Saturday, September 12, 2015

(1) The Adulterous Heroine in Sanskrit Erotic and Literary Theory

The adulterous heroine in Sanskrit poetics

1. Introduction

The impetus for this investigation into the adulterous heroine is the figure of Radha, who is almost universally depicted as married to someone other than Krishna, with whom she is nevertheless eternally involved in the archetype of all romantic relationships. We are particularly interested here in finding the background to theology of Radha and Krishna as found the work of Rupa and Jiva Goswamis of Vrindavan, 16th century devotees and theologians of the Gaudiya Vaishnava school set into motion by Chaitanya. Rupa wrote numerous works of drama in which Krishna is depicted in an adulterous relationship with Radha. Indeed, his Vidagdha-mādhava(1) may well be the first play in which an entire Sanskrit drama has been constructed around the theme of such a relationship. In his Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi, Rupa also rearranged many of the poeticians' traditional categories in order to make them suitable for the specifics of the Radha-Krishna relationship. In that work he has reserved the highest accolades for the adulterous love relationship. (2)

Nevertheless, Rupa wrote another play, Lalita-mādhava, which concludes with a marriage ceremony between Radha and Krishna in Dvaraka. The confusion that surrounded this relationship of Krishna, taken by the followers of Chaitanya to be the supreme aspect of the godhead, and Radha, the supreme expression of his potencies, led to an attempt at synthesis of the so-called parakīyā and svakīyā understandings of Radha’s identity by Jiva, Rupa's nephew and disciple. Jiva's elaborate defense of the svakīyā position will be dealt with in a later chapter. (3)

Here, however, I shall attempt to analyze the evolution of attitudes toward the adulterous woman specifically in the works of Sanskrit writers on dramatic and literary theory, as well as in those of the early eroticians, and pinpoint areas where Rupa has differed from them in his works on the subject.

2. Vatsyayana's Kāma-sūtra (4)

Although the numerous Sanskrit writers on erotic science do not have exactly the same concerns as the poeticians, there is little doubt that they came from the same courtly milieu of noble dilettantism and that there is much overlap of subject matter. It might be said that the eroticians tried to reflect as far as possible the realities of sexual relationships and give practical directions to achieve most perfectly the fulfilment of sexual desires. The poeticians, though indebted to the kāma-śāstra for much of their erotic detail, (5) are idealistic in their ever increasing search for a "pure" aesthetic experience.

The earliest taxonomy of mistresses (nāyikā) is to be found in the Kāma-sūtra, though it appears that Vatsyayana has made two separate classifications. In his first adhikaraṇa, he divides the nāyikā into three: (6) the first is the kanyā or virgin, who may be of two types, either married and not yet deflowered, or unmarried; the second is the punar-bhū, the sexually experienced woman(7); the third is the veśyā or prostitute. Vatsyayana cites other authors who present a number of additional possible divisions of nāyikā, but argues that these can all be subsumed under one or the other of his categories. (8) The major classification of nāyikās followed by Vatsyayana, however, that which heads the divisions named for them, is fourfold and deals respectively with the kanyā (adhikaraṇa iii), the bhāryā or wife (iv), where he also deals with the punar-bhū (in its primary sense as the remarried woman, iv.2.39-59), the para-dāra, i.e. wife of another man (v), and the prostitute (vi).

Vatsyayana broaches the subject of these different types of women by defining some moral limits: love (read "sexual activity") with a woman who is of one's own caste, is a virgin and is married according to the scriptural regulations "brings forth sons, is praiseworthy and is publicly acceptable" (i.5.1). The opposite, love of a woman of a higher caste who is married to another man, is prohibited. Love for a woman of lower caste (provided that she has not been ostracized), for a woman who has previously been married (punar-bhū) or a prostitute (veśyā), is neither prescribed nor proscribed; pleasure is the only criterion. (9) If a man observes that a married woman is habitually unfaithful to her husband, he may have intercourse with her just as he would with a prostitute without any sinful consequences (1.5.6).

Yashodhara in his commentary states that both business (artha) and pleasure (kāma) are elements in an adulterous relationship, while pleasure alone governs relations with a prostitute.(10) In his first chapter, Vatsyayana does indeed give a list of rather Machiavellian (or Kautilyan) reasons why one might wish to engage in relations with another's wife: e.g., to use her influence to obtain favours from her husband (i.5.8-10), to conduct a cuckold's revenge on him (i.5.16) and even to kill the man and steal his wealth (i.5.11), etc. This utilitarian attitude has some reflection in later literature, perhaps most notably in Daśa-kumāra-carita, where Upahāravarman seduces Kalpasundarī in order to kill her husband and restore his own father to the throne. This, he goes so far as to claim, is a religious purpose that will neutralize the sin incurred by the adulterous act. (11)

Further examples of such utilitarianism can be seen in that though Vatsyayana accepts the necessity of caste distinctions for the sake of marriage, for the simple purpose of sexual liaison or adulterous relations such distinctions are not considered important except in the already-mentioned case of a married woman of a higher caste. Again, though he elsewhere further draws the line and lists a number of agamyas, or forbidden women, it seems to be practical rather than moral considerations that lead him to deny the dilettante the wives of a king, a brahmana, a friend or relative. (12)

In adhikaraṇa v, which specifically deals with the para-dāra, Vatsyayana begins with a description of the beginnings of love (pūrva-rāga), which corresponds in many of the classical features given by writers on dramatics. The ten degrees of desire (kāma-sthānāni) described in detail by all the later poeticians starting from Bharata are found here (v.1.4-5). (13) Vatsyayana instructs how to recognize the dissatisfied woman who is a potential object of seduction. Although he accepts the orthodox Indian viewpoint that women are quite susceptible to downfall, he admits (unlike most later authors, especially those of the kathā literature) that a woman may not immediately acquiesce and that it is generally a man's task to wear down her resistance.

Another important subject in this adhikaraṇa is the go-between or dūtī (v.3), who plays a useful role in any love affair, as indeed is the case in most Sanskrit romantic literature. Vatsyayana appears to be following a separation tradition by describing the dūtī's role in promoting an adulterous affair, where her first jobs is to highlight the unworthiness of the targeted woman's husband: (14)
Saying, "How can a woman of your qualities have a husband like this?" the dūtī should incite in her a hatred for him. She should say, "He is not worthy of being your servant [what to speak your husband]!"

