The Literary Output of Sankaradeva

An image of a manuscript copy of Sankaradeva's Bhakti Ratnakara in Sanskrit. Sankaradeva preached the ideology of Eka Sarana and pure devotion to Krsna in a variety of literary genres—renderings, songs, dramatic compositions, etc. As a writer, he was as versatile as he was prolific. His primary oeuvre undoubtedly is the rendering of the Bhagavata Purana into Assamese verse which also represents, in the history of Assamese literature, the beginning of a new literary movement.

Printed Compilations

An image of a manuscript copy of Sankaradeva's Bhakti Ratnakara in Sanskrit.The works of Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva were preserved over centuries by institutions and personalities and the text of the manuscripts was copied intergenerationally from scribe to scribe till the advent of the modern period when attempts were made by some personalities to bring out printed editions of these works. In the 20th century, there have been attempts to bring out critical editions after comparing manuscripts and recensions preserved at several traditional institutions and research institutions.

The Kirttana was first published in 1876 by Harivilas Agarwala of Tezpur. Harinarayan Dutta Baruah of Nalbari compiled all of Sankaradeva’s works together and published them in a single volume in 1953 under the title Sri Sankara Vakyamrta. Another compilation of the complete works of Sankaradeva under the title Mahapurusa Srimanta Sankaradeva Vakyamrta, based on a comparison of several manuscripts and critically edited by a group of scholars, was published by the Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha in 1998.

Complete List of the Works of Sankaradeva

The literary output of Sankaradeva is considerable with modern printed editions of his works running into thousands of pages. The following is the complete list of the books written by Sankaradeva:

  1. Bhakti-Pradīpa (ভক্তি-প্ৰদীপ): [see: Bhakti-Pradīpa] Based on the Garuda Purana, it is considered to be an early work of Sankaradeva.
  2. Bhakti Ratnākara (ভক্তি ৰত্নাকৰ): A theological and philosophical compilation in Sanskrit.
  3. The Kirttana and Ghosa (Srimanta Sankaradeva Sangha Ed.)Kīrttana-Ghoṣā (কীৰ্ত্তন-ঘোষা): [see: Kīrttana-Ghoṣā] Considered by many to be Sankaradeva’s magnum opus, it is actually an anthology of more than two dozen epics of various magnitudes. The chapters of this masterpiece were penned in different periods of time and at different places. Certain chapters are definitely early works of the saint while the others may have been completed later. It’s sections were collated and compiled later on by Madhavadeva.
  4. The Srimad-Bhagavata (12 Cantos) published by the SanghaBhagavata Skandha I (ভাগৱত প্রথম স্কন্ধ) [see: The Bhagavata of Sankaradeva]
  5. Bhagavata Skandha II (ভাগৱত দ্বিতীয় স্কন্ধ)
  6. Anādi Pātana (অনাদি পাতন): Bhagavata Skandha III. Dealing with cosmology, cosmogony and matters like the origin of the universe.
  7. Ajāmila Upākhyāna (অজামিল উপাখ্যান): Bhagavata Skandha VI.
  8. Bali Chalana (বলি ছলন): Bhagavata Skandha VIII.
  9. Amṛta Manthana (অমৃত মন্থন): Bhagavata Skandha VIII.
  10. Bhagavata Skandha X (ভাগৱত দশম স্কন্ধ): [see: The Bhāgavata X, Purvārdha: Ādi-Dasama] Sankaradeva rendered the 1st part of the famous Book Ten, the story of Krsna—the Ādi Daśama.
  11. Kurukṣetra (কুৰুক্ষেত্ৰ): Bhagavata Skandha X.
  12. Bhagavata Skandha XI (ভাগৱত একাদশ স্কন্ধ)
  13. Nimi-Navasiddha Saṃvāda (নিমি-নৱসিদ্ধ সংবাদ): Bhagavata Skandha XI. The conversation between king Nimi and the nine siddhas.
  14. Bhagavata Skandha XII (ভাগৱত দ্বাদশ স্কন্ধ)
  15. Bhagavata ScriptureHariścandra Upākhyāna (হৰিশ্চন্দ্ৰ উপাখ্যান): Known to be his first regular kavya “planting the four boundary pillars for Vaisnavas.” It is said to have been written not long after completing his education.
  16. Rukmiṇī-Haraṇa (ৰুক্মিণী-হৰণ) (Kavya): Alongwith Hariscandra Upakhyana, it enjoyed tremendous popularity. Sankaradeva took the theme from Harivamsa and incorporated the Bhagavata into it, and calls it a “compound of milk and honey.”
  17. Rāmāẏaṇa : Uttarakāṇḍa (ৰামায়ণ : উত্তৰকাণ্ড): Rendering of the final book of Valmiki’s Ramayana. The important addition of Uttarakanda by Sankaradeva to the original five cantos of the Ramayana by Madhava Kandali represents yet another literary achievement of the saint.
  18. Karatala Kamala (কৰতল কমল): The poem Karatala Kamala Kamaladala Nayana written without any vowel except a is attributed to the first year of Sankaradeva’s school-life, and perhaps also of his teens. It is a splendid description of Krsna who exhibits lotuses in his hands, feet and eyes etc.
  19. Baragīta (বৰগীত): [see: Baragita—The Crown Pearls of Music] The devotional lyrics. Only 34 of them survive.
  20. Deva Bhaṭimā (দেৱ ভটিমা): The panegyrics, eg. the exquisite totaya Madhu Danava composed extempore in Sanskrit by Sankaradeva before the king Naranarayana.
  21. Guṇamālā (গুণমালা): [see: The Translation of Sankaradeva’s Gunamālā] The Bhagavata in a nutshell. Written in the racy kusumamala metre at the request of the king Naranarayana.
  22. Cihna Yātrā (চিহ্ন যাত্ৰা): An one-act opera, using the stage with scenes as is done today. Unfortunately this literary piece is not preserved to us.
  23. Patnī Prasāda (পত্নী প্ৰসাদ): Ankiya Nata.
  24. Rukmiṇī Haraṇa (ৰুক্মিণী হৰণ): Ankiya Nata.
  25. Kāliẏa Damana (কালিয় দমন): Ankiya Nata.
  26. Keli Gopāla (কেলি গোপাল): Ankiya Nata.
  27. Pārijāta Haraṇa (পাৰিজাত হৰণ): Ankiya Nata.
  28. Śrī Rāma Bijaẏa (শ্ৰী ৰাম বিজয়): Ankiya Nata. The saint’s final work, written in the year 1568 CE, on prince Cilarai’s request.

Different Languages...

Among the literary works of the saint, Bhakti Ratnakara and the hymn Madhu Danava are in Sanskrit and his Baragitas, the devotional lyrics, and the Ankiya Natas—one-act plays—are in Vrajawali. The rest of his compositions are in Assamese. The dramatic compositions contain Sanskrit slokas.

...One Message

All of these works without exception deal with the supremacy of Krsna and self-surrender for the one lord, discarding other gods and goddesses, and pure devotion (bhakti) to him.

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