A Story for a Verse - Vikatanitamba

तात बाहट मा रोदीरेषा वै कर्मणो गतिः ।
दुषि धातोरिवास्माकं गुणो दोषाय क्ल्प्यते ॥

The central character of this story is Vikatanitamba, who lives on to this day through her muktakas (stray, independent verses). No work of this fine poet has come down to us in full; they have been swept away in the flood of time.

Vikatanitamba saw fate at its cruelest and lived an unhappy life. Her husband was an ignoramus, while she was teeming with charm and creativity. She just could not live with him. Opposite poles, in this case, failed to attract. She ran away from her husband’s house and reached Kashi, the land of learning. As she was new to the place, she needed some space to settle down. Shelter presented itself in the form of a prostitute’s house. In the meantime, her father Bahata learned about the events and set out searching for her. He eventually came to Kashi, and came to know that Vikatanitamba was living in a whorehouse.  He met her there and was deeply saddened. He wept profusely, thinking that while surrounded by hustlers, his daughter is sure to be looked down by the world. Vikatanitamba, though herself dejected, summoned strength to console her father.

Dear father, don’t weep, for
This is the way fate functions.
Our fate is much like the verbal root dush
that turns into dosha by virtue of guna

 Nothing had worked out right for Vikatanitamba. All her virtues (gunas) had become vices (doshas). And how did she drive home this fact to her father – sheer brilliance! This verse exemplifies grammatical erudition blending perfectly with poetry. The word dosha is derived by the accession of ‘guna’ to the root word dush.

 Note: The Paninian sutra (aphorism) pugantalaghoodhasya cha is at work here.

Playing with the two words guna and dosha, she communicated exactly how fate had played games to make her life miserable. Composing such a verse impromptu is no mean task. The depth of her learning under Govindaswamī – especially in grammar – is evident from this.

Fate is indispensable; it is impossible to live with, and impossible to live without. This has been beautifully brought out by this verse.

Translated from Kannada by Shashi Kiran B. N.
(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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