(Gangalahari of panditajagannatha)
Jagannatha Pandita who lived during the reign of emperor Shahajehan (1592-1666) in Delhi for several years under his patronage was a Telugu Brahmin whose father Perubhatta was an erudite scholar. Jagannatha, endowed with sharp intellect, acquired deep knowledge in various fields of learning under the tutelage of his father. It is said that he first went to Tanjore to establish himself. But failing in his effort he moved North ultimately landing in Delhi where Shahjehan recognized his merit and offered him his patronage. His fame spread far and wide.
A story goes that young Jagannatha fell in love with a Muslim girl –emperor’s daughter- and married her.
He has authored a number of well known works, the most famous of which is “Rasagangadhara”- a treatise on poetics. He was also a contemporary of Appayaadikshita, author of “Kuvalayananda”- again an authoritative work on Figures of speech. Appayyadikshita was Jagannatha Pandita’s literary rival and he severely criticized Appayyadikshita in his work.
There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, connecting these two great authors. Jagannatha who was old then was sleeping on the banks of Ganga with his Muslim wife when Appayyadikshita came there for a bath. Inadvertently Appayyadikshita stepped on Jagannatha and exclaimed
“किं निश्शङ्कं शेषे शेषेवयसि त्वमागते मृत्यौ”
“Why are you sleeping without any care when Death is knocking at your doors?”
Quickly he recognized Jagannatha and said
“अथवा सुखं शयीथाः निकटे जागर्ति जाह्नवी भवतः”
“Or do sleep comfortably. Ganga is awake by your side.”
Jagannatha wrote “Gangalahari” eulogizing Ganga perhaps to expiate for his sin of marrying a Muslim woman. It has 52 verses and it is said that as he recited verse after verse Ganga rose up steadily one step for a verse and on the 52nd verse Ganga touched Jagannatha washing away his sins.
Now let us get to know this fine piece of poetry. I have taken guidance from the Sanskrit commentary on Gangalahari authored by Late. K N Varadaraja Iyengar.
गङ्गालहरी (Wave of Ganga or Flow of Ganga)
समृद्धं सौभाग्यं सकलवसुधायाः किमपि तत्-
महैश्वर्यं लीलाजनितजगतः खण्डपरशोः ।
श्रुतीनां सर्वस्वं सुकृतमथ मूर्तं सुमनसां
सुधासौन्दर्यं ते सलिलमशिवं नः शमयतु ॥ १ ॥
You are the complete fortune of the whole world. You are that un-describable wealth of Siva who playfully created the world. You are the sum and substance of the Vedas. You are the good fortune and personified beauty of ambrosia for the divine beings. May your waters destroy our sins.
दरिद्राणां दैन्यं दुरितमथ दुर्वासनहृदाम्
द्रुतं दूरीकुर्वन् सकृदपि गतो दृष्टिसरणिम् ।
प्रवाहस्ते वारां श्रियमयमपारां दिशतु नः ॥ २ ॥
If the pitiable state and sin of the wretched, whose heart is full of past sinful actions receives your glances even once, they get removed at once. May your water-current which is the anointed preceptor for quickly uprooting right up to the tree of avidyaa (illusion) provide us unlimited prosperity.
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