Interview – Dr Kamal K.Mishra

Sanskrit is the Language of God in the land of human being, is the finest Soul of Indian Cultural heritage and Civilization – Dr Kamal K Mishra

Dr Mishra an asst. Professor, is an eminent faculty when it comes to the world of Sanskrit Epigraphy, Palaeography and Manuscriptology. He teaches at the prestigious Calcutta University. In an exclusive interview with News Kashmir, he talks to Rameez Makhdoomi and Farzana Mumtaz.

1.Tell us about your upcoming book project?
My new book is a query on the actual authorship of the famous Sanskrit works purported to be of Kalidas. It is titled “Who is the Real Author: Mahākavī Kālidāsa or Vidushī Vidyottamā, the learned princess of Kashi?” is a major research commissioned by Stree Shakti The Parallel Force. This book is result of my research of the last two decades. The work is now in publication and is expected to be out in the next few months.

2. When are you releasing it?
The book would be released within a time frame of 1 year.

3. What aspects you touch in this book?
The book highlights the splendour of Sanskrit language and poetry. We know that Mahakavi Kālidāsa is considered as a great poet in Indian literary history and Vidushī Vidyottamā, the learned princess of Kashi. There are several facets of this narrative. When we analyse the texts of Kālidāsa in detail we are impressed by texts, internal beauty and the way it reflects the nature of women. A deep analysis of the overall nature and depth of text shows that the real author was Vidushī Vidyottamā, who was a legendary author of her time in ancient India. It is sad that women authors like Vidushī Vidyottamā, of great calibre have been lost sight of in history.

In the Twenty first Century a fresh inquiry is being made into her role; the works of poet Kālidāsa are being looked at from a gender perspective. There are several issues that beg revisiting and re-examining the works of Kālidāsa from gender point of view. Even though the task of analysing the contribution of women authors started in the world nearly 50 Yrs ago, yet no research has been conducted to identify Vidushī Vidyottamā’ s real contribution to the literature of Kālidāsa.

When we study Kālidāsa in the light of this premise, Many interesting facts have emerged. The names of the three heroines feature prominently in the titles of the plays Abhijñānam Śakuntlam, Vikrmovarṣīyam and Mālvikāgnimitram which was not a tradition of Sanskrit Literature though we have an exception in Mahākavī Bhāsa (1st AD) Swapanvāsavdattam. All three famous plays of Kālidāsa have women centric themes and have sensitive portrayal of aspirations, suffering and challenges of the three heroines; Śakuntalā, ūrvaṣi and Mālavikā.

Some important highlights on this research.

● Powerful base narrative: Folk tales and oral traditions of India and Sri Lanka: Raja Kumaradas, Kamini and Kālidāsa.

● Narrative tradition: Legends have also been considered an important source of ancient Indian history.

● Vidushī Vidyottama, the Learned princess of Kashi, has been considered Vidushī, while her husband Kālidāsa has been considered Unenlightened/ illiterate. She has not been given her due.

● Invocation: In the invocation of seven of the texts, there appears worship of Ardhanarishvara: ParvatiParmeshwar, but there is a conspicuous absence of Maa Kali, which also raises doubts about Kālidāsa being the purported author and which exhorts a deep inquiry.

● Central role of women: In the analysis of seven compositions, it was found that there were 88 female protagonists compared to 33 male protagonists. While the male characters speak in Sanskrit, women spoke in two languages namely Prakrit and Sanskrit. The compositions were centred in the creativity of women.

● Majestic Splendor: The behavior, splendor, ethics, contemplation, gems and jewels, grandeur of palaces, and splendor of the apartments evident in the compositions, introduce the readers to an impressive world.

● The story of women and youth: The expression of women, youth and nature is ubiquitous. The importance of woman’s latent aspirations and superiority has been accepted.

● A woman is the first creation of Brahma (22, Meghdutam)

● Beauty and confidence: Beauty, that can achieve its beloved fortune, is the basis of confidence.

● Swayamvara and marriage: Swayamvara and the splendor of marriage, the intelligence and description of the princess has been described as –the swayamvar of Indumati, the swayamvar of Lakshmi, and the marriage of Parvati and Shiva.

● Justice and Self-Esteem: Repentance

● Vistas of wisdom and knowledge: The seven works are replete with the wealth of nobility, gentleness, wisdom and knowledge of the Vedas, Upanishads, Kama-Shastra and Lok-Shastra.

