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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Subhashita-kaustubha (10-12)

सुभाषितकौस्तुभः (१०-१२)
नासौ युष्मद्विहृतिसमयो मानसं यात हंसाः
जृम्भन्तेऽमी ननु जलधराश्छादिताशास्तमोभिः ।
पुष्णन्त्येतान् कटु विरटतस्ते बकानेव नास्मिन्
काले दीप्त्यै कलरवकलाकौशलं पेशलं वः ॥ १० ॥
O swans, this is not the time for you for recreation. You go to Manas lake. Having enveloped with darkness in all directions these clouds are spreading out. During this time only the ducks which cackle horribly thrive. Your skill in making pleasant sound does not shine. (The poet is indirectly advising a person who is trying to display his talents at an inopportune time. We have a series of अन्योक्ति’s)

हा कष्टं परपुष्ट सिन्धुतटभूतालीवनान्तर्गतम्
माकन्दं ध्रुवमङ्ग दुष्कृतपरीपाकादुपागाद् भवान् ।
लोलत्तालदलध्वनिद्विगुणितैरब्धेः कठोरारवैः
सारल्यादभिभूत एति यदसौ नोदञ्चनं पञ्चमः ॥ ११ ॥
Dear cuckoo, due to your bad destiny you have gone to a mango tree which is amidst palm trees by the sea. Your panchama note does not gain recognition having been defeated by the terrible rumblings of the sea combined with the sound of swaying palm trees. (The poet refers to the plight of a talented person in the wrong place.)

मानार्हं कुसुमकुलेषु कैतकं तत्
प्रायेण प्रथितविवेकमेकमेव ।
बिभ्राणां न भजति धूर्जटेर्जटां यत् ॥ १२ ॥
Among the flowers perhaps ketaka flower is the only one which can discriminate and therefore worthy of respect. Because it does not find a place in the matted locks of Siva, which carries the dhattura flower along with the white flowers of the kalpataru, the divine tree. (The reference is to the practice of not offering ketaka [generally called taaley,taalam in South Indian languages] to Siva although dhattura [white thorn apple] flower is offered. Dhattura is considered a lowly plant whose seeds are supposed to be poisonous. We need to bear in mind that Venkatadhvari is a srivaishnava! The poet applauds a person who refuses to mingle with the lowly.)
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Subhashita-kaustubha (7-9)

सुभाषिततकौस्तुभः (७-९)
सुधापृषतसोदरैरपि सुधीजनाह्लादनैः
न रञ्जयितुमीष्महे नरमपण्डितं भाषितैः ।
कलानिधिशिलाद्रवीकृतिचणैरपि त्विट्कणैः
चिरेण दृषदन्तरे दिशति किं द्रवं चन्द्रमाः ॥ ७ ॥
We cannot please the un-informed by utterances which bring joy to a scholar and which are akin to drops of ambrosia. Can moon make any other stone ooze out by its particles of rays which are famous for making moon-stones ooze out? [Moon-stone is supposed to ooze out when exposed to moon-light. Use of such fictitious pseudo-observations is quite common in Sanskrit literature.] 

काञ्चिज्जलाशयमुपेत्य वने विविक्ते ।
कर्णामृतध्वनिकृतस्तव कण्ठशोषा-
दन्यत्फलं न खलु हंस विभावयामः ॥ ८ ॥
O swan, we do not see any result other than  the drying up of your throat by your melodious singing in a lonely forest near some lake which is full of groups of frogs, water snakes and lowly birds. [The poet is indirectly addressing a poet to desist from wasting his efforts in pleasing people who are not competent to appreciate him. Such indirect statements come under the category of अन्योक्ति or अन्यापदेश.]

