यद्वक्रेण पथा प्रयासि सततं यद्वासि विद्वन्मन-
श्चौरी यच्च करोषि पूर्वसुकविप्रौढिप्रथोत्पुंसनम् ।
तस्माद्भारति सद्भिरत्रभवती तीक्ष्णेति संभाविता
तूर्णं पार्श्वममुष्य पार्थिवमणेरभ्येहि शुद्ध्यर्थिनी ॥
Once, there lived a poet who resolved to not compose verses on petty issues, and do it only in praise of Shiva. This poet Mankha (also known as Mankhaka or Mankhuka), hailing from Pravarapura in Kashmir, lived in the 12th century. He composed an epic-poem Srikanthacharitam and took it to his guru Ruyyaka, the celebrated aesthetician. When he went to him, Ruyyaka was in an assembly of scholars. They had congregated in front of Lankaka’s house (Mankha’s brother).
Among the towering scholars assembled there, Nandana, Ramyadeva, Prabhakara, Srigarbha, Mandana, Garga, Srikantha, Sridevadhara, Jayasimha, Alaṅkāra, Naga, Trailokya, Damodara, Govinda, Kalyana (or Kalhana of the Rajatarangini fame), Alakadatta, Padmaraja, Janakaraja, Ananda, Lakshmideva, Suhala and Jogaraja are noteworthy. Mankha presented his poem in that learned assembly and won critical acclaim. Then, the envoy of the Konkan king Aparaditya, Tejahkantha, said, “You don’t sing in praise of kings. Your superlative poetic prowess is known to all. I request you to please compose a few verses concerning kings.” Mankha felt obliged and composed some poems on the spot. But he took care not to attribute those verses to any king. Among them, this verse stands out because of its vakrokti (oblique/indirect expression)
Yours is an indirect route; you rob scholars of their intellect
Because of you, past poets vanish into oblivion.
Due to this, O Sarasvati, noble people have branded you an offender.
Come to this noble king at once and get cleansed
Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)