She should also incite desire in the wife by telling her of the brevity of her youth, glorifying the lover, etc. In Damodara Gupta's Kuṭṭanī-matam,(15) as well as in Daśa-kumāra-carita, the go-between's role is stressed in this genre of affair, though in the latter, Kalpasundari does not need to be convinced of her own husband's unworthiness. The later Krishna cycle contains numerous go-betweens, including the nun Paurnamasi and the sylph Vrinda. Radha and the gopis similarly need little to be convinced of the worthlessness of their "so-called" husbands.

As the Kāma-sūtra describes the different kinds of nāyikā, it also names two kinds of nāyaka (i.5.28-9): one who reveals his designs to all (sārvalaukika) and one who keeps them secret (pracchanna). Those who act openly are the īśvaras--kings and others who occupy positions of power and authority. Vatsyayana gives numerous examples from the customs of various parts of India to illustrate the practice of droit de seigneur in its many manifestations. (16) In Andhra, for instance, women would go to the king on the tenth day after their marriage carrying some gift for the king, and would leave after being enjoyed by him. Vatsyayana also cites the customs of a number of other countries (Saurashtra, Vidarbha, Aparantaka, Vatsagulmaka), where women openly entered the house of the king for the purpose of offering themselves to him.

Included among these īśvaras, interestingly enough, are the head cattlemen in the vraja, who would commandeer the favours of the cowherd women under their charge. (17) The word īśvara in this connection has resonance in its usage in BhP in Shuka's defense of Krishna's apparently adulterous behaviour (10.33.32-34), where the illegal behaviour of an extraordinary individual is justified because his power is like that of omnivorous fire.

In another place, Vatsyayana advises other men how to go about secretly entering the harem of a king or village-chief by dressing as a women or otherwise. (18) Such stratagems, the meat of the 1001 Nights, do not figure much in classical Sanskrit literature prior to the tales of Krishna's attempted trysts with Radha on her home territory.

However antinomian Vatsyayana may seem at times, he both introduces and concludes the subject by showing distaste for adulterous behaviour, in particular disapproving of it in kings. (19) He warns that Dandakya, Indra, Kichaka and Ravana all met with their destruction as a result of their desire for the wives of other men. (20) Indeed, he claims that the purpose of his discussion of the subject is rather to help men protect their own wives from the unscrupulous rather than to give instructions in the seduction of other men's wives! (21)


1 Cf. Donna M. Wulff, Drama as a Mode of Religious Realization: the Vidagdha-mādhava of Rupa Goswami, (Chico, Ca.: Scholar's Press, 1984).

2 UN 1.21: atraiva paramotkarṣaḥ śṛṅgārasya pratiṣṭhitaḥ.

3Published as "Does Krishna marry the gopīs in the end? The parakīyā-svakīyā debate in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, in Journal of Vaishnava Studies. DETAILS.

4 Vatsyayana's Kāma-sūtra. Text with comm. Jayavallabha of Yashodhara, Goswami Damodar Shastri (ed.), Kashi Sanskrit Series 29, Benares: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series of fice, 1929. This is the earliest extant work on erotics, which is dated to roughly the same period as Bharata's Nāṭya-śāstra (Nāṭ), i.e., 4th century or earlier.

5 Bharata, the father of Indian dramatics, nowhere mentions Vatsyayana or his work, though heavows indebtedness to an erotic tradition for its accounts of certain aspects of sexual relations. Cf. Nāṭ 22.151: upacāra-vidhiṁ samyak kāma-tantra-samutthitam. Some readings have kāma-sūtra.

6 Kām 1.5.4.

7 The term punar-bhū refers to a woman who marries a second time, usually a widow. Yajnavalkya states that she may or may not be a virgin (akṣatā ca kṣatā ca punarbhūḥ). Vatsyayana does not give details at this point to what he intends by the term, but the translation given here seems appropriate if harmony between his different classifications is to be maintained. The commentator Yashodhara glosses the term anya-pūrvā kṣata-yonayo vidhavā indriya-daurbalyād anyasya punar bhavanti. She differs from the svairiṇī or independently-minded wanton woman because she has taken only one lover (ekasmād dvitīyaṁ prāptā punarbhūḥ). A virgin who remarries remains a virgin by definition: punar akṣata-yonitvād ūhyate yā yathāvidhi | sā punarbhūḥ sutas tasyāṁ paunarbhavaudāhṛtaḥ || (Kām i.5).

8 According to Gonikaputra, the woman who marries someone else for reasons beyond hercontrol is an additional fourth type to be added to the above three (Kām i.5.5). Charayana states that a fifth possible nāyikā is the widow, if she is related to a king or some other influential person. A sixth type is the sannyāsinī (i.5.23). Ghotakamukha gives a seventh:the daughter of a prostitute or a servant girl, if a virgin. Gonardīya gives an eighth type: an older girl (utkrānta-bāla-bhāvā). Vatsyayana subsumes these into the three first groups. Some people apparently want to add the napuṁsaka (eunuch), about which Vatsyayana expresses no opinion.

9 Kām i.5.1-3: kāmaś caturṣu varṇeṣu sa-varṇāṭaḥ śāstrataś cānanya-pūrvāyāṁ-prayujyamānaḥ putrīyo yaśasyo laukikaś ca bhavati. tad-viparīta uttama-varṇāsu para-parigṛhītāsu ca pratiṣiddhaḥ. avara-varṇāsv aniravasitāsu veśyāsu punarbhūṣu ca na śiṣṭo na pratiṣiddhaḥ sukhārthatvāt.

10 Op. cit. 221. Following the chapter on the other's wife and introducing the one on the prostitute: kanyā-punarbhū-nāyikayoḥ samāgamopāyaḥ saviśeṣa uktaḥ. tatra veśyāyāḥ kāma eva para-dārebhyo 'rtha-kāmāv iti tat-samāgamopāya-darśanārthaṁ vaiśikāt prākpāra-dārikam ucyate.

