Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Samasya Pooranam

S. Meera



The other day I saw a boy trying to remember a quaint poem he learnt at school. It was one of those reverberating lines of Wordsworth. “She lived unknown and few could know when Lucy ceased to be–But she is in her grave and oh, the difference to me.” This line must have kept on ringing in his ears but he could not recapture the previous lines. This led me on to think how memory power and resourcefulness in general had deteriorated in our times. Surely none of us could stand on a par with those prodigies of wisdom much spoken of in those ancient days.

Those were the days of plenty and prosperity, when kings took care of the economic welfare of the people and people had time to think of their spiritual welfare and aesthetics. The king himself was a connoisseur of learning. He did his best to encourage arts and poetics. We hear about kings like Bhoja who spent their time pleasantly conversing with poets. The poets too were of no mean order. They could compose poems about anything and everything under the sun within a twinkling of an eye. Let us see some such specimens from the rich archives of Sanskrit literature.

As soon as we lay Sanskrit, the one poet who comes to our mind is Kaalidaasa. This poet was once asked by his king to compose a verse with ha kha ga gha in the last line. How to make sense out of this nonsensical string of consonants? How to bring in all these consonants together, that too in the same line of a verse? All others were puzzled and they accepted their defeat too easily. But Kaalidasa tackled this problem in his own characteristic way. Here is the verse:

Kaa tvam baale kaancanamaalaa

Kasyaah putrid kanakalataayaah

Haste kim te taaleepatram 
Kaa vaa rekhaa ka kha ga gha.

“Girl, who are you?” “Kaancanamaala.” “Whose daughter?” “Of Kanakalataa.” “What is that in your hand?” “Palm leaf.” “What is written in it?” “ka kha ga gha.”In this question and answer type of verse he has cleverly brought in the required phrase. There seems to be no other way of tackling this problem. We see euphony also here and adequate effect created by profuse use of ka varga. The king not to be outdone asked again to compose a verse with the sound gulu guggulu guggulu. Here is a real problem. This meaningless jumble can be brought into a verse only within the great dexterity. But our aasukavi to whom verses occur within the twinkling of an eye, heard in this meaningless string of words the sound of something falling into the water. He says:

jamboophalaani pakkvaani
patanti vinale jale
gulu guggulu guggulu.  

‘The ripe roseberry fruits fall into the limpid water from the branches shaken by mischievous monkeys, with the sound gulu guggulu guggulu. Here the gurgling sound made by the objects falling into the water is described in a very realistic manner. The king then asked the court to give him a verse having the phrase 'thathantha thanthantha thathantha thanthah’. The other poets saw the futility of trying. But our poet came off with a verse. He heard in the phrase the sound of a golden vessel falling on the staircase. Here is the verse:

raajaabhishekaaya jalam nayantyaah
hastaat cyuto hemaghato yuvatyaah
sopaanamaargeshu karoti sabdam
thathantha thanthantha thathantha thanthah,

“A girl who was carrying water for the king’s ablutions let fall the golden pot. This fell down on the stairs and made the sound ‘thathantha thanthantha thathantha thanthah’. Here we can see the sound is a prolonged one. So the poet says Sopaanamaargeshu. The pot tumbled down step by step in the stairs till it reached the landing.

On another occasion, the king asked the court to write a verse beginning with “paripatati pascime patangah”. “The sun is setting down in the west.” Here is the beautiful piece Kaalidaasa wrote:

paripatati pascime patangah
udyaanavanakotareshu vihangah
mukulita kamaleshu mattabhringah
yuvatijaneshu sanaissanairanangah.

“The sun is setting down in the west, the bird in the tree-holes of the gardens, the intoxicated bee inside the closed lotus and the love little by little in the womenfolk.”

This habit of writing verses with a given phrase–called Samasyaa pooranam–grew in time more complex. Often the given line was contradictory and hard to reconcile. This gave more opportunity for the ingenuity of later poets. Though we see in vain for the simplicity and beauty of early work, we do see plenty of skill in later centuries. Here is a statement, “Satacandram nabhastalam”. “Hundred moons in the sky.” Doubtless any one will agree that this is an impossibility. Now the poet has to invent a circumstance in which this will be accounted for. Here are three different resolutions of the same. Bana writes:

dristam caanuramallena
satacandram nabhastalam.

“His mind shattered by the mighty blow dealt by Krishna, hundred moons were seen by the reeling wrestler Caanura.” Bhartrihari writes:

vidhe pidhehi sitaamsum
yaavannaayaati me priyah
aagate dayite kuryaat
satacandram nabhastalam.

“O cruel fate! Cover the cool-rayed moon from the firmament till my beloved comes. Once he has come you can create hundred moons in the sky.” Yet another resolution by Amaruka is as follows:

calat tarangarangaayam
gangaayaam pratibimbitam
sacandram sobhate ’tyartham
satacandram nabhastalam.

“On the trembling surface of the Ganges which moved about frequently due to constant waves is seen the sky with hundred moons reflected.” This is a picturesque description of a natural phenomenon. For the same line we see different resolutions depending upon the temperament of the poet. Thus the first is apt and realistic, the second sentimental and appealing and the third beautiful and ingenuous. Here is another statement:

mrigaat simhah palaayate

“The lion runs away from the deer.” Kavi Bijaka resolves it thus:

heenahatyaa dadhaatyeva
laaghavam mahataamapi
iti matvaa dvipadvesi
mrigaat simhah palaayate

“By killing one who is inferior, loss of dignity and decrease in status are brought about even in the case of the great. So thinking the noble lion, hater of lordly elephants, runs away from the deer.” Here the solution is very striking. The nobility of the lion is well brought out here. The adjective dvipadvesi has volumes to say. Bhairavi solves the same in the humorous vibrant manner.

tisthaarjunaadya sangraame
tvaam hanisyaamyaham saraih
tisthaami kama kim moodha
mrigaat simhah palaayate.

“Stay here, oh Arjuna, I am going to slay you today in battle with my arrows.” “Surely I stay, stupid Karna, will the lion ever flee from the deer?” Here Bhairavi has cleverly changed the entire sense by a single interrogation. This resolution presents us with two heroes vying with each other for battle honours.

We need not think that such skill and relourcefulness died away with the old times. Even as late as 1930s, we have the instance of the great Kaavyakantha Ganapati Muni who could compose such verses in a flash. How he got his title “Kaavyakantha” from the poets of Navadwipa in Bengal proves absorbing reading. He was asked to compose a verse with the line– 

stanavastram parityajya vadheoh svasuram icchati
(kim tu anavadyacaritaa)

“Discarding her upper garment the bride seeks her father-in-law. (But she is of unsullied character.) How to reconcile this scandalous statement? Our poet managed it easily thus–

hidimbaa bhimadayitaa
nidaaghe gharmapeeditaa
stanavastram parityajya
vadhooh svasuram icchati.

“Hidimba, the beloved of Bhima, afflicted by heat in summer, rejecting her upper garment, sought her father-in-law, namely wind.” The examiner had in view Draupadi instead of Hidimba. We can easily see that Hidimba is more appropriate. Draupadi was not the wife of Bhima alone but also of the other four brothers. Besides Vayu, she had other fathers-in-law. Also, Draupadi being a woman would not have acted thus. Hidimba, being after all a rakshasi can be expected to cast away her upper garment to get some breeze. The poet also amended stanavastram to uttarayam as a more aesthetic word. Here is yet another one– 

pipcelikaa cumbati candramandalam

“The ant kisses the moon.” The ant is such an insignificant creature which can never climb to any considerable height. The moon is far away in the heavens. How can the ant touchthe moon? The poet resolves this thus– 

sativiyogana vishannacetasah
prabhoh sayaanasya himaalaye girau
sivasya cudaakalitam sudhaasayaa
pipeelikaa cumbati candramandalam.

“When Lord Siva overcome by sorrow due to separation from Sati (Parvati) was reclining on the snowy mountain, the ant kisses the moon with a view to get the nectarine drops slipping out of the moon which adorns the head of Siva.” Not only is the impossibility of ant reaching the moon is accounted for here, a natural, convincing reason of the ant approaching the moon, namely, for its nectar–the ant’s fondness for sugar being well-known–is also given. Yet another verse by the same poet may be given here.

Here is the line–

vatsarasyaikadaa gauri pativaktram na pasyati

“Once a year Goddess Gowri docs not see her Lord’s face.” What is this peculiar condition?

caturthyaam bhaadrasuklasya
candra darsanasankayaa
vatsarasyaikadaa gowri
pativaktram na pasyati.

“Apprehensive of seeing the moon on the fourth day of the waxing phase during the month Bhaadrapadi (August-September) Goddess Gowri does not see her lord’s face (which has the moon on its crest) once a year.” As is known from Puraanaas like Ganesa Vrata, the seeing of the moon on Ganesh Chathurthi day is said to be inauspicious.

The presence of such a great poet like Kaayakantha Ganapati Muni in so recent a time gives us a heartening assurance that the wisdom and ingenuity of the earlier centuries had not completely died out and the Sanskrit language is still a living vehicle of human thought. Who knows, the eager Saraswati with her thousand streams of knowledge surging forth may still be seeking in the elite of the land the proper channels for poetic inspiration so that the whole earth may be flooded with her vivifying waters of Truth.

Let's grow together!

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: