Archive for the 'original compositions' Category

Call for Poetry Submissions

Rasāla, a new Sanskrit publishing venture I have just set up, will be bringing out an anthology of poetry on the night, entitled ‘Śarvarī’.  For this, we would like to invite all Sanskrit enthusiasts to submit verses – either their own compositions of those of their favourite poets.

The best 108 verses submitted will be published in the 2012 Rasāla anthology. Those whose verses are selected for the anthology will be duly credited; they will also each be given a free copy of the book.  Those verses not selected will be published on Rasāla’s website.

 

Full details are given in the announcement below (in English and in Sanskrit). Please visit the Rasāla website for more details and to see the verses submitted so far.

 

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Call for Poetry Submissions

 

Rasāla is a new Sanskrit publisher which publishes India’s most beautiful forgotten poems alongside contemporary English translations.  We would like to invite you to submit verses – either your own compositions of those of your favourite poets – for the annual Rasāla anthology. This year’s anthology is entitled ‘Śarvarī’ or ‘Night’.

 

Submitted verses should be on the theme ‘Night’ – for instance descriptions of the sunset, moonrise and onset of darkness; the meeting of lovers by night; the blooming of waterlilies and so on.  You are encouraged to send verses which are artistically beautiful – imbued with rasa and rich in figures of speech – as opposed to those focused more on morals or instruction.

 

Please send your submissions either to venetia@rasalabooks.com or, by post, to Rasāla, A303 Raheja Regent, 35 Coles Road, Fraser Town, Bangalore 560 005.  Phone: +91 997230 5440. Please note your name and contact details and also include the name and any other details of the poet whose verses you are submitting.

 

The best 108 verses submitted will be published in this year’s Rasāla anthology. Those whose verses are selected for the anthology will be duly credited in the book; they will also each be given a free copy of the book.  Those verses not selected will be published on Rasāla’s website.

 

For more information, please visit www.rasalabooks.com.

सूचना

रसालाख्यं नूतनसंस्कृtतप्रकाशनं भारतवर्षस्यादृष्टपूर्वाणि विस्मृतानि सुन्दरतमानि च काव्यान्यांग्लभाषायानूद्य प्रकाशयति । भवन्तो रसालप्रकाशनस्य पद्यावल्याः कृते स्वरचितानि पद्यान्यन्येषां कवीनां (प्राक्तनानामधुनातनानां वा) च पद्यानि प्रेषयेयुरित्यस्माकं सविनया प्रार्थना । अस्याः पद्यावल्याः ’शर्वरी’ति नाम अस्माभिर्दत्तम् ।

पद्यानि रात्रिसम्बद्धानि भवितुमर्हन्ति – यथा सुर्यास्तचन्द्रोदयतिमिरादीनां वर्णनम्, रात्रौ कामिनोः समागमः, कुमुदादीनां विकास इत्यादि । पद्यानि रसमयानि अलङ्कारचमत्कारयुक्तानि भवेयुः । यथाशक्ति नीत्युपदेशसहितानि पद्यानि वर्जनीयानि ।

venetia@rasalabooks.com प्रति पद्यानि प्रेषयेयुः | aअथवा Rasāla, A303 Raheja Regent, 35 Coles Road, Fraser Town, Bangalore 560 005.  Phone: +91 997230 5440  प्रति पद्यानि प्रेषयेयुः | स्वसन्देशपत्रे नामसङ्केतसम्पर्काणां सूचना दातव्या । कवेर्नामाद्यपि तत्रैव दातव्यम् ।

 

एतेषां प्रेषितानां पद्यानां मध्ये १०८ उत्तमानि पद्यानि शर्वरीनाम्न्यां रसालपद्यावल्यां प्रकाशितानि भविष्यन्ति । येषां पद्यानि पुस्तकार्थं चितानि तेषां नामाद्यपि पुस्तके लिखितं भविष्यति । तेभ्यः पुस्तकमेकमपि दीयते ।  यानि पद्यानि पुस्तकार्थं न चितानि, तान्यपि रसालप्रकाशनस्य अन्तर्जालस्थाने प्रकाशिष्यन्ते ।

