Mahāmahopādhyāya Vidvān N. Ranganatha - Elucidation of the Beauty of the Śāstras and Devotion to the Nation

Elucidation of the Beauty of the Śāstras

Sharma has helped us not only by unknotting difficult minutiae of vyākaraṇa, sāhitya, and vedānta śāstras but also by throwing light on the beauty of each of these streams. Because of this holistic approach, Sharma’s personality could come to the forefront and displayed its brilliance. Thoroughness in scholarship and maturity of personality – the confluence of the two is extremely rare to see. Sharma was one such person.

Sharma not only composed works for the students of Sanskrit but also for the common man. He also penned introductory works that can guide people who are interested in the contents of the śāstras. These works are also inevitable for a person who would like to gain good understanding of the fundamentals. He authored books meant for examinations and has also rendered the Amarakośa and Vākyapadīya in Kannada. Between 2003 and 2008, he brought out vedāntic works such as Māṇḍūkya-pravacana, Taittirīyopaniṣat-pravacana, Sāṅkhya-kārikā-vṛtti, and Pañcadaśī-pravacana. These contain excellent research material and reflect the depth of Sharma’s vedāntic thought. His translations of the Rāmāyaṇa, Bhāgavata, and Viṣṇu-purāṇa are important and reliable editions for seekers. His essays have been compiled into books such as Raṅganātha-lekha-mañjuṣā[1] (Sanskrit), Vyākaraṇa Śāstrada Parivāra (Kannada), and Prajñāraṅga (Kannada). They are original in their content and also stand as good research papers.

Sharma has penned creative works in the Sanskrit language such as the Śrī-bāhubali-vijayam and Eka-cakram – two dramas, Kusumāñjaliḥ – a compilation of his short poems and Śrī-śaṅkara-caritāmṛtam – a long poem based on the life and works of Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda.

Sūkti-vyāpti, a work spread over three volumes, is a compilation of subhāṣitas accompanied by his commentary making them relevant to today’s life.

His Kannada works such as Mānavadharmaśāstra mattu Mahiḻèyaru [2]are examples of profound writings which will stand the test of time.

Sharma bridges the gap between the eternal concepts of the sanātana-saṃskṛti and the mental framework of the twenty-first century – this makes his writings extremely important.

 

Felicity at Composing Poems

Sharma participated as a pṛcchaka (questioner) in many Kannada and Sanskrit avadhānas and posed the avadhāni with challenging and brain-tickling samasyās. For example, he had once given a line that meant ‘Upon seeing her husband [Rāma], Sītā turns away in anger.’ The poem he had composed to justify the statement went as follows –

samāyātaṃ kāmādalasagamanaṃ krūranayanaṃ

parītaṃ dāsībhiḥ karavidhṛtadīpādibhiralam|

madāndhaṃ paulastyaṃ vikṛtamanasaṃ rākṣasacamū-

patiṃ dṛṣṭvā sītā vyapanayati kopena vadanam [3]||[4]

[When Sītā was held captive in Aśoka-vana], Rāvaṇa, swaying in throes of lust, came to her. He had ferocious eyes. A host of female attendants holding lamps surrounded him. He was vain and crooked. Upon seeing him, the rākṣasa-camū-pati [the commander of the rākṣasa army], Sītā turned away in anger.

Sharma had a fine skill at composing poems.

He composed three Suprabhāta-padya-mālikās – i.e., verses meant to ‘wake the deity up.’ Śrī-rāmacandra-suprabhāta, Śrī-subrahmaṇya-suprabhāta, and Śrī-gommaṭeśvara-suprabhāta were such compositions.

He composed a set of Sanskrit verses in praise of Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda. A flower from that garland of verses is as follows –

prasthānatrayabhāṣyamadbhutamabhūtvattaḥ samudropamaṃ

yadratnānyupajīvya paṇḍitavarairakṣobhyavaiduṣyakaiḥ|

vyākhyā-vārtika-vṛtti-siddhisahitān nirmāya bhūṣāgaṇān

śrīmacchaṅkaradeśikendra rucirān śrīśāradā bhūṣitā||

O Master, you wrote wonderful commentaries on the Prasthānaya-traya (Upaniṣads, Bhagavad-gītā, and Brahma-sūtras). They are comparable to the mighty ocean. Learned scholars have fetched gems (knowledge) from it and have authored numerous notes, glosses, and commentaries in the form of ornaments to adorn the deity of learning.

Many a time, though the compositions of grammarians are perfect in the usage of words, one cannot guarantee that they are beautiful in content as well. It is rare to find an optimum blend of flawless form and creative content. We find this kind of perfection in the compositions of Ranganatha Sharma. An example from his Śrī Gommaṭeśvara-pañcaratna can serve to demonstrate his skill:

arālalolitālakāvalīvilāsitālikaṃ

karālakarmamarmabhedanirmalaṃ nirāmayam|

saroruhāsyaśobhiphullamallikādarasmitaṃ

bhaje bhavāmbudhestariṃ cirāya gommaṭeśvaram||

I adore Gommaṭeśvara [Bāhubali]. Fickle locks adorn his forehead. He destroys evil acts and is himself pure and serene. His face resembles a lotus in bloom and his smile is like a freshly blossomed jasmine. He is the raft that helps us to cross the ocean that is the phenomenal world.

