Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A spatial palindrome sloka

It is often not hard to imagine in a seemingly infinite compendium of Sanskrit Literature, there are some gems just lying hidden only to be discovered.

Such gems may be simple yet attractive alliterations, double/triple or even quadruple meanings for each word, split-word meanings or the most amazing - containing some mathematical pattern.

My dad recently gifted me the सुमध्व विजय महा काव्य (Sumadhva vijaya or The Successful Travel of Sri Madhvacharya) book by a great scholar named श्री नारायन पण्डित (Sri Narayana PaNdita). This book must have been written around 13th century CE. This book has about 1008 slokas, but the same content has been briefed to 32 slokas by the author himself. I thought it must be a routine Sanskrit text, with plenty of slokas in it. But to my surprise, among several others, I found one gem of a sloka which just shines like a brilliant diamond. See for yourself.

समानया यानमास मायया ततयायमा ।

नयासना नासयान यातनाललनातया ॥

Interpreting a Samskrita verse can be a daunting task. The main reason being Samskrita sentences, broadly speaking, do not have implicit order. This characteristic is very typical of inflexional languages. Add to that a poetic license that could let one place in any place they want to fit the metres (chandas).

However for understanding the sloka, there are a few simple rules. The first and foremost is called the पदच्छेद (padaccheda, lit. cutting of words). The next is to find the verb and then the associated subject. When a verb is not present, an "is"/"exists" is assumed implicitly. Then one should find the accusative object(s). Third is to find the qualifying attributes of the object. These are adjectives. Finally, one could dissect the rest of the cases and make a meaningful sentence.

Lets start with the word splitting.

समानया या अनमा आस मायया ततया अयमा ।
नयासना न आस या न यातना अललना अतया

And here is the word by word meaning:

या That philosophy (of Sri Madhvacharya) which
समानया is established with the true propositions (yukti)

ततया vyAptamana
मायया by the illusion (mAyA)

अनमा आस cannot be refuted.
अयमा This incomparable philosophy

नयास is true by itself
न आस न and is not unexisting (that is, it is true for sure)

अतया By the opposing philosophies
अललना unhappiness (misery)

यातना the tamas causing
(भवति) happens

Whew! I say. I need his help for my GRE to pass the logical tests. Ok, lets not go into the actual philosophy perse. We understand in general that Sri Madhvacharya's philosophy is superior to Maya theory. Lets not go further for now, but just appreciate its beauty. At first glance, it pretty much looks there is some poetry going on. A few repeated syllables could be a good indication of some alliteration. But there is more to it.

The first thing to notice is that in each quarter, the second word is the syllabic-reverse of the first word. That is,

samAnayA := syllabic_reverse(yAnamAsa).

Same applies to other quarters. Which means, each quarter is a palindrome. "samAnayA yAnamAsa" is a palindrome by itself.

No big deal, you say. There are thousands of Sanskrit examples like this! Good, I'm glad there are :-).

Now let me write each quarter of the verse in a row, and then repeat the same in reverse order.

स मा न या या न मा स
मा य या त त या य मा
न या स ना ना स या न
या त ना ल ल ना त या
या त ना ल ल ना त या
न या स ना ना स या न
मा य या त त या य मा
स मा न या या न मा स

Now read the verse, in the following order:

  1. Start from top-left, horizontally, going left to right. (then move to next row)
  2. Start from top-left, vertically, going top to bottom (then move to next column).
  3. Start from top-right, horizontally, going from right to left.
  4. Start from top-right, vertically, going from top to bottom.
  5. Start from bottom-left, horizontally, going from left to right (then move to previous
  6. row)
  7. Start from bottom-left, vertically, going from bottom to up (then move to previous
  8. column)
  9. Start from bottom-left, horizontally, going from right to left.
  10. Start from bottom-left, vertically, going from bottom to top.

You should be seeing the pattern now. It reads same in every direction!

Now what do we call such a 'palindrome' ? A symmetric spatial palindrome is probably an apt description!

Well the real question is "what else is out there?"