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Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hung.

Volume 66 (3), 247 265 (2013)


DOI: 10.1556/AOrient.66.2013.3.1

TRACKING A DEVIL IN A TEXTUAL MAZE


CITATIONS FROM THE MUDRRKASA
IN ANTHOLOGIES OF SANSKRIT POETRY
DNIEL BALOGH
Department of Indo-European Studies, Etvs Lornd University
H-1088 Mzeum krt. 4/E, Budapest, Hungary
e-mail: daniel@jeindia.hu

Vikhadattas Mudrrkasa is somewhat unique among Sanskrit dramas in that its plot is concerned with political intrigue. Though the occurrence of certain stanzas of the Mudrrkasa in
other (non-fiction) works has been noted even by early editors of the play, no attempt has yet been
made to fully explore the textual interconnections of the play. The present paper attempts to sketch
a map of the appearance of Mudrrkasa stanzas in anthologies of Sanskrit poetry. Such anthologies containing hundreds of well-phrased (subhita) stanzas collected from classical literature,
but detached from their context and usually arranged in thematic chapters made their appearance
on the literary stage at the end of the 11th century and remain popular to the present day. Out of the
total 175 stanzas of poetry in the Mudrrkasa, 18 occur in one or more major subhita anthologies and other literary works. While 12 of these are probably indeed Vikhadattas own compositions according to the testimony of the anthologies, the authorship of the remaining 6 is somewhat
dubious, since they are attributed in one or more anthologies to a different source, and/or are found
in texts that may be earlier than the Mudrrkasa. The paper argues that stanzas of poetry, mostly
of a gnomic/didactic nature, could freely migrate not only from works of fiction into anthologies
but also in the opposite direction. Widespread quotes that sounded relevant to a specific situation
may well have been inserted into the text of dramas (and other opuses) both by the playwrights
themselves and by subsequent copyists or redactors of their texts.
Key words: Mudrrkasa, Vikhadatta, subhita, Sanskrit poetry, Sanskrit drama, proverbs, citation, intertextuality.

Introduction
Vikhadattas Mudrrkasa A Story of Mr. Devil Featuring a Signet Ring is
somewhat unique among Sanskrit dramas in that its plot is concerned with political
intrigue, replete with poison maidens, secret agents, hidden tunnels and forged letters.
0001-6446 / $ 20.00 2013 Akadmiai Kiad, Budapest

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DNIEL BALOGH

Though the time at which it was written is uncertain,1 it is set in antique history: it concerns the events immediately following the rise to power of Candragupta Maurya
after overthrowing the Nanda dynasty. Candragupta is depicted as hardly more than a
puppet of his advisor Cakya (the putative author of the Arthastra), who intends
to find a worthy successor before he retires to the woods. His candidate is a minister
called Rkasa, Mr. Devil (so named for his shrewdness and battle prowess), who
was the best counsellor of the deposed Nandas and has now joined the barbarian
prince Malayaketu in order to overthrow Candraguptas rule. His attempt, however,
is doomed: Cakya gradually manipulates Rkasa into a position where his only
choice is to swear an oath of fealty to Candragupta.
Though the occurrence of certain stanzas of the Mudrrkasa in other (nonfiction) works has been noted even by early editors of the play,2 no attempt has yet
been made to fully explore the interconnections of Vikhadattas drama with other
members of the corpus of Sanskrit literature. Part of my ongoing research3 concerning textual links connecting the Mudrrkasa to other Indian literary texts, the present paper attempts to sketch a map of the appearance of Mudrrkasa stanzas in classical anthologies of Sanskrit poetry. Such alternative occurrences of verses known
from the play will herein be referred to as citations, even though as we shall see
some of them are in all likelihood not strictly citations, or at least are not sourced
from Vikhadatta.
Much of the painstaking work of searching for citations through the maze of
Sanskrit literature has already been done by great scholars on whose shoulders I can
stand like the proverbial dwarf. I am particularly indebted to Ludwik Sternbach whose
A Descriptive Catalogue of Poets Quoted in Sanskrit Anthologies and Inscriptions contains a tremendous wealth of information distilled to heaps of numbers and letters.
The effort required merely to understand his less than two-page list of Vikhadatta
references (Sternbach 1980, pp. 460 461) leaves me feeling nothing but awe for the
effort that must have gone into collecting and condensing the incredible wealth of
data in the two-volume catalogue. The relevant sections of the recently deceased Anthony Kennedy Warders massive Indian Kvya Literature (Warder 1977, pp. 269
273) were greatly helpful in locating citations and references in theoretical works on
drama and poetics. Once in possession of the maps provided in these fundamental
works, my task was merely to walk the paths described by them, tracking the citations from Mr. Devils Story through the textual maze wherever possible to explore their contexts and variant readings.

1
The early Gupta age appears most likely, but the 9th century is also arguable and further
propositions have also been raised. See e.g. Krishnamachariar (1937, pp. 604 611) for an overview
of arguments about the date of Vikhadatta.
2
See below, under the discussion of verse 2.18.
3
Which will hopefully result in a PhD thesis at Etvs Lornd University, Budapest in the
not-too-distant future.

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Collections of Well-spoken Poetry


