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VOL. V.]



I.-Literary History of the Pala Period. By Mahamahopadhyaya Haraprasad Shastri, M.A., C.I.E.

The Palas became the rulers of Bengal in the last quarter of the eighth century A.D. and their rule lasted till the first quarter of the twelfth century. They were Buddhist by religion but their Buddhism sat rather loose on them. They tolerated the professors of other religions, they respected Brāhmaṇas, often joined in their sacrifices, utilized them in the services of the state and supported them by grants of land. Literary history of this period naturally falls under three heads, viz., Sanskrit Brahmanic Literature, Sanskrit Buddhist Literature, and Vernacular Buddhist Literature; they will be treated in this order. There was a Vernacular Brahmanic Literature also, but no books of that literature have yet been discovered.

Sanskrit Brahmanic Literature.

The majority of the Brāhmaṇas of Bengal came from the west. It is said that they were invited by a king named Ādiśūra. But history knows nothing about this king. The Kulaśāstras or heraldry of the Brahmaņas give indeed the names of a number

of kings ending in the word Sura. They comprehend these kings into a dynasty and regard Ādisūra as their progenitor. Epigraphic records, so far obtained, speak of three kings in Western Bengal with their names ending in Sura, and, curiously enough, these names are found in the Kulasastra lists. The age of the advent of the five Brahmanas is also a matter of controversy. The chronogram bas two different readings:-VedavāṇāgaSake and Vedavāṇānka-Sake, meaning 654 or 954 of the Saka era, that is, 732 and 1032 of the Christian era. Old manuscripts favour 732 and one of the earliest writers on Brahmanic heraldry distinctly says that the Palas came to power in Bengal shortly after the advent of these Brahmanas. The number of generations which passed between their first advent in Bengal and the time of Vallala Sena who granted them certain privileges also favour the same conclusion. Not that there were no Brāhmaṇas when these came, for it is well known that the Gupta Emperors of Magadha and their successors made sporadic attempts to settle Brāhmaṇas in Bengal. The advent of these Brāhmaṇas in Bengal is not an isolated fact. The revival of Vedic learning and Vedic sacrifices under the influence of the Reformer Kumārila and his successors led to the settlement of Brāhmaṇas in various parts of India, and it is believed that the settlement of Brāhmaṇas in Bengal is also due to the impetus given by them.

The Brahmanas came here to perform Vedic sacrifices-so they were men learned in the Vedas. They transmitted their knowledge of the Vedas to their posterity. But their mode of study differed widely from that of other provinces where they memorized the Vedas or at least that Veda which they professed. But they cared very little for the meaning. In Bengal, however, the Brahmaņas never memorized even one of the Vedas. They memorized only such of the Mantras as were used in their religious performances, but insisted on knowing their meaning and so they early felt the necessity of a system of interpretation of the Vedas and also of a commentary. They adopted the system of interpretation given not by Kumarila but by his Guru Prabhakara; and it is on

record that they studied Salika Natha's work belonging to Prabhakara's School. They also made a commentary on the mantras used by them. It is not known when this commentary was written, but the author's name is Nugada. He had a large body of followers and some commentaries written by his followers have come down to the present day. These commentators refer to him as their authority. This is the earliest commentary on the Vedas yet known. Sāyaṇa is at least three hundred years posterior to Nugada. The descendants of,the first settlers, who lived in Western Bengal, all professed the Samaveda, and performed their religious ceremonies according to the Sutras of that Veda; and they early felt the necessity of a commentary of that Sútra. Such a commentary was written by Nārāyaṇa, contemporary of Devapāla. This commentary settled the liturgy of Samavedin Brahmanas. Later on, Bhavadeva, a contemporary of Hari Varmā, a king of the coast countries of Bengal and Orissa, wrote a number of works for the same purpose. Halayudha and Pasupati, contemporaries of Lakṣmaṇa Sena, settled the liturgy of the professors of the White Yajurveda.

