A great poet of India, Banabhatta was born around the 7th century in a village in India. He was born in Pritikuta village, which was situated on the banks of Hiranyavahu. This village used to exist in the district, which is now called, Chhapra. He was born to Chitrabhanu and Rajadevi and his was a family of vatsyayana gotra. Born in a Brahman family, he was a poor but a clever child. Even during his childhood, he showed signs of great potential and finished his education with much dedication and hard work. His father was a learned Brahman and he went on to become one of the greatest poets of India. He served at the court of King Harshavardhana of Kanauj. To know more about Banabhatta, continue to read this insightful biography on him.
The life history of Banabhatta is very interesting and he went on to become a renowned Sanskrit scholar. His father’s death caused him an emotional setback and he became a wanderer but after sometime came back to his village. Upon his return, he received a letter from the cousin of King Harsha. King Harsha was camping near Manitara at that time. After meeting with him, Banabhatta became an instant favorite of King Harsha. The public library in Aurangabad, Bihar, the real birth place of Banabhatta, still has manuscripts of Banabhatta’s work archived in it.
This poetic genius wrote one of the most famous and earliest novels, known as Kadambari. It is a biographical work of Harsha and Kadambari. A very famous Sanskrit pun about Kadambari is as follows: Kadambari Rasajnaanaam aahaaropi na rochate. This means that while one reads the Kadambari, one becomes so engrossed in it that even food is forgotten. It is a very famous oratory pun used in Sanskrit.
Bana has written novels like Harsha Charita, Kadambari, Chandikasataka and Parvatiparinaya. It is said that he died before he could finish Harsha Charita and his son, Bhusanbhatta, finished his work. Although, there is not much that can be critically acclaimed about Chandikasataka and Parvatiparinaya but it is said that he used to receive many rewards and accolades from King Harsha, as an appreciation of his work and talent.
After studying his major works, it is quite apparent that his grammar is impeccable and he uses a lot of figure of speech in his work. His prose was generally melodious and rhythmical. His peculiar style was to use longer verses, comprising of short and crisp words. The sharpness in his writing style and his patent use of figure of speech has inspired many a writers after his time. With his writing in Harshacharita and Kadambri, Banabhatta pretty much proved it that he writes in a Brahmin centric way. In his prologue to both the books, Bana has tried to trace his Brahmin lineage and had given it a heavenly aspect, tried to prove that Brahmins have originated directly from the gods. He used to use clear demarcations between the Brahmins of the society and the rest of the general public. In the realm of these intentions he ended up creating a very strong ‘other’ in his novellas. For example this piece of writing from Kadambri:
“Oh, they lived a life devoid of knowledge
Their life is condemned by wise men
They eat the flesh, honey, which is forbidden
In the civilized society”
In these lines Bana is presenting a Brahmin view point on the people of Savara. In order to describe the people of Savana, Bana creates a scenario of the battle field and gives us a picture of brahmins against the average public with non-brahmin stature in the society. He is trying to say that the ones with no knowledge (which was considered to be the birth right of only brahmins) are the state enemies but are not the powerful ones. He tags his enemies (or the other) as knowledge-less beings, therefore taking away from them the right to a graceful existence like himself and ‘his people’.
This is just to show how caste centric Bana’s writing and perspective was. His pro-brahmin writing style along with his extravagant writing style drew a lot of criticism towards him from his fellow courtiers. They decided to shame him and decided to go to the king and tell him that he had done some non-brahmin things in his past. The news of slander and character assassination reached to Bana and his friends. This proved to be a hamper in the way of earning Bana the much awaited royal patronage; the king was upset and asked for a personal meeting with Bana. Upon meeting the king, Bana sincerely talked to the king and told him that he had been true to his faith, knowledge and values all along. There was so much sincerity in his words that the king was moved and honored him with great hospitality and lots of rich rewards.