A Hitherto Undiscovered and Unstudied Hand-Copied Newari Manuscript of a Maithili Bārahamāsā Song Composed by King Jagatprakāśamalla (1643-1673 CE) of Nepal: Preliminary Analysis
By a count it is estimated that hand-written Manuscripts of a total of 153 dramas (26-30 in Newari; 5-6 in Bangla and Braj Bhāsā/Avadhi/Hindi; and more than 115 in Maithili) and a host of collections and/or anthologies of Maithili verse compositions penned by Newar kings of Nepālamandala in Newari script are stored and preserved in the National Archives of the Government of Nepal in Kathmandu. This paper begins with a state-of-the-art historical overview of a meager number of such highly invaluable literary works published thus far across the globe and moves on to provide information on poet-king Jagatprakāśamalla’s life and works based on historical documents and inscriptions.
Bārahamāsā ‘song of the twelve months’ is an extraordinarily popular and prototypical genre of poetry – folk or literary, secular or devotional, but essentially highly romantic and intensely emotional – in a number of New Indo-Aryan languages, including Maithili. Maithili bārahamāsā songs constitute an opulently rich heritage of an impressive oral literary tradition par excellence. Most bārahamāsā are, what is called, viraha–bārahamāsā; in other words, they tend to express an ardent and anguished longing for reunion of a wife with her separated husband. The acute pain of separation described therein is pitched against the background of a highly moving description of nature’s (i.e. season’s) face aggravating the pain of separation during each month of the year. However, the present cluster of bārahamāsā songs makes a clear departure from the literary convention in that it is written demonstrably to commemorate the untimely demise of Jagatprakāśamalla’s life-long and dear friend Candraśesarasimha and to express deep sorrow and pain of separation as well as to extol his fine attributes and glorious deeds.
Stating that the present hand-copied Newari Ms of the bārahamāsā songs composed by Jagatprakāśamalla in c. 1662 CE may claim to be the oldest extant text of the Maithili bārahamāsā songs to date, the paper presents a preliminary analysis of this autochthonous genre of Maithili folk-poetry.
Finally, the main question that raises itself is: Is the genre of bārahamāsā poetry an autochthonous form, or is it derived from some other source? It is commonly held that the earliest form of a bārahamāsā song may owe its origin to rtuvarnana ‘the portrayal of a season’ and sadrtuvarnana ‘the portrayal of six seasons’ depicted in the Rg Veda and the Vedic Samhitās, the great epics of Classical Sanskrit – the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata, and particularly in Kālidāsa’s Rtusamhāra that describes the six seasons of the Indian Calendar in sufficient detail. Nevertheless, basing himself on a strict scrutiny of a host of texts of the folk-poetry and literature of Bengal, Orissa, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Tamilnad, Zbavitel (1961: 615) has arrived at a succinct and credible conclusion: “At present, it seems most probable that the Baromasi [bārahamāsā] existed in the folk-poetry of India in a very remote past, that it was preserved by oral tradition and that it spread all over India, developing in each of its numerous national and tribal literatures in a different way.” Based on the above firm assertion of Zbavitel’s, Maithili bārahamāsā songs too ought to be viewed as an autochthonous genre of the Maithili oral folk-poetry.