Glory of Bharath  »  Literary Giants of Bharath – Part Eight
Magha was a Sanskrit poet at King Varmalata's court at Shrimala, the-then capital of Gujarat (presently in Rajasthan state). Magha was Born in a Shrimali Brahmin family, he was son of Dattaka Sarvacharya and grandson of Suprabhadeva. His epic poem (mahākāvya) Shishupala Vadha, in 20 sargas (cantos) is based on the Mahabharata episode where the defiant king Shishupala is beheaded by Krishna's chakra (disc). He is thought to have been inspired by, and is often compared with, Bharavi.

Unlike most Indian poets who give no autobiographical details or allude to contemporary events at all, Māgha, in the concluding five verses of the work (known as the Praśasti), gives some autobiographical details, which is rare for Indian poets. The verses inform that his father was Dattaka and his grandfather was Suprabhadeva, a minister at the court of a king whose name is mentioned in different editions as Varmalāta, Dharmanābha, Dharmanātha, Varmalākhya, etc. These verses are therefore called the nija-vaṃśa-varṇana or kavi-vaṃśa-varṇana by commentators.

According to tradition, Māgha was a native of Gujarat, being born in Shrimal Nagar present Bhinmal dist. Jalore Rajasthan. By his own accounts and that of others, he was born wealthy and lived a carefree life, although according to one legend, he died in poverty.

Shishupala Vadha
Māgha is highly popular with Sanskrit critics, and is extensively quoted by them. His Shishupala Vadha seems to have been inspired by the Kirātārjunīya of Bharavi, and intended to emulate and even surpass it. Like Bharavi, he displays rhetorical and metrical skill more than the growth of the plot, and is noted for his intricate wordplay, textual complexity, and verbal ingenuity. He also uses a rich vocabulary, so much so that the claim has been made that his work contains every word in the Sanskrit language. Whereas Bhāravi glorifies Shiva, Māgha glorifies Krishna; while Bhāravi uses 19 metres Māgha uses 23, like Bhāravi's 15th canto full of contrived verses Māgha introduces even more complicated verses in his 19th.

A popular Sanskrit verse about Māgha (and hence about this poem, as it his only known work and the one his reputation rests on) says:

"The similes of Kalidasa, Bharavi's depth of meaning, Daṇḍin's wordplay — in Māgha all three qualities are found."

Thus, Māgha's attempt to surpass Bharavi appears to have been successful; even his name seems to be derived from this feat: another Sanskrit saying, which can mean "the lustre of the sun lasts until the advent of Maagha (the coldest month)", but also "the lustre of Bharavi lasts until the advent of Māgha". However, Māgha follows Bhāravi's structure too closely, and the long-windedness of his descriptions loses the gravity and "weight of meaning" found in Bhāravi's poem. Consequently, Māgha is more admired as a poet than the work is as a whole, and the sections of the work that may be considered digressions from the story have the nature of an anthology and are more popular.

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