दन्तावलेन्द्रमभितो ननु दानलाभ-
प्रत्याशया भ्रमर चारु करोषि गीतम् ।
जानाति किं स तव गानरसं मदान्धो
दानार्थिनं प्रसभमस्यति कर्णवातैः ॥ ९ ॥
O bee, you sing nicely around the leader elephant in the hope of getting in return ichor ( the juice that exudes from its temples when it is in rut.) But does that elephant which is blind with intoxication know what the essence of your music is? While you expect to get its ichor, it quickly drives you away by flapping of its ears. [By the use of word दान which also means ichor, the poet indirectly refers to someone who is currying the favour of a hot-headed person who cannot appreciate him and is likely to drive him away.]
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Subhashita-kaustubha (4-6)

सुभाषितकौस्तुभः (४-६)
अविवेकपद्धतिः ( Section on imprudence)
विदग्धव्याहारैर्न जडमतिरानन्दति मनाक्
 अनालापज्ञानां न च वचनतः खेदमयते ।
न विन्दत्यानन्दं जरठवृषभश्चन्दनरसैः
असौ पङ्कालेपैरपि विषादं न जुषते ॥ ४ ॥
The dull headed does not enjoy even a little of the utterances of intellectuals. He neither feels depressed by the words of those who are ignorant of good conversation. The old bull does not feel happy by the application of sandal wood juice, nor does it feel depressed by the application of slough. 

वाचाटोक्तौ वागमृते वा सुकवीनाम्
स्तोकप्रज्ञास्तुल्यदृशो हन्त भवन्ति ।
गोमायूनां कोकिलयूनामपि शब्दे-
ष्वेकाकारा मानसवृत्तिर्महिषाणाम् ॥ ५ ॥
Alas, persons of little intelligence display the same attitude towards the talk of the garrulous and the ambrosia-like words of good poets. The mental attitude of buffaloes is the same towards the howls of jackals and the notes of youthful cuckoos.

अस्ति प्रशस्तिर्न कवीन्द्रवाचाम् ।
मण्डूकसंघे मधुरापि सा किम्
मयूरगीतिर्बहुमानमेति ? ॥ ६ ॥
In the gathering of the ignorant there is no value to the wonderful sayings of great poets. Do the notes of a peacock even if melodious get recognized among a group of frogs?
(The above verses lament on the state of good poets among the ignorant flock. An unknown poet bemoans the state of poets as follows, अरसिकेषु कवित्वनिवेदनं शिरसि मा लिख मा लिख मा लिख [Do not ever write on my forehead the fate of reciting my poetry among those who are devoid of taste.])
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Subhashita-kaustubha of Venkatadhvari


Venkatadhvari, also known as Venkatesakavi and Atreya Venaktacharya is well known by his  work, “Viswagunadarsacampu”[विश्वगुणादर्शचम्पू] where he has employed a novel way of describing the weak points and strong points of places, persons and systems in the guise of a conversation between divine beings traversing India from Himalaya to Kanyakumari in a celestial gondola. He lived in the 17th century in a hamlet near Kanchipuram, Tamilnadu. Another work of his which gained recognition is “Lakshmisahasram”[लक्ष्मीसहस्रम्],a hymn to Goddess Lakshmi which is modeled on “Padukasahasram”[पादुकासहस्रम्], the well-known work of Vedanta Desika. “Subhashitakaustubha”  is a  minor work of the author, wherein the poet has composed 101 verses of good sayings.

The genre of “good sayings” has a long history and the foremost and one of the earliest in this genre is Bhatrhari’s “Satakatrayam”[शतकत्रयम्]. “Subhashitaneevee” [सुभाषितनीवी] by Vedantadesika is another  work, which seems to have influenced Venkatadhvari in composing this.  

It is learnt that “Subhashitakaustubhah” was first published as a book in Kanchipuram more than a century ago. It was republished around 1976 in Mysore by Vidvan H.V.Nagarajarao, who is the honorary editor of “Sudharma”, the Sanskrit daily. Sri. Nagarajarao has provided a lucid commentary in Sanskrit. I have taken guidance from his commentary while translating the text into English. 

