Sunday, December 17, 2006

ఆముక్త మాల్యద: మాల దాసరి కథ - 2

(Continued from previous post)

Dasari saw a terrifying demon.

ఉ. వాడును గంటి బోకుమని వ్రాలె మహీరుహ పాళి నుగ్గుగా
వీడును మున్ను రేవగటి వేళకు మానిసియౌట బోరిలో
వాడిమి గొంతకాల మిల వ్రాలుట లావరియౌట నిల్చి యా
వాడి శరంబుచే నడువ వాడది ద్రుంపుడు వీడు నుద్ధతిన్.

The demon too saw Dasari and jumped down from his perch on the banyan tree, pulverizing the surrounding trees to dust. However, Dasari is a man for all seasons, no weakling - he had gained some fame as a good fighter and was strong. So, Dasari stood his ground and blocked the demon with his spear. The demon broke the spear easily, but Dasari continued to fight vigorously.

Devarayalu then describes the wrestling match between the two in a fast paced seesa padyam. At the end of a prolonged fight, Dasari launched a furious attack on the demon and tried to escape. The demon summoned his females, shouting, "Come, come. This fellow is running away!" They came down from the tree and chased Dasari. Between them, they surrounded and captured him. Even then, Dasari did not give up. He was struggling constantly, kicking with his legs and jabbing with elbows. The demon shoved him against the banyan tree and spoke thus:

శా. సారాస్వాదన బ్రాణ పంచకము తృష్ణంబాసి సంతర్పణ
న్మూరింబో నసి ద్రుంచి పొంగెడు భవన్ముండాస్రధారోష్మ మిం
పారం గ్రోలి పిశాచి నీదు కరకుట్లందీ నదస్తాలకాం
తారాంతర్ నృకపాల కుండ విగళన్మై రేయముం గ్రోలెదన్.

My whole body is going to rejoice in gratification, quenching its thirst by feasting on your fat. I will cut off your shaved head with this knife and drink the spouting warm blood to my satisfaction. As my females feed me roast chunks of your meat, I will partake the liquor dripping from pots made of human skulls.

Look at the demon's tactics. He is trying to scare Dasari. The demon already had a taste of Dasari's valor. He is only used to humans fainting in fright when they have one glimpse of him. Perhaps, he does not want any more resistence from Dasari. Perhaps, a shivering, quivering victim boosts his ego. Anyway, he tries to frighten Dasari by describing in gruesome detail all the nasty things he (the demon) is going to do to him (Dasari).

ప్రాణ పంచకము = పంచ ప్రాణములు = ప్రాణ, అపాన, వ్యాన, ఉదాన, సమాన వాయువులు
కరకుట్లు = meat chunks roasted on open fire like kebab
This poem is an interesting mixture of Telugu and Samskrutam phrases; e.g., సంతర్పణ న్మూరింబో, పొంగెడు భవన్ముండా, etc. Perhaps this indicates the mixed nature of the demon who was once a Brahmin, but now a demon (hence, brahma rakshasa).

క. నన్నిం తలయించిన ఖలు
నిన్నున్ ఋజువిధి వధింతునే యని యార్పుల్
మిన్నందగ బుసకొట్టుచు
నన్నీచుడు పొగరు వెడలు నవ్యక్తోక్తిన్.
"Will I ever kill you in a simple, straightforward manner, you rascal, who gave me so much trouble?" brimming with arrogance, the villain (demon) snorted and raved to the sky.
He ordered the females to bring a knife and a vessel. He tied up Dasari's feet with a dried gut and threw him down on the ground. Dasari fell against the banyan tree. Yet, betraying no fear, Dasari addressed the demon to offer him wise counsel.

చ. వినుమొక మాట రాత్రిచర! వేగిర మేటికి నిన్ జయింతురే
యనిమిషులైన? భాజనగతాన్నమ నేనిక నెందు బోయెదన్
బెనగక ప్రాణరక్షణ ముపేక్ష యొనర్చుట పాపమిందుకై
కనలకు నాకు మేనియెడ గాంక్షయు లేదిది పోవుటే యురున్.
Dasari spoke thus: O demon, listen to just this one word. What's the hurry? Can even gods conquer you? I am pretty much food in your plate, ready to be eaten - where will I go? To neglect to take care of oneself is a sin - so don't worry on that count. Moreover, I am not particularly fond of my body. It's good if it goes.

All this speech is obviously a preamble for what he really wants to say. Note the tone of reconciliation - after putting upa vigorous fight, Dasari extols the demons great strength, and even agrees that it is proper for one to nourish one's body (i.e., it is okay for the demon to eat Dasari). Then again, there's an interesting conundrum. Immediately after saying "it's a sin", he also says "I don't care for my own body." Of course, what this is all about becomes clear soon, but for the time being, Dasari continues in this pacifying speech.

ఆ. హీన జన్మ మరుట యెవ్వడె నొకప్రాణి
సంతసిలుట ముక్తి పొంత గనుట
మేలె కాదె శిబియ మేల్బంతి గాడె న
శ్వరపు దేహమమ్మి పరము గొనుట
Isn't it good for one to rejoice upon the prospects of attaining salvation by giving up this low birth? Isn't Sibi an excellent guide in this respect, in exchanging impermanent body for permanent afterlife?

In Hindu devotional (bhakti) philosophy, salvation (mokshamu) is cessation of the cycle of re-births (janma raahityamu). The idea is that one's soul is absorbed into the Almighty. Similar ideas are found abundantly in other bhakti poetry. For. e.g., Bhadrachala Ramadasu sings "అన్నిటికిది కడసారి జన్మము, తధ్యంబిక పుట్టుట సున్న". Similar sentiments can be seen in Saivite poetry as well - see the last poem in Natkeeran's story in a previous post.
Note the clever use of the words "ammu" and "konu" - as if it makes very good business sense to sell something that is transient to buy some something permanent.
I assume folks know the story of Emperor Sibi.
Note for rAnAre - do you remember the excellent Sibi harikatha in Shaavukaaru movie (sung by Ghanatsala)? "శిబికీ సాటి దొరా, లేడు ధరా .."
Anyway, let's get back to our story.

