Tag Archives: Romance

Talent: Telugu Poetry వాణి శతకం

TeluguSatakaManjari600
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ORIGINAL POETRY IN TELUGU (with English translation).

తెలుగు పద్యాలు

నా భార్య వాణి 61 వ జన్మ దినానికి (షష్టి పూర్తి, 30 జూన్, 2015) ఒక పద్యం కానుకగా ఇద్దమని చందోబద్ధంగా చంపక మాల పద్యం రాశాను. అదే స్ఫూర్తితో వాణి శతకం అని ప్రారంభించాను. అది రెండు వందల పద్యాలు పూర్తయినాయి. అన్నీ ఒకే సారి ప్రచురించడం కంటే రోజుకి పదిహేను పద్యాలు ప్రచురిస్తే బాగుంటుందని ఈ రోజు ప్రారంభిస్తున్నాను. చివరి భాగం జూన్ 30 న. ఇవి కూడా తప్పులు దిద్దిన తరువాత పుస్తకంగా ప్రచురిస్తాను. దీవించండి!

On the occasion of the 61st birthday of my wife, on 30th June, 2015, I wanted to present her with my first poem in Telugu written as per Grammar rules. I wrote it in Champakamaala, one jewel in Telugu grammatical poems. With the same enthusiasm I started penning Vani Satakam, with 100 such poems. I ended up writing two hundred, thereby making it Vani Dwisati. Instead of publishing all on one day, I wanted to publish 15 poems today, followed by selections thereafter to be completed it on 30th June. I will publish this on 30th June after getting them corrected by experts. Bless us!

This contains the Poem, the Telugu meaning of the poem, then English translation.

తెలుగు భాషలో ఛందోబద్ధంగా పద్యం వ్రాయడం అతి క్లిష్టమైన ప్రక్రియ. 11 వ తరగతి తరువాత తెలుగు వ్యాకరణంతో పూర్తి బంధం తెగి పోవదమూ, తదుపరి జీవితమంతా ఎక్కవగా ఆంగ్ల భాషా పుస్తకాలే చదవడం వల్ల తెలుగులో కొంతనైనా చందోబద్ధంగా పద్యం రాయాలన్న నా కోరిక అలానే మిగిలి పోయింది. ఐతే నా తృష్ణ చల్లారనిది . ప్రయత్నిస్తూనే ఉన్నాను. కాని ఏనాడూ ఒక్క పద్యం కూడ పూర్తి చెయ్యలేదు.

It is a difficult proposition to attempt to write a poem in Telugu grammatically. I lost total touch with Telugu grammar rules which are complex after my 11th class. As I was totally engrossed in reading and dealing in English, this desire to write a poem in Telugu remained a dream. But my appetite is unquenchable. So, time and again, I have been trying and failing in the process. But, I could never complete even a single poem.

ఎట్టకేలకు, నా రాణి వాణి పై ఒక పద్యం మొదలు పెట్టాను. చిన్నతనాన నేర్చుకున్న వ్యాకరణ సూత్రాలు, లఘువులు, గురువులు, వృత్తాలు, యతి, ప్రాసలు ఒక్క సారి మననం చేసుకున్నాను. నా భార్య సలహా తీసుకున్నాను. పద్యం పూర్తయ్యాక. ఆమె కొన్ని తప్పులు దిద్దింది.
ఐనా కొన్ని లోపాలు ఉండవచ్చు. నాకు తెలిసి ఒక చోట యతి గతి తప్పింది. కుదరలేదు, సరైన పదం. వదిలెశాను.
ఇక మీ ఓపిక.

At last with the blessings of Goddess Vani and with wishes from my wife Vani, I recalled the grammar rules I learned during my school days, referred a few books, took my wife’s advice, as she knew Telugu better than me and compiled the first poem on Goddess Vani and Vani. This called Champakamala, in Telugu lingo. There might be errors and as I stay in Mumbai, I had no option but to depend on my wisdom. As far as I know, there is one clear error. Please correct, if you have knowledge of Telugu grammar. The full 200 will be available here on my personal blog.

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వాణి శతనానికి నాందీ పద్యము.

FIRST POEM AS PROLOGUE TO VANI SATAKAM

                                    sarasvati2

కుసుమ లతా విధాన మొక మందర మారుత తుల్య భాషణల్
తరుణివి నీదు భార మతి నేర్పున తీర్పున మ్రోయు ధీమతిన్,
చిన్నతనమందె కష్టముచె భారము మీరగ తీర్పున భరిం
చి సుమ పరీమళంబు శుచి జల్లిన నా యలివేణి వాణికిన్!

Dedicated to Goddess of Knowledge, Vani.

నా చదువుల రాణి వాణికి అంకితం.

Like a creeper blooming with flowers that moves lightly during wind, your words are so mild and touching. As a lady of the house, when you entered our house, you bore your burden with proper judgment and intelligence. When very young you faced unbearable troubles with aplomb. Like the flower creeper, you spread the sweet smell of flowers in my life. I dedicate this to the one woman in my life, Vani.

వాణి శతకం
1.
రామ యనిన నాడు రసమయ భావన,
రామ యనిన నేడు కలుగును కీడు,
మతము పెరు చెప్ప మలమల మాడ్చరే,
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
ఒకప్పుడు రామ అని పలుకగానే నర, నరాల్లో భక్తి భావన కలిగేది. నేడు రామ అనగానే ఏమి ముంచుకొస్తుందోనని భయం. ఎవరి మతము పేరు వారు చెప్పుకోవడానికి కూడా భయ పడే పరిస్థితి. (ఇదేమి సెక్యులరిజం అని)

English:

Once upon a time, if we chanted the name of Rama, people used to go into a trance. Today, the very word Rama became a taboo. Verbal attacks are increasing on people who say they belong to a particular religion. (Is it the secularism we had dreamed of?)

2.
నాదు మతముయనిన నగవుల పాల్చేయ
ఇట్టి రీతి ఇంక ఎన్ని దినము
లింక వేచి చూడ లావు లేదు ప్రభూ
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట.

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
నా మతము పేరు చెప్పుకుంటే నన్ను నవ్వుల పాలు చేస్తున్నారు. ఇలా ఇంకెన్ని రోజులు, ప్రభూ? వేచి చూడ నాకు శక్తి లేదు, రామా?

English:
I am becoming a laughing stock to say the name of my own religion. How many years can I wait like this my Creator? I am losing power to wait further.

3.
జర్నలిజము పేరు జగడమె నడవడి
పేరు గొప్ప వూరు పెద్ద గుబిలి
నోరు దెరువ రాదు నిజము యెన్నటికిన్,
వాణి పలుకు మాటనాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
పేరుకి జర్నలిజమే. (ఓ గొప్ప శాస్త్రమే).కానీ ప్రస్తుతమున్న జర్నలిజం కేవలం, జగడానికి మారు పేరయి, జగడిజం అయిందని చెప్పుకోవచ్చు. పేరు గొప్పే కానీ ఒక శకున పక్షి లాగా ఎప్పుడూ చెడు చూడడమే అలవాటైంది (గుబిలి: ఒక రకమైన శకున పక్షి) పేపర్ తెరిస్తే అన్నీ అబద్ధాలే.

English: Journalism is a great subject. But, today, it has become synonymous with litigation, and apt to be named as “Jagadism”. Name is great but like a bird that always represents a bad Omen, Media is looking at the bad only. Many a rumor is spread without basis.

4.
దొంగతనమొ ఏమొ దొరల చేతి వడువొ
చర్చి బగుల గొట్ట సెక్యులరులు,
వ్యాండలిజము యనుచు వీధిపై మొరుగగ,
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
చర్చులు పగులగొట్టే పని ఎవరు చేశారు? దొంగతనమైనా అయి ఉండాలి లేదా పెద్దలు పూనుకొని పని గట్టుకొని చేసి ఉండాలి (ప్రభుత్వాన్నిఇరుకున పెట్టడానికి). సెక్యులరిజం పేరుతో ఇలాంటి తప్పుడు పనులు చేయడమే కాకుండా వీధి కెక్కి “వ్యాండలిజం” అని మొర్రుగుతున్నారే? (ఒడువు: పూనిక)

English: In the country, at many places churches were broke open. It must be the act of thieves or the determined effort of some secularists to defame government, by attacking churches and barking on streets in the name of “vyandalism”.

