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)