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Sanskrit Inscriptions

Common Features of a King as Depicted in Sanskrit Inscriptions

Reverend Upali Sramon

University of Peradeniya

1. Introduction

Sanskrit inscriptions are regarded as the most reliable sources of information for certifying historical facts. However, unlike ‘poetry’ and other forms of literature it is difficult to formulate an all-encompassing theory for inscriptions because there are very few characteristics that can be generalised. Even the most prominent feature of literary composition ‘invocation’ is not strictly followed by many authors of inscriptions. Unlike the present day declarations and announcements, there is no strict rule as to how the beginning, body or ending of an inscription should be. They can be either metrical language, in prose or even mixed. Most of these inscriptions were sponsored by kings and engraved by professional authors who had a good command of language. Some authors do not mention their names in the inscriptions.  The fact that they were loyal to the king is obvious from the high praise of their kings. Despite such divergences, the most common features of inscriptions can at least be noted. Most inscriptions discovered to date were inscribed in rocks, stones, pillars or plates; they were made for various purposes.

The intention behind the construction of an inscription was certainly to make a record of something special. Emperor Aśoka had a slightly different objective. More than making a record, he wanted to publish the precious doctrines of the Buddha for moral improvement of his citizens. In this essay I notice some common features of ancient kings as depicted in Sanskrit inscriptions. This will help to understand how kings were looked at and described by inscribers/authors of inscriptions, the objectives and major concerns of ancient Indian kings, their attitudes to religions and their interactions with the populus.

2. Kings in Inscriptions[1]

In some inscriptions the physical appearance of kings has been described in detail. In Meharauli Posthumous Inscription of King Chandra, it is said, the king was given the name because his appearance and physical beauty resemble the fully illuminated moon [samagracandrasadṛśīṃ vaktraśriyaṃ]. King Samudragupta was a great warrior and fought many battles. The wounds in his body do not detract from his beauty. In fact the king is described as “looked more charming because of the severe wounds received from various weapons like the battle-axes, arrows…”[2] King Yasodharman was a mighty and glorious king “the circumference of whose arms is as firm and charming as that of pillars…”.[3] As to the personal life of a king, his relationship with the family members, daily activities, personal tastes and so on, there is scant information.

The technical religious terms, such as ‘colour discrimination’ [varabheda], are not generally used in inscriptions. But, the rulers who maintained peace during their reigns are generally seen as virtuous. Thus, social inequality does not seem to have been encouraged by kings. Yet, there is also no mention of discouraging the discriminatory social stratifications established by religion [Brahmanism]. The reason may be that the kings respected the Brahmins as beacons of sacredness and did not want to interfere with their long-cherished ideals.

From most of the inscriptions beginning with invocation or prayer the religious beliefs of the king are clear. When the author is invoking Viṣṇu, for example, we can infer that it the king and the people of that period were adherents of this god.  When we observe inscriptions of different kings of the same lineage invoking different gods, we can chart the changing course of religious belief too. From the Valabhī Copper plate inscription of king Dharasena II we learn of the glorious achievements of his ancestors. But, in contrast to his fore-fathers some of whom worshipped Maheśvara, and others different gods, King Dharasena made a grant to the Buddhist monk Sthiramati.

In some inscriptions three of four aims of life [dharma, artha, kāma, excluding the fourth moka], are said to have been achieved by the kings. King Skandagupta, for example, is described as “endowed with the highest sentiments of piety, affable, pure, (and) charitable in a proper way, he was without any hindrance to attaining dharma and artha (i.e. spiritual good and economic pursuits) applied himself to such pleasures (i.e. attaining kāma) as can be obtained at the proper time.” King Rudradāman is also described as having attained these three aims. It appears clear from this that Indian kings were always attached to the promotion of economic and spiritual aims. They also reserved time and means for enjoyments. But, there is almost no inscription of kings who renounced the world to achieve ‘liberation’ [moka].

Most of the inscriptions show that most kings were in one way or another inclined to religion – some truly out of devotion but some for political achievement [to win the favour of the general public]. King Iśānavarman built a temple of Siva. King Polakeśi used to perform sacrifices such as Agnisthoma, Agnicaya, Vājapeya, Bahusuvarna, and Puṇḍarika. After his victory over the Kadamabas he held sacrifices. King Kīrtivarman’s brother Maṅgaleśa built beautiful temples.[4] King Aparājita’s wife built a temple for Viṣṇu.

Engravers of inscriptions are generally concerned about the forefathers of their sponsor kings. Even though they are not intending to write a chronology they tend to list the names of the great kings of that lineage and their achievements. Such information is a great boon to Indian historians and students of Indology. Some kings claimed to be related to some other prominent kings or legendary figures. Most kings, as inscriptions show, were conquerors of prominent colonies. In some inscriptions the places a king conquered are not mentioned, yet his valour and ability to vanquish enemies is eulogised.

One of a king’s major concerns was to have a good reputation among his citizens. Some inscriptions show how some kings were dedicated to serving the people. Skandagupta’s relationship with the general people is explained thus: “…he made his subjects happy first by conversation accompanied by a smile and presents of honours by (encouraging) unrestricted mutual visits to each others’ houses among his people (and) by holding domestic functions calculated to promote cordiality.”[5] On the basis of the fact that the Gupta period was the most peaceful period in Indian history, these remarks do not seem to be exaggerations. Many other kings are said to have cherished such an amiable relationship with their citizens. They would look after the needs of the people. King Dakṣa built a well for common use of citizens, and Rudradàman repaired the historical lake Sudarśana to meet agricultural requirements.

