Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oru oorile oru raja

Kids throw tantrums. There are a few ways to handle it - shout them down, calm them down in nice words, bribe them with iPhone or Wii games or divert their attention. The last is probably the most effective because kids' attention span is so less but comes with boundless energy, it is just easier to deflect that energy than to confront it. I have one effective way of diverting a kid's attention - say "Once upon a time...". The tantrum stops and I get back the question: "Are you going to tell me a story now?..."

Whom doesn't a fairy-tale delight when begun with "Once upon a time there was a princess..."? But have we ever been tired of listening to "Once upon a time there was ..."? Upanishads recourse to hilite very powerful concepts of Brahman, Atman using stories like that of Nachiketas and Shvetaketu. Some stories like Panchatantra and Hitopadesha are very simple. Some stories, like modern soaps and mega-serials just try too hard to impress. All the wealth of the showtime industry is based on just one thing: people's willingness to give an ear to hear a story, isn't it? Whatever be the case, its hard to resist the tagline "Once upon a time...".

Once upon a time in India lived a poet called Bana Bhatta. He probably must have listened to "Once upon a time..." a thousand times and got tired of the same gag. So he starts his Kadambari with a stylish introduction:

आसीत् अशेष नरपति-शिर: समभ्यच्चित्त शासन: पाकशासन: इवापर: चतुरुदधि माला मेखलया भुवो भर्त्ता प्रताप अनुरागवानत समस्त सामन्तचक्र: चक्रवत्तिलक्षणोपेत: चक्रधर इव करकमलोपलक्ष्यमान शंखचक्र लाञ्छन: हर इव जितमन्मथ: गुह इवाप्रतिहतशक्ति: कमलयोनिरिव विमानीकृतराजहंसमण्डल: जलधिरिव लक्ष्मीप्रसूति: गङ्गाप्रवाह इव भगीरथपथप्रवृत्त: रविरिव प्रतिदिवसोपजायमानोदय: मेरुरिव सकलोपजीव्यमानपादच्छाय: दिग्गज इवानवरतप्रवृत्तदानाद्रीकृतकर: कर्त्ता महाश्चर्य्याणाम् आहर्त्ता क्रतूनाम् आदर्श: सर्वशास्त्राणाम् उत्पत्ति: कलानाम् कुलभवनम् गुणनाम् आगम:काव्यामृतरसानाम् उदयशैलो मित्रमण्डलस्य उत्पातकेतुरहितजनस्य प्रवर्त्तयिता गोष्ठीबन्धानाम् प्रत्यादेशो धनुष्मताम् धौरेय: साहसिकानाम् अग्रणीर्विदग्धानाम् वैनतेय इव विनतानन्दजनन: वैन्य इव चापकोटिसमुत्सारितसकलारातिकुलाचलो राजा शूद्रको नाम ।

आसीत् there was
अशेष नरपति-शिर: समभ्यच्चित्त शासन: bowed by all the kings without any exception
पाकशासन: इवापर: like a second Indra (Indra killed an asura named paaka, so he is called paakashaasana)
चतुरुदधि माला मेखलया भुवो भर्त्ता husband of the earth who is encircled by four oceans as a garland
प्रताप अनुरागवानत समस्त सामन्तचक्र: always in the company of warm-friendship of neighboring princes
चक्रवत्तिलक्षणोपेत: with the lakShaNa of a cakravarttI
चक्रधर इव करकमलोपलक्ष्यमान शंखचक्र लाञ्छन: like Vishnu, with a comparable lakShaNa of cakra and shaMkha(discus & conch) in the hands
हर इव जितमन्मथ: like Siva, the conquerer of manmatha
गुह इवाप्रतिहतशक्ति: like kaarttikeya, undefeated in might
कमलयोनिरिव विमानीकृतराजहंसमण्डल: like Brahma,
जलधिरिव लक्ष्मीप्रसूति: like the Ocean, who is the source of lakshmI
गङ्गाप्रवाह इव भगीरथपथप्रवृत्त: like Ganga, who followed Bhagiratha
रविरिव प्रतिदिवसोपजायमानोदय: like Sun, who rises freshly everyday
मेरुरिव सकलोपजीव्यमानपादच्छाय: like the Meru mountain, his foot honored by all living beings
दिग्गज इवानवरतप्रवृत्तदानाद्रीकृतकर: like the elephants, always a stream of generosity
कर्त्ता महाश्चर्य्याणाम् one who offers sacrifices
आहर्त्ता क्रतूनाम्
आदर्श: सर्वशास्त्राणाम् a mirror of all the Sastras (ie one who follows Sastras)
उत्पत्ति: कलानाम् a creator of all arts
कुलभवनम् गुणनाम् abode of virtue amongst his scion
आगम:काव्यामृतरसानाम् a spring of nectar of poetry
उदयशैलो मित्रमण्डलस्य the brightest sun among all the suns
उत्पातकेतुरहितजनस्य a comet to his enemies
प्रवर्त्तयिता गोष्ठीबन्धानाम् founder of poetic or literary societies
प्रत्यादेशो धनुष्मताम् a terror to archers
धौरेय: साहसिकानाम् chief among the brave men
अग्रणीर्विदग्धानाम् prominent among the wise
वैनतेय इव विनतानन्दजनन: like the Garuda who brought happiness to his mother
वैन्य इव चापकोटिसमुत्सारितसकलारातिकुलाचलो
राजा शूद्रको नाम a king called shUdraka.

The main point constitutes the beginning and end of the sentence -

"aasIt raajaa shUdrako naama - Once there was a king called Sudraka".

The rest forms the attributes of the king in complex samasa-s and beautiful alankara-s. This is a free translation and is bound to be inaccurate. I have even given up translating a few as the metaphors are just not translatable.

Thus goes Kadambari, a fascinating story, with multi-hierarchical-flashbacks, delightful puns and plot-twists and a fairy-tale ending with some of the longest sentences written in Sanskrita literature.


I tried not naming this blog in Tamil, but I could not feel the effectiveness in any other language. "Oru oorile oru raja" roughly translates to "Once upon a time there was a King", "Ek gaon mein ek raaja thaa", "Ondu oorinalli ondu raja idda" etc. - Pick the one of your mother tongue that delights you the most!


Sathya Srinivasan said...

You deceived me! I was expecting a story :) I guess some lines are never boring, with or without adjectives!

अश्वमित्रः said...

Since I first heard about it from my Sanskrit professor at the University of Toronto, it's been a dream of mine to read the Kadambari, but a dream is what it will always remain. For me anyway, it would take not just years, but maybe even decades: I've read the whole Mahabharata in Sanskrit (the relatively shorter BORI edition: it took me three and a half years of daily reading), but reading the Kadambari, for a foreign non-pandit like me, would be very, very, very slow, and incredibly difficult. But it's such a thing of beauty, both its impossibly difficult style, and it's impossibly complicated and moving story. I know it mainly from one English translation, made in the last ten years (the translator is a woman, but I forget the name).

Vasu Srinivasan said...

@Ashvamitra: thanks for your comments. Yes it is indeed a fascinating story and complex too. I have not read in Sanskrita myself, but hope to do it someday, of course with translations.

sudha raghuraman said...

बाणभट्टविषये प्रस्तुतेयम् प्रशंसोक्तिः बाणोच्छिष्टं जगत्सर्वं सर्वथा सार्थपूर्णा समुचिता चेति