Friday, 30 October 2015

Raghuvamsha: Sarga 1 | Shloka 2

After a customary prayer in the first shloka, Kalidasa proceeds to explain the nature of the task that he has set for himself.

क्व सूर्यप्रभवो वंशः क्व चाल्पविषया मतिः |
तितीर्षुर्दुस्तरं मोहदुडुपेनास्मि सागरम् ||

kva sūryaprabhavo vaṁśaḥ kva cālpaviṣayā matiḥ |
titīrṣurdustaraṁ mohāduḍupenāsmi sāgaram ||

In this verse, Kalidasa modestly tells that he, blinded by his desires [ मोहात् ] intends to detail the story of the descendants of the sun god [ सूर्यप्रभवो वंशः] although he considers himself incompetent [अल्पविषया मतिः]. Here, he compares his intellect to a small raft [उडुपः] and the excellence of the solar clan to the vast non-navigable oceans [दुस्तरं सागरम् ].

ಅಲ್ಪಮತಿಯಾದರೂ [अल्पविषया मतिः], ಮೋಹದಿಂದ  [ मोहात् ] ಪ್ರಭಾವಿತನಾಗಿ ಸೂರ್ಯಕುಲಸಂಜಾತರಾದ [ सूर्यप्रभवो वंशः] ರಘು-ಮುಂತಾದವರ ಕಥೆಯನ್ನು ಹೇಳುವುದಕ್ಕೆ ಹೊರಟಿರುವ ತನ್ನ ಕಾರ್ಯವನ್ನು ತೆಪ್ಪದಲ್ಲಿ [उडुपः] ಮಹಾಸಮುದ್ರಗಳನ್ನು [दुस्तरं सागरम् ] ದಾಟುವಂತಹ ದುಸ್ಸಾಹಸಕ್ಕೆ ಹೋಲಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ.

some thoughts:

- The phrase [ सूर्यप्रभवो वंशः] can also be interpreted as the dynasty as brilliant as the sun.

- The solar dynasty (also known as the Ikshvaku dynasty after the very first king) has produced some of the most celebrated kings of India like Harishchandra, Bhagiratha, Raghu and Rama who are regarded as role-models. 

- The task of describing the lives and deeds of these great kings is what made Kalidasa consider himself incompetent for the task. Here the modesty is mostly genuine as he reflects on how insignifcant his contribution is compared to these great kings! 

- note on modesty and Indians: 
We Indians value modesty as a very important virtue. For example, we expect our leaders to be simple and modestly dressed. We like to downplay and have a very strong (almost mocking) attitude for our own contributions. We have all heard the (self) joke that the contributions of Indians to mathematics is 0 innumerable times! However, this seems to be a trend that picked up only in the last 1000 years. This quote from Al-Beruni (900 AD) is informative in this regard:
The Hindus believe that there is no country like theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no science like theirs, their haughtiness is such that if you tell them of any science or scholar in Persia, they will think you to be an ignoramus or a liar
I guess the flow of time time has reversed this?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Raghuvamsham: Sarga 1 | Shloka 1

Raghuvamsha is the story of the kings of the solar dynasty. (Lord Rama's ancestors! ) Let's dive into it without much ado! 

Here you go: 

वागर्थाविव संप्रक्तौ वागर्थप्रतिपत्तये |
जगतः पितरौ वन्दे पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ ||


Kalidasa begins his masterpiece Raghuvamsham with this evergreen verse. Here, kalidasa salutes Parvati and Shiva, the parents of the world [ जगतः पितरौ ]. In his flamboyant use of metaphors [ उपमा ], he compares the oneness of this divine couple to that of speech [ वाक् ] and it’s meaning [ अर्थः ]. This verse can also be interpreted to show the oneness of shiva and vishnu as the parents (fathers) when the word पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ is interpreted as a compound word [समासः ] पार्वतीपः रमेश्वरश्च. This is inline with the popular belief among hindus that shiva and vishnu are the manifestations of the supreme being [ब्रह्मन् ]

शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे | शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः ||