The inscriptions show the prevalence of the system of conferring titles to a king for his valorous performance in wars or for some special virtues. These titles were given by the common people, the king’s associates or the royal community. King Rudradāman, originally a kṣatrapa, was given the title ‘Mahākṣatrapa’. King Polakeśi was recognized as ‘satyāśraya’ [inclined to the truth] for his virtues. Later the title became synonymous with the king’s name.

The literary figure prominent in inscriptions is ‘exaggeration’ [atiśayokti]. In the Meharauli posthumous pillar inscription of King Chandra the ostensible purpose of the inscription is to announce that the king built a pillar to declare his victory over Vaṅga. This fact is said only in the last line of the poem of six lines. A long eulogy with elegant adjectives precedes the central expression. Yet, the inscription does not identify the king for certain.  This has given rise to vicious debate which has still not reached a conclusion. In this instance, however, the engraver was not just aiming to convey the explicit message.

In king Rudradāman’s inscription of Girnar, for example, the ostensible statement is that the lake Sudarśana was once destroyed by an incessant downpour of rain and that it was repaired by Rudradāman. This fact is conveyed using so many descriptive expressions for the king, the rain, the lake that it makes reading it a long drawn-out affair. In this fairly long inscription there are only two clear verbs. Sandhi has been applied in every possible place. Such inscriptions form a distinct kind of literature in the vast and diverse forms of Sanskrit literary exercise.

King Rudradāman’s mastery over various types of arts, literature, music, besides his being a brave warrior, seem exaggerated. Many other kings are also similarly eulogised. However, the fact that Sanskrit kāvya literature flourished in courts fits with the fact that Indian kings generally loved poetry and generously sponsored the development of literary creations.

It is natural that, as we can see in most inscriptions, the victory is celebrated. A king who risks his life fighting to prove his courage and skill and to win colonies certainly wants his heroic act to be expressed in language. The writers are generally successful in meeting this expectation of their kings.  Hence, we see that most inscriptions are of victorious kings. There is no inscription of a king who was defeated. Another important feature is that many Sanskrit inscriptions praise the kings highly but make no mention of the date. They might not have thought of the historical importance of the inscriptions.

Most of the kings, as depicted in inscriptions, had different interests and different ways of governing people. Several inscriptions [and names] of Gupta kings are associated with Sudarśana lake in Girnār. This must have been because of the agricultural importance of the lake. The lake, as the name indicates, might have maintained a beautiful view of the place to attract people. The inscription shows some aesthetic sentiments of the author, the king, and the people. Girnār inscription of King Skandhagupta shows that the king had a great care in appointing capable generals to rule his colonies. This characteristic is not obvious in other inscriptions.

3. Conclusion

From the above discussion the characteristics shared by most kings as depicted in famous Sanskrit inscriptions could be enumerated as follows:

  1. the sponsors of inscriptions were mostly kings
  2. the purpose of inscriptions was to publicise or keep a record of some special contributions
  3. The mastery over various types of arts, literature, music, besides being a brave warrior
  4. Some omit to cite the date of the work
  5. Inscriptions are of immense historical importance.

inscriptions tend to include:

  1. a poetic description of the physical appearance of the king
  2. invocation or prayers indicating religious belief system
  3. a king shown cherishing three of the four aims of life
  4. a king inclined to religion for political or genuine interest
  5. the forefathers of the sponsor kings or relating to legendary figures
  6. a king’s desire to have a good reputation among the citizens
  7. system of conferring title/s to kings
  8. the desire for conquering colonies and kings’ victory is celebrated

Beside these common features, the inscriptions have other significant particularities considering their literary and linguistic values. There are many other inscriptions, [for example, religious inscriptions], some established by kings, and some not. They differ from these in purpose and content.



  1. Diskalkar, D. B, [1997], Selections from Sanskrit Inscriptions, (2nd cent. To 8th cent. A.D.), Classical Publisher, Delhi
  2. Barua, Dr. B. M., Aśoka and His Inscriptions, New Publishers Ltd, Calcutta, 1955
  3. Keith, A.B., A History of Sanskrit Literature, Motilal Banarsidas Publications Private limited, Delhi. 1993

[1] All the references to inscriptions are from Selections from Sanskrit Inscriptions (2nd cent. To 8th cent. A.D.), by D. B. Diskalkar, 1977 edition, Delhi-5. The inscriptions referred to here are titled according to the kings in Disklakar’s book. I do not make special reference to page numbers and verses, except where essential.

[2] Allahabad Stone Pillar Inscription of King Samudragupta, pp. 23-43

[3] Mandasore Stone Pillar Inscription of Yasodharman, v.7, p. 79,

[4] Diskalkar, p. 131

[5] Diskalkar, p. 60


The Modernity of Sanskrit

A review of The Modernity of Sanskrit by Simona Sawhney, Permanent Black, Ranikhet 2009, Pp. 213, Rs.495