Indian literary culture has a long tradition of preserving eloquent didactic verses and
short epigrams on a wide variety of topics. Such well-spoken (subhita) utterances
were remembered and passed on orally as discrete units even though many of them
would originally have been part of a larger work. A common synonym for subhita
is muktaka, detached, i.e. a verse that can stand on its own or more explicitly,
one that has been loosened from the matrix of which it was originally part.4 Treatises
on technical topics such as law or philosophy, frequently composed in metrical verse,
were as bountiful sources of such sayings as were works of literature. Along with didactic stanzas from tales and epics, a different sort of poetry also made its way from
literary works into the treasure-house of subhitas: strophes remembered for a particularly poignant description of particular emotions or situations, often written in
elaborate poetic metres rather than the short forms more characteristic of epigrammatic poetry. Some such verses were arranged into thematic compendia even during
the early centuries of the Christian era, but it was from the beginning of the second
millennium that major anthologies of beautiful utterances (subhitasagraha) came
into vogue (Sternbach 1974, p. 4).5 The compilers of such anthologies probably actively sought to extract quotable stanzas from the by then tremendous repository of
Sanskrit literature and would often (though sometimes with questionable accuracy6)
record the names of their composers or the titles of the works in which they were
originally found.
Like other genres of Sanskrit literature, drama also yielded a fertile crop of
well-spoken stanzas. The body of a Sanskrit play comprises prose dialogue with a
generous sprinkling of metrical verse. It is generally recognised that the verses in the
text of dramas seldom serve to advance the plot directly, tending instead to provide
either descriptions of scenes, persons or emotions, or pithy maxims relevant to the
action. Many of these stanzas would have been recited, some probably sung (possibly
accompanied by dance or mime), breaking the flow of the dialogue in order to emphasise a particular point or aesthetic moment. A consequence of this is that verses
originally composed as organic parts of a drama can frequently be uprooted from
their context without injuring them, to become part of the pool of subhitas that the
literati would study and know by heart.
4
The resonance with mukta, meaning pearl among other things, was surely alive in the
minds of the literati. Subhitas are pearls of wisdom as well as pearls released from the oyster
shells of diverse opuses in the ocean of literature.
5
Note that this applies to verse anthologies in Sanskrit; collections of Prakrit subhitas
survive from a much earlier time. The few popular collections of Sanskrit subhitas from the first
millennium are hallmarked by the name of a single author (such as Bharthari), though on the one
hand these authors may have utilised pre-existing verse in their compendia, and on the other hand,
the collections doubtless grew in transmission and came to include a fair number of stanzas definitely not composed by the original author.
6
Sternbach (1974, p. 6) notes that a single particular verse may be attributed to no less than
six different authors in as many subhitasagrahas, though some of the different authors are
mere textual variants of names no longer familiar to the copyists.

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An Overview of the Major Anthologies


The Subhitaratnakoa of Vidykara is the earliest surviving Sanskrit subhita collection. The text was compiled at the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12th century by a Buddhist who in all likelihood enjoyed the patronage of the Pla dynasty of
Bengal (Kosambi Gokhale 1957, pp. xxxivxxxix). The collected verses (a total of
1737)7 are grouped in fifty thematic chapters named vrajys, troops. A later work,
the Prasannashityaratnkara compiled by Nandana in 15th-century Orissa, imitates
the arrangement of the Subhitaratnakoa and borrows heavily from its contents,
having over 480 verses in common (Kosambi Gokhale 1957, pp. xxiixxiii).
The second oldest extant anthology is the Saduktikarmta, composed by rdharadsa in 1205 (Sternbach 1974, p. 16). The author belonged to the court of king
Lakmaasena of the Hindu Sena dynasty that had by this time replaced the Buddhist
Plas as the chief power in Bengal. This collection of nearly 2400 verses is divided
into five chapters called pravha, stream and subdivided into a total of 476 sections
called vci, wave, with five stanzas per wave as a rule of thumb. rdhara was definitely familiar with the Subhitaratnakoa, from which he includes 623 verses in his
own compilation. Though some of these common verses may have been gleaned independently from the same sources, the fact that stanzas also found in the Subhitaratnakoa tend (at least in some pravhas) to appear at the beginning of vcis in the
Saduktikarmta indicates that a large proportion at least had been skimmed directly
from Vidykaras work (Kosambi Gokhale 1957, p. xxii). On the other hand, rdhara makes more effort than Vidykara to identify the original author of his citations, though the identifications are not always correct.
The Sktimuktval of Jalhaa was produced far to the south and west in the
Ydava court of Devagiri (present-day Daulatabad). This collection of nearly 2800
stanzas was completed in 1258 and is divided into 133 thematic paddhatis, procedures.
The Western Indian Paddhati of rgadhara, comprising well over four thousand stanzas, is one of the best known verse anthologies, probably completed in 1363
at the Chamna court of kambhar near the modern city of Jaipur. The popularity
of the rgadharapaddhati may have been augmented by the peculiar fact that a
sizeable portion of its hoard of more than 4600 verses was evidently not included for
aesthetic merit but rather for practical value on a wide gamut of worldly subjects from
medicine to metallurgy. This seems by the way to justify the use of the term paddhati,
procedure for its 163 chapters, a usage which appears rather strange in the less
pragmatic collections that adopt this term.
The Sktiratnahra (also called Subhitaratnaml) and the Subhitasudhnidhi are two very closely related anthologies from South India. The former was edited by K. Smbaiva str on the basis of a single manuscript, which declares it to
7
A fragmentary manuscript containing 525 stanzas from the Subhitaratnakoa was published by F. W. Thomas under the conjectured title Kavndravacanasamuccaya before D. D. Kosambi and V. V. Gokhales edition (1957) of the full text using two further, more complete manuscripts.

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be the work of Srya Kligarja, minister to mahrjdhirja Kulaekhara (identified as the Pya ruler Mrarvarman Kulaekhara I [r. 12681308]) (Sternbach
1974, p. 19). The latter collection (edited by K. Krishnamoorthy) claims to have been
compiled by Syaa, the 14th-century Vijayanagar minister better known for his commentary on the Vedas. Both these texts are arranged into four parvans, sections corresponding to the four pururthas of dharma, artha, kma and moka, each containing a number of paddhatis, procedures with verses on a particular topic. The titles
of the paddhatis and the individual verses within each (though not the actual order of
the verses) overlap to a great extent in the two collections (Sternbach 1974, p. 20).
Sternbach (1974, p. 20) proposes that the two are merely different versions of one
text, of which the Sktiratnahra is a better representation. This ur-collection may
actually have been the work of Syaa and probably does originate in the first half of
the 14th century.
The Subhitvali or Subhitval of Vallabhadeva is another popular anthology that may have been originally compiled as early as the mid-12th century (perhaps,
but not beyond doubt in Kashmir). The form in which it has been preserved, however, is in all probability a result of major reworking carried out in Kashmir no earlier
than the mid-15th century (Sternbach 1974, p. 23; Pollock 2003, p. 115 note). It is arranged in 101 thematic chapters again bearing the name paddhati, procedure.
Mudrrkasa Stanzas in Anthologies
Out of the total 175 stanzas of poetry in the Mudrrkasa, 17 occur in one or more
major subhita anthologies. For fourteen of these, the issue of authorship remains
unchallenged in the anthologies studied. All these verses are ascribed by name to
Vikhadatta or Vikhadeva8 or by title to the Mudrrkasa in at least one of the
texts that cite them, while simultaneously, none of them are ascribed in any studied
anthology to any other named author (though some of them are cited anonymously in
some collections). The origin of the remaining three stanzas, namely MR 1.22, 3.32
and 4.139, is questionable since they are not ascribed to the Mudrrkasa or to Vikhadatta in any anthology. Though we may assume that all 14 stanzas of the former
group are Vikhadattas own compositions, there are some grounds for doubting the
testimony of the anthologies in the case of two of these verses, MR 1.14 and 2.18.
Verse 2.18 is present in several versions of Bhartharis atakas which may well be
regarded as early thematic subhita compendia, while verse 1.14 is featured in the
fable literature as well as in anthologies. An eighteenth stanza, MR 2.19, does not
appear in any major anthologies, but is also included in the centuries of Bharthari.
Altogether we thus have 18 Mudrrkasa verses that appear in various works
of Sanskrit literature beside Vikhadattas play. Tables 1 and 2 summarise these citations:fTablef1fpresentsfthef12fversesfthatfcanfbefattributedfto Vikhadatta with fair
8

This variation on the name of Vikhadatta is known from several sources including multiple MSS of the Mudrrkasa.
9
References to Mudrrkasa verses are by act and verse as numbered in Hillebrandts edition.
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Table 1. Citations of Mudrrkasa verses with unambiguous attribution


Verse Text
1.1.

dhany

Cited in

Attribution

Context of citation

Sktimuktval 99.1

anonymous

vakrokti

Saduktikarmta 1.7.5

Vikhadatta

ivas conversations with


Prvat

Vikhadeva

nti

+ 1 unpublished anthology
1.13.

aivaryd

Sktimuktval 110.62
+ Alakramuktval

1.15.

svayam

Sktiratnahra 35.29

MR

(proper) conduct

3.5.

tkd

Sktimuktval 115.18

Vikhadeva

characteristics of r

Sktiratnahra 167.23

MR

Lakms imposture

Subhitasudhnidhi
165/24

MR

+ 1 minor and 1 unpublished anthology; Nyadarpaa


3.7.

anai

Prasannashityaratnkara Vikhadatta
990

autumn

Subhitaratnakoa 11.13

anonymous

autumn

3.8.

apm

Sktimuktval 62.8

Vikhadeva

autumn

3.14.

bhetavya

Sktimuktval 123.8

Vikhadeva

service

Sktiratnahra 124.12

MR

censure of royal service

Subhitasudhnidhi
170/19

MR

Sktimuktval 126.10

Vikhadeva

yearning

3.16.

stuvanty

+ 1 unpublished anthology
3.21.

pratyagra

Prasannashityaratnkara Vikhadatta
33b

Viu

Sktimuktval 2.62

Vikhadeva

Viu

Subhitaratnakoa 6.30

Vikhadatta

Viu

+ 1 unpublished anthology; Alakramahodadhi, Kvynusana,


Kvyaik, Sarasvatkahbharaa, grapraka
5.3.

muhur

Sktimuktval 110.63

Vikhadeva

nti

6.11.

viparyasta Sktimuktval 109.28

Vikhadeva

decrepit garden

6.12.

katgn Sktimuktval 109.29

Vikhadeva

decrepit garden

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Table 2. Citations of Mudrrkasa verses of questionable origin


Verse

Text

Cited in

Attribution

Context of citation

1.14.

aprjena

Sktimuktval 110.61
Sktiratnahra 105.7

Vikhadeva
MR
MR

nti
good kings men
?

Subhitasudhnidhi
106/6
+ ukasaptati (Pacatantra of Durgasiha)
1.22.

uvari ghaghaaraida dre dad Prakrit version in MR only


upari ghana ghanapaala dre dayit closest Sanskrit version with some variants
Subhitaratnakoa 23.40 anonymous
separation of lovers
+ Kvynusana, Sarasvatkahbharaa, grapraka
upari payodharaml dre dayit Bhojas (?) version with few variants
Subhitvali 1745
anonymous
monsoon
Bhoja
monsoon
rgadharapaddhati
135.23
Sktimuktval 61.34
Bhoja
monsoon
upari ghana ghanapaala tiryag girayo Bhartharis (?) version without variants
Bharthari atakatraya 87
gra
Subhitvali 1744
Bharthari
monsoon
anonymous
monsoon
rgadharapaddhati
135.25
Sktimuktval 61.32
Bhrthari
monsoon
+ unknown variant in: Rasikajvana 1256, and 5 unpublished anthologies

2.18.

rabhyate

Subhitvali 544
Sktiratnahra 168.32

anonymous
MR
MR

magnanimous people
great people
?

Subhitasudhnidhi
157/26
+ Bharthari atakatraya 277 and 5 unpublished anthologies;
Pacatantra, ukasaptati simplicior, Vetlapacaviatik;
Daarpvaloka
2.19.

ki easya

3.32.

sa doa

Bharthari atakatraya 232 and 1 unpublished anthology


Sktiratnahra 83.14
Subhitasudhnidhi
113/14

4.13.

atyucchrite

Sktiratnahra 83.16

Pacatantra
Pacatantra

bad ministers
?

Pacatantra

bad ministers
?