చ. తెవు లయినం, గ్రహం బయిన, దేలయినం, గరమైన, నాత్మ పెం
దెవు లయినన్, జలంబయిన, దెక్కలి యైన, మృగాగ్నులైన, మే
ల్తవు లయిన, న్వ్రణం బయిన, ద్రాచయినన్, బిడుగైన దీర్చు పే
లవ తను వూరకే చెడ కిలన్ గృశునొక్కని బ్రోచుటొప్పదే.
"There are many cases by which one may lose life - illness, fate, scorpion, poison, mental tension, water, robber, wild animals, fire, venereal disease, ulcer, snake, lightning - any one of these is sufficient to lose one's life unnecessarily. In stead, isn't it better to feed one who is starving? "

After this prelude, Dasari launches into a long monologue, exhorting the demon that eating huan flesh is not befitting to someone of his stature. This monologue is written as a long prose section, and is an interesting mix of natural science and Hindu mythology. This also shows that, though Dasari is uneducated, he is well-versed in the traditional knowledge of the Sanatana Dharma and mythology.

Dasari's basic argument is this: You demons are not wild animals - you are superior even to humans. In what respect are you less than your cousins, the gods? It is not befitting that you desire such impure meal. Moreover, when the time comes, all living things must face Yama, the god of death. Shouldn't one think of the future and prepare for it? Moreover, your cousins, the gods, have attained superior powers only through their pure (sattva) habits like eating from yajna offerings. So it was said in the scriptures. Now that I've told you all this, you consider the pros and cons and act accordingly.
To which, the demon responded with an insulting laugh and said:

క. చంపకు చదువుల మేము ప
ఠింపని శాస్త్రములె? మా పఠింపని శ్రుతులే?
యింప వవి నమ్మవే ‘బ్రథ
మాం పిబతే వహ్ని’ యనెడు మాటవు గాదే?

"Don't kill us with your preaching. Is there a subject which we haven't learned? Any scriptures we've left unread? Those are not palatable to us."

తే. హరికి సఖుడును రథమును నగు గరుడుడు
దొరకినమృతంబు సురలకు మరలనిచ్చి
యహులు కూడుగ వరమున నడిగి కొనడె?
యమృతమైనను జవుల జాత్యన్న సమమె?

"Moreover, Garuda who is the close attendant and the carrier of Vishnu - after obtaining ambrosia (amrutamu) with a lot of effort, didn't he give it back to the gods, and , in stead, receive a boon of snakes as his food? Can even ambrosia compete in taste with food that is appropriate for one's birth?"

It is a popular notion in Hindu folklore and mythology that eagles and snakes are enemies by birth. This notion is substantiated by the story of Garuda, the divine eagle, and his perpetual grudge against the snake clan. I am sure the readers are familiar with Garuda's tale.
This line of stubborn argument by the demon, mixing up scriptural knowledge and earthy aphorisms, evokes a chuckle in the mind of the reader. One can hear the sneer in his voice!

చ. నిదురయు గూడు బో జదివి నేనిట గన్నది యేమి యెవ్వడీ
చదువుల యర్థ వాదపు మృషల్విని బేల్పడు నీవు మా యెడం
జదువుల మాటలాడి కన జాల వొకానొక మెచ్చు నొక్కడీ
చదివిన కూర వింత చవి చాలగ దెమ్మను మెచ్చు తక్కగన్.

"What did I gain by diligent studies, ignoring sleep and food? No one is going to be deceived by the lies proclaimed by these scriptures you quote. 'Oh, this food full of learning is really tasty, bring on some more!' - this is the only exclamation you will get out of me if you spout scriptures like this. You won't get anything else!!"

This poem may be quoted as an epitome of ridicule and sarcasm. The demon says, "I'm going to eat you anyway. Your scriptural knowledge is like a spice that adds to the taste when I eat you." The reference to losing sleep and food for studies should ring a bell with even present day students :-)

Upon hearing the demon's ridicule, Dasari thinks to himself that there is no use in further argument with such illogical being. However, he gathered some enthusiasm and pleaded with the demon, saying,
"You are famous among the demons as the greatest. I am insignificant and I can't argue with you. I do not try to prevent you from eating me. I have been observing a penance. I pray that you grant me this one request!"

క. ఈ కురగటి యీకురుగుడి
వైకుంఠుని బాడి వత్తు వ్రతముగ దత్సే
వాకృతి కడపట నశనము
నీకౌదు న్ముఖ్య మిదియ నేడగు తుదకున్.

"I have to sing the praises of Sri Vishnu at the nearby Tirukkurungudi shrine - this is my penance (vratamu). As soon as this service is done, I shall return and you can eat me. This is the most appropriate outcome for today."

What is the demon's reaction to such request?
(to be continued)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ఆముక్త మాల్యద
మంగళ కైశికి యను మాలదా
సరి కథ

This story starts off the 6th and last chapter of Amukta Malyada. In fact, it occupies the major part of the chapter.

Goda has grown into a beautiful young woman. Unable to tolerate the separation from her Lord, she is persecuted by Manmatha’s arrows, and suffers greatly. Her father Vishnucitta is perplexed by her peculiar behavior. Being an orthodox devotee, inexperienced in the ways of love and the pain of separation, Vishnucitta thinks that his daughter is going through some mysterious penance (tapassu) in her devotion to the Lord. Nevertheless, he is worried by her plight and complains to Sri Vishnu of Srivillibuttor, the presiding deity whom he worships everyday.
Sri Vishnu, in his limitless compassion for his devotee, smiles at Vishnucitta’s naiveté and speaks thus:

చ. కలడొకరుండు పేరుకొన గాని కులంబు మదీయ భక్తు, డి
య్యల మును వాడు వామనత నే వసియించిన పుణ్యభూమి యం
దుల కొక యోజనత్రయపు దూరపుటూర వసించి బ్రాహ్మవే
ళల జనుదెంచి పాడు మము లాలస మంగళ నామ కైశికిన్.

There was a man born in an unmentionable (low) caste who was my devotee. You know the holy place where We took form as Vaamana (holy shrine of Tirukkurungudi) – he used to live at a village a distance of three yojanamulu from there. Everyday, during brahma muhurta time (around 4 AM) he would arrive at our shrine and sing our praises with gusto in the tune of Mangala Kaisiki (mangala kaisiki raagam).