by A.N.D. Haksar

Besides a means of thought and communication, language can be many things. A repository of history and a vehicle of culture. A tool of scientific inquiry and a field for literary creativity. A medium of governance and scholarly discourse and a hallmark of power and class.
Sanskrit has been all these in the course of the last three thousand years. It was also the language of religious ritual and speculation. This, probably its earliest role, has persisted with some changes to modern times while the other roles faded, mutated or were taken over by other languages.
These changes in an ancient civilization’s principal language provide important areas for academic research and better understanding today. The present work is a welcome contribution in this direction. It is also a pointer to how such research is increasingly taking place outside the homeland of Sanskrit. The author is Associate Professor of South Asian Literature at an American university.
“The book is written”, Professor Sawhney says in her introduction, “as a way of asking how we might read Sanskrit texts today”. Curiously, they “appear to us at once as testaments from a world that has disappeared and as our own contemporaries”. For, they have a “deep engagement with Indian cultural modernity”.
Sawhney refers to the modernity of Sanskrit in three perspectives.  First, as a contributor to thinking on literary, political and cultural modernity in India.  Second, as reflecting the dynamic of political and cultural change in its own literature. And third, as needing to be seen with a “modernity in which it is neither neglected or revered”.
Her suggestion for this is a literary approach to Sanskrit texts. This “might lead us to perceive them neither as antiquarian pieces of archival interest nor the testaments and guards of a severely hierarchical community, but rather as texts whose import and significance always leaves something to be determined”. In other words, presumably, to be reinterpreted continually.
Apart from her literary focus, Sawhney also strikes a political note. There has been a cultural shift in India, she says. “A significant feature of this shift has been the almost total appropriation of the Sanskrit tradition by the Hindu right”. For many Indians, to learn the language now is also “to imbibe the language of a modern ideology”. Thus “a divisive political agenda, formulated on the basis of a religio-nationalist identity, precedes the reading of texts”. The result is that “those who do not subscribe to that ideology often see no reason to study the language either, so strongly has it become associated with cultural conservatism”. This “stamp of orthodoxy”, she opines, “makes Sanskrit a kind of metaphor for institutional violence and the preservation of hierarchy”.
This somewhat sweeping approach, notably highlighted in the book’s blurbs, may attract an audience more interested in polemics than the language itself. But, to carry conviction, it also needs mention of the purvapaksha, that is the other side, in such a discussion on the politics of Sanskrit. This is missing, as are some other relevant points. For example, while the author dwells on the exchanges between Gandhi and Ambedkar on caste and reservation, she omits any notice of Ambedkar’s proposal in the Constituent Assembly to make Sanskrit the official language of the Indian Union. Nor does she note the rich tribute to Sanskrit paid by Nehru, the acclaimed symbol of India’s modernity.
It is the literary focus, however, which valorises this work. There is an erudite and sensitive examination of Sanskrit’s impact on parts of modern Indian literature, particularly Hindi drama. The case studies of Kalidasa, Ashvaghosha and Mohan Rakesh, and of the Mahabharata and Dharmavir Baharati, throw fresh light on the ancient authors and works as well as the modern dramatists. Particularly insightful is the discussion of poetry, drawing on modern writers like Hazariprasad Dvivedi, Jaishankar Prasad and Buddhadeva Bose and the Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana from 9th century Kashmir.
“If we read Sanskrit texts today, we have to do so with the sense that they are not entombed in a dead age but that they can, in some way, break through to our world”, the author concludes. It is a conclusion which endorses the timelessness of all great literature.

A.N.D. Haksar translates Sanskrit texts for several publishers including Penguin; his latest book is The Courtesan’s Keeper (Rupa, Delhi, 2008), the first English rendition of Samaya Matrika, a satire from 11th century Kashmir – see here for more details.

The Modernity of Sanskrit was published last year in the US by the University of Minnesota, and was released earlier this year in its South Asian edition by Permanent Black.  More on the US edition here, and on the South Asian edition here.

Cognitive Sciences and the Gayatri Mantra


By Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam

Cognitive sciences often rediscover philosophical analyses after great effort has been expended.  A better policy would be first to learn what philosophy can teach us and then move on to experimentation and model-building within the scope of positive science.  In this article an attempt is made to combine the ideas of the mind existing and revealed in ancient Indian wisdom contained in the Gayatri Mantra, Upanishads, Advaita philosophy and Sabdabrahma siddhata, as well as to explore the possible application of such a combination in the fields of cognitive.

     Chanting and meditating on the Gayatri Mantra is part of the spiritual ritual of many traditionalists.  This is an important phase of Sandhya Vandanam. The profound meaning of Gayatri Mantra and the meditative insight contained in the performance of Sandhya Vandanam is very interesting, revealing and beneficiary.

 Gayatri Mantra

 Aum bhoor bhuvah ssuvah Aum tat savitur vareanyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat


     May the Divine Luminescence which causes the conscious states/phases of mind- bhooh (jagrat/ wakeful/ awakened), bhuvah (swapna/dream) and suvah (sushupti/deep sleep)- illuminate and inspire our intellect.

We also have:

i.   Aum bhooh Aum bhuvah  Aum suvah Aum mahah Aum janah Aum tapah Ogum satyam

ii.  Aum tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

iii. Aum aapo jothi rasomrutam brahma bhoorbhuvassuvah Aum 

Purport/ Tatparya 

     Pranavam is Aumkaaram. Pranavam is contained in everything as pranava sakti.  Everything is  a manifestation of pranavam. Sapta lokas (lokyate iti lokah– what is seen is loka) —  Laukika Jnanadayakaroopa Bhooloka (jagrat/ awakened/wakeful conscious/mental state) and Bhuvarloka (swapna/dream conscious/mental state), the swararoopa suvarloka (sushupti/deep sleep conscious/mental unawareness state), buddhiroopa maharloka (phase of intellectual operations), pranayuta ahamkaararoopa janoloka (origin, form, structure, cessation and re-creation of egoistic mind state), tapoloka (one-pointed meditative mental state) and Sat-Chit-Ananda roopa (eternal awareness) –  producing Satyaloka (egoless/ego-transcending conscious state, which exists in all the conscious/mental states and at all times-physical or psychological) – are manifestations of  and contained in and by Brahman/Atman .

ii. May such Brahman/Atman, responsible (upanadana karana) for our mind and associated functions illuminate our intellect to enable it to acquire real knowledge (jnana).  We pray to that Divine Luminescence and meditate on it.

iii. Ap (rajo guna), jothi (sattva guna) and the rasaswaroopam (tamo guna), amritam (essence of meaningful experience or experienced meaning, beyond or transcending jeeva sthiti), and the conscious/mental states bhoor-bhuvah-suvah lokas are all manifestations of the same pranavam-the Brahmaswaroopam.  This is also called savita -the cause and creator of all these.

