Pālitta’s Taraṅgavatī

Andrew Ollett


University of Mysore

September 3, 2018

licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0


  1. The biography of Pālitta
  2. The legacy of Pālitta
  3. Pālitta’s Taraṅgavatī

The biography of Pālitta

  • Pālittācāryakathānakam (Prakrit verse, before 1234)
  • Pādaliptasūrikathā (Prakrit verse, 12th c.) in Bhadrēśvara’s Kahāvalī
  • Pādaliptasūricaritam (Sanskrit verse, 1277) in Prabhācandra’s Prabhāvakacaritam
  • Śrīpādaliptasūriprabandhaḥ (Sanskrit prose) published in the Purātanaprabandhasaṅgrahaḥ
  • Pādaliptācāryaprabandhaḥ (Sanskrit prose, 1349) in Rājaśēkhara Sūri’s Prabandhakōśaḥ

Three people, (almost) one name

Pālitta I

  • born as Nāgēndra in the Kōsala country
  • student of Āryanāgahastin
  • author of the Taraṅgavatī and Jyōtiṣakaraṇḍakaḥ (in Prakrit)
    • his authorship of the Taraṅgavatī is mentioned in the Anuyōgadvārasūtram (fifth c.)
  • associated with the court of a ‘Muruṇḍa’ (Śaka) king
    • this is mentioned in the Niśīthasūtrabhāṣyam (prior to 676) and Jinabhadra’s Viśēṣāvaśyakabhāṣyam (sixth c.)
  • later associated with the court of the Sātavāhanas at Pratiṣṭhāna (Paiṭhaṇ)
  • probably lived in the first or second century

Pālitta II (= ‘Pādalipta’)

  • associated with the Rāṣṭrakūṭa king Kr̥ṣṇa I (756–774)
  • connected with the development of Śatruñjaya
  • connected with a four-verse stōtra to Mahāvīra (in Prakrit)
  • possibly wrote a Śatruñjayakalpa (referred to by Kamalaprabha)
  • associated with esoteric teachings (esoteric mantras, languages, siddhis, alchemy, etc.)

Pālitta III (= ‘Pādalipta’)

  • student of Saṅgramasiṁha, student of Maṇḍana
  • author of the Nirvāṇakalikā, a ritual manual deeply influenced by Bhōjadēva’s Siddhāntasārapaddhatiḥ (11th c.)
  • hence probably lived in the 12th c.
  • no elements connected with the life of Pālitta III are mentioned in the earlier (Prakrit) biographies of Pālitta.

The name Pālitta/Pādalipta

अंबं तंबच्छीए अपुप्फियं पुप्फदंतपंतीए ।
नवसालिकंजियं नववहूए कुडएण मह दिण्णं ॥
The red-eyed girl gave me a mango.
The girl with flower-like teeth gave me a fig.
The young wife gave me fresh rice gruel.

Pālitta = pra- + ā- + dīpta-

  • Āryanāgahastin heard this and said that the student was siṅgārēṇa ālittō, ‘inflamed by passion’
  • Nāgēndra wanted this to be changed to pālitta-, with the preverb pa- (= pra-) expressing a positive quality (guṇaprakarṣa-) rather than a negative quality
  • This explanation is found in the earlier (Prakrit) biographies.

Pālitta = pāda- + lipta-

  • This is a false Sanskritization of the Prakrit pālitta-.
  • It is based on the power of flight (achieved with an ointment applied to the feet) that Nāgēndra was given as a boon by his teacher, according to the later (Sanskrit) biographies.
  • Only the stories connected with Pālitta II (‘Śatruñjaya Pālitta’) make any reference to the power of flight.

References to Pālitta in later literature

Kuvalayamālā of Uddyōtana Sūri (779)

पालित्तयसालाहणछप्पण्णयसिहणायसद्देहि ।
संखुद्धमुद्धसारंगओ व्व कह ता पयं देमि ॥
The words of Pālitta, Sātavāhana,
and the Chappaṇṇayas are like a lion’s roar,
and I’m like a young deer.
How can I even take a step / write one word?

Kuvalayamālā of Uddyōtana Sūri (779)

णिम्मलमणेण गुणगरुयएण परमत्थरयणसारेण ।
पालित्तएण हालो हारेण व सहइ गोट्ठीसु ॥
Pālitta, whose mind was pure, whose virtues were deep,
and who had the power to put the highest truths into writing,
adorned Hāla in literary gatherings (goṣṭhīs) like a necklace,
which had pure jewels, a strong cord,
and was rich in gems of the highest quality.

Kuvalayamālā of Uddyōtana Sūri (779)

चक्कायजुवलसुहया रम्मत्तणरायहंसकयहरिसा ।
जस्स कुलपव्वयस्स व वियरइ गंगा तरगंवई ॥
He is like that kulaparvata the Himalaya,
and his Taraṅgavatī is like
the surging Gaṅgā River that flows from it:
pairs of cakravāka birds make it beautiful,
and causes delight
with the charm of its royal geese.