Tirukkurungudi is a small shrine in Tirunalveli district of Tamil Nadu. It is a divya desam of vaishnava faith, and was mentioned in Varaha Purana. More details at
The maala daasari of this story is known as Nambaaduvan in vaishnava folklore. His story is the subject of a folk style dance drama known as kaisiki natakam which was performed by traditional artists attached to the Tirukkurungudi temple. The performance tradition was on the decline when it was revived by the well known danseuse, Anita Ratnam. Read more about it here.
Mangala Kaisiki is an old raagam in the carnatic style. Muthuswamy Dikshitar composed the song, "sri bhargavi bhadram me disathu" on goddess Mahalakshmi in this raagam. Tyagaraja also apparently composed some songs, but I could not verify this.
Yojanamu is a measure of distance used in ancient India. The exact measure is in dispute, with contemporary estimates indicating 1 yojanamu = 5 miles. It is not clear what the unit represented at the time of Krishna Devarayalu. More details at

క. జాత్యుచిత చరిత్రమ మత్
ప్రీత్యర్థం బూది తనదు హృదయము శుచితా
నిత్యంబుగ దత్తను సాం
గత్యము మసిపాత మానికంబై యొదుగున్.

For our approval, he maintained his behavior in accordance with his birth, yet he resolutely kept his heart pure. He was wrapped in that body (born of low caste) much like a gem wrapped in a dirty rag.

The implication is that it pleases Vishnu (remember, it is Vishnu himself telling the story) if people follow dharma according to their birth, and do not try to emulate what is not theirs. This is consistent with some parts of Bhagavad Gita.

సీ. చమురైన తోల్కుబుసంబు టెంకియును నిత్తళి శంఖ చక్ర కుండలము లమర
దివెదారి కొమ్ముదోల్తిత్తియు జోడమ్ము మెడమీది మొగులాకు గొడుగు దనర
మత్పాదరక్షయు మావు పెన్వరక గుట్టిన యోటి తిపిరి దండెయును మెరయ
జిటితాళములు సంక పుటిక నొక్కొకమాటు గతిరయంబున దాకి కలసి మొరయ
వలుద వనమాలకంటెయు మలినతనువు
బట్టె తిరుమన్ను బెదురు గెంపుట్టు జూపు
బసుపు బొడి తోలు పల్లంబు నెసక మెసగ
వచ్చు సేవింప సురియాళు వైష్ణవుండు.

Wearing a shirt of oiled leather and head dress, adorned with brass ear rings in the form of Sankha and Chakra (symbols of Vishnu),
Carrying the brass lamp post (garuda gambamu), a leather bag and a spear, shining with an umbrella made of mogili leaves on his neck,
Carrying my wooden sandals, shining with a string instrument made from hollowed dry squash (sorakaya burra) and horse hair,
The small cymbals, struck by the brass post due to his fast walk, making a ringing sound,
A twisted garland of tulasi leaves around his neck, with a dirty a body,
With red clay applied as my sacred mark on his forehead, and with reddened shy glances,
A leather upper cloth decorated with yellow powder adorning him,
So comes to worship us, this Vishnu devotee born in Chandaala caste.

శా. గండా భోగముల న్ముదశ్రులహరుల్గల్ప న్నుతుల్పాడి యా
దండ న్వ్రేగులు డించి భక్తిజనితోద్యత్తాండవం బాడు నా
చండాలేతర శీలుడుత్పులకియై చాండాలికన్మీటుచున్
గుండుల్నీరుగనెండ గాలి పసి తాకుం జూడ కాప్రాహ్ణమున్.

He sets down at my temple the heavy items he’s been carrying. As tears of joy flowed in streams over his full cheeks, he sings our glory. Overcome with devotional fervor, he dances. That man with virtues exceeding his Chandaala birth, as goose pimples rise on his skin, plays heart melting sweet music on the Chandaalika veena. He does not take notice of heat, wind, or hunger attacking him – thus he sings until noon.

He has been worshipping us daily in this fashion. One night, a cat entered the chicken coop, and the chickens raised a huge clamor. Mistaking this midnight clamor for the pre-dawn call of the rooster, my devotee set out hurriedly on his daily pilgrimage. As he walked along …

ఆ. మరులు దీగె మెట్టి యిరులన్న నోయని
యెడు తమిస్ర గాడుపడి పొలంబు
లెల్ల దిరిగి తూర్పు దెల్లనౌ తరి నొక్క
శూన్య గహన వాటి జొచ్చి జనుచు.

.. he stepped on the “mislead creeper” (those who step on this creeper lose their way). He totally lost his sense of direction in that pitch black night and roamed through the fields aimlessly. By the time there was first light in the east, he reached an uninhabited forest area and continued to walk through.

సీ. ఇడిసిన యిడుపుల యెడల బొట్రేనుత్తరేను గసింద కోరింద పొదల
గెడసిన గెరిసెల క్రింద లాగల గ్రుస్సి యదవ కాపురముండు నాఖుతతుల
సగము దుమ్మున బూడి చిగిరింత వామూయ బెరిగిన నూతి పాతర బొరియల
జీమలు ప్రాలీడ్వ జివికిన వెలుగు పట్టున బండి యెండి క్రుంగిన గునుకుల
బెండ దొగ్గళ్ళలో గడుపంటి శ్మశ్రు
చలనముల గ్రుక్కు జీర్ణోతువుల బొలంబు
దుండిగల మళ్ళ యౌరుల దూలి రాడు
చిక్కు నేతాల పాడరు సీమ జనుచు.

How was that place?

There were thick thorny shrubs growing in the collapsed walls. There were hoards of rats skittering in burrows under crumpled grain silos. There were ruined wells and basements, half filled with sand and dust blown by wind. There were dried up and drooping stalks of grain plants after ants had carried away the grain. Abandoned cattle barns where poisonous plants have sprung up are being ruled by skinny old cats, licking their whiskers. The dry lands and the paddy fields alike have been overrun by wild growth. The water pond stands filled with dust, with only the pole being visible.

All the symbols chosen to describe the desolate nature of the place show that this was once a human habitation - there were homes, granaries, wells, barns, fields and such signs of civilization. For whatever reason, that human habitation disappeared and everything turned to waste. This desolation is more depressing and scary than a mere forest. (The reason for the desolation becomes clear soon).

It is interesting that a reigning king can describe desolation in such grotesque detail. The poet not only describes what is seen, but also informs why it is so. Rayalu must have witnessed such scenes first hand either before he ascended the throne or during his long military campaigns.

So, our Dasari is passing through such scary wild area .. and then ...

శా. కాంచె న్వైష్ణవు డర్ధయోజన జటాఘాటోత్థశాఖోపశా
దంచత్కీటకృత వ్రణచ్చలన లిప్యాపాది తాధ్వన్యని
స్సంచారాత్త మహాఫలోపమఫలస్ఫాయ ద్వటక్ష్మాజమున్

He saw - a banyan tree! A huge banyan tree. It is so big that it's branches have spread more than half a yojanamu. And there are the hanging branches (oodalu) from whose tops further branches are spreading. In those branches and side branches, there are countless leaves. Some of the leaves were partly eaten by insects. As the leaves drop from the tree and are blown away by wind, they seem like letters (the scratches left by the insects look like writing) sent by the tree to warn travelers to stay away (What is the tree warning about? In the next poem!). Due to its diligence in warning the travelers thus, the tree seems to have earned a lot of good fortune (punyamu) which shows up as its huge fruit. A banyan tree which is spreading like this – such a tree our Dasari saw.

Notice that from ardhayojana .. in the first line to .. phalasphAyat in the last line, it is one continuous phrase in Samskrutam. Not only that, the syllables used in it produce such a harsh sound so as to create rather horrific mood, much like background music in a horror cinema. Then again notice the utpreksha alankaram (it is a sense of wonder) where the poet compares floating leaves to written warnings and huge fruit to the tree’s good fortune .. sort of indicating that, though the tree looks scary, it is not the real source of horror – the source becomes apparent in the next poem. Also notice the gradual build up of suspense and increasing tension in the last two poems, sort of indicating something nasty is going to come.
This poem may be compared to “ata jani kaance” poem in Manu Caritra in which Peddana describes the panoramic scene spreading in front of Pravara’s eyes when he lands in the midst of Himalayas all of a sudden. There too, the poet uses a continuous Samskruta samasam in the description – but the effect is quite different – it evokes a sense of grandeur, to indicate the majesty of the great mountain.

సీ. మృతమర్త్యు రెంటాన నిడ్డ జాలక నెత్రు రంజిల్లు పెనుపొట్ట ముంజివాని
బల్ల చీమల వక్ర భల్లాతకియు బోలె నెర్రదుప్పటి నొప్పు కర్రెవాని
వ్యత్యస్త హస్తిమ స్తాభబాయగు గడ్డమును దంష్ట్రికలు బొల్చు మొగమువాని
గడుదుర్ల నిడుత్రుట్టె గతి జోగలో బాండురత మించు కపిల కూర్చంబు వాని
నెరకు దెరువరి గన శాఖ లెక్కజారు
ప్రేవు జందెంబు గసరిపై బెట్టువాని
వ్రేలుడగు బొజ్జ గల బూరకాలివాని
జెంబుతలవాని నవటు కచంబు వాని

కండ కన్నుల వాని నాకటను బండు
తిట్ల బేతాళికల సారె దిట్టువాని
నగ గరిమ వాని నన్వర్థ నాము గుంభ
జానువనునొక్క ద్విజ నిశాచరుని గనియె.

A great demon (brahma rakshasudu) appeared in front of him – so that’s what this horror build up is all about. There is a demon living on that banyan tree. Because of him, the surrounding area has become uninhabited. Humans stay away from the area, so the place was deserted. What does a brahma rakshasa look like? Let me warn you – the picture is not pretty!

He wore a human corpse as a loin cloth (koupeenam, gocee), but as it was insufficient to cover his massive girth, it split and its blood was smeared on the demon's belt (molatadu). He wore a red blanket that is like the rough and crooked bark of a mango tree covered with red ants. His head look like an elephant’s head turned upside down – his split chin comparable to the elephant’s split crown and his long fangs like the elephant’s tusks. His eyebrows like two long bee hives with a depressed midpoint shining white. In looking for innocent travelers to capture and eat, he climbed up on the branches rapidly so that his cross thread (jandemu) made from human intestines kept slipping from his shoulder. His huge belly is hanging loose and his legs were thick like an elephant’s legs. His head is bald like a brass pot with hair sprouting in the pit at the bottom. With fattened eyes, he’s cursing the female demons with gusto as he was hungry. He’s huge like a mountain. He bears the appropriate name kumbha jaanuvu (one with knees like pots). Our Dasari witnessed this grotesque demon in front of him.

- To be continued.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

ఆముక్త మాల్యద - తెలుగదేల యన్న
Amukta Malyada

A Story Begins Thus

Sri Krishna Devarayalu has been praised as andhra bhoja and saahitee samaraangana saarvabhouma, i.e., equally skillful in literary and military prowess. Amukta malyada is the only prabandha to be composed by him in Telugu. During a military campaign, while he camped on the banks of Krishna River, Srikaakula Andhra Deva, the Vishnu deity presiding at Srikakulam (in what is now Krishna District, not to be confused with the northeast coastal district of the same name) came to him in a dream and commanded him thus:

ఉ. ఎన్నిను గూర్తునన్న వినుమేమును దాల్చినమాల్య మిచ్చున
ప్పిన్నది రంగంమం దయిన పెండిలి సెప్పుము మున్ను గొంటి నే
వన్నన దండ యొక్క మగవాడిడ నేను దెలుంగు రాయడన్
గన్నడ రాయ యక్కొదువ గప్పు ప్రియా పరిభుక్త భాక్కథన్.

If you ask which of my stories you should tell - you know about the young damsel who used to wear the garlands first and then used to offer them to me - you know how I married her in Srirangam; you know, once (in Krishna incarnation) I had to accept a garland from a male devotee (a garland maker called Sudama) though I was averse to do so. You must cover up this shortcoming by telling the story of how I accepted (as Sri Ranganatha) with pleasure the garlands used by my sweetheart, O Lord of Kannada, I am the Telugu Lord.

