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Samaya-matrika :: Ksemendra

Text used : (ed.) Ramasankar Tripathi. Varanasi : Chowkambha Vidyabhavan (Vidyabhavana samskrta granthamala, 143), 1967.

This text, wirtten in 1050 A.D., is somewhat hard to classify. It fits into somewhat the same category as Damodaragupta's Kuttani-matam (also of Kashmir, but one or two centuries earlier.) Its purpose is to expose courtesans' secrets in order to help rich young men avoid losing everything to them.

The book takes the form of the advice given by the kuttani (experienced bawd) named Kankali (“skeleton”) to a young courtesan, Kalavati. The goal of this instruction is how to take the son of a rich merchant for everything he has. There are a large number of humorous verses and anecdotes, as well as epigrams.

There are a total of 640 verses in eight chapters or samayas. This edition appears to be based on a single manuscript, which being damaged means that many verses are corrupt. Missing portions are shown either by dots or by pound signs (#).

(Jagat 2006-02-22)

Version 2.00 (21 downloads of previous versions.)

If you find any mistakes or variant readings, we humbly request you to please either notify us directly or post in the GGM forum. If you are working closely on this or any other text, please send us your edited version. Thank you, The Editors.

Source texts
Original written in: Unknown
Entry added: February 22nd 2006
Entry updated: February 22nd 2006
Views: 1612
Downloads: 671
Other details
Added by: Jagat
Text version: 2.00 (legend)
Keywords: Ksemendra, Kshemendra, erotics, subhashita, subhasita
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Additional notes from the editors' research and selected discussion forum contributions.
Chapter 4 · Posted by Jagat on March 1st 2006 - 13:52 +0100
This chapter actually begins the instruction of the kuttani to her disciple. I like this chapter because it shows something of the Hindu ethos of intimacy with its gods. Kalavati and Kankali have a disciple-guru relationship that is formally like any other such relation. Kalavati offers obeisance to her guru with the following words--

vezyopadeza-viSaye caturAnanatvAn
mAyA-prapaJca-nicayena janArdanatvAt |
rikta-prasakta-kalahair atibhairavatvAt
sarga-sthiti-kSaya-vidhAtR-guNA tvam eva ||
You possess all the qualities of the gods of creation, maintenance and dissolution. When it comes to instructing courtesans in their trade, you are a four-mouthed Brahma. In the matter of variously manifesting the illusory potency, you are a Janardana Vishnu. And when it comes to arguing with poverty-stricken customers, you are a ferocioius Bhairava Shiva. (4.11)
Kankali's discourse begins with a discussion of intelligence. A prostitute uses her charms and beauty to her advantage, but these things do not last forever. If she is not clever, her happiness will not last long. Perhaps in response to Kalavati's praise quoted above, she asks--

kA nAma buddhi-hInasya vidher asti vidagdhatA |
kUSmANDAnAM na yaz cakre tailam UrNAM ca dantinAm ||
The creator has no intelligence—where is his art in creating pumpkins that give no oil and elephants that give no wool?(4.23)
Not quite true, of course, but similar points are often made by opponents of intelligent design.

As a Vaishnava, I found the criticism of Vishnu to be as delectable as any praise.

ratnArthinA jalanidhau madhusUdanena
klezaH kilAdri-valana-prabhavo'nubhUtaH |
kiM saiva pUrvam akhilArtha-viluNThanAya
kAntAkRtiH kapaTa-kAma-mayI na sRSTA ||
When Madhusudana wanted to get the jewels from the milk ocean, then why did he first take the trouble of carrying the mountain on his back in the tortoise incarnation? When he took the form of Mohini, pretending to be a beautiful woman filled with desire, he was able to get everything he wanted. So why didn't he just do that right away? (4.24)
I find this verse very amusing. It just shows a kind of light-hearted relationship to mythology that the more serious religions cannot understand. Nor, for that matter, does the Vishwa Hindu Parishad seem to “get it.”


