The Mystic Songs of Kanha and Saraha (The Doha-Kosa and the Carya)

The Mystic Songs of Kanha and Saraha (The Doha-Kosa and the Carya)

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Book Specification

Item Code: NAG867
Author: Pranabesh Sinha Ray
Language: Transliterated Text
Edition: 2020
Pages: 232
Cover: PaperBack
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 380 gm

Book Description


India is very grateful to Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Haraprasad Sastri for his discoveries and his numerous publications of rare texts, particularly for his Bauddha Gana O Doha (Vangiya-Sahitya-Parisat, Calcutta, 1323 E.S.). Those of these last texts which concern us are the Dohahosa of Saraha and of Kanha. The old mss. which have preserved them for us originally belonged to the library of the king of Nepal.

The ms. of the Dohakosa of Saraha is now the property of Sastri. The text is accompanied by a commentary composed by Advaya Vajra and entitled Sahajamnaya-panjika (in the colophon Dohakosasya Panjika). It lacks one page in the middle and one page at the end. In the beginning, the work cites only fragments of the stanzas, but thereafter it cites entire strophes, and it explains the mystic significance thereof which hardly helps us understand the language, though nevertheless helps us often to restore it. The strophes are not numbered. I count 114 of them, which are mostly in the doha metre. The Subhasita-Samgraha (Le Museon, 1903 pp. 375-402; 1904 pp. 5-46,245-274) cites 8 strophes out of them and the commentary of the Caryacarya-viniscaya cites eight of them.

The other text, the Dohakosa of Kanha, is printed after a recent copy, dated 1027 N.S. (=1907 A.D.). Sastri mentions that the original manuscript has been taken to Japan by the Rev. Ekai Kawaguchi. But in spite of the best efforts of Prof. Sylvain Levi who very much wanted to search for it in Japan, it has not been possible for me to find any trace of it. This Dohakosa contains 32 strophes, 9 of which are cited by the Subhasita-Samgraha. The commentary of the Caryacarya-viniscaya also cites 14 thereof. The text is accompanied by a commentary with the title Mekhala of an unknown author.

The importance of these two texts from the linguistic point of view has been signalled by Prof. H. Jacobi (Sanat., p.xxvii), These are the only Buddhistic texts in Apabhramsa. On the evidence of the Tibetan sources, Vassilief has said that the writings of the Mahasammatiya School are edited in Apabhramsa (Buddhism p. 267), but till the present day nothing of the sort has been discovered, except those texts. From the point of view of the history of religion, these texts are equally very important. They treat an aspect of late Buddhism which has profoundly influenced the religion in Bengal. The texts are; unfortunately, very corrupted. Neither C. Bendall nor H.P. Sastri has been able to render a correct version of it. Happily we have got three Tibetan translations of the Dohakosa of Kanha and two translations of those of Saraha. We did not succeed in finding out the Tibetan translation of the Mekhala commentary to the Dohakosa of Kanha.


He who will know about Buddhism only in the legend of its founder and in the history of the beginning of its church or even its dogmatics and its scholasticism will form a very incomplete idea about the destinies of this religion. The Tibetan paintings which express a devotion which perhaps address itself less to the saints than to the magicians; and what is true for Tibet has been so for Nepal and also for India, at least for eastern India which has furnished to both Nepal and Tibet a number of their most celebrated master teachers.

Truly speaking, magical power is but one of the manifestations of saintlihood since it is only one of the consequences of the mastery of the self-oneself for Buddhism like the yoga has taught practical methods for combating everything that in our body and our spirit, puts our thinking in unbalance and diverts our thoughts from what is good for us. And as in Hinduism, Buddhism has been led to count sexual union among such methods; texts which are frankly Buddhistic-those which M. Shahidullah presents here-teach the Sahaja Cult, like the Bengali poet Candidas of the 14 century and as much later and right up to our days abundant Baishnabite literature such as Mr. Manindramohan Bose has analysed in the Journal of the Dept. of Letters of the Calcutta University of 1927. This practice naturally has had a great success amidst gross and coarser persons; though it should be understood that for the veritable initiated ones, in the fullness of the union, the personality looses itself; the possession without passion becomes equivalent to the spiritual liberty, ‘to the nirvana’; Kanha and Saraha say further that the possession should be incomplete; one is to wade danger in the manner of the mahout who gets hold of the trunk of the elephant and glides down to escape.

