Sunday, September 21, 2014


The following (as are some earlier snippets in this blog) is a rough extract from a new biography of Pandit Narayana Das. It is still a work in progress and the extracts are likely to undergo changes.

Translating ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam’ into Samskrutam and Atcha-Telugu 

The reason that attracted Narayana Das to Omar Khaiyam could perhaps be a shared worldview towards life and religion. Both of them were Sun-worshippers and polymaths. In his introduction to the 
Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam, Narayana Das says “Omar Khaiyam commences his verses with the word “Khurshid”, which means the Sun; because I presume he was a sun worshipper…

Omar Khaiyam’s interests extended from poetry, music, philosophy and theology to mathematics, astronomy, geography, mineralogy and meteorology. Narayana Das’ interests extended from poetry, music and musicology, literature and linguistics, dance and acting, philosophy, theology and Vedic studies to astrology and medicine (Ayurveda). Of these ‘Vedic studies’ is itself a conglomeration of various branches of theology, philosophy, arts and sciences.

Neither of them was properly understood by his contemporaries during his life time. Omar Khaiyam was seen either as an atheist and hedonist or at the other extreme, as a mystical Sufi poet. In the case of Narayana Das although his proclivity to the Bhakti tradition was never in doubt, his philosophy of humanism might not have been fully understood. While Narayana Das devoted his life to the teaching of ‘BhaktiJnanaMoksha he condemned with vehemence some prevailing practices of his time as unacceptable, as he felt they were at variance with the spirit of Vedic philosophy.

As has been said earlier Narayana Das used to absorb knowledge from his environs just as a sponge absorbed water, and improve upon it. After coming into contact with the Hindustani musician, Mohabbat Khan at Vizianagaram, he cultivated the Hindustani genre of music to develop a Carnatic-Hindustani hybrid timbre. Similarly when he was thirty-seven he came into contact with a Maulvi, he utilized the opportunity to pick up the rudiments of Arabic and Persian from him, obtained books on their teaching and began developing his knowledge of the two languages.

His interest in Persian grew when he observed that Old Persian* has some resemblance to Prakrit, considered to be the colloquial form of literary Samskrutam. This could well be the case because Old Avestan, the precursor of the Iranian languages, was closer to what linguists call ‘Indic Samskrutam’ whereas Young Avestan was closer to Persian. In fact both Old Persian and Middle Persian were written from left to right like Prakrit unlike their modern day version, which adapted the Perso-Arabic script. In his Samskrutam introduction to “Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam” Narayana Das observed that although there were yavana** terms, much of the Rubaiyat Omar Khaiyam wrote was in Old Persian, which in his view was closer to Prakrit.

Over time, Narayana Das developed a great admiration for the Persian philosopher-poet. When he read Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation of the Persian quatrains, he felt they were not true to the original. It is now known that not only Fitzgerald’s translations were not literal but he also mingled the quatrains. Fitzgerald’s translation has about three hundred verses. Of these Narayana Das selected a hundred and ten and their original Persian quatrains and translated the original and their English translation into Samskritam and Accha-Telugu.

Translating from one language to another could be a daunting task because it is not just conveying the meaning of words. A language evolved over time embeds the culture and traditions; beliefs and values; rituals and practices and history and legends of a society in its usage and idioms. If the translator is not proficient in either of the languages, he might miss the meaning altogether or the translation might appear to be artificial like a patchwork quilt. Good translation requires not only proficiency in both the languages but great technical skill to express the idiom of one language in the corresponding idiom of the other. As languages continue to evolve, meanings of words and usages change; metaphors that form the substrate of idioms might lose their relevance or the flavour of idioms might change. Therefore translating from an ancient language to another classical language requires great scholarship if one were to convey the true intended meaning of the original writer. 

Narayana Das translated Omar Khaiyam’s Rubaiyat when he was well into his sixties and published the book when he was sixty-eight. This was what former president of India Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, then Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, had to say of the translations in his ‘FOREWORD’:

“[…] was greatly struck by his varied talents, remarkable linguistic equipment, and technical power of versification. […] The Telugu verses are written in what is called Atcha Telugu or pure Telugu, which is rather difficult. […] I am tempted to congratulate him on a performance which, taking all things into account, is certainly astounding.” 

The book opens with a prayer in four languages, Persian, English, Samskrutam and Telugu. The poem was written in the Kandam metre, one of the toughest prosodies in the Telugu language. Writing a poem in difficult prosody, with each line in a different language is an expression of Narayana Das’ penchant for the formidable.