anonymous
Subhitasudhnidhi
113/16
+ Pacatantra, Hitopadea

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certainty (as no anthology attributes them to a different author and they are not found
in works that may pre-date the Mudrrkasa), while Table 2 shows the 6 stanzas in
the case of which the authorship of Vikhadatta is somewhat dubious (since they are
attributed in one or more anthologies to a different source, and/or are found in texts
that may be earlier than the Mudrrkasa). Stanzas featured in the second table will
be discussed in detail below, but for lack of space the unambiguous verses will not be
given further consideration in this paper.
In both tables, verses are referred to by their number in Hillebrandts critical
edition; for clarity of identification the first word or two of each verse is given in the
second column. The third column references citations in major anthologies,10 while
the fourth column shows to what source (if any) a given collection ascribes the verse.
The fifth column describes the context (thematic chapter or subchapter title) in which
the stanza is cited. Aside from the great anthologies, the table also lists any further
citations of verse 1 that I have been able to trace. These (where applicable) are given
without further details in the lines straddling columns 3 to 5 and include minor and
unpublished subhita anthologies, fables and theoretical works on literature and
drama.11
1.14 aprjena ca ktarea
This verse of Mudrrkasa is part of Cakyas monologue at the beginning of the
main body of the play. Having described Rkasa as unwaveringly loyal to his extinct
masters, he now proceeds to state his goal, namely that he intends to convert Rkasa
to his cause and appoint him his successor as Candraguptas minister. For that virtue
of loyalty, as elaborated in the sententious rdlavikrita stanza, is as important in
a royal servant as intelligence and courage one without all three is not a kings man
but a spouse.
aprjena ca ktarea ca gua syd bhaktiyuktena ka
prajvikramalino pi hi bhavet ki bhaktihnt phalam|
prajvikramabhaktaya samudit ye gu bhtaye
te bhty npate kalatram itare sapatsu cpatsu ca||
The subhita collections that include the verse are the Sktimuktval of Jalhaa, the Sktiratnahra and the Subhitasudhnidhi (SM 110.61; SRH 105.7; SSN
106/6). The former ascribes it to Vikhadeva and the latter two to the Mudrrkasa,
so the authorship of Vikhadatta appears to be unchallenged. However, the stanza also
occurs in the body of fable literature, without any author ascription of course. It is
present in the textus simplicior of the ukasaptati and in an 11th-century Kannaa
110

Reference numbers containing a slash are to page number and verse, while those without
a slash are to chapter (where applicable) and verse number.
11
These other citations have been located to a small extent through my own researches, and
to a greater extent by former scholars such as Sternbach (1971, 1976 and 1980), Warder (1977) and
Kosambi (1948).
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transcreation of the Pacatantra.12 What makes the appearance of the quatrain in the
ukasaptati particularly interesting is that there it describes a faithful minister of a
king named Nanda. The ministers name is not Rkasa but akala, a name also
found in some stories about the rise of Candragupta to power. This raises the possibility that the verse may after all be not original to the Mudrrkasa, but perhaps
from a lost work about the Nandas and/or Candragupta, from which both Vikhadatta
and the author of the ukasaptati drew not only inspiration, but also ready-made text.
1.22 uvari ghaghaaraida
This ry stanza in Prakrit is uttered by the guild foreman Candanadsa, Rkasas
close friend who has been hiding the ministers family in the city of Paliputra. He is
being questioned by Cakya who threatens to charge him with high treason unless
he reveals the location of the rebel ministers family. The verse likens the situation of
a man away from his lover at the start of the monsoon season (when travel is next to
impossible, so he cannot hope for union with his beloved) to that of a man on whose
head a snake has fallen while magical herbs are only found in the Himalayas.
uvari ghaghaaraida dre dad kim edam vaida|
himavadi divvosahio sse sappo samviho||
The stanza is only present in three of Hillebrandts manuscripts and omitted in
seven,13 wherefore Hillebrandt already remarked that it must be only the quotation
of a widely spread saying and here a later addition (Hillebrandt 1912, p. 31).
It should nonetheless be noted that none of Telangs witnesses (mostly South Indian
manuscripts) omit the verse, but then again, Hillebrandts proposal is lent force by
the fact that the verse comes on a cue uttered by Cakya: irasi bhaya dre tatpratkra, the danger is on your head, the remedy is far away. These words may well
have reminded an erstwhile copyist or director of a subhita which could be inserted
here to emphasise the point.
Although an identical Prakrit subhita has not been handed down to us in the
literature I have been able to study, it turns out that there is a whole bevy of works citing equivalent or very similar stanzas in Sanskrit. One of these is attested in at least
one important subhita collection (the Subhitaratnakoa of Vidykara) and is also
cited in three fundamental works on poetics (the Sarasvatkahbharaa and grapraka of Bhoja, and the Kvynusana of Hemacandra) (SRK 23.40 (791);
Sarasvatkahbharaa 3.31.87, p. 353; grapraka p. 619; Kvynusana
p. 252). All four of these sources cite it without attribution to any author; moreover,
the three poetical texts all use it to illustrate the poetic device of dnta, example/al-

12
ukasaptati simplicior, 48.2 (50.1 in the separately edited MS A); the Pacatantra of
Durgasiha 300.17 (Sternbach 1976, p. 334).
13
Hillebrandt also notes in his apparatus that the verse is not discussed in Grahevaras commentary. It is in fact also absent from Vaevaras and huhirjas commentaries.

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legory: the verse is about an actual stranded lover whose plight is comparable to that
of a hypothetical man with a snake on his head and healing herbs far away. In the
context of the Mudrrkasa, however, the verse is employed as allegory twice removed, where the actual misfortune of Candanadsa is likened to that of a hypothetical lover and a hypothetical snake victim. The text of this Sanskrit version of the
stanza is remarkably similar to a word-for-word Sanskrit transliteration (chy) of
the Prakrit text found in the Mudrrkasa, and where the two do deviate, the differences seem to imply that the Prakrit version is a translation from the Sanskrit rather
than the other way round.
There are, furthermore, two other widely cited Sanskrit rys, attributed with
some degree of plausibility to specific authors, that may well have influenced the
form in which the verse appears in the Mudrrkasa. One of these (distinguished by
the reading upari payodharaml in the first quarter), is cited in at least three anthologies: the Sktimuktvali of Jalhaa, the rgadharapaddhati and the Subhitvali
of Vallabhadeva (SM 61.34; DP 135.23 (3884); SV 1745). The former two of
these three collections ascribe it to r Bhojadeva, while the Subhitvali simply
gives someone as the author. I am not aware of such a stanza in the published works
of Bhoja, except of course the illustrative verse in the Sarasvatkahbharaa and
the grapraka which, however, lacks the distinctive reading of payodharaml.
Yet another widely prevalent verse, though it differs in its character from the
variants seen so far, happens to begin with the (Sanskrit equivalent of the) same words
as the version in the Mudrrkasa, but continues with tiryag girayo pi nartitamayr. In this subhita there is no metaphor, but rather a description of nature and a
rhetorical question: where can the lonely traveller look, when the signs of the arrival
of the monsoon are all around him? This stanza can be traced to the graataka of
Bharthari and is cited with ascription to Bharthari in the Subhitvali of Vallabhadeva and the Sktimuktvali of Jalhaa, as well as anonymously in the rgadharapaddhati (BT 87; SM 61.32s; DP 135.25 (3886); SV 1744). (Note that all
three of these anthologies also cite the version attributed to Bhoja.)
Given that none of these three anthologies deviate from the text of the graataka, and the atakatraya critical edition (Kosambi 1948, p. 34) itself shows little
textual variation apart from obvious corruption, it is probably safe to assume that this
stanza does indeed originate from Bharthari (leaving open the question of whether
he was its author or merely an influential and early compiler).
Beyond the major sources treated above in detail, a number of less influential
collections of poetry14 also include a verse similar to one version or another of this
stanza. Thus all the evidence seems to support the conclusion that a stanza very like

