Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Talli Vinki — Nātu-Telugu versification of Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram

The versatile genius of Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās (1864-1945) as an aṣṭāvadhāni, writer, poet, composer, linguist, dancer and actor is well known. He was the creator of the performing art harikatha which is a composite of five distinct arts—purāṇik storytelling; poetry and classical music, pre-written and composed extempore; dancing and acting. He wrote twenty-one harikathas (which he called yakṣagānās); seventeen in Telugu, three in Sanskrit and one in Telugu devoid of Sanskrit terms. The literary component of the harikathas is characterized by rich imagery and idiom. As the yakṣagānās were written to be performed on stage they were imbued with euphony in every line and a piquancy flavour in every passage and verse. In addition to choosing rāgas and tāḷas appropriate to the contexts in which the kṛtis were composed, he experimented with rare and innovative rāgas and tāḷas, and special features like svarākṣara kṛtis and rāga mudras. His aṣṭāvadhāna performances, which he commenced much before he wrote his first literary work, had musical elements. Just as other aṣṭāvadhānis composed verses on demand, he composed kṛtis extempore in specified rāgas and tāḷas and sang them to synchronize with two or four tāḷas

Nārāyaṇa Dās wrote his first literary work when he just turned twenty. It was Aṃbarīṣa Caritra (1883). The harikatha has been hailed for the beauty of its language, innovative storytelling and the depth of its philosophical insights. From then on for the next sixty years he produced magnificent literature in a variety of genres: prose, poetry, music, drama etc. They included moral stories for children, allegorical poems suffused with deep philosophical insights, philosophical treatises and translations.

There were three distinct phases in Nārāyaṇa Dās’ literary odyssey. The first, 1883–1910, was entirely devoted to writing in Sanskritised Telugu (also known as miśrama-Telugu), the language in which most Telugu literature was and has been written to this day. In the second phase, between 1910 and 1920 he wrote both in Sanskrit and Sanskritised Telugu. The third phase began around 1920, when he set out to compare and contrast the beauties of Shakespeare and Kāḷidās in a monumental study, he titled Nava Rasa Taraṅgiṇi (1922). It was no mean task to vet the entire corpus of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays and one hundred and fifty-four sonnets; select passages in which the nine rasas (moods or sentiments) are portrayed; pick up similar portrayals from Kāḷidās’ plays and kāvyas, and contrast their relative beauties and merits. The different languages in which the esteemed poets wrote presented a difficulty for their comparison. Therefore, Nārāyaṇa Dās decided to translate them both into Telugu for evaluating their relative merits. Here he saw a second difficulty. A thousand poets before him must have translated Sanskrit works into Telugu but none burdened himself with the rule that a translation from Sanskrit to Telugu should not contain either tatsama (equivalent) or tadbhava (derivative) Sanskrit words. There is a variant called acca-Telugu, in which tadbhava words are permitted, but it would not do for him. He therefore chose what he termed as u-Telugu[1] totally excluding tatsama and tadbhava words for his translations of Shakespeare and Kāidās. If he could not find a suitable word to translate a Sanskrit word, he coined it. Similarly, he created a corpus of u-Telugu technical words for use in Āyurvēda, poetics and music. Nava Rasa Taraṅgiṇi in effect launched the third phase of his literary career. From then on, most of his literary works were in u-Telugu. There were two exceptions: his musical magnum opus Daśa Vidha Rāga Navati Kusuma Mañjari (1938), and his philosophical magnum opus Jagajjyōti (1939-43).

Though an accomplished litterateur and musician, Nārāyaṇa Dās chose harikatha as his principal vocation for he believed that inculcation of bhakti was the means to attain an exalted level of consciousness and eventually mōkṣa. In almost six decades, in hundreds of performances from Kolkata to Kanyakumari he strove to instill bhakti in the minds of his audiences. Though most of his literature reflects this ideal, two works through which he sought to win the almighty with the intense ardour of his bhakti deserve mention.

In 1908, his fourth elder brother and lifelong mate in his artistic odyssey, Pērayya Śāstry fell seriously ill. His doctors gave up hope. Nārāyaṇa Dās sat by his bedside, composed and recited Mṛtyuñjaya Śiva Śatakam. In it he laid bare his heart and spread it at the feet of “Mṛtyuñjaya Śiva” as it were. In the composition he pleaded, beseeched, wailed and even threatened Mṛtyuñjaya Śiva, the god of laya, to spare the life of his beloved brother. He earnestly wanted his brother to outlive him. His wish was granted and his elder brother not only survived the severe illness but outlived him.

