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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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