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New Light on Devabodha, the Earliest Extant Commentator on Mahābhārata

Basile Leclere

Abstract

The name of Devabodha is well-known to specialists of Mahābhārata textual traditions: author of the Jñānadīpikā or “Lamp of Knowledge”, the earliest extant commentary on the Great Epic, he has been duly referred to by the critical editors of this text along with his successors such as Vimalabodha, Arjunamiśra and Nīlakaṇṭha. Yet Devabodha remains an almost complete mystery regarding the period or the place he lived in, or even the conditions that urged him to compose a commentary. Since he commented on a version of the Mahābhārata belonging to the Northern recension and was quoted by Vimalabodha between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he has been approximately assigned to eleventh-century Northern India or Kashmir, but till now no positive evidence has been brought forth to validate this opinion. The purpose of the present paper is to shed some light on this important author by proving that, contrary to a prejudice rehearsed in every history of Indian literature, he is one and the same person with a medieval poet and dramatist called Devabodha or sometimes Devabodhi. Then follows a critical and synthetic account on what we can know about Devabodha’s life and career from all the available sources.

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Published Online: 2016-6-11
Published in Print: 2016-5-1

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