न मे बाला सरस्वती ।
अपूर्णे पञ्चमे वर्षे
वर्णयामि जगत्त्रयम् ॥
Over the centuries, Sarasiva, a small village in Mithila, has been the home to many great scholars, well versed in as many as six shastras. In the 14th century, there was a father-son duo that dominated the scene: The father Bhavanathamishra was a tremendous scholar of Nyaya school of philosophy (Epistemology, loosely); his son was Mahamahopadhyaya Shankaramishra.
Note: Mahamahopadhyaya is one who has trained two generations of scholars. It requires the people educated from his immediate students to be active teachers.
Shankaramishra was a child prodigy. His talents did not take much time to develop. Once, when he was playing with friends on the street, Shivasimha, the king of the land, saw the sprightly boy and spoke to him. After enquiring about his background, the king asked him to recite a shloka. Shankaramishra immediately said, “Should I tell a verse of my composition or should I recite a verse of a different poet from my memory?” Caught surprised, the king asked, “You’re a child; how can you compose verses on your own?” Shankaramishra started,
O king, the cause of happiness in the world,
My age has not crossed five;
But with my poetry,
I can describe the three worlds.
The king’s happiness knew no bounds. Then onwards, he treasured the boy dearly.
Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(The original article is from the anthology Kavitegondu Kathe.)