Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava - Part 7 - Manmatha Gets Ready for his Task

This article is part 7 of 9 in the series Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava

Manmatha continues to boast of his own skills in the pretext of praising his master:

तव प्रसादात्कुसुमायुधोऽपि सहायमेकं मधुमेव लब्ध्वा।

कुर्यां हरस्यापि पिनाकपाणेर्धैर्यच्युतिं के मम धन्विनोऽन्ये ॥ 3.10

In the words of Manmatha, the poet contrasts the āhārya of Śiva and Manmatha - while the former possesses the bow Pināka, the latter has flowers for his weapons. Manmatha even says that only Madhu – the embodiment of the Spring Season is sufficient to be his aide. (It is evident that allegorically, the spring and the floral weapons are uddīpana-vibhāvas for kāma - love, in this case) [1]

Now that Manmatha has arrived at the exact purpose that his master had in his mind, Indra starts voicing his command.

अथोरुदेशादवतार्यपादमाक्रान्तिसम्भावितपादपीठम् ।

सङ्कल्पितार्थे विवृतात्मशक्तिराखण्डलः काममिदं बभाषे॥ 3. 11

The poet helps us visualize his body language – Indra, until this point, was seated with one of his legs crossed upon the other. Upon hearing Manmatha’s latest words, Indra ‘honours’ the foot-stool by placing his feet there. A conscious connoisseur can even imagine that an excited Indra is now leaning closer towards the 'servant' and is motivated to give words to his idea.

To achieve his purpose, Manmatha is no longer addressed like a servant – but is now a friend “सर्वं सखे! त्वय्युपपन्नमेतत्! (3.12)”. He praises the ‘friend’ who can achieve things that the vajrāyudha - the lightning bolt fails to.

Indra has come to know from his female spies, the apsarās that Śiva is performing tapas and the daughter of Parvatarāja is waiting upon him. He convinces Manmatha the importance of his task – all the devas have reposed trust in him as the sole deliverer of peace. This, Indra thinks, will happen through the union of Śiva and Pārvatī, out of whom a commander-in-chief of the divine forces is to be born. He believes that by inducing kāma in Śiva and Pārvatī, vīra can be achieved! By bringing Śiva from the spiritual plane to the material plane, the object can be procured. However, little does he know that it is truly the union in spirit of the primordial parents of the world - Śiva and Pārvatī, which can help them at this juncture and not any material deed.

Indra “तद्गच्छ सिद्ध्यै कुरु देवकार्यम्” asks Manmatha ‘to go’ to achieve the task [2]

Indra adds that Madhu and Samīraṇa (cool breeze of the spring) will come as his companions, rather, as personified uddīpana-vibhāvas. This line of thought is rather apt for Indra, the deity of indriyas – sense organs!


तथेति शेषामिव (मालामिव) भर्तुराज्ञामादाय मूर्ध्ना मदनः प्रतस्थे।

ऐरावतास्फालनकर्कषेण हस्तेन पस्पर्श तदङ्गमिन्द्रः॥ 3.22


Manmatha now has no second thoughts  – he just says – ‘तथा’ – ‘So be it’ and there are no more questions asked. He is confident. He carries the master’s command on his head like a garland of flowers – as though a crown for his glory or a ‘feather in his cap’. [3]

Indra then pats Manmatha’s back as though as sign of encouragement to add momentum to the latter’s activity. While this is an element of āṅgika, Kālidāsa does not fail to capture the texture of Indra’ palm – it was bristly – roughness that it had acquired for having often patted Airāvata, the divine elephant. [4]

Until this point, the conversation between Manmatha and Indra is depicted by the poet. As described, one can imagine the body language, the texture and tonality of voice of the characters very well, thanks to the nāṭyāyamānatā - dramatic effect brought in by the poet.

The verse 3.23 narrates the manner in which Manmatha goes to the āśrama of Sthāṇu - the unshakeable Śiva, resorting to achieve his deed even at the cost of his body.

Manmatha, along with Rati and Vasanta as his companions faces the loner, Śiva.

दिग्दक्षिणा गन्धवहं मुखेन व्यलीकनिःश्वासमिवोत्ससर्ज | 3.24

Kālidāsa brings in sāttvikābhinaya accompanied by āṅgikābhinaya even for ideas that are abstract. Here, he has personified and humanised the Southern direction – it is pictured as a lady. She lets out the carrier of fragrance, wind, through her mouth, as though as sigh of anguish. It seems as if she has been forced to let out a breeze against her wish – the coming of akāla-vasanta – the untimely and unwarranted spring.