ఆ. తెలుగదేల యన్న దేశంబు తెలు గేను
దెలుగు వల్లభుండ దెలుగొకండ
యెల్ల నృపులు గొలువ నెరుగవే బాసాడి
దేశభాషలందు దెలుగు లెస్స

You may ask why I instruct you to compose particularly in Telugu (because you are very adept in Samskritam, you may think writing in Telugu is not so great) - I tell you - this is Telugu land, and I am the Telugu Lord, and then Telugu is the only one (without comparison). Haven't you been speaking multiple languages, as you are worshipped by kings from all over - you should know that Telugu is the greatest among all languages!

క. అంకితమో యన నీకల
వేంకటపతి యిష్టమైన వేల్పగుట దదీ
యాంకితము సేయు మొక్కొక
సంకేతమ కాకతడ రసన్నేగానే.

You may ask to whom should I dedicate this work - As Sri Venkateswara is your favorite deity, so you may dedicate this poem to him (eventhough you compose it at my command). After all, aren't he and I one and the same, differing only in name?

Note that the Telugu Lord speaks only in pure Telugu (accha telugu, jaanu tenugu), without a trace of Samskritam.

Thus commanded, Sri Krishna Devarayalu composed a most delightful creative poem in six chapters, to narrate the story of Amukta Malyada - (literally) the lady who offered garlands after wearing them, i.e., Goda Devi (aka Andal, Chudikuditta Nanchari, the only female among the 12 Alwars). Goda is the adopted daughter of another Alwar, Vishnuchitta (aka Periyaalwar) - therefore, this poem is also known as Vishnuchitteeyamu.

An interesting story from Amukta Malyada starting with next post.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

కొత్త పేరు

కొంతకాలంగా నేను ఈ సాలెగూడు ప్రపంచంలో వాడుతున్న పేరుతోనే ఈ బ్లాగు కూడా మొదలు పెట్టాను. చూసిన హితులు పేరు బాగాలేదన్నారు. వారి సలహా మీద ఈ కొత్త పేరు పెట్టాను.
ఇది శలవుల వారాంతం .. ఇది పూర్తయ్యేలోగా కొత్త పోస్టు ప్రచురిస్తాను. వచ్చి చూడండి. మీ అభిప్రాయాలు రాయండి.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

స్తుతమతియైన యాంధ్రకవి

An Extempore Poem

A caatuvu (చాటువు) is an extempore, witty poem. There are many in Sanskrit, usually ascribed to famous poets like Kalidasa. There are many in Telugu as well - ascribed to famous Telugu poets such as Srinatha and Tenali Ramakrishna who are known for their ready wit..

Background of the poem
Srikrishna Devarayalu ruled the combined telugu-kannada land from his capital in Hampi, circa 15th century CE. He was a patron of the arts, especially of literature, being a poet himself. Legend goes that he had 8 great Telugu poets in his court, known as Ashta Diggajamulu (అష్ట దిగ్గజములు). Setting aside their combined literary output, which was humongous and marked a significant era in Telugu literature, this situation (a poet-king, 8 poets, the competition, the intrigues, etc.) gave rise to a wealth of amusing caatuvulu. There is no proof that any of these caatuvulu were actually spoken by the principals of the story - they very well may be creations of a later age, but ascribed to these famous personages, just to make the story more interesting.

Dhurjati was one of the 8 poets in Devarayalu's court. He was a great Siva devotee in the royal court dominated by Vaishnavism. He composed two long poems in praise of Sree Kalahasteesvara, a form of Siva in Southern Andhra. This following caatuvu is about him.

One day in court, the king expressed his wonder at the sweetness of Dhurjati’s poetry .. being a poet himself, the question took the form of an incomplete poem as ..

స్తుతమతి యైన యాంధ్ర కవి ధూర్జటి పల్కుల కేల కల్గె నీ
యతులిత మాధురీ మహిమ? --- --- ---

ఆంధ్ర కవి = Telugu poet
స్తుతమతి యైన = with praiseworthy intellect
ధూర్జటి = the poet Dhurjati
పల్కులకు+ఏల = how his words
కల్గెన్ = happened
ఈ = this
అతులిత = incomparable
మాధురీ మహిమ = nectar-like sweet effect

The king wonders how the words of the Telugu poet Dhurjati, the one with praiseworthy intellect, have attained this incomparable sweetness.

The question hung there for a moment .. then, Tenali Ramakrishna, always up to mischief, piped up and provided the solution, completing the poem in the same stroke, with this ..

- - - - - - - - - - - - - హా తెలిసెన్, భువనైక మోహనో
ద్ధత సుకుమార వార వనితా జనతా ఘనతాప హారి సం
తత మధురాధరోదిత సుధా రస ధారలు గ్రోలుటం జుమీ

హా తెలిసెన్ = yes, I got it
భువనైక = the entire world
మోహన+ ఉద్ధత = capable of enchanting
సుకుమార = delicate
వార వనితా జనతా = group of "street" women (prostitutes)
ఘన = great
తాప = suffering of love
హారి = destroyer
సంతత = constantly
మధుర = sweet
అధర+ ఉదిత = born from the lips
సుధారస = honey
ధారల = streams
గ్రోలుటం = upon savoring
జుమీ = listen!

Tenali Ramakrishna replied, "yes, I know, listen! It's because he (that is, Dhurjati) had been constantly savoring the streams of honey from the lips of the delicate prostitutes who are so lovely that they can enchant the whole world!

There are many folk tales popular which paint Dhurjati as being obsessed with women, and a regular patron of the high class prostitutes of the city. Some naïve scholars even try to show evidence of this from Dhurjati’s own works. However, a scholar who studied Dhurjati deeply came to the conclusion that Dhurjati was a staunch Siva devotee, turned off from worldly pleasures. This scholar offered a completely different take on this poem – here is the "other" meaning of this poem.

The whole poem takes a different twist upon reinterpretation of just the one word, Dhurjati.
Literally, ధూర్జటి = one with long matted hair, Siva, Isvara, Lord.
So, the phrase "కవి ధూర్జటి" is interpreted as "కవి+ఈశ్వర", Lord of Poets, a leader among poets.
Therefore, the question asked by the king is not about the specific poet named Dhurjati, but about the great Telugu poets of the time - he was wondering how their poetry obtained such incomparable sweetness.

