Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava - Part 5 - Devas and Brahmā

This article is part 5 of 9 in the series Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava

As the devatas had even lost their voice to give words to their trouble, Indra, their leader gets into action; and his action is merely to reverentially pass on the responsibility to his Guru Bṛhaspati. He does so only with a gentle and slow movement of all his hundred eyes towards the Guru. He does not have words to speak to Brahmā or to the Guru. Bṛhaspati, who is known to have mastered language can at least attempt to express their unified wish to Brahmā – the master of speech, speaking to the Creator of Speech!.

ततो मन्दानिलोद्धूतकमलाकरशोभिना ।

गुरुं नेत्रसहस्रेण नोदयामास वासवः ॥ 2.29

The verse 2.29, suggests the manner in which the thousand eyes of Indra fell on his Guru at the same time. It was like mandānila – a slow, gentle and soft breeze blowing over a pond full of lotuses and swaying them all in the same direction. It is not a quick or a harsh wind. The slowness of movement can perhaps betray a kind of embarrassment on Indra’s face or his reverence for the Guru because of which his movements have either lost their vigour or are faltering. Also, it is not just two eyes of Indra. All the eyes are unified in their purpose at this juncture. It may also suggest the weight of the problem at hand[1]

; (āṅgika, mukhajābhinayakaṭākṣa-vīkṣaṇa)


स द्विनेत्रं हरेश्चक्षुः सहस्रनयनाधिकम्।

वाचस्पतिरुवाचेदं प्राञ्जलिर्जलजासनम् ॥ 2.30

The poet captures quite a few diverse elements in the verse 2.30. He brings the contrast in the number of eyes between the Guru and the leader of his students, Indra – while the Guru is two-eyed and Indra is thousand eyed, quantity does not necessarily reflect quality! The master of speech, Bṛhaspati is that one eye of the thousand-eyed lord of devas, who can understand and flawlessly communicate the emotions of his students. He bows down with añjali-hasta before Brahmā, the creator of forms and the husband of embodied language. The master of language should of course pay his obeisance to the better half of language and more so, when he is wants his students’ purpose fulfilled. Kālidāsa, who always thinks on multiple dimensions also brings in an element of āhārya – Brahmā is seated on the lotus! The mukhajābhinaya of the eyes, abhinaya-hasta of the folded palms, āhārya of Brahmā’s seat, the vācika that is about to ensue from Bṛhaspati’s lips and the sāttvika in all their faces and bodies are captured by the poet in all their vividness!

Bṛhaspati, known for his brilliance, gives quite an impactful and graphic description of the evil deeds of Tārakāsura and paints a picture of bībhatsā with his words. Tāraka, who had procured the blessings of Brahmā has now become like a comet to the world. It is left to the imagination of the connoisseurs to picture the kind of damage a comet would inflict on to the earth – its blazing light, heat and ear-deafening sound. In about nine verses, the Guru of the devas describes the agony Sūrya, Indra, Marut, the seasons and other primordial elements of nature are undergoing.[1]


Verse 2.42 tells us about the kind of luxury Tārakāsura wished to have at the cost of divine damsels.

वीज्यन्ते स हि संसुप्तः श्वाससाधारणानिलैः ।

चामरैः सुरबन्धीनां बाष्पशीकरवर्षिभिः ॥ 2.42

Divine ladies who had become the captives of Tārakāsura were put on the task of constantly fanning him with cāmaras. Due to their intense sorrow, they naturally had aśru – tears flowing down their faces (an element of sāttvikavikāra) – tears rained constantly, says the poet, only to suggest that the torture was never-ending. Their tears along with their sighs of pain were to jointly give a cooling effect to Tārakāsura – akin to modern air conditioning. The poet captures aspects of both āṅgika and sāttvikābhinaya in the verse.

The landscape and the features of his palace are effectively captured in the verses 2.33 to 2.50 contributing to the element of āhārya. The sun controls his brilliance and sends out rays that will only blossom the lotuses in his pleasure ponds and nothing more (2.33), the moon waits upon him with all his phases together (2.34), the wind blows only to fan him (2.35), all the seasons work together to provide him with flowers of all seasons (2.36), the sea is under pressure to regularly produce newer gems only to offer him (2.37), the gems on the heads of the serpents serve as fixed lamps (2.38), Indra too, the leader of devas wishes to win over his favour and constantly offers flowers produced by the kalpavṛkṣa – Tārakāsura has essentially taken Time and Space into his fold. Typical case of dharma-viruddha-kāma - putting all natural resources to one's personal use largely through muscle power.