इतोऽपि विज्ञप्तिप्राप्तये www.rasalabooks.com कृपया पश्यतु ।

 

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Panchali

Pānchālī

Pulled into my husbands’ court by my uncombed hair

Thrown onto the floor where hundreds of feet touch their thick, red silk

The flowing carpet rises and falls like the mist of my garden

I know you are immovable in your rage Shákuni

Your ego knows no limits, it is like a snake stalking a mouse

Quietly without remorse in its meager heart

All eyes watch me cry in anguish as you pull my sari

To end of this room it flows like the Gaṅgā

Shining with its thin, gold-laden fabric

And crippled by your greedy fingers

Dignified beauty you tossed with your dice

Human emotions you sacrificed with your heart

Bring your eyes to mine to see one word: regret

Ha! You are the nectar’s enemy: regret!

If you took me then Kṛṣṇa will smite you right now!

His chakra, a knife for your spineless body

All my fears that followed me at night with my friends

Nibbling on their black pearls while I watched the roses rise

They are you…a shadow that rapes the moon

I cannot give you my body for it belongs to Keśava!

My life will one day be returned to his home

To live as a cowherd while churning milk for his hungry lips

The boyish smile and curly hair that barely touches his shoulders

His eyes so wide yet shaped like the waning moon

Little specks in the corner of both eyes are galaxies unknown to us

So far away other people exist for whom Kṛṣṇa is their king

If I am his then he is my king too

Shákuni, you are the drunken ego, a corrupted seed for humanity!

My body is a vase holding the virtues of Sūrya

He touched my spirit to give me a bite of his own

Disrobing me in front of my husbands and all the Āryas of their kingdom

is a sacrilege!

I cry to you to stop this great injustice!

Can’t you see I have sunken into a sea of distress!?

No, you are busy drowning my voice with your wicked laughter

Brahmā gave you a boon that protects your life from any physical or divine harm

Yet, has he no shame when seeing this monstrous deed?

Ma! You are Sarvāsuravināśā, come to my rescue!

Show your terrifying face to this savage

Make him cower under your crippling stare, ma!

Turn his limbs into brittle sticks so he will stop treating my honor like a toy

Sunil P. Narayan

Martanda Dandaka

The sun, as the fist of Day the wrestler, shatters his enemy the night.  May he, the knot of love that binds the cakra bird and his wife, purify you.

You resemble a new lotus opening at the tip of the upraised trunk of the elephant that guards Indra’s direction.  The female cakravaka birds of the three worlds attend to you with the arghya offering formed of their tears.  They are freed from despondency by the sight of the chariot that shines with its team of irrepressible handsome horses who are neighing in satisfaction thanks to the embrace of a breeze pleasantly cooled by the pure heavenly rivers’ mass of waves.  Oh Lord of the triple Vedas, ablaze with your own brilliance – victory!

You are the origin of the light that so delights the world.  Happily you roam the paths of the sky cloud-free yet decorated with lightning creepers created by the flash of the golden whip as the best of charioteers flicks it up.  He is agitated – his progress has been hindered because his team of horses is no longer paying attention, engrossed instead in listening to the music of the vina that is formed of a line of bees swarming around the surface of a lotus pond.   You are the elephant in rut who destroys the tree of ignorance, the fresh basin of water in which the creeper of the triple Vedas stands – victory!

Your chariot outpaces even the speed of the winds at the time of final dissolution.  You are the one repository of the Vedas.  Celebrated for your orb which becomes the jar of golden nectar offered by Day in the place of Garuda, lord of birds, who troubles the hordes of rakshasas standing in for snakes who are adroit at playing games in the web of the night’s darkness which forms Patala.  Oh Martanda, you grace the gods who are forever praising you with a light which is anything but fierce, pure in your own boundless splendour – victory!