     Chanting these mantras and meditation on their meaning is the chief phase in the performance of Sandhya Vandanam. . Sandhya means antarmukha dristi samayam/awareness within the mental phase. Sandhya Vandnam means  atmaanusandhana prayatnavidhi. Divam means bahirmukha dristi samayam/ aatmaanubhava vismarana samayam/ awareness without the mental phase. Rathri or Nisa means visranta dristi samayam/aatmanbhava samayam, the state of peace, silence and bliss-the state of cessation of all mental cognitions (maanasika kaaryakalaapaanaaam viraama samayam / raama samayam).

     These purports can further be interpreted by making use of Upanishadic wisdom, Advaita philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhata as follows.

Upanishadic Wisdom

     Ancient Indian wisdom as revealed in the Upanishads has a lot to say about human consciousness1-11. Ramabrahmam provided a scientific awareness of mind, its form, structure, function, thoughts, understanding and other mental  processes and their cessation from the psychological point of view, thinking of Upanishadic wisdom as manastattva sastra2-11. The Upanishads are source-books of Atmajnana, the Knowledge of the Self. The Upanishads construe the state of Atman as the real ‘I’ state. They understood the Self i.e., human consciousness, to be unoccupied (mental) awareness and the natural, original and ground state of human mind. 

      Atman is the result of the breathing process 14,15.  Srestaprana, (most possibly O2) is given as the body (tanu) of AtmanAtman is in motion always (yasya gamanam satatam tat atma – that which moves incessantly is Atman) and in modern scientific terms can be termed as a bio-oscillator issuing out pulses of psychic (chit) energy in a time period of 10-1  second, the time required to pronounce a short syllable  like ‘a‘(laghu akshara) .

      Atman provides us with the mental energy whose presence and transformations of its virtual form (maya also known as chidabhasa or pranavam), give us mental time-space and states of consciousness   respectively (Concept Diagram I), to be aware of the body, within the body, without the body and also a state that transcends both body and mind consciousnesses2-11. Maya is the virtual mental energy flowing throughout the body which provides us with sensations.  Maya, the virtual psychic energy and its transformations provide the current of awareness and hence consciousness to us. Conscious states are the phases of mind in the awareness of Atman.  Conscious state of cessation of mental activities, similar to zero in the number system and the concept of a vacuum in physical sciences, is the unique proposition of Upanishadic wisdom which has a profound role in human cognition processes.

Advaita Philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhanta

     Advaita Philosophy is an offshoot of Upanishadic awareness. Advaita Philosophy is more popular as Vedanta.  And it is known to Sanskrit grammarians that Advaita philosophy is best suited for understanding language learning and communication skills.   Patanjali, Bhartruhari, etal., proposed and nurtured Sabdabrahma Siddhanta while attempting to understand language learning, comprehension and communication processes and the formulation of the grammar  rules for Sanskrit, making use of Brahmajnana or Atmajnana and Advaita philosophy.

      As stated above the presence of Atman and transformations of maya give rise to four conscious states in us.  The wakeful-sleep ( Jagrat Sushupti) and deep sleep (Sushupti) conscious states are the advaita  (literally ‘no duality’, only Aham – Aham series – here Aham relates to unoccupied awareness or pure consciousness without any mental cognitions taking place) conscious states.  Wakeful ( Jagrat)  and dream (Swapna) conscious states are dvaita (literally ‘duality’ – aham – idam serieshere idam relates to mental cognitions and  functions in the awareness aham/atman ) conscious states7.  These conscious states alternately and simultaneously   rise and set in us helping us to cognise/know/learn, perceive, reason, think, experience/understand, speak/teach, read and write and thus be aware of various disciplines and skills, master and use them through the medium of language or otherwise by the simultaneous use of antahkaranas (inner mental tools– manas, buddhi, chittam and ahamkaram), sense organs and action organs.

    According to the Upanishads knowledge is of two kinds- (i) that acquired through the combined operation of  sense organs, action organs and inner mental tools in the awareness of Atman ( Maitra Jnana ) and (ii) that is inherent / genetic  (Varuna Jnana)5-7,14. All our acquisitions of knowledge come under Maitra Jnana and the in-built urges, volitions, body and mental abilities, capabilities, nature etc., come under Varuna Jnana.

     To put it simply, according to the Upanishads, our mental functions are the forward and backward transformations of chidabhasa or maya – transformed by energies sensed through sense organs or the stored information as potential energies retrieved (as vasanas first and then prapancham as feelings/thoughts/perceptions) and transformed in the reverse direction to give us knowledge, experiences etc. The transformation of maya, reverse transformation of maya and cessation of transformation of maya – the dvaita and advaita conscious states respectively- taking place simultaneously, consecutively and alternately is the structure, form, function, state and essence of human consciousness, mental functions and cognitive  processes. 