11 ed., M. R. Kale, 4th edn., reprint (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986), p.111. siddha prāya evāyam arthaḥ. kiṁ tu para-kalatra-laìghanād dharma-pīḍā bhavet. sāpy artha-kāmayor dvayor upālambhe śāstra-kārair anumataiveti. At the end of the tale (p. 122-3), when Upaharavarman has killed Kalpasundari's husband and replaced him on the throne, the moral is given that even adultery achieved both a practical and religious purpose: paśyata, pāratalpikam upādhi-yuktam api guru-jana-bandha-vyasana-mukti-hetutayā, duṣṭāmitra-pramāpaṇābhyupāyatayā rājyopalabdhi-mūlatayā ca puṣkalāv artha-kāmāv apy arīradhat. Such considerations are only partly successful in motivating the hero, however, who must be convinced by a dream vision of Ganesh, who tells him that he is a partial incarnation of himself and that Kalpasundari is a partial incarnation of Gangadevi. Thus their illicit adventure was agreed to in another lifetime and is thus approved by the gods.

12 Kām i.5.32. The list of forbidden women is somewhat more extensive, including women who have bad breath and bodily odours, those who cannot keep a secret, etc., etc.

13 They are: pleasure to the eyes, mental attachment, the beginning s of determination, giving upof sleep, emaciation, a turning away from other sensual activities, loss of a shame, madness, fainting, and death. Kokkoka in his much later work Ratirahasya uses these ten stages to justify adulterous liaisons with another man's wife: when one reaches the tenth stage, i.e.when one is on the verge of death due to one's passion, then one can legitimately seduce her to save one's self.

14 Kām v.4.63-5: vidveṣaṁ grāhayet patyau, etc.

15 (ed.) Madhusudana Kaul (Calcutta: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1944). Verses 814-7 are a particularly good example of a dūtī playing the prescribed role.

16 Kām v.5.32-36.

17 Kām v.5.7; tathā vraja-yoṣidbhiḥ saha gavādhyakṣasya.

18 Kām v.6.6: yoṣāveṣāṁś ca nāgarakān prāyeṇāntaḥ-purikā-paricārikābhiḥ saha praveśayanti. v.6.33 Sch. idam āntaḥpurikāvṛttaṁ pracchannam uktam. The v.6 chapter ends with advice on how to keep an eye on one's own harem. Stories of Krishna's dressing as a woman are numerous, perhaps best illustrated in Vishwanath's Camatkāra-candrikā.

19 Vatsyayana warns that kings who took the secretive path and went into the houses of others risked being killed (v.5.30). Furthermore, as custodians of the public good, kings should not indulge in such activity as is generally considered reprehensible (v.5.1-2).

20 Kām i.2.44-5; yathā dāṇḍakyo nāma bhojaḥ kāmād brāhmaṇa-kanyābhimanyamānaḥ sa-bandhu-rāṣṭro vinanāśa. devarājaś cāhalyām atibalaś ca, kīcako draupadīṁ rāvanaś ca sītām apare cānye bahavaś ca dṛśyante kāma-vaśagā vinaṣṭāḥ.

21 Kām v.6.52: tad etad dāra-gupty-artham ārabdhaṁ śreyase nṛṇam | prajānāṁ dūṣaṇāyaiva na vijñeyo hy ayaṁ vidhiḥ ||.

3. The Nāṭya-śāstra (22)

The Sanskrit writers on dramaturgy, poetics and literary criticism and theory, etc., whom we subsume here under the rather inadequate rubric "poetician", had a more idealistic vision of love than the eroticians. This is evident even in the earliest work available to us on this topic, the Nāṭya-śāstra of Bharata. This extensive work attempts to give a universal view of drama in all its aspects, and was considered the supreme authority in all the literary critical and prescriptive writing in Sanskrit that followed him. Though Bharata obviously has knowledge of a corpus of works on erotics, his own descriptions are idiosyncratic and probably not based on any kāma-śāstra known to us today. (23)

Certainly Certainly his analysis of the nāyikā takes a form quite distinct from that which we have just reviewed. While describing the dramatic elements of the romantic play, Bharata states that in dramas, there are two kinds of love relation (kāmopabhoga): one is internal (ābhyantara), another external (bāhya). of these, the "internal" relation of the king, who is the hero of preference, is favoured in the nataka. The "external" relationship, i.e. with a prostitute, is the legitimate subject of the prakarana.(24) For these two types of relationships, however, Bharata gives three different nāyikās: the ābhyantarā, the bāhyā, and bāhyābhyantarā, who is amixture of the two. (25) The "internal" female love interest is the kulīnā, the woman of impeccable lineage. She is the mistress of the seraglio, the antaḥpura of the king, and fit for his consumption. The bāhyā is considered to be unworthy of him. The harlot is for the "outsider" (bāhya-jana), with the exception of such heavenly courtesans as Urvasi when in love with the human king, Pururavas. Bharata defines the bāhyābhyantarā with the word kṛta-śaucā, which is glossed by Abhinavagupta to mean a formerly married woman (= punarbhavā) or prostitute who has been purified of previous relations by becoming a cloistered member of the harem. (26) She is , however, only a minor player, for Bharata stresses again that only the virgin of good lineage is suitable for the internal loves. (27) Seen thus, the Nāṭya-śāstra's categories, though not its terminology, are carried on into the later taxonomical tradition as svā (svīyā or svakīyā), sāmānyā (sādhāraṇī) and anyā (parā or parakīyā).

In Bharata's descriptions of those dramatic pieces which deal with the amorous affairs of a king, which with very few exceptions are the only ones there are, the only possible roles for a heroine are either to be the married wife of the hero, or the girl, preferably a virgin, who is predestined for his harem. Nevertheless, Bharata does indicate where the dramatic element in such a history is to be found: it lies principally in the politics of love in a harem where secrecy on the part of the king may be essential. He writes:
The means by which one can obtain a certain woman or another are not difficult for a king, for all follow his orders. Nevertheless, the union that arises out of submissiveness is most pleasing. Either out of great respect for his chief queen, or out of fear of his other wives, the kingshould conceal his desires [for a particular woman] from [the other members of] his retinue. Although the erotic fancy of a king may take many forms, that which is conducted in a concealed manner is the most pleasing. The god of love himself takes the greatest pleasure when a woman plays hard to get, when she spurns her suitor, or when for some other reason she is made unavailable. (28)

Bharata clarifies the situation by describing the rather humdrum routine of the harem, according to which the king selects a partner for his nightly tryst. The name for this rendez-vous is vāsa, from which derives the term vāsa-sajjā, the woman who prepares herself and her boudeoir for such a meeting.