As a community, the Brahmaṇas of Bengal could not subsist with the Vedic schools only. They must make a Smrti of their own for the regulation of their domestic and social affairs and it is found in many works that there was a Gaudiya School of Smrti. Diligent search has hitherto been unsuccessful in finding out works of this school, though the names of authors, evidently of that school, are often found in modern works. There was one great writer, however, named Govindarāja, son of Madhava Bhaṭṭa, who was already known for his commentary on Manusamhita. His great work, a comprehensive compilation of domestic and social regulations, presumably for the Bengali Brāhmaṇas, has recently been discovered. The manuscript was copied in A.D. 1145. It is in the form of a commentary on Yajnavalkya's work. Jimutavahana, the author of Dayabhaga, the standard work of the Bengal School of Hindu Law as administered in the British Courts of Justice, lived in the eleventh century A.D. His idea of inheritance differs in toto from that current in other parts of India. He is

strongly opposed to the idea of family property which the owners cannot alienate. He is all for personal property. Inheritance, according to him, does not mean right of property from the very birth, but it depends upon remaining alive at the time of the death of the predecessor in interest. Some scholars think that this preference of Jimutavahana for personal property may be due to the Buddhist influence in the country for which he writes the book. Jimūtavāhana wrote a work on the determination of Kala or the time proper for sacrifices and religious ceremonies. In this book are recorded many astronomical observances by himself and his predecessors. His work en Indian jurisprudence is a very clear and comprehensive work.

The Hindus cultivated poetry during this period with success. But like the poetry in other parts of India, it was mostly one-verse poetry, bundled into Satkas, Aṣṭakas, Satakas, etc. There are many anthologies of the period giving the gems of composition by the poets and poetesses of the time. The last of the Bengal anthologies was written in the year 1205. But it would be a libel on Bengal poets to say that they wrote nothing but one-verse poetry. They wrote beautiful dramas, excellent lyrics and some of the finest short pieces. They tried their hand in history and panegyric also. Of dramas it is doubtful whether the author of the Venisamhāra was really a Bengali. The word Nārāyaṇa Bhaṭṭāraka in the Khalimpur grant does not refer to any human being, but to the great god Nārāyaṇa. But the Candakausika was writter undoubtedly by a Bengali poet, Arya Kṣemiśvara, the word Ārya there meaning a married Buddhist priest. The character of Visvamitra is drawn there with a consistency and thoroughness which would do honour to the greatest poets of the world. He is relentless in realizing his dues from Rājā Harischandra in order that the Raja's character for unselfish devotion to duty might be shown to the best. The poem Pavanadūta, though an imitation of Kalidasa's exquisite work the Meghadūta, is written with great power. It describes Bengal as the garden of India and as a great rival of the celestial garden Nandana:

But the most exquisite work of this period is the immortal Gitagovinda. Later on, the vernacular lyrics would be treated of, showing how enthusiastically the ancient Bengalis cultivated music and song. And Gitagovinda is only one sublime manifestation of that enthusiasm. It describes the sports of Kṛṣṇa and Rādhā at Vṛndāvana and the charming full-moon night of the beautiful Indian autumn with all that is delightful to the senses and fascinating to the imagination. The work is still sung in the temple of Jagannatha at Puri and sends the audience into raptures.

During the ascendency of the Palas, the Brahmaņa settlers of Bengal had to fight hard with the Philosophy of Buddhism. That philosophy had already made marvellous progress in metaphysical speculations resulting in an absolute monism, which for want of a better word was termed Sünyavāda. But that Sunyavāda again developed into Advayavada or Non-dual system. It was not only highly intellectual but exceedingly popular, for the Buddhists managed to give it a very attractive sensuous form. In order to demolish such a strong system, the Brāhmaṇas had recourse to realism, that is, to Nyaya and Vaiseșika, viz., Logic and Physical Science. The earliest work written by a Bengali pandit of this period on philosophy was a commentary on the Vaiseşika system. It was written in Saka 913 or A.D. 991 at Bhursut in the district of Howrah, at that time a famous seat of Sanskrit learning. The works of Vacaspati Misra and Udayana also belong to the same period. Both the authors had intimate knowledge of Buddhist Philosophy. and made themselves thoroughly acquainted with the weak points of the rival system, and these they assailed with the weapons of logic and facts and with persistency and power. The consequence was that gradually the Buddhist monism went to the wall and Nyaya-Vaiseşika remained master of the field. The coping-stone of the. arch of Brahmanic Philosophy was placed about the end of this period by Gañgesa Upadhyāya's admirable work, Tattvacintāmiņi, divided into four chapters according to the four evidences

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