The second work of a similar nature is Talli Vinki, nātu-Telugu versification of Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram. Talli Vinki was his last work written between 1943 and his demise on January 2, 1945. In this work, Nārāyaṇa Dās did not seek a boon for himself but to fulfill the wishes of all his compatriots.

At the beginning of Bhāgavata Purāṇa, Viṣṇu informs Brahma that the trinity, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Mahēśvara create, sustain and retrieve life at the behest of Ādi Parāśakti, the supreme mother goddess. The introduction to Talli Vinki is an erudite elucidation of mother, motherhood and mother goddess Ādi Parāśakti, reflecting what Viṣṇu says in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa.[2]

The following discussion is in part summarized from the introduction[3] to Talli Vinki, except where otherwise indicated. Spirituality has been accorded a prime position in Indian philosophical thought. Ancient Indian ethos laid great store by the control of physical senses and abjuring sensual pleasures as a means for the pursuit of mōkṣa. The sages, who transcribed the śṛtis, recognized that though it was an ideal, it was not possible for everyone to achieve. Therefore, in their infinite wisdom they prescribed a three-tiered approach comprising karma, upāsana and jñāna, with jñāna being the ultimate goal of spirituality. Ascendance from one stage to another is contingent on the success or adhikārita achieved in it. The first part karma is for everyone and includes the practice of dharma in the pursuit of artha and kāma.

The second step upāsana requires strong will and self-control. The practitioner (or upāsakaḥ) focuses his entire consciousness on the single deity he intends to internalize, while excluding all other thoughts. He meditates with the appropriate mantra till he experiences an inner ecstasy, an illumination. In effect, the upāsakaḥ ‘experiences’ the deity. In congruence with the meditation, the outward behaviour of the upāsakaḥ should conform to dharma. In order to internalize and experience the deity, the impure body has to be purified not just physically but by excising all impure or adhārmik thoughts. The upāsakaḥ should first understand the ṛṣi, chanda, daiva forms of the mantra. In the initial stages the upāsakaḥ visualizes the deity outside and apart from him but as he ascends the meditative ladder, when he achieves adhikārita, a stage comes when he visualizes that he and the deity are not different. This is the stage at which the upāsakaḥ really internalizes the deity. In the karma phase different practitioners see the same truth differently. In the jñāna phase the differentiation ceases and the practitioner experiences the deity. The upāsana phase bridges the two.

Three states of consciousness are described in the Māṇūkya Upaniṣat. They are wakefulness, dreaming and dreamless sleep. The fourth, the state of transcendental (or ultimate) consciousness is known as turīya—literally, the fourth state in Sanskrit. It is also described as nirvāṇa. In his Yōga Sūtras, Patañjali̍ described it as samādhi or intense abstract meditation.[4]It is in this state that the upāsakaḥ begins to experience the deity, which eventually leads him to the jñāna phase.

For those who cannot graduate through the three phases, karma, upāsana and jñāna as prescribed by the Vēdas, ancillary works known as smṛtis, (the six vēdāgas¸ the one hundred and eight upaniṣats, the eighteen purāṇas, the two itihāsas Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata et al) were written by the sages. In order to enlighten ordinary human beings about the path to achieve jñāna, some knowledge parts of the smṛtis were included in the purāṇas. Thus, Rudrādhyayam was included in Sūtasaṃhita, and Bhagavadgīta, Sanatsujātīyam and Viṣṇusahasranāma Stōtram in Mahābhārata. Similarly, Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram was included in Brahmāṇḍa purāṇa. The absorption of knowledge by ordinary enthusiasts of jñāna however depends on the adhikārita achieved by them.

At the age of eight Hindu boys are initiated into vēdik education beginning with the instruction for intonation of the gāyatri mantra. The instruction is conducted by the father to the son. The objective of intonating gāyatri mantra is to develop mind control. Though gāyatri is Brahmavidya, which amounts to worship of a male deity in nature, it is taught to the boy in the form of worship of the mother goddess. Instruction of gāyatri mantra takes two forms. The gāyatri imparted by the father while initiating the son into vēdik education consists of the twenty-four-syllable mantra which is known as the ‘overt’ gāyatri mantra. There is another form of worship of the mother goddess which is learnt as part of the karmaupāsana–jñāna  progression. In view of the cryptic nature of the worship, it requires initiation by a guru. The ‘cryptic’ gāyatri is also known as Lalitāvidya. Unlike the ‘overt’ gāyatri mentioned earlier which is imparted in boyhood, initiation into Lalitāvidya can be done at any age. Among all learning Lalitāