Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Trivikrama Panditacharya

Anyone who scouts the streets of India to buy cheap reprint books, be it Mumbai Churchpark, Bangalore Jayanagar, Connaught Place in Delhi or Mount Road in Chennai, would surely have come across the hugely popular "A brief history of time" by Stephen Hawking. Although it contains several interesting theories, it had one dampening remark: "in modern times, to do something in Physics, one has to be already at the top". In other words, if one wants to make a name in Physics, one has to thoroughly know pretty much all fields - mechanics, thermodynamics, electricity, magnetism, optics, relativity, astronomy, cosmology, plus the word 'quantum' randomly prefixed to any of the above. If you create a new theory, there is just too much scrutiny from fellow Physicists waiting to fire-drill it.

Rewind to the period of 7th to 14th centuries in India. Europe may have been in dark ages, but not India. She was a cauldron of richness in physical, financial and intellectual wealth. Sanskrita literature was fluorishing with some of the greatest minds ever, each with their own sobriquets. On one hand were the dramatists and poets - be it Captain of similies Kalidasa, Word-player Dandin, Master-blaster of meanings Bhaaravi, All-rounder Magha, Word-machine Bana bhatta and more. On other hand were great aachaarya-s like Shankara, Ramanuja, Madhva and a host of others who are known more for their philosophies than for the  mastery of Sanskrita, that is taken for granted. If we look at only the religious meaning and not understand the beauty of the language handled by them, we will be missing something very important. The carrier is as compellingly fascinating as the content.

During these times, to be declared as a Pandita, one had to be knowledgeable in several fields - the four veda-s, all the six angas of veda (siksha, kalpa, nirukta, vyakarana, jyotisha, chandas) vedanta, nyaya, mimamsa, kavya, alankara and what-not. Just like the difficulty to be recognized in field of Physics these days, it would have been hard for one to be recognized as a kavi, let alone be called maha-kavi, vara-kavi, kavi-ratna, kavi-raja, kavi-sekhara, kavi-kesari and not the least kavi-kula-tilaka "the foremost among the society of poets".

One such luminary was Sri Trivikrama Panditacharya. You wont find his name mentioned among "Classical Sanskrita literature", but poets like him made significant contributions to the language. He was born near Mangalore to Subrahmanya Suri, around 13th century. His elder brother was Shankara Panditacharya. His son Narayana Panditacharya wrote the grantha sumadhva-vijaya, of which we saw one spectacular sloka earlier. Not for no reason Trivikrama Panditacharya holds the distinction of being called as kavi-kula-tilaka. Even as a young man he had written a maha-kavya called "Usha-haraNa". His mastery of Sanskrita seems to be inborn as can be seen from the following story:

Once a bhikshuka (beggar) came to his house for alms. As a boy, Trivikrama replied with the following sloka:

एक क्षपणक शाक कर्ता बहव: क्षपणक शाक दादा: ।
यत्र क्षपणक बहु शाकादा: तत्र क्षपणक शाक शाक ॥

eka kShapaNaka shaaka kartaa bahava: kShapaNaka shaaka daadaa: |
yatra kShapaNaka bahu shaakaadaa: tatra kShapaNaka shaaka shaaka ||

Meaning: Only one mendicant (his father) is the money-maker; Other mendicants (relatives) are there just to eat. Where there is one money-maker and many to eat, in that place what food are you really expecting?

In other words, we ourselves are like beggars, what are you begging us for?

Trivikrima Panditacharya became a disciple of Sri Madhvacharya following a 15-day debate in which the former accepted the superiority of Madhva's tattva-vada. His famous work is Harivayu stuti (a stuti on Sri Madhvacharya) which consits of spontaneously composed 41 slokas. It is in a fascinating meter (vritti) called sragdharaa (srak = garland, dharaa = wearing/moving). It has 21 syllables per quarter, with a pause after every 7th syllable, making it 84 syllables per sloka! Sri Vedanta Desikan has also handled this meter in his Tatva mukta kalaapam and Nyaya Vimsati. Kalidasa (abhijnana shaakuntalam) and Bhartrhari (trishataka) also have handled this meter.

Notes:

Source of the quoted sloka: Vayustuti Pravachana by Sri Vyasanakare Prabhanjanachar,
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