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Delving into Indian mythology

The old Konkani Bharata, a book by Mysuru researcher Rocky V Miranda, was recently released in Panaji. NT NETWORK shares an excerpt from the read which delves into 16th century Mahabharata

NT NETWORK

Manuscripts

There are two old Konkani manuscripts in Roman script in Braga, Portugal, at the University of Minho Library (formerly, Braga District Library): Codex 771(C 772). C 772 has the Mahabharata (767 pages), an incomplete version of a story from the Ramayana (59 pages), and a couple of minor stories. In the case of Mahabharata, the title of the entire work does not appear in the beginning but it is referred to as Bharata in several places. The title of the individual parvas are given. It has ten parvas: Adiparva, Sabhaparva, Aranyaparva ,Virataparva, Bhismaparva, Dronaparva, Karnaparva, Salyaparva, Gadaparva and Asvamedhaparva. In addition, there is a second copy of Bhismaparva in it which is incomplete. The major item in C 771 is Ramayana (268 pages). But it has also got some parts of the Bharata such as Adiparva (162 pages) and an incomplete version of one story from the Asvamedhaparva called Hamsadhavaja’s story (a title over 15 pages), and some minor stories. In addition, there is a third manuscript at the University of Minho library, codex 773(c 773 see syama no date), which contains several Marathi works in verse. The Marathi material in this codex is also in the Roman script.

Each parva of the Konkani Bharata has two or more stories (kathas) which are more like chapters than stories: Adiparva has eighteen stories, Bhismaparva and Asvamedhaparva have ten stories each, Sabhaparva and Aranyaparva have seven stories each, Virataparva and Dronaparva have five stories each, Gadaparva has three stories, Karnaparva and Salyaparva has two stories each. Altogether, the Konkani Bharata has sixty-nine stories.

In 1985, Fr Antonio Pereira brought xerox copies of all the three codices to Goa. These are found at Xavier Center of Historical Research (XCHR), Goa. A copy of these codices was made for Thomas Stephens Konkani Kendr, Goa, which is now available in their library.

In the books and manuscripts of those times, pages are not numbered. Instead, the leaves or sheets are numbered. The Latin terms recto (= front) and verso (=back) respectively. Thus, if the leaf number is 60, the front page of the leaf is referred to as 60 recto or 60r and the back page is referred to as 60 verso or 60v. In the copies found at the Xavier Center, page numbers are stamped on the pages in the modern style. Thus the page number for 60r and 60v in C 771 are 119 and 120 respectively.

Evidently, the leaves of these Braga codies were not numbered when they were prepared. In such old manuscripts, it is easy to make sure that the leaves are in the right order since the word that must follow on the next page is given at the end of every page. The leaves came to be numbered sometime after these codices were prepared. But whoever numbered the leaves of these codices at the later stage did not check to see that the leaves were in the right order. The leaves are out of order in Aranyaparva, Bhismaparva (complete version), and Asvamedhaparva. They must be placed in the order shown in the following table of contents in order to set them right. The page numbers stamped on the Xavier Center copies are given in parentheses.

Old Konkani writings

Adequate documentation is available for old Konkani only from around 1600. The works composed by native speakers of Konkani are found in manuscripts preserved at the University of Minho Library in Braga, Portugal. See section 3 for further information. These appear to have been narrated by native speakers of Konkani but transcribed in Roman script by the Portuguese missionaries. These include the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and a few minor stories. The major works among these is the Mahabharata which is called Bharata. All the other documents available from these period are those which are composed by the Portuguese and the other foreign missionaries. These includes grammars, dictionaries and religious treatises. All the documents mentioned here include the Braga codices are in the Roman script.

