A story for a verse - Vāñcheśvara

हृदि तरसा विदितरसा तदितरसाहित्यवाङ्न मे लगति |

कविलोके न विलोके भुवि लोकेशस्य शाहजेरुपमाम् ||


Vāñcheśvara was the great-grandson of Govinda-dīkṣita. He was also called ‘Kuṭṭi-kavi’ (‘Little poet’), and there is an interesting anecdote behind this nickname. Shahaji was a famous king, who belonged to the family of the Bhosles, who ruled over Tanjavur in the 18th century. He was a scholar and a poet himself. The village of Tiruvīśanallūr gave birth to a big community of scholars under his patronage, and it was here that Vāñcheśvara grew up. He once accompanied his father on a trip to Madurai, along with Shahaji’s family. The king, looking at the Goddess Mīnākṣī, was overcome with devotion and prayed in these words:

“पुरि मधुरं गिरि मधुरं गरिमधुरं धरनितम्बभाराढ्याम् |

स्थूलकुचं नीलकुचं बालकचन्द्राङ्कितं तेजः ||”

The little boy Vāñcheśvara, who was present there with his father, was inspired by the verse composed by the king, and he too composed a ‘gīti’ extempore, with the same kind of rhyme and same alliterative pattern:

“No poem other than this one, filled with rasa-bhāva, comes to my mind immediately. I cannot think of another person who can match King Shahaji in the realm of poets.”

The king appreciated the lad who had composed such a fine verse with lyrical melody and gave him the title ‘The Little Poet’(‘Kuṭṭi-kavi’). It was the same person who later composed the satirical poem called the ‘Mahiṣa-śataka’ (a hundred verses on a buffalo), which has made him immortal. He was known as the king of puns.


Adapted from Kannada by Arjun Bharadwaj
(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.