Kankali starts to tell some stories illustrating how through the use of intelligence, a woman can manipulate a less intelligent man. I must say that I laughed out loud at tthe tale of Shankaravahana, which reads rather like a fairly run-of-the-mill joke. I guess it works better in the original than translation. It goes something like this:

When I was a young girl and very busy, an unmarried brahmin who was strong and well-built came to me. I had already serviced several customers that evening and was afraid that this vigorous young man would wear me out. So I put him off by telling him that I had a migraine. He sympathized and started to give me a massage and this went on for some time. Finally, I realized that I had better give him his money's worth or I would lose his custom. But when he had "mounted my love machine" (ArUDha-rati-yantraH), he said, "You have a headache. Maybe I shouldn't do this." I answered with false flattery, "I have heard of the magic of touching a brahmin's body before, but before today I never had any direct experience. The touch of your gUDhAGga is like magic and has taken away all my suffering."

The fool immediately let out a cry of distress. "If only I had known of my own powers before!" "What's the matter?" I asked. "My mother died from the pain of constant migraine! Had I known of my organ's ability to relieve women of their pain, I would not be separated from her today."
But, Kankali points out, he will be separated from his money.
Chapter 2 · Posted by Jagat on February 27th 2006 - 14:29 +0100
Chapter 2 seems to be a collection of anecdotes about various scams that prostitutes have been known to get up to, both in their prime and after their "best-by" date has been passed. All are attributed by Kanka to this super-kuttani, Kankali, who will become Kalavati's advisor.
Some highlights from the first chapter · Posted by Jagat on February 23rd 2006 - 22:52 +0100
Ksemendra's descriptions of the various characters who appear in the first chapter are a delight.

The first verse describing Kalavati reminds me of a rather famous verse in the Govinda-lilamrita, though where describing Radha, it is turned favorably, here it is clearly not so--

kucayoH kaThinatvena kuTilatvena yA bhruvoH |
netrayoH zyamalatvena vezyA-vRttam adarzayat ||
The hardness of her breasts, the crookedness of her brow, and the darkness of her eyes, all revealed her profession as a prostitute. (1.7)
The barber (quite ironically, for a man whose profession is cutting hair)--

zmazrU-rAzI-cita-mukhaM kAca-kAcara-locanam |
pIvaraM tIra-maNDUkair mArjAram iva zAradam ||9||
viTAnAM keli-paTahaM tapta-tAmra-ghaTopamam |
dadhAnaM romamAlAntaM sthUla-khalvATa-karparam ||10||
His face was covered in mountains of hair from his huge moustache, his eyes were glassy and glazed. He was as fat as the lakeside cat in autumn that fills its belly on frogs. His thick, bald head, surrounded by a garland of curly hair, looked like a pot made of molten copper. It was the town-cryer's drum, announcing good news to all the town's johns (viTa).
Kalavati complains that her kuttani has died as a result of eating proscribed food. Kanka tells her that the doctor is in fact an artist in the matter of death, who seeks out those on their deathbeds to extort everything he can out of their fading and futile hopes for life--

sa rogi-mRga-vargANAM mRgayA-nirgataH pathi |
ity AdibhiH stuti-padair viTa-ceTaiH praNamyate ||38||
yamAya dharmarAjAya mRtyave cAntakAya ca |
vaivasvatAya kAlAya sarva-prANa-harAya ca ||39||
He wanders the streets like a hunter seeking his prey of the sick and dying. When the townspeople see him, they offer him obeisances, saying, "We bow to you, the god of death, Yama, the one who takes the life from everyone." And they recite many other names of Yamaraja--Dharmaraja, Mrityu, Antaka, Vaivasvata, Kala.

Some citations · Posted by Jagat on February 22nd 2006 - 19:03 +0100
I believe the above interpretation of the title is erroneous, or at best a third interpretation that follows after two other, better possibilities.

The word samaya has several meanings--samayAH zapathAcAra-kAla-siddhAnta-saMvidaH (Amara). In the case of instructions to the prostitute, which is principal characteristic of the book, samayas could mean AcAra, siddhAnta or saMvit. When each chapter is called a samaya, it seems clear that something of the sort is intended. In this case, mAtRkA may be considered to mean something like "primer," such books as would treat elementary subjects like the alphabet. Grid or matrix is perhaps an appropriate interpretation also.