The poet starts with a customary verse of invocation.
वन्दे वाञ्छितदायि वेङ्कटगिरेर्वेदस्य चोत्तंसकम्
पुंसः कंसजितस्तदङ्घ्रिकमलं पूरेण यज्जन्मना ।
शम्भुश्शाश्वतशेखरो जलनिधिर्जाग्रद्-द्वितीयाश्रमः
संजातः सगरान्वयोऽप्यमृतवान् नाको नदीमातृकः ॥ १ ॥
I bow to the lotus feet of Lord Krishna, the slayer of Kamsa. Those feet are the crest of Venkatagiri(Tirumalai) and of the Vedas. From those feet emanated the river (Ganga) which forms the permanent crown of Siva, which caused the Ocean God to enter the marital state, which enabled Sagara’s progeny to attain salvation and which made the divine world an irrigated land. (The verse alludes to the following Puranic episodes: Ganga emanated from the feet of Vishnu and fell on the matted locks of Siva. Later as it joined the ocean, Ganga became the wife of Ocean and thus caused him to enter marital state [second  asram]. King Sagara’s progeny who had been burnt and denied salvation while searching for the sacrificial horse got salvation after Bhagiratha managed to take Ganga to flood the ashes. As Ganga became the Divine river of the divine world (svarga), svarga became a land irrigated by a river.
Land is “devamatrka” if it is dependant solely on rains for cultivation. It is “nadimatrika” if the land is served by a river for cultivation.
As the Vedas extol the Almighty, they are considered to emanate from the feet of the Lord.)

श्रीवेङ्कटार्यमखिना रघुनाथसूरेः
संप्राप्तजन्मयुगलेन यथामनीषम् ।
आतन्यते सुमनसामनसूयकानाम्
हर्षाय संप्रति सुभाषितकौस्तुभोऽयम् ॥ २ ॥
For the joy of the learned who are not jealous, this “Subhashitakaustubha” is being provided as per his intellectual abilities by Venkatamakhi, who got both his births from Raghunaathasoori ( Father gave him the second birth through the rite of upanayanam. Kaustubha is the gem obtained while churning the ocean and which is worne by Vishnu on his chest. Just as Kaustubha is the best of gems, these goodsayings are the best of the genre. Although the name of the poet is given here as Venkatamakhi, he is usually called Venkatadhvari.)

तत्तादृक्पुरुषोत्तमहृदयङ्गममिममभङ्गगुणबद्धम् ।
सुधियः साधु सुभाषितकौस्तुभमनघं परीक्ष्य नन्दन्तु ॥ ३ ॥
May the learned rejoice by carefully examining this “subhashita-kaustubha”  which touches the hearts of such great persons and which is composed of unbroken qualities.
(Through a clever use of appropriate double-meaning words the poet compares this work with that of Kaustubha gem, which is at the heart of “Purushottama” and which is strung with an unbroken [अभङ्ग] thread [गुण].)  
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Gangalahari with my translation in English in pdf format is uploaded at

Those interested may download it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gangalahari (49-52) END

गङ्गालहरी (४९-५२)
भवज्वलनभर्जिताननिशमूर्जयन्ती नरान् ।
विवेकमयचन्द्रिकाचयचमत्कृतिं तन्वती
तनोतु मम शं तनोः सपदि शन्तनोरङ्गना ॥ ४९ ॥
Giving life to those who are constantly fried by the fire of worldly affairs with the ambrosia of the flood of lustre of her smiling face, may Ganga, consort of Santanu, provide solace to my body by the charm of moonlight-like true knowledge.

मंत्रैर्मीलितमौषधैर्मुकुलितं त्रस्तं सुराणां गणैः
स्रस्तं सान्द्रसुधारसैर्विदलितं गारुत्मतैर्ग्रावभिः ।
वीचिक्षालितकालियाहितपदे स्वर्लोककल्लोलिनि
त्वं तापं निरयाधुना मम भवव्यालावलीढात्मनः ॥ ५० ॥
O Divine river, your feet has been felt by Kaliya who was washed by your waves. Now remove the distress of my soul which has been bitten(tasted) by the serpent of worldly indulgence which has not been amenable to chants, medicines, assemblies of divinities, dense ambrosia and stone-charms of Garutman. (Translation conveys the gist only. Literal translation is not likely to be helpful.)  