The next set of verses provides the scenery and stage properties as a part of āhārya – it sets the scene of Manmatha’s entry. [The sthāyi-bhāva of rati and the uddīpana-vibhāvas of vasanta and malaya-māruta are present in their physical forms with him. It is their manifestation in nature that is depicted.]

The Aśoka trees are forced to blossom even without giving them time to wait for beautiful ladies to give them a gentle kick with their tender feet accompanied by the jingling of anklets (3.26). Vasanta provides Manmatha with arrows of mango-sprouts, as though custom made for his use – the arrows have the initials of Manmatha engraved in the form of bees (निवेशयामास मधुद्विरेफान्नामाक्षराणीव मनोभवस्य 3.27).

It can be recalled that in the verse 2.64, Manmatha tells Indra that he has left his arrows in the custody of Madhu! It was usual for the arrows of warriors to bear their signature or symbols – this would help identify which of the heroes ‘hit the prey’ in the battle-field. Vasanta seems to have done the job for his friend – Manmatha.  

The odourless karṇikāra flower blossoms with all its colours (3.28) in the untimely Vasanta, which had come without prior announcement.

For a poet who has personified abstract entities such as directions and seasons, humanizing a forest is not very difficult. In verse 3.29, the poet employs an upamā (blended with utprekṣā), where he uses anubhāva of the rati-sthāyi-bhāva of the forest-heroine and the spring-hero to suggest the blossoming of the palāśa flower. While the poet could have simply said that the forest was filled with palāśa trees with their buds waiting to blossom, he brings in a beautiful emotion as though to give a poetic reason for the shape, size and colour of the bud. He says that the palāśa buds appeared like the nail-marks left by Vasanta on the vana-sthalī – an aftereffect of their love-sport. This, in fact, even lets us imagine an āṅgika-vyāpāra that caused the particular effect to occur. The other imagery he associates with the buds that are yet to blossom is the bālendu – the crescent moon which is waiting to be blossomed into its full form.

In reality,  the poet is trying to establish the āhārya, i.e., the setting of the environment where the next set of events are destined to take place – while doing so, it is more than evident that he retains the sthāyi-bhāva of rati throughout and superimposes them on all the elements of āhārya – with this, the āhārya stops being static – it gets transformed into emotive beings or, in a sense, secondary actors on the stage as a part of nāṭya. This very āhārya is to later act as uddīpana-vibhāva for the real human characters who are going to appear on the poetic area and the superimposition of the sthāyi-bhāva on them further bolsters the uddīpana-vibhāva.


To be continued...


[1] One can observe Manmatha’s sarcasm here. Though not explicitly stated, from the stories from the purāṇas related to Śiva, we get to know how he destroyed the tripuras, but needed Sūrya, Candra, Meru, Vāsuki, Brahmā, Nārāyaṇa and a host of others as his aides. One can imagine, by context that Manmatha is boasting of his skill which is much greater than Śiva’s – he only uses flowers for his arrows and needs only a companion. This almost sounds like an instance of “क्रियासिद्धिस्सत्त्वे भवति महतां नोपकरणे”, i.e, he thinks that he can win over Śiva just by using his sattva,  and does not need many weapons. Ironically enough, Manmatha is mistaken – Śiva, who could burn the three cities, will not find it difficult to burn a tender-bodied pest!

[2] ...but, in a hurry, Indra forgets to utter ‘पुनर्दर्शनाय’ – ‘to see you soon again’. True to these words, that is the last Indra ever sees of Manmatha, in the visual form.

[3]The word शेष actually means a form of blessing given to a servant by the main deity after his pūjā has been performed [प्रसादान्निजनिर्माल्यदाने शेषेति कीर्तिता, Mallinātha quotes Viśva].

[4]To show this in nāṭya or nṛtya would require the artiste to go back in time and show the patting of Airāvata by Indra multiple times and that leaving a permanent effect on the texture of the skin of his palm – one of the most sensitive parts of the skin on the human body! While this would require quite some effort on the part of the theatre artiste, it can potentially remove the focus from the main story and become a deviation. This, in its entirety is captured in the fourteen letters by the poet! The next eight letters, i.e., ‘पस्पर्श तदङ्गमिन्द्रः’ – are all the more meaningful. Manmatha who had a body, was sāṅga until then, get reduced to anaṅga – loses his body because of Śiva. This is the last time Indra even gets to touch Manmatha, not just see him or hear him. The master’s last touch was a harsh one on the soft body of Manmatha!



Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...