A Story for a Verse - Shankaramishra

प्रयाणे तव भूपते ।
सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः
सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् ॥

The king Shivasimha was mighty impressed with the poetic prowess of Shankaramishra, the sprightly boy he met on the streets, who was famous as a child prodigy by then. He invited him to the palace and asked him to compose poems. Many exquisite poems rolled off the boy’s tongue. The king, curious to know the extent of the child’s abilities, asked him to compose a verse having a vedic mantra in its second half. Shankaramishra came up with this verse:

O king, when you march to conquer enemies,Ve
Adishesha, the thousand-hooded snake, trembles;
The thousand-eyed Indra is stunned;
Sun, the one with infinite rays, goes out of sight.

Note: The second half of this verse is from the famous Purusha Sukta.

The awestruck king took the boy to the royal treasury and said, “You’re free to take whatever you like.” The boy took a fistful of gold coins. Not seeing any container around to carry them home, he tied them to his dhoti.

Shankaramishra’s parents lived in a state of absolute penury. When the child was born, there was no money to give the midwife. The mother had promised to give the first earning of the child to the midwife. Accordingly, all gold coins given by the king went to her. The selfless woman that she was, the midwife used them to construct lakes and bunds. The native villagers recount this incident with gratitude even to this day.

Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(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.