Note: This was written in the specific context and is not a general issue.

5.
నీదు పనిని నీవు నిపుణత సేయంగ
శివుని యాఙ్న ఏల శివుడు ఏల
శివుడు ఏమి సేయు సోమరి నీవైన
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
నీ పని నీవు నిపుణతతో చేయకుండా, శివుని ఆఙ్న కాలేదని శివుణ్ణి నిందిస్తే లాభమేమిటి. నువ్వు సోమరి వైతే శివుడు మాత్రం ఏం చేస్తాడు.

English:

If you don’t do do your work skillfully and blame the Lord, what can the Lord do? If you are lazy, in what way can He come to your rescue?

6.
కాలు డొచ్చు వేళ నలుగురు నిను మోయ
కాలు వేళ నెవరు కాన రారు
బంధు మిత్రు లంచు (లెనసి) బతుకంత వగచెదె
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
బంధువులు, మిత్రులు, నా, నీ బేధాలతో బ్రతుకంతా వేదన పడతావు కాని, కాలుడు (యముడు) వచ్చే సమయానికి నలుగురైనా నీ వెంట ఉండరు, నీ కట్టె కాలుతున్నప్పుడు ఎవరూ కన్నీరైనా కార్చరు. (ఉన్న నాలుగు రోజులు అందరూ నీ వాళ్ళే అని, ఫలితం ఆ భగవంతుని మీద వదలమని భావన)

English: As long as you live, you cry for friends and relations and thoughts of “mine” and “yours”. But when the Lord of Death approaches, you will not find four people to carry your body, nor any one really sheds tears for you at the pyre. (So, during life time, develop a sense of belonging to the society and pray the Lord, as far as possible. Help others)

7.
బదుకు బ్రహ్మచారి ముదురు బెండ వలెనె
భార్య నిచ్చి చూడు మారు లేత
పడుచు జంట యనుచు జనులెల్ల పొగడరే
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):

మానవుల ద్వంద నీతి ఈ పద్యంలో వర్ణించ బడింది. పెళ్ళి కానంత వరకు, బ్రహ్మచారిని ముదురు బెండ కాయ అన్న లోకమే పెళ్ళి కాగానే అతను చాలా లేత వయసు కాడు అన్నట్లు ఆ జంట కనబడితే ” చూడు! పడుచు జంట చూడ ముచ్చటగా లేదూ?” అని ఆశ్చర్య పడతారు కదా!

English:

Hypocrisy in the talk of general public is described in this poem. As long as a boy is not married, he is mocked as a “fully ripe and useless okra” (can’t cook it). But once he gets married, the same couple is called, “See! How the young couple is looking!”

8.
చెట్టు పుట్ట నరికి చేతనమ్ము తెగటార్చి
నేల యంత కుళ్ల నీవు బొడువ
యవని కుంగె నీదు యతియాస గనియును
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
చెట్లను నరికి, పర్యావరణ చైతన్యాన్ని చేతులార చంపి వేసి, భూమిని కుళ్ళ బొడిచావు కదా. నీ అత్యాసకు భూమి కుమిలి, కుంగి కంపించింది కదా!

English: You cut trees. You killed the environment with your hands all for your selfish purposes. Seeing your selfishness, Earth cried, depressed and drooped and quaked with anger.

9.
వొక్కసారి భూమి విలవిల యరువంగ
పుట్టకొక్క రయిన భూమి జనులు
దైవ ఘటన యనిన దను యేమి సెయునొకో,
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
ఒక్కసారిగా, భూమి పెద్దగా అరిచి కదిలి పోగా, చెట్టు కొకరు, పుట్ట కొకరు అయిన ప్రజలు ఇది దైవ ఘటన అని అనుకుంటే ఏమి ప్రయోజనం? మీ స్వార్ధానికి మీరే బలవుతున్నారు కదా? ( నేపాల్ భూకంపం సందర్భంగా ఇకనైనా భూమిని కాపాడుకుందాం అని చిన్న సలహా వంటిది)

English: When the Earth, crying loudly, moves away from its hemisphere, people ran helter skelter crying for the lost ones and putting the blame on God. What can He do if your selfishness reached a point of no return? (These two poems were penned as an advice to people to, at least from now, protect our Earth on the tragic incident of quakes in Nepal)

10.
ఎర్ర చందనంబు ఎటుబోయె తెలియదె
యొక్క ముద్ద కొరకు యూరి జనులు
మారణాగ్ని యందు మలమల మాడరే
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):

ఎర్ర చందనం ఎక్కడుందో మనకి తెలియదు. కానీ, మల మల మాడ్చే జఠరాగ్ని చల్లార్చుకోవడానికి, అమాయక కూలీ జనాలు, పోలీసులు, స్మగ్లర్ల మధ్య జరిగిన మారణాగ్నిలో మల, మల మాడి పోయారు కదా? (ఆంధ్రాలొ జరిగిన మారణ కాండ పైన)

English: Common man does not know where the red sandalwood has gone. But to satiate their appetite, those daily wagers who came to work for pittance were killed in the cross fire between police personnel and smugglers. How sad? (On recent killings of daily wagers in AP State, India)

11.
హిందువనిన నాడు హరిత వర్ణము గాదె
హిందువనిన నేడు హేయమయెగ
సెక్యులరిజ మన్గ సరితూగమని గాదె,
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
హిందూ మతమనగా ఒకప్పుడు లేత పచ్చని ఆకులతో నిండిన చెట్టు వంటిది కదా! అదే హిందూ మతమంటే తాను పుట్టిన దెశంలోనే హేయమయినదిగా భావించబడుతోందే? రాజ్యాంగంలో చెప్పింది “సర్వ మత సమ భావం” సెక్యులరిజం అని కదా!

English:

In days of yore, the Hindu religion was like a tree filled with tender green leaves. Today, the same religion is taboo in the nation of its birth. Did Constitution not say that “secularism” means “equality of religions”?

12.
ఆడ బిడ్డ పుట్టు నాడ నీ వనృత
మనుచు మాట లాడ జనులు నిజము
తెలియు ననుచు యాడ నలుసు నటె విడిచె
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట.

తాత్పర్యము (తా):
“అబద్ధాలు ఆడితే ఆడ పిల్లలు పుడతారని” నిన్ను భ్రమలో పెట్టిందా అమ్మా, ఈ లోకం? నువ్వు అబద్ధాలాడావని నిజం బయట పడుతుందేమోనని ఆడ పిల్లని పురిట్లోనె వదిలి వచ్చావా తల్లీ? (ఈ ప్రపంచంలో అబద్ధమాడని వారెవరమ్మా?)

English:

Did the superstitious belief that if you beget a girl child it is proof you told lies, make you fear and leave girl child in the hospital bed? (In this world who lives without telling a lie?)

13.
కరణీకాలు పోయినా కొంచెం పాత వాసన. మా తాతగారు కరణమే.
మరణమయిన నేమి కరణము దరిరాదు
లెక్క గట్టి అచటె డొక్క చించు
పణము తేక తా మరణమయిన బయటె
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):

కరణీకాలు పోయినా కొంచెం పాత వాసన. మా తాతగారు కరణమే.

మరణమయినా (యముడు కూడా) కరణం దగ్గరకు డబ్బులు తేకుండా రావాలంటే భయపడతాడు. లెక్కలు కట్టి అక్కడే యముడి డొక్క చించుతాడు. డబ్బు తేకపోతే యముడు కూడా బయట నిలబడాల్సిందే.

English:

Even if the hereditary Village Officer posts were abolished, still the hierarchy remains. My grandfather was a Karanam too!

Without bringing money, even the Lord of Death, Yama, fears to approach a Village Officer. He makes calculations and audits Yama’s account. If there is no money, even Lord Yama has to stand outside a Village Officer’s house!

14.
రాశి పోసి యమ్మ రతనాలు గొనిరట
నేడు యచట చూడు నీటి కరువు
రతన మంటి సీమ పతన మాయెను కదా
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):

అక్కడ ఒకప్పుడు రతనాలు రాశులుగా పోసి అమ్మారని ప్రతీతి. ఈ రోజు అక్కడ నీటి చుక్క కూడా దొరకని స్థితి. రత్నం లాంటి రాయల సీమ ఎంత పతనమయ్యిందో కదా? (రాయల సీమలో కరువు తాండవిస్తోంది. నాధుడేడీ?)

English:

Folklore has it that people used to buy pearls sold on roadside in heaps. Today the area is so dry that one drop of water costs the value of a pearl. What a fall to the Rayala Seema Area? (About the perennial drought in Rayala Seema area)

15.
యముడు యొచ్చు నంచు యెద నిండ భయ మేల
సూర్యు నెపుడు నేలసేయ పూజ
యముడు సూర్యు కొడుకు యోచించ రెటులనో
వాణి పలుకు మాట నాదు నోట!

తాత్పర్యము (తా):

యముడు వస్త్తాడని ఎప్పుడూ భయమే. కానీ సూర్య దేవుడిని మాత్రం రోజూ పూజ చేస్తాం. యముడు సూర్య దేవుడి కొడుకే కదా. (అంటే మనం ఎవర్ని చూసి భయ పడక్కర లేదో వారిని/వాటిని చూసి భయ పడతామెందుకో)

English:

Why do we fear the Lord of Death, Yama and pray to Lord Surya daily? After all,Lord Yama is the Son of Lord Surya. (Means we fear that/him/her that we need not fear)

ఓం నమః శివాయః

Classical Indic Literature II: Poetics

Kalpa Sutra Manuscript-Auspicious Dreams of Jina's Mother (wikipedia)

Continuing our Series on Classical Indic Literature is Part II: Poetics. Long time readers may recall our previous post on Literary Theory. This piece will very briefly recap some of the related concepts before quickly moving on to expand upon our discussion of our traditional art of poesy.

ACP’s coverage of Andhra literature begins at its origin point, in Classical (sastra-based) Indic Literary Theory and Poetics. Andhra’s all India auteurs like Mallinatha and Princess Gangadevi were properly schooled and cultivated in the great tradition, in order to permit their own future works.  In fact, the rajkumari of Vijayanagara herself mentions the main figure of today’s discussion as an highly accomplished poet, and noted authority on poetics.

Poetics (A reintroduction)

Literary theory in general and Poetics in particular were highly developed and sophisticated in ancient India. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a peer culture or civilization in this regard. This is apparent not only in the cultivation of the world famous Ancient Indic Nava Rasa theory, but also in the explication and categorization of works of fiction and drama, romance and comedy, poetry and prose, elite and common.

In fact, despite attempts to criticize, or failing that, digest it into the tradition of parvenus by poseurs, Classical Indic Literary Theory managed to incorporate both the elite and common worlds. As written previously, Sanskrit and Prakrit were used alongside each other, not only by the same author, but in the same dramatic compositions! In our preceding posts we discussed the theory of rasa at great length, and by association, rasavat, that which provokes sentiment. These dramatic concepts and alankara (art of speech) are critical to poetics. Few demonstrated this as well as Dandin, famed for his way with words.

Upama Kalidasasya, Bharaverartha gauravam ! Dandinah padalalityam, Maghe santi trayogunah !!

The simile of Kalidasa, the depth of meaning of Bharavi, the word-play of Dandin, in Magha all three qualities are found! [3]

While Mahakavi Magha and his Sisupalavadha may be dealt with at another time, it is Acarya Dandin and his masterly art of wordplay that is our topic of today.

Dandin’s Life

The great litterateur Dandin is famed not only for his prose magnum opus, “The Chronicle of the Ten Princes”, but for scholarship in poetics in his own right. Along with the Dasakumaracarita he wrote the Kavyadarsa as an exegesis on the strictures and symphony of euphony that is the Classical Indic Poetic tradition.[2]

He is thought to have been an ascetic, after having led a material life of pleasure in his youth. This is because the word “dandin” properly suggest him as a “staff-bearer”. He is considered a man of the Dakshinapatha, likely hailing from Vidarbha, much like Bhavabhuti. This is confirmed by his frequent references to the Kaveri, as well as Kalinga and Andhra. He speaks highly of the Maharashtri Prakrit language and the Vaidarbhi style of writing. [1]

Another work of Sanskrit prose romance, Avantisundari-katha has also been attributed to him. According to this, Dandin is designated as coming from a Brahmin family of Kausika gotra, hailing originally from Anandapura in Gujarat. They afterwards took up residence in Achalapura in modern Maharashtra (Berar). Their progenitor was Narayana-svami  begat Damodara, aka Bharavi of Kiratarjuniya fame. Bharavi was the friend of a Western Ganga prince named Durvinita, and was later a poet in the court of the Pallava ruler Simhavishnu at Kanchi.

By this recounting, Bharavi begat Manoratha who begat Viradatta, who begat Dandin. This lineage, if correct, would make Dandin the great grandson of Bharavi. He lost his parents at a young age and was an itinerant during the terrible Chalukya-Pallava wars. He later returned and likely composed the above-mentioned Avantisundari-katha. Given this conflict between history and geneology, it is difficult to place Dandin. While there is a tradition that posits him as the rival of Kalidasa [1, xiv](between 1st and 4th centuries CE), most ascribe him to around 650 CE.[2]

  • Dandin is along with Vamana a high scholar of Sanskrit Alamkara.
  • He is mentioned in the Bhoja-prabandha
  • Mallika-maruta is also attributed to him by some, but this is likely to be a drama by Uddanda Ranganatha from 15th century Malabar.

It must be said that Dandin is a writer of prose par excellence. His wordsmithy is simply delightful to read. “Like the great masters Kalidasa, Bana, and Bhavabhuti, he has a perfect command over language” [2].

Dasakumaracarita

Having already discussed the Dasakumaracarita at length in the last piece, we will merely place it in context here, vis-a-vis Dandin and Poetics.

The Dasakumaracarita is considered an Akhyayika. An Akhyayika should include a genealogical account of the poet’s family and also of other poets; its verses may occur in it at intervals. Its chapters are called Asvaasas, which should contain introductory verses suggestive of episodes in the story. While the Dasakumaracarita does not strictly conform with this definition of the Akhayayika, it is nevertheless considered one.

Regarding the differences between the Akhyayika and the Katha, Visvanatha of the 15th century wrote in his SahithyadarpanaIn a Katha a charming plot is composed in prose, which is interspersed with stanzas in the Arya, Vaktra, and Aparavaktra metres; in the beginning there should be a salutation to a deity, a description of the nature of villains,etc. “[2, xii]. While most non-religious stories of Ancient India tend to claim descent from the Brihat-katha of Gunadya, the Dasakumaracarita of Dandin appears to be wholly original. If Kalidasa’s couplets read like supple vines, Dandin’s verses read like a rolling brook, pleasantly bubbling in our eyes and ears. The passage below illustrates this:

There, in the course of conversation with regard to her lover, she, coming to know his family and name from Balachandrika, was overcome with intense love (with the fall of Cupid’s arrows), and began to grow emaciated day by day, like the crescent of the moon in the dark half of the month, from the pangs of separation. She gave up taking food and her other daily pursuits, and in her secret chamber restlessly rolled her creeper-like (slender) frame on a bed formed of (tender) leaves and flowers wetted with sandal-juice. Her female friends, seeing the delicate princess in that state withering with the fire of love, and feeling very sad, tried to cool her body, with materials for relief from the torment, such as water prepared for her bath, mixed with sandal, usira and camphor and kept in gold vessels, garments of lotus-fibres, and fans of lotus-leaves. Even that application of cooling reeds simply [causes] fire to appear on all sides in her body like water dropped in heated oil…(the princess) of delicate limbs was affected by the highest stage of the feverish condition of love” [1, 250-1]

 The Dasakumaracarita is a must read for any lover of great literature, particularly the Classical and Indic. To understand the poetics and art of rhetoric that helped craft such perfect prose-poetry, Acarya Dandin’s own treatise must be read.

