Unsung Poetry (Part 5)

Here is a verse composed by Naraṣiñyācārya, dedicated towards his teacher.

ಗೋಪೀನಾಥಗುರಂ ವಂದೇ

ಗೋಪೀಚಂದನಧಾರಿಣಮ್ |

ಅಂಗಾರತುಳಸೀಯುಕ್ತಂ

ಆರ್ದ್ರಚಿಕ್ಕಪಟಾನ್ವಿತಮ್ ||

I bow down to my teacher Gopīnathācārya, who bears Gopī-candana, adorned with Aṅgāra[1] and Tulasī[2], covered by small wet cloth.

‘Cikka’ here refers to small (washed and sanctified) cloth which is typically worn during the worship of the deities. ‘Ārdra’ signifies that it is still wet.

There are many textual variations for the second half of this verse.

ಸಗಡ್ಡಂ ಚ ಸ ಬುಡ್ಡಂ ಚ

ವಕ್ರದಂತವಿರಾಜಿತಮ್ ||

… The one adorned with beard, and a set of crooked teeth

ಶತಚ್ಛಿದ್ರಪಟವ್ಯಕ್ತ-

ದಂಡಕಾರಣ್ಯಶೋಭನಮ್ ||

…containing hundreds of holes, exhibiting the forest of Daṇḍaka[3]

ಶತಚ್ಛಿದ್ರಪಟವ್ಯಕ್ತ-

… … ದ್ವಯಮಂಡಿತಮ್ ||

…containing hundreds of holes, endowed with a pair of …

When his teacher heard about all these “despicable variations” he said to his disciple.

“Oh Naraṣiñyā! You have thrown my reputation down the drain”

His disciple said,

“I’ve said ‘Paṭṭānvitam’, I’ve covered your modesty with clothes. All these wretched people have done this to ridicule you.”

His teacher blessed him saying “You bl**dy …”

The passion of poetry

The passion to compose poetry is like castor oil. Even a drop of it residing inside won’t stay quiet. Only after it comes out in full flow there will be tranquillity. If it remains inside it’s a pain, dangerous. Once when I gave this comparison my friend Late S. G. Shastri was quite agitated and scolded me; I remember. From that day till now, I’m yet to find a comparison which is more appropriate, and I’ve failed; I beg your pardon.

Around forty to fifty years ago, in the multitude of teachers, this disease was predominant. Around 1914-15, when Rao Bahadur M. Shamarao was the head of the education department this incident happened. When he had been to some school, a teacher there had composed five-six verses, printed them on a sheet of paper, framed it and presented it to him. The first verse was as follows:

ವರ ಶಾಮರಾಯ ನಿನ್ನಯ

ಹಿರಿಮೆಯ ನಾನೇಂ ಪೊಗಳ್ವೆ ವಿದ್ವಜ್ಜನರ- ।

ಚ್ಚರಿಯದು ... …

ಕರಿನಾಡಿನ ಬಿಜ್ಜೆಗಳ್ಗೆ ನೀಂ ತವರೂರೈ ||

O Revered Shamarao, how can I extol your great esteem, the cause of wonder in erudite folk…the origin of all the branches of knowledge of Karnataka

Deliberating upon these verses, my friend Vajapeyam Venkatasubbayya, wrote a humorous article. I published it in the “Karnataka” magazine. Two-three days after that when Shamarao and I met, he said:

“What is this! I am being hit by both the sides. The teachers won’t listen to me; they commit these mistakes. On the other hand, even you won’t leave it as it is. Someone has thrashed me in his writings. Tell me, what should I do now? Now listen to this. When I was in Shivamogga, on inspection, in one of the schools they welcomed me with a song which was as follows:

ಕ್ಷೇಮವೇ ಶ್ರೀ ರಾವ್ ಬಹಾದ್ದೂರ್

ಶಾಮರಾಯರೇ?

ಈ ಮಹೀಶೂರ ಕಲಾ-

ಧಾಮಕಾಯರೇ

Are you keeping well, Rao Bahadur Shamarao? The embodiment of all the arts of Mysore.

The students, in excitement, while singing the first line, sang thus:

ಕ್ಷೇಮವೇ ಶ್ರೀ ರಾವ್ ಬಹಾದ್ದೂರ್

ಕ್ಷಾಮರಾಯರೇ?

Are you keeping well, Rao Bahadur Kṣāmarao (king of famine)

I called upon the teacher and said, ‘please don’t do this, this isn’t right I don’t need this. You keep all these formalities when the king or the viceroy visits your school’. In reply the teacher indicated that it can be changed to, ‘ಕ್ಷೇಮವೇ ಶ್ರೀ ಮಹಾರಾಜ ಚಾಮರಾಜ[4]’. I told him ‘please don’t bother our beloved king, let him be spared of this embarrassment’”

Our teachers are good people by heart. Their intent is noble. We shouldn’t spoil their happiness. When rhyming words like Śāma, Kṣema, Cāma etc., incessantly flow they ignite their poetic prowess. We should just accept it with a smile.