In his inner apartments, the king can openly consort with his wives in the daytime [Abhinavagupta: divā-sambhogaḥ parasparāvalokana-praṇaya-kalaha-saṅgītādiḥ], but at night he sleeps [with one wife or mistress only -- vāsopacāra]. The choice for night partner might be based on rota, with a view to a particular end, to please a new bride or a wife who has given birth to a child, to cheer a wife who is unhappy, or to enjoy the company of one who is particularly happy. The king also sleeps with the wife who is at the propitious moment of her cycle. Besides all these rather mundane purposes, he may also arrange a rendezvous with a true objectof his affections. (29)

It is in this context that Bharata discusses the eight states of a woman in love, of which the vāsa-sajjā is one. (30) It is quite clear that the dramas dealing with theloves of the king are in fact about the intrigues of the seraglio, the competition amongst the queens for the favour of the king who comes to prefer one or another of them (as in Yayāti-carita), or as is the case from the many dramas of the sort, with another new or potential member of the harem. Sanskrit plays containing variants on this essential theme are indeed so numerous that it could be viewed as the essential myth of Hindu royalty. It may be summarized here as follows:
  1. The heroine's hand is intended for the king [in some cases the marriage has already taken place], though neither he nor his queens are aware of it.
  2. Due to circumstances beyond her control, the heroine finds herself in the king's own palace, unrecognized and in a position of subordination (e.g., as a servant).
  3. The king comes across her in the garden and they fall in love.
  4. The queen becomes aware of their mutual attraction and takes preventive measures. By some deception or other, however, the king succeeds in meeting her.
  5. Finally, the queen takes drastic steps, like placing the heroine under house-arrest, to prevent the king from meeting her again.
  6. The king does not give up his attachment despite these difficulties until some event brings about the resolution of the problem: the heroine's true identity is revealed and the queen is forced to give her blessing to the new alliance.

Since Bharata has hinted at such a plot structure, it is highly likely that Kālidāsa's Mālavikāgnimitra, the earliest play I know of that uses it, had precedents. The great number of later plays using variants of this theme include Priya- darśikā and Ratnāvali by Sriharsha, Yayāti-carita by Rudra, Karpūra-mañjarī and Viddha-sāla-bhañjikā by Rajasekhara, Karṇa-sundarī by Bilhana, Kuvalāyavalī or Ratna-pañcālikā by Singabhupala (who is otherwise known to have had an influence on Rupa Goswami), and finally, Rupa's own Lalita-mādhava. The tradition continues up to the 19th century, and thus this theme is perhaps only challenged by the various versions of Rāmāyaṇa as the predominating motif of Sanskrit drama. More significant for this investigation is that Jiva Goswami will fall back on the orthodoxy of this tradition to support his contention that Radha is not factually the wife of another man.

In all the above-mentioned plays, the girl is always a kanyā, who has been identified as bāhyābhyantarā in Nāṭ. The term seems appropriate in the context of the above dramas, for the essential element in all of them is that the girl was destined for marriage to the king, through both the arrangements of gods and men, and is thus abhyantarā. Due to the ignorance of this true identity, however, she is temporarily considered bāhyā until the truth is revealed. Nevertheless, although the adulterous woman appears to theoretically fit into the same category, she receives no special mention in Bharata's work, and certainly finds no place in any drama that follows him. Despite the theoretic acceptance of the adulterous relationship in Ujjvala-nīlamaṇi by Rupa, a great deal of emphasis is also placed on womanly rivalry between Krishna's different mistresses for him. Rūpa describes such rivalries extensively in his chapter on the yūtheśvarī, material that is entirely original to his work. He has further given a marked description of such relations in his own play Vidagdha-mādhava, where Radha and Chandravali are in open competition to lure Krishna to their respective trysting places. The same spirit of competition is also somewhat in evidence in Jayadeva's Gīta-govinda.


22 Text with the commentary Abhinava-bharatī by Abhinavaguptacharya, ed. K. L. Joshi, Parimal Sanskrit Series, no. 4, Delhi, Ahmedabad: Parimal Publications, 1983. (Vol. III, chapters 19-27).

23 2 See V. Raghavan, Bhoja's Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa, Madras: Punarvasu, 1963, 673 fn. The author refers the reader to his own introduction to Śṛṅgāra-mañjarī for a fuller discussion of this subject.

24 3 Nāṭ 22.148-9. kāmopabhogo dvividho nāṭya-dharme 'bhidhīyate | bāhyābhyantaraś caiva nārī-puruṣa-saṁśrayaḥ || ābhyantaraḥ pārthivānāṁ sa ca kāryas tu nāṭake | bāhyo veśyā-gataś caiva sa ca prakaraṇe bhavet || Bharata defines a prakaraṇa (Nāṭ 18.44-53) as a play of a lower status. The nāṭaka (18.9-11) describes the activities of a pious king: rājarṣi-vaṁśya-caritam.

25 Nāṭ 22.153-5: trividhā prakṛiḥ strīṇāṁ nānā-sattva-samudbhavā | bāhyā ābhyantarā caiva syād bāhyābhyantarā parā || kulīnābhyantarā jñeyā bāhyā veśyāṅganā smṛtā | kṛta-śaucā tu yā nārī sā bāhyābhyantarā smṛtā || antaḥ-puropacāre tu kulajā kanyākāpi vā | na hi rājopacāre tu bāhya-strī-bhoga iṣyate ||

26 Abhinavabharati, Vol. III, p.192. kṛtaṁ śaucaṁ śuddha-śīlatvam ekāntāvaruddhatvena yasyāḥ sā ca veśyā punar-bhavā.

27 Abhinava Gupta extends the meaning of kanyā to include the virgin daughter of a prostitute. Ibid. kanyeti gaṇikākumāry apīty arthaḥ.