     The above discussion and propositions about mind and its functions in terms of Atman and maya can be extended and used to understand language learning and communication processes.  It is mentioned above that maya is also known as pranavam, the primordial sound.

     Bhakti (defined as swa swaroopa anusandhanam  bhaktirityabhidhiyate- tuning the mind to its natural state of mind i.e., the state of Self-  or cheto vrittirupetya tisthati sadaa saa bhaitirityuchyate– the state when cheto vritti- antahkarana parinama-ceases to take place) is another name for the state of Atman or Brahman- the advaita state.  In this state the pranavam or virtual chit -energy (termed as maya by Vedantins)- does not transform into antahkaranas – no vivartanam  (two-way transformation of maya and antahkaranas) , meaning no antahkarana parinama or vritti ( transformation of inner mental tools causing cognitions) takes place

     The transformation of pranavam (maya) as antahkaranas and pancha pranas (prana,apaana,vyana,udana and samana) and thence activating sense and action organs respectively and simultaneously (wakeful and dream phases of mind) is the vibhakti or dvaita state or the state of ego- jivatma -the state of I-, my- feelings, thoughts and perceptions.  All kinds of knowing/learning/expression/teaching take place in this vibhakti state making use of every mental tool in the awareness of Atman. Sabdabrahma Siddhatanta, taking this advaita/dvaita concept and a theory of language learning/teaching, speaking/understanding in the four modes of mind (para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari) is developed using sphota vada, a consequence of Sabdabrahma Siddhanta.

     According to this theory human language communication process is a combination and quick successive reversible transformations of four modes i.e., I Speaker/Teacher: (a) Purport/Awareness (Meaningful Experience or Experienced Meaning- para) (b) Understanding/ Experience/ Sense/ Mood/Volition/ Intuition (pasyanti) (c) Perception/Thinking/Feeling (madhyama) (d) Utterance /Expression (vaikhari)   II  Knower/ Listener/ Learner: (a) Knowing (through sense organs)- vaikhari (b) Perception/Thinking – madhyama (c) Understanding/ Experience –pasyanti (d) Purport (Meaningful Experience/ Experienced Meaning)/Awareness- para.

     When the physical structure of the mind and its function as revealed in the Gayatri Mantra as sapta lokas is compared and combined with the knowledge of conscious states/phases of mind and mental functions provided by Upanishadic wisdom and language learning, comprehending and communication modes as worked out by Sanskrit grammarians together with Advaita Philosophy and Sabdabrahma Siddhanta a working model of the human mind can be built.

      The insights of Upanishadic wisdom on human cognitive processes and the physical structure of the mind as revealed in the Gayatri Mantra  as lokas can be used to propose a human cognitive process model; the ultimate aim being the development of a software which would perform the tasks of the mind. These understandings in modern scientific terms about the mind, its phases in the form of conscious states/lokas can be further used to develop the software to model human mental processes and language learning/communication processes going on within us and compare and club them with the mind-machine model-building attempts and working of the bio-chemicals and the energy transitions and transformations associated with them.



Manas. Buddhi, Chittam and Ahamkaram( egoistic mind) are antahkaranas.  They are manifestations (vibhutis) of jnanasakti. They activate sense organs.

Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samana are panchapranas.  They are manifestations (vibhutis) of pranasakti.  They activate action organs.

The mind is a combined operation of Atman, Maya, Antahkaranas, sense and action organs.

The mind and its activities are cognitive elements to consciousness and mind becomes Atman in Jagrat Sushupti consciousness state when all mental cognitions cease to be.



Sapta Lokas : (Seven Conscious states of mind)

1. Seer Atman/Brahman           ADVAITA STATE                 BEING

   Satya loka   :  Aham -Aham      Jagrat  Sushupti       Wake ful Sleep      Peace Silence Bliss  

                           Egoless /ego-transcending conscious state.    Visranta Dristi

                          Awareness   +   Chidakasa      Maya not transformed       Srasta   Rasa

                          Awareness   +    Icha-jnana-kriya sakti pravaham / Nirvishaya/nirvishayaanubhava pravaham                                         

                          Atmanubhava Samayam    Bhakti,      Para    Tatparya,    Sat-Chit-Ananda                Sat/Chit

2. Seer: Antahkaranas – manas, buddhi, chittam and ahamkaram       DVAITA STATES     BECOMING        

  (a)  Tapo loka   :  Aham+Chidabhasa   Chittakasa       Swapna     Maya     transformed     Samvit

                           Meditative state if Mind    Single object in awareness           Antakmukha Dristi

  (b)  Jano loka   :    Aham+Vasana         Rajomayakasa   Jagrat and/ or Swapna  Wakeful/Awakened and/or Dream                             

                          Antarmukha Dristi     State of  egoistic   mind.      First  transformation of maya   

                          Awareness   +   Mood   Pasyanti    Artha      Experience   Intuition    Sense    Understanding   Urge                             

    ©  Maharloka    :   Aham+ Divya, Swara  Saktis   Jagrat and/or   Swapna   Mental state of Intellectual operations    

                          Antarmukha Dristi

                          Awareness  +     Akasa and Vayu    Bifurcation of maya into jnasakti  and  prana sakti                             

  (d) Survarloka  :   Aham+ Nirvishaya/Nirvishayaaanubhavam        Sushupti      Deep  Sleep   

                          Awareness+ Tamas       Maya not bifurcated and not transformed      suddhavasana   pravaham 

 (e)  Bhuvarloka :    Aham+Idam   Bhutakasa           Swapna     Dream    State of awareness of within

                           Awareness   +   Second transformation of maya    Srusti        Vibhakti         Madh yama    

                           Antahkarana parimanatakes place   Only action organs are active       Sense organs are  dormant

  (f)  Bhooloka    :   Aham+Idam      Jagrat   Wakeful/awakened    State of mental cognition  knowing/Expressing       

                           Bahirmukha Dristi

                           Awareness +   Bhutakasa         Second Transformation of maya /Transformation of maya  into sound,  gesture,  expression etc.,            Vibhakti   Vaikhari   Both  sense  and action  organs are active



APPENDIX III:                

Measurement of   Time based on Surya Siddhanta.

