Around Samasyā-pūraṇa: Analysing Literary Creativity - 9

This article is part 9 of 9 in the series Samasyā-pūraṇa

“Bamboo doesn’t bend. Sun is the real thief”:

जनश्रुतिं यदाहिरीनिवेदकोऽह्नि नान्नभा-

गिति प्रमार्ष्टुमागतः सभोजनो वनं प्रगे।

निधाय भाजनं नते तृणध्वजेऽलपत्ततो

न मस्करो नमस्करोत्यहस्करो हि तस्करः[1]

Desirous to disprove the popular belief among musicians that one will be without food if he sings the rāga Āhiri during day, a smart chap went to a forest in the early hours of the day, hung his food basket on a leaning bamboo tree and started singing soulfully. Once the Sun rose high, so did the bamboo. And by lunch time, bamboo was no longer bent; Sun was the real thief!

The alliteration in the challenge has contributed to its intrinsic difficulty. The solution takes its idea from many beliefs connected with music. That an entire episode is narrated within the verse is remarkable. A rhythmic meter such as the present one does not yield itself easily to multi-layered ideas. The poet has succeeded in using it as an efficient tool.

“Venus shines on moon”:

विलोक्य वामावदनं सनासा-

विभूषणं वज्रमयं मनोज्ञम्।

चकार चाटूक्तिमतस्तदित्थं

कविग्रहो राजति राजबिम्बे[3]

Beholding his beloved’s beautiful face decked with a sparkling diamond nose-ring, a smart guy exclaimed, “Venus shines on the moon!”

Venus is one of the brightest celestial bodies and the poet has this fact in mind in comparing it with a shining diamond nose-ring. According to Gemmology, diamond represents Venus. There is therefore an added reason for the allusion. The verse is adorned by a fine figure of poetic fancy.

“Moon is a painter”:

शरल्लक्ष्मीप्रवेशार्थं वृष्टिकर्दमकर्बुराम्।

अवनीं क्षालयत्येष सुधाकारः सुधाकरः[4]

In order to welcome the glory of Autumn, moon, the veritable painter, cleans the earth of all the muck caused by rains.

While the challenge is not very difficult, it expects an apt and beautiful context. The solution, by referring to the autumn season that is known for its bright moonlit nights, gives a poetic reason as to why the moon has turned into a painter.

“Lion runs away from an elephant”:

वैदिको रसनालोलः खण्डेऽखण्डरुचिर्द्विजः।

मेहरोगीत्यतस्तस्मै केसरीभात् पलायते[5]

A pious Vaidika Brāhmaṇa has a sweet tooth—he’s an obsessive swallow-it-all.

But alas, he is diabetic! No wonder, then, to him, Kesaribhāt, the sweet dish, is but a [repugnant] chunk of meat.

The charm of this solution is twofold: firstly, it combines the two words kesarī (lion) and ibhāt (from elephant) to form Kesaribhāt, the name of a sweet dish popular throughout India; secondly, it converts the verb palāyate (runs) into a verb-based-noun to mean ‘acts as meat.’

Tripāda-samasyās—Three-lined Challenges

Usually, challenges are mono-lined. At times they are bi-lined (typically set in the Anuṣṭubh meter). There is, however, a category of challenges called tripāda-samasyās, which are tri-lined. This poses greater difficulty than all other varieties, for all three lines are disconnected, and are culled out from different poems. The single-line solution should necessarily gel well with these three lines, making the verse appear as an organic whole. Because of such imposing constraints, dūrānvaya (convoluted word-order) is the order in this genre!

Challenges of this sort are most appealing when their lines are taken from well-known works. Since the chances of the readers / audience knowing these lines are high, a solution offered by the poet in such a setting evokes greater wonder. Here are a few examples of this sort (the underlined line is the solution):

“A fair woman-Rāma / ripe jambu fruits”:

काञ्चित्काञ्चगौराङ्गीं चिन्वतीं वन ऐक्षत

जम्बूफलानि पक्वानि कौसल्यान्दवर्धनः॥[6]

Rāma saw a fair woman collecting ripe jambu fruits in the woods.