Vajapeyam Venkatasubbayya’s habit of analysing and critiquing poetry was at its extreme. Once when we were chatting, the topic of the late Komandur Ramaswamy Iyengar came up. Ramaswamy Iyengar was a scholar, a poetry enthusiast: he had edited and published “Rāmābhyudaya-kathā-kusumamañjarī” and other poetic works in Haḻegannaḍa[5]. He also had written some poetry himself. A good and noble-hearted person. Here is a verse which we-mainly Venkatasubbayya-composed:

ಆಗ ಮಾಗಡಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಿಂದು ಸ-

ರಾಗದಿಂದ ಕವಿತ್ವ ಪಾಡಿದ

ನಾಗಶಯನನ ಭಕ್ತ ರಾಮಸ್ವಾಮಿ ಬುಧವರನು ।

ಈಗಲೀ ಕಲ್ಯಾಣಪುರಿಯಲಿ

ಜಾಗವನು ಮಾಡಿಹನು ರಸಿಕರು

ಪೋಗಿ ನೋಡುವುದಲ್ಲಿ ನಗುಮೊಗವುಳ್ಳ ಮಡಿಕೋಲನ್ ||

Then, residing in Magadi, was Ramaswamy Iyengar, best among scholars, the devotee of the deity sleeping on the serpent, who melodiously sang poetry, now he resides in Bangalore, connoisseurs should go and see him, the ever smiling, Maḍikolu-like[6] figure.

Ramaswamy Iyengar was a tall and lean person, stick-like in personality. He was ever smiling and since he was a Śrī-vaiṣnava, the Maḍikolu, famous in their household had to appear.

Venkatasubbayya also found happiness in ridiculing Nītī-śatakas. His attempt was to make a collection of parody verses imitating them.

ಇಜ್ಜಲು ಪುಡಿಯಂ ಬೆಳಗಾ-

ಗುಜ್ಜುತ ಪಲ್ಗಳನು ಬಾಯ ಮುಕ್ಕಳಿಸುತ್ತಂ

ಕಜ್ಜಿಗೆ ಸಾಬೂನಿಕ್ಕುತೆ

ಮಜ್ಜನಮಂಗೈದು ಸುಖದಿ ಬಾಳೆಲೊ ಸುಮತೀ

Cleaning the teeth with charcoal powder, gargling the mouth, and applying soap to cure the itching, take bath early in the morning and find happiness! O wise man.

ಬಜ್ಜಿಯ ಬದನೆಯ ಕಾಯಂ

ಸಜ್ಜಿಗೆಯಂ ಸೋಜಿ ತುಪ್ಪ ಬೆಲ್ಲ ಗಳಿಂದಂ

ಗೊಜ್ಜುಗಳ ಮಾಳ್ಪ ಪರಿಯಂ

ಅಜ್ಜಿಯ ಬಳಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕುಳಿತು ಕಲಿಯೌ ಸುಮತೀ

Learn the art of preparing bajji from brinjal, sajjige using Soji, ghee and jaggery, and Gojju under the tutelage of your grandmother. O wise man.

In this article, poetry means versification.

Venkannayya being poet was most probably known only to me and no one else. He also wouldn’t agree the description of him being a poet.

But he has been quite mischievous when it comes to versifying-but in jest. He had no ill will or jealousy towards anyone for that matter. Sometimes he had the knack of making people laugh. That I believe was one of the reasons why he was dear to so many people.

 Once the kannaḍa-nāḍa-hāḍu (national anthem of erstwhile Mumbai-Karnataka state.) was the subject of parody. On some occasion, after listening to the famous poet Śānta-kavi’s “Rakṣisu Karnāṭaka-devi[7]”, this was how it was modified.

ಭಕ್ಷಿಸು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದೇವೀ -ನೀ

ಭಕ್ಷಿಸು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದೇವಿ

ಅಗ್ಗದ ಜೋಳದ ಬಕ್ಕರಿಗಳನು

ಮುಗ್ಗಿದ ರಾಗೀ ಮುದ್ದೆಗಳನ್ನು

ಗುಗ್ಗರಿ ಕಡಲೇ ಹುರುಳಿಗಳನ್ನು

ಹಿಗ್ಗಿದ ಜಗ್ಗಿದ ದವಡೆಗಳಿಂದ

ಭಕ್ಷಿಸು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದೇವೀ

Eat O Karnataka devi! Eat!

Eat the cheap Rotis of jowar

Eat the musty Ragi Balls

Eat the Guggari[8] made of Bengal gram and horse gram

Using expanded and protracted jaws

Eat O Karnataka devi!

The import of it is that the history of the nation is great, the fame of the nation is likewise. The life of the current generation seems to be not in sync with the erstwhile glory of it. We should grow to become worthy of that fame.