However the missionaries have mentioned that Konkani had its own native script at that time which they did not use. The author of an anonymous Portuguese Konkani dictionary (anon 3) found in Biblioteca Nacional, Lisbon, has given some specimens of this native script at the end of his dictionary. It is clear that this script is an older version of the Kannada script. In his well known work JanuaIndica (Archamone, no date), Ignazio Archamone has made a systematic comparison of the two scripts used by Konkani and Marathi. These happen to be Kannada (an older version) and Nagari respectively. There is only one extant Konkani work that was composed in the Kannada script. It is Amador de Santana’s FlosSanctorun, a manuscript of which is found at Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (see Santana, no date). However, this has not been deciphered since it requires a knowledge of the older version of the Kannada script which is considerably different from the modern script. The best known work among the grammars is Arte de Lingoacanarim of Thomas Stephens (stephens 1640) which is written in Portuguese. Stephen was among the earliest Englishmen to set foot in India. He arrived in Goa in the garb of Portuguese missionaries in 1579. He probably wrote his Konkani grammar at the beginning of the 17th century but it was published only in 1640, twenty one years later after his death. Several other grammars, which were not printed, are available in manuscripts such as de jesus1635 and Archamone (no date). Konkani is referred to as Canarim of Bramana in these works. The term Canarim might have come about because Konkani was at the outset confused with Kannada owing to its script. It would not have taken long to realise that it was an entirely different language, but the name Canarim persisted for a long time. The term Bramma came to be used because the variety of the language used in the writing was always that of the Bramans.

If the Konkani Portuguese and Portuguese Konkani dictionary manuscripts are counted separately, these are about a dozen of them that have survived. Among these, Diogo Ribeiro’s Vocabulario da Linga Canarim (a Konkani Portuguese and Portuguese Konkani dictionary) is the most noteworthy. It has come down in several different versions (see Anon 2, Anon 4, Ribeiro 1626, and Ribeiro (No date). Among the Christian religious treatises, the catechisms of Thomas Stephens and of Diogo Ribeiro ought to be mentioned (see Stephens 1622 and Ribeiro 1632). Miguel de Almeida wrote Jardin dos pastores (= The Garden of Shepherd) in five volumes, of which only two have survived (see Almeida 1658-59). These are collections of sermons. Antonio de Saldanha wrote several works in Konkani including one of the life and miracles of St Anthony (Saldanha 1655)and another called Fruitos da Aruore da Vida (= fruits from the tree of life) (Saldanha, no date). In both works, the first part written in prose, is in Konkani and the second part, written in verse is in Marathi. It should be noted that although Thomas Stephen’s Doutrina Christam (Stephens 1622), written in prose, is in Konkani, his work on the life of Christ in verse, popularly known as Christa Purana (Stephens 1616) is in Marathi. Here the missionaries must have followed the practice of the native writers who used Konkani only for prose and Marathi for verse. For example, in Braga codices 771 and 772, any lines of verse are always in Marathi except for some slokas which are in Sanskrit.

The date of Konkani Bharata

The Konkani material in the Braga codices were probably prepared circa 1600. It could have been prepared only after the advent of the European missionaries who wanted to look at these works in the Roman script. The first missionaries who took a special interest in the study of Konkani and Marathi and later composed works in these languages were Thomas Stephens and Diogo Ribeiro. Stephens arrived in Goa in 1579 and Ribeiro in 1580. It is reasonable to assume that the Braga codices were prepared some years after these missionaries arrived in Goa.

Quatations from the Konkani Bharata are found in a Konkani Portuguese dictionary manuscript (Anon (4) no date.)which appears to be a revised version of the original Konkani Portuguese dictionary prepared by Diogo Ribeiro. Therefore the Konkani Bharata must have been prepared before this version of Ribeiro’s dictionary. Unfortunately, the author’s name and date of compilation are not given in this version of Ribeiro’s dictionary. One version of Ribeiro’s Konkani –Portuguese dictionary bears the author’s name and the date: 1626. This one, however, has no quotations from the Konkani Bharata.

Two Konkani Bharata quotations found under the lexical entries Agra ‘tip’ and Amanguelo ‘ours’ from the anonymous revised version of Ribeiro’s dictionary are given below. The compiler of the dictionary does not say where the quotations are from. He has made some minor modification in the wording and spelling contained in these quotations.

