Introduction to the Kathāmṛta – Part 14 – Men and Women of the World

This article is part 14 of 20 in the series Introduction to the Kathāmṛta

“Lincoln who was the elected leader of America (1870) suffered because of the harsh words his wife spoke every minute, each day – it was as good as him dying. Her words churned his insides, but yet, he held on to his life. Lincoln’s wife troubled him just as one would torture one’s enemy. He tolerated it all, without speaking a word. Yet, we can say that she was a bit kinder than Tolstoy’s wife, who mercilessly humiliated her husband publicly – and quite often did so. Lincoln loved his wife a lot, but she could not even stand his presence – she was agitated whenever she saw his face and poked him (with her words). She had the feeling that she was the most beautiful woman and Lincoln had got to marry her due to the good fortunes of his previous lives – she is known to have said this often.

She often said that her husband was ugly to look at; one of his shoulders was higher than the other and his gait was not proper – she even ridiculed him that he did not know to walk properly.  She also pointed that Lincoln’s arms were very long, head was too small, ears log and his nose was crooked in shape.

Lincoln, who helped in freeing the African Americans of their bonded labour and slavery, ironically, was as good as a slave in his own house. His wife’s loud and broken voice could be heard over until the streets. Many incidents from his daily life were like open secrets – they were akin to an play, visible to the public to behold. Lincoln hardly spoke of his troubles. He put up with it all this like a speechless ox. His silence irritated his wife even more.

Once, the Lincoln couple was invited by a friend for a snack. The two set out to visit him. There were many other couples who had been
invited just like the two. They ate the snack and were having a jovial conversation as they savoured tea. When Lincoln criticised something that his wife said, she hit him hard on his face with the tea cup that was in her hand – without any forethought! Lincoln did not lose temper even at this moment. He cast a glance of sympathy upon her and let out a smile. A young lady who was seated by his side felt sorry for him and cleaned his face with her handkerchief.

Lincoln developed contempt for his wife since then and his behaviour towards her changed. He led the rest of his life as far away from her as possible.

Even after torturing her husband without understanding him for twenty-five years, she did become good at heart” Viśva-karnāṭaka, 11-3-1951

When such is the state of the American President what can be said about the common folk? Just as the Kannada poet Lakṣmīśa says, if a torturous woman happens to be your wife, it is as good as climbing on to a tree full of thorns! Once married, can you ever do away with your wife? If a second one enters, will the first one let her live in peace? Moreover, if your first wife is divorced, will she let you live in peace? Will there be any happiness left for you? A wound should get healed and the dried skin should fall off on its own - the more you try to pluck it, the more pain it causes. What do you do with wounds that never heal? Just live with them and die along with them. One must be blessed to have no wounds in life and only a few are blessed to be so.

A woman supposedly killed her husband by not feeding him for a long time – she then sacrificed three roosters at his grave. The grave ‘drank’ the blood from two roosters and could not take in the blood from the third. As she saw the blood streaming away from the grave, she cried out loud – “Alas! My dear husband does not like my offering of a rooster!” – I remember having read a story of this sort. To put it in other words – it is like torturing a person as long as he is alive and shedding large amounts of tears after his death. Garlanding the photo of the dead husband and says – ‘I never prepare anything less than four sweets for the death anniversary of my husband!”