28 Nāṭ 22.204-7: na durlabhāḥ pārthivānāṁ stry-artham ājñā-kṛtā guṇāḥ | dākṣiṇyāt tu samudbhūtāḥ kāmo rati-karo bhavet || bahu-mānena devīnāṁ vallabhānāṁ bhayena ca | pracchanna-kāmitaṁ rājñā kāryaṁ parijanaṁ prati || yadyapy asti narendrāṇāṁ kāma-tantram anekadhā | pracchanna-kāmitaṁ yat tu tad vai rati-karaṁ bhavet || yad vāmābhiniveśitvaṁ yataś ca vinivāryate | durlabhatvaṁ ca yan nāryāḥ sā kāmasya parā ratiḥ ||

29 Nāṭ 22.208-10.

30 Jayadeva's Gīta-govinda is also based on the theme of the eight nāyikā-avasthās.

4. Characterization of the nāyaka in later works on drama.

It would appear that Rudrata, the 9th century Kashmiri author of the Kāvyālaṅkāra (KāvA), is responsible for the taxonomy of dramatic characterization that became standard. Though a number of additions were made to the framework he created, his systematization is followed by all later writers on dramatics such as Dhananjaya (10th century), Rudra Bhatta and Bhoja (11th), Hemacandra (12th), Saradatanaya (13th), Singabhupala and Vishwanath Kaviraj (14th), etc. His categories are thus undoubtedly familiar to anyone who has undertaken the study of Sanskrit drama, and will only be dealt with here in summary fashion, making an attempt to highlight those developments which are relevant to the issue at hand.

In KavA 12, Rudrata gives his detailed description of the nāyaka in the context of the external contributing causes (vibhāvas) of rasa. He is apparently the first to have listed the four divisions of nāyaka as anukūla, dakṣiṇa, śaṭha or dhṛṣṭa, according to the manner in which he deals with his mistress. Dhananjaya later adds the four personality types, dhīra-lalita, dhīra-śānta, dhīrodātta, and dhīrodhatta, which remain permanent classifications in all later writings. In his Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa, Bhoja assigns different types of love, corresponding to the four goals of life (dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa) to these four nāyakas. The carefree hero, the dhīra-lalita, is assigned to the third of these, to which Bhoja gives the greatest importance.(31) Only artha- and kāma-śṛṅgāra accept all the types of nāyikā, whereas the svīyā is the sole heroine approved in dharma- or mokṣa-śṛṅgāra. Rupa Goswami has also stressed that Krishna is at his most perfect as the dhīra-lalita, even though due to his divine nature he encompasses the gamut of heroic types. (32)

Though Bharata had already distinguished between the heroes fit for the bāhya and ābhyantara love relationships, Singabhupala (Ras 1.79ff) was the first to make a threefold categorization for the male corresponding to the female. These are the married man (pati), the paramour (upapati), and the frequenter of courtesans (vaiśika). These are, of course, based on the categorization of the nāyikās standardized by Rudrata. Singabhupala seems to feel that the paramour could not deal with his mistress in any manner other than as a śaṭha or rogue because of his inherent faithlessness.(33) The vaiśika gets altogether a much more flattering description: his qualities are not inferior to those of the pati.(34) Nevertheless, Singabhupala specifies that this hero should appear in the bhāṇa type of play rather than a full-fledged nāṭaka.

Rupa Goswami follows Singabhupala in giving the pati and upapati as divisions of the nāyaka, but disavows the vaiśika. Even though Krishna frequents the courtesan Sairindhri (Kubja), her love for him is not put on the same footing as that felt either by the gopis or Krishna's queens. Furthermore, the incident is not considered of sufficient importance to define Krishna as a particular type. In the Vaishnava concept, Krishna could not share a woman with any other male, human or divine. Nor does Rupa limit Krishna as upapati to roguish behaviour, though he accepts that he may certainly behave as a rogue (śaṭha) from time to time.

As with Bharata, no writer puts the king's divine right to be polygamous into question. Singabhupala legitimizes the familiar double standard that permits the faithlessness of men but not of women by telling us that such polygamy does not interfere with the principle of true love. The reason he gives is that the nāyaka, anxious to avoid offending his numerous wives and mistresses, may perfunctorily bestow upon them his sexual favours, but this is done out of a sense of duty and with detachment, for his real affections lie with the heroine. (35)


31 V. Raghavan, op. cit. 39. Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa 20 ends thus: sa evaṁ kāma-śṛṅgāras tad etat kāvya-daivatam | tad etat viśva-sarvasvaṁ tad etaj janmanaḥ phalam || Also, p.66, "The huge Śṛṅgāra-prakāśa ends here... first with a eulogy on kāma- śṛṅgāra, the prakarṣa of rati."

32 BRS ii.1.232, govinde prakaṭaṁ dhīra-lalitatvaṁ pradṛśyate | ii.1.241, mitho virodhino 'py atra kecin nigaditā guṇāḥ | harau niraṅkuśaiśvarayāt ko 'pi na syād asambhavaḥ || Also ii.1.225.

33 Ras 1.84: dākṣiṇyam ānukūlyaṁ ca dhārṣṭyaṁ cāniyatatvataḥ | nocitānyasya śāṭhyaṁ syād anya-cittatva-sambhavāt ||

34 Ras 1.85-88.

35 Ras ad. 2.263, p.123: dākṣiṇyasya nāyakasya nāyikāsv anekāsu vṛtti-mātreṇaivasādhāraṇyaṁ, na rāgeṇa. tad ekasyām eva rāgasya prauḍhatvam itarāsu tu madhyamatvaṁ mandatvaṁ ceti tad-anurāgasya nābhāsatā.

5. The nāyikā in works of the poeticians

After discussing briefly the different types of companions of the nāyaka, the poeticians turn to the nāyikā. She is said to have qualities commensurate with those of her lover and is divided into three primary categories: svīyā, parakīyā and sāmānyā, depending on whether her love rightfully belongs to the hero, to another man or to all men in general. From Rudrata onwards, all authors have divided the svīyā nāyikā into mugdhā, madhyā or pragalbhā, according to the extent of her sexual experience. The latter two categories are further subdivided into dhīrā, adhīrā and dhīrādhīrā accordingto the nature of her bouderies or māna. The parakīyā is subdivided into two categories, kanyā, who is “another woman" because, as a virgin, she is kept under the protection of her father, (36) and paroḍhā, one married to another man.

Rudra Bhatta is the first to make a calculation of the total number of different nāyikās (ŚṛT 1.87-8), counting 384 altogether. According to him, there are thirteen typesof svīyā, i.e., one mugdhā (with no subdivisions); madhyā and pragalbhā are divided into dhīrā, etc., and then into jyeṣṭhā and kaniṣṭhā according to their seniority in the harem. To this are added the two types of parakīyā and one type of sāmānyā for a total of sixteen. This is then multiplied by the eight avasthās and then uttamā, madhyamā, and adhamā according to the degree of love. Thus:

(13 + 2 + 1) x 8 x 3 = 384.

According to some authority quoted by both Saradatanaya and Singabhupala(37) the parakīyā nāyikā does not take on the eight conditions or nāyikāvasthās, but only three: that of the utkaṇṭhitā who pines for her lover, the abhisārikā going to meet him, and the virahiṇī who has been abandoned by him and is permanently separated. Though this more accurately reflects what existed in the Sanskrit anthologies, this was not adopted into mainstream opinion, for it would seem that most authors were enamoured of Rudra's calculations, which would arrive at a higher total (384 rather than 354).

Rupa Goswami's understanding of the nāyikā is illustrated by his own calculation, which arrives at a total of 360 by a somewhat different route. Rupa gives the kanyā the most limited range of possibilities, which more accurately reflects reality and also the opinions of some previous writers. According to him, the virgin is always mugdhā or ingenuous due to lacking in experience. The svīyā and paroḍhā nāyikās, however, can both partake of both this and the other categories, i.e., madhyā and pragalbhā. These last two can also be dhīrā, adhīrā and dhīrādhīrā, whereas the innocent mugdhā would not dare to attempt to manipulate her lover. Thus we arrive at 15 types of nāyikā, which are then multiplied by the eight situations and the three statuses. (38)

Rupa does not admit the veśyā as a category in Krishna's love affairs, (39) though he has, as is clear from this brief summary, permitted a wider range of possibilities for the paroḍhā not allowed by earlier authors.

Rudrata, and Rudra Bhatta after him, have described the parakīyā nāyikā in two of her aspects: first, the manner in which she becomes attracted to the lover, and second, the manner in which she deals with this love. The following distinction is made between the kanyā and the paroḍhā: the former, overpowered by shyness, does not dare to reveal her emotions to anyone, but a friend of hers acts as a go-between and describes her feelings to the lover. The married woman, on the other hand, may herself approach the lover and let him know of her feelings. (40) This no doubt reflects the rather large number of extant verses in which a married woman makes a not so subtle suggestion to a traveller:
This is the place where my mother-in-law sleeps,
and here I, and this is where the rest of the family lie.
Oh traveller, blind in the darkness of night,
do not accidentally lie down in my bed.(41)
This tradition appears to have influenced a clear shift from the Kam and Nāṭ where the male is clearly the protagonist, to Rudra Bhatta who sees the woman taking the initiative in the affair. Rupa Goswami has provided a wide range of possibilities for seduction by the principles without any intermediary in his theoretical work UN. In hisplays, however, he shows the lovers pining for oneanother and being brought together by the efforts of various go-betweens ratherthan at the initiative of either of the lovers, who are depicted as too fearful of public opinion, etc.


36 Dhanika on Daśa-rūpaka 2.21, kanyakā tu pitrādy-āyattatvād apariṇītāpy anya-strīty ucyate. Kāvyānuśāsana (Hemachandra) 7.28, pitrādy-āyattatvād anūḍhāpi para-strī.

37 ŚṛT 2.29-31: para-strī-gamanopāyaḥ kavibhir nopadiśyate | sundaraṁ kintu kāvyāṅgam etat tena nidarśyate || vāmatā durlabhatvaṁ ca strīṇāṁ yā ca nivāraṇā | tad eva pañca-bāṇasya manye paramam āyudham || bahu-mānād bhayād vāpi nṛṇām anyatra yoṣiti |pracchanna-kāmitaṁ ramyaṁ satām api bhaved yathā || jīrṇaṁ tārṇakuṭīrakaṁ nivasanaṁ talpīkṛtaṁ sthaṇḍile nīrandhraṁ timiraṁ kiranti salilaṁ garjanta ete ghanāḥ | gacchāmīti vadaty asāv api muhuḥ śaṅkākulā kevalaṁ cetaś citram aho tathāpi ramate saṁketake kāminām ||

38 UN 5.67-8, 101-2.

39 UN 3.8. He bases his reasoning on Rudra Bhatta's observation (ŚṛT 1.62-4): sāmānyā vanitā veśyā sā dravyaṁ param icchati | guṇa-hīne ca na dveṣo nānurāgo guṇiny api | śṛṅgārābhāsa etāsu na śṛṅgāraḥ kadācana || Note that Rupa alters the original text which reads in the last line śṛṅgārābhāsa eva syād yadi rāga-vivarjitaḥ || Rudra Bhatta had numerous positive things to say about the courtesan also.

40 KavA 12.30-8, ŚṛT 1.51-60. anyoḍhā nāyakam abhiyuṅkte sā pragalbha-bhāvena purataś ca |

41 Hāla 669: ettha nimajjai attāl ettha ahaṁ, ettha pariaṇo sayalo | e pahiya rattiyandhayamā maha sayaṇe nimajjihisi || [ito nivasati śvaśrūr atrāham atra parijanaḥ sakalaḥ | hepathika, rātryandha mā mama śayane nimaṅkṣyase ||] Also quoted in KāvPr, 136; SāhD, ed. Satyavrat Singh, (Varanasi: Chowkhamba Vidyabhawan, 9th edn., 1992), 18.

6. Positive visions of the adulterous woman

Most authors have somewhere included caveats about the appropriateness of the parakīyā nāyikā as a character for portrayal in the drama. Both Rudrata and Rudra Bhatta bring up the subject in the context of the first type of love-in-separation, viz. the pūrva-rāga. Although it is not specified by either of these authors, it becomes clear that this dawning of affection is taking place between unmarried lovers, i.e. the parakīyā, or more specifically, the kanyā. Rudrata says that if the nāyaka sees that he cannot have her by the socially acceptable means through her father, then he may try other methods. On the other hand, he says that the poet should never describe another's wife as desirable, nor should he describe the means by which she can be attained. Her activities may be described in the course of a literary work, for which the wise poet will incur no fault. Nevertheless, the hero should avoid this kind of activity because it contravenes the scriptural injunction against adultery and thus he protects himself against criticism.

