The Bhaktimandakini is a commentary by the Keralan exegete Purnasarasvati, a Saiva ascetic who is well known for his learned and aesthetically sensitive commentaries on works of belles lettres in Sanskrit. The commentary expounds the Visnupadadikesastotra, a hymn of fifty-two intricately elegant verses that describe every detail of Visnu from his toes to his hair, as well as his spouses and his various weapons (conch, discus, sword, etc.), This literary stotra, composed in sragdbara metre, is traditionally ascribed to the non-dualist philosopher Sankara.
In this publication, we furnish a new critical edition of the Bhaktimandakini (that of 1911 being now long out of print) based on four manuscripts and we also provide a text of the stotra as read by the commentator. In the introduction to the edition, the authorship of the stotra, the life and works of Purnasarasvati, as well as the theology of the commentary are discussed. A running translation of the stotra follows the introduction and the book concludes with an index for the quarter verses and a list of the figures of rhetoric (alankara) identified by the commentator.
Prof.N.V.P. Unithiri (b. 1945) took his M.A. from the University of Calicut and Ph.D from the Uniiversity of Kerala in 1979 with a dissertation entitled “Purnasarasvati”. He served as lecture in Sanskrit in the same university from 1975 to 1978 and then as Professor and Head of the Department of Sanskrit in the University of Sanskrit, Kalady, Kerala. He has authored many articles and more than thirty books, including the following publications of the university of Calicut: Purnasaravati (2004), Kumarasambhava with its commentary by Sarvajnavanamuni (2002), Tantrasarasangraha with its commentary by Vasudeva (2002), Indian Tradition of Management (Ed.) (2002), Indian Scientific Traditions (Ed.) (2003).
H.N. Bhat and S.A.S. Sarma are Research Fellows at the Pondicherry Center of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient (EFEO). Both were once students of Prof. N.V.P. Unithiri and completed their doctorates under his supervision in the University of Calicut. While H.N. Bhat works on literary works in Sanskrit, S.A.S. Sarma is engaged in projects involving the edition of Saiva texts. Among their publication H.N. Bhat’s critical edition of the Anargharaghavapancika may be mentioned (Pondicherry, IFP/EFEO, 2000) and S.A.S. Sarma’s critical edition of the Kapilasmrti (Torino, Cesmeo, 2007)
On the day when S.A.S. Sarma submitted his thesis at the University of Calicut, his professor and guide, Prof. N.V.P. Unithiri, gave him a foolscap notebook in which he had copied the commentary of Purnasarasvati on the Visnupadadikesastotra of Sankara and proposed to S.A.S. Sarma that he might work on it to bring out a critical edition of the commentary. Prof. Unithiri was not satisfied with the edition of this commentary published from Vani Vilas Press, Srirangam (1911). He was sure that the edition could be improved upon by collating the available manuscripts of the commentary, and for him, this was yet another out-of-print work of the great Keralan commentator Purnasarasvati which was still crying out for an improved edition. Purnasarasvati, who holds a distinguished place in the galaxy of Kerala authors, was the topic which Prof. Unithiri selected for his doctorate and his thesis has recently been published by the University of Calicut (2004).
The notebook with the above-mentioned commentary became a useful tool for S.A.S. Sarma to start working with the ‘TEX typesetting programme when Dominic Goodall introduced it to the EFEO, Pondicherry. S.A.S. Sarma entered the whole text using Oxedit and prepared a proof with the help of Velthuis transcription scheme, using ‘TEX and Edmac. But the collection and collation of manuscripts was long delayed. When Prof. Unithiri sent a copy of his newly published ‘ Purnasarasvati ‘, S.A.S. Sarma wrote back saying that he had not forgotten the edition of the Purnasarasvati’s com- mentary Bhaktimandakinlon the Visnupadadikesastotra and also informed him that the whole text was being entered and made ready for collation. By that time, Prof. Unithiri had collected manuscript copies and started to collate them with the help of his students. He therefore encouraged S.A.S. Sarma to continue the collation and complete the edition. When S.A.S. Sarma discussed this project with Dr. H.N. Bhat, who also did his doctoral studies under the aegis of Prof. Unithiri, he became interested in the commentary and was keen to join the project. Thus it happened that this trio, a teacher and two former students, came together to work on this edition.
On a group trip to the monastic library at the Tiruvavatuturai Adhinam, a general discussion about the transmission of Sanskrit commentaries arose among the members of the Saiva reading group of the EFEO. On that occasion Dr. Dominic Goodall firmly encouraged S.A.S. Sarma to press ahead with the work on Purnasarasvati’s Bhaktimandakini; suggesting that the finished book might be proposed for publication in the Indological series of the IFP /EFEO. From then onwards, R.N. Bhat and S.A.S. Sarma spent one hour every day on this project and Prof. Unithiri regularly made observations. The editors of this book are grateful to Dr. Dominic Goodall, Read, EFEO, Pondicherry for going through the whole text and giving his suggestions regarding the constitution of the text and also for helping us to settle several technical issues with the page-making in TEX.
We would also like to express our gratitude to a number of other persons who have helped us in this endeavour, in particular, Prof. V. Venkataraja Sarma and Dr. F. Grimal (EFEO, Pondicherry) for their encouragement, Dr. Anandakrishnan Kunholathillath (Project Assistant, Calicut University), T.S. Ajitha, Asha S. Unni, Reeba Kathiran, O.K. Shijju, M.M. Dhanya, and P. Saritha, the Research Scholars of the Department of Sanskrit, University of Calicut, who helped us to acquire copies of manuscripts and also assisted in collating certain portions, and finally Claire Stewart and Prerana Patel for their suggestions for improving the English.
We also wish to acknowledge the help of the following libraries and other institutions, who allowed us access to the manuscripts we have used: Oriental Research Institute and Manuscript Library, Trivandrum, Kerala; Department of Sanskrit, Calicut University, Kerala and the Tripunithura Sanskrit College, Tripunithura, Kerala.
Finally, our thanks are also due to Mr. N. Ravichandran, IFP for the cover design and to the All India Press, Pondicherry for printing the book.
The Visnupadadikesastotra and its Commentary
The Visnupadadikesastotra is a stotra in fifty-two verses written in sragdhara meter and is traditionally ascribed to Sankara. It consists of a detailed visualisation of Visnu, from his toes to his hair, as well as his weapons and retinue. Purnasarasvati, a well known commentator from Kerala has written a detailed commentary on this stotra named Bhaktimandakini.
This commentary was first published in 1911 by Vani Vilas Press, but since it was prepared using only a single manuscript this first edition contains many errors. Apart from this, the text of the Visnupadadikesastotra provided in this edition does not seem to follow the readings provided in the commentary.
We have therefore endeavoured in this publication to furnish a new and more accurate edition of the Bhaktimandakini.
1.1 A word on the title
Even though the editions of this stotra refer to it as the Visnupadadikesantastotra we have chosen to call it the Visnupadadikesastotra because the last verse (52a) uses the expression padadikesastuti. Purnasarasvati comments as follows:
padadikesastutim = padadikesantasamagravigrahavarnanaparatvat padadikesantasamjnitam stotram; antasabdah prasiddhya nopattah.
Thus it is the commentator who supplements anta to clarify the meaning of the compound. In the introductory verses of the commentary he refers to the text thus: srimaccankarapujyapadaracitam padadikesavadhistotram. But the colophon, as transmitted to us, reads:
Srimatpadadikesavyakhya bhaktimandakini nama sampurna. None of the above is conclusive, but it suggests to us that the title should be Visnupadikesastotra.
1.2 The popularity of the Visnupadadikesastotra
Several stotras ascribed to Sankara are well known and used for daily prayers, such as the Saundaryalahari, the Kanakadharastotra, etc.; but this stotra seems to be less well known. As well as the commentary of Purnasarasvati, the existence of a commentary on the Visnupadadikesastotra called the Sukhabodhini, which is probably by a Keralite, and of a detailed commentary in Malayalam/ suggests that this stotra might have been familiar only in the region covered by the modern state of Kerala. There is also another commentary, called the Candrika, for this stotra, for which there are manuscripts available in the Adyar Library.
1.3 Is Sankara the author of the stotra?
Both Saiva and Vaisnava stotras have been traditionally ascribed to Sankara, but it is rather difficult to accept that this particular stotra was composed by Sankara for the following reason. The 49th verse lists the ten incarnations of Visnu, including the Buddha, and such a list is unlikely to have been familiar to Sankara. Suryakanta, in his work ‘Ksemendra Studies’ remarks that the Dasavataracarita of Ksemendra appears to be the earliest known source in which the Buddha has been included among the ten incarnations of Visnu. He observes on the Dasavataracarita of Ksemendra:
It is a poetical abstract of the stories of Visnu’s incarnation. The work cannot be considered as an independent composition. The subject matter of the first nine incarnations is taken from the Puranas. ... . The work, however, has great importance as it contains the earliest known reference to the Buddha being considered as an incarnation of Visnu. The narration of the Buddha’s life is an abridgment of the story as told in Buddhist works. The style shows maturity of conception, and is easy and flowing. The work was finished in the Laukika era 41 i.e. 1066 A.D. on the Tripuresa Mountain.
If we were to accept the above view of Suryakanta-that the Dasavataracarita was the first work to include the Buddha as an incarnation and that it was written in 1066 AD- then the Visnupadadikesastotra would have to have been written after the period of Ksemendra, i.e. no earlier than the eleventh century. For he holds the view that the Dasavataracarita may be the first known work to present the ten incarnations in the exact order in which they are enumerated in the 49th verse of the Visnupadadikesastotra. This would make the ascription of the Visnupadadikesastotra to Sankara, whose period is definitely well before that of Ksemendra, extremely doubtful. If, in this view, the stotra had anything to do with Sankara at all, then the closest connection that could be assumed was that of its having been written by one of the pontiffs of one of the Mathas held to have been established by Sankara.
There is, however, an undated scripture of the Pancaratra currently being prepared for publication by Dr. Diwakar Acharya that mentions all ten incarnations in exactly the order given in our text. This hitherto unpublished scripture, called the Devamrtapancaratra, identifies ten lines on an image of Visnu that is being prepared for installation with the ten incarnations (12:2-7). Diwakar Acharya does not propose a specific date for the composition of the Devamrtapancaratra, but he believes the work to belong to a small corpus of works that are earlier than all hitherto published Pancaratra scriptures, and earlier, therefore, than Ksemendra, perhaps by some centuries.
Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha, Vamana, [Parasu-] Rama, In other words, verse 49 is after all not such clear-cut evidence as it once seemed to us to be for excluding the possibility that Sankara was the author of this stotra.
Another possible criterion for a post-Sankara date is the fact that the stotra appears to echo the Bhagavatapurana (see, for example, verse 23 and our notes on our translation thereof). Several scholars (see, e.g., Goodall 1996:xl quoting Friedhelm Hardy) believe that there is evidence to suggest that the composition of the Bhagavatapurana could not have taken place before the ninth century.
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