“His, who is the abode of limitless gems / knowledge causes fights and wealth arrogance / servant in work and minister in policies”:

अनन्तरत्नप्रभवस्य यस्य

विद्या विवादाय धनं मदाय।

नासीद्धिमागस्य सती तथैव

कार्येषु दासी करणेषु मन्त्री॥[7]

Himalaya is the repository of precious gems. To him, learning never begot fights and wealth never brought arrogance. His wife was dutiful in work and gave him wise counsel in policymaking.

“Pārvatī could neither stand still nor take a step forward / it is immaterial if the wise praise this or censure / he who praises his father with his good conduct is the real son”:

दृष्ट्वा सुतं विनयिनं शिवशूलशीर्णं

शैलाधिराजतनया न ययौ न तस्थौ।

निन्दन्तु नीतिनिपुणा यदि वा स्तुवन्तु

यः प्रीणयेत्सुचरितैः पितरं स पुत्रः॥[8]

Seeing her obedient son beheaded by Śiva, Pārvatī could neither stand still nor take a step forward. It is immaterial if the wise praise this or censure: he who praises his father with his good conduct is the real son.

“People who bear the fruit of unsullied virtues in thought speech and action / seated on the ground near a Banyan tree / the pride of lilies has waned and the glory of lotuses has increased”:

मनसि वचसि काये पुण्यपीयूषपूर्णा

वटविटपिसमीपे भूमिभागे निषण्णम्।

भजत भवति भव्यं सुप्रभातं तदा वै

कुमुदमदमपश्रि श्रीमदम्भोजषण्डम्॥[9]

O People who bear the fruit of unsullied virtues in thought speech and action, pray to Dakṣiṇā-mūrti who sits under a Banyan tree, and behold the dawn of wisdom that dispels the pride of arrogant lilies and enhances the glory of lotuses.

“O monk, do you consume meat? What is meat without wine? / O gazelle-eyed girl, tell me / how does one find happiness in this life that is as fickle as a wavelet?”:

भिक्षो मांसनिषेवणं प्रकुरुषे किं तेन मद्यं विना

बाले बालकुरङ्गलोलनयने लीलावति प्रोच्यताम्।

जीवे वारितरङ्गचञ्चलतरे सौख्यं कुतः प्राणिना-

मित्थं वक्ति गृहाङ्गनां व्रतपरां लोकायतो भिक्षुकः[10]

‘O monk, do you consume meat?’ ‘O gazelle-eyed girl, you tell me, what is meat without wine? And how does one find happiness in this life that is as fickle as a wavelet?”’ A materialistic monk thus answered a virtuous woman.

“Engaged in penance studying Vedas and penance / for Rāma and Rāmabhadra / the play Veṇī-saṃhāra”:

तपस्स्वाध्यायनिरतं गुरुं नत्वाकरोत्कविः

रामाय रामभद्राय वेणीसंहारनाटकम्॥ (Tirupati Veṅkaṭa-kavulu)

Having prostrated before the Guru, engaged in penance and studying the Vedas, a poet composed the play Veṇīsaṃhāra for Rāma and Rāmabhadra.

[1] Śatāvadhāni-racanā-sañcayanam, p. 290

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Śatāvadhāni-racanā-sañcayanam, p. 330

[5] Śatāvadhāni-racanā-sañcayanam, p. 334

[6] Kannaḍadalli Avadhāna-kale, p. 214

[7] Ibid., p. 215

[8] Ibid., p. 214

[9] Ibid., p. 215

[10] Ibid., p. 215





Dr. Ganesh is a 'shatavadhani' and one of India’s foremost Sanskrit poets and scholars. He writes and lectures extensively on various subjects pertaining to India and Indian cultural heritage. He is a master of the ancient art of avadhana and is credited with reviving the art in Kannada. He is a recipient of the Badarayana-Vyasa Puraskar from the President of India for his contribution to the Sanskrit language.


Shashi Kiran B N holds a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Sanskrit. His interests include Indian aesthetics, Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit and Kannada literature and philosophy.

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