The answer is as follows:
భువనైక = the entire world
మోహన+ ఉద్ధత = capable of enchanting
సు+కుమార+వార = the group of good sons and daughters
వనిత జనత = and wives (a man could have more than one wife in those days)
ఘన తాప = great pain
హారి = remover
మధు రాధ = sweeter than honey
రోదిత = born of meditation
సుధారస = honey
ధారల = streams
గ్రోలుటం = upon savoring
జుమీ = listen!

The wives and the children, capable of enchanting the world, are the bonds that keep one attached to the world and cause pain. This pain is overcome by the constant meditation, which is sweeter than honey - it's because the Telugu poet had been feeding on such streams of sweetness that his poetry is so incomparably sweet!

This explanation was put forward by renowned Telugu scholar, the late Ravuri Venkateswarlu gaaru.

I obtained both the interpretations of the poem from the book "పద్య కవితా పరిచయం" by Acharya Betavolu Ramabrahmam gaaru.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Srikalahasti Mahatmyam – 3 (End)
Story of Natkeeran (contd.)

Siva walks into the king's court and challenges Natkeeran, saying, "I composed that poem with such literary elegance and beautiful poetic finesse (సాహిత్య స్ఫురన్ మాధురీ చారు ప్రౌఢిమన్) . What mistake did you find - in phrases? in the mood? in the metaphors?"

అనవుడు, నా నత్కీరుడు
మునుపటి వలె దప్పటన్న ముక్కంటియు నా
ని కనియెన్, "గిరితనయా
ఘన కచభారంబు సహజగంధం" బనినన్.

When he heard Siva’s challenge, Natkeeran replied, repeating his objection. To which, the Lord with the three eyes, very patiently, explains that "Goddess Parvati's heavy plait of hair has a natural fragrance!,” emphasizing that his poetic expression ("the natural fragrance of the lady's hair") was quite valid - Of course, Siva knows about Parvati's hair! How do others know - how would humans know? And Siva was appearing in court in human form Natkeeran sticks to his objection ..
"అగజకు నైనం దగు, నిల
మగువలకుం దగదు, మాను మత్సరమింకన్,
గగన ప్రసూన వాదము
జగతిం బ్రత్యక్షమునకు సరి యన దగునే?"

Natkeeran tells Siva .. “look, it may very well be possible that Parvati's hair is fragrant naturally. However, it is not possible for mortal women of the earth. So, don't be stubborn. How can you bring the comparison of heavenly flower and say that explains things on ground ?” .. and he continues ..

"లూలా మాలపు మాటలు
చాలు" ననిన నలిగి, తన నిజంబగు రూపం
బాలోన దెలుపవలె నని,
నీల గ్రీవుండు నిటల నేత్రము జూపన్.

If Natkeeran stopped with reiterating his objection, it may have turned out differently. But he didn't - his authority and the arrogance brought on by that authority didn't let him stop there. He blurted out, "stop this nonsensical argument" - there's a hint of ridicule - 'so you went in person to smell the natural fragrance of Parvati's hair, did you?' .. in Natkeeran's words. That got Siva really mad. He had to prove that what he wrote was correct - there's no way to back off now - so, wishing to reveal his true form, Siva shows the third eye on his forehead. Siva could have shown his true form by revealing any of his other, well-recognized features - revealing the third eye has another purpose - Siva had destroyed Manmatha, the god of love, by opening his third eye. Now, showing the third eye to Natkeeran barely hides the threat of same fate for Natkeeran.
Upon realizing to whom he was talking, Natkeeran should have bowed down, accepted Siva's explanation as being right and apologized for his rude behavior. He wouldn't!
"తల చుట్టువార గన్నులు
గలిగిన బద్యంబు దప్పు గాదన వశమే
వల దిచ్చట నీ మాయా
విలసనములు పనికి రావు విడువు" మటన్నన్.

He tells Siva, "look, even if you sprout eyes all around your head, it doesn't matter. Your poem is still wrong and how can any one say otherwise? So, you better stop this display of your magician's tricks, because they won't do you any good!Natkeeran's own pride and ego covered up his sense of right and wrong so that he was unable to recognize Siva even when he appeared in front of him in his true form. Moreover, in that ignorance, he chided Siva.With repeated insolence from Natkeeran, Siva became exceedingly angry and cursed him.

శపియించెం బ్రతి భాషల
గుపితుండై రుద్రుడతని "గుష్ఠ వ్యాధిం
దపియింపు" మనుచు దానికి
నపరిమిత భయమ్మునంది యతడిట్లనియెన్.

Natkeeran's literary objection was okay - that was fine. However, Siva got angry when he began to get insolent, even when Siva showed his true form. If some average Joe on the road gets insolent, it doesn't hurt anybody. However, if an important person, to whom a lot of people look for guidance - if a person in such responsible situation gets insolent - that is not good - it leads to some nasty outcomes. That's what happened here. Siva got so angry that he cursed that Natkeeran will suffer from leprosy. Having heard the curse, then the scales fell from Natkeeran's eyes, he was extremely fearful and pleaded thus..

"స్వామీ ద్రోహము జేసితిం, దెలుపవే శాపాంత ముద్యత్కృపా
ధామా! నా"కనుచున్ బదాబ్జముల మీదం బడ్డం, నా భక్త ర
క్షామందారుడు శాంతి బొంది యనియెం "గైలాస శైలంబు గం
టే మానుం బద" మన్న, నందులకు దా డెందంబునం గుందుచున్.

So, Natkeeran fell on Siva's feet and begged for forgiveness, requesting for a way to end the curse. Then, Siva who's like the celestial tree kalpavriksha to his devotees, grew calm and granted the end of curse that Natkeeran must have a darshan of Mount Kailas. Upon hearing it, Natkeeran's heart fell.

"ఈ కవితాభి మానము వహించితి నేటికి? శంఖ పీఠిపై
నీ కవులున్నయట్లు వసియింపక దేవునితోడ నేల చా
ర్వాక మొనర్చితిం? గడు భరంబగు కుష్ఠరుజా విషాద మే
నే కరణిన్ ధరింతు? నిక నెన్నడు చూచెద వెండి గుబ్బలిన్?"

