A Story for a Verse - Rāma-śāstri and Sītārāma-śāstri

अन्यून्यैः शतकात् कृतिस्स्वयमियं गूडार्थपद्यैर्यथा

कर्तव्येति ससंविदप्यतिचिरश्रान्तो मतिक्षोभितः ||

विश्रान्तोsस्म्यवशिष्टमर्धशतकं संग्रथ्य मत्संविदा

सार्धं यः परिपूरयेत्कृतिमिमां तस्मै सहस्रं नमः ||

Rāma-śāstri of Chamarajanagara, a great scholar, lived in Mysore at the end of the 19th Century. He was a very good connoisseur of arts. Despite his prowess in composing poems, he was not keen on pursuing it as a full-fledged activity. Once, a verse (‘भवित्री रम्भोरु त्रिदशवदनग्लानिरुधुना....’) from the Kuvalayānanda of Appayya-dīkśita was being discussed in an assembly of scholars. The verse is full of word-play. Rāma-śāstri passed some casual comments on the verse in a light-hearted manner. His opponents attacked him saying that it was easy to ridicule the verse but it was beyond his capacity to write anything that came close to such beautiful poetry. The comment enraged Rāma-śāstri and he wrote the wonderful work ‘Sītārāvaṇasaṃvādajharī’ in reply to their taunt. Although this work is replete with word-acrobatics, it is also a very good read. The main theme of the work is Rāvaṇa trying to provoke Sītā. In each verse, Rāvaṇa boasts about himself and vilifies Rāma in the first three lines , and Sītā gives a befitting reply to these in the last line. There is an underlying hint in the last line- it suggests an alternative reading to the first three lines, that subverts their meaning completely, making Rāvaṇa denigrate himself or praise Rāma instead. Cyutākṣarī, Dattākṣarī and Cyutadattākṣarī are the word-acrobatics employed in these verses.

Rāma-śāstri wanted to compose one hundred such verses full of linguistic acrobatics, but he stopped at fifty as he was growing old. He recited the current verse after completing the first fifty

‘Though I want to write a hundred verses with subtle meanings, my body and mind do not permit me to do so. If someone can complete the rest, I offer a thousand salutations to him’

After a few years, Śrī Sītārāma-śāstri, a disciple of Rāma-śāstri completed the work by writing fifty more verses. He got his worked approved by his teacher, Rāma-śāstri and has quoted the above verse in his work. He says - ‘My teacher is capable of writing not just a hundred, but even a thousand such verses. It is out of compassion for me that he has left the work unfinished. Thus, it is unfair to expect him to offer me a thousand salutations for having completed the work. Therefore, the last words of this verse should actually have been ‘सहस्राशिषः’ (thousand blessings) and not सहस्रं नमः (thousand salutations). Rāma-śāstri was indeed fortunate to have had a humble disciple like Sītārāma-śāstri, who was also a great scholar. He was privileged indeed to receive a thousand salutations instead of offering them!

 

Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe)

Author(s)

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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.

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