The present research work high-lights the basic concepts of Ethics and Philosophy of the Visistadvaita School of Thought of Ramanuja. The Sankalpasurdaya, an allegorical drama is composed by Vedanta Desika (1268-1369 AD) a great exponent in the history of the field of Visistadvaita School. This work runs into six chapters, viz., Date, Life and Works of the Author; Place of Allegorical Dramas in Sanskrit Literature; Summary of Sanlalpasuryodaya; Literary Analysis of the Drama, Philosophical Doctrines Reflected in the Drama; and An Evaluation. “The chapters on Rasa and Alankaras are especially very illuminating and exhaustive. A lot of accessory materials are contained in the early chapters, introducing the play in its proper philosophical, poetic and dramatic perspective. The chapter on characterisation is of special interest, as it is central to the play. A chapter on its philosophical theme is added in all wisdom, deservingly, at the end, as the play intents vindication of Visistadvaita in a dramatic mould.”
Thus, a detailed study of the Sankalpasuryodaya contributes a systematic symbolism by whish abstractions of ethics, religion and philosophy of Ramanuja Vedanta are represented as accurately as possible through significant characters, plots and contexts with identification of comprehensive names. In fine, this work is the first of its kind, deserves the commendations of all discerning readers in the field of Indian ethics, philosophy, poetry and drama.
The Foreword by Prof. K.S. Narayanacharya, a reputed scholar in field in the beginning, add to the usefulness of the work.
Dr. (Smt.) R. Laxmi, belonging to a respected and scholarly family is the Head of the Department of Sanskrit, Smt. K.S.j. Arts and Dr. S.M.S. Commerce College for Women, Dharwad. She has more than fifteen years of experience, both in teaching and research. She holds M.A. Degree both in Economics and Sanskrit. With a deep interest in research, she worked and got Ph.D. Degree from the Karnatak University, Dharwad in 1998, under the guidance of Dr. K.B. Archak, Chairman, Dept. of Sanskrit, Karnatak University, Dharwad.
A devout researcher, Dr. R. Laxmi has participated in many seminars and conferences at National and International levels. With equal felicity in Sanskrit, Kannada and English, she has edited devotional and philosophical work like Baglamba Sataka of Sri Cidananda Avadhuta in Sanskrit, Kannada and English.
At present, she is working on the U.G.C. Research Project entitled ‘Global Integration and Sanskrit Literature: Its Relevance Today’.
Writing a piece of introduction to a learned work by a studious researcher under a competent guide, and on which judgment is already passed and a doctorate issued by an established, well known, University, is a highly embarrassing task, as it further involves attempting a further estimate by a total outsider, if not an intruder!
Fortunately there is yet another angle of looking at it! It no longer a work meant for examination by a panel of judges! It is a piece of learning before a world, learned-may be in other fiels-but not so well informed in the present chosen field of research (by the author), who is entitled to a good listening! The pleasant duty of the introducer is to act a good link between the author and the wider world of scholarship. If the task still involves an estimate of the present work, it is no longer for the purpose of ‘examination’, but the post-examination duty of critical admiration. There can be no possible objection to or inhibition for this, one hopes. It is to fulfil this task, that I am attempting these few words.
It is not easy to attempt a work on an outstanding Acarya like Vedanta Desika, who is unique as a combination of several fields of learning, several talents and gifts of arts-like the traditional Sastras, Vedanta, Grammar, Mimamsa, Poetry, Drama, the art of debate and disputation, Agama, Tamil lore, Prakrt as well as Sanskrit, semantics, etymology, astrology and whatever else there is to learn and master over.
Here is a play representing man’s victory of war over himself, of vanquishing forces of lust, ignorance, egoism, and selfishness, thanks to the Grace of God, rising like the rays of the morning Sun, to dispel the darkness of the just finished night, leading him to final emancipation from all cycles of sorrow once and for all. The language is that of allegory, the characters all symbolic, and the ‘action’ significant of Vedantic meanings and overtones at every step of progress. It is not easy to write such a play, in the first instance, and it is much less to put it to dramatic aplause unless its spectators are learned, equally, about its philosophical content and its literary mode of representation, on the stage. For, the play is meant more for mental performance than for physical representation, as the story itself is not about any actual historical king or queen, trying to assert themselves unto their emerging freedom from a real siege which is over as a historical fact! It is a story,-if it can be ever called one!-unfinished in its larger generalities, though getting finished in individual particularities, in the cases of the devout, faithful and wise prapannas, seeking refuge in the Lord’s saving Grace. The Sun does not rise all over the world at once, in one moment of total illumination, does he? So that, darkness does persist over some part of the world or the other, while the Sun is continually rising over the globe, in the tireless effort of dispelling all darkness, one Day! That is one aspect of the pregnant meanings of the title of the play. The urge of the Bhagauan to save all sinners and sufferers is there as a ‘given’, a Siddha upaya, to use a technical Vedantic term; but the effort, however meagre in measure, to deserve this deliverance from darkness or sorrow, is wanting, even in a token-form, as Sadhya upaya, as a means to that Destiny. The poet uses two analogies to suggest this:
1. that of the rays of the Sun ready to dispel darkness, and
2. that of Lord Rama ready to save Sita, in the Holy Epic.
Sanskrit language and literature is unequally rich and colourfully varied. It is the only language and literature which has been dispersing its own inner beauty and vitality to several countries of the world, observes rightly, Dr. D. N. Shanbhag. In this literature a novel branch of writing the dramas in an allegorical form came to light since the times of Asvaghosa. The word ‘Allegory’ may be defined as “a systematic symbolism by whish abstractions are represented as accurately as possible by concrete characters, plot and situations often with identifying tag names”. Allegory, therefore is a new technique by which some dramatists went to the extent of writing dramas, building the plot from there imagination, thus treading a new path besides the Epics, the Puranas and the Folk tales. In course of time due to an advent of various philosophical systems many a dramatist used drama as media to propagate their philosophical theories also. In this direction the Sankalpasuryodaya, the scholarly work of Vedanta Desika ,makes an interesting and useful study.
