Verses of Uddaṇḍa-śāstri - Entertainment and sarcasm

Uddaṇḍa-śāstri was well-known for his ability to compose fine poems on the move. He authored works such as Mallikāmāruta, Kokilasandeśa, Naṭāṅkuśa, and Svātīmuktaka. There are innumerable verses—some entertaining and some caustic—associated with Uddaṇḍa-śāstri’s life and works. At times, these verses can be enjoyed even without a context and stand as independent poems (muktakas). Here are a few verses that are neither contextual nor independent, but are related to a certain person or a circumstance requiring just a line by way of background.



Uddaṇḍa-śāstri strongly disliked Nāṇappa Piṣorāṭi, an aged scholar. He composed the following verse deploring him:

ध्वन्यध्वन्यध्वनीनाः फणिपतिभणिताम्भोधिकुम्भीकुमाराः
प्रौढाः केचित्प्रथन्तेन्ते परगुणकणिकाश्लाघिनस्तान्नमामः ।
प्रत्याहारग्रहेऽपि भ्रमितमतिरसौ कोऽपि साहित्यविद्या -
काणो नाणप्पनामा प्रलपतु जरठस्तावता मे न हानिः ।१।

“We revere those who have attained their goals
while treading the path of rasa-dhvani,
those who, like Agastya, have gulped down
the ocean of grammar, and
those who hold in high esteem
the good quality of another, however minute
I, however, remain unaffected
by the blabbering of Nāṇappa, the aged idiot,
who gets confused in the face of even basic grammar
such as the pratyāhārasūtras and is ignorant of even simple literature.”

[Pratyāhārasūtras are aphorisms that govern the comprehension of a set of letters into an abberviated syllable.]




The next verse is filled with contempt for a certain scholar who came to challenge Uddaṇḍa in debate.
विदारणविनोदनक्षपितवासरः केसरी ।
कथं नु कलहक्रमं वितनुते परेताटवी-
राणकुणपाशनप्रकटितारवे फेरवे ।२।

“Does a lion, that tears apart
the foreheads of intoxicated elephants as a pastime,
pick a fight with a jackal that sticks out its tongue and howls,
craving to eat a rotting corpse in the cremation grounds?”



Uddaṇḍa was proud of his intellectual valor and the following is a verse where he boasts of it:
पलायध्वं पलायध्वं
रे रे दुष्कविुकुञ्जराः ।
ह्यायात्युद्दण्डकेसरी ।३।

“Bad poet-elephants, run, flee!
Here comes the lion of the Vedānta-forest,
Uddaṇḍa, the king among poets.”

The poetic convention that a lion breaks through the foreheads of elephants is used here. Uddaṇḍa compares himself to a lion and bad poets to elephants. Elephants flee when they see a lion approaching.

कन्थामात्रकुविन्दकाः कवयितुं सज्जन्ति लज्जामुचः ।
प्रत्याख्यानपटीयसापि वचसा जिह्रेति जिह्वा मम ।४।

“People who know barely a letter or two and
who manage to stitch together a ‘song’
with great effort like a weaver,
go about shamelessly parading as poets
My own tongue, on the other hand,
with its torrent of words that can
put to shame even the gushing Gaṅgā,
hesitates to put down a word.”



Uddaṇḍa has written a few verses about the typical cuisine of Kerala. Here are some on ‘śrāṇā’3 and the betel nut:
शुण्ठीकुण्ठीकृताम्भोगतगरिमभरं पैठरीं जाठराग्ने -
स्तापं निर्वापयन्ती श्रमशमनकरी मायुजायूभवन्तीम् ।
मौद्गैः शल्कैः परीतां परिमलबहुलां मण्डितां केरखण्डै-
र्नॄणां श्राणां सुराणां पुनरकृतसुधां यः स वेधाः सुमेधाः ।५।

“Śrāṇā is made of
ginger that soothes the stomach,
water that cools the body and reduces fatigue,
green-gram that adds to the flavour and fragrance,
finely grated dry coconut that adds to the taste
Śrāṇā is indeed a divine gift to mankind
It is like the elixir of life
There is no match for Brahmā’s genius
that created śrāṇā.”

सुरुचिरलावण्यसम्पदा सुखदा ।
श्राणा शोणाधरीव रमणीया ।६।

“It reduces body heat,
contains salt that makes it tasty,
and if eaten with pickle as a side-dish,
it becomes delicious and enjoyable.”

There are several puns in this verse. Aṅgajatāpa means body heat and also the heat of love [Aṅgaja is another name of Manmatha (Cupid).]  Lāvaṇya means something that contains salt [‘Lavaṇa’ is the Sanskrit word for salt] and also means beautiful. Upadaṃśa is a side-dish (like a pickle) or biting of the lower lip (of the beloved).

If the verse is read with the second set of meanings, it will mean:

“She helps reduce the heat of love,
she is beautiful, and
her lower-lip, when bitten,
is delicious and enjoyable.”
Thus, śrāṇā is like a beautiful girl, and both are truly delightful.


This is an excerpt from the book "Stories behind verses" published by Prekshaa Pratishtana. The book is a collection of anecdotes connected with lives of Sanskrit poets and documents the inspiration the poets drew from everyday life to compose poems extempore. The book can serve to give an insight into the lives of ancients and their creative genius. The book is an english adaptation by Arjun Bharadwaj and Shashi Kiran of Dr. R Ganesh's Kannada original. 





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.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...


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