Your youth is attended by a glorious warm light which skillfully steals the web of snowflakes that lie thick upon the manes of the troop of awakening lions on the sunrise mountain.  You are the single spark that lights the fire of dawn.  Splendid, you cannot be characterised.  You freely undertake the protection of the terror-struck – child’s play to you.  You are the kaustubha jewel that lies upon the dark expanse of the sky that forms Vishnu’s chest.  You alone are worthy of the three worlds’ worship, eldest among the moon and celestial beings – to you I bow.

Let the wise gladly accept this daṇḍaka which Sri Shankar fixed upon the great umbrella – in the form of the grace of the sun – which destroys the burning heat of misfortune.

Dr Shankar Rajaraman

Verse for the week – 17th November 2009

क्रमेण धारामुसलप्रहारैः

प्रावृण् मयूरध्वनिबद्धगीतिः।

वियोगिहृत्तण्डुलखण्डनाय

प्रवर्तते लोलतडिद्भुजश्रीः॥

Krameṇa dhārā-musala-prahāraiḥ

Prāvṛṇ mayūra-dhvani-baddha-gītiḥ

Viyogi-hṛt-taṇḍula-khaṇḍanāya

Pravartate lola-taḍid-bhuja-śrīḥ

The rainy season begins by degrees to grind the hearts of separated lovers with the blows of the downpours that form her pestle, as though they were grains of rice.  The song she sings is the call of the peacocks and her glistening arms the flickering lightning.

Dr Shankar Rajaraman

Bangalore

Epicretold – the Mahabharata on Twitter

Chindu Sreedharan, a lecturer at Bournemouth University in the UK, is writing a version of the Mahabharata post by post on Twitter.  Below are the first 94 tweets of his epicretold.

For more background on Chindu’s version of the epic, see the interview with him here

I can’t help staring at the lady with the black cloth over her eyes. I feel disturbed, scared — but I can’t look away.

Pale, beautiful face. Black strip wound tight. Beneath it, the eyes – the eyes with which she wouldn’t see. Gandhari. Our aunt. The queen.

She hugs Mother. Then us five children. Yudhistira first, then me, Arjuna, the twins, Nakula and Sahadeva. Why is she sobbing?

“Come,” Aunt Gandhari says. “The king is waiting.” She turns. I see the knot of blindfold black against her gray hair. I stare.

I follow with Yudhistira, Mother and the young ones behind. The palace doors close behind us. So it is all true? We are really princes?

We had all lived in the forest. Us five, Mother, father Pandu and aunt Madri. The rishis there called Father king. I didn’t understand that.

I didn’t understand many things. Yudhistira said I was slow and stupid. But if father was king, why were we living in a forest lodge?

I never got answers. Still, life was fun. Yudhistira sat with rishis, Arjuna played at archery; I wandered, hunted rabbits with my toy mace.

And I swam. Sometimes when Yudhistira joined me, I would hold him under water. Maybe I was slow and stupid, but I was strong. Very strong.

That day Father had wandered off with aunt Madri, laughing. Mother sat by the window, still, silent. Then I heard the wailing.

I rushed out, Mother behind me. Aunt Madri fell into her arms sobbing. Father had slipped, she said, hit his head on a rock. He was dead.

I ran along the forest path to where Father lay, under the trees. There was blood on his face. I hadn’t known him well; now I wouldn’t.

Later they built a pyre. As the flames sprang up I saw Aunt Madri come out in her best robes. She hugged us each tight, walked to the pyre.

She circled it three times, head bent, lips moving. Then she turned, looked at us once — and walked into the flames.

I wanted to look away, but could not. Aunt Madri — she didn’t make a sound as the flames engulfed her.

Next day, men came in chariots. Mother spoke to them at length. After they left, she said, “We are going to Hastinapur, our kingdom.”

And now we’re walking through the palace — our palace? — with Aunt Gandhari. She walks alone, ahead, her blindfold black against her gray.

I know the story of that blindfold. A balladeer sang about it on our last night in the forest, the first time she ever sang about our clan.

Our aunt had vowed to cover her eyes, not see again, when she learnt she was to wed Dhritarashtra, blind prince of Hastinapur. Years ago.