 Once we were discussing about Citra-kavite. There is a lot of work done in Telugu in this genre of poetry. Niroṣṭhyamulu[9], Nirdantyamulu[10], thus making such rules, there were many people who would compose verses. During the same discussion, we created a riddle as follows:

(ಒಗಟು)

ಇಂದ್ರನುಮುರ್ವಶಿಯುಂ ಕರಿ-

ಕೆಂದೂಳಿಯ ಕೊಳುತ ಕೊಡುತ ಗೋಂದಾಗಿಸುವರ್

ರಂಧ್ರದಿ ಸೇರುತಲದು ಶೀ-

ನೆಂದು ಹರಿಧ್ಯಾನ ಮಾಡಿಸುವ ಪುಡಿ ಏನೈ 

Indra and Urvaśī by give and take makes this dark powder into a paste, which goes in the opening, and coming out as a sneeze makes one remember the Almighty Hari. What is it?

(ಉತ್ತರ)

ಭಗವಂತಂ ನಾಲ್ಮೊಗದಿಂ

ನೆಗಡಿಯ ತಡೆಯಲ್ಕಸಾಧ್ಯಮಾಗಿರೆ ತಪದಿಂ-

ದೊಗೆಯಿಸಿದಂ ಹೊಗೆಸೊಪ್ಪಂ

ಸೊಗಯಿಸಿತಾ ಸಸ್ಯದೊಳ್ ಪ್ರಶಸ್ಯಂ ನಸ್ಯಂ

Brahmā, the four faced, finding it impossible to endure cold, through penance, brought out tobacco which manifested as, and earned fame as the praiseworthy Naśya[11].

After that, I raised a challenge to compose a verse on Naśya without using any nasal[12] alphabets.  That resulted in this.

ದ(ನ)ಶ್ಯದ ಬೂ(ಮೂ)ಗೋ ಸಗ್ಗದ

ದೃಶ್ಯವೋ ಇದು ದೇವತೆಗಳ ಬಚ್ಚಲ ಗೃಹವೋ

ಹಾಸ್ಯವ ಬಿಡು ಆ ಬು(ಮು)ದಿ ಚತು-

ರಾಸ್ಯದ(ನ)ದಾ(ನಾ)ವೇದದಾ(ನಾ)ಕುಚಿಟಿಕೆಯಿದಲ್ತೆ[13]

Is it the nose which already has used Naśya? Is it a spectacle from the heaven? Is it the bathhouse of the deities? Oh! shun the humour, it is the essence of the four Vedas of the old four-faced deity, Brahmā.

In the history of the Kannada literature, there was an era of humour like the tickling caused by the ropes made by the paddy grass, or the rough hair. These examples are from that era. Looks like that era is bygone now. But still it doesn’t look like it’s completely gone. Few years ago, during a wedding in one of the Ministers’ house, a famous writer wrote and recited few benedictory verses paving way for an extension of his tenure for few more years! It’s not wrong. Poetry can be used to make money, gain fame, in day-to-day business, to destroy evil and so on[14]. The great aesthetician Danḍī, says so and gives permission for it to be used thus.

The bygone eras and the eras which are slipping out of our memory, let us remember them for the humour, have a hearty laugh and forget them. Even after the end of those eras, the flow of Kannada literature has not stopped. It has been flowing like a torrent taking newer and newer forms. Let us be happy for that.

This is the Second part of the English translation of  the nineteenth essay (Aprasiddha Kavitva 2) in D V Gundappa’s magnum-opus Jnapakachitrashaale (Volume 7) – Hrudayasampannaru, translated by Raghavendra G S. The translator likes to acknowledge the timely help of Shatavadhani Dr. R. Ganesh in translating the verses in this article.  

Footnotes

[1] Both worn by traditional mādhvā brahmin

[2] Leaves from the Tulasī plant.

[3] Left to the imagination of the reader!

[4] Are you keeping well, HH Shri Cāmarāja.

[5] Old form of kannada used by poets like Pampa, Ranna.

[6] Maḍikolu is a stick used specifically to hang and later access, the washed/sanctified clothes which are typically used for Pūjā and other such activities. Since the clothes need to remain untouched till it is used for such activities, it is typically hung at a height which requires the help of the stick to again take it off.  Thus, the stick has almost attained a ceremonial sanctity.

[7] ರಕ್ಷಿಸು ಕರ್ನಾಟಕದೇವಿ for original please see

[8] Made by cooking pulses like Bengal gram etc which have been soaked in water.

[9] Void of labials, i.e. verses not containing letters pa, pha, ba, bha, ma

[10] Void of dentals, i.e. verses not containing letters ta, tha, da, dha, na and sa

[11] Snuff

[12] i.e. ṅa,  ña, ṇa, na, ma

[13] da(na)śyada bū(mū)go saggada

    dṛśyavo idu devategaḻa baccala gṛhavo

    hāsyava biḍu ā bu(mu)di catu-

    rāsyada(na)dā(nā)vedadā(nā)kuciṭikeyidalte

[14] kāvyaṃ yaśase arthakṛte vyavahāravide śivetarakṣataye।

    sadyaḥ paranirvṛtaye kāntāsammitatayopadeśayuje॥

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Raghavendra G S is currently pursuing a PhD in Computer Science at the Indian Institute of Science. He is a Sanskrit poet and a keen student of classical literature in Sanskrit and Kannada. He is one of the contributing editors of Prekshaa.

Prekshaa Publications

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