He introduced Omar Khaiyam, the poet and his poetry in three languages, English, Samskrutam and Telugu. He used the introductions to express his deep admiration for Omar Khaiyam and his poetry. But the introductions were more than that. Narayana Das used them to express his worldview about his field of work, poetry and poets and to address questions like, ‘what inner urges, objectives or ideology should drive them?’ and ‘how should literature influence society?

In his English introduction he expresses the view that an original writer should take pride in having his works published as they are so that critics might see him in his true colours. It was for this reason, he says, it is not my habit to have my works corrected and recast by others’.  

He laments the propensity of literary critics to judge the work of writers based more on their outward appearance than a true evaluation of their literary work. Could Fitzgerald’s impression of how Omar lived his life coloured his translations of the poet’s immortal verses?

Did Narayana Das find a twin soul when he observed that Omar Khaiyam decried ‘all religious shows and philosophical discussions’ as ‘merely vain and whimsical actions for passing an idle life’? He says Khaiyam was vexed with the deep chasm between precept and practice of crafty philosophers. He therefore satirized their philosophy. For him pleasing society was true religion and devotion to Almighty was the happiest enjoyment. It was perhaps because of this perception that Narayana Das found in Khaiyam, a mystic rather than a romantic poet. He feels Khaiyam’s philosophy was largely misunderstood and his advocacy of wine, woman & music should be read as cryptic symbols for divine servicepure mind and meditation

Old Persian was an Iranian language which was in use from circa 600 B.C.E to 300 B.C.E. The next phase in the evolution of the language between 300 B.C.E. and 800 C.E. has been designated Middle Persian and from 800 C.E. it is known as Modern Persian or Farsi.

** By Yavana terms Narayana Das was probably referring to Middle Persian.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

'కుక్కపిల్ల', 'అగ్గిపుల్ల', 'సబ్బుబిళ్ళ' మీద రాసేదే కవిత్వమా?

శ్రీమదజ్జాడ ఆదిభట్ల నారాయణ దాసు గారి 150వ జయంతి సంవత్సరం ముగిసింది. ఆమహనీయుని 150వ జయంతిని (కేంద్ర) సాహిత్య అకాడమి సంస్మరించాలా లేక సంగీత నాటక అకాడమి సంకీర్తించాలా అనే మీమాంసలో ఆ రెండు అకాడమీలు పడ్డాయని ఆ మధ్య ఒక తెలుగు దినపత్రికలో వచ్చిన వ్యాసంలో వ్రాసారు. కుకపిల్ల’, ‘అగ్గిపుల్ల’, ‘సబ్బుబిళ్ళమీద రాసే కవిత్వానికి పట్టం కట్టేసే సాహిత్య అకాడమికి నారాయణ దాసుగారి హరికథలలొ సాహిత్యంకనపడకపోవడంలో ఆశ్చర్యం లేదు మరి!  

ఆదిభట్ల నారాయణ దాసు గారి పేరు వినగానే ముందుగా మనకు స్ఫురించేది హరికథా పితామహుడు”! చేతిలో చిడతలు, మెడలో పూలమాల, బంగారు గొలుసు, ముంజేతికి సువర్ణ ఘంటా కంకణం, ఎడమ కాలికి గండపెండేరం, అధోభాగాన పట్టు పీతాంబరం - ఆరడుగుల ఆజాను బాహుడు అయిన దివ్యసుందర విగ్రహం, మనకు కళ్ళకు కట్టినట్టు కనిపిస్తుంది. అవును, అయన హరికథకు సృష్ట్తికర్త. మానవ జాతికి భక్తి, జ్ఞాన, మోక్ష మార్గములను ప్రబోధించే లక్ష్యంతో అయన హరికథను సృష్ట్తించారు. తాను సృష్టించిన హరికథను తన మృదు, మధుర మేఘగంభీర స్వరంతో పాడి, ఆ హరికథలలోని పాత్రలను అభినయించి, సుమారు ఆరు సుదీర్ఘ దశాబ్దాలు ప్రేక్షకుల హృదయాలలో నర్తించిన ఆయన అమరుడు, చిరస్మరణీయుడు. అయితే హరికథ సృష్టి, సంగీత, సాహిత్యాలలో, ప్రదర్శన కళలలో ఆయన కనపరచిన ప్రతిభా పాటవాలలో ఒక చిన్న భాగం మాత్రమే.   