She leads us to a doorway where two giant warriors cross spear points. They step aside. We walk into a huge hall, lit by dozens of lamps.

My feet, used to rough forest ground, slip on the polished marble. At the far end, on a golden throne, sits King Dhritarashtra. Our uncle.

He is huge — huge head, enormous chest, bulging arms — but not as huge as some of the woodcutters I have seen in the forest.

Our uncle is stronger than a thousand mad elephants, the balladeer had sung, the strongest man in the world. Is he — really?

He rises. The sightless eyes stare straight at Mother as she says, voice breaking, “I, Kunti, widow of your brother, bow before you.”

He blesses her, hugs her tight. Yudhistira steps forward and prostrates. Then it is my turn. I hesitate; someone pushes me forward.

He bends to touch my face, my shoulders, hands surprisingly soft. “Bhima has grown,” he says. “Only six, but so tall! He’ll make a warrior!”

His eyes are frightening — flat, cold, dead. They devour me. “I am glad you came,” he says finally, to Mother. “Now I have five more sons.”

I know the king has many sons — a hundred, the songs said. Why aren’t they here to greet us? I look around. And I see him.

He is my age, swathed in yellow silk robes. A gold necklace of many strands covers his chest. He stares at me fixedly from behind a pillar.

I smile. He keeps staring. Then abruptly he turns and walks away. I stand there feeling foolish, angry at the boy, angrier at myself.

I do not see him the next day. Or the next. But late one evening the next week, I find myself facing him in one of the smaller courtyards.

I am returning from another wander. Yudhistira has taken well to palace life — to the silk robes, the maids, the sleeping chambers. Not me.

I miss the forests, my old carefree life; I spend much of my time outdoors. This time when I get back the boy is standing in the shadows.

I have guessed who he is. Duryodhana, uncle Dhritarashtra’s son, eldest of the Kaurava brothers. My cousin, who turned his back on my smile.

He steps forward. I stop. I do not smile. “So you are the one,” he says. “The Pandava born to destroy my clan!”

That is one of those things I have heard the maids whispering. That, and I was son of Vaayu, the God of Wind. I do not understand that.

I do not understand either why they say Yudhistira is the son of Lord Yama Dharma, Arjuna the son of Lord Indra. Was not Pandu our father?

Now I hear it, from the tongue of this haughty boy. “Nothing to say, fool?” he taunts. “They say you are stupid!” I feel my anger rising.

I step towards him. “Aside!” I say. Duryodhana’s eyes widen, the angry surprise of a palace prince unused to challenge. Then I see rage.

I do not wait. I push, my forehand against his gold-strung chest. I feel him resist, we strain for a split second. He stumbles sideways.

Duryodhana is taller, bigger. But I am stronger – born to the forest, not to palace maids. I leave him against the wall. I do not look back.

I wait for Mother to chastise me the next day. She has not heard. Even the maids, who hear everything about everyone, have not heard.

I am relieved — or am I? There is so much I want to ask Mother. Why do they say I am born to kill my own cousins? Why the tales about me?

The palace has changed our lives. Mother is rarely alone here; so it is days before I speak to her. She frowns at my questions. Sighs.

“Maids’ tales!” she says, sitting me down. “Do not pay heed. You are the son of Pandu, the second in line to the throne of Hastinapur.

“Someday your brother Yudhistira will be king. You are strong, very strong. It is your duty to support him, to protect him — always.

“It will not be easy… Pray to Vaayu, seek His blessings — be strong like the wind.”

That night standing by my window I close my eyes, I whisper: O, Vaayu, God of Wind, bless me, protect me from harm, make me strong like you.

And I feel the touch of a gentle breeze, a caress, an embrace, soothing me, wiping my fears away… my God is listening.

From then on every night I pray to Vaayu — and every night he responds, with the softest of touches, making me feel strong, protected.

The next weeks bring a sense of rhythm into my life. Mornings, I wake up early, to the sounds of conch and music from the palace courtyard.

The maids would be waiting, with hot water and fragrant oils for my bath. Then it is time for Vedic school, for which I am inevitably late.