The Kavyadarsa

The Kavyadarsa promulgates and expounds many canons of poetic composition which show that its author had refined notions about style and its functions [1, xv]

Dandin’s work on poetics is itself poetic. Literally meaning ‘Mirror of Poetry’, the Kavyadarsa imbues us with knowledge of kavya and alankara-sastra (rhetoric) in a language redolent with the art of poesy Dandin himself extols. It is one of the earliest works on Alankara [2,ix].  Rather than being a boring list of categories and a lexicon of terms, it is fluidly composed and easy to read and digest even for the unschooled. A work of poetics that is itself poetry, it commences in appropriate fashion.  It is tradition in Sanskrit literature to begin with a benediction.

Pariccheda I

Chaturmukha mukhaambhojavana hamsavadhur mama

Maanase ramataam nityam sarvasuklaa Sarasvati P.I,S.1

May the lovely lady swan that sports among the lotus-mouths of Brahma, the all-white Sarasvati roam for ever in delight in the lotus-pool of my heart. [2,1]

Goddess Sarasvati is particularly praised by poets of all ranks, as she is the fountain of knowledge, truth, and speech. As for the work itself, it is divided into three Paricchedas, or sections. First and foremost in the first Pariccheda, where he stresses grammar, and how it is critical to understanding and evaluating poetry.

He then moves on to discuss the body of a poetic composition.

This (body) is classified threefold, as Padya, as Gadya as Misra (i.e. as verse, as prose and as a mixture of prose and verse). Verse has four feet; and (again) it is divided into two classes Vrttam and Jati (according to Varna and Matra respectively).” [2, 6]

Types of verse include Muktata, Kulaka, and Sanghaata, and are dealt with collectively as part of the Sarga-bandha. The truly great work of Poetry is the Mahakavya (Great Poem). A type of this is the Sarga-bandha, which is” a Mahakavya that has a beginning with a benediction or indication of contents, it deals with purusharthas and has one of the four types of heroes. It describes the various phases of romance between great lovers, their journeys, trials and tribulations, uses rasa and bhava, has reasonable size chapters and will survive several kalpas. [2, 8-10]

In contrast to poetry is prose, which is a sequence of words not constructed in metrical feet. Prose is divided into Akhyayika and Katha. The former, according to Dandin, is told only in the first person (from the mouth of the hero), while the latter may be told by all. The last type of literary body is Misra, which is a mix of prose and verse, usually in Nataka (dramatic) form and in Campu verse. Literature was further divided into four linguistic classes. [2,16]

“Samskrtam is the name of the celestial language which has been used by great sages; Prakrtam is divided into many ways as Tadbhava, Tasama and Desi.

In such language is the ocean of gemlike saying Setubhanda and other works.” [2,17]

In Poems, languages, like the Abhira and the like are considered as Apabhramsa; but in the sastras … any language other than Samskrtam is considered Apabhramsical. “[2, 18]

Sarga-bandha and other types of similar verses are Samskritam, Skanda and similar types are considered Prakritam, Aasara and others are Apabhramsa, and Nataka and others are considered Misrakam (due to their mixed linguistic nature).

Dandin then continues,  explicating the path of word being twofold, the path of Vidarbha and the path of Gauda.

He describes the Vidarbha as having the characateristics of “Slesa (compact), prasada (charity), Samata (evenness), Madhuryam (sweetness), Sukumarata (elegance), Arthavyakti (expressiveness), Udaratvam (excellence), Ojas (vigour), Kanti and Samadhi (structure)”[2,21]

Gauda is referred to the as the opposite of these. Slistam is when the letters are not loose and not of small breath-value while Sithilam is loose. The latter is a key part of the Gauda and adds dignity to the composition. For the uninitiated, Gauda may be deemed cumbersome, compound (sandhi), and consonant, while Vidarbha is light, short-syllabled, and easy to grasp. Evenness of composition, or samatam, is divided into Mrdu, Sphuta and Madhyamam (soft, hard and medium).

He criticizes easterners as effecting a want of evenness in literature stating “unnevenness and desiring the display of pompous embellishments, the series of Kavyas of the Paurasyas (easterners) have developed.” I guess some reputations haven’t changed! It is the general poetry of his poetic work, and witty remarks like this, that truly make Dandin a delight to read. Indeed, he moves on by extolling sweetness (Madhurya) as the flavour in words and in sentiment. The wise, he says, are like bees in that both are intoxicated with honey. The related concept is Anuprasa, which is word sequences that conveys flavour or sentiment (rasa) through evenness with prior words. [2, 29]

Examples of Anuprasa in words and metrical feet are then given, followed by descriptions of Sruti and Saithilya. Sruti here is sequences of similar sounds and saithilya is want of coherence of sounds rugged in build. The recurrence of the same sequence of sounds in uneven fashion is called Yamaka (alliteration). Daksinatyas (Southerners) did not like incoherence of sounds. It appears the South’s reputation for stricture and conservatism was intact back then as well!

Perhaps the most critical sloka on poetics for our era of vulgar parvenu poetry is the following:

Granting that all arts of speech (Alankara), and delectableness to the idea (conveyed) it is the absence of vulgarity of expression alone that is mostly responsible for delectableness” [2, 33]

Gramya is vulgarity in expression examples of this are given, as well as the opposite. The Acarya is very critical of vulgarity but also of unnecessary and overly complicated constructions to appear intelligent.

There has been a tendency, which Dandin appears to attribute to pretentious easterners, to preference difficult to pronounce compound words (sandhi) under the impression that they constitute grandeur.  He exhorts that it is only by Sukumarata, tenderness (i.e. use of non-harsh letters) rather than over-embellishment that we get approval in the minds of the good. [2,39]

Moving on, he describes Udara as when all sequence of words find their excellence when the word sequence’s excellence is clear, while “Ojas [vigour] is in abundance of compound words. This is the soul of Gadya (prose;) in verse Padya also for the non-Southerners this alone is the goal” [2, 43]

While kantam (not straying from standard meanings) is mentioned, most important, according to Dandin, is the concept of Samadhi. It is structural embellishment or the simultaneous application of many characteristics.

The guna or characteristic of poetry called Samadhi is the very treasure-house and constitutes the entire wealth of poetry. The entire group of poets follows (and uses) this characteristic.”[2, 53]

Pariccheda II

The Second Pariccheda focuses on Alankaras proper. This is the critical aspect of poetry that makes embellishment possible and sets it apart as an high art. But why explain what an old master does better:

They give the names of Alankaras to the characteristics, which render kavyas attractive. These characteristics are even to-day diversified anew; who then can treat of them exhaustively?” [2, 57]

The old masters have shown the following alankaras (figures of speech: -Realistic expression, simile, metaphor, light, repetition, objection, illustrative citation, differentiation, cause terseness, hyperbole, conceit, reason, subtlety, minuteness, sequence, felicity, provoking sentiment, vigour, paraphrase, unison, sublimity, denial, paronomasia, specialty, equation, direct praise, concealed praise, conjunctive expression, exchange, benediction, confusion and expressiveness. Realistic expression also called Jati or group description is the first alankara and describes the actual forms of different conditions of objects.” [2, 59]

Dandin moves on to discuss realistic expression of species (Jati), of action (Kriya), of characteristic (Guna) and of substance (Dravya). He then provides an entire section on the various and numerous types of upama, that is simile. This is delightfully done with poetic examples of this essential aspect of poetics. As it is too long to reprint here, we will merely list the different types of simile:

There is the simile of quality (Dharmopama), the simile of object (Vastupama),the transposed simile (Viparyasopama), the simile of mutuality (Anyonyopama), the simile of exclusive determination (Niyamopama), the simile of indetermination (Aniyamopama), the multiple simile (Sauccayopama), the hyperbolic simile (Atisayopama), the simile of conceit (Utpreksopama), the simile of wonder (Adhbutopama), the simile of delusion (Mohopama), the simile of doubt (Samsayopama), the simile of certainty (Nirnayopama), the paronomasiac simile (Slesopama), the simile of exactness (Samaanopama), the simile of contempt (Nindopama), the simile involving praise (Prasamsopama), simile involving the desire to express (Acikhyaasopama), the simile involving opposition (Virodhopama), the simile involving exclusion (Pratisedhopama), the simile of truthful expression (Asaadhaaranopama), the simile of impossibility (Adbhutopama), the simile involving statements contrary to nature (Asambhaavitopama), the simile of super-excellence (Vikriyopama), the simile in a series (Maalopama), the simile of sentences (Vaakyarthopama),  the simile stating the object (Prativastupama), the simile of equalising (Tulyayogopama), and finally the simile involving a statement of the reasons (Hetupama). [2, 62-82].