14
A similar stanza is ascribed to Bhoja in the Rasikajvana of Gaddhara Bhaa (relying
only on Sternbachs index, I cannot be sure if it reads payodharaml like the other versions attributed to Bhoja). Unpublished texts citing a version of this verse include the Subhitasrasamuccaya (Sternbach 1980, p. 461); as well as the Subhitaratnakoa of Bhaarka (not related to
that of Vidykara), the lokasagraha of Mairma Dkita, the Subhitrava of Gopntha and
the grlpa (Kosambi 1948, p. 34).

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ours had been a widely known Sanskrit subhita before it was inserted into the Mudrrkasa in a Prakritised version. The reverse of this hypothesis, namely that a Prakrit
original (whether from the Mudrrkasa or some other source) was translated to
Sanskrit by anthologists, is contradicted by the fact that several of the texts citing the
Sanskrit version do also include Prakrit verses, hence they would not have needed to
Sanskritise a Prakrit ry. The omission of the verse in a substantial proportion of our
dramas manuscripts and commentarial testimony lends force to Hillebrandts assertion that the verse is not original. Though we cannot exclude the possibility that the
insertion was done by Vikhadatta, it is far more likely to be the handiwork of some
well-meaning person seeking to enrich the play with a whiff of gra later in the
history of the text.
2.18 rabhyate na khalu
In the second act Rkasas agent Virdhagupta arrives (disguised as a snake charmer)
at the ministers house and, having gained admittance, he proceeds to relate how all
their schemes to assassinate Candragupta have miscarried. Increasingly dejected, Rkasa states that fate is aiding Cakya in every way, whereupon the faithful Virdhagupta attempts to convince him to keep up his efforts. The first of two verses he recites on this occasion is an aphoristic vasantatilaka stanza which delineates three categories of people: the lowly wont even commence a venture for fear of obstacles, the
middling begin but desist when they confront obstacles, while supreme people will
carry on with their initiative no matter how many obstacles they face.
rabhyate na khalu vighnabhayena ncai
prrabhya vighnavihat viramanti madhy|
vighnai puna punar api pratihanyamn
prrabdham uttamagus tvam ivodvahanti||
This quatrain with a number of variations has gained very wide currency in
the subhita literature and elsewhere. Some editors of the Mudrrkasa have taken
notice of this, or at least of the fact that the Daarpvaloka of Dhanika (Avaloka ad
Daarpa 2.1) cites this stanza but attributes it to Bharthari rather than to Vikhadatta. Telang (1918, pp. 2728) seems to opine that the stanza originated in the Mudrrkasa, though his conclusion that what may be called the Subhhita theory []
is the only one that we can adopt (Telang 1918, p. 28) makes this uncertain. What
he certainly does say is that by some point in time this verse had became a widely circulated subhita, yet he offers no opinion on whether that point in time was before
or after the composition of the Mudrrkasa. Dhruva (1930, p. xxiii fn.) on the other
explicitly claims that the stanza belongs in reality to the Mudrrkhasa because
its dramatic mode of expression [] is not suited to the ataka.
The pivotal point of both Telangs and Dhruvas arguments seems to be the expression tvam iva: those of the highest quality, like you [Virdhagupta addressing
Rkasa], carry on with what they have begun. However, the version of the stanza
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found in the atakatraya of Bharthari15 reads na parityajanti instead of tvam ivodvahanti at the end. Telang and Dhruva evidently studied a text of the Daarpvaloka
in which the cited stanza read tvam iva, yet Parabs edition of the Avaloka has uttamajan na parityajanti in the body text, with a note to the effect that the variant uttamagus tvam ivodvahanti also occurs in some witnesses (Parab 1941, p. 36).
Therefore there is no evidence to support the claim that Dhanajaya originally
cited this stanza from Vikhadatta, and all we can safely say is that the transmission
process of the Avaloka was open to transfusion from the memories (and libraries) of
scribes, redactors and editors. None too surprisingly, the same seems to have been
the case with the transmission of the Mudrrkasa. Though no reported manuscripts
omit the verse, two of Hillebrandts manuscripts read uttamagu na parityajanti,
while Dhruva and Telang appear to have been so overwhelmed by the testimony of
their sources that they actually adopted this as their primary reading (Hillebrandt
1912, p. 59; Telang 1918, p. 135; Dhruva 1930, p. 30), even though they employed the
rejected variant with tvam iva as the basis of their arguments quoted above. Incidentally, the combination uttamajan na parityajanti does not occur in any reported manuscripts of the Mudrrkasa. More telling is the fact that although jan for gu is
attested in the tradition of Bhartharis atakatraya, the reading tvam ivodvahanti does
not occur in any of the Bharthari sources reported in Kosambis apparatus (Kosambi
1948, p. 908).
We thus have the verse appearing in a fairly consistent form in Bhartharis
opus, and in a somewhat less consistent form in Vikhadattas play. If it were to be
found only in the Mudrrkasa and the centuries of Bharthari, then issues of authorship and plagiarism might have some relevance. It is, however, also cited in the Sktiratnahra and the Subhitasudhnidhi, as well as in the Subhitvali of Vallabhadeva and a fair number of unpublished anthologies.16 As all these collections postdate both the atakatraya and the Mudrrkasa, they do not conclusively prove that
the verse had been widely current in Vikhadattas time. But what is more important,
it also occurs widely (though not universally) in fables, that swelling ocean of folk
wisdom where questions of plagiarism are hardly germane. Variants of the verse are
found in certain versions of the Pacatantra, in at least one manuscript of the textus
simplicior of the ukasaptati and in ivadattas version of the Vetlapacaviatik.17
I would therefore argue that the verse was not originally composed by Vikhadatta. Given that no reported manuscript of the Mudrrkasa omits it and all available commentators discuss it, its presence in the play is probably not the result of

