It is a great satisfaction to announce that the first book of the “Baladeva Vidyabhusana Project” has been released by the Chowkhamba Sanskrit Samsthan, the largest publisher of traditional Sanskrit books in India. This is a humble attempt to get the blessings of Srila Vidyabhusana by first honoring his commentary on a work written by his Guru Maharaja, Srila Radha-Damodara Gosvami. We endeavored to present a lucid English translation and a critical edition of the Sanskrit text based on whatever books and manuscripts we could collect. The book deals with chandah (Sanskrit prosody) and is ideal for those who want to learn the different kinds of Sanskrit metres, their formation, number of syllables and other characteristics. There are innumerable texts on chandah, among which Chandah-kaustubha is a distinct work from many perspectives. Just as Jiva Gosvami’s Hari-namamrta-vyakarana is an ingenious treatise in the field of Sanskrit grammar – a pioneer in the Gaudiya line – so is Srila Radha-Damodara’s Chandah-kaustubhain the field of prosody. In the same spirit, both the author and the commentator bring the Gaudiya mood of worship of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna while teaching the technical details about the formation of poetic metres. One of the remarkable features here is that the aphorisms laying the rules for each metrical pattern are themselves written in those respective metres, without the need of further examples. In a few instances, Vidyabhusana supplied examples where the author himself did not for the sake of concision. Despite the omission of the Vedic metres, herein a total of 264 laukika (common) metres are defined and exemplified, after which follow two chapters describing the pratyaya (analysis) of syllabic and moraic metres with their respective charts. These charts serve as a useful tool to quickly identify any metre and its diverse characteristics based on very precise calculations. All these features combined make the Chandah-kaustubha one of the most comprehensive and lucid treatises on classical Sanskrit prosody ever composed.
The book is available at: http://www.chowkhambasanskritseries.com/
A searchable docx file with the Sanskrit text can be downloaded HERE.
First Ray – Definitions
Second Ray – Even Metres (sama-vrtta)
uktha (1 syllable):
atyuktha (2 syllables):
madhya (3 syllables):
pratistha (4 syllables):
supratistha (5 syllables):
gayatri (6 syllables):
usnik (7 syllables):
anustup (8 syllables):
brhati (9 syllables):
pankti (10 syllables):
rukmavati (rupavati, campakamala)
tristup (11 syllables):
jagati (12 syllables):
atijagati (13 syllables):
sakvari (14 syllables):
vasantatilaka (uddharsini, sihoddhata, madhumadhavi)
atisakvari (15 syllables):
asti (16 syllables):
atyasti (17 syllables):
dhrti (18 syllables):
atidhrti (19 syllables):
krti (20 syllables):
prakrti (21 syllables):
akrti (22 syllables):
vikrti (23 syllables): adritanaya
samskrti (24 syllables):
abhikrti (25 syllables):
dandaka (26 syllables):
Third Ray – Half Even Metres (ardha-sama-vrtta)
Fourth Ray – Uneven Metres (visama-vrtta)
Fifth Ray – The Vaktra and Vipula Metres
Sixth Ray – Moraic Metres (matra-chandah)
Seventh Ray – Moraic Even Metres (matra-samaka)
Eighth Ray – Analysis of the Syllabic Metres
Ninth Ray – Analysis of the Moraic Metres
Prosody is at least as old as the first texts that appeared in written form, the Vedas, in which we see a diversity of metrical forms. In traditional Vedic learning, prosody is called chandah and is counted as one of the six Vedangas, or limbs of the Vedas, which include vyakarana (grammar), nirukta (etymology), siksa (phonetics), jyotisa (astronomy) and kalpa (sacrificial rules). The Paniniya-siksa (41-42) describes the importance of the Vedangas as follows:
chandah padau tu vedasya hastau kalpo’tha pathyate |
jyotisam anayam caksur niruktam srotram ucyate ||
siksa ghranam tu vedasya mukham vyakaranam smrtam |
tasmat sangam adhityaiva brahma-loke mahiyate ||
“Chandah is the feet of the Vedas, kalpa is the hands, jyotisa is the eyes, nirukta is the ears, siksa is the nose, and vyakarana is the mouth. Therefore one who has studied the Vedas with all its limbs becomes exalted in Brahma-loka.”
