Around Samasyā-pūraṇa: Analysing Literary Creativity - 6

This article is part 6 of 9 in the series Samasyā-pūraṇa

“Sun arose in the West and moon in East”:

“धातर्मेरुमहीध्रलङ्घनधिया विन्ध्याद्रिणा सर्वतो

व्याप्तं व्योमतलं दिवेति च निशेत्यस्तं प्रतीतिर्गता”।

दूतेनैवमभाषि “सत्यमुत नो” “सत्यं, गते वासरे

प्रातः पश्चिमपर्वते दिनमणिः पूर्वाचले चन्द्रमाः”[1]

“O Creator, ambitious to surpass the divine mount Meru, this wretched Vindhya is growing taller by the second, eclipsing the entire sky. We have lost the distinction between day and night.” When a messenger reported so, Brahma enquired, “Is this true?” [The messenger replied] “yes, this is indeed the havoc! Just yesterday Sun arose in the West and moon in East.”

The solution is based on the well-known mythological story of Vindhya outgrowing other mountains. Sanskrit literary tradition assumes that sun and moon revolve around Meru, a mythical mountain. With Vindhya overtaking its height, the two luminous celestial bodies were thrown off their orbits.

“A girl’s son became her brother”: 

न हि सन्ततिस्तु नरकार्णवापहे-

त्यतिदुःखमात्मपितरं निरीक्ष्य सा।

तनया ददौ स्वतनयं ततस्त्वहो

अनुजो बभूव तनुजोपि योषितः[2]

A grief-stricken father lamented, “I am doomed without male progeny!” His compassionate daughter offered him her son. So, a girl’s son became her brother.

This stems from the concept of dattaka that is well known in Dharma-śāstra.

“A fly gives birth to a camel in the nook of a sesame husk”:

शिशुरपि महनीयस्तद्बलश्रीविशेष-


शकटमसुरमुग्रं तं जघानेति तद्व-

त्तिलपुटतनुकोणे मक्षिकोष्ट्रं प्रसूते[3]

Even as a kid, Kṛṣṇa was uniquely powerful. He vanquished the mighty demon Śakaṭa and gained unparalleled fame. By the same logic, a fly gives birth to a camel in the nook of a sesame husk.

The poet has all the artistic liberty to make sense of the challenge in the way he pleases. His solution, however, must be charming; the element of wonder should never be compromised. The poet here has not taken the challenge literally. He has given an account of baby Kṛṣṇa slaying demons and thereby fashioned a logic that renders intelligible the impossible situation portrayed in the challenge. As it stands, the verse has a few words that do not directly bolster the context. It could have been composed with better, more powerful words.

The same method is employed to solve the next challenge, “rising sun went down in the ocean”:

व्यूहे महोग्रबलगर्वितवाहिनीनां


शक्रात्मजप्रियसुतो निहतश्छलेन

बालारुणस्तु निममज्ज पयोधिमध्ये[4]

Caught in the maze of expansive armies surcharged with the pride of ferocious strength, Abhimanyu, the embodiment of courage, Arjuna’s beloved son, was mercilessly murdered with deceit. Indeed, rising sun went down in the ocean.   

“Ghee solidifies in fire”:



यावन्मितं चणकपिष्टविमिश्रमद्धा

हैयङ्गवीनमनले कठिनं बभूव[5]

Mysore Pak, the sweet dish, is made with just the right mix of camphor and cardamom soaked in a nice dose of sugar syrup along with the flour of Bengal gram. While making it, fresh ghee solidifies in fire. 

The poet has employed a novel idea drawn from cookery, which has made this verse beautiful.

“Cow dung emanates a heady fragrance”:


चटुलकपटगोपः पालयन्धेनुपालीम्।

यदकृत परिचर्यां तत्र तत्पाणियोगा-

च्छकृदमितसुगन्धं सन्तनोतीति चित्रम्[6]

In a bower based on the banks of Yamunā, sprightly Kṛṣṇa was tending to a herd of cattle. There, thanks to his tender touch, cow dung was transformed to emanate a heady fragrance.

Employing Kṛṣṇa as the pivot around which the idea revolves, the solution has been made quite straightforward. However, the meter in which the challenge is couched is a long one. To create an appropriate aesthetic ambiance, the poet has used long compounds and has expressed his idea in an oblique manner.

“Two people saw all digits of the moon on a single day”:


ब्राह्मोद्वाहविधिक्रतौ गुरुजनैरावेष्टितौ दम्पती।

हन्तान्तःपटसक्रमापसरणप्रेयोमुहूर्ते मुदा

न्वेकाह्यैव हि पश्यतः प्रतिकलं शुक्लेन्दुबिम्बस्य तौ[7]

In a brāhma-vivāha (wedding sanctioned by parents and elders), the bride and groom were anxious to look at each other, for they had no opportunity to do so previously. At last, when the ritual curtain was gradually withdrawn, the two of them saw all the of the moon on a single day!

