A Story for a Verse - Harihara and Madana

रे रे ग्रामकुविन्द कन्दलतया वस्त्राण्यमूनि त्वया
गोणीविभ्रमभाजनानि शतशोऽप्यात्मा किमायास्यते ।
अप्येकं रुचिरं चिरादभिनवं वासस्तदासूत्रतां
येन्नोज्झन्ति कुचस्थलात् क्षणमपि क्षोणीभृतां वल्लभाः ॥

Among the princely states that were popular in ancient India, Gurjura is one of the most famous. During 12th century C.E., it was ruled by the emperor Viradhavala. In those days, poets were found in large numbers in royal courts, and quarrels between them were not uncommon. These fights were mostly because of jealousy. Harihara and Madana, Viradhavala’s court-poets, were famous for such fights.

It is interesting to our story that those quarrels, more often than not, took a poetic shape. During one such episode, Madana said, “Harihara, do not bask in pride that you are ‘kaviraja.’ You’re just a big elephant, and I’m like a spear that subdues elephants in rut.” (हरिहर परिहर गर्वं कविराजगजाङ्कुशोऽस्म्यहं मदनः) To that, Harihara immediately retorted – “Shut up, Madana. Manmatha cannot touch Shiva; (or) recall what happened to Manmatha when he tried to play games with Shiva.” (मदन विमुद्रय वदनं हरिहरचरितं स्मरातीतम्).

Witty exchanges like these were a common sight. Once, the king set a challenge that expected both poets to compose one hundred verses in a single hour (घण्टाशतक). Madana came out victorious in this. But Harihara did not give up. He composed this poem as reply:

O naïve tailor, why do you tire yourself weaving these rags,
Hundreds in number, that no one cares for?
Make a beautiful silk blouse, let’s see,
Which classy queens never wish to part with.

 This is an allegorical verse hinting that Madana’s poetry is just useless rambling and not worthy to be taken seriously. That Harihara conveyed this through a verse is a mark of his genius.

Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)

Author(s)

About:

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.

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