Rudra Bhatta also moots the subject in the same context, but continues to showa more favourable attitude toward the paroḍhā. Nevertheless, he too states that the means for such association are not to be prescribed or glorified, though they may be described:
[2.29] Poets do not advise on the methods by which one can seduce the wives of other men [as is done in the Kama-śāstra], but because it is a beautiful aspect of poetry, it is described herein. [2.30] The recalcitrance of some woman, their distance or the obstacles that lie between them and their lover are considered to be Cupid's supreme weapons. [2.31] Either out of great respect or because of fear, even virtuous men would disguise their love for another woman, which becomes delightful.(42)

Rudra gives the example:
The shelter is a worn cottage of straw,
the bed made upon the naked ground in a windowless darkness,
while these clouds roar and fling water; again and again,
overcome by anxiety she says only, "I must go now";
yet, how strange, the lovers' minds took pleasure in the tryst.(43)

The passage in ŚṛT appears to have borrowed from both KāvA and Nāṭ. In particular, ŚṛT 2.30 = Nāṭ 22.207 and ŚṛT 2.31 = Nāṭ 22.205 (See note 28 above). Rudra Bhatta has changed the context of Bharata's words to some extent, for Bharata's approval of love en cachette was primarily intended for the circumstances within the harem and not for the paroḍhā. These verses have played an important part in Rupa Goswami's description of parakīyā love. (44)

Nevertheless, Rudra's adaptation of Bharata's words to the paroḍhā context shows that the excitement of secret love was being more correctly applied to the illicit adulterous loves as had been argued in the 8th century by Damodara Gupta:
Sex with one's own wife is for procreation,
with a prostitute to quieten one's own malaise;
but that congress is most pleasurable
[and thus worthy of the name surata]
which is difficult of obtention,
with the wives of other men.(45)

Though he indicated that he did not approve of the proselytization in favour of adulterous love found in Kuṭṭ and works of that type, Rudra Bhatta seems to have been the first Sanskrit writer to find something positive to say about the paroḍhā nāyikā. Rudra's main characterization of this nāyikā is that she is brazen, as indeed most of the examples show her to be. Though Rudra Bhatta betrays no particular interest in Krishna (his benedictory verses are Shiva-oriented), his sympathetic example of the paroḍhā certainly gives a foretaste of the later Vaishnava descriptions of Radha:
Ignoring even the advice of my friends,
renouncing the shyness appropriate to my station,
abandoning the burden of fear,
erasing entirely all pride in my own good fortune,
only taking the orders of my guru, the god of love,
I have taken shelter of you, the crest-jewel amongst lovers,
who have caused me to ignore all others.(46)

Ultimately, though, Rudra Bhatta shows favour for the kanyā over the paroḍhā, though this approval is hardly based on moral grounds:
The wife has no other choice,
the wife of another must be bought with gifts,
the unmarried girl has only love,
and is therefore preferred by lovers.(47)


42ŚṛT 2.29-31:
para-strī-gamanopāyaḥ kavibhir nopadiśyate |
sundaraṁ kintu kāvyāṅgam etat tena nidarśyate ||
vāmatā durlabhatvaṁ ca strīṇāṁ yā ca nivāraṇā |
tad eva pañca-bāṇasya manye paramam āyudham ||
bahu-mānād bhayād vāpi nṛṇām anyatra yoṣiti |
pracchanna-kāmitaṁ ramyaṁ satām api bhaved yathā ||

41 ŚṛT ad. 2.31:
jīrṇaṁ tārṇa-kuṭīrakaṁ nivasanaṁ talpīkṛtaṁ sthaṇḍile
nīrandhraṁ timiraṁ kiranti salilaṁ garjanta ete ghanāḥ |
gacchāmīti vadaty asāv api muhuḥ śaṅkākulā-kevalaṁ
cetaś citram aho tathāpi ramate saṅketake kāminām ||

44 UN 1.20, 3.20-1.

45 Kuṭṭ 811:
dāra-ratiḥ santataye vyādhi-praśamāya ceṭikāśleṣaḥ |
tat khalu surataṁ surataṁ kṛcchra-prāpyaṁ yad anya-nārīṣu ||

46 ŚṛT 2.31ad:
ullaṅghyāpi sakhī-vacaḥ samucitām utsṛjya lajjām alam
hitvā bhīti-bharaṁ nirasya ca nijaṁ saubhāgya-garvaṁ manāk |
ājñāṁ kevalam eva manmatha-guror ādāya nūnaṁ mayā
tvaṁ niḥśeṣa-vilāsi-varga-gaṇanā-cūḍāmaṇe saṁśritaḥ ||

47 ŚṛT 1.61;
ananya-śaraṇā svīyā dhanāhāryā parāṅganā |
asyās tu kevalaṁ prema tenaiṣā rāgiṇāṁ matā ||

7. Adultery as rasābhāsa

Most later poeticians have given much less quarter to the paroḍhā nāyikā than Rudra Bhatta, however, and comments on the inappropriate nature of love for such a heroine in works of literature are standard in most texts. Dhananjaya's Daśa-rūpaka and Hemacandra's Kāvyānuśāsana, both written in an abbreviated form without examples, add little to the discussion of characterization other than to mention that love for a paroḍhā should never be the dominant sentiment in a play: nānyoḍhāṅgi-rase kvacit (Das 2.20). Dhanika's commentary, followed closely by Vishwanath in SāhD, similarly rejects the paroḍhā while vaunting the kanyā. Vishwanath (3.82) is perhaps the most outspoken in his denunciation of the paroḍhā, characterizing her in disparaging terms as "fallen woman' (kulaṭā) and "shameless" (hata-trapā). The kanyā's love is approved as the chief sentiment for aplay, and specific examples given are Mālatī-mādhava and Ratnāvalī, which both focus on the pre-marital romantic theme. To this, Singabhupala adds that the paroḍhā will only find a place in a work of lesser significance (kṣudra) and cites Saptaśatī.(48)