Natkeeran was repentant in his heart - "why have I taken this stubborn stance on poetry? Just because I had tha chair of authority? Why couldn't I have kept my peace, like all these other poets, why did I go and indulged in the ridiculous argument with the Lord himself? How am I going to bare this torture of leprosy, and how would I be able to see Mount Kailas?
Then he thinks of all the horrible symptoms of the disease.
"తివిరి యంగమ్మున దిమ్మి రెత్తక మున్న, యొడలెల్ల మచ్చల జెడక మున్న
దళమెక్కి గాత్రంబు చెలువు తప్పక మున్న, బుడుపులు మేన నేర్పడక మున్న
యలత విగ్రహమున నంకురింపక మున్న, కాయంబు వెడరూపు గాక మున్న
తనువున జీము రక్తముల్ గారక మున్న, దేహ మీగలు మూగి తినక మున్న
భిక్ష మడుగంగ బోయిన పట్ల జనులు
చూడ రోయక మున్న, కాలాడినపుడ
నడువ వలె గాక కైలాస నగము జూడ
హరుని వాక్యంబు శక్యమే పరిహరింప!"

"Before the limbs become insensitive, before whole body gets ugly with spotsBefore the skin gets thicker and looses its luster, before boils appear all over itBefore extreme tiredness blooms in the body, before the body becomes disgustingBefore the skin begins to bleed, before insects swarm around to feast on it,and .. as I go begging in the streets, the people will won't even want to see me - before that happens, as my limbs are still moving, I should walk, and try to reach Mount Kailas - otherwise, is it possible to remove the curse of Siva himself?"

అనుచు జింతా పరంపర లనెడు వర్ష
ముడిగి, నత్కీరుడను మేఘు డుత్తరంబు
నడచె, సంతోషమున దక్షిణమున నున్న
కవుల ముఖ పంకజములు వికాసమొంద

Saying thus, Natkeeran set out for the north. There's a beautiful figure of speech in this poem called, a kind of metaphor. The cloud called Natkeeran, having left behind the rains called streams of doubts, proceeded northward. Therefore, the face-lotuses of southern poets have bloomed. Natkeeran was such a pain in the neck to all the poets, due to his authority and arrogance that they all despised him. So, when he set out on the pilgrimage northbound, they all heaved a sigh of relief. In the comparative plane, the October monsoon moves Southeast to Northwest .. while the clouds are covering up the sky, it is so dark. Once the clouds move on after shedding their rain, the skies are bright and the lotuses bloom with special beauty in this season. The poet blended this natural phenomenon with the dramatic scene wonderfully in this small poem.
To cut a long story short: Natkeeran faces many difficulties along his path. After all it's not a joke to travel from Madurai to Mount Kailas. His arrogance which was busted upon receiving the curse, is totally decimated now, and he completely surrenders himself to Siva's mercy, during this arduous journey. When this change happens in him, Kumarasvami (Kartikeyan, Subrahmanya), Siva's second son appears to him and gives the following advice - Srikalahasti is the abode of Siva in the south, so it is the Kailas of south. So, you can remove your curse by having a darshan of Siva there. Natkeeran proceeds there, removes his curse with the darshan of Siva. Natkeeran pleads with Siva ..

"ఈ సంసారము, దుఃఖా
వాసానందంబు, దీని వర్జింపంగా
నే సుఖము గలుగు దయ న
న్నా సుఖమున గూర్పవే! కృతార్ధుడ నగుదున్!

"This life is a collection point of many griefs. Only upon leaving it would one be truly blissful. In your mercy, won't you please grant me that bliss, my desire shall be fulfilled, Oh Siva!"
Upon hearing Natkeeran's prayer, Siva, the lord of Srikalahasti, takes him unto himself.

లోకాః సమస్తాః సుఖినో భవంతు

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Srikalahasti Mahatmyam – 2

Story of Natkeeran (contd.)

వచ్చి పార్వతీశు వంక గనుంగొని
యతని పద్య మతని కప్పగించి,
"నిన్ను నమ్మిపోయి, నిండిన సభ
సిగ్గు చెడితి, నున్న కథలు చెప్పనేల?"

The priest came back to the temple, gave Siva's poem back to Siva and spoke thus .. "Trusting you I went and lost my honor in the full court! What's the point of recounting all that happened?"
The priest was quite angry at Siva for subjecting him to this humiliation. He takes it all out on Him in a verbal outpouring .. with further innuendoes and barbs ..

"తానెరిగిన విద్య నృపా
స్థానములో నెరప గీర్తి సమకూరుంగా
కే నరునకు బరవిద్యా
ధీనత భూపాల సభల దేజము గలదే?"

"Any man can expect to be honored only by displaying his own learning and skills. If one tries to get fame in royal courts by depending on other's skill (i.e., by trying to bluff), how can that man get fame?" - No he can't! Because of you, I tried this trick and I got the treatment I deserved!

"నీ మాట నమ్మి పోయిన
నా మోసము జెప్పనేల? నత్కీరునిచే
నే మాట పడ్డ దుఃఖము
క్షామ వ్యధ కొరిది గాదు, సద్భక్త నిధీ!"

“Oh treasure-trove to true devotees, why dwell on my own folly of following your advice and going to the king's court with great expectations? That insult I was given by Natkeeran - the resulting pain is much worse than the pain of this famine! (Famine only causes hunger, some physical pain, but this insult, in full court, is gnawing away at my soul - it is impossible to overcome! And all this, 'cause I listened to your advice!)The spark in this poem is how the priest addresses Shiva as "a devotee’s treasure" - implying "You are a treasure trove to true devotees like me!, so if this is the kind of benefit you're bestowing on your poor devotees, why does one need enemies? You make devotees follow you and then you cheat them like this!"

అని మరియు నిట్లనియె..
నా భాగ్యం బిటులుండగా దుది నిను నత్కీరునిం దూరగా
నే భావ్యం? బిక జాలు, నిక్కరవుచే నిట్లైతి నెందైన గా
నీ భిక్షంబున గుక్షి బ్రోచుకొని, దీనిం దీర్చి నేవత్తు, దే
వా! భద్రంబగు నీకు, నన్ననుపవే?" యన్నం గృపా మూర్తియై.

