A Story for a Verse - Matrgupta

शीतेनाद्ध्युषितस्य माषशिमिवच्चिन्तार्णवे मज्जतः
शान्ताग्नेः स्फुटिताधरस्य धमतः क्षुत्क्षामकण्ठस्य मे ।
निद्रा क्वाप्यवमानितेव दयिता संत्यज्य दूरं गता
सत्पात्रप्रतिपादितेव वसुधा न क्षीयते शर्वरी ॥

shitenaddhyushitasya mashashimivaccintarnave majjatah
shantagneh sphutitadharasya dhamatah kshutkshamakanthasya me |
nidra kvapyavamaniteva dayita samtyajya duram gata
satpatrapratipaditeva vasudha na kshiyate sharvari ||

Many Sanskrit poets have thrived in the land of Kashmir, Matrgupta being one of them. We are introduced to this gifted poet in the Rajatarangini, a fascinating composition of Kalhana, which gives a detailed account of Kashmir and its rulers.

Matrgupta is a fine representative of the glorious literary heritage of Kashmir. Right from his childhood, his only companions were poetry and poverty. Words were his wealth and he grew up to be a poet par excellence. In his quest of finding a patron, he once went to Ujjain, which was ruled by Vikramaditya (also known as Harsha). Matrgupta intended to please the king and gain his patronage. All his efforts to enter the royal palace went in vain; rosy days remained a dream. Months advanced and winter set in. It was biting cold. Nature showed no mercy on the penniless Matrgupta.

One night, he lay near the royal mansion, helpless and shivering. He had kindled a fire to keep himself warm but that didn’t help much. Vikramaditya, looking out of his window, chanced upon this pitiable sight. The merciful king asked Matrgupta to explain his deplorable situation. The poet in Matrgupta was roused at once and he instantly composed this verse. It communicated to the king both the poet’s wit and his woeful condition.

I’m drowned in a sea of depression
With the fire fizzled out, I’m a grain rubbed against an ice block
My lips are parched with the constant blowing to rekindle the fire
Owing to thirst and hunger, my throat is dry
Sleep has forsaken me like a humiliated house-wife
Added to all this, the night seems endless
like a piece of land donated to the deserving

The poet thus spoke of his plight. The compassionate king rid him of all his sorrows immediately. Then on Matrgupta lived a life of luxury. Over time, he even became the king of Kashmir.

Poetry works wonders. It has the power to take a man from rags to riches.

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



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.