The challenge is almost insurmountable, because it has numerous specific constraints: two people, not one; on a single day; looking at all the digits of the moon. The poet has composed a beautiful solution by bringing in an element of subtle love: when the ritual screen was gradually lowered, the couple savoured the look of each other’s faces bit by bit. And at each instant, they could see a digit of the moon. The underlying suggestion is that both their faces resembled the moon. Doubtless, this is a fine solution based on cakṣūrāga, love at first sight.  

“A rat drags an elephant into its hole”:

सङ्क्रान्तिपर्वार्थमिति प्रणीता-


महानसस्थो रुचिलोलुपत्वाद्

गजं बिले कर्षति मूषिकोसौ[8]

From the basket having animal-shaped sugar candies prepared specially for the Saṅkrānti festival, a ravenous rat grabbed an elephant (-shaped candy) and dragged it into its hole in the kitchen. 

The technique employed in this verse serves as one of the models for solving poetic challenges: actual objects are taken to be toys, figures, images and so on. Cultural connotation of a festival has rendered this verse beautiful.

A similar method is used to solve the following challenge: “Sun rises in the south”:

दृष्ट्वा षडङ्गबन्धुरचित्रं समवर्तिदिङ्महाभित्तौ।

उदगारीत्तद्रसिको दक्षिणदिशि भानुमानुदेति ननु॥[9]

Looking at a beautiful painting of sunrise displayed on the southern wall of a gallery, an avid art connoisseur exclaimed, “Sun rises in the south!”

Another example of this technique is the solution to the next challenge, “A dog licks Indra’s face”:

मोदकावरणं पत्रं नाकचित्रयुतं पथि।

क्षिप्तं तद्रुचिलुब्धेयं लेढि शक्राननं शुनी[10]

A toffee tossed carelessly on the streets has a painted picture of the heavens on it. Attracted by its taste, wanting to have a bite, a dog licks it, [and by extension,] Indra’s face.

[1] Ibid., p. 65

[2] Śatāvadhāna-sāramu, p. 109

[3] Sahasra-śīrṣa, p. 9

[4] Śatāvadhāni-racanā-sañcayanam, p. 319

[5] Samagra-saṃskṛta-śatāvadhānam, p. 40

[6] Śatāvadhāni-racanā-sañcayanam, p. 320

[7] Ibid., p. 289

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., p. 291

[10] Ibid., p. 326

To be continued.




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. A literary aficionado, Shashi enjoys composing poetry set to classical meters in Sanskrit. He co-wrote a translation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh’s Kannada work Kavitegondu Kathe.

Prekshaa Publications

ऋतुभिः सह कवयः सदैव सम्बद्धाः। विशिष्य संस्कृतकवयः। यथा हि ऋतवः प्रतिसंवत्सरं प्रतिनवतामावहन्ति मानवेषु तथैव ऋतुवर्णनान्यपि काव्यरसिकेषु कामपि विच्छित्तिमातन्वते। ऋतुकल्याणं हि सत्यमिदमेव हृदि कृत्वा प्रवृत्तम्। नगरजीवनस्य यान्त्रिकतां मान्त्रिकतां च ध्वनदिदं चम्पूकाव्यं गद्यपद्यमिश्रितमिति सुव्यक्तमेव। ऐदम्पूर्वतया प्रायः पुरीपरिसरप्रसृतानाम् ऋतूनां विलासोऽत्र प्रपञ्चितः। बेङ्गलूरुनामके...

The Art and Science of Avadhānam in Sanskrit is a definitive work on Sāhityāvadhānam, a form of Indian classical art based on multitasking, lateral thinking, and extempore versification. Dotted throughout with tasteful examples, it expounds in great detail on the theory and practice of this unique performing art. It is as much a handbook of performance as it is an anthology of well-turned...

This anthology is a revised edition of the author's 1978 classic. This series of essays, containing his original research in various fields, throws light on the socio-cultural landscape of Tamil Nadu spanning several centuries. These compelling episodes will appeal to scholars and laymen alike.
“When superstitious mediaevalists mislead the country about its judicial past, we have to...

The cultural history of a nation, unlike the customary mainstream history, has a larger time-frame and encompasses the timeless ethos of a society undergirding the course of events and vicissitudes. A major key to the understanding of a society’s unique character is an appreciation of the far-reaching contributions by outstanding personalities of certain periods – especially in the realms of...

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।


इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।


अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...