वेणीभूतेषु केशेष्वतसिफणिधिया द्रष्टुमागत्य केकी
पश्चादारभ्य योद्धुं प्रतिशिखिमनसा तेषु विस्रंसितेषु |
भूयो धमिल्लितेषु प्रकटघनधिया नर्तनायोज्जजृम्भे
तन्नृत्तालोकनान्मे प्रियसख मम भून्मण्डनश्रीविलंबः ||
In the 17th century ACE, the province of Tanjavur was famous for its erudite poets. Prominent among the advaitins were Acchān-dīkṣita, Raṅgarājādhvari, Appayya-dīkṣita, Samarapuṅgava-dīkṣita, Rājacūḍāmaṇi-dīkṣita, Nīlakanṭha-dīkṣita, Govinda-dīkṣita, Yajñanārāyaṇa-dīkṣita, Rāmabhadra-dīkṣita and Veṅkaṭamakhi. There were scholars of dvaita and vishishtaadvaita too, such as Śrī-vijayīndra, Sudhīndra, Tātācārya and others. It was during this period that Ratnakeṭa Śrīnivāsa-dīkṣita served as the head of education in the court of King Kṛṣṇamanāyaka of Gingee. He was the father-in-law of Appayya-dīkṣita. Ratnakeṭa Śrīnivāsa-dīkṣita was a polymath, as was his wife, Maṅgaḻāmbā. Maṅgaḻāmbā was also a scholar and a poetess in her own right. She often took part in scholarly debates (vākyārthasabhā-s).
Once, she was late to one such scholarly debate. When her husband asked her the reason for her delay, she came up with the above verse in the sragdharā meter, impromptu.
‘While I was getting ready to attend this debate, a peacock mistook my braided hair for a black snake and rushed to grab it. I got scared, and unbraided my hair, which the peacock again mistook for a rival peacock (with its feathers spread out) and got ready to fight with it. I started braiding my hair again: the peacock then mistook it for dark clouds and started dancing. I got late watching it dance while I was getting ready’
The audience must have been thrilled to hear this novel and spontaneous excuse for coming late.
Adapted from original Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)