The bath makes me hungry, and though forbidden to eat before school, I always stop to gulp down the meat dishes the maids smuggle to me.

Grandfather Bhishma and Uncle Vidura, the most revered of our relatives, say our studies have suffered and we need to make up quickly.

Grandfather has engaged a teacher, just for the five of us. Uncle Vidura’s sons were to join our class, but for some reason they never do.

Yudhistira is happy about that. Uncle Vidura, he says, is our father’s half-brother, born to a maid, his sons not of royal lineage.

“They are sudhras, lower caste,” he tells me. “They should not be allowed to sit with us kshatriyas anyway.”

That is the thing about my elder brother. So very conscious about who is inferior to him, who his peer, what is right, what wrong.

He loves the Vedic sessions. As for me, my favourite part of the day begins when we troop to Shukacharya to learn the crafts of war.

Our cousins are taught by Kripacharya. Grandfather says we have a lot to catch up. How good is Duryodhana then, I sometimes wonder.

Duryodhana pretends to ignore me, though I see him watching me at practice often. I love the sessions, but hate the way everyone treats me.

My teacher, my cousins, even my brothers, they all see me as fat, slow — and stupid. Kripacharya even says so, when he gets angry.

In his eyes Yudhistira excels with chariots, Arjuna with the bow and arrow. Me, I am good only to wrestle or fight with the mace.

Even there he sees Duryodhana as my better. He is wrong. They all are. Or maybe they just find it more amusing to laugh at the fat fool.

Let them laugh. Perhaps it is better they are blind to my strengths, blind to the extra hours I put in after lessons in quiet corners.

I am growing strong, powerful. And more agile, fast on my feet, swift of arm and eye — swift like Vaayu, the God I pray to every night.

In a chariot I am more fluid than Yudhistira. With the bow and arrow, though not blessed like Arjuna, I am more effective than most.

Where I am more deliberate, Arjuna finds the target with no conscious effort. He says he’ll be the greatest archer on earth. I believe him.

He believes the court singers’ tale that Indra, king of all gods, is his father. He prays to him constantly, practices relentlessly.

If Arjuna is not with me, I usually slip into the elephant paddock as I return. The mahouts indulge me; I am the only prince to visit them.

On one such occasion, as I finish grooming the little tusker the mahouts have ‘given’ me, I sense someone behind me. I turn around.

Duryodhana is watching me from the massive doorway silently. He is not alone. With him are two others I recognise. Dushasana and Karna.

Dushasana is the second eldest of my cousins, a sad shadow of Duryodhana. Karna, I know of as the son of Adhirtatha, the king’s charioteer.

From afar the son of the charioteer looks a bit like Yudhistira. But my brother would never have the scoff of scorn Karna is wearing now.

I do not want trouble. I step away from the elephant, move towards a side entrance. Footsteps rapidly close behind me. I stop.

“He is running away.” Duryodhana is laughing. “The fat fool is afraid!” Dushasana joins in, an unconvincing echo of his elder brother.

“Look at him shaking,” Karna says. “Is this the one they say will destroy your clan and drink your blood, Duryodhana? This fat fool?”

Fat fool. I am used to that. But somehow those words from Karna anger me more. What right does this charioteer’s son have to call me that?

I will pay him back — but not with words. Duryodhana has taken a fighting stance; I see Dushasana edging sideways. I take a deep breath.

I know what to expect. Duryodhana will lunge, try to grab me in a dueling lock as we have been taught. Dushasana will attack my flank.

I pretend to watch Dushasana, turning slightly. As I see Duryodhana tensing, preparing to rush me, I pivot, kicking out hard at his knees.

Duryodhana falls heavily, yowling in pain. I turn quickly, allowing Dushasana to run into my elbow at the end of his clumsy rush.

As he staggers, I shove him hard, sending him towards Duryodhana. He trips, falls over. I do not let them recover; I cannot afford to.

Slipping behind, I grab their hair. Their heads are slick with oil, but I get a good grip, tug hard. Their heads clash together. I repeat.

