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.