Characters

In most cases, there is no significant difference between the portrayal of different characters in the Sanskrit Mahabharata and in the Konkani Bharata. However, one character that stands out as rather different in the Konkani Bharata is Dhrtarastra. He never fails to admonish his son Duryodhana when he commits any wrong. In the Sanskrit Mahabharata, Dhrtarastra is a highly prevaricating character. He pretends to be impartial but is secretly always supportive of Duryodhana.

Krishna seems to play more tricks in the Konkani Bharata than in the Sanskrit Mahabharata not only against the Kauravas but also against the Pandavas. Krishna appears to be instrumental in the killing of Abhimanyu. He is surprised that Abhimanyu knows so many of his secrets. He contemplates eliminating him but later thinks that it is unnecessary since he is going to be killed in any case in a couple of days in the Kurukshetra War. However he appears to surreptitiously aid the Kauravas in the matter. The day before Abhimanyu is killed, he assumes the guise of a sanyasin and appears in Hastinapur. When Duryodhana comes to him and tells him about his anxieties, he tells Duryodhana that a great Pandava warrior will fall on that day if he follows Krishna’s directions. Duryodhana must send a Samsaptaka army to fight with Arjuna. The others fighting with Drona should form a cakravyaha and place Jayadratha at its entrance in order to guard it. Jayadratha has a boon from Siva that no Pandava warrior except for Arjuna can face him on one day during the Kurukshetra War. One the next day, Arjuna goes to fight the Samsaptakas. Drone forms the chakravyuha. Dharma is surrounded by the Kauravas inside it and none of his brothers present there can come to his aid as they are unable to tackle Jayadratha who is guarding the entrance to the cakravyuha. Then Abhimanyu enters there and has Dharma released. However, several Kaurava warriors attack him there at the same time and kill him. The other Pandavas cannot come to his aid because of Jayadratha who blocks their entry.

Krishna is concerned that Babhruvahana, Bhima’s son by Padmavati and another formidable fighter, would support Duryodhana in the war since he is sworn to support the underdog in this war. Therefore he plans to eliminate him. Just before the war is about to start, Krishna tells Babhruvahana to go quietly to the battle post in Kurukshetra and break open five coconuts there to offer puja. He then goes to Bhima and tells him that he ought to guard the battle post at Kurukshetra at night so that no one creates any mischief there. Bhima agrees. When he hears some noise near the battle post in the dark, Bhima suspects that some mischief is going on there and strikes his son with his mace. He fails to recognise him in the dark. Babhruvahana is thus mortally wounded and cannot participate in the war

Balabharda is another formidable warrior and he has promised to help Duryodhana. So Krishna plans to move him away from the battle field. He makes him go around the earth at the time of Kurukshetra War. The story is quite different from the one in the Sanskrit Mahabharata. According to the Sanskrit Mahabharata, Balabhadra himself does not wish to participate in the Kurukshetra War and therefore proceeds on a pilgrimage when the war is about to start.

According to Konkani Bharata, however, when Arjuna and Duryodhana come to Krishna to seek his support, Krishna tells him to choose between himself on the one hand and Balabhadra with the Yadava army on the other. As Krishna says he is not going to fight or use any weapons on behalf of his protégé, Duryodhana choose Balabadra and the Yadava army. Krishna knows that Balabhadra will support Duryodhana in the war. He wants to make sure that Balabhadra does not actually fight on behalf of Duryodhana. So, he asks a brahman so sit by the Hastinapura road along with five hundred other brahmans and keep reading some religious stories. The brahman reading the stories is told not to pay any heed to passers-by and keep on reading the stories. Krishna knows that Balabhadra is coming to see him. He expects Balabhadra to come along the same road. When Balabhadra reaches that spot, he notices that all the other brahmans there get up to pay him obeisance but not the brahman reading the religious stories. He gets mad at him and cuts off his head. When he realises that he has killed a brahman, he is worried and goes to Krishna to ask him what sort of penance he should perform for the atonement of this sin. Krishna tells Balabhadra that he must go around the entire earth on a pilgrimage. Thus he ensures that Balabhadra is kept away during the Kuruksetra War.

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