द्यूते नागेन्द्रकृत्तिप्रमथगणमणिश्रेणिनन्दीन्दुमुख्यं
सर्वस्वं हारयित्वा स्वमथपुरभिदि द्राक्पणीकर्तुकामे ।
साकूतं हैमवत्या मृदुलहसितया वीक्षितायास्तवाम्ब
व्यालोलोल्लासिवल्गल्लहरिनटघटीताण्डवं नः पुनातु ॥ ५१ ॥
Mother, while Siva and Parvati played with dice, Siva having lost as wager the snake, his elephant hide, his retinue of pramathas, the bull, the moon and all, wanted to place himself as wager and your manly dance disorderly, joyful and bouncing resembling that of a dancer with a pot on his head was seen feelingly by a smiling Parvati. May that dance sanctify us. [ Ganga must have felt elated that Siva did not place her also as wager and hence her joyful dance as she ensconced herself  in the matted locks of Siva!] 

सद्यः कृतानेकजनार्तिभङ्गा ।
गङ्गा ममाङ्गान्यमलीकरोतु ॥ ५२ ॥
May Ganga, who adorns the head of Siva, who destroys the diseases of many persons and whose high dancing waves are delightful make my parts of the body pure.
[Perhaps the poet took a dip in the Ganga as he recited
this last stanza. Does the repetitive syllable ङ्ग sound like the bubbles as he took the dip?  ]


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gangalahari (46-48)

गङ्गालहरी (४६-४८)
पयः पीत्वा मातस्तव सपदि यातः सहचरैः
विमूढैः संरन्तुं क्वचिदपि न विश्रान्तिमगमम् ।
इदानीमुत्सङ्गे मृदुपवनसञ्चारशिशिरे
चिरादुन्निद्रं मां सदयहृदये स्थापय चिरम् ॥ ४६ ॥
Mother, having drunk your milk (water) I quickly went away with dull headed friends and I did not get rest anywhere. Kind-hearted mother, please take me for ever who has woken up after a long time on to your lap which is cool due to the movement of soft wind.

बधान द्रागेव द्रढिमरमणीयं परिकरम्
किरीटे बालेन्दुं नियमय पुनः पन्नगगणैः ।
न कुर्यास्त्वं हेलामितरजनसाधारणधिया
जगन्नाथस्यायं सुरधुनि समुद्धारसमयः ॥ ४७ ॥
Divine river, forthwith gird up your loins made beautiful by their firmness. Restrain the crescent moon on your crown with the help of snakes. Do not take it easy thinking of ordinary persons. Time has come now to rescue this Jagannatha. (As Ganga resides in the locks of Siva, the crescent moon adores her crown too. So are the snakes around neck of Siva available to her to do her bidding. So imagines Jagannatha. Perhaps as Ganga girds up her loins to rescue Jagannatha, the crescent moon is disturbed and he requests her to restrain the moon by binding him with snakes. The poet is no ordinary sinner and Ganga has to take special efforts to raise him up!)

शरच्चन्द्रश्वेतां शशिशकलशोभालमुकुटाम्
करैः कुम्भाम्भोजे वरभयनिरासौ विदधतीम् ।
सुधासाराकाराभरणवसनां शुभ्रमकर-
स्थितां त्वां ध्यायन्त्युदयति न तेषां परिभवः ॥ ४८ ॥
You are as white as the moon in autumn. Your crown is resplendent with the crescent moon. You carry two pot-like lotuses and two abhayamudras in your hands. Your garments and ornaments are as white as the essence of ambrosia. You are on a white makara. One who contemplates on your form does not face defeat. (The poet visualizes Ganga in a human form. She has four hands [करैः is plural]. Two hands convey abhayamudra [वर-भयनिरासौ]. Two hands carry two large lotuses [कुम्भाम्भोजे].Note: It is possible that I have not grasped the purport of the poet, although I have tried my best to decipher what he wants to convey. Is there any specific human form traditionally given to Ganga? Why is Ganga on a मकर? The Sanskrit commentary has not been of much help. Help from readers is welcome. What exactly is मकर is not clear, although it is a fairly common word. Is it crocodile or shark or some other animal? )
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Gangalahari (43-45)