Again and again, I tug. They squirm, yell, but I do not stop. Karna has disappeared. Shouts. Running feet. Rough hands wrench me away.

The mahouts surround Duryodhana and Dushasana. There is blood on their heads, on Dushasana’s face. I walk away; I will pay Karna back later.

Much later I approach Mother’s chambers. Yudhistira is there. To my surprise, he embraces me. I embrace him, then touch Mother’s feet.

“Son, why did you attack your cousins?” she asks quietly. I didn’t, I say. She looks at me for a long moment, without a word.

“That charioteer’s son came to complain about you to Grandfather Bhishma,” Yudhistira says. “He said you jumped them from behind.”

They listen to me in silence. “I understand why you fought,” Mother says finally, “but did you have to hurt them so bad?” I have no answer.

Mother pulls me close. “Keep away from those boys, Bhima,” she tells me. “They will try to harm you — and people will always blame you.”

Yudhistira walks me to the door. “Child, Duryodhana will want revenge,” he says, embracing me again. “Be careful. Don’t go out after dark.”

I nod. Fat fool I may be, but I have already figured that out.

To follow the rest of the story on Twitter, click here.

A Modern Day Ashtavadhanam

When Sanskrit was supported by a bulging royal purse and mastery over the language regarded as the pinnacle of intellectual success, Sanskrit scholars of all types had ample leisure and resources to dedicate themselves to phenomenal feats of the mind.  Now that a Masters in Marketing carries more weight than a Sanskrit doctorate and wealthy royal patrons have been replaced by a government with all too little money for the arts, you might imagine that Sanskrit scholarship would have diminished.

And yet erudition for erudition’s sake still flourishes. The great kavya (poetry) contests of Sanskrit’s heyday survive seemingly in spite of all the odds among small pockets of Sanskrit enthusiasts who compete not for the bountiful favour of a monarch but for the sheer love of it.

Last month saw a Sanskrit Ashtavadhanam (literally ‘eight-fold concentration’) organised by the Samskrta Sangha at the Tata Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.  An Avadhanam is a particular type of poetical contest today popular in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka particularly – the contests can also be conducted in these states’ regional languages, Telugu and Kannada.  The contests are categorised according to the number of questioners they have, starting with the Ashtavadhanam which has eight.

Dr Shankar Rajaraman, an appropriately multi-talented psychiatrist, artist and Sanskrit poet as well as scholar, was in the hot seat as the avadhani (literally ‘concentrator’) being put to the test by eight pricchakas (questioners).  The avadhaani must mentally compose verses on the spot – no pen or paper is allowed – according to the rules of each of the categories.

The first pricchaka is the Nishedhaakshari, the one who forbids certain sounds.  He might ask the avadhani to compose a poem on Ganesha, but prohibit the syllable ‘ga’.  As the avadhani fixes on a synonym, the interrogator predicts the word he is about to say and prohibits the syllable with which that begins and so on.  Next is the Datta Padi, the one who supplies words.  He will often give the avadhaani a non-Sanskrit word irrelevant to the topic of the verse, which he must somehow weave into his verse.  He might supply “Limca” for example to fit into a verse on the Mahabharata.

Third is the Samasya Puranam.  For this the avadhani is given a meaningless, illogical or obscene line for which he must supply the next three lines and thus render the verse meaningful or decent.  Take the following literal translation of an illogical line for instance:

“Lalita begged Deva for Ganga”

If we read Parvati for Lalita and Shiva for Deva, as would be most natural, we are presented with an illogical situation because Parvati would never beg her husband, Shiva, for her sworn rival Ganga.  The poet in this instance could supply the rest of the lines using modern political material in such a way as to suggest that the first line in fact meant that the Tamil politician Jayalitha had begged Deve Gowda, the political grandfather of Karnataka, for the Kaveri (the Kaveri is the Ganga of the South) with reference to the Tamil-Kannada water dispute.

