A Story for a Verse - Dvyaṅguḻi Śrīnivāsacārya

अत्तुमम्ब तव पाकमद्भुतं
वाञ्छितं स्म करपञ्चकं मम ।
अश्म-केश-तृणशोधनाय य-
त्ताडनार्थमुदरास्ययोरपि ॥

Dvyaṅguḻi Śrīnivāsacārya was a Sanskrit scholar who lived in the province of Mysore in the early decades of the 20th century. He was known for his strange mannerisms. He had lost all the fingers on his hands except two and had earned the nickname ‘Dvyaṅguḻi’—dvi+aṅguḻi=two fingers—and it stayed as a prefix to his real name. His scholarship was only matched by his prowess in extempore poetry, but he was also given to womanizing, an attribute that prominently marked his character. His light-hearted poetry and playful nature were equally
well known. Once, when he was a still student, his teacher was teaching a class and noticed that a certain boy named Śāstri was absent. The teacher asked the class where the boy was. The young Śrīnivāsacārya immediately said, ‘Śāstrī parastrīṃgataḥ!’ -  “Śāstri has lost himself in some lady.” Such was his nature. As a student, he used to go to an old lady’s house for food. There were several other students like him, who used to visit her just like he did. The king was supporting the old lady financially, as she was ensuring the well-being of students. However, the food she cooked was never good. Śrīnivāsacārya composed the above verse to ridicule the food she cooked.

“Oh mother! I guess I need five hands
to eat the delicious food that you cook
Don’t I need hands to simultaneously pick out
the pieces of stone, hair, and grass, and
hands to beat my stomach and my mouth?”

The king who heard this verse understood the difficulty that the students had to undergo. He made sure that the quality of the food improved. The verse indeed helped in avoiding something adverse.

Adapted from the Kannada original by Arjun Bharadwaj




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.