A ‘floating verse’ in the biographies

सीसं कह व न फुट्टं जमस्स पालित्तयं हरंतस्स ।
जस्स मुहनिज्झराओ तरंगवई नई वूढा ॥
How is it possible that Yama’s head
didn’t explode when he took Pālitta,
from whose waterfall-mouth
flowed the river that is the Taraṅgavatī?

Tilakamañjarī of Dhanapāla (10th c.)

प्रसन्नगम्भीरपथा रथाङ्गमिथुनाश्रया ।
पुण्या पुनाति गङ्गेव गां तरङ्गवती कथा ॥
The edifying story of Taraṅgavatī
purifies the earth like the holy Gaṅgā,
where pairs of cakravāka birds are found,
with its clear and deep waters /
clear and profound style.

Supāsanāhacariyaṁ of Lakṣmaṇagaṇi (1199)

को न जणो हरिस्सिजइ तरंगवईवइयरं सुणेऊण ।
इयरे पबंधसिंदू वि पाविया जीए महुरत्तं ॥
Who does not thrill to hear
of the changes of course in the Taraṅgavatī,
by the sweetness of which
the other rivers of story are also purified?

Pālitta’s verses in the Gāthāsaptaśatī

According to the attributions found in the commentaries on the Gāthāsaptaśatī, Pālitta is the second or third most cited poet in the collection. Probably about fifteen verses of his were included.

Most of those verses involve an imaginative comparison.


धाराधुव्वंतमुहा लंविअवक्खा णिउंचिअग्गीवा ।
वइवेढणेसु काआ सूलाहिण्ण व्व दीसंति ॥
The crows on the boundary fence,
With their faces bedraggled,
   their wings drooping, their necks sunken,
Look as though they had been impaled.

Khoroche and Tieken’s translation (2009)

Taraṅgavatī and Gāthāsaptaśatī

  • ‘sister-poems’
  • “contrasting counterparts” in the “same new language” (A.K. Warder)
  • jointly established Prakrit as a literary language

The language of Taraṅgavatī

  • has been called “Archaic Jaina Mahārāṣṭrī”
  • because of its similarities to the language of the Vasudēvahiṇḍī, which Ludwig Alsdorf influentially characterized as “Archaic Jaina Mahārāṣṭrī”
  • but how different is it from Prakrit (= “Mahārāṣṭrī”) anyway?

‘Vararuci’s’ Prākr̥taprakāśaḥ

  • contains forms not found in ‘standard’ Prakrit (the language of the Gāthāsaptaśatī, Sētubandhaḥ, etc.)
    • 2nd person ending -itthā
    • past tense ending -īa
    • locative maē
  • all these forms are found in the Taraṅgavatī and Vasudēvahiṇḍī

The grammar of Prakrit in the Nāṭyaśāstram

  • gives exceptions to the assimilation of r in consonant clusters
  • forms such as vodraha- ‘young man’ and vandra- ‘group’ are found in the Taraṅgavatī

The text of the Taraṅgavatī

Part 1

  • The original Taraṅgavatī is lost.
  • A later abridgement, called Taraṅgalōlā, survives in 1640 Prakrit gāthās.
  • Bhadrēśvara also wrote a short Taraṅgavatīkathā of 425 Prakrit gāthās, probably using the original Taraṅgavatī, in the twelfth century.

Part 2

  • Munirāja Vallabhavijaya told Herman Jacobi of the text in the early 20th century.
  • Through the efforts of Keshavlal Premchand Mody a transcript of a manuscript was supplied to Jacobi, who gave it to Ernst Leumann in 1920.
  • Leumann published an abridged translation of the Taraṅgalōlā in 1921.
  • The first published text of the Taraṅgalōlā appeared in 1944, published by Kastūravijaya Gaṇi.
  • A Sanskrit rendering was published by Ajitasāgara Sūri in 1950.

Part 3

  • H. C. Bhayani published a new edition of the text, with a Gujarati translation, with Bhadrēśvara’s Taraṅgavatīkathā, in Sambodhi in the 1970s, and it was released as a monograph in 1979.
  • Currently Thomas Oberlies is working on a new edition of the text.