While many figures of speech may seem similar to the simile, there is a rule in Sanskrit poesy that a simile cannot be in verbs. This is the word of the Aaptas (or authoritative writers). [2, 148]

As one can see, the exhaustive and methodical classification of the simile, so elementarily treated in english, reaches a near-impossible level of sophistication. Perhaps it is not for nothing Alankara, like the sastras, are ultimately credited to divine beings in the Classical Indic Tradition.

Next, Dandin describes the Metaphor. Simile itself where the difference is implicity is called the metaphor, for example, arm-creeper, palm-lotus, foot-tendril” [2, 84]. There are 66 types of compound metaphors, which for reasons of brevity, won’t list here. The sanskrit word for metaphor is rupakam. The numerous varieties are so copious, there is even a rupaka-rupakam or metaphor on metaphor. [2, 94]

We move on from the two major concepts to other types of Alankara. The concept of Dipakam (or light) is unique as it is the notion of a word helping the entire sentence through jati (genus), kriya (action), guna (quality) or dravya, which is the subject-matter.[2,96] Avrtti, or repetition, is then discussed along with its assorted types and uses both in word and meaning. Aaksepa, which is objection and has a variety of classes. Interestingly, of the different types of objection includes anujnaksepa, that is objection in the form of apparent permission–a phenomenon with which married men the world over are all too familiar! Indeed, the section on Aaksepa is a veritable playbook for a woman in a relationship to influence her beloved!

Then there is illustrative citation (arthantara-nyaasa). Assorted figures of speech are used to express ideas by citing other objects such as those that are universally applicable (visvavyaapi), special (visesastha), panoro-masiac (slesa-viddha), having opposition (virodhavaan), incongruous(ayuktakaari ), fitting (yuktatma), partly incongruous and partly fitting), and contrary (viparyaya). [2, 123]

Acarya Dandin asserts that “Reason (hetu) and subtlety and minuteness (suksma and lesa) constitute the best alankaras of words” .[2,151] This is because a slight reference to a thing discloses (lesa) both indicates and excites the imagination.Correspondingly, Ingita and Aakaara are mentioned as facial gesture and condition of the body respectively. [2,163] Paryayoktham is the paraphrase .[2,178]

Udaattam (sublimity) is the alankara used to express the pre-eminent greatness of a person, both his qualities and his riches. Apahnuti is denial and is used to great effect in order to enhance the description. [2,184]. Slistam is paronomasia, or words with a single form but many meanings [2,187]. Indeed, there is an entire sub-section on specialty, which again, for brevity’s sake, we will leave at here.

Among other interesting concepts include variations of ninda (insult/deprecation) and praise, stuti. There are numerous categories of stuti, such as Aprastuta-prasamsa (indirect praise) and Vyaajastuti (concealed praise). Concealed praise is where it is in the form of despise and virtues are described through mention of vices.

With all these alankaras, or embellishments, Dandin uses examples to not only illustrate, but to very frequently entertain. What could easily have been an exhausting effort because engagingly educative.

Pariccheda III

In the third pariccheda, Dandin moves on to the more structural aspects of poetics. He discusses recurrences of letters (Yamaka) and various types of feet (pada), one through four. Types of recurrences are discusses such as Vyapeta-Yamaka (mediate recurrence) and Avyapeta (mixed recurrence of mediate and immediate). [2, 228]. This is described with great complexity with all the permutations and combinations of letter recurrences.

Finally, this magnum opus of poetics concludes with a veritable lesson in linguistics. From the listing of vowels to the various consonant types, it is highly detailed and worth a review. He also discusses Prahelikas (or Amusing Riddles). These are described as “useful in the entertainment of sportive assemblies; and by those who know them for the purpose of secret consultation in a crowd and for setting riddles to others” [2,262]. Once more, he goes into the technical aspects of riddles, and the various components and component types. In fact, there were as many as 16 types of Prahelikas.

Ten faults of artless poets are also discussed: Apaartham (or meaninglessness), Vyartham (or contrary meaning), Ekaartham (or identical in meaning), Samsayam (or doubtful meaning), Apakaaramam (or want of sequence), Sabdahinam (or wanting in word), Yatibhrastam (or absence of pause), Bhinnavrttam (or metrical defect). Visandhikam (absence of Sandhi, or pause) and impropriety in place, time, in branch of learning, etc.” (desadhi-virodhi,kala-virodha, nyaya-virodha, etc) [2, 276-7].  He nevertheless mentions how a clever poet can use any and all of the improprieties to lift up from the region of fault to the good qualities of poetry.

He concludes with concepts associated with love. Laya is the blending of tunes. Harmonious laya is said to promote Raaga or Love while”Utka and Unmanayantya both convey the longing of the beloved“. [2, 281]

Thus, with an exhaustive but easy-to-read treatise, Acarya Dandin explicates his educative exegisis on kavya and alankara-sastra. Fittingly, he ends with the following advice for would-be poets:

With his intellect, trained by this Path of guna and dosa (Excellences and Faults) shown according to the rules, the blessed person sports like a youth attracted by Words, who have loving eyes and who remain in his control; and he also obtains fame. [2, 305]

References:

  1. Kale, M.R. Dasakumaracarita of Dandin. New Delhi: MLBD. 2009
  2. Sastrulu, V.V., and Ed. Rabindra K. Panda. Kavyadarsah of Dandin. Delhi: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan. 2008
  3. Das, Sisir Kumar. A History of Indian Literature, 500-1399: From Courtly to the Popular. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 2005. p.75

Literature: Satavahana Hala’s Gathasaptasati

Having previously commenced our study of Classical Indic Literature, we now take our first look at Classical Indic Poetry. Appropriately, our first selection is from Andhra itself and dates back to the glorious Empire of the Satavahanas.  This great dynasty featured mighty Conquerors such as Gautamiputra Satakarni and is famed for the Art & Architecture of Amaravati. However, it also produced talented poets such as King Hala, an earlier dynast. He was the compiler of and contributor to the Poetic Anthology Gathasaptasati (known as Gaha Sattasai in the Maharashtri Prakrit in which it is composed)

Translated into many Indian, European, and Middle Eastern languages, the Sapta sati (also known as Gaha koso–or ‘Treasury of Gathas’)  is considered to be one of the earliest surviving anthologies of Classical Indic Poetry.

Author

Not much is known about Emperor Hala (pronounced Haala). According to Western archaeology he is tentatively dated to between 200 BCE and 200 CE (but likely much earlier according to the indigenous Indic Chronology). The 17th Satavahana dynast in the pauranic king lists, Hala himself is called Kavi-vatsala (‘he who has parental affection for poets’). Considered to be religious, he is famous for his patronage of Prakrit over the more popular and elite Sanskrit of the time. Despite this, the influence of his anthology extended to poets centuries after him, such as Govardhana, who wrote the Sanskrit work, Aryasaptasati . He is mentioned by many other Pan-India litterateurs such as Bana of Harsacarita fame.

Maharashtri Prakrit was considered the finest of all Prakrits, and is appropriately used in this work and many other classical ones. Only a portion of the Gathasaptasati, 44 of the 700 verses, are attributed to the Satavahana Emperor. The remainder are said to have been collected from assorted poets, most anonymous. There were as many as 7 or 8 women poets  in an estimated 261 total, truly making it the poetry of the people.