ఆదిభట్ల నారాయణ దాసు గారు, అష్టభాషలలో పండితుడు. సంగీత సాహిత్యాలలో అసమాన ప్రతిభావంతుడు. తెలుగు, సంస్కృతము, అచ్చ తెలుగులలో అనేక గ్రంధాలు రచించారు. అందులో కావ్యాలు, ప్రబంధాలు, సంగీత ప్రబంధాలు, వేదాంత గ్రంధాలు, అనువాదాలు, హరికథలు, రూపకాలు, పిల్లల నీతికథలు, ఉన్నాయి. అచ్చమైన తెలుగును వాడుకలోనికి తీసుకు వచ్చి ప్రచారం చేయాలనే సదుద్దేశంతో ఆయన సీమ పల్కు వహిఅనే పేరుతొ అచ్చతెలుగు – తెలుగు నిఘంటువును రచించారు. ప్రేక్షకులను రంజింప చేయగల దేవదత్తమైన మధుర గంభీర స్వరం అయన స్వంతం. ఏక కాలంలో అయిదు, ఆరు తాళాలు ప్రదర్శించగల లయ-తాళజ్ఞాన ప్రతిభ ఆయనకు దేవుడిచ్చిన వరం.

అయన ప్రదర్శించిన అష్టావధానాలలో, గ్రీకు భాషలో వ్యస్తాక్షరి, మూడు తాళాలకు సమన్వయించి కీర్తనను పాడడం, ఆంగ్లభాషలో ప్రసంగం మొదలైన, ఇతర అవధానులు ప్రదర్శించని అంశాలు ఉండేవి. అందుకే దానిని అసాధ్య-అష్టావధానంఅనీ సంగీత అష్టావధానంఅనీ పిలిచేవారు.

దాసుగారు ఆంగ్ల, పారశీక భాషలనుండి తెలుగులోనికి అనువదించారు. ఋగ్వేద మంత్రాలను అచ్చతెలుగులోనికి అనువదించి స్వరపరిచారు. తెలుగు, సంస్కృత భాషలలో అయన రచించిన దశ విధ రాగ నవతి కుసుమ మంజరితొంభై రాగాల మాలిక; అపూర్వము, అనన్యసామాన్యమైన ఆయన వాగ్గేయకార ప్రతిభకు నిదర్శనము.

చెళ్ళపిళ్ళ వేంకట శాస్త్రి గారు ఆయనను పుంభావ సరస్వతిఅని కీర్తించారు. సంగీత, సాహిత్యాలను సరితూచిన త్రాసు, ఆదిభట్ల నారాయణ దాసు!అన్నాడు శ్రీ శ్రీ. హిందుస్తానీ రాగాల ఆలాపనలో తన ప్రావీణ్యాన్ని ప్రదర్శించి, అయన రబింద్రనాథ్ టాగోర్ గారి ప్రశంసలు అందుకున్నారు; మైసూరు మహారాజా వారి పురస్కారాలు అందుకున్నారు. విజయనగరం మహారాజు ఆనంద గజపతి రాజు గారు ఆయనకు ఇంతకూ ముందెప్పుడూ, ఏ పండితునికీ లభించని సన్మానం చేయాలనే సంకల్పంతో దక్షిణ భారతంలోనే మొదటిదైన సంగీత కళాశాలను స్థాపించి, దానికి ఆయనను మొట్ట మొదటి అధ్యక్షులుగా నియమించారు.  

ఆనాటి సంగీత, సాహిత్య పండిత లోకం ఆయనను సంగీత సాహిత్య సార్వభౌమ”, “పంచముఖి పరమేశ్వర”, “లయబ్రహ్మమొదలైన బిరుదులతో సత్కరించింది. బ్రహ్మరధ సన్మానాలూ, గజారోహణలూ ఆయనను వరించాయి. సంస్కృతభాషలో అద్భుతమైన పదజాల, వ్యాకరణ ప్రజ్ఞ ఉన్న ఆయనకు తెలుగు భాష అంటే చాల మక్కువ. అందుకే తనకు డెబ్భై అయిదవ ఏట, సన్మానం చేసి బిరుదు ప్రదానం చేస్తానని కోరిన భారతి తీర్థ అనే సాహిత్య, సంస్కృతీ సంస్థకు, తనకు ఇచ్చే బిరుదు తెలుగులో ఉండాలని షరతు విధించారు. ఆయన తెలుగు భాషాభిమానాన్ని గౌరవించిన ఆ సంస్థ ఆట పాటల మేటిఅనే బిరుదు ప్రదానం చేసింది. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


By Ganti Savitri Devi

Once upon a time,
There lived a man sublime;

There was music in his voice,
To the listeners’ hearts’ rejoice;

His fingers on the Veena’s strings,
Swayed us on to blissful springs;

His music had charm to bring in rain,
He made ‘Harikatha’ supremely reign;

His cute ditties and sweet melodies,
Told His stories, sang His glories;

He pranced and danced
In rhythm and rhymes;

He walked and talked
For Him of all times;

Readily, languages became his own,
For his memory too, he was well-known;

From his heart, gushed poetry,
As a mountain stream pours free;

In him, all arts cheerfully met
There can never be another like him, I bet;

He was Light to the sight,
And to hearts, Delight;

Him those who saw,
To him bowed in awe;

And he bowed to none,
But to the mighty One;

In great exhilaration,
Voices declared in unison;

‘Goddess of learning descended,
And took his form, splendid’;

A  Narayana Das, his name,
An emperor in music and literature in fame;

He and his, His stories,
Shine in Time’s Glories.