Most of the writers on rasa discuss the mixing of appropriate and inappropriate sentiments. These generally make some inclusion of the appropriateness of different types of love affair. Thus love for the enemy of the hero or a multiplicity of lovers, etc., are all considered inappropriate sentiments for description. Vishwanath says, "The word śṛṅga means the sprouting forth of love. The sentiment that produces this love is of the highest nature and is called śṛṅgāra. Thus, the nāyikā can be neither one married to another man nor a prostitute who has no affection for the hero.”(49)

In the course of his discussion of rasābhāsa, Vishwanath again states the unsuitability of the upanāyaka, whom he equates with the upapati.(50) The example he gives is his own verse:
My husband is a great fool, the woods are deep,
I am a young girl and alone; the intense darkness of the tamāla trees
with their black shadows covers the earth.
Therefore, oh handsome one, make way for me immediately!'
When Krishna heard these words of the gopī, he embraced her.
May that god, attached to the art of love, deliver you.(51)

This verse combines two very familiar cliches of the Sanskrit muktaka. One is the propositioning of a traveller, the second the formulaic benediction ending with hariḥ pātu vaḥ. Variations on the first of these is one of the most frequently encountered examples given for the wanton nāyikā, one of which has been given above. It is no doubt for this sense that Vishwanath used the verse as an example of inappropriate sentiment. Yet, to mention Krishna in this connection seems to contain a hint of disapproval, in spite of the benedictory formula reserved for gods. In any event, it shows the gap between theory and practice where Krishna is concerned.(52)

It is also likely that Vishwanath is trying to account for verses of this type in which gods such as Krishna are involved. For him there is a basic incompatibility between poetry concerning the activities of the gods and rasa because of the inherent difference between them and humans which impedes the process of identification. For the same reason, rasa cannot in theory be experienced by listening to a love story between animals or even outcaste humans. These are all relegated to the subordinate status of bhāvas.

Rupa has argued that Krishna is the fountainhead of all human experience and the object of all the rasas. Thus, even though adultery may be disapproved of in the human context, in the divine context it is not. His junior contemporary, Kavi Karnapur quotes an obscure source to approve the apparent inappropriate sentiment involved in adulterous relations; because of the special use of suggestion it can also produce the best poetry. (53)

8. Conclusions

Rupa Goswami's concept of rasa was intimately connected to a theistic religious experience based on a belief in the reality of Krishna and his lila. His theories are based on two axioms: Krishna is the supreme expression of divinity (kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam), and his activities are the expression of the purest and most elevated joy. In principle, then, he agrees with his predecessors in the community of poeticians that adultery is unacceptable where ordinary human beings are involved, but because of Krishna's special status, it is not only acceptable but highly relishable. Criticism of Krishna's adulterous activities results from a misunderstanding of the theological background of the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, etc.

Nevertheless, Rupa has from an objective point of view made numerous additions to the mythos of the adulterous woman. She is not limited in any of the categories of behaviour towards her man: she has a proprietary right over him that is equal to that held by the married woman. She can thus display anger (māna) in all its varieties; as a result, her personality is given room for development. She steps out of the shadows of restriction to the cameo roles of certain specific situations to take the position of the leading personality of the drama. Significantly, she has almost entirely replaced the prostitute as a player in his scenario of love dramatics. And again, the conclusions of the bawd about the superior pleasures of the adulterous relation are given a restored status according to the rasa-śāstra.


48 Whether he intended the work of Hāla or that of Govardhana is not clear; in either case many verses are devoted to the paroḍhā.

49 SahD 3.189:
śṛṅgaṁ hi manmathodbhedas tad-āgamana-hetukaḥ |
uttama-prakṛti-prāyo rasaḥ śṛṅgāra iṣyate ||
paroḍhāṁ varjayitvātra veśyāṁ cānanurāgiṇīm |
ālambanaṁ nāyikāḥ syur dakṣiṇādyāś ca nāyakam ||

50 SāhD 3.242.

51 svāmī mugdhataro vanaṁ ghanam idaṁ bālāham ekākinī
kṣoṇīm āvṛṇute tamāla-malina-cchāyā-tamaḥ śaṁhatiḥ |
tan me sundara muñca kṛṣṇa sahasā vartmeti gopyā giraḥ
śrutvā tāṁ parirabhya manmatha-kalāsakto hariḥ pātu vaḥ ||

The Vaishavas had no problem with this verse which is quoted by Rupa in Pv, 250. An earlier example of such a verse is to be found in Mammaṭa's Kāvya-prakāśa (ex.126)

gacchāmy ācyuta darśanena bhavataḥ kiṁ tṛptir utpadyate
kiṁ tv evaṁ vijana-sthayor hata-janaḥ saṁbhāvayaty anyathā |
ity āmantraṇa-bhaṅgi-sūcita-vṛthāvasthāna-khedālasām
āśliṣyan pulakotkarā jita-tanur gopīṁ ḥariḥ pātu vaḥ ||

52 Vishwanath's attitude may be attributable to the general mood of the Orissan imperial culture, the ethos of which was decidedly Shaivite and military/heroic.

53 Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, (Rajshahi: Varendra Research Society, 1926).
yadyapy ayaṁ rasābhāsaḥ paroḍha-ramaṇī-ratiḥ |
tathāpi dhvani-vaiśiṣṭyād uttamaṁ kāvyam eva tat |
ābhāso 'pi camatkāra-daśāyāṁ dhvani-bhāg bhavet ||

This fits in with Karnapur's emphasis on wonder (camatkāra as the essential element in aesthetic experience. The source of the quotation is obscure, though the editor suggests Ananta Dasa's Rasasudhākara. Karnapur, a Vaishnava like Rupa, divides the nāyikā into svakīyā and parakīyā, dropping the sādhāraṇī or sāmānyā. He permits the paroḍhā in the transcendental realm: paroḍhā syād alaukike (p.182). Like Rupa, he also takes pains to say that the various divisions usually ascribed to the svīyā alone are for the parakīyā as well. The type of suggestion (dhvani) being referred to is no doubt the type whichwe have just seen in the above verses.

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