But this doctrine is not clearly explained in the texts; it is expressed by a kind of what may be termed as a twilight obscure language accessible to the initiated alone, as the initiation plays a fundamental role in this cult. That is why there is so much insistence on the role of the guru. The terms used have by the side of the normal sense an anatomical or mystic sense so to speak, which alone gives the precise meaning to the discourse.

There does not lie the sole difficulty which the editor of the texts has to face: they are not written in Sanskrit nor has the tradition of manuscripts been well preserved and maintained. Mr. Haraprasad Sastri who has discovered them and published for the first time had not been able to carry on a thorough review and critique of it. Bendall who had published some isolated strophes thereof did not succeed in reconstructing the text with any complete confidence. But he has established the principle and has furnished the example of a method which has proved its mark since, from which M. Shahidullah has drawn a lot: partly in his search of metrical forms and on the other hand in the utilisation of the Tibetan translations. M. Shahidullah did not allow himself off his duty of an editor so long as the text that he reconstituted did not scan according to and following the rhymes authorised in Middle Indo-Aryan; moreover, he has taken courage in studying Tibetan with the sole aim .at scrutinising in the Tanjour text the versions of Kanha and Saraha. The reader will verify at each strophe the progress which this edition owes to the double method as also to the consideration of the palaeography, too often neglected by the Indologists.

The linguistic information which the text furnish become clearer at once. We should not forget that M. Shahidullah is a linguistician before everything; and in fact, it happens to be the linguisticians who are first of all occupied, and most of all, with the troublesome texts which dates back from the period of the constitution of the Bengali language. It is for clarifying the history or the prehistory of his mothertongue that M. Shahidullah has versed himself in Tibetan, in Buddhism and in some measure as an historian.

From his researches it is revealed that two masters, one living in the first half of the 8th century, the other towards thousand years, have written in two different languages, Bengali and Apabhramsa. If the first date which M. Shahidullah proposes be exact Bengali becomes the most anciently attested language among the modern languages of India. As regards Apabhramsa M. Shahidullah shows in detail that the language of our texts, besides being less normalised, is not the type of Apabhramsa used in the west of India as described by Hemacandra in the 12th century. Must we, with Jacobi, call this Apabhramsa to be eastern variety? Yes, if one understands thereby that it is met with in the texts from the east and that eastern influences are revealed therein; nay if one wants to find the bases of the present day eastern languages. To tell the truth, the question must perhaps not be posed in these terms and it is imprudent to stretch the term Apabhramsa, which denotes a literary language of a sufficiently definite type to the unknown spoken idioms which make the transition between the Middle Indo-Aryan and the modern Indo-Aryan; this extension of term of literary history to the vocabulary which is properly speaking linguistic may provoke some confusion and unnecessary difficulties. Likewise a form of the Prakrit which Hemacandra, for example, understands it to be is not necessarily the ancient form of a vernacular. The fact that the works and the grammars help us reconstitute the history of the languages must not induce us to mix up the two categories of facts. To hark back to Apabhramsa of Kanha and of Saraha, M. Shahidullah wisely concludes in calling it quite simply as Buddhistic. It will be for those who are adherents of the Buddha lore to decide if there happens to be any connection between these texts and the books of the Sarnitiya sect which, according to Taranatha, were written in Apabhramsa.

It will be seen that it would be worth the pain of taking up again edition of these texts, even after its first publication. Not only, philology alone but also the history of the language and literature of the great Indian nation as well as the history of a great religion have interest therein. We are thankful to M. Shahidullah to have taken the charge of this delicate task and delineated its scope and reach.


Prefatory Note


English Translation





Table of Contents








First Part





Chapter I

The religious ideas in the Dohakosa


Chapter II

The authors of the Dohakosa


Chapter III

Phonology and Grammar of the Dohakosa


Chapter IV

The prosody and the metric of the Dohakosa


Second Part


The Dohakosa of Kanha

Text with Tibetan version






Appendix I

The Dohakosa of Kanha


Apabhramsa-Sanskrit- Tibetan vocabulary


Philological notes


Appendix II

The Caryas of Kanha


The Caryas of Kanha Text





The Dohakosa of Saraha

Text with Tibetan version






Appendix III

The Doha kosa of Saraha


Apabhamsa-Sanskrit-Tibetan vocabulary


Philological notes


Appendix IV

The Caryas of Saraha


The Caryas of Saraha Text






Sample Pages

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