Kshemendra (c. 990 – c. 1070 CE) was a Kashmirian poet of the 11th century, writing in Sanskrit.
Born into an old, cultured, and affluent family, both his education and literary output were broad and varied. He studied literature under “the foremost teacher of his time, the celebrated Shaiva philosopher and literary exponent Abhinavagupta”. He also studied — and wrote about — both Vaishnavism and Buddhism. His literary career extended from at least 1037 (his earliest dated work, Brihatkathāmanjari, a verse summary of the lost “Northwestern” Bṛhatkathā; itself a recension of Gunadhya’s lost Bṛhatkathā — “Great Story”) to 1066 (his latest dated work, Daśavataracharita, “an account of the ten incarnations of the god Visnu”). In addition to the genres listed below, Kshemendra also composed plays, descriptive poems, a satirical novel, a history, and possibly a commentary on the Kāma Sūtra (all now known only through references in other works).
- Ramāyaṇamanjari — Verse abridgement of the Ramayana (Sanskrit)
- Bhāratamanjari — Verse abridgement of the Mahabharata (Sanskrit)
- Brihatkathāmanjari — Verse abridgement of the Brihatkatha (Sanskrit)
- Daśavataracharita — Ten incarnations of Vishnu (Sanskrit)
The Bhāratamanjarī (BM) is available in pdf, clear prints from the famous ‘kāvyamālā series’ printed by Nirnayasagar Press, 1898:
This is a searchable resource of the text which contains spelling mistakes:
At the end of the BM, Kṣemendra gives a brief bio-data of himself. He has studied the Bhagavatam under a teacher and other disciplines too under different guru-s. He writes, in poetry, that when he decided upon his work on the Mahabharata, he received the blessings of Veda Vyasa in a dream. He has expressed his happiness and satisfaction of his present work and even composed a hymn to Veda Vyasa. From his verses it is discernible that his supreme devotion was to Vishnu. He writes of himself as ‘nārāyaṇaparaḥ’. His purity and sincerity is visible all over his narratives.
Some salient features of the work BM:
- His verse style is sweet and simple at the same time lofty, a treat to the scholarly readers.
- In short verses he is communicating the purport of the original MB
- He has even condensed the 18 chapters of the Bhagavadgita occurring in the MB, in about 100 verses, chapterwise.
- His knowledge of Advaita Vedanta comes to the fore when the philosophical dialogues are retold. Terms like jivanmukta, brahmamayam, creation is māyā, the knower jiva realizing himself as non-different from Brahman, ‘all this is an appearance in me and I am everywhere’ ( a rephrasing of what is contained in the BG, Isha. up. etc.)
- This work, the BM, is perhaps the oldest extant work (11 century) on the MB which preserves the entire episode about Upamanyu instructing Krishna on the method of propitiating Shiva, along with the thousand names. (The Andhra MB part of this episode was composed in the 14th century)
- Kshemendra gives the complete details, as now found in the Kumbhakonam, Nilakantha, etc. editions/recension, of Krishna being asked for progeny by one of his wives, his meeting Upamanyu, the latter telling him his and another Tandi’s story and then giving out the Shiva sahasranama. It appears that the southern, western and northern recension of the Mahabharatha have this episode.
- Having devoted quite a number of verses for the story part of this episode, Kshemendra condenses the 1000 names in his own words in verse form, sampling some specific names of Shiva that occur in the extant sahasranama in the original MB. Those who are familiar with the Shiva sahasra nama (‘sthiraḥ sthāṇuḥ..) can immediately recognize those names he has versified. These names were paraphrased by the Andhra Bharatamu too.
- He has also done a similar condensation when it comes to Bhishma giving the 1000 names of Vishnu to Yudhishtira.
- One can access these parts easily in the searchable pdf by giving the name ‘vashat’, upamanyu, for example, of course in devanagari.
- Just as the Andhra Mahabharatamu has paraphrased the OMB verse on ‘One principle alone appearing in the twin form of Shiva and Vishnu’, Kshemendra too does that, of the same verse.
- Kshemendra maintains the OMB instance of Bhishma having Krishna give out the 1000 names of Shiva to Yudhishthira.
- He has included the Shivastuti of Daksha.
While trying to get information of the total verses in the Bharatamanjari, this resource came up which may be looked into to have some more information on Kshemendra and his works:
It is not known whether there is any translation of the Bharatamanjari, the Ramayanamanjari and the Dashavataracharita, in any Indian language, including English.