Critical Appreciation of Prahasanas - Part 7

While ‘kapālin’ is taken in literal sense before the word Pāṇigrahaṇa which literally just means holding hands is turned to the other meaning, taking one’s hand in marriage derived by lakṣaṇa is utilised while Satyasoma accuses Nāgasena in public when he first helps Devasomā to get up. There is also a suggestion that Satyasoma still couldn’t trust Devasomā completely since she has already betrayed Babhrukalpa before. Also notice that Nāgasena is being tested in the two things which are forbidden for him and he betrays his failure in both those things.

Bhagavān Vyāsa

In these verses Vyāsa has succinctly described the central focus of his poem and the nature of its characters. This is the way of great poets: they present the essence of the story upfront and then go on to narrate how it evolves. Lesser poets present the story in bits and pieces, intending to keep the readers hooked till the end. They sometimes stretch this technique to extreme limits, thus stripping the story of suggestive value and rendering it less enjoyable. A work bereft of poetic suggestion does not invite readers to revisit it.

Kathāmṛta - 67 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Story of Nala

As Nala was wandering through the forest wearing the cloth torn in half, he saw a forest fire. He heard a voice calling out for help from within it – “O Noble soul! The forest fire is consuming me – I might die in the fire! Please rescue me from here!” When he looked in the direction of the cry, he saw a snake curled around, fallen there. He picked it up and carried it on his shoulder. As he was walking, the snake said – “count ten footsteps from here and drop me at a spot”. Nala started counting – “ekaṃ dve trīṇi catvāri …..

Vālmīki, Vyāsa

Rāma savoured the recital amid a large group of literary aficionados: sa cāpi rāmaḥ pariṣadgataḥ (1.4.36). This is arguably the best way to appreciate art because people with a refined aesthetic sense assist one another in discovering newer and newer subtleties, thus raising the level of overall enjoyment.

Kathāmṛta - 66 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Story of Nala

Carrying with him the message of the deities, Nala entered the inner apartments of Damayantī and repeated the command of the deities. She heard those words and said, “Let the deities be how they are! Even so, Nala is my husband. I have no need for these deities!” Following this Nala introduced himself and then returned to Indra and the others; he narrated to them everything that had transpired. They said, “O noble one! You are an honest man and so we are at your beck and call. Just think of us and we shall be present at your service.” Nala then went on to Vidarbha.

Critical Appreciation of Prahasanas - Part 6

After gaining some composure he decides that bowl should have been taken by either a dog or a buddhist monk. While the comparison of a buddhist monk to a dog might seem preposterous, Satyasoma has his reasons which is the presence of roasted meat! This passage already hints at the kind of degeneracy which had crept in which is confirmed by the entry of Nāgasena which happens immediately as if by cue. Also note that later there is also the mention of the dog along with Unmattaka.

Vālmīki - 2

Vālmīki was absorbed in thoughts about his verse when Brahmā visited him: tadgatenaiva manasā vālmīkirdhyānamāsthitaḥ (1.2.28). He was tormented by the impropriety in hunting the male bird and the consequent anguish caused to its companion. Here is a poet mulling over the incident that inspires his poetry. If worldly events do not evoke such a profound response in a writer, they cannot inspire poetry. In its highest reaches, poetry is the emotional outpour of an inspired poet, bypassing conscious thought.

               Brahmā put an end to Vālmīki’s perturbation:

Kathāmṛta - 65 - Alaṅkāravatī-lambaka - The Stories of Dharmavyādha, Tribhuvana and Nala

The Story of Dharmavyādha

In the past, when a certain sage who was wandering through a forest and sat down below a tree, a balāka bird’s droppings happened to fall upon him. He was enraged and stared at the bird angrily. As soon as his eyes fell on the bird, it got reduced to ashes. He felt proud of the strength of his tapas.

One day, he sought alms at the house of a brāhmaṇa in the city. The lady of the house said – “Please wait for a while; I will finish serving my husband and attend to you!”

Critical Appreciation of Prahasanas - Part 5

When Devasomā interrupts to say this isn’t the way of buddhists or jains (अर्हन्त can apply to both), Satyasoma scolds them saying that they are fools who contradict their own stand by saying pain leads to pleasure while thinking that the nature of the effect is the same as that of the cause. During this and even later, it is evident that Satyasoma even though drunk and unsteady still has a sharp intellect which hasn’t been affected by the drinking, even while drunk his logic is incisive.