1 Day= 60 Nadigas;

1 Nadiga=60 Vinadigas;

1 Vinadiga=6 Pranas;

1 Prana=10 Deergha Aksharas (Long Syllable);

1 Deergha Akshara=4 Laghu Aksharas (Short Syllable).

1 PRANA= Time taken to pronounce 40 Laghu Aksharas (Short Syllables).

The length of the day is divided into 864,000 parts. This corresponds to 1/10th of the Western second.  The   length of the day is equal to the time taken to pronounce   864,000 Laghu Aksharas ( SHORT  SYLLABLES).


1. Ramabrahmam, V., The physical structure and function of mind: A modern scientific translation of Advaita philosophy with implications and application to cognitive sciences and natural language comprehension, Paper presented at national seminar on Sanskrit in the Modern Context conducted by Department of Sanskrit Studies and the School of humanities, University of Hyderabad between11-13,

42 Ramabrahmam, V., Presentation at the Third Vedic Science Conference on Chemical Sciences and Technology in Ancient India held at Bangalore on 23rd, 24th & 25th, January, 2009 by National Institute of Vedic Sciences, Bangalore.  Title: THE PHYSICOCHEMICAL NATURE OF THOUGHTS AND IDEAS: AN ANCIENT INDIAN INSIGHT

3. Ramabrahmam, V Proceedings of Presentations  at International Conference on Photonics, Nano-technology and Computer Applications (ICOPNAC- 2009), 25-28 February 2009 held at Center for Research and Development, PRIST UNIVERSITY, West Campus, Trichy Main Road, Vallam, Tanjavur- 613 403, Tamilnadu, INDIA. Title: THE INFRASONICS AND ELECTRONICS OF BIONICS, Volume IIpp: 20-39.

In Praise of Sri Kanakadurga

श्री कनकदुर्गा स्तवम्

 Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam

आत्मना दर्शयामि मनसा भजामि

बुद्ध्या जानामि चित्तेन स्मरामि

आनन्दरूपीण्यां कनकदुर्गायां

लीनं करोमि मिथ्याहं ममत्वं च

श्रीदेवीप्रीतिवृद्धये उपासयामि

महादेवीं त्रिपुरसुन्दरीं शारदाम्

प्रसन्नदृष्टियुतां शिवकामेश्वरीम्

सुस्थिरानन्यभक्तिप्रदात्रीं भवानीं श्रियम्

तडिल्लतातन्वीं दरहासोज्वलन्मुखीम्


शिवमनोवल्लरीं मल्लेश्वरप्रणयिनीम्

विमलाम् विजयवटिकापुराधीश्वरीम्



I sight Her through my self

I sing Her with my heart

I know Her with my mind

I repeatedly chant Her in my thoughts

Into Kanakadurga, the very embodiment of bliss,

Do I sink, submerging my false sense of self and identity.

I meditate upon the goddess hoping to augment her favour

I pray to Mahadevi, Tripura Sundari, Sarada

Sivakameswari, whose gaze makes all calm –

She offers unassailable, undivided loyalty.

I bow to Bhavani, Sri,

Her body a streak of lightning, her face ablaze with a cavernous smile.

She resides on Indra Kiladri, on the banks of the Krishna river.

Indrani, entwined around Shiva’s heart like a creeper, the beloved of Lord Malleswara,

Eternally pure, our lady of Vijayawatika.

Goddess Kanadurga is the presiding deity of Vijayawada, situated on the banks of river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh. Malleswara is Lord Siva, the beloved consort of goddess Kanakadurga.

Ten Verses on Sri Tripurasundari


श्री त्रिपुरसुन्दरी दशश्लोकी

By Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam

हृदयाब्जेन भावमल्लिकाप्रसूनैः बुद्ध्योत्पलापुश्पैः

सद्वासना चम्पकैः सुमधुरमकरन्दान्वितवाक्मन्दारैः

अलंकुर्वन् सुगन्धिकुन्तलाम्बाम् श्यमलां मनोज्ञाम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


सुहृद्भाववीणानादैः रसमृदङ्गध्वानैः उच्छ्वास

निश्वासवायुलीनैः देवीश्रीदिव्यनाममुरलीरवैः श्रावयन्

स्वरझरीम् रागगङ्गाम् वीणावेणुमृदङ्गवाद्यरसिकाम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


लसत्कान्ञ्चनताटान्कयुगलां रसत्किन्किणीमेखलाम्

ताराकान्तितिरस्कारनासाभरणभासुराम् आनन्दताण्डवे

धिमिधिमिसंयोजितनूपुरां नटराजप्रेयसीम् राजराजेश्वरीम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


सकलवेदान्तसंसिद्धसुतन्त्वां गयत्रीं सर्ववेदान्तसंवेद्याम्

सकलभाषाशास्त्रकलारूपिणीम् सत्यसंपूर्णविज्ञानप्रदात्रीम्

परापश्यन्तीमध्यमावैखरीस्वरूपिणीम् तत्त्वमर्थस्वरूपिणीम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


