Q.1. Discuss Kadambari as a picture of contemporary society.

Ans. Unlike many other Sanskrit texts Kadambari quite successfully fits into a definite time frame with historical evidences. Hence the text is vibrant with ample social perspectives during the reign of King Harshavardhana.

Though initially Banabhatta was a very common man of ordinary identity and no special recognition, later on by virtue of his merit he acquired a commendable position in the king’s court and critics find many resemblances of King Harsha and the imaginary king in the text Tarapeeda. However, the text gives a hint to autobiographical aspects to a large extent too. Historically not much of Harshavardhana’s administrative system is reflected in Bana’s Harshacharita and hence Kadambari appears almost as a complementary text. Banabhatta was also a great admirer of the Gupta emperors.

Tarapeeda’s son Chandrapeeda in many ways resembles Samrat Chandragupta II. From lines 19 – 25 of Allahabad inscription we come to now that Samrat Samudragupta had implemented different policies towards other contemporary rulers and later on the same tendency was visible in Harshavardhana as well. In Kadambari Vaishampayana also tells Chandrapeeda that he has no kings to rule over because his father has already involved in some or the other treatise with them. The love story of Kadambari and Chandrapeeda has in many aspects established the shadow of Kalidas’s Vikramorvasi which is the love story of Chandragupta II or Vikramaditya.

The mental trauma that a Typical Hindu family goes through due to having no child is precisely drawn by the penances performed by the queen Vilasavati to win a son and the reverence paid to Mahakala. The site of the temple of Mahakala is still available at the outskirts of the ruin of Ujjayni. The same religious practice of enduring hardship and performing penances for a son is found in The Mahabharata as well. The age old Hindu custom of the wife sacrificing her life at the pyre of her diseased husband is also of special mention.

Forming a special university for the two sons in the royal court is one of the contemporary Indian royal cultures and it has also been mentioned in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. When Chandrapeeda is announced the crown prince and he approaches for advices to Sukanasa, the minister of his father, he warns the crown prince that he ought to be very active and vigilant, as the royal power does not pass smoothly to the successors of the king as a hereditary right, rather it is to be retained by the sword of the warrior. It was indeed an era of war coupled with efficient administration, rich treasury, and vast territory.

In the description of the royal palace of the king the image of the immense powerful sense of authority is prominent. The palace was divided into several apartments like the public and private audience, court, pleasure garden, the central secretariat and so on. The pomp of military arrangement was indeed noteworthy. Just before the entrance to the palace there were separate stables for horses and camels and house for the elephants. The king’s personal beasts, however, used to receive special accommodation and care. Military store and armoury were well-guarded places. Outside the palace there were four separate camps for accommodating the conquered kings undergoing trial in the court.

Bana has presented a minute detail of the coronation ceremony of Chandrapeeda which is attended by all the kings of Tarapeeda’s ally. After the ceremony is over the crown prince is introduced with each of the kings. And when he starts in the great rally several kings and chiefs join him as a sense of their loyalty to the king.

The prince is also accompanied by huge armies of the allied forces. This is precisely what was to be followed in the contemporary royal ceremonies. The role of the chief minister Sukanasa in this context was very important. He was the central figure in maintaining alliance with all the kings. Not only was he the pivotal spokes-person for the king, but also he used to operate an intricately secret network of spy in all over the state and the neighbouring states as well to ensure safety and security of the central administration.

Yet another very important aspect of the society in medieval India is the quiet yet busy life in the hermitages. These places are situated specially in forests where the day is spent in worship and peaceful toils, and in the evening the sunbeams ‘linger like birds on the crest of hill and tree’. This place is the hub of education and peace and hence here night darkens all but the heart. This is the reason why most of the important events in the story happen in such forests like the first meetings of Pundarika and Mahashweta, Chandrapeeda and Kadambari and even the truth about the parrot Vaishampayana’s previous life is also revealed in such a hermitage.

It is not only the contemporary social, royal and personal event that we can draw from Kadambari, but also the universal Romantic description of Nature moves us too: as the night is found to be narrated, “The brightness of the day approached the west, following the path of the sun’s chariot wheels, like a stream of water.” It is to be noted that Kadambari, as a successful love story in Sanskrit is a matter of pride for us because the time it portrays is in fact the time when most of the other so called developed nations had not yet been born.


Q.2. Analyse the role of the narrator in Kadambari.


Comment on the method of story telling in Kadambari.

Ans. Just as we universally consider ‘Hamlet’ synonymous to ‘tragedy’ or ‘Lolita’ to the genre of ‘novel similarly in modern India in the languages of Kannada and Marathi ‘Kadambari’ has been recognised as the meaning of ‘novel, romance, fiction or tale’. The entire credit should go to the extent of acceptance and admiration that the novel has achieved through the passage of time. And this achievement is a direct result of the beautiful method of narration of the love story of the Moon God and Kadambari.

