Caturvidhābhinaya in the Kumārasambhava - Part 6 - Indra and Manmatha

Indra, who cannot think beyond the obvious and who knows only material luxuries and pleasures of the flesh, jumps to the conclusion that it is only the embodied deity of love, Manmatha who can do the job of uniting Śiva and Pārvatī. He immediately decides to instruct commands to Manmatha and communicates to him through his mind, his thought accelerated by his eagerness to achieve his purpose. (मनसा कार्यसंसिद्धौ त्वराद्विगुणरंहसा 2.63).

Brahmā even reassures that the ātmaja of Śiva (तस्यात्मा शितिकण्ठस्य – 2.61) can with his vīra-sattva can certainly loosen the braids of the captive divine women. (मोक्ष्यते सुरबन्दीनां वेणीर्वीर्यविभूतिभिः). The sattva of the leader translates to an effect on the āhārya of the divine ladies, ultimately suggestion his victory! [1]

Manmatha immediately comes to Indra, obeying his master’s (mental) call

अथ स ललितयोषिद्भ्रूदलताचारुशृङ्गं

रतिवलयपदाङ्के चापमासज्य कण्ठे।


शतमखमुपतस्थे प्राञ्जलिः पुष्पधन्वा॥ 2. 64

The verse is filled with details related to āṅgika and āhārya. Manmatha, the flower-bowed (sugarcane-bowed) personification of love, goes to Indra with añjali-hasta, hands folded in respect as though ready to receive commands. The ends of his bow are beautifully curved like the arching brows of women – Manmatha slings the bow around his neck – on the neck, Rati, his beloved, has left her ‘marks’. The marks were due to the bangles of Rati. (It is interesting to note that with this, the poet not only suggests the physical features of Manmatha, but simultaneously brings in the āhārya of Rati as well!). Manmatha comes unarmed to Indra – it is, after all, not decent to carry weapons which show off one’s calibre, before one’s superior! He comes to Indra, having deposited his arrow made of mango sprouts in the hands of his friend, Madhu – the personification of the Spring season![2]



Sarga  - 3

तस्मिन्मघोनस्त्रिदशान्विहाय सहस्रमक्ष्णां युगपत्पपात् ।

प्रयोजनापेक्षितया प्रभूणां प्रायश्चलं गौरवमाश्रितेषु ॥ 3.1

Manmatha appears before Indra in the said manner even as the latter thinks of him. As soon as he arrives, Indra’s thousand eyes, which were full of hope and expectation fall, at a time on the obedient servant. The poet is careful to even indicate the movement that the thousand eye-balls make – each was, probably, focused on different devas until that point (as suggested by the word ‘स्त्रिदशान्’ in plural, also hinting confusion and bewilderment), now they all unite in purpose. Moreover, seeing the multitude of devas expectantly is no longer of any use – there is a new ray of hope in the form of Manmatha. The poet adds a beautiful arthāntaranyāsa to make the effect even more impactful. He says, the weight of the master’s glance varies in accordance to the purpose the servant is required to serve. The master’s glance can be heavy, after all and the task that he is assigning carries a lot of weight! The poet’s usage of the word ‘gauravam’ adds several layers to the verse.[3]

This verse can be contrasted with the verse 2.29, where the thousand eyes slowly turn towards Bṛhaspati, the revered Guru of the devas, as though to suggest a humble request. Here, the thousand eyes ‘fall’ (papāta) on the servant! Kālidāsa intelligently suggests the emotion just by spelling out the element of āṅgikābhinaya.

Indra offers Manmatha a place to sit – an intimate one close to his own throne, possibly to make know of his intent in all its confidentiality.

स वासवेनासनसंनिकृष्टमितो निषीदेति विसृष्टभूमिः।

भर्तुः प्रसादं प्रतिनन्द मूर्ध्ना वक्तुं मिथः प्राक्रमतैवमेनम् ॥

The verse 3.2 even includes the vācika of Indra, an informal one – “इतः निषीद”. However, connoisseurs will naturally imagine a gesture of Indra’s hand or a motion of his eyes to indicate what place exactly Manmatha is required to occupy. This aspect of āṅgikābhinaya is left to the reader’s imagination. In fact, in the current situation, the verse will be incomplete in its meaning unless a suitable āṅgika is imagined. Manmatha acknowledges with courtesy the indication of his master with a reverential bow of his head and is all eager to receive commands. This again requires the reader to image āṅgikābhinaya.

As any servant desirous of fame and master’s appreciation would do, Manmatha first lauds the qualities of Indra and narrates how he is humbled by the very fact that he has appeared in the thoughts of the master (Verse 3.3). Following this, he gives a huge list of possible tasks he is capable of doing – it almost sounds like the contents sheet of a book. It is only ironical that Manmatha’s vācika in 3.3 starts with the word “ājñāpaya”, while he hardly gives Indra a chance to give him a command.

In verse 3.7, the deity of love, tells his master the manner in which he can kindle deep love in any lady that the latter desires to possess. He is ready to bring any lady with wholesome buttocks and make her embrace Indra’s neck on her own accord – such is his strength. The verses that occur before this and those that come after even suggest that Manmatha can be an impediment to dharma, artha and mokṣa, in addition to leading astray kāma that is dharmāviruddha (कामेकपत्नीव्रतदुःखशीलां – in verse 3.7 suggests that even the most pious of women, which are dhārmicaly committed to solely to their husbands can be made to slip from the path of chastity). Manmatha goes ahead further to say that he will make a lady who has rejected Indra’s advances even to the extent of having him fall at her feet in repentance for infidelity, to get so love lorne that she will need to resort to a bed of tender sprouts (3.8).

Ironically, instead of speaking of the positive qualities of his masters, Manmatha seems to be talking of the numerous escapades of his master, affairs and disturbances Indra has caused in people, out of his greed, jealously and unbridled lustfulness. The connoisseur will need to remember that Manmatha is intimately seated with Indra and this is all in a private conversation. These, in fact, indicate the lack of sublimity of kāma – a part of the six inherent enemies of man - ariṣaḍvarga. It will need to get graduated to the level of puruṣārtha.

The poet achieves yet another thing which is hard to present through pure music or only āṅgikābhinaya in dance – he brings abstraction through words, when he makes Manmatha say – “कस्यार्थधर्मौ वद पीडयामि” (3.6), while it is but natural for Manmatha to speak so, the effect it has on the readers of a kāvya is far more subtle and profound compared to an elaboration of the same through  āṅgikābhinaya in dance.[4]

Manmatha goes ahead to boast of his calibre of disturbing Śiva’s tapas too. Ironically, he is little aware that he is required to do exactly so and that his body will get reduced to ashes.


To be continued...


[1]This working of the citta-vṛtti is almost impossible to depict in nāṭya – a medium which needs concrete display of vibhāva and anubhāva for the evocation of Rasa. Kāvya, on the hand, can depict vibhāvas and anubhāvas that work at the emotional and intellectual spheres, in an abstract manner without the need for them to take concrete shape.

[2]This particular verse, just like several other similar verses brings together events that could have happened in different time frames. To bring this effect in nāṭya would require a linear depiction of  events, namely – the impression that Rati’s leaves on Manmatha’s neck involves a love-sport between the two and Manmatha handing over his arrows to Madhu involves a meeting of the two. To establish these additional characters requires quite a lot of effort by an actor in nāṭya and more so in nṛtya and the artiste will need to establish by abhinaya these set of auxiliary events. However, these effects can be brought at the same time in kāvya, but mere usage of words (To arrive at such a phrase, the poet would have put in great amount of though and years of practise would have helped him sculpt his poem in a profound one). What can be achieved by words in kāvya (through the medium of vācika) will require quire some effort to be established through a āṅgika, in such instances. Different time scales and events can be cast together, with little effort in kāvya  - a privilege other forms of art lack.

[3]An alaṅkāra such as the arthāntaranyāsa is hard to be brought out through nāṭya. Moreover, the movement of the thousand eyes of Indra, which were initially scattered in their vision, later gaining focus is almost impossible to be brought out through nṛtya or nāṭya. An element of āṅgikābhinaya can be incorporated much more effectively in a kāvya than in a nāṭya in the manner of this verse!

Both nṛtya and nāṭya will invariably resort to vācika to bring out this effect. If the theatre forms resort to taking concrete examples to depict the manner in which Manmatha can potentially hamper artha and dharma of people, it will only dilute the effect – more so, because, the examples used for depiction are bound to be a function of space and time, i.e., a feature of the regional and cultural ideas. This will, in turn, bind it to the specific spatial and temporal co-ordinates and tastes. While this depiction in nāṭya or nṛtya can be a means to sādhāraṇīkaraṇa in the minds of a matured connoisseur, the abstract phrase “कस्यार्थधर्मौ वद पीडयामि”, by itself creates the effect of universalization.

[4]While nāṭya and nṛtya, through the medium of āṅgika and āhārya largely try to move from the particular to the universal, kāvya can, whenever necessary, through its medium of vācika can jump to the universal, by passing the particular. A conscious artist and a poet will need to work to optimize the amount of the universal and the particular depicted through the medium of art and Kālidāsa can certainly achieved this golden mean. arthāntaranyāsa is one such example where the universal and the particular are brought in, explicitly.



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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