Who will be there for us after death? After death, who knows what lays in store, what happens, what we would do? The writers of the purāṇas, have neither seen the post-death situation nor the other-world, if it exists, and then tapping into their experience, have written it. So while we are alive, the affection we show, our conscience, the good deeds we do, are what would result in utility both here and elsewhere. Having committed a murder, on the previous day of hanging, if one recites the Gīta the whole night what is the use of it? What is the use of reciting the Stotras? Hearing them, assuming four hands, what would the orphaned deity be able to give? Even being all-powerful, seems like god can give only the fruits of our own deeds. How can such a god be all-merciful? Like the breasts of the buck (male goat), what would be the use of such a god? Aren’t our deeds enough? That is at the very least noticeable and evident; in general, good deeds beget good, children drinking milk live, while children drinking poison die. Extending this to the past and future, due to the good deeds from our past we experience happiness, likewise the good deeds we do in the present will result in comfort in future. Bad deeds and their fruits are also described likewise. But in the present conundrum, trapped in a spider’s web, not able to escape, the more they try the more difficult it becomes, resulting in the insects becoming food for the spider, due to their fate. Whether God is merciful or not, fate is merciless and is evident by experience. While being born, while growing, while being helpless, incapable of doing anything, we get ourselves stuck in some unavoidable difficulty. Mother, father, wife, children, household stuff - all these come to us due to attachment. What follows is just agitation. Can we change our environment? Can stones and thorns become soft? Can we change the our nature or of others? Can the spots on the leopard be washed off? ಹೀನಸುಳಿ (ಮೈಮೇಲೆ ಇರುವ ಅಶುಭ ಸೂಚಕವಾದ ಕೂದಲಿನ ಸುಳಿ) ಬೋಳಿಸಿದರೆ ಹೋದೀತೇ? - Old habits die hard? Can the tigers and bears be transformed into cows and buffaloes? Only some species/fruits like mangoes and pomegranates, cast off their initial sourness and become sweet when they ripen. In other fruits like lemon and citron ripening may only change their colour but can’t change their taste from sour to sweet. Irrespective of whether they are young or adults, snakes and scorpions are venomous (teeth and tail respectively). Modern science of course tells that anything can be transformed to anything else; in principle everything is the same. So says Advaita-vedānta, but that is in terms of the Spirit; but in the material world neither the Vedānta nor science solves the problem. Here the stones and thorns are still abrasive and prickly; tigers and bears are still wild. By controlling one’s anger, by undergoing difficulties and developing fortitude, by continuous struggle, one becomes strong, climbs higher in the ladder of evolution----says the theory of evolution; This is somewhat similar to ‘Bhramara-kīṭa-nyāya'. For the Kīṭa to become the bee it has to undergo a lot of torment. Why has the creator imposed such a cruel rule? For troubled souls in this world consolations such as the following are the only solace. That by doing good deeds now, practicing non-violence and compassion, in future lives at least happiness would be obtained - this string of hope is the only support!

There is a Kannada proverb that says “A tiger doesn’t give a damn whether it is its own forest or others’ forest”. But even for such a tiger too, a notion of its family, others’ family, its own children, others’ children exists. So does it possess self-consciousness and conscience. But some women don’t even possess that; that's the reason Ṛg-veda says ‘na vai straiṇāni sakhyāni santi, sālāvṛkāṇāṃ hṛdayānyetā’ (X, 95-15), i.e. friendship means nothing to women; their hearts are like the hyena’s heart. Daṇḍī says, ‘kiṃ krūraṃ? strī-hṛdayaṃ!

Such people quarrel with their own children; they always keep grumbling, cursing, complaining and threaten to drown or poison themselves, and finally end up taking their own life and reach a ghastly end and attain infamy. [See the story of Guṇaśarma: ‘For the one who commits suicide, the pain in the next world is only worse!’]. It is futile to hope that they will become wiser as they age; for, the sourness of tamarind does not go away just because the tree becomes old. The opinion that modern education can change the nature of such people, is just an illusion. Scrubbing a stone only makes its upper part shiny! It does not soften it. The real outcome of education is refinement; which in turn develops conduct, softens the mind and makes a person melt to others’ sorrows in empathy; it should also make them content and happy in the times of plenty. However, today, the impression is that an educated woman is someone who is dazzling on the outside, enjoys unbridled freedom, and does not fit well with family life. Movies have shown such examples. However, even today, in our country, chaste housewives are widely held in high esteem.


To be continued...

This is an English translation of Prof. A R Krishna Shastri’s Kannada classic Kathāmṛta by Raghavendra G S, Arjun Bharadwaj,  Srishan Thirumalai, and Hari Ravikumar.

The original Kannada version of Kathāmṛta is available for free online reading here. To read other works of Prof. Krishna Shastri, click here.



Prof. A R Krishna Sastri was a journalist, scholar, polyglot, and a pioneer of the modern Kannada renaissance, who founded the literary journal Prabuddha Karnāṭaka. His Vacana-bhārata and Kathāmṛta are classics of Kannada literature while his Saṃskṛta-nāṭaka and Bankimacandra are of unrivalled scholarship.

Prekshaa Publications

Shiva Rama Krishna

சிவன். ராமன். கிருஷ்ணன்.
இந்திய பாரம்பரியத்தின் முப்பெரும் கதாநாயகர்கள்.
உயர் இந்தியாவில் தலைமுறைகள் பல கடந்தும் கடவுளர்களாக போற்றப்பட்டு வழிகாட்டிகளாக விளங்குபவர்கள்.
மனித ஒற்றுமை நூற்றாண்டுகால பரிணாம வளர்ச்சியின் பரிமாணம்.
தனிநபர்களாகவும், குடும்ப உறுப்பினர்களாகவும், சமுதாய பிரஜைகளாகவும் நாம் அனைவரும் பரிமளிக்கிறோம்.
சிவன் தனிமனித அடையாளமாக அமைகிறான்....

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...