(Excerpted from Drops in Rain)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Sesquicentennial in America

The ‘Pandit Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das Sesquicentennial’ is being celebrated in many places in India. In the US too it was celebrated in  Sri Mahalakshmi  Temple, Delaware on April 19, 2014. It was marked as a part of the local Telugu community’s Telugu Ugaadi celebrations.

The following leading members of the Telugu community actively supported the celebration: Sri Patibanda Sharma, President of the Temple committee; Sri Bal Reddy and Sri Saripalli Sharma who spoke about Pandit Narayana Das and his literature. 

Participants in the concert: Rama Devi Surampudi, Sunitha Varma, Sobha Nagendra Kumar Ayalasomayajula (Lecturer),
Usha Kuppa, Geetha Pamulapati, Pavana Mamidala, Sujatha Vijaya Kumar & Sruthi Medisetti
Here are some keetanas from the concert:

Keertana: 'Nikhilasrita Sukhadaayaka': Harikatha: Bhakta Markandeya. Ragam: Bhupala; Talam: Rupaka

Keertana: 'Sarada Sadaa': Harikatha: Harikathaamrutam Ragam: Khamach. Talam: Rupaka

Keertana: 'Saami Raavademi Rayo': Harikatha: Rukmini Kalyanam

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sangeetha Jagruthi Institutes ‘The Pandit Adibhatla Narayana Das Memorial Award’

Sangeetha Jagruthi, a music and cultural organisation of Bengaluru celebrated Pandit Narayana Das' sesquicentennial on September 5 on a grand scale, in a sabha held in the Bangalore Gayana Samaja auditorium. The organisation instituted a national award in the name of Sri Adibhatla Narayana Dasu. The first award was given away to Dr. Srikantham Nagendra Sastry a well known Karnatic Music exponent by ‘Kalatapasvi’ Sri K. Viswanath the famous film maker who made a number of films with classical music and dance as the backdrop of their storyline. Sri A. V. Rajtrinath, the founder of Sangeetha Jagruthi infomed that the ‘The Pandit Adibhatla Narayana Das Memorial Award’ which carries a citation and a cash award of Rs 1,00,000/- would be given away to an eminent exponent in the fields of Karnatic Music or Harikatha every year. 

Here is a selection of photos from the function:

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Sesquicentennial Begins

Pandit Narayana Das' 149th birth anniversary (August 31, 2013) marks the beginning of his sesquicentennial year. AP Government's Department of Culture and Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams are orgainising year-long celebrations. 

The TTD's celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary began with a week-long seminar in Tirupathi on September 1, held in the Mahati Auditorium. Each day of the seminar was marked by a paper presentation on one aspect of Pandit Narayana Das' oeuvre and performance of a Hari Katha written by him. 

On September 4 (Pandit Narayana Das' birth day as per Telugu calendar), famous film director Sri K. Viswanath unveiled a statue of the great man in the premises of Sri Venkateswar Music and Dance College. 

The poster outside Mahati Auditorium, Tirupathi 
The poster outside Mahati Auditorium, Tirupathi
The venue of the seminar
The venue of the seminar
The venue of the seminar
Pandit Narayana Das' statue ready for inauguration
K Viswanath walking in to unveil the statue
Pandit Narayana Das' statue
K Viswanath speaking after unveiling the statue.
M G Gopal, Executive Offiver, TTD also seen in this picture. 
K Viswanath speaking after unveiling the statue
M G Gopal, Executive Officer, TTD addressing the media.
Also seen in the picture: K Viswanath (L).
K Viswanath speaking after unveiling the statue
K Viswanath addressing media after unveiling the statue
M V Simhachala Sastry addressing invitees after statue inaguration
K Viswanath addressing invitees after statue inaguration
Prayer before the seminar began on Septemeber 5
U Raja Rajeswari Devi presenting her paper:
"Purnapurushudu, Srimadajjada Adibhatla Narayana Dasu"
Seen on the stage: Sri Ravva Srihari, Editor, TTD Publications &
Smt. Challa Prabhavathi Deekshitulu, Principal S V Music & Dance College