Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 503–518 | Cite as

Poetry Beyond Good and Evil: Bilhaṇa and the Tradition of Patron-centered Court Epic



The eleventh century poet Bilhaṇa’s magnum opus, his Vikramāṅkadevacarita, quickly became one of the most admired and quoted examplars of a newly emergent genre in second millennium Sanskrit poetry, the patron-centered court epic—an extended verse composition dedicated to relating the deeds and celebrating the virtues of the pet’s own patron. But Bilhaṇa’s verse biography of his patron, the Cālukya monarch Vikramāditya VI, while ostensibly singing his praises, is colored throughout by darker suggestions that Vikramāditya may be less than the moral paragon it proclaims him to be, and that the power of poetry lies precisely in its ability to fabricate royal virtue where none exists, and to wash clean the reputation of any king, regardless of his actual deeds. He makes these insinuatons through a variety of formal and narrative techniques, most strikingly by his persistent suggestions that Vikramāditya has perhaps less in common with Rāma, the archetypal paragon of royal virtue, than with his demonic antagonist Rāvaṇa, and, even more corrosively, that Rāma’s own reputation may owe more to his panegyrist’s skill than to his own virtue.


Bilhaṇa Vikramāditya VI Patron Court epic Panegyric Rāvaṇa 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bilhaṇa (1958–1964). Vikramāṅkadevacarita. In V. S. Bharadvaj (Ed), 3 Vols. Varanasi: Benares Hindu University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bühler, G., & Zachariae, T. (1888). Über das Navasāhasāṅkacarita des Padmagupta oder Parimala. In Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Bd. 116 (pp. 583–630).Google Scholar
  3. Jalhaṇa (1938). Sūktimuktāvali. In E. Krishnamacharya (Ed.), Gaekwad’s Oriental Series 82. Baroda: Oriental Institute.Google Scholar
  4. Jhalkikar V. (1950) The Kāvyaprakāśa of Mammaṭa, 6th edition. Pune, Bhandarkar Oriental Research InstituteGoogle Scholar
  5. Kalhaṇa (1960). Rājataraṅginī: Chronicle of the kings of Kashmir, M. A. Stein (Ed.), Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal [2nd reprint ed.].Google Scholar
  6. Krishnamachariar M. (1970) History of classical Sanskrit literature. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi [first published 1937]Google Scholar
  7. Misra B.N. (1976) Studies on Bilhaṇa and his Vikramāṅkadevacarita. K.B. Publications, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  8. Padmagupta. (1963). Navasāhasāṅkacarita. Vidyābhavana Saṃskṛta Granthamālā 66. Varanasi: Chowkhambha Vidyā Bhavan.Google Scholar
  9. Pathak V.S. (1966) Ancient historians of India: A study in historical biographies. Bombay, Asia Publishing HouseGoogle Scholar
  10. Peterson P. (1886) The Subhāṣitāvali of Vallabhadeva. Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series XXXI. Education Society Press, BombayGoogle Scholar
  11. Pollock S. (2006) The language of the gods in the world of men: Sanskrit, culture, and power in premodern India. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  12. Someśvara III. (1966). Vikramāṅkābhyudaya. In M. L. Nagar (Ed.), Gaekwad’s Oriental Series 150. Baroda: Oriental Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Someśvara, & Arisiṃha (1961). Kīrtikaumudī and Sukṛtasaṃlkīrtana. Singhī Jain Series 32. Bombay: Bhāratīya Vidyā Bhavan.Google Scholar
  14. Sternbach, L. (1978–1980).A descriptive catalogue of poets quoted in Sanskrit anthologies and inscriptions. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.Google Scholar
  15. Sternbach, L. (1980–1985). Poésie sanskrite conservée dans les anthologies et les inscriptions. Paris: Collège de France.Google Scholar
  16. Warder A.K. (1992) Indian Kāvya literature, volume VI: The art of storytelling. Motilal Banarsidass, DelhiGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

Personalised recommendations