ಕಾಳಿದಾಸನು ತನ್ನ ಮೇರುಕಾವ್ಯವಾದ ರಘುವಂಶವನ್ನು ಈ ಪ್ರಸಿದ್ಧವಾದ ಶ್ಲೋಕದಿಂದ ಆರಂಭಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಶಬ್ದ ಹಾಗೂ ಅರ್ಥಗಳ ಅವಿನಾಭಾವ ಸಂಬಂಧದಂತೆ ಒಂದಾಗಿರುವ, ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ತಂದೆ-ತಾಯಿಗಳಾದ, ಪಾರ್ವತೀ ಮತ್ತು ಶಿವನನ್ನು ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥಿಸುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಈ ಶ್ಲೋಕದಲ್ಲಿನ पार्वतीपरमेश्वरौ ಪದವನ್ನು  पार्वतीपः (ಪಾರ್ವತಿಯ ಪತಿ) रमेश्वरश्च (ರಮೆಯ ಪತಿ) ಎಂದೂ ಬಿಡಿಸಿದರೆ, ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ಕರ್ತೃಗಳಾದ ಶಿವ ಮತ್ತು ವಿಷ್ಣುವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥನೆ ಮಾಡುವಂತಹ ಮತ್ತೊಂದು ಅರ್ಥವು ಕಾಣಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಶಿವ ಮತ್ತು ವಿಷ್ಣುಗಳು ಪರಮಾತ್ಮನ ಎರಡು ಮುಖಗಳು ಎಂಬ ಸತ್ಯವನ್ನು ಈ ಅರ್ಥಧಾರೆಯು ಎತ್ತಿ ಹಿಡಿಯುತ್ತದೆ.

शिवाय विष्णुरूपाय शिवरूपाय विष्णवे | शिवस्य हृदयं विष्णुः विष्णोश्च हृदयं शिवः ||

Some thoughts:

- Kalidasa is known for his skill with metaphors! Raghuvamsa will be a treat for you if you like them. You are sure to get inspiration for some cool pick-up lines!

- How can you separate speech and it's meaning? This metaphor for shiva and parvathi's (or shiva and vishnu's) oneness is purely marvelous. Some life lessons on understanding here I guess!

Revisiting Sanskrit Classics

Sanskrit is the language which carries the immense heritage, culture, values and traditions of ancient India. Some of the myths about sanskrit (sadly even with Indians themseleves) are the follows:

Myth: It is associated with religious stuff. Meh... 

Truth: Sanskrit literature is exceptionally diverse! 

Some of the puranas make high-fantasies like LOTR seem dull. The emotions in Shaakunthalam (Kalidasa) would put our bollywood movies to shame. Of course, all of us have enjoyed stories from panchatantra, ramayana and mahabharata when our parents or grand-parents narrated them while putting us to sleep. For economics and politics we have arthashastra. Works like leelavathi where bhaskara teaches algebra to his daughter! (mind blown? ) Which other language can boast of having an encyclopedia as early as 500 AD? 

Myth: It is a dead language; there is no use learning it.  

Truth:  Sanskrit is not only living but it is going strong!

This myth is by far the most common excuse for people to not learn sanskrit. It is still a popular choice among many students to study it as their first language (like me! ). People in the village of mattur, Karnataka still speak sanskrit for daily transactions. Surprised?

Without realizing you would have uttered a significant number of sanskrit words when you speak your mother tongue. (Some languages like Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam have more than 60% of their vocabulary coming from sanskrit! ) 

OK OK, I am interested. But where is the time?

Totally agree with you! 

That is the point of this blog. We will be posting one verse per week (bonus verses if we can! ) with it's gist in English. We will initially start with the magnum opus raghuvamsham by kalidasa (by far the most well-known poets in sanskrit). I am sure you have heard of the king vikramaditya from vikram-betaal? Kalidasa is believed to have been his court poet.

We are working on adding support in regional languages too! Trust me it's easier in regional languages because of the huge amount of common words. However, how many of us can fluently read our mother tongues? 

You are encouraged to comment and add to the discussion with your 2 cents or with questions for us! 

PS: First verse is up right this week! Feel free to start your journey! :)