Such is the importance of chandah that it is given the position of support of the Vedas. Knowledge of chandah plays an essential role in the accurate recitation of the Vedas and in the composition of treatises in Sanskrit. It is a very ancient custom to write whole books in one or more metres, the purpose being twofold: to facilitate the memorization of the text and to make it suitable for melodic and rhythmic recitation. Another aspect common in Sanskrit literature is the poets’ use of chandah to fully display the dimension of their scholarship, culminating in compositions like the citra-kavitva, poems in the forms of pictures. Accordingly, the vast majority of Sanskrit texts were composed in verse (padya) rather than prose (gadya). Those who are not conversant with chandah are rebuked in the Brhaddevata (8.136):
aviditva rsim chando devatam yogam eva ca |
yo’dhyapayej japed vapi papiyan jayate tu sah ||
“One who teaches or recites the Vedas without knowing the rsi, the metre, the deity and the application is born as the most sinful.”
In a similar way, in the Chandah-kaustubha (1.4) we find the following verse:
chando-laksana-hinam sabhasu kavyam pathanti ye manujah |
kurvanto’pi svena sva-siras-chedam na te vidyuh |
“Without knowing the characteristics of the different metres, those who read poetry in assembly halls act as if cutting their own heads without realizing it.”
The word chandah is used primarily in the sense of prosody and can also refer to the Vedas themselves. Its etymological formation is given in the Unadi-sutras (4.224): cander ades chah, that means, it comes from the verbal root cand, which is then changed to chand. In his commentary on this verse, Svetavanavasi explains the word chandah: candati ahladayati vaidikan iti cchandah vedah – “That which gladdens the Vedic followers is called chandah or Veda itself.” In the Nirukta (7.12), Yaska defines it in the following way: chandamsi chadanat – “Poetic metres or the Vedas are called chandah because of covering.” This refers to a passage of the Chandogya Upanisad (1.4.2): deva vai mrtyor bibhyatas trayim pravisams te chandobhir acchadayan yad ebhir acchadayams tac chandasam chandas tvam – “Being afraid of death, the demigods entered in the three Vedas and covered (acchadayan) themselves with the Vedic hymns. By this reason they are called chandah.”
The compiler of the original treatise on prosody named “Chandah-sastra” was the sage Pingala, often revered here by Radha-Damodara and Vidyabhusana as an incarnation of Ananta Sesa. There are several narrations that describe Ananta Sesa displaying His transcendental proficiency in chandah. In Laksminatha Bhatta’s commentary on the first verse of the Prakrta-paingala, the following account is given: Desiring to know the extension of the earth planet situated on one of His hoods, once Sesa-naga appeared in Bharata-varsa assuming the form of a brahmana called Pingala. Knowing this, His old enemy, Garuda , chased Him. Promptly thinking of a way to escape, Pingala told him: “Hold on! Don’t you know that I am a great poet? Just look how I can write an unlimited amount of metrical combinations. If you see me repeat any of them, you can eat me up immediately.” As Garuda agreed, Pingala started to draw all the different prastaras (expansions) of metres containing from one to twenty six syllables on the ground. Gradually proceeding towards the coast, and far before finishing all the possible combinations of metres , Ananta Sesa reached the seashore and jumped in the water, leaving Garuda perplexed. In the beginning of Bhikharidasa’s Chando’rnava we find the allusion to another episode: Once Sesa came out from the water and was enjoying the sunshine while laying on a rock. Seeing Him in such a relaxed state, Garuda took the opportunity and grabbed Him right away. Sesa then pleaded, “No one besides Me knows the science of chandah. If you eat Me, this knowledge will be lost. Let me transmit it to you so that at least there will be someone to teach this science to the future generations. After hearing it from Me, you can satisfy your hunger as you wish.” After thinking for a moment, Garuda agreed under the condition that Sesa would not try to run away. As both of them complied with each other’s condition, Sesa narrated the chandah-sastra in such a fascinating way that Garuda became totally mesmerized. Seeing the chance to escape, Sesa then described the metre called “bhujangaprayata”, and pronouced its name four times. Garuda did not say anything, and Sesa quickly disappeared in the water. Coming to his senses, Garuda protested, “You cheated me!”, to which Sesa replied from a good distance, “I informed you that I was going away by saying “bhujangaprayata” several times, and since you did not say a word, I took this as a permission. Farewell!”
There are innumerable texts on chandah, among which Chandah-kaustubha is a distinct work from many perspectives. Just as Jiva Gosvami’s Hari-namamrta-vyakarana is an ingenious treatise in the field of Sanskrit grammar – a pioneer in the Gaudiya line – so is Radha-Damodara’s Chandah-kaustubha in the field of prosody. In the same spirit, both the author and the commentator, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, bring the Gaudiya mood of worship of Sri Sri Radha and Krsna while teaching the technical details about the formation of poetic metres. One of the remarkable features here is that the aphorisms laying the rules for each metrical pattern are themselves written in those respective metres, without the need of further examples. In a few instances, Vidyabhusana supplied examples where the author himself did not for the sake of concision. Despite the omission of the Vedic metres, herein a total of 264 laukika (common) metres are defined and exemplified, after which follow two chapters describing the pratyaya (analysis) of syllabic and moraic metres with their respective charts. These charts serve as a useful tool to quickly identify any metre and its diverse characteristics based on very precise calculations. All these features combined make the Chandah-kaustubha one of the most comprehensive and lucid treatises on classical Sanskrit prosody ever composed.
Sri Radha-Damodara Gosvami belonged to the seventh generation in the Gaudiya disciplic succession:
1. Lord Caitanya and Nityananda Prabhu
2. Gauridasa Pandita
3. Hrdaya-caitanya Thakura
4. Syamananda Pandita
5. Rasikananda Murari
6. Nayanananda Gosvami
7. Radha-Damodara Gosvami
There is hardly any available information about his life and contributions, but we can infer that he was born around the middle of the 17th century. From Vidyabhusana’s invocation it is clear that Radha-Damodara Gosvami was his guru:
arcita-nayananando radha-damodaro gurur jiyat |
vivrnomi yasya krpaya chandah-kaustubham aham mita-vak ||
“All glories to my guru, Srila Radha-Damodara Gosvami, who worshipped Srila Nayanananda Gosvami as his spiritual master. By his mercy I am writing this commentary on the Chandah-kaustubha in a few words.”
In the same purport, Vidyabhusana further clarifies that he was born in a brahmana family in Kanyakubja (Kanpur) and was a great scholar and disciple of Nayanananda Gosvami. His great scholarship is self-evident in the text of Chandah-kaustubha and also by the fact that he converted such a genius as Vidyabhusana into Gaudiya Vaisnavism, which in due course of time proved to be his greatest preaching achievement. He spent the last portion of his life in Puri, Orissa, where he was appointed as the head of the Kunja-matha, one of the temples belonging to the Syamananda line, and dedicated his life to worshipping the deity and spreading the philosophy of Lord Caitanya. His samadhi is located next to the temple. Being renowned for his profound discourses on Jiva Gosvami’s six Sandarbhas, he probably wrote a good number of treatises on different topics, but at present, Chandah-kaustubha is the only one whose authorship is beyond doubt. Another book attributed to him is the Vedanta-syamantaka, but some scholars also attribute it to Vidyabhusana.
Given its short size and the didactic nature of its topic, there are many manuscripts of the Chandah-kaustubha preserved in libraries all over India. One of the oldest ones, kept at Vrindavan Research Institute, was dated by the scribe in the samvat year of 1827 (A.D. 1770). At that time Vidyabhusana was possibly still alive, so we can roughly estimate that the book was written some time between 1680 and 1730 and commented many years later.