So far the poor priest had been speaking in an emotional outburst. Once that heartburn cooled a bit, he takes a pause .. this change in attitude indicated by the little bit of prose .. So, the priest spoke further,"If my fortune (or misfortune) is like this, what's the point in blaming either you or Natkeeran? What's done is done, it's the famine that brought me to this state. However, I may be able to take care of our hunger by begging somewhere or other .. After the famine subsides, I shall return. Meanwhile, take care of yourself, and please allow me to go!"
The punch is in the last line .. the priest wishes Siva well and asks for His permission to leave. He had been verbally lashing out at Siva so far, for all the personal grief caused by Siva's advice, but still, after all he's a staunch devotee, so, he calmed down. However, this turn of tone pricks Siva's conscience - in spite of Siva's best intentions, His devotee is not only back to square one, but was also insulted in the process! This situation is quite unacceptable! So, Siva became benevolent .. to the cause of his devotee .. and Siva speaks thus ..

“కట కట! యన్నత్కీరుం
డట! కవితయు దప్పు వట్టె నట! యటు పదమా
యెటువలెనో తెలిసెద?" నని
నిటలాక్షుడు వచ్చి కుంభినీపతి సభలోన్

Siva's benevolence to his devotee took the form of a sort of stubborn determination directed against Natkeeran. He says, "Alas, who is this Natkeeran .. that dares to find fault with my poem? Come let's go and get to the bottom of this!". So, the one with a third eye in his forehead rushed into the court of the king.
There are a couple of interesting features in this poem .. Siva is pretty mad at Natkeeran .. The repeated "Ta" sound in Siva's speech indicates grinding of teeth, spoken through clenched teeth. The poet uses the phrase "niTalaaksha" (= one with eye in the forehead) for Siva .. giving a hint about what's coming next ..
Srikalahasti Mahatmyam - 1

This is కార్తీక మాసం, the month of Kartika according to Hindu calendar, and supposed to be auspicious, particularly favorite time of Siva.
Therefore, I begin this endeavor with a poetic offering to his greatness and benevolence.

ఓం నమో భగవతే రుద్రాయ
నమస్తే అస్తు భగవన్ విశ్వేశ్వరాయ మహాదేవాయ
త్ర్యంబకాయ త్రిపురాంతకాయ త్రికాగ్ని కాలాయ
కాలాగ్ని రుద్రాయ నీల కంఠాయ మృత్యుంజయాయ
సర్వేశ్వరాయ సదాశివాయ శ్రీమన్ మహాదేవాయ నమః
ఓం నమశ్శివాయ ఓం

The Story of Natkeeran

Kalahasti is a town in southern Andhra Pradesh with a temple dedicated to Siva in the form of Sree Kalahasteesvara. Dhoorjati's most well-known long poem, Sreekalahasti mahatmyam (Divine glory of Sri Kalahasti), has many stories of devotion to Siva and of Siva's grace to his devotees. Principal story is that of a spider (శ్రీ), a serpent (కాళ) and an elephant (హస్తి) worshipping Siva with devotion. There is one more story - that of the Tamil poet, Natkeeran - which is extremely interesting .. as you will see ..

Background of the story:
In the Pandya king's court, there was royal poet of the name Natkeeran. He has great poetic prowess, and became the chief among all the poets of the court. Many wandering and amateur poets used to come to the king's court daily with their literary offerings. It was the job of Natkeeran and other court poets to evaluate the quality of these offerings, to recommend a suitable prize for worthy ones and to reject useless ones.

There was a poor priest at a Siva temple in that town. He was very devoted to Siva and used to carry out his priestly duties with great devotion and genuine delight. However, there was great famine one year and life became very difficult for ordinary people. Unable to face this situation any longer, the poor priest decides to leave town temporarily and seek shelter elsewhere. Then, Siva appears to him, teaches him a poem in Tamil, instructs him to go to the royal court and recite this poem to receive royal patronage. The priest is delighted, and goes off to the court ..

.. శ్రీ పరమేశ్వర ప్రణీతంబైన కవితా చమత్కారంబు వచించిన, నందలి యర్ధంబు "సింధురరాజ గమనా ధమ్మిల్ల బంధంబు సహజ గంధంబు" అని యుండుటం జేసి ..

The priest went to the court and recited Siva's poem which had this line .... సహజ గంధంబు = natural fragrance, ధమ్మిల్ల బంధంబు = of a hair knot or plait, సింధురరాజ గమనా = of a lady with graceful walk (literally, lady with the gait of a king elephant) ..So, this poem given by Siva has this line which went "the natural fragrance of the hair knot worn by the lady with graceful gait like a king elephant".That's where the problem started.

దానికి నవ్వుచు నృపసభ
లో నత్కీరుండు పలికె "లోకము నగదే
పూనుకొని సహజ గంధము
వేనలికిం గలదటన్న వేయి దెరగులన్!"

Natkeeran was in the court, listening to this poem. He said, laughing at the poem .."listen, won't the world laugh at you .. and laugh deliberately too ..if you compose poems saying a woman’s hair knot has natural fragrance .. in thousand ways, they'll laugh!" ..

"తప్పిది, చెప్పరాదు, కవితా సమయంబున కొప్పుగాదు, నీ
విప్పగిదిన్ రచింప దగునే?" యన, విప్రుడు చిన్న వోయి, "నా
కప్పరమేశ్వరుండు వసుధాధిపుపై రచియించి యిచ్చినా,
డొప్పును దప్పు నేనెరుగ, నుత్తములార!" యటంచు గ్రమ్మరన్.
Poets often write figuratively, using codified norms of poetic devices, known as kavi (or kavita) samayamulu. Natkeeran's objection was that 'hair knot having natural fragrance' is contrary to acceptable poetic devices, hence bad poetry. And he told the poor priest off in no uncertain terms. Natkeeran's authority in the King’s court, his sense of self importance, his impatience at having to listen to bad poetry .. are all evident in the way he speaks, in bits and pieces, with a barely hidden sneer. The poor priest - he was expecting a big reward from the king - he was shocked at this turn of events, and blurted out, "Oh Noble men, this is the poem composed by Siva himself on this king - Siva gave it to me - I don't know what's right or wrong!"

To be continued