सत्यज्ञानान्दस्वरूपिणीम् अस्तिभातिप्रियांसत्यशिवसुन्दरीम्

सच्चिदान्दस्वरूपिणीम् चिदाभासाम् मायाम् प्रणवाम्

सहृदयहृदयं गमां वेदान्तसरस्वतीं मौन्याम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


रामाम् त्रिभुवनमोहां प्रेमां श्यामां ललितां सौन्दर्य

स्वरूपिणीं श्यामकृष्णसोदरीम् उमां कामां शृन्गाररस

स्वरूपिणीं महाकामेस्वररतौत्सुक्यमहाकामेश्वरीम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


बालाप्रभृतदशनामयुतां दशविद्यासम्स्थिताम् आत्मदशाम् मनोदशातीतां निर्मलां निगमां सुन्दरेशमनोल्लासिनीम् मीनाक्षीम्

मनोन्मणीं मनोहरीं सुद्धमानसाम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


सहस्रनामविराजितां नानार्थस्वरूपिणीं तात्पर्याम्

तत्परां रसस्वरूपिणीं शान्तां नारायणीं भावनामात्र

सन्तुष्टहृदयां भगवतीं भवानीं भावातीताम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


ललितकलास्वरूपिणीं प्राणमयीं नादरूपां रागिणीं

सङ्गीतनाट्यलोलां काव्यालापविनोदिनीम् प्रीतिप्रणयस्नेह

स्वरूपिणीं रागतालयुतकालस्वरूपिणीं कालीम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये


पूर्वसमुद्रस्थितां श्रियम् लक्ष्मीम् श्रीदेवीम् ईप्सितदाम्

ईश्वरीं सकलायुरारोग्यशुभसंप्रदात्रीं विजयाम्

अभयक्षेमस्थैर्यधैर्याश्वैर्यदात्रीम् विमलाम् शांकरीम्

श्रीवेदपुरीस्वरप्रणयनीम् त्रिपुरसुन्दरीम् आश्रये

Sree Tripurasundaree Dasa Slokee

Ten verses on Sree Tripurasundari

With the jasmine flowers of my emotion, the blue lotuses of my mind

With the champaka flowers of blissful memories, the coral of a voice sweet with honey

Do I adorn – my heart, a lotus, acts as the channel –

The purple-green goddess, enchanting with the overpowering scent of her hair.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


With the veena[1] melody of my heartfelt love, the drumbeat of rasa[2]

With a wind symphony of breaths, the flautist’s tune formed by chanting the words “Sri Devi”

Do I make music for the goddess as a stream of sound, the Ganga of ragas, an aesthete of fine taste in the mridunga[3], the pipe and the veena

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


She whose ears glitter gold with her earrings as she jingles with her belt of gold and stone,

Her shining nose-ring eclipses the bright beauty of the stars

Her anklets ring in time and in tune with the steps of her blissful dance – for she, the queen of queens, is the lover of the lord of dance.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


Gayatri, the origin of the full and complete Vedanta, who knows all there is to know about the Vedas

She in whom exists all arts, sciences and languages, she who dispenses knowledge complete and true.

She is the four modes of speech – purport, import, sense, sentence and utterance –

She forms the very essence of the meaning of ‘tat tvam[4]’.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


She personifies the instinctual knowledge that is truth, charming as the light that is existence, beautiful in her blessed truth

She represents ‘sat-chit-aananda[5], a soul still shackled, illusion, the syllable ‘om’

She dwells within the hearts of the compassionate, Vedanta Saraswati, silence itself.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


Beguiling, she confounds all three worlds, adorable in her darkness and elegant,

She stands for beauty, sister of the dark-skinned Krishna, Uma.

As a lover she symbolises the love rasa, the great goddess of love passionate in her devotion to her lord the god of love

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


She answers to 10 names, starting with Bala, well established in the 10 branches of meditative knowledge

The stage of Atman, the phase that transcends the mind

Faultless she embodies the Vedas, brightening Sundareshwara’s heart, Meenakshi.

She enchants minds as a jewel does, pure at heart.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


Manifested through her 1000 names she means a million things

She is the purpose and the intention, the form of sound and rasa, peace itself, Narayani,

You need only to think of her to find contentment at heart, Bhagavati, Bhavani, the very quality that makes us rejoice.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.



She symbolises the fine arts and is at essence prana[6], she is the quality of sound, empassioned,

Atremble with music and dance, she delights in poetry and prose, adored she is embodies love and affection

She is time as dictated by the tune and the beat, Kali

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


She dwells on the eastern coast, a revered goddess splendid in her wealth she distributes gifts long wished for,

A goddess victorious she brings all happiness, health and life

Pure and forbearing, she gives power, courage, patience, and peace free from fear.

It is to Tripurasundari, beloved wife of Vedapureshwara, that I turn.


Sree Vedapureeswara is Lord Siva, the presiding deity of Pondicherry and Sree Tripurasundari is His Beloved Consort.

[1] The veena is a stringed instrument associated with southern Indian carnatic music.

[2] Rasa literally means juice, but is also a technical aesthetic term which refers to the impact literature has on your emotions.

[3] The mridunga is a kind of drum.

[4] Tat tvam asi literally means “You are that” a sentence of huge import from the Upanishads indicating that the human self is identifiable with the whole.

[5] This compound literally means “Existence-consciousness-bliss”.  It refers to the experience of Brahman that a yogi aims to, and can, reach.

[6] Literally “breath” and thus the vital breath, life.

Review of Oliver Fallon’s Bhattikavya

A welcome and exotic addition to the Clay Sanskrit Library in 2009 is the Bhattikavya translated by Oliver Fallon. Additionally known as the Ravanavadha, it is a condensed rendering of the Ramayana in the mahakavya style. Where Valmiki’s epic is a universe of a story, spreading in every dimension to form a great playground for the reader or hearer, Bhatti’s version is a refined little garden wherein the soul in tranquility may observe its responses to the art of the kavi. In the former, we clutch onto the coattails of a great cast of characters and remain, chapter after chapter, in excitement, or exhaustion, or suspense. In the latter, the essences of Rama’s world enter our hearts like dyes released one by one into water.

From the gentle loftiness to which Bhatti has elevated us, we can occasionally peer across and see Valmiki’s giant work thundering past at ten times our pace, with all manner of poppings and bangings firing out from the great cloud of dust thrown up by its trailblazing. It is as though we are gliding serenely in a vintage Rolls-Royce, while a racing Bentley roars past – both on roughly the same journey, but we have time to soak up the landscape, while they constantly wrestle with the beast.

Yet this is no easy alternative to reading the epic. Knowledge of the Ramayana is not essential to enjoy Bhatti’s story, but the intensity and power of one of his verses would not be so apparent without at least a cursory reading of the same episode in Valmiki. Besides, the Ramayana is longer by over 22,000 verses, its last book not being covered at all by Bhatti, so a great deal has been set aside. 

Fallon’s efforts have produced an agreeable English text that belies the daunting complexity of the Sanskrit. It is smoother and more accessible than that of Leonardi, the last European to publish a translation nearly 40 years ago. Leonardi’s unloved book, which does not include the Sanskrit, is not made entirely redundant by this new version, notwithstanding that the Italian does to some of Bhatti’s verses what Rama does to Surpanakha.  Anyone who construes a line such as, “She tried to squat in an indecent way,” warrants some kind of recognition. Few people can do any justice in translation to the highly ornamented style of mahakavya, and much of the art, or science, of alamkara works only in the original. This is a frustrating limitation, but one that has clearly been recognised by the translator here. He does well to present Bhatti in readable English with a certain understated charm. It is a responsible, no-nonsense approach that has produced a book this reviewer wishes had been available when he was flattened by Bhatti at a mercilessly early stage in his studies.

More so than with many Clay editions, one is grateful here for their house style of punctuating the Sanskrit transliteration. When we dive into canto ten’s barmy yamaka overload, it is a relief to have something like the following broken up:

samiddha|sarana dipta dehe Lanka mat|esvara

samid|dha|saran|adipta dehe ‘lam|kamat|esvara.

So much for the poetry. What of the grammar? For in his introduction Fallon rightly describes the Bhattikavya as “one of the boldest experiments in classical literature”, and this is precisely why a new edition was such a desideratum. Bhatti designed the poem to furnish examples of Panini’s towering Astadhyayi of a thousand years before. It is a lively and inspirational testament to the status of vyakarana in Indian learning. The notes following the translation list the numbers of the Paninian sutras illuminated by the verses. This is a handy resource and possibly the extent of what could reasonably be explored within the limits of the dinky Clay volumes. A brief account of how to decode a simple sutra is supplied in the introduction, and suffices to show to the uninitiated that Panini is not an area to be casually dipped into.

 At this, a line is drawn under the poem’s didactic purpose. To get any further with Bhatti’s lesson, a copy of the Astadhyayi (with commentary) is necessary, and this is not the sort of thing the Clay library does. However, the penultimate verse of the closing canto tells us, “vyakhyagamyamidam kavyam”- “This poem is to be understood by means of a commentary.” Students of Bhatti – outside of India, at any rate – are poorly served by the difficulty of obtaining the Jayamangala commentary which appears to still be available only with Joshi/Sharma edition of 1914. Let’s get it on the internet, and help open the poem up to new students. As it is, those who are already connoisseurs of Bhatti will be glad to have this fresh little translation to hand – and leave Leonardi trying to squat indecently a little further up on the bookshelf.

Damian O’Brien

Sakuntala in London – a review


The Recognition of Sakuntala 

21st January 2009

 Union Theatre, Waterloo, London 

 Serena Ansell

 According to Will Johnson, the translator of this play by Kalidasa, The Recognition of Sakuntala is one the ‘best known classical Sanskrit dramas’ and one that the director of this production has compressed from four to two hours in order to make it more accessible to a Western audience. Written in the fourth century it retells a moving love story from the Mahabharata between a king and a young girl living in the forest with her foster father.

The action is delivered by the ten actors in a mixture of verse and prose, much of which suggests the beauty of Sanskrit descriptive language.  The director, Tarek Iskander, has ensured that the play is more naturalistic than its Sanskrit original and thus less dependent upon unfamiliar theatrical conventions.

As a piece of theatre it worked gradually upon the audience and in the second act one felt noticeably far more drawn in and emotionally involved. This was in great part due to the actor, Guy Moore, who played Sakuntala’s father and the beggar who cursed her with maturity and gravitas.

As a taster for Sanskrit literature and as a powerful but deceptively simple love story this production is worth seeing.

The Recognition of Sakuntala is on at the Union Theatre, Waterloo, London, until 7th February.  For tickets, call the box office on 0207 261 9876.

For the Time Out review (for which the play won 4 stars) click here:


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