Shishupala Vadha

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The Shishupala Vadha (, IAST: Śiśupāla-vadha, lit. "the slaying of Shishupala") is a work of classical Sanskrit poetry (kāvya) composed by Māgha in the 7th or 8th century. It is an epic poem in 20 sargas (cantos) of about 1800 highly ornate stanzas, and is considered one of the six Sanskrit mahakavyas, or "great epics". It is also known as the Māgha-kāvya after its author. Like other kavyas, it is admired more for its exquisite descriptions and lyrical quality than for any dramatic development of plot. Its 19th canto is noted for verbal gymnastics and wordplay; see the section on linguistic ingenuity below.


As with most Sanskrit kāvya, the plot is drawn from one of the epics, in this case the Mahabharata. In the original story, Shishupala, king of the Chedis in central India, after insulting Lord Krishna several times in an assembly, finally enrages him and has his head struck off. The 10th-century literary critic Kuntaka observes that Magha arranges the story such that the sole purpose of Vishnu's Avatarhood as Krishna is the slaying of the evil Shishupala. Magha also invents a conflict in Krishna's mind, between his duty to destroy Shishupala, and to attend Yudhisthira's ceremony to which he has been invited; this is resolved by attending the ceremony to which Shishupala also arrives and is killed.

The following description of the plot of the Shisupala Vadha is drawn from A. K....
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