जयाशा यत्र चास्माकं प्रतिघातोत्थितार्चिषा।

हरिचक्रेण तेनास्य कण्ठे निष्कमिवार्पितम् ॥ 2. 49

In the verse 2.49, the poet portrays the manner in which the collective hope of the devas, nested in Hari was gone powerless. The (Sudarśana) discus, which is an element of Hari’s āhārya, that suggests his valour and stands as a cakra of dharma had become futile in its attempt at subduing Tārakāsura’s assault. Instead of chopping off his head by slicing through his neck, the cakra had got reduced merely to be a golden ornament dangling around his neck, with all its lustre gone.  It was almost like a ‘feather in his cap’ to have Hari’s discus around his neck! This transfer of āhārya indeed suggests how Hari too had lost his sattva due to Takara.

Having given this background, Indra requests Brahmā to create a senāni – commander of forces for the army of the devas to bring Tāraka under control. (2.51). The verse, in fact, suggests two things – firstly, Indra has failed as their leader and secondly, the devas are ready to fight, if given proper direction by a capable leader!


With this, it had become more than evident to Brahmā, through the āhārya, āṅgika, vācika and sāttvika of the devas that there is something absolutely amiss in the devaloka. He, thus, starts speaking words of consolation. The Creator of the worlds, Brahmā, should, after all, create a solution to the problem faced by the devas! Seeing the sequence from the perspective of nāṭya, it is important to bring out the tone and texture of Brahmā’s voice. While this would be evident on the stage as the actor playing the role would start speaking, the poet will need to give us this auditory information through words only.  For this, he writes the following verse:

वचस्यवसिते तस्मिन्ससर्ज गिरमात्मभूः।

गर्जितानन्तरं वृष्टिं सौभाग्येन जिगाय सा ॥ 2.53

Brahmā, the self-born one, gave birth to a speech which was soothing and pleasing – the poet does not plainly say so – he provides us with a simile to imagine the contrast between the texture of the voice of the devas and that of Brahmā. His voice was as refreshing as a tender shower of rain that falls after loud (and disturbing) thunder (from the skies)!

The very first words he speaks are reassuring. He says, in verse 2.54, “संपत्स्यते वः कामोऽयं” – your desire will find fulfilment – but conditions apply, namely – “कालः कश्चित्प्रतीक्ष्यताम्” – you will need to wait for some time. He also adds that this time, he won’t be able to give a solution for the problem. The poet Kālidāsa, intelligently arranges the word order in his epic poem, even while bringing out vācika within the frame work of the chandas.

Brahmā expresses his inability to render worthless the boon he had granted Tārakāsura in the past. He says that the sattva of the Śiva (नीललोहितरेतसः 2.57), when it takes a bodily form (with aṅgas! In the form of Kumāra), can be the solution to their problem. Brahmā says that Umā, the daughter of Parvatarāja can win over Śiva with her ‘saundarya’, i.e., with her beauty. However, he does not specify what kind of saundarya of ‘Umā’ will help procure Śiva for her – āhārya, āṅgika, vācika or sāttvika! (There is probably a hint to suggest that it is Pārvatī, who graduates to become Umā, by performing intense tapas can only win own Śiva through her ātma-saundarya, i.e., sāttvika-saundarya - उमारूपेण ते यूयं संयमस्तिमितं मनः । शम्भोर्यतध्वमाक्रष्टुमयस्कान्तेन लोहवत् ॥ 2.59).


[1] ; It is almost impossible for an actor or a dancer to bring this effect along with its layers of meanings. It is in verses like these that a poet achieves untranslatability in his art and exclusiveness of his chosen medium of expression.

[2] ; It is not a surprise that the creation – comprising of the eight visible manifestations of the Creator - is being tortured by an evil force when the Creator has become an ascetic and a recluse – when the parents of the universe - jagataḥ pitarau – are themselves separated, what would happen to their offspring, the creation? Probably, they will need to come together and create another offspring to bring order to their creation.




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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