Thursday, November 09, 2006

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