15

More precisely, in the Ntiataka according to theme, but relegated to the section on stanzas there is reason to suspect in Kosambis critical edition (1948) of the BT where it bears the
number 277.
16
SRH 168.32, ascribed to the Mudrrkasa; SSN 157/26; SV 544, anonymous. Anthologies available in MS form include the Subhitasgara, the Padyataragin of Vrajantha, the Subhitasuradruma of Keadi Basvappa Nyaka, the Srasktval and an old Jaina anthology without title. For details of these MSS see Kosambi (1948, p. 908).
17
For details refer to Sternbach (1971, p. 303 Pacatantra; 1976, p. 30 Vetlapacaviatik and p. 304 ukasaptati).
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later addition: rather, it was likely the author himself who picked a known subhita
and tweaked it to fit better in the dialogue. Doing so would have been no more plagiarism than using any folk proverb at an appropriate juncture. Indeed, recalling the
dramatic context of the verse, we might expect the agent Virdhagupta embarrassed
by having to see his lord the erstwhile political mastermind literally in tears (ssram)
to try to hearten him with a readily available, if not downright hackneyed, snippet of
common wisdom. Nor does Rkasas subsequent reply give the agents attempt at
encouragement any more consideration than such an empty phrase deserves. Once
again in control of himself, he states that one must obviously carry on with what he
has begun, and urges the spy to carry on with his account.
2.19 ki easya
The verse immediately following 2.18 in the Mudrrkasa occurs in the same context as the previous one (forming the second part of Virdhaguptas attempt at consolation) but has a more elaborate metre (rdlavikrita) and a more complex structure. It begins with two rhetorical questions: does the serpent ea not suffer the weight
of the earth he carries, or does the Sun not tire of its ceaseless movement? Of course
they do, yet respectable people follow an innate vow of excellence in whatever they
betake themselves to, and falling short would be shameful to them.
ki easya bharavyath na vapui km na kipaty ea yat
ki v nsti pariramo dinapater ste na yan nicala|
ki tv agktam utsjan kpaavat lghyo jano lajjate
nirvyhi pratipannavastuu satm eka hi gotravratam||
The testimony of Mudrrkasa witnesses does not unanimously support the
inclusion of this verse: it is omitted in three of Hillebrandts and one of Telangs
manuscripts, while Dhruva actually rejects it from his critical text, though only one of
his sources omits it (Hillebrandt 1912, p. 59; Telang 1918, p. 135; Dhruva 1930, p. 30).
Although the stanza is not a widely current subhita, it too occurs though its
authenticity is questionable in the centuries of Bharthari.18 The version there reads
krmasya instead of easya in all reported manuscripts (while that variant is not found
in any MSS of the Mudrrkasa), and differs from the Mudrrkasa version in a
few other details which are, however, also found in some manuscripts of the play.
Given that the manuscript tradition is inconsistent in both lines with regard to
the presence of the verse, but consistent with regard to reading krma or ea, assigning the stanza to either Bharthari or Vikhadatta as its original author would be
based on mere speculation. It is easily possible that a subhita by a third author could
18

BT 232, classed with saayitalok by Kosambi. Though not cited in the great anthologies, the stanza is found in the unpublished Subhitakhaa of Gaeabhaa (Kosambi 1948,
p. 91) and has been included in the 20th-century collection called the Subhitaratnabhgra
(by K. P. Parab, revised by W. L. Pakar, Bombay, Niraya Sgar Press, 1935, 7th edition; number 269 on p. 53).
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have found its way into both the drama and the atakas, while not being preserved in
any other text. Still, as far as speculation goes, it should not be forgotten that the character Virdhagupta is himself something of a poet: he actually claims to be a Prakrit
poet while posing as a snake charmer (and to prove himself so, he fabricates on the
spot a Prakrit ry with a hidden message), utters a rdlavikrita stanza in Sanskrit when he comes face to face with Rkasa, and further on in the play he turns the
ministers improvised self-deprecatory Sanskrit loka into a verse of praise to fling
back at his master.19 I therefore feel that verse 2.19 may very well have been an integral part of the original Mudrrkasa, whether or not it was actually composed by
Vikhadatta.
3.32 sa doa sacivasyaiva
This sententious subhita is recited by Candraguptas seneschal (to himself) after
the king and Cakya have argued and seemingly though actually the pretence is
but another of Cakyas contrivances fallen out. It is a simple and straightforward
loka that deems a minister responsible for his kings improper behaviour, just as an
elephant driver is at fault if his animal becomes uncontrollable.
sa doa sacivasyaiva yad asat kurute npa|
yti yantu pramdena gajo vylatvavcyatm||
This stanza is ascribed (though not traceable) to the Pacatantra in the Sktiratnahra and is cited anonymously in the Subhitasudhnidhi. It is definitely in the
style of countless proverbial lokas, but whether Vikhadatta composed it in this style
or merely adopted it from popular wisdom cannot be decided. In any case, the manuscript testimony unanimously supports the inclusion of the verse in the Mudrrkasa
and shows no textual variation except for one case of obvious corruption.20
4.13 atyucchrite mantrii
When Rkasa learns of Candraguptas (spurious) quarrel with Cakya, he tells Malayaketu that the time is now ripe for an attack on Paliputra for, bereft of his minis19

Under MR 2.11: pakavi kkhu aha. See also MR 2.13 (Virdhaguptas rdlavikrita), MR 2.21 (Rkasas loka) and 2.22 (Virdhaguptas reply). What may have motivated a poet
(or scribe) to change either ea to krma or vice versa is an interesting question to ponder, but again,
cannot go beyond speculation. One reasonable possibility (my thanks to Judit Trzsk for the suggestion) is that the motivation was ideological: while ea is non-sectarian, Krma may have been
perceived to be markedly vaiava (though it too may in fact be very early non-sectarian mythology). Either may thus have been replaced by the other depending on the doctrinal affiliation of the
author concerned. Another, even more speculative possibility is that the choice of ea by Vikhadatta (either utilising a pre-existing subhita with Krma or composing the verse on his own) may
have been governed by Virdhaguptas earlier guise, the snake charmer.
20
Reading jantu for yantu in one of Hillebrandts MSS (p. 95).
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261

ter, Candragupta is bound to fail. The barbarian prince is unconvinced, whereupon


Rkasa tells him that the Maurya has been relying entirely on his minister and knows
nothing of the ways of the world himself. He fortifies his argument with two verses,
the first of which the one concerned here is another sententious stanza in the upajti metre. It seems to say that royal Fortune (r) stands straddle-legged when a king
and a minister are both lofty (powerful), and, unable to sustain this exertion because
she is a woman, she will soon abandon one of the two.
atyucchrite mantrii prthive ca
viabhya pdv upatihate r|
s strsvabhvd asah bharasya
tayor dvayor ekatara jahti||
The verse does not appear firmly rooted in the manuscript tradition of the Mudrrkasa. Though only one of Telangs sources omit it, it is absent from no less than
four of the manuscripts used by Hillebrandt, who also notes that two of his texts invert
the order of 4.13 and 4.14 (Telang 1918, p. 208; Hillebrandt 1912, p. 114). The stanza
is cited with minor variation in the Sktiratnahra (attributed to the Pacatantra),
and also appears (anonymously) in the related Subhitasudhnidhi (SRH 83.16; SSN
113/16).
It is indeed found in numerous versions of the Pacatantra,21 where it seems
to be far more pertinent. It is recited by the jackal Damanaka in an attempt to alienate
the lion king Pigalaka from his friend-made-minister, the bull Sajvaka. A verse
that exhorts a king against raising a minister to a position as high as his own fits this
context naturally, whereas it is irrelevant to the situation in the Mudrrkasa, where
Rkasa believes in Candraguptas impending fall because the latter has (ostensibly)
fired Cakya, not because he has raised him too high. Applying a mild dose of the
shoehorn, it is probably possible to read the verse so that there is a contrast between
the two halves: in this case the first would describe a desirable situation (Fortune stands
solidly on a king and minister of matching stature), while the second would sketch an
undesirable alternative (if only one of the pair [ekatara] remains for Fortune to lean
on, then she will abandon him too). Though this interpretation would fit the plot of
the drama, it requires rather too much assumption.22 In conclusion I believe that verse
4.13 was not originally part of the Mudrrkasa, but was rather inserted subsequently
by a copyist or redactor who knew the verse as a subhita and thought it pertinent to
this point in the drama.

21
Pacatantra 1.65 in Edgertons edition; also Hitopadea 2.125. For details of loci in various Pacatantra versions refer to Sternbach (1980, p. 460).
22
The commentary of huhirja interprets the stanza in a similar vein, supplying even
more extratextual information on both the gymnastics involved and the politological implications.

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The Migration Patterns of Subhitas


Although major subhita collections in Sanskrit appear relatively late on the literary
scene, there is no doubt that epigrams were an important part of oral tradition long before that. A man of culture would have been expected to keep numerous short stanzas
at the ready in his mind, to cite and recite apropos of a wide variety of situations, observations and emotions. Most such stock verses would naturally originate from wellknown works of the great poets of yore, yet many would in time lose all connection
with their original authors and become the treasure of all just like proverbs and adages
not bound in verse. With the advent of the subhitasagraha as a genre, this unconscious and uncontrolled process of seepage from the copyrighted literary works of
known and named authors to the public domain was accelerated and consciously
directed by the compilers of anthologies, who went over the literature with a finetoothed comb, seeking for epigrams of outstanding poignancy.
While all this may be unsurprising or even self-evident, it is worth pointing out
that there is also a not so obvious process of reverse osmosis from the floating mass
of oral tradition23 to the sedentary body of written literature. On the one hand, authors
would seek to make their characters lifelike and this is perhaps especially true for
authors of drama, where roles tend to be more human than the larger-than-life figures
of myths and epics. If real-life people spice their conversation with a sprinkling of subhitas (as they in all likelihood did, at least the erudite ones), then so should fictional characters.
In the particular case of the Mudrrkasa I am quite certain that verses 1.22
(the Prakrit ry about the lover in the monsoon) and 2.18 (the vasantatilaka verse
about people who continue to strive against obstacles) were added from a pre-existing stock for precisely that purpose: it would be natural for the characters uttering
these verses to cite common lore in the given circumstances. The same may well be
true of verses 2.19, 3.32 and 1.14, though in these cases the evidence is not sufficient
to judge whether they had first existed outside the play, and if yes, whether they were
inserted by the author or by a later scribe.24 It is worth observing that eleven (roughly
two thirds) of the 18 Mudrrkasa stanzas cited in collections seem to have been
included for their didactic value, while seven (roughly one third) were clearly selected
by the compilers for their beauty of expression or emotional content. However, five
of the six suspicious verses are of a didactic nature, and only one of them (MR 1.22)
appears to feature in anthologies because of its aesthetic merits, i.e. the ratio is heavily
skewed in favour of didactic verses. This tallies with the intuitive feeling that an author
who has no qualms about lifting a gnomic stanza composed by someone else would still
balk at using another authors work (or folk verse) merely because it is good poetry.

23

The expression seems to be a favourite one of Sternbachs (e.g. 1974, p. 4).


In addition, verse 1.15 (a loka about kings not liking to work, cited in SRH 35.29 with
ascription to the Mudrrkasa), as well as some other epigrams not cited in anthologies might
have been known subhitas in Vikhadattas time or, equally, might have been composed him
with the explicit aim of sounding like known subhitas.
24

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On the other hand, popular epigrams can also worm their way into literary texts
after their original composition. In the Mudrrkasa, verse 4.13 (about Fortune abandoning king and minister if they both rise too high) was probably added by a wellmeaning scribe (or stage director) to give further support to a point already emphasised in verse by the pre-existing 4.14. Verses 2.19, 3.32 and 1.14, mentioned above
as possible subhitas utilised by Vikhadatta, may also have been inserted into the
play at a subsequent time. Just as the purposefully compiled collections of subhitas
grew in their transmission as copyists expanded their chapters with similar verses from
their memories or libraries (Sternbach 1974, p. 7), so too could a drama (or other literary work) acquire new verses from the subhita tradition. A stanza, or even a short
phrase in the prose dialogue, may ring a bell in the learned copyists mind, and he may
then be moved to embellish the text handed down to him with a little addition of his
own.
References
Abbreviations of Sanskrit Titles
In Latin alphabetical order, disregarding diacritical marks. Unless otherwise noted, references to primary works are by chapter (subchapter if any) and verse, numbers separated by dots.
BT
MR
SV
DP
SM
SRH
SRK
SSN

atakatraya of Bharthari
Mudrrkasa
Subhitvali
rgadharapaddhati
Sktimuktval
Sktiratnahra
Subhitaratnakoa
Subhitasudhnidhi