By bringing in several major and minor characters and many complex situations and co-incidents throughout the two lives of the central characters the long narrative keeps its reader amalgamated to the text in full attention. Probably this is the reason why Banabhatta is regarded as the storyteller par excellence for centuries in India.

Certain auto-biographical elements are beautifully inserted into the text when Vaishampayana, the parrot narrator of the story describes his own tragic situation of . loosing his mother in his very childhood and being brought up by father in the Vindhya forest. That poor father too is brutally slaughtered in the hand of the hunters and the severely traumatised Vaishampayana looses all directions in life till he comes to the hermitage of Jabali. By virtue of such personal account at the very beginning the story told by the parrot narrator at once surpasses the boundaries of mere subjective narration and reaches to the inner palpable recesses of the readers.

The story-line of Kadambari may be described in short as follows. Pundarika is born as the son of the Goddess of fortune and the sage Svetaketu. Pundarika happens to fall in love with Mahasweta but owing to his ascetic’s vow, cannot come to a happy ending with his love. He attains the end of a dissatisfied life for his unfulfilled love hinting at the possible rebirth. The rebirth invariably takes place in the shape of Vaishampayana. The moon God also reincarnates as Candrapeeda. In this life Chandrapeeda woos Kadambari before succumbing to the curse and Vaishampayana courts Mahasweta, but unfortunately is cursed by her and dies to be reborn as a parrot.

One day the parrot who is former Vaishampayana and former Pundarika is brought to the court of the king Sudraka who is again by fortune the reincarnated form of Chandrapeeda. It is at the court of the king that the entire story is narrated and all the identities are revealed. Sudraka and the parrot narrator grieve to death at being separated from their beloveds in previous birth. At their death the body of Chandrapeeda revives by the grace of moon God; Pundarika is also brought back earth from heaven and the two divine couple unite after a vivid waiting for more than two complete life-cycles.

The beautifully arranged narration of the story is vibrant with the theme of rebirth, reinforced on several occasions by denotation, connotation and allusions, narrated in a way that sets up the theme and then reiterates it; with enormous suspense suggests, echoes the same and finally comes to rest just like the ocean involves into a chaotic and destructive phenomena in tumultuous tempest, but at the end of it becomes the same calm and soothing panorama of crystal blue water.

In order to maintain the suspense in the story not disturbing the unity of plot Bana has implemented several unique techniques which to define with Aristotle are, the ‘frame, the ‘prism’ and the ‘time machine’. It is also to be noted that the storyteller is named ‘Vaishampayana’ who is the major narrator in the great Mahabharata as well. In the universally acclaimed texts like Decameron and Canterbury Tales the technique of ‘framing’ takes place.

It is the method of telling multiple stories within a story. Now, Kadambari is a story told to king Sudraka by parrot-narrator Vaishampayana about the story told to him by the hermit Jabali. Within this is a story told to Chandrapeeda by Mahasweta about a story told by Kapinjala. Ovid’s Metamorphosis and Indian Mahabharata are renowned for the use of the story telling technique called ‘prism’, which just like the dispersing of light leaves clues to certain events to come or the completion of the story at its beginning itself.

In Kadambari also Vaishampayana and the other subsequent narrators introduce their story with a series of questions, thereby causing more intense involvement from the reader. The third technique called ‘time machine’ reflects to an indigenous idea, as the name suggests, to a time travel by virtue of mere narration of the story. In Kadambari both the narrator and the prime listener are unaware about their own identity which will be revealed with the appearance of Goddess Lakshmi. But during the course of the story they have travelled to myriads of time zones effortlessly being completely ignorant that somewhere in those time frames is hiding their true relevance with the story itself.

In disguise of an oblivious parrot who can only repeat what he is taught and can never understand a bit of the same here in Kadambari the irony is intensified because the same parrot is honoured by being mythologically connected to the chief narrator of Mahabharata and at the end through stories within stories his actual identity is exposed as to be the pivotal character of the story. Hence both the narrator and the narrated are made one and the circle of their long longed love becomes complete.


Q.3. Comment of the plot construction of Kadambari.

Ans. After the great epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the legendary works by Kalidasa it is definitely Kadambari that demands attention not only because of its historical and mythological importance but also for its single-handedly woven plot that is no less than a modern day romantic novel in world literature. It meticulously follows the treaties of Bharata named Natyasastra of fourth Century A.D providing a guideline to the plot structure of a narrative.





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