The introduction to Taraṅgalōlā

v. 5

पालित्तएण रइया वित्थरओ तह य देसि-वयणेहिं ।
नामेण तरंगवई कहा विचित्ता य विपुला य ॥
Pālitta composed a long story called Taraṅgavatī,
full of regional words, intricate and extensive.

v. 6

कत्थइ कवलाइं मणोरमाइं अण्णत्थ गुविलजुयलाइं ।
अण्णत्थ छक्कलाइं दुप्परिअल्लाइ इयराणं ॥
In some places it has captivating kulakas,
in others closely-bound yugalas, and in still others
ṣaṭkas that are difficult for others to understand.

v. 7

न य सा कोइ सुणेई न पुणो पुच्छेइ नेव य कहेई ।
विउसाण नवर जोग्गा इयरजणो तीए किं कुणउ ॥
Nobody recites it,
nobody asks for it to be recited, nobody tells it.
It has become the special preserve of scholars.
Nobody else can do anything with it.

vv. 8–9

तो उच्चेऊण गाहाओ पालित्तएण रइआओ ।
देसीपयाइं मोत्तुं संखित्तयरी कया एसा ॥
इयराण हियट्ठाए मा होही सव्वहा वि वोच्छेओ ।
एवं विचिंतिऊणं खामेऊण य तयं सूरिं ॥
That’s why I have collected the verses that Pālitta wrote
and removed the regional words to create this abridged story,
in the hope that it will not entirely disappear
from the hearts of other people.
I beg forgiveness from that monk.

The lotus pond outside Kauśāmbī

v. 254

चीरकणयवलयचिलल्लियाए वामाए बाहियाए अहं ।
अवठंभिऊण चेडिं तं पउमसरं पलोएमि ॥
I held onto the maid’s left arm,
dazzling with golden bracelets,
and looked out upon the lotus pond.

v. 255–256

सउणगणविविहमिहुणभयमुइयवायालनायमहालं ।
भमरालीणमणोहरवियसियसयवत्तवणगहणं ॥
कोकणदकुमुयकुवलयविमउलतामरसबहलसंछन्नं ।
उज्जाणचिंधपत्तं पेच्छामि अहं सरवरं तं ॥
I saw a pond full of pairs
of all kinds of birds that raised a loud din,
with bees crowding the charming flowers
of lotuses that grew in abundance,
completely covered in red lilies,
red lotuses, white lilies, and yellow lotuses,
a multicolored flag of the park.

v. 257

संझायइ व्व रत्तुप्पलेहिं जोण्हायइ व्व कुमुएहिं ।
†गहायइ पत्त† नीलुप्पलेहिं सो य घरिणी ॥
With its red lotuses, it imitated the dawn,
with its white lilies, the moonlit night, madam,
and with its blue lotuses,
the darkness of an eclipse.

v. 258

उग्गायइ व्व महुअरिरुएहि जोयइ व हंसविरुएहिं ।
णच्चइ व वायपयलियपउमविलासग्गहत्थेहिं ॥
It seemed to sing with the buzzing of bees;
it seemed to moan with the sounds of the geese;
it seemed to dance with the graceful fingers
that are the lotuses blown gently by the wind.

v. 259

दिप्पयमुहरे कुररे रमियव्वयवावडाउ आडीओ ।
धयरट्ठे य पहट्ठे पंडुस्स य सोदरे पासं ॥
I saw the ospreys,
loud and proud, the mynahs trying to mate,
the joyful dhṛtarāṣṭras,
truly the kinsmen of pale Pāṇḍu.

v. 260

रेहंते पउमाइं छप्पयवाहेज्जमाणमज्झाइं ।
तवणिज्जभायणाणि व तत्थ महाणिलमज्झइं ॥
When the bees crowd
into the middle of the lotuses,
they look like golden plates
with sapphires in the middle.

v. 261

खोमपडधवलपिंडलियसच्छहे पुलिणसंठिए पस्सं ।
सरयज्जियगुणजाए सरट्टहासे तहिं हंसे ॥
I saw the geese there on the banks,
white as piles of linen,
a broad smile at all of the beauty
that autumn has taken on.

v. 262

निययपओहरकुंकुमविचित्तरूवे य पयइआयंबे।
पियविप्पओगकाए य चक्कवाए पलोएमि ॥
I looked at the cakravākas
in their multicolored beauty:
red, with saffron-colored breasts,
dreading being separated from their mates.

v. 263

सोहंति चक्कवाया पोमिणिपत्तेसु संठिया केइ ।
कारेणुकुसुमनियरे व्व हरियमणिकुट्टिमेसि ठिया ॥
Some of them were sitting on lotus leaves,
looking like heaps of karṇikāra flowers
lying on emerald slabs.

vv. 264–265

ईसारोसविरहिए सहयरिसंजोयरायरत्ते य ।
चक्कायएत्थ घरिणि मणोसिलापिंजरे पेच्छं ॥
सहयरियाहिं समग्गे पउमिणिपत्तंतरेसु रममाणे ।
There I saw cakravāka birds,
madam, who had no jealousy or anger,
but were simply delighted
to be with their companions, red as realgar,
resting on the leaves of the lotus with their companions,
lovely as pots of jewels
spilled out on emerald slabs.

The end