This meaning applies to the first verse in which the word is mentioned--

kSemendreNa rahasyArtha-mantra-tantropayoginI |
kriyate vAra-rAmANAm iyaM samaya-mAtRkA || (1.3)

The second meaning is that given by the wrongly interpreted verse cited above--

samayena mAtRkA sA kRtrima-rUpA kRtA kalAvatyAH |
tan-nAmnaiva nibandhaH kSemendreNa prabaddho'yam ||

This verse can be clearly understood from the first chapter, where the prostitute Kalavati is lamenting the death of her "grandmother" and the resultant disturbance in her life, as she is left without protection. When she tells all this to the barber, Kanka, he advises her to get a kritrima janani or kuttani--kRtrimaH kriyatAM gehe rakSAyai jananI-janaH (1.40)

"Adopted" is an attested meaning of the word kRtrima, found in the Kathasaritsagara (as are many of the other rare words used by Ksemendra). Thus the meaning of samayena in 8.129 would be "by agreement" or "through instruction."

Of course, the idea that the kuTTanI is a "false mother" and not just a substitute or functional mother may be acceptable as an underlying suggestion or dhvani.

By Prof. K.N. Dhar · Posted by Jagat on February 22nd 2006 - 19:01 +0100
Adapted from

Samayamatrika may be called the finest composition from the versatile pen of Ksemendra. Herein the poet lays bare the seductive amors of prostitutes and their enticing acumen. In the colophon to this book, the poet calls it ('subhashitam') by which its didatic import is suggested.

The caption of the book is a compound consisting of ('Samaya') time and ('Matrika') mother, when taken together, may mean the "mother of the time," i.e., that age. It was not the chaste or the virtuous lady but the ensnaring vamp - the prostitute who ruled over the hearts of men. The times were not in any way flatteringly punctuated with piety but besmeared with the sinful conquetteries of the prostitutes; by bringing them to the fore and also alluding to their ghastly end, the poet seeks to reform the society.

Some critics have found Ksemendra guilty of low-taste, vulgarity and only narrating society's bad points. However it is to be remembered in this context that Ksemendra in the first instance does not claim to be a religious preacher. He writes what he actually sees and feels. If the society was rampant with vulgarity, low taste and other evils, how could he be blind to them? The degradation in the society could not have remained hidden even if Ksemendra had tried to make the use of "idealistic" rather than the "realistic" approach to life. The filth and the mud in the society would after all raise its head had Kesmendra covered it with the sweet smelling roses of his imagination. Screening these from public view would have all the more multiplied their intensity. Hence, by portraying these flaws, the society at large would have hung its head in shame and turned to thinking of reform in right earnest. The poet's intention is thus to reform and in no way to present the deformation of society. As such, the use of the ('subhashitam') at the end of book is quite justified.

If darkness is explained in full detail, the positive reaction to it would be light, more light. As the litle of the book suggests, it is a compound of 'Times' and 'Matrika' (mother) object of respect. In a sarcastic manner the author wants to convey that the harlot is the "mother of the times" or more respected and sought after individuals in the society, while actually the Matrikas (the divine forms of the female) should have been propitiated. The moral and mental fibre of the people at that time was so base that instead of engaging themselves in "Matrika Pujananam" they wasted time and money in enjoying prostitutes.

Towards the end of this composition Ksemendra himself justifies the title by saying:

samayena mAtRkA sA kRtrima-rUpA kRtA kalAvatyAH |
tan-nAmnaiva nibandhaH kSemendreNa prabaddho'yam ||

"In course of time (by the curse of the time) that (Kankali) - the mother was transformed into an artificial beauty by Kalavati, associating this treatise with her name, I, Ksemendra has arranged it (into cantos)." (8.129)
This book also furnishes geographical data about the old salt route (salt has been always imported into the Valley) and a hospice named 'Panchala-Dhara-Matha' on it. Later on this very route and hospice were rennovated by the Mughals connecting the Valley with the plains via Pira-Panchal range.

This book of verses is divided into eight cantos (Samayas). Herein the initiation of one 'Kankali' into the hierarchy of prostitutes and her various sojourns have been described. The agent for introducing her to a senior-in-trade grown up lady, hence unmarketable, is naturally the barber, who is traditionally vilified as the most wicked in society (a viTa).