After Jiva Gosvami, Baladeva Vidyabhusana was the greatest philosopher who appeared in the Gaudiya line. His outstanding literary legacy remains unsurpassed to the present day. There are no historical records about his early life, however, those in his disciplic succession claim that he was born in a village nearby Remuna, in Orissa. Most scholars believe that he was born either at the end of the 17th century or at the beginning of the 18th century. From his own statement at the end of his Siddhanta-ratna we know that he was a staunch follower of Madhvacarya’s tattvavada. It is said that he strongly preached this philosophy all over India until he met Radha-Damodara in Jagannatha Puri and became deeply impressed by his exposition of the Sat-sandarbhas. Accepting him as his guru, he learnt the philosophy of Lord Caitanya and received the name “Ekanti-Govinda dasa”. Radha-Damodara eventually sent him to Vrndavana to learn Srimad-Bhagavatam from Visvanatha Cakravarti, who was then the leader of the Gaudiya community there and an exceptional scholar. In those days there was a dispute between the Ramanandis and the Gaudiyas regarding the method of worship of Govindadeva, the original deity of Rupa Gosvami. The deity of Govindadeva had been transferred from Vrndavana to the place which is now known as Jaipur to protect Him from the attacks of Aurangzeb. The Ramanandis allegedly complained to King Jai Singh that the Gaudiyas did not seem to be connected to a bona fide sampradaya, that they were worshipping Govinda before worshipping Narayana, and that the worship of Radharani was unprecedented and irregular. Upon hearing about the case, Visvanatha Cakravarti decided to send Ekanti-Govinda dasa to Jaipur to respond to the allegations. There he invited all the opponents to a debate in which he refuted their objections and established that the sampradaya of Lord Caitanya was coming from the sampradaya of Madhvacarya. Yet one objection remained: the Gaudiyas did not have a commentary on the Brahma-sutras. That being the case, Ekanti-Govinda dasa promised to present a full commentary very soon. Spending the day in intense prayer, at night Govindaji appeared in his dream and directed him to write the commentary, which was completed in a matter of days and became known as “Govinda-bhasya”. Having established the authority of the Gaudiya sampradaya and having received the title “Vidyabhusana” from the King, he went back to Vrndavana where he was appointed as the head of the Radha-Syamasundara temple, where he spent the rest of his life. At the end of the Aisvarya-kadambini we find the mention of the year saka 1701 (A.D. 1779). If the authorship of the book is correctly attributed to him, then Baladeva Vidyabhusana departed from this world by the end of the 18th century.
The following works are attributed to Baladeva Vidyabhusana: 1. Commentary on the Isopanisad (the commentaries on nine other Upanisads are supposedly lost); 2. Aisvarya-kadambini; 3. Kavya-kaustubha; 4. Gopala-tapany-upanisad-bhasya; 5. Candraloka-tika (supposedly lost); 6. Chandah-kaustubha-bhasya; 7. Tattva-dipika; 8. Commentary on the Tattva-sandarbha (the commentaries five other Sandarbhas are supposedly lost); 9. Nataka-candrika-tika (supposedly lost); 10. Pada-kaustubha (supposedly lost); 11. Prameya-ratnavali; 12. Brahma-sutra-karika-bhasya; 13. Bhagavad-gita-bhasya (Gita-bhusana); 14. Laghu-bhagavatamrta-tika (Saranga-rangada); 15. Visnu-sahasra-nama-bhasya (Namartha-sudha); 16. Vedanta-sutra-Govinda-bhasya; 17. Vedanta-sutra-suksma-tika; 18. Vedanta-syamantaka; 19. Vyakarana-kaumudi (supposedly lost); 20. Srimad-Bhagavata-bhasya (Vaisnavanandini) (Cantos 2-9 and 11-12 are supposedly lost); 21. Syamananda-sataka-tika; 22. Sahitya-kaumudi; 23. Siddhanta-darpana; 24. Siddhanta-ratna; 25. Stava-mala-tika.
To prepare this edition the following resources were consulted:
1.Chandah-kaustubhah Baladeva-Vidyabhusana-bhasyopetah, Haridas das, Navadvip, 1943. This edition was done based on a few manuscripts from Vrindavan.
2.Chandah-kaustubhah Baladeva-Vidyabhusana-bhasyopetah, Haridas Shastri, Vrindavan, 1990. This is mostly a reprint of the previous edition and includes an expansion of the commentary, but its authorship is not mentioned.
3.Chandah-kaustubhah Baladeva-Vidyabhusana-bhasya-sahita, Vrindavan Research Institute, 1993.
I would like to thank Dinanatha dasa from Australia for revising and editing the translation and also Sacisuta dasa from Hungary for sending me a digital copy of the Haridas Shastri edition.
Dr. Demian Martins