Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Three Born Poets & Nine Rasas

R. M. Challa is a man of many parts. He is a scholar in the Vedas, various oriental and occidental languages including English, German, Persian, Sanskrit and Telugu, a literary and music critic, essayist and poet. “Let’s tune in R. M. Challa”, his literary column in the Indian Express in the sixties through the eighties used to be a piece of masterly erudition and educative to readers on diverse subjects from literature to philosophy and linguistics to phonetics. The column ran for about a quarter of a century, which is a first in Indo-Anglican journalism. “Three Born Poets & Nine Rasas”, is his review of Pandit Narayana Das’ “NAVARASATARANGINI”.


Poets nascitur, non fit. Horace’s dictum finds ample evidence in the life and work of Narayana Das.

A legendary figure in his own lifetime, the father of Harikatha, the only scholar who translated Sanskrit poems into Telugu without using a Sanskrit word, the only musician who wrote treatises on Rig Veda and Advaita Vedanta, the only minstrel who sang with equal grace classical Hindustani as well as Karnataka music, the only linguist who equally well understood two classical languages (Sanskrit and Persian), the only poet who wrote with equal ease in both Sanskrit and Telugu, Narayana Das was the one and only Andhra in the last hundred years to whom that indiscriminately employed and hackneyed phrase "versatile genius“ can be justifiably applied.

He sang as it pleased him and it was Music; he wrote as he liked, and it was Literature, he acted his “stories of God” (Harikathas) on the stage and it was Dance-drama; he spoke as it naturally came to him, and it was Wit; he composed his lines spontaneously and orally, without paper or preparation, on the spur of the moment and at the very instant, and it was Poetry; and he led his earthly existence as his instincts guided him, and it was Everlasting Life.

It is small wonder, then, that this man who was all things to all men, and whose very life was an exemplary essence of all the navarasas should have chosen for his book “Navarasatarangini” examples from the works of his kindred souls, Kalidasa and Shakespeare, respectively masters of the two greatest languages of the world, Sanskrit (universal mother of languages) and English (cosmopolitan child of languages).

(Before proceeding to give one example each of the nine emotions from the three poets, a little explanation is necessary. For the purpose of this article, in which I intend to make a comparative study, I bring in instances from the original works of Narayana Das in addition to quotations from “Navarasatarangini”. And since it is superfluous to transliterate original passages while translating them, I quote the original only in the case of Shakespeare and offer free renderings as regards the other two. I use abbreviation “K. S. and N.” for their respective names).

COURAGE (Veera Rasa)K. Like the tree that takes upon itself the sun’s heat and provides shade for the traveller underneath it, the hero’s valour lies in self-sacrifice.
S. Courage is synonymous with honour: “I love the name of honour more than I fear death.”
N. Courage is the quality of immortals who know not the ordinary mortal’s instant of self-preservation. In a convincingly unique delineation of Chitrangi’s character, he makes out that conventional virtue pales before the preternatural passion of hers which makes her immolate her own and that of Sarangadhara’s mortal life in the hope of their immortal union in the life after death.

GENTLENESS (Saanta Rasa)K. Those who lose not their equanimity even in adverse circumstances are the true gentlemen.
S. The vicissitudes of life cannot affect the gentleness of experienced wisdom: “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
N. To be ungrudgingly able to forgive the one who injures you (mentally and physically) is the nature of gentleness.

COMMISERATION (Karuna Rasa)K. Tenderness as pity is common to saint and sinner alike. Even sages, who are above feeling pleasure and pain, are on occasion moved to tears as in the case of Kanva at the time of Shakuntala’s’ departure from the hermitage to the royal palace.
S. It is not words or actions that denote true pity. It is an inmost feeling of the heart. “I have that within which passeth show”.
N. Our life (the mortal coil) is a pitiable pilgrimage from the cradle to the grave: The imprisoned embryo in the womb, the bondage of childhood, the sensual torments of youth, and the sickly senility of old age.

LOVE (Srungara Rasa)K. Love is the supreme mutual feeling of man and woman which unites them body and soul.
S. Love is “madness most discreet, a choking gall, and a preserving sweet”.
N. Love is the greatest possible enjoyment of the individual’s psychic and physiological functions, undeterred by social taboos.

HUMOUR (Hasya Rasa)K. Humour is a subtle commentary on man’s harmless (and sometimes foolish) attempts to make the absurd seem ordinary.
S. Humour is a satire on human fool: “The more pity, that fools may not speak wisely, what wise men do foolishly”.
N. A wise-cracking, quick repartee without malice (to the jealous pundits who trod on his toes) is the weapon of his humour.

MARVEL (Adbhuta Rasa)K. Finds marvel in the form of a beautiful woman who is herself an ornament to the jewels she wears.
S. The irony of fate is the wonder of life: “O what a world is this, when what is comely envenoms him that bears it”.
N. Children’s sobs followed almost in the same breath by godly smiles, and the sinner’s capacity to love an all-forgiving God, are his idea of marvel.

WRATH (Rowdra Rasa): (Rather than blame the other person who offends our susceptibilities, we should look for the fault in ourselves. This is an ideal expression of “wrath turned on oneself” common to the three poets).
K. “You’re not to blame. That I whom you despise should stand before you in supplication is wrong.”
S. “O, that this too solid flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into dew.”
N. “O Lord, thou hast the warm power to melt the icy indignities showered upon thy forlorn devotees by merciless people and unbridled passions.”

CONSTERNATION: (Bibhatsa Rasa)K. Hatred, coupled with mental and physical hunger, makes for this emotion.
S. Helplessness and self-pity: “With herself is she in mutiny.”
N. The unspeakable ugliness of human ills evoke this feeling in him.

TIMIDITY (Bhayanaka Rasa)K. A kind of old fashioned feminine fear: “Let me be; I would rather go to my mother.”
S. Paradox of contradictory feelings about the same object: “If thou couldst see me without eyes, hear me without thine ears, and make reply without a tongue……”
N. To be unable to say ‘no’ to desire and suffer the consequent remorse is what our fears amount to.



Reproduced from the "Harikathapitamaha Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasa Satajayantutsava Sanchika" (1967), the souvenir published by the Samskruthi Samithi, Chirala to commemorate the great man's birth centenary.

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