Composition

While Sanskrit reads in an highly refined and courtly fashion, Prakrit is far more bucolic and earthy, fitting for the red earth of the Krishna-Godavari. Indeed, if Sanskrit literally means “refined”, Prakrit literally means “natural” and “common”. As such, while composed by none other than a great king, this work is appropriately written from the common woman’s perspective. Indeed, it is a fitting riposte to all those who seek to brand Classical Indic Literature as “elitist” and disconnected from the masses.  Rather, it intimates a close awareness and love for village life and the village itself. While it is indeed Love Poetry, it is as much an ode to the Deccan, its rivers, its plant life, and its rural life. Gardens, assorted flowers, maidens, ploughmen, hunters and sisters are all mentioned and appreciated. Indeed, it is a celebration of the common life.

Replete with imagery, the Godavari River itself is treated by the Gathasaptasati as a metaphor for the flow of love and desire. The banks of the nadi itself are viewed as a near aphrodisiac.  It has, with good reason, been called “a woman’s book, a compendium of her gestures, utterances and silences”.

Contrary to modern characterizations, kavya literature is neither uniformly prudish nor prurient. It very much runs the spectrum, as do Hala’s 700 single verse poems (Sapta – satti), in Gatha form (the Prakrit counterpart to the Sanskrit Sloka and the Apabramsha Doha). Satakas are famous in Telugu literature, and the pre-Telugu period of the Andhras was no different. A gatha, or song, consists of as many as 27 different variations, but is generally structured with 30 matras (syllabic instants) in the first line, and 27 in the second line. It is composed in the traditional Arya meter. The Kashmiri literary theorist, Anandavardhana wrote on the importance of dhvani, or resonance, in his suitably titled Dhvanyaloka. According to him, the gatha is the poetic embodiment of dhvani, and he himself was a poet in Prakrit. Indeed, in contrast to the ornamental and elegant Sanskrit of Kalidasa, the Prakrit of Hala et al truly resonates in unadorned yet evocative form. Simple, quick, and powerful.

The sthayibhava and rasa are undoubtedly Rati and Sringara respectively. The anthology records every day trials and tribulations of Love and the Erotic, as well as the ebb and flow of affection. Indeed, it describes the escapades of various lovers and how they seek each others forgiveness, while others remain loyal. As described in our previous post, merely because the masses fall short of the ideal, should not mean that people should refrain from aspiring to them. Many of the descriptions are indeed erotic, touching on both the romantic and physical nature of love in real life. The selection below, however, gives a only a taste of rati bhava and focuses more on sringara rasa. Enjoy.

Selections

§

Separated from the woman you love,

To sit beside one you do not is

To double your sorrow. I honour

The goodness that brings you. (24)

§

Distance destroys love,

So does the lack of it.

Gossip destroys love

And sometimes

It takes nothing

To destroy love. (81)

§

Oh Mahua

Blossomed

On Godavari’s

Arboured bank

Shed

Your flowers

One

After

One (103)

§

Their love by long years secured,

Sharing each other’s joys and sorrows,

Of such two the first to go lives,

It’s the other, dies. (142)

§

Bookish lovemaking

Is soon repetitive:

It’s the improvised style

Wins my heart. (274)

§

Stag and doe

Enter the forest

Separately looking for

Herbage and water,

And stay unparted

Till death. (287)

§

He, for whom I forsook

Shame, chastity, honour,

Now sees me as just

Another woman. (525)

§

He looks deeply in her face;

She is sunk in his vision

Thus looking at each other in great joy

As if for them they were all alone in the world. (743)

§

* Numbering diverges from original. Done according to Albrecht Weber's German translation.

It is available for Purchase today in Telugu and English editions:

Prakruta Gatha Saptasati                                                                              The Prakrit Gatha Saptasati

References:

  1. Mehrotra, Arvind Krishna. The Absent Traveller: Prakrit Love Poetry from the Gathasaptasati of Satavahana Hala. Penguin: Delhi. 2008
  2. http://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/prakrit-gatha-saptasati-text-with-english-translation-NAB828/
  3. Peter Khoroche; Herman Tieken (2009), Poems on life and love in ancient India: Hāla’s Sattasaī
  4. Amaresh Datta (1988) Encyclopaedia of Indian literature vol. 2 Chennai: Sahitya Academy
  5. Winternitz, Maurice. History of Indian Literature. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. 1985

The Death of Romance

Antônio Parreiras, The End of Romance

It is sometimes said that “Analysis is the death of sentiment”, but I disagree. As with all things in life, balance here is required as well. The truly fulfilling life is the one which is equidistant to the two. It uses reason to determine the correct course of action based on duty to others, and uses sentiment to experience the splendid possibilities and experiences and rasas life has to offer, with romance and true love being the most prized.

However, in our era of “hookups”, one-night stands, and office relationships, has the so-called “sophistication” of modernity killed off true love? Has the rise of prurience uber alles resulted in destroying the very bonds that once raised armies of rescue and launched a thousand ships? Is The Death of Romance upon us?

Real romance is not a function of skill in the bedroom or the frequency of neurotransmitter release, despite what people today may read in cosmo, playboy, huffpo, jezebel or whatever other intellectual cul de sac they rely on to educate themselves. Real romance is about putting the other person’s needs above our own–even thinking about their interests before our own. It is not about convenience, but constancy. It is not about hopelessness but hoping against hope. But do materialism, fancy shoes, and “Mr. Right now” instead of “Mr. Right” ultimately lead to happiness? Whatever the latest push to downgrade monogamy as boring and marriage as “obsolete”, the end result of the lives of these fictional characters below (and their real life imitators–male and female) is instructive.

Indeed a poster for the movie Nymphomaniac features a series of men and women in various states of tumescence featuring the caption “Forget About Love”.  This isn’t just limited to Hollywood, but rather the state of Bollywood, and now increasingly Tollywood, is testament to this.

Somewhere along the lines of the mid-2000s, the soulful sentiment that once pervaded mainstream Hindi filmdom ( I am purposely avoiding the word cinema here) from screenplay to song, diluted, and then vanished.

Hits steeped in sentiment like “humko humise churalo” have been replaced by chart toppers like “char bottle vodka”…Even the romantic songs once riveting with equal parts longing and mourning and charm and rapture now pass off romance as de riguer, easily substitutable in the buffet table of modern hedonism. A timepass or recreational commodity, on demand courtesy of tinder, snapchat, okcupid or whatever else the kids are using these days, that separates the desired product (romance, sex, etc), from the person. These of course are punctuated with nice club dance beats and other assorted chart toppers.

Even the word “beloved” has been cheapened beyond the point of recognition. What was once deemed a word worthy of our spiritual other half, our second heart, is merely a detachable moniker for the infatuation of the moment or the source and recipient of a serial concupiscence. The reality however is that love without sincerity is mere simulacra.

Men you may now have been taught by the media to think that all girls are wannabe Sunny Leones who want bad boys and Ladies, you may think all men are the same or only run after “insincere” girls. The truth, however, is most men either want a good woman to settle down with or after wasting 20 year of their lives, realize the value of a good woman. And most women may often confuse arrogance with confidence, but they too dream of a gentlemen. Yes there are bad man and bad women, but the majority are in the middle. The question is whether catastrophic loss of culture will cause them to gravitate to promiscuity over Prema.

Given all this, the Death of Romance is invariably upon us. And this is not an East vs West commentary, but a Modern vs Traditional one, as it is only circumstance that has resulted in the western world first being infected by this plague of insincerity—rapidly affecting “Modern India”. Nowhere was this more obviously seen than in the TV series How I Met Your Mother.

*Spoilers Ahead*

In our era of global satellite television, many of you in both hemispheres may be familiar with How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). While the 2005-2014 production was hailed for its creativity and crisp writing/performances, it was above all the story of a young man, Ted Mosby, in his 20s/30s seeking his one true love over the casanova lifestyle. In fact, while one friend openly embraces it, and another escapes it by sheer good fortune of meeting his future wife at a young age, Ted consciously chooses to pursue it–and over the course of 8 years, is punished for it, repeatedly. Despite all this, he nevertheless soldiers on.

