Philosophical Reflections in the Naisadhacarita

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Philosophical Reflections in the Naisadhacarita is the doctoral (Ph.D.) thesis of Harekrishna Meher done in Banaras Hindu University in 1981. It discusses philosophical ideas as reflected in the Sanskrit Mahakavya ‘Naisadhacaritam’ authored by the distinguished poet Sriharsa (12th century). This book (ISBN 9788185094212), first published in 1989 by Punthi Pustak Calcutta, is circulated worldwide[citation needed].

Naisadhacarita Mahakavya of poet Sriharsa enjoys a prominent position among the five great epics of Sanskrit Literature. Also known as ‘Naishadha’ or ‘Naishadhiya’, this epic contains twenty-two cantos completed with 2827 verses. Its main theme is the story of love between Nala, the King of Nisadha country and Damayanti, the Princess of Vidarbha. The story of Nala and Damayanti is found in the Mahabharata of Vyasa and Kathasaritsagara of Somadeva. The episode of the epic has been taken from the Mahabharata. Poet Sriharsa has remodelled the story and has added the sentiment of love to it.

Philosophical Importance of Naisadhacarita :

In Naisadhacarita, Indian literature and philosophy are interwoven. Indian philosophy has the celebrity all over the world for its intellectual and practical eminence. The keynote of almost all the philosophical systems is the realization of Truth and Self, annihilation of mundane sufferings and attainment of supreme happiness. Ways are many, but the destination is one. Sriharsa’s epic has several philosophical trends in the light of the thoughts revealed by the minds of the great Aryan thinkers.

Poet Sriharsa is a deep-delved philosopher. His Naisadhacarita, even with its epical characteristics, forms a philosophical profile. This literary composition addresses itself to a critical review of social norms and ethics. Romanticism of the Nala-Damayanti-episode reigns superb; yet other factors of life are also taken into account in the greater perspective of human existence.

Sriharsa has not dilated upon all the topics of all the Indian philosophical systems; still his philosophical purview provides a general survey. Various philosophical notions are compressed and communed with the literary matter of the epic. No sequence is seen in the philosophical allusions and they are found scattered in over two hundred and thirty verses of different cantos.

For the philosophical affluence with scriptural influence, Canto-XVII is really remarkable. Some definite items of almost all the systems, theist and atheist, spiritual and non-spiritual, orthodox and heterodox, are traced with unfailing philosophical focuses. This significant canto forms an excellent index of Sriharsa’s dexterous genius, originality and inviting innovations in the Indian.philosophical sphere.

It may be observed that with the infusion of philosophical phenomena, Sriharsa’s aim is to suitably embellish the aesthetic status of his literary work and to sincerely evince his philosophical acumen as well. He has successfully designed his poetic art with the philosophical features noticeable not only in plain illustrations, but also in many a double entendre.

Author of the Book, Dr. Meher remarks :

"Sriharsa’s Naisadhacarita seems burdensome for general readers; but it serves as a repository of epical riches. This literary composition earns high admirations from many noted Sanskrit scholars, both oriental and occidental. For the felicitous expression, bold approach, intellectual relevance, emotional charm, scriptural significance, philosophical probing and above all, scholarly structure of Indian wisdom, this epic is renowned as a monumental masterpiece in Sanskrit."

The Author further expresses :

"Sriharsa’s eruditions on all the philosophical systems are very well marked and the sublimity of Monistic Vedanta has been maintained in the Naisadhacarita. Literary merit has not been belittled by the philosophical concepts inserted into the literature; rather it has been enhanced, since they have been contextually and befittingly utilized as some favourable figures of speech without causing any levity of meaning and without marring the literary beauty of the epic. * * Bearing, though unsystematically, the outlines of diverse philosophical aspects, from Carvaka up to Vedanta in a bird’s eye-view, this literary epic appears as an epitome of Indian Philosophy weighed carefully by the poet-philosopher Sriharsa. Through the scriptural and canonical connections, all the thoughts signify the cultural heritage of the vast country of India and Indianness."

Brief Sketch of the Philosophical Study :

The book "Philosophical Reflections in the Naisadhacarita" is accomplished with ten chapters.

  • Chapter- I bears Introduction regarding general observations on Sriharsa and his works.
  • In Chapter- II, the heterodox materialism of Carvaka has been analysed.
  • In Chapter -III, views of Samkhya philosophy have been summarized.
  • In Chapter- IV, Concepts of Yoga philosophy have been discussed.
  • In Chapter -V, Mimamsa philosophy has found a place of discourse.
  • In Chapter -VI, some doctrines of Bauddha philosophy have been elucidated.
  • In Chapter- VII, Jaina philosophy has been briefly brought to the philosophical disquisition.
  • Chapter -VIII comprises the concepts of Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophy.
  • In Chapter -IX, Vedanta philosophy has been critically construed.
  • Chapter- X forms the concluding review on the epic from different angles. Depicting the literary theme of love, Poet Sriharsa has looked into the inner sense of life through various philosophical topics in his Mahakavya ‘Naisadhacarita’.

Some Comments on this Thesis :

Sriharsha has the catholicity to absorb the teachings of both theistic and atheistic schools, and one is astounded to see the fusion of conflicting trends in his court-epic. The writer of the present dissertation has discussed all these issues in the work which can claim originality on many counts. On the whole, my impression on the thesis is extremely favourable. The work is marked by originality of thought and freshness of approach, and I have every reason to believe that it will be admired by posterity as a document successful in its attempt to enrich the stock of human knowledge.”

“The thesis is a definite contribution to the studies of the Naisadhacarita. The study, further, has been very critical and exhaustive as can well be seen from the scholarly examination of the views of the different systems of Indian Philosophy like the Carvakas, the Nyaya-Vaisesikas, the Samkhyas, the Jainas, the different schools of Buddhism and the Advaita Vedanta, so laboriously culled from the poem. This presentation reveals not only the hard work on the part of the candidate, but also his sound understanding of the text before him and of Indian Philosophy also. The thesis has been arranged and presented in a systematic manner and has been lucidly written.”

“The candidate has taken serious pains to see how the poet has worked out the theme in the light of Indian metaphysics and ethics. It is a remarkable amalgam of truth and fiction, fact and artifact. I congratulate the candidate for his honest and sincere attempts, his critical acumen and deep philosophical insight. I have reasons to believe that it is a real contribution to the world of academicians.”

(Courtesy : Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India)




Published by : Punthi Pustak, 136 / 4B, Bidhan Sarani, Calcutta-4,

First Edition 1989 (ISBN 9788185094212)

Meher, Harekrishna - Philosophical Reflections in the Naisadhacarita,Punthi-Pustak, Calcutta, 1989)


External links[edit]

(Sanskrit Literature, Indian Philosophy)