यागक्रियार्थं खलु वृक्षराजो
वर्णक्रियार्थं खलु भृङ्गराजः |
तुलाक्रियार्थं खलु विट्तराजो
न किञ्चिदर्थं भुवि नर्सराजः ||
Naḍimiṇṭi Maṅgaleśvaraśāstri was a scholar, who was born in a town called Nāgūru of the Pārvatīpura province in the Viśākhapaṭṭaṇam district of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. He lived in the 19th century and was an authority on language and grammar. In his wit, he was like the famous Rāmakṛṣṇa of Tenāli.
His mastery over grammar was such that he could extract any meaning from a given word. Such linguistic tricks and his wit would together provoke hearty laughter. There are several anecdotes connected with him. He is known to have made satirical interpretations on verses like ‘अनन्तरत्नप्रभवस्य यस्य…’ of Kālidāsa’s Kumārasambhavam and the popular marriage-mantra ‘माङ्गल्यतन्तुनानेन…’. His play on words and their meanings are popular even to this day.
He once approached a rich person by name Narasarāja seeking some financial help for a good cause. When his request was declined, he said the current verse extempore to mock Narasarāja’s miserliness:
‘Aśvattha, the king among trees is used for yajña, a chemical called Bhṛṅgarāja is used for the preparation of colours and scales are used for weighing. However, Narasarāja does not serve any purpose on earth’
(The word ‘rāja’ is common in all the four lines of the verse. The other three ‘rāja’s are useful to the society in some way, but Narasa-‘rāja’ is of no use)
This derogatory verse, filled with rhyming words, might be relevant even today!
(विट् + तराजः, ‘विट्’ means ‘a merchant’. तराजः is probably a sanskritized version of the Persian word ‘तराजू’ and is used here to maintain the rhyme)
Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe)