नीवारशूकवत्तन्वी विद्युल्लेखेव भास्वरा |
रमणी रमणीयेयं स्मरणीया स्मरारणिः ||
Mummaḍi Śrī Kṛṣṇarāja Wodeyar of Mysore was a great connoisseur of art and was known for his erudition. Once, a huge crowd had gathered in the palace for a special ritual of worship that was being performed. The king was chatting with the scholars who were present there and their conversation turned towards extempore-poetry (āśukavitā). The king threw a challenge at the scholars who were present there. It was the challenge of a samasyāpūraṇa, i.e., they had to create a contextual meaning for the line “नीवारशूकवत्तन्वी विद्युल्लेखेव भास्वरा|”. This line is from the mantrapuṣpa of ṛgveda and was being chanted at the ritual right then. The king imposed a time constraint too – the scholars had to come up with a solution before the ritual was complete. It was time for the uttara-nīrājana and the purohita (priest) had the ārātrikā with a piece of karpūra (camphor) in his hand. The great scholar Kāśi Śeṣaśāstri, who was present there, came up with the second part of the verse (‘रमणी रमणीयेयं स्मरणीया स्मरारणिः’) even before the first round of the nīrājana-darśana was complete. The king was impressed and praised Śeṣaśāstri.
The first half of the verse, i.e., the vedic line that is profound and sublime, in combination with the lucid second half composed by Śeṣaśāstri resulted in a verse describing a beautiful damsel. Whereas the first half is vedic, the other half has a worldly imagery.
‘This beautiful lady who is as lean as the tip of wild rice and is as fair as lightning looks like the araṇi* that can kindle the fire of manmatha (lust)’
(araṇi is a pair of wooden sticks that are rubbed together to kindle fire needed for vedic rituals.)
Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)