Magha’s Shishupala Vadha: The most complex poem ever created?

The Shishupala Vadha by Magha might just be the most complex and beautifully-wrought poem ever written. So why hasn’t anyone heard of it?

“Oh! Infinite is the variety of language, even though it is made up of only a few letters, just as music, though it is made up of only seven notes.”

                                – Magha’s Shishupala Vadha, II. 72

The Shishupala Vadha, an epic poem written in Sanskrit in either the seventh or eighth century, is undoubtedly one of the most complex and beautiful poetic works ever created. This masterpiece of Sanskrit poetry follows the story of Krishna as he marches to Indraprastha, on his way to attend the great sacrifice held by his friend Yudhisthira, who is being crowned the King of the World.

This story from Krishna’s life, taken from an episode of the epic Mahabharata, begins with a brilliant light descending from the clouds, and all the people of the world pointing and marvelling.

“The townspeople watched, amazed, all saying ‘the path of the sun is horizontal. Its fire burns from on high, as we all know. But this light spreads itself in all directions, and falls to earth. What is it?’”

This light is the great sage Narada, who descends from heaven in order to warn Krishna that the terrible demon king Ravana, the grand evil of the Ramayana, has been reborn as a man. His name is King Shishupala, and his evil deeds are already known throughout the world. Continue reading “Magha’s Shishupala Vadha: The most complex poem ever created?”