गङ्गालहरी (४३-४५)

हसन्तः सोल्लासं विकचकुसुमव्रातमिषतः ।
पुनानाः सौरभ्यैः सततमलिनो नित्यमलिनान्
सखायो नः सन्तु त्रिदशतटिनीतीरतरवः ॥ ४३ ॥
The trees on the banks of Ganga, the divine river, with their bunches of blossoms seem to be laughing merrily at the foolish people who are engrossed in their own world. May the trees with their fragrance which all the time sanctify the bees which are ever black be our friends. [ A naughty thought! Did the poet suffer a temporary lack of ideas?]   

भजन्त्येके देवान् कठिनतरसेवांस्तदपरे
वितानव्यासक्ता यमनियमरक्ताः कतिपये ।
अहं तु त्वन्नामस्मरणहितकामस्त्रिपथगे
जगज्जालं जाने जननि तृणजालेन सदृशम् ॥ ४४ ॥
Some seek Gods, others seek difficult services, others sacrifices, yet others indulge in observance of penance and meditation. But, O Divine river, I like the comfort of mentally repeating your name. Mother, I treat this web of worldly life as worthless as straw.

अविश्रान्तं जन्मावधि सुकृतकर्मार्जनकृताम्
सतां श्रेयः कर्तुं कति न कृतिनः सन्ति विबुधाः ।
निरस्तालम्बानामकृतसुकृतानां तु भवतीम्
विनामुष्मिन् लोके न परमवलोके हितकरम् ॥ ४५ ॥
There are any number of the blessed and the learned who do good to those who are tirelessly earning virtuous acts right from their birth. But I do not see anyone in this world other than you who could benefit those who are devoid of support and who have not done any virtuous act.
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Friday, September 2, 2011

Gangalahari (40-42)

गङ्गालहरी (४०-४२)
कपर्दादुल्लस्य प्रणयमिलदर्धाङ्गयुवतेः
मुरारेः प्रेङ्खन्त्यो मृदुलतरसीमन्तसरणौ ।
भवान्या सापत्न्या स्फुरितनयनं कोमलरुचा
करेणाक्षिप्तास्ते जननि विजयन्तां लहरयः ॥ ४० ॥
When your waves spilled out from the matted hairs of Siva, whose half of the body was that of his beloved, Parvati who was your rival warded them off with her tender hands while her looks showed annoyance. Mother, may those waves flourish. [ Siva was अर्धनारीश्वर and therefore waves of Ganga affected Parvati too, who considered Ganga her rival]

प्रपद्यन्ते लोकाः कति न भवतीमत्रभवतीम्
उपाधिस्तत्रायं स्फुरति यदभीष्टं वितरसि ।
अये तुभ्यं मातर्मम तु पुनरात्मा सुरधुनि
स्वभावादेव त्वय्यमितमनुरागं विधृतवान् ॥ ४१ ॥
Mother, Divine River, what a large number of people take refuge in you! It appears that the reason is that you fulfill their desires. As for me, my mind is by nature deeply attached to you.

ललाटे या लोकैरिह खलु सलीलं तिलकिता
तमो हन्तुं धत्ते तरुणतरमार्तण्डतुलनाम् ।
विलुम्पन्ती सद्यो विधिलिखितदुर्वर्णसरणिं
त्वदीया सा मृत्स्ना मम हरतु कृत्स्नामपि शुचम् ॥ ४२ ॥
Your clay which is put on the forehead as a mark by people to destroy the darkness looks like the early morning sun. May that clay which immediately removes the series of bad luck written by fate remove all my sorrow. 
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