कणभयिताहे तर्के फणभयिताहे सुशब्दगणनोर्दके |
मन्दरवृत्तं वर्ते श्रुत्यंतसुधाम्बुधौ महागर्ते ||
Kirīṭapati Veṅkaṭācārya was a prominent scholar who lived in the province of Surapura in Karnataka during the eighteenth-nineteenth centuries. He was the author of several works, a master of puns and alliterations and a prolific writer. It used to be said that he wore dvaita and advaita as the sandals on his two feet and viśiṣṭādvaita as his crown – he was therefore called ‘Kirīṭapati’. He had named his cāmaras (fans on either sides) as ‘paramata-khaṇḍana’ (denouncement of others’ opinions) and ‘svamata-maṇḍana’ (establishing one’s own opinion). He had named his walking stick ‘Śrī Bhāṣya’ and his umbrella ‘Yatirāja’!
He was a living legend during his times, though he died at the young age of thrity-two. Once, he visited the Peshwa Madhavrao in Pune. His students who accompanied him on the trip carried his medals and honours with great pompousness. The Peshwa asked the person sitting by him in Marathi ‘Who is this person who is showing-off so much?’ Sensing his intention immediately, Veṅkaṭācārya uttered the following Sanskrit verse extempore, replete with a flavor of Marathi:
“I am someone who can even frighten Kaṇāda with my tarka and terrify Patañjali with my prowess in grammar, the science of flawless words. I am serving as the mandāra mountain to the ocean of vedānta (i.e., I am churning the ocean of vedānta)”.
The Peshwa, impressed with his spontaneity and scholarship, organised a debate between him and other great scholars. Veṅkaṭācārya won against all the other scholars in the debate and received great honours from the Peshwa.
Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)