--> Skip to main content

Vasudeva – Yamaka – Alliteration Poet

Vasudeva is a well known yamaka or alliteration poet. The rules of alliteration in yamaka poetry are complex and rigorous, involving repetition of the same combination of syllables, split in different ways to convey different meanings. As a difficult discipline attempted by a few Sanskrit poets, the skill and the level attained by Vasudeva is very creditable.

Vasudeva (10th century CE) was the literary genius who created the Yudhishthira Vijaya, Tripura Dahanam and Saurikarthodaya, yamaka (alliterative) poems in Sanskrit. He was a Nambudiri Brahmin of the Pattattu family near Thiruvullakkavu temple in Perumanam village, a few miles south of Thrissur in Kerala.

Literary evidence suggests that he was the pupil of Bharata Guru, a scholar and contemporary of King Kulashekhara, as King Ramavarma was known, was Vasudeva’s patron and is generally identified with Kulashekhara Varman (900 CE), who wrote two plays, Subhadra Dhananjaya and the Tapatisamvarana.

The linguistic peculiarities of Vasudeva and, to some extent, his imagery resemble those of Shishupala Vadha (8th century CE). He uses ‘aryagiti’ meter in all the three poems. Yudhishthira Vijaya, which relates the story of the Mahabharata, is the most popular and important of Vasudeva’s three poems. Several commentaries on the poem, in Sanskrit and Malayalam, are available, including Sishyahita (1661 CE) by Rajanaka Ratnakantha of Kashmir and Padarthacintana of Raghava, protégé of King Keralavarma of Kolathunadu (15th century CE).

In six cantos, Saurikathodaya describes the incidents in Krishna’s life up to his victory over Banasura. Its main source in Harivamsa.

Tripura Dahanam, with three cantos and about 200 verses, is the shortest of the three poems. It deals with the victory of Shiva over Tripura, based on a story in the ‘Karna Parva’ section of the Mahabharata. Of the commentaries available on this work, one is by Pankajaksha, the teacher of Manavikrama of Calicut (15th century CE), and another is by Nilakantha of Mukkola (16th century CE) who also wrote a commentary (Tattva Prakasika) on Vasudeva’s third work, Saurikathodaya.