This verse, which is composed in the pañcacāmara metre is rich in the syllables la and ra in alliteration and their presence adds tremendous beauty to the verse.

Sharma has composed three short plays which contain several of his poems. He has also composed over twenty poems on various topics. Vāgdevatā-stuti, Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda-stuti, Śrī Śrīdharasvāmi-stuti, and Śrī-guru-stuti are noteworthy.

Devotion the Nation

It is interesting to note that Sharma also composed poems which portray his devotion to the nation. It is rare to find poems belonging to this genre in the Sanskrit language. Sharma’s heart was always with the nation – anyone who was closely associated with him would have noticed this aspect.

The following is a poem from his collection Bhāvaikatā

ayaṃ hinduḥ kraisto yavana iti bhedo’pasaratu

dhruvaṃ rāṣṭraṃ netuṃ pragatiparamaikyaṃ vijayate|

apāṃ vyūhaścaikaścalayati mahadyantramapi tat

sameṣāṃ caitanyaṃ vahati khalu rāṣṭrapravahaṇam||

Let us erase religious discrimination regarding Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. An abiding sense of integration is required to lead the nation towards progress. Does not a current of water propel a mighty turbine? The collective focus of everyone’s emotion drives the nation-chariot onward.

 

In his poem Rāṣtradevo bhava, he has said that the nation is more important than one’s own parents and that everyone should cultivate this feeling –

manasi vacasi kāye mātṛdevo bhava tvaṃ

niravadhipitṛdevo nirmalaḥ karmayogī|

atha matipariśuddhyācārya devaśca bhūyāḥ

tadanu vigataśaṅkaḥ śraddhayā rāṣṭradevaḥ||

Be a true son to your mother in thought, speech, and action. Be a true son to your father and go about your activities selflessly. Respect your teachers with single-minded devotion. Then, with no second thought, be loyal to your motherland.

 

Sharma had great regard and respect for the sacrifice and bravery of Indian soldiers. He knew that it was these qualities of the soldiers which give strength to the nation. It is with this feeling that his composition Vīrottejanaṃ took shape. He has stressed upon the point that there must be no compromises in the security of the nation –

yat svātantryaṃ bahuyatnena

bhāratamātā prāpat svena|

nirdayamardita nararudhireṇa

hriyate tattava miṣato’nyena||

mastakamucchairastu sakhāyaḥ

kiṃ vaḥ śāśvatiko’yaṃ kāyaḥ|

drāvitadurjanaśatrunikāyā

kīrtistvekā bhuvi nirapāyā||

Bhārata, our Motherland, achieved freedom by undergoing unspeakable tribulations. Many fearless patriots spilled their blood to this end. But now, because of your [pusillanimity], this hard-earned freedom is being snatched away! O Friends, hold your head high. Is your mortal frame eternal? Only the fame one earns by crushing hordes of enemies is eternal!

 

Sublimity of Character

“Ranganatha Sharma’s creative prowess matched his acumen in the śāstras. It is rare to find both the qualities in a scholar of Sanskrit today. Precise understanding of the śāstras can yield wonderful fruits even today, just as it has done so (to the masters) in the past and Ranganatha Sharma stands as the greatest testimony to this.” These words about Sharma are by Dr. K Krishnamoorthy, a great scholar himself and a person as high as the Mount Meru.

~

We can only find a handful of scholars who reached the peaks of scholarship like Sharma had. It is only rare that we find the study of śāstras culminating in exemplary personality like him. Sharma was an embodiment of broadness of vision, generosity, and concern for the society – he was incomparable on these accounts. ‘Buddheḥ phalam anāgrahaḥ’– he lived this aphorism and his nature is unparalleled. His attitude was one of the best evidences for his sublime personality was the unassuming and complete submission to DVG. It is hard to find another example for this. We can only call this amazing.

To be continued...

The current article is an English adaptation of the Kannada original which has appeared in the Dīptaśṛṅgagalu, authored by Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy. Thanks to Sri Hari Ravikumar for his edits. Thanks to Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and Shashi Kiran BN for providing translations for the verses quoted. Full form of the article is a part of 'A Tapestry of Pen Portraits' published by Prekshaa Pratishtana in December 2020.


[1] Saṃskṛtaṃ Nāma Daivī Vāk is a long form essay in the anthology, which is specially note worthy

[2] Mānava-dharma-śāstra and women

[3] The last line of the verse, which means “Upon seeing her husband [Rāma], Sītā turns away in anger” is the samasyā, which needs to be solved by the poet. He will need to give a satisfactory explanation for the statement in the first three lines of the verse

 

Author(s)

About:

Nadoja Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of stalwarts like D. V. Gundappa, Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma, V Sitaramaiah, and others. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and served as the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs for many years.

Translator(s)

About:

Arjun is a writer, translator, engineer, and enjoys composing poems. He is well-versed in Sanskrit, Kannada, English, Greek, and German languages. His research interests lie in comparative aesthetics of classical Greek and Sanskrit literature. He has deep interest in the theatre arts and music. Arjun has (co-) translated the works of AR Krishna Shastri, DV Gundappa, Dr. SL Bhyrappa, Dr. SR Ramaswamy and Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh

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