In the work an attempt is made to bring out the place of Sankalpasuryodaya in Sanskrit Literature from the point of a Drama. Besides other aspects such as meaning of Allegory, significance of the drama, purpose of the dramatist, characterisation, Rasa delineation, Alankaras and philosophical doctorines reflected in the drama have also been dealt with. Finally conclusions from the study are also added.
In Preparing this work, I have made use of original and secondary sources in Sanskrit and English, relevant Journals and Encyclopaedias, a list of which is given in Bibliography at the end.
However, the primary source studies is Sankalpasuryodaya itself and commentaries-the Prabhauilasa by Ahobila Sri Saila Tatarya and Prabhauali by M.M. Narasimhachariar thereon. I am much beholden to the authors of these works, in completing the work. On the basis of these two commentaries on this text, no attempt has been made so far in making a study from the point of aspects like characterisation, etc., and its contributions to Sanskrit literature and learning to modern times.
I am deeply indebted to Prof. K.S. Narayanacharya, (Retd.) Dept. of English, Karnatak College, Dharwad for penning a erudite Foreword to this work. He is a versatile scholar in English literature, Philosophy, Sanskrit, Physical Science and an author of several works in different languages too. His Foreword has undoubtedly enriched the value of this work.
In the preparation of this work, I took the guidance of Dr. K.B. Archak, Prof & Chairman, Dept. of Studies in Sanskrit, Karnatak University, Dharwad. The suggestions given by him while going through the research script and its publication were of immense value to me for which I am very grateful to him. His sympathetic gesture while scrutinising the work is worthy of emulation.
I am in deep gratitude and obligation to Dr. D.N. Shanbhag, Prof. (Retd). Dept. of Studies in Sanskrit, Karntak University Dharwad, a recipient of President’s Award and the President of Samskrita Shodha Samsthana (Samshodhana), Sirsi, for his inspiring guidance from time to time in the research field.
I am grateful to Sharada Publishing House, Delhi, for having published this work in a magnificient manner.
I am thankful to the Management, Principal and Staff members of Smt. K.S.J. Arts and Dr. S.M.S. Commerce College for Women, Dharwad where I am working as a S.G. Lecturer & Head, Dept. of Sanskrit, for their Co-operation and appreciation.
My beloved thanks are due to Dr. C.V. Rangaswamy, M.A., Ph. D. Prof. (Retd.), Dept. of Studies in History & Archaeology, K.U.D. and other members of the family.
Vedanta Desika alias Venkatanatha, a saint-philosopher who became very famous after Ramanuja, (1017-1137 A.D.) by offering multi-faced contribution to the world of Visistadvaita Vedanta and its literature, has authored an allegorical work-Sankalpasurydaya. He is regarded as the unique and towering personality, for we find in him a rare combination of the talents of a Poet, a Dramatist and a Philosopher. His scholasticity may be well witnessed by his epithets like Vedantacarya, Karvitarkikasimha, and Sarvatantrasvatantra etc.
The generally accepted date of Vedanta Desika, as far as ascertainable, would be 1268 to 1369 A.D. However, there are different opinions in this regard. The date of Vedanta Desika’s birth is Kali 4371, Saka 1190 (1268 A.D.) as has been recorded in Vadagalai Guruparampara. This date has another support of an inscription of Cola Vijayaganda Gopala Deva of Kancipuram dated Saka 1207 (1285 A.D.) found in Candramaulisvara temple at Kancipuram which belongs to 1268 A.D. But, the date 1268 A.D. has not been accepted by Dr. Hultzsch as the date of Vedanta Desika. Because he is said to have lived as a centenarian; then it means, he should have died during 1369 A.D. Dasgupta opines that Vedanta Desika died during 1371 A.D. In his introduction to Sankalpasuryodaya, Dr Veera Raghavacharya says that Vedanta Desika flourished during 1268 to 1370.
During the time of Vedanta Desika, there persisted political unstability and religious crisis (1327 A.D.). Mohammadans marching towards the south, captured many South Indian kingdoms and destroyed religious places of worship. Along with the invasion, came the dreadful imposition of their religion on the local people. At the same time, there was utter confusion in the Hindu religion itself. Though Advaita Philosophy was very prominent in many parts, there were other systems of Philosophy like Sankhya, Yoga, Vaisesika and Pasupata whish started becoming popular. This led to religious fights and conflicts among the Protagonists. They started preaching their own religion with provocation and declaration of their religion as the supreme. Even in Visistadvaita itself which was all along powerful, there arose two branches, one of which is, Vadagalai; while the other is called Tengalai. Great scholars like Srirama Misra, Visnucitta, Vatsya-Varadacarya, Sudarsanacarya and Atreya Ramanuja, all these Propounders of Vadagalai branch gave more importance to Ramanuja’s Philosophy. On the other side, Parasarabhatta, Nanjiya Periyavacchan Pillai, Vadakku Tiruvidhi Pillai and Locacarya gave more importance to Dravida literature contributed by Alvars. The former branch believed in continuing the old traditions, while the latter one believed in progress and reformation of the religion. Hence, a need to unite both the groups and to maintain peace was very much felt in the Srivaisnavaite society itself. It was Vedanta Desika who contributed to the successful unification and tolerance of the two off shoots.
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