If the story of Ross & Rachel were about how true love is possible, but is frequently complicated by other romances, Ted & Tracy was about choosing real romance in a distinctly unromantic time. What  was originally hailed as the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of the 2000s decade and arguably the TV show for all hopeless romantics, had all the potential to be one of the great small screen romances of our time.

Flat panel had accomplished what today’s film was increasingly failing to do–capturing and communicating real sentiment of longing for love.

Ted Mosby, a Manhattan Majnu had committed to finding his Laila, and after  e ^ 1000 embarrassments, heartbreaks, bad advice and wrong-turns over the course of a decade, he finally did.

One would think the finale and story would have ended there…but nooo. 9 years of character development and story-telling were ruthlessly destroyed in a mere five minutes with this abomination from network-approved naraka:

As you can see, the final scene is emblematic of how the show’s internal logic was destroyed, and also why it contributes in general to the Death of Romance…real romance. While it was fittingly panned as one of the worst finales in small screen history, it had nevertheless done its work. In the process, it led to such pearls of wisdom from pan-hellenic Platos and other assorted tequila fueled supporters as “omg! it makes perfect sense, you have many one true loves!!“, “yeah, i completely get it, you don’t stop loving after your lover leaves“,  “i totally want that–true love and a back up relationship!“…”i want to have my cake, and i’ll eat it too!

Now don’t get me wrong. Life most assuredly isn’t simple. There is indeed an element of bittersweet in romance as all lovers are doomed to be parted on this Earth. Indeed some die far too soon. But what this show, and celluloid in general, is today advocating is that lovers are indeed replaceable. Thus from the Ayodhyan heights of Ram refusing to marry again and having a gold statue fashioned in Sita’s image, we have fallen to widowers deluding themselves into thinking old casual relationship exes (who never themselves were really interested in romance) can fill the void left behind by the woman they claimed to have dreamt of for the better part of an era. It is almost as though the very nature of romance had been mutilated, convoluted and turned into a consumer good.

*End Spoilers*

Why this tangent“–you ask? Well, admittedly in our fast-paced world where professionals don’t necessarily have arranged marriages, or have relationships prior to having one, Pehla Pyaar may not be an option for everyone. Indeed, divorce/remarriage may be appropriate for some and romantic pasts are never simple. Nevertheless, simply because we end up falling short of the ideal, or need a Dusra or Teesra , doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aspire towards it in the first place. It is certainly  better for us in the long run than Sau or Sahasra. Waiting is not weak. Principles are not prudishness.

Now, I’ve always been part of the camp that was always fine with Valentine’s Day. Whatever the actual history behind it, in theory, it’s a rather lovely way to celebrate and connect with the one whom we love. The problem however is what it has become in practice. Rather than a day of soulfully cherishing love for one’s spouse (or soon-to-be spouse), it has become a mere veneer of romance to legitimize mechanical debauchery, with unseemly displays of public affection. Those left alone due to circumstance are mocked or seen as curiosities, while the elect happily trot about adducing their rent-a-date or fling-of-the-moment as evidence of their possession (consumption?) of “love”.

This much is made additionally clear from friends with benefits and serial monogamy substituting for real relationships to pornography’s psychologically and sociologically harmful effects to laws that destroy incentive for trust in marriages.

What’s more, the rise of the PDA is feted as somehow as a sign of liberation rather than indecency. Blatant disregard to civic decorum and respect for elders is not romance. While I certainly don’t support the institution of a “Ministry of Vice and Virtue”, those young people feeling prohibitively passionate should keep personal acts for the private sphere. True, Classical Indic society was not repressive in these matters, but it wasn’t libertine either. It merely stressed that there was a time, place, and manner for such things.  There was and is no “right of way for ribaldry”. Rati-bhava divorced from Sringara-rasa is not love at all, but lust seeking pretext.

It has become part of common parlance to say chivalry is dead, and feminism killed it. A corollary of that of course is that romance is dead, and lust killed it. The moment a society exults in the divorcing of sensuality and marriage, is the moment romance truly dies. Because when marriage itself is no longer looked forward to by the majority of society for having children or moving in together, let alone maithuna, that is the moment when it becomes a mere formality. Rather than the fulcrum of one’s life, it becomes merely a trophy or label.

When “Love” is commoditized, the consumers themselves become replaceable and interchangeable.Living for the moment, treating lovers as disposable, and lust as an assortment of flavors may be fun and fashionable, but this lifestyle more often than not leads to this result.

Real romance is not a mere veneer for licentiousness, but has an element of sacrifice. “The Beloved” is not merely the flavor-of-the-month object of prurience, but a person willing to sacrifice for us and for whom we are willing to sacrifice. It is reciprocal.

Marriage is not the end of romance, rather it is the celebration of it. And true love is the highest form of romance. It recognizes the inherent oneness of the male and female halves of an individual soul to the exclusion of all others. It is why a Sati could voluntarily commit sati or an Aja (grandfather of Rama) could climb on to Indumati’s (his wife) funeral pyre in inconsolable grief.

There is an old joke that men need money for women, and women need men for money (though such equations have been changing). Now assuredly, however tempting money may be for women, so it is for sex and men. Thus there are men and women who sacrifice the pursuit of romance for these mere commodities instead. But as with all material things, we need more and more only to feel less and less. In their waning years, such men then realize the value of a good woman (rather than many “hot” ones) and such women realize by serially pursuing Mr. Money Bags or Mr. Right Now, they lost the interest of Mr. Right. The greatest of lotharios from Don Giovanni to Sam Malone may be the envy of most men, but in the end, do the sheer notches on their bed posts fill their inevitable void of loneliness?

To get the woman or man we seek we must be the man or woman that person would want. Love that stands the test of time is not driven by superficial states or faddish fetishes. Looks fade, money comes and goes, but companionship and qualities are truly timeless.

In our topsy turvy age of polyamory and serial monogamy, such notions may seem quaint. After all, these gyaanis and gyaaninis ask, “isn’t restriction of our love to only one person (or gender) selfish, even primitive”? But as always, a little knowledge, in the hands of the foolish, is a dangerous thing. Setting aside the fact that monogamy comes naturally to us, the benefits are manifold as well.

First and foremost comes validation (real validation that one-night stands and serial lovers could never afford). The idea that someone out there is eager and willing to commit himself or herself to us to the exclusion of all others is not only validating but downright scintillating. It affirms not only our sense of self and self-worth, but adds to our esteem in a way that single-serving lovers never could. After all, if we are irreplaceable, there truly must be something to us. And if we’re not, well, we’re just emotion-less commodities driven by base pleasure.

Second, comes security. Not only the security in having someone you can trust no matter , but the security in knowing that the connection isn’t temporary (as all superficial infatuation tends to be) like fads and fetishes. Ultimately, marriage forms the ideal environment needed to ensure that children from this union will securely have a mother and a father as a parenting unit, providing the steady love and care required in child rearing.

Family First, and Marriage makes it one

Fundamentally, marriage is about children, whatever our modernistas may say. That is because society then mandates that a man not only fulfills his responsibility to provide for the pregnant mother, but not abandon the children after birth and leave them without food and shelter. While it is true that there are those who marry and do not have children, since when is the exception the rule? Because of “except after ‘c’, does that mean ‘i’ shouldn’t be before ‘e’?”. Because the vast majority of marriages past and present have resulted in children, they must be the fulcrum of our consideration, not our passing fancies and whims.

Third, it gives us a sense of balance and stability. Life is full of ups and downs. Career success is fleeting, even friends fade in and out, but a true life partner provides us with both wind and ballast as needed. When we are sad, they cheer us up, when we are angry, they cool us down, when we are lonely, they give us companionship, and when we need a kick in the seat of our pants, they gladly give us one. After all, just as a meal that is shared is most delicious, so to is the life that is shared most fulfilling.

