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Madhuravani – Court Poetess Of 17th Century CE

Madhuravani is a court poetess of King Raghunatha of Thanjavur during the 17th century CE. She wrote the Ramayanasara, dealing with the primary tale of the Ramayana. She was an author in Telugu and Sanskrit and was capable of completing samasyas. Besides the Ramayanasara, she is known to have written Naisadhakavya, Kumarasambhava and several campu works.

The name ‘Madhura Vani’ appears to be more a title. The real name of the poetess is not known, but she calls herself throughout the work as Madhura Vani, which was only a title of distinction conferred on her by the royal patron Raghunatha Bhupala, in consideration of her charmingly melodious voice, as the poetess herself records in her work.

Madhuravani records in the preliminary portion of her work, Ramayanasara, that king Raghunatha asked her compose his work, the translation of the Telugu original written by the king, since he saw Bhagavan Sri Rama in his dream and advised him so.

The poetess is lavish in her description of the splendor of her patron’s court and the intellectual and admirable qualities with which he was gifted. She, however, is inexplicably silent about her own parentage. We therefore have no direct clue to her descent, except that she was born of a learned family. She seems to have been of the Advaitic persuasion, as may be inferred from the occasional references in the poem, and from the introductory verses wherein she invokes the blessings of her patron and the following deities – Vighneshwara, Karindra, Nilakantha, Parvati and Sadanana.

She speaks of her special achievements in the various arts and sciences at the end of each sarga. From these we infer that she was an expert in playing the vina (lute), she was original, she could compose 100 stanzas within the short space of 12 minutes and she was skilled in asukriya and astavadhana.

Ramayanasara of Maduravani is available in the Mysore Oriental Research Institute. In its 14 sargas, it contains the story of the Ramayana from the birth of Rama till return of Hanuman from Lanka after finding Sita. The work seems to be incomplete. It also has a commentary for certain difficult verses of later sargas. The work has ‘citrakavitva’.