4. Wouldn’t the supporters of Kālidāsa oppose your book?
Time will tell…

5. Your take on the growth of Sanskrit as language?
Sanskrit is the identity and soul of India. Sanskrit is language of God Devavani in the land of humans. Without Sanskrit there is no India. The oldest text of world is in Sanskrit. The Rigveda is respected widely and treated as a marvel by the UNESCO.

6. Are you happy with efforts to revive interest of Sanskrit among youth of India?
More and more youth across country as well as the different parts of the world are taking up study and research of Sanskrit Language with keen interest. It helps to understand the strength of India.

7. Your take on Kashmir in larger definition of civilization?
Kashmir is known to us as Sarada Peeth for ages. Here special studies have been done on all disciplines of philosophy and aesthetics. Sanskrit Aesthetic was developed here in Kashmir. It was once a prestigious centre of knowledge and philosophy. About a thousand years ago, it is also known by the name Sharda Desam.

The cultural heritage of Kashmir is significant. Since ancient times, there has been an atmosphere of research and understanding of knowledge and philosophy. Kashmir region has a special contribution to the cultural prosperity of India. According to the Puranas, it was established by Rishi Kashyap. Kalhan was a distinguished historian of Kashmir. Rajatargini written by him, is considered to be authentic history. Similarly, Abhinavgupta composed vast literature. His writings on Tantric texts and Devistutis are amazing. Kashmir reflects the greatness of ancient Indian civilization.

8. You have served in Fiji. Please share something about that country?
Fiji is a beautiful country. It is a mini India in the Pacific ocean. Hindi is widely spoken in Fiji and the country is rich in Indian traditions. In 2009, as an Indian Cultural Diplomat, our efforts were to make “people to people connect” in all possible way. My efforts were dedicated to establish permanent friendly relationships. The Sanskrit concept of the world being a family — Vashudhaiv Kutumbakam; With this core principle, the next 12th World Hindi Conference has been proposed to be held in Republic of Fiji. We all are looking forward.

9. Tell us about Calcutta University where you teach Sanskrit?
Calcutta University is one of the oldest universities of the world, and India. It has produced remarkable personalities in the world. Fredrick John, the education secretary to the British Government in India, first tendered a proposal for the establishment of a university at Calcutta, along the lines of London University in 1854. As one of premier institutions of higher learning I It has produced remarkable personalities including noble laureates and other dynamic personalities. The five Nobel laureates associated with this university are: Ronald Ross, Rabindranath Tagore, C. V. Raman, Amartya Sen and Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Madan Mohan Malaviya and distinguished personalities spent some time at the university. Malaviya was also the founder of the Banaras Hindu University. Among the presidents of India associated with this university are: Dr. Rajendra Prasad (who studied here) and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan (who taught here), and Pranab Mukherjee, who both studied and taught at affiliated colleges of the university.

I am very happy to share that at present, with vision of our Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Vidushi Professor Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee, university is progressing day by day and immensely contributing to Nation Building.

I have been serving this university since 2008. During these 15 years my work as a faculty in Sanskrit Deptt of Calcutta University I feel blessed, and get opportunity to contribute best of my ability in Sanskrit studies through Research and innovations in teaching.

A bit more about you ?
I am currently pursuing research with a focus on Sanskrit Epigraphy, palaeography and manuscriptology as India is very rich in this respect and we must secure this fund of knowledge enshrined in the manuscripts. It’s a priority area but normally neglected by the departments of Sanskrit in most of the universities. Some of the themes of my work include enclude Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Epigraphy and Paleography with Manuscriptology, Art & Aesthetic in Nātyaśāstra, Society & Administration in Arthaśāstra, Notion of Self & Soul in the Mahābhārata, Indian Diaspora & Cultural Psychology, Early Cultural history of South East Asia (particularly Greater India, Epigraphy, Paleography & Manuscriptology), Sanskrit language and linguistics : An Early Intellectual History, Ancient Indo-Iranian languages: Avestan, Pali, Prakrit and Indo-European Philology.*

*I am sure that this kind of work would be helpful to reclaim the legacy of ancient scholarship and contribute to cultural awakening of new India in twenty first century and realise the national aspirations of Amrit Kal.*