Sita-Rama

So if you want to rekindle romance (sringara) in society again, you must be the change you want to see. Without Juliet, there is no Romeo. Without Sita, there is no Ram. It is the virtues of women that ultimately inspire the virtues of men. That is why, in ancient civilizations, muses are personified as feminine. Even in our Indic civilization, it is Goddess Saraswati who inspires. Indeed, it is Saraswati’s knowledge that is the source of Brahma’s creative power, Lakshmi’s prosperity that is the source of Vishnu’s preservation power, and Parvati’s Shakti that is the source of Shiva’s destructive power. That is why our society does not stress being overly masculine or overly feminine—but advocates balance.  Yin and Yang, Female and Male, Nari and Nara must exist in harmony. It is the synergy between that two that empowers society and rekindles real romance, just as Sita’s chastity adorned Ram’s nobility.

The point is not to advocate hypocrisy but to educate that one cannot have one’s cake and eat it too. Actions have opportunity costs, and to seek what we really want, we ourselves must be worthy of it, for nothing in this world worth having comes easy. Many of you may be despondent about being alone a week from now, but fear not. It, or many such days, may come and go, but if you truly commit to true love, it commits to you.

So what then is the cornerstone of a good marriage and true love? Fidelity. This is because Fidelity breeds Trust, Trust breeds Friendship, and Friendship breeds Love. And that, dear reader, is what will result in the reincarnation of Romance.

 

Cinema: Missamma

In continuing our coverage of Classic Andhra Cinema, we examine another of the all-time favorites: Missamma.

Story

A Telugu story that very much cuts across caste and creed, it is a tale of a Christian girl who falls in love with a Hindu boy, and the subsequent situational comedy that ensues. The fundamental centrality of Dharmic Indian culture is very clearly seen not only in story, but in the showcase of both classical Indian music and dance. Despite their differences in creed, neither converts, and it is the centrality of Bharatiya Samskruthi that serves as their common unifying factor–rather than foreign imposed frameworks.

But the true standout aspect of this 1955 Romantic Comedy is that the protagonist and central character is a woman, masterfully played by the original Top Actress of Tollywood: Savitri. The object of her affection is none other than the legendary NT Rama Rao himself, clearly at the peak of his powers here. Both play unemployed young, unattached graduates on the make, seeking to make a life for themselves. Due to residential circumstances–in a way that anticipates the 70s American sitcom Three’s Company, albeit, in a more traditional Indian way–they end up having to pass off her character, Mary, as Mahalakshmi–MT Rao’s wife. The ensuing hilarious hijinx results in creating one of the truly timeless classic films of Andhra, and indeed, Indian Cinema.

While the first half starts off rather slow, there are a number of memorable scenes, above all, the incisively cheeky song: Aduvaari maatalaku, ardhaaley veruley [The words of Women have different meanings]

However much feminists may outrage, it is a universal sentiment that is playfully treated in this ever-green ghaana, acted out expertly by the ever-funny Relangi.

Nevertheless, the ploddingly-paced pre-intermission portion sets up what will soon be a rapid-fire barrage of comedy that ensues in the second half. Another leading man of the era, ANR, should be particularly noted for demonstrating his range, providing much fodder of funny in the movie as seen here:

The inter-religious nature of the romance is treated with both dexterity and bathos. Indeed, while Mary is a stubbornly devout Christian, MT Rao (NTR’s character) handles this narrow-mindedness skillfully, and shows his mature acceptance of all different faiths.

While not famous for its romantic dialogues, the chemistry between Savitri and NTR’s characters has all the hallmarks of Sringara.

Production

This movie is responsible for launching one of Telugu Cinema’s greatest artistes, the actress Savitri. In what proved to be her breakout role in film, she won the hearts of audiences of what was then Madras based, South Indian Film-dom. Situational conflict worthy of Missamma itself resulted in the actress original slated to play the title character walking out, paving the way for the rising star.

The pairing of Savitri and NTR is exquisite. Savitri plays the traditional Telugu girl, easily piqued and ever-conscious of respectable reputation, while Rama Rao is teasing, witty, and aspirational in this snapshot of post-Independence Andhra. It’s very much a modern story in a modern (vs post-modern) setting, all while remaining undeniably Indian in its inspiration and essence.

Hilarity aside, at its core, Missamma is a romantic movie, in both senses of the word. There is even an heroic dream sequence to boot for our movie’s damsel in (comedic) distress.

The production team and cast were so strong, that 1957’s Maya Bazaar would retain most of them, as well as this over-arching sense of Sringara. While Akkineni, Nageshwara Rao, SV Ranga Rao, Gummadi, and Relangi are all strong supporting members, the other standout besides the leading actress herself is Jamuna. Playing what is arguably the original “bhutta-bomma” of Telugu cinema, she comes across as nothing short of a doll, in her dance and dialogue. Serving as romantic rival to Savitri, her character’s chemistry with NTR, and common religion, is cause for much jealousy on the part of Mary, which we see in the first song below. As we say in Telugu, “Nijamga Sathayinsthundhi” [She truly irritates her], and this friction between the two characters is the source of many laughs.

Songs

The paatas naturally touch on various themes in the story. Some compositions are more comedic in nature, and others more oriented towards love, but the clever-treating of the inter-religious nature of the romance is also well handled in songs such as Brindavanamadi Andaridi, Govindadu Andarivadey le [Vrindavan is for Everyone, Govinda belongs to Everyone].

Of course, songs of that bygone era almost always included the lullaby-reveries that more than any other language, Telugu does best.

Appropriately enough, the most important song in the movie is probably the least celebrated. And as a sign of the times, an all too forgotten theme is the name of the song itself : Dharmam Cheyi Babu [Do your Dharma, young man]

Again this song demonstrates how Dharma remains our timeless Indic principle that cuts across caste and creed. While in this case, it is done somewhat mockingly with the con-man sidekick, Devayya, the message is clear enough: while broadcasters may not always be genuine, it’s what is being broadcast that matters.

In a wonderful tribute to our classical high culture, the main character is seen singing one of Tygaraja‘s classic Krithis: Raaga Sudharasa

Incidentally there were several remakes, starting with the Tamil “Missiamma” below. While some (South of the Penner) may call it the first true Telugu-Tamil bilingual film due to change in cast, the prior release of the Telugu rendition as well as the Aaduvari song is what truly make the Telugu version the original (as do the very Telugu Savitri and Jamuna):

A Hindi version (“Miss Mary”) later followed (which retained Jamuna) and starred Meena Kumari in the title role, with Gemini Ganesan again playing NTR’s character.

Miss Mary, 1957

Even a TV Serial was later developed (though it appears to depart heavily from the original concept)

A Telugu remake eventually came along in 2003; however, it seems at best inspired by the original rather than a verbatim re-enactment. From the plot, it’s apparent that it was merely capitalizing on the name of the original, leaving the door open to a truly recreated Missamma for the current generation.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b7/Missamma_2003.jpg

Ultimately, Missamma is a must-watch for any aspiring aficionado of Andhra Cinema. While I’m not quite sure what the verdict was on the remakes (readers are free to opine on this), a fairly recent song inspired by the original demonstrates, as Missamma expertly did in its own time, the value of updating our culture: Keeping the spirit of tradition, while making it relevant to the times.

Cast

Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao – M. T. Rao
Savitri – Mary / Mahalakshmi
Akkineni Nageshwara Rao  – A.K. Raju
S.V. Ranga Rao – Gopalam
Relangi Venkatramaiah –Devayya
Jamuna –Sita
Rushyendramani – Gopalam’s wife
Allu Ramalingaiah –Musali Panthulu
Ramana Reddy – David
Balkrishna –Govind
Doraiswamy –Mary Pempudu thandri
Gummadi –Employer (guest role)

Language

Telugu

Remakes: Tamil & Hindi

Runtime

225 minutes

Release Date

1955

Color

Black and White

Director

L.V.Prasad

Writer

Pingali, Nagendra Rao

Producers

Chakrapani & B. Nagi Reddy

Music

Saluri, Rajeshwara Rao

Raja A.M. –playback singer
Leela P. –playback singer
Ghantasala Venkateswara Rao –playback singer
P. Susheela –playback singer
Relangi Venkatramaiah

Cinematography

Marcus Bartley

Art Direction

Madhavapeddi Gokhale

References:

  1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0251847/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
  2. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/missamma-1955/article6508169.ece