The fourth element of the contest is Dr Shankar’s speciality, citra kavya or picture poetry.  A citra kavya is a poem whose syllables can be inserted into a complex pattern usually based upon an animal or plant and thus read in several different ways, rather like a crossword or Su Doku puzzle.  In this, the pricchaka will give the avadhani a particular citra kavya formation for which he must compose a poem.  A Krishna Naaga Bandha (cobra formation) for instance might look something like this; every other syllable must fit into two words in the poem:

citrakavya

This is one of the most difficult parts of the avadhaanam.  The avadhani has to be able to mentally calculate which syllables will repeat and where – for instance that ‘ri’ must be the second and the penultimate syllable – and then construct a verse which fulfils the technical requirements, makes sense and has poetic merit.

Fifth is the Ashu Kavitvam, literally “fast poetry”, where a poet has to compose four verses on one topic according to the interrogator’s specifications such as the use of a particular alamkara (poetic figure) or chandas (metre).  Next is the Kavya Vacanan, in which the pricchaka will recite a verse taken from classical Sanskrit literature and the avadhani must supply the reference.  The role of the seventh scholar, the Sankhya Bandha, is to disturb the poet in some way, by ringing a bell for example at random intervals or throwing a flower upon his back.  At the end of the session, the poet must tell his audience how many times the bell rang or a flower was thrown.  Finally, it is the turn of the Aprastuta Prasanga, to whose verses the poet must provide a humorous answer.

The session involves four rounds of each and takes about three to four hours.  One of the pricchakas on this occasion was Dr Ganesh, who has earned the distinction ‘Shatavadhani’ in recognition of his ability to face up to 100 questioners.  The Ashtavadana is level 1 as it were. Next comes the Shatavadanam, then the Sahasravadhanam (1,000) and so on to 5,000 – although it is apparently hard to get 5,000 scholars together so sometimes a slightly smaller group will divide up the questions between them.

Only two of the pricchakas on Saturday were Sanskrit teachers; for all of the others, including Dr Shankar, this is simply a hobby that they do outside work.  Nor is their audience made up of traditional Sanskrit scholars – the majority are students of the IISC, who find time in between their doctoral theses to pursue their interests in Sanskrit.  Highbrow Sanskrit arts are far from dead.

In Praise of Sri Kanakadurga

श्री कनकदुर्गा स्तवम्

 Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam

आत्मना दर्शयामि मनसा भजामि

बुद्ध्या जानामि चित्तेन स्मरामि

आनन्दरूपीण्यां कनकदुर्गायां

लीनं करोमि मिथ्याहं ममत्वं च

श्रीदेवीप्रीतिवृद्धये उपासयामि

महादेवीं त्रिपुरसुन्दरीं शारदाम्

प्रसन्नदृष्टियुतां शिवकामेश्वरीम्

सुस्थिरानन्यभक्तिप्रदात्रीं भवानीं श्रियम्

तडिल्लतातन्वीं दरहासोज्वलन्मुखीम्

कृष्णनदीतटस्थेन्द्रकीलाद्विन्द्राणीम्

शिवमनोवल्लरीं मल्लेश्वरप्रणयिनीम्

विमलाम् विजयवटिकापुराधीश्वरीम्

 

IN PRAISE OF GODDESS KANAKA DURGA

I sight Her through my self

I sing Her with my heart

I know Her with my mind

I repeatedly chant Her in my thoughts

Into Kanakadurga, the very embodiment of bliss,

Do I sink, submerging my false sense of self and identity.

I meditate upon the goddess hoping to augment her favour

I pray to Mahadevi, Tripura Sundari, Sarada

Sivakameswari, whose gaze makes all calm –

She offers unassailable, undivided loyalty.

I bow to Bhavani, Sri,

Her body a streak of lightning, her face ablaze with a cavernous smile.

She resides on Indra Kiladri, on the banks of the Krishna river.

Indrani, entwined around Shiva’s heart like a creeper, the beloved of Lord Malleswara,

Eternally pure, our lady of Vijayawatika.

Goddess Kanadurga is the presiding deity of Vijayawada, situated on the banks of river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh. Malleswara is Lord Siva, the beloved consort of goddess Kanakadurga.


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