Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The subhAshita-ratna-bhandAgara

When you think of Samskrita, one of the several things that come to mind immediately is subhAshitA. Literally it means "something well said", the english equivalent of which is 'proverb' or 'saying'. Proverbs are generally pithy sentences that reflect a truth of what happens, what should happen or sometimes a simple generalization. Many proverbs are advises, intended to correct the course of human behaviour, moral, ethical etc.

But subhAshitA-s are not just proverbs. subhAshitA-s come in very different flavors and cover a wide range of topics. There are subhAshitA-s for pretty much every occasion, every behaviour and on every natural thing that we see around. There are subhAshita-s that praise, denounce, praise and denounce at the same time (so called ninda-stuti), make fun, sarcastic, plead, humorous and exhibhit a range of other emotions. Some are philosophical, some are just down-to-earth. In fact there is a subhAshitA that makes a mockery of subhAshitA-s. Several poets have saved their heads by appeasing their kings with an appropriate subhAshita.

Throughout Samskrita literature (vAngmaya), there have been attempts at compilations of subhAshita-s too. Prime among them is the subhAshita-ratna-bhandAgara (SRB) which is a collection of almost ten thousand subhAshitAs on various topics. It consists of 7 chapters (prakarANa-s) - namely: mangalacharana, sAmAnya, rAja, chitra, anyokti, navarasa and sankIrNa. While there are so many wonderful verses there are some really stunning ones. One of them I quoted in my last post alluding to the Ocean's son-in-law selection process.

Here is another one from the navarasa (art) category. It again shows the poet's out-of-the-box thinking.

एकवस्तुम् द्विधा कर्तुम् बहव: सन्ति धन्विन: ।
धन्वी स मार एवैको द्वयो: ऐक्य: करोति य: ॥
eka vastu dvidhaa kartum bahava: santi dhanvina: |
dhanvI sa mAra evaiko dvayo: aikya: karoti ya: ||

Lets look at word by word:

eka vastum - one thing
dvidhaa - into two
kartum - to do
bahava: - many
santi - are
dhanvina: - archers
dhanvI - archer
sa mAra - (is) that manmatha (Lord of Love)
eva eka: - alone (only one)
dvayo: - of two
aikya: - into one
karoti ya: - he who does

There are many archers who can split one thing into two. But there is only one archer, Manmatha, who unites two into one.

This alludes to the fact that the Lord of Love sends an arrow to unit two people's heart. So the poet takes something that is meant for a singular purpose and uses it in the context of getting an entirely opposite result.


Sathya Srinivasan said...

Nice! I also like the play of one, two, and many. In some sense, it looks like a palindrome as well:

1 - 2 - many - 2 - 1.

I also find it interesting that both Indian and Western folklore has the God of Love using a bow and an arrow. It is interesting that a dangerous weapon is used to inculcate love - maybe to show love is dangerous?!

shankara said...

Very nice write up on Subhashita Ratna Bhandagara.

Can you please verify the subhashita quoted by you.I am seeing this subhashita for the first time. Still
I think the first line ought to be एकं वस्तुं द्विधा कर्तुम् instead of एक वस्तु द्विधा कर्तुम्. The words एक & वस्तु must be in dvitiya vibhakti. Please let me know if I am wrong

Vasu Srinivasan said...

@shankara mahodaya,
सत्यम् एव । एकम् वस्तुम् (or एकवस्तुम्) इत्येव भवितव्यम् । अहम् तत् शुद्धी करोमि ।

भवत: blog अपि समीचीनम् अस्ति । धन्यवाद: ।

ambarish said...

"वस्तु" इत्यस्य नपुंसकत्वात् द्वितियैकवचने अनुस्वारस्य अभावः स्यात्। प्रथमद्वितीययोरपि एकवचने "वस्तु" एव साधुरूपं मन्ये।