Sanskrit Texts by Title


In Latin alphabetical order, disregarding diacritical marks.
Daarpvaloka of Dhanika: Parab (1941).
Hitopadea of Nryaa: Trzsk (2007).
Kvynusana of Hemacandra: ivadatta Parab (1901).
Mudrrkasa of Vikhadatta: Dhruva (1930), Hillebrandt (1912) and Telang (1918).
Ntiataka see atakatraya.
Paddhati of rgadhara see rgadharapaddhati.
Pacatantra: Edgerton (1924).
Rasikajvana of Gaddhara Bhaa described by Sternbach (1980).
Saduktikarmta of rdharadsa: Banerji (1965).
Sarasvatkahbharaa (Sarasvatkahbharalakra) of Bhoja: arm Pakar (1934).
rgadharapaddhati: Peterson (1987).
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atakatraya of Bharthari: Kosambi (1948).


ngrapraka of Bhoja: Raghavan (1998).
graataka see atakatraya.
Subhitaratnakoa of Vidykara: Kosambi Gokhale (1957).
Subhitasudhnidhi of Syaa described by Sternbach (1980).
Subhitvali of Vallabhadeva: Peterson Durgprasda (1886).
ukasaptati textus simplicior described by Sternbach (1976).
Sktimuktval of Jalhaa: Krishnamacharya (1991).
Sktiratnahra of Srya in: Smbaiva str (1938).
Vetlapacaviatik of ivadatta described by Sternbach (1976).

Editions and Secondary Literature


Banerji, S. C. (ed.) (1965): Sadukti-karmta of rdharadsa. Calcutta, K. L. Mukhopadhyay.
Dhruva, K. H. (ed., tr.) (1930): Mudrrkshasa or The Signet Ring. Poona, Oriental Book Agency
(3rd revised edition).
Edgerton, F. (ed.) (1924): The Panchatantra Reconstructed. Volume I, Text and Critical Apparatus.
(American Oriental Series No. 2) New Haven (Connecticut), American Oriental Society.
Hillebrandt, A. (ed.) (1912): Mudrrkasa by Vikhadatta Edited from MSS and Provided with
an Index of All Prkrit Words. Breslau, M&H Marcus.
Kosambi, D. D. (ed.) (1948): The Epigrams Attributed to Bhartrhari Including the Three Centuries.
(Singhi Jain Series No. 23) Bombay, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
Kosambi, D. D. Gokhale, V. V. (eds) (1957): The Subhitaratnakoa compiled by Vidykara.
(Harvard Oriental Series No. 44) Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.
Krishnamachariar, M. (1937): History of Classical Sanskrit Literature. Madras, Tirumalai-Tirupati
Devasthanams Press.
Krishnamacharya, E. (ed.) (1991): The Sktimuktval of Bhagadatta Jalhaa. (Gaekwads Oriental
Series No. 82) Vadodara, University of Baroda (reprint of 1938 first edition).
Parab, K. P. (ed.) (1941): The Daarpaka of Dhanajaya. Bombay, Nirnaya Sagar Press (5th
revised edition).
Peterson, P. (ed.) (1987): rgadhara Paddhati. (Vrajajivan Prachyabharati Granthamala 25)
Delhi, Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratishthan (reprint of 1915 Nirnaya Sagar edition; original
edition 1888).
Peterson, P. Durgprasda, Pt. (eds) (1886): The Subhshitvali of Vallabhadeva. Bombay, The
Education Societys Press.
Pollock, S. (2003): Sanskrit Literary Culture from the Inside Out. In: Pollock, S. (ed.): Literary Cultures in History Reconstructions from South Asia, pp. 39 130. Berkeley Los Angeles
London, University of California Press.
Raghavan, V. (ed.) (1998): ngrapraka of Bhoja, Part I. (Harvard Oriental Series No. 53) Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.
Smbaiva str, K. (ed.) (1938): Sktiratnahra. (Trivandrum Sanskrit Series No. 141) Trivandrum, Government Press.
arm, K. Pakar, W. L. S. (eds) (1934): The Saraswat Kanhbharaa by Dhreshvara Bhojadeva. (Kvyaml 94) Bombay, Nirnaya Sagar Press (2nd edition).
ivadatta Parab, K. P. (eds) (1901): The Kvynusana of Hemachandra with His Own Gloss.
(Kvyaml 70) Bombay, Nirnaya Sagar Press.

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Sternbach, L. (1971): The Kvya-portions in the Kath-literature an Analysis. Vol. I: Pacatantra. Delhi, Meharchand Lachhmandas.
Sternbach, L. (1974): Subhita, Gnomic and Didactic Literature. (A History of Indian Literature
Vol. IV., Fasc. 1) Wiesbaden, Otto Harrasowitz.
Sternbach, L. (1976): The Kvya-portions in the Kath-literature an Analysis. Vol. III: Vetlapacaviatik, Mdhavnala-kmakandal-kath, ukasaptati. Delhi, Meharchand Lachhmandas.
Sternbach, L. (1980): A Descriptive Catalogue of Poets Quoted in Sanskrit Anthologies and Inscriptions. Vol. 2. Wiesbaden, Otto Harrasowitz.
Telang, K. T. (ed.) (1918): Mudrrkasa by Vikhadatta with the Commentary of Dhundhirja
Edited with Critical and Explanatory Notes. (Bombay Sanskrit Series No. 27) Bombay,
Nirnaya Sagar Press (6th ed. revised by Ghte, V. S.).
Trzsk, J. (ed., tr.) (2007): Friendly Advice and King Vkramas Adventures. New York,
NYUP JJC Foundation.
Warder, A. K. (1977): Indian Kvya Literature. Vol. 3: The Early Medieval Period. Madras, Tirumalai-Tirupati Devasthanams Press.

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