we get a remarkable description of the diverse avifauna of India and some flora on a hot summer day. Any naturalist in India can identify with this scene painted by bhavabhUti:
From the Gmelina trees the lapwing hops up [to seek the shade of the] spread-out leaves of the Cassia tree; The hornbills having barely touched the river Bauhinia’s pods with their beaks retreat to get water; A branch with hollow of the Dalbergia is made a residence by the purple moorhens; even as the red jungle fowl standing below answers the cooing of the doves nesting in the trees with its cries.

Thus, 5 species of birds and 4 species of trees are mentioned by bhavabhUti in this verse. As an aside one may note that the word nIDa in the above verse is a cognate of Latin nIDus and nest in English – a word of proto-Indo-European provenance.

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