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....

The Bard of Sivabharatham

J. Hanumath Sastry


“He that would hope to write well hereafter in laudable things”, says Milton, “ought himself to be a true poem”. Sri Gadiyaram Venkata Sesha Sastri is one who has lived up to this lofty Miltonic ideal. He developed in himself the ideal man before he could write literature, which is the expression of the ideal.

Gadiyaram was born on 7-4-1894 in a cultured family at Nemalladinne village in Jammalamadugu taluk of Cuddapah District. At an early age he came to Proddatur and received instruction in Sahitya, Tarka and Vyakarana from Sri Rupavatharam Sesha Sastri. He also studied the Yajurveda and the Upanishads at Sri Shatdarsanam Vasudeva Avadhani. Later he specialised on his own in Jyotisha and Vastu Sastra. Gadiyaram was drawn to various forms of versification and started composing not merely in various kinds of metres but in a novel way also. He became an adept in Ashtavadhana and in collaboration with Sri Durbhaka Raja Sekhara Satavadhani (the author of Rana Pratap Simha Charitmmu) he delighted people with his literary genius in many Ashtavadhanams and Satavadhanams at various places and won laurels. He worked as a Telugu pandit in the Municipal High School at Proddatur. He edited for a couple of years, “Brahmanandini” a monthly devoted to literature and culture.

He opines that a poet’s spirit should respond to his country’s spirit. True to this poetic ideal, he brought out his masterpiece “Sri Sivabharatham” in 1943, when the freedom movement was in its full swing. With its theme of liberation, the poem inspired the Telugu people with profound patriotism and the poet was hailed as a great inspirer.

There are certain works of art with an inexhaustible gift of suggestion to which criticism may return again and again. Gadiyaram’s magnam opus, “Sivabharatham” is one such immortal work. The title is intriguing and significant. The poem is not only the life-history of Sivaji but also of Bharathamatha. Free from prose, it has in all two thousand three hundred and eighty nine verses in varied metres. It is divided into eight ‘Aaswaasas’ or books. Book I narrates the birth of the hero, Sivaji against the -ground of the patriotic struggle of his heroic father, Shaji, to found an independent State as a bastion of the Hindu Dharma. After touching upon the patient wait of the enslaved people for a liberator the second book depicts Sivaji’s and shows that the child is the father of the man.

Sivaji’s marriage at Sivaneru, his visit to the court of Bijapur Sultan, his protest against cow-slaughter and the Sultan’s pragmatic solution to it, his training into a great soldier and ruler under the tutelege of Dadaji Khandadev and finally his decision to found with the help of the Mavales, a new independent State, are the other aspects of this ‘Asawaasa’, Sivaji’s taking over of the fort Torna, passing away of Dadaji, annexation by Sivaji, through parleys, of Chakanu, Supa, Simhagadh and Purandara territories, Tukaram’s epistolary blessings to Sivaji, Sivaji’s conquest of many forts in the South, his noblest courtesy shown to a Muslim woman brought captive by Abaji, Samartha Ramadasa’s inspiring meeting with Sivaji, and arrest of Shaji as son’s accomplice by Bijapur Sultan are the highlights of Book III.

Shaji’s release from prison through his son’s sagacity, defeat of Bijapur Sultan’s army by Sivaji, his fight with the Mores, his second journey of conquest, and his pact with Aurangazeb form the strands of narrative in the Book IV. Book V is devoted to the events culminating in the death of Afzal khan and to the intensified attack by Bijapur Sultan’s armies, Baaji’s death and finally to the Sultan’s virtual surrender to Sivaji. Book VI deals with Sivaji’s political and military moves to outmanoeuvre those of the formidable army of Aurangazeb, Book VII celebrates Sivaji’s, visit to the Delhi Court, his imprisonment and escape, and the capture of Simhagadh and the death of Tanaji. Book VIII the last part, closes the poem with the description of the coronation of Sivaji.

            Sivabharatham is a historical epic par excellence. Passing through the crucible of Gadiyaram’s powerful creative imagination, the dry as dust historical details simply tingle with life. Absolutely true to history, the narration at the same time gains in picturesqueness and characterisation. Conjured by the poet’s magic wand, the characters of the past come to life, walk before us and thrill us-yes, thrill us to the core of our being. The great poet not only makes history picturesque, recreates the heroes and patriots of the heroic national past of our sacred mother land, but also enshrines in his work universal values: honour, patriotism, courage, courtesy, loyalty, tolerance and all that is noblest in the Hindu way of life.

Gadiyaram’s vision is archetypal in that his characters are represented as archetypes reminding us of those that have become part and parcel of Hindu legend and mythology. For instance the poet sees Jijiya as Satyabhama, Katyayani, Sita, Sakuntala, Divine Cow, Subhadra, Vinatha etc. in different contexts. Sivaji is seen as Lord Siva, Adisankara, Garuda, Bhargava Rama, Bhima, Vamana, Parikshit etc. The poet opens the classic with an awareness of the racial memory - a supremely classic and unique manner; indeed. The poet’s aim is perhaps to instill in the reader an awareness of the glorious Dharma of the ancient land and the ever vigilant need to safeguard it from the marauders. This makes him think of Sivaji, a great protector of it in the past.

            Sivabharatham isa moving epic drama. The narrative runs with rare dramatic ease so much so that many wonder at the plasticity and felicity of Telugu. Wielding the language most admirably, the poet seems to have excelled also in the dramatic quality of the verse. The colloquies between Shaji and Lukaji, and between Lukaji and Jijiya throb with life. Such dramatic episodes which are sixteen in number give the epic a dramatic form too. The conversational idiom exploited by the poet is so delightful that it lingers in our memory even after we lay down the book. The verse has the kind of felicity that is seen in Shakespeare’s mature blank verse. Its perusal is a lasting pleasure. What a charm of readability! What a bewitching exploitation of the idiom! The verse is properly decked with the beauties of the Telugu idiom. The language is familiar but not coarse, elegant but not ostentatious. Chilukuri Narayana Rao, a great scholar, calls it “a stream of honey”. Viswanatha Satyanarayna described it as “the sweet flow of the Ganges” Rallapalli says, “Its flow is radiant, serene and sweet”. The imagery of Sivabharatham is bold and novel. It is pre-eminently agricultural appointed out by a scientist-litterateur. Dr. Sardesai Tirumala Rao in his “Sahitya Tathvamu - Sivabharatha Darsanamu”, a close reading of the poem. The imagery shows the poet’s identification with the agricultural country, that is India. Some critics dis­miss the poem as a mere narrative without any architectonics. But they forget that the narrative here does supremely well its duty of capturing the stirring human drama of the past. No architectonics is needed. The narrative with its texture is enough and to spare. It will make the epic go all the way through posterity.

Honours have been showered on the poet for this epic. He was presented with ‘Kaviganda Penderam’ (a gold anklet) and swarna Veera Kankanamu. In the Bhuvana Vijayam held in 1945 at Hindupur he was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 500/ as the best poet in Telugu by the composite Madras Government in 1948. He had the honour of ‘Gajarohanam’ (Elephant ride) too. Many literacy associations and princely states lionised him. In 1967, the Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi honoured him with a fellowship and a gold medal. The silver jubilee of Sivabharatham was celebrated in 1968 at Proddatur under the president-ship of Sri Rallapalli Anantha Krishna Sarma and the poet was felicitated with “Kanakabhishekam.” In June 1974 during the Chatrapati Sivaji Tricentenery celebrations the Maratha mandir of Bombay greeted him with a gold medal and purse for his Sivabaratham. This classic brought him some more honours. He was a nominated member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council from 1959 to 1968. He was the Vice President of the A.P. Sahitya Akademi from 1969 to 1973. For his services to the cause of literature and language Sri Venkateswara University conferred on him, an honorary Doctorate in 1976.

Gadiyaram has more than twenty works to his credit. His Srinatha Kavita Samrajyam” shows his keen critical insight into the works of Srinatha. His ‘Raghunatheeyamu’ is another historical poem. ‘Govardhana Saptasati’ and Uttara Ramayanam’ are some of his translations from Sanskrit. His Ramayana (Valmiki Hridaya­vishkaranam) containing seven thousand verses has been published recently.

At the ripe age of eighty six he passed away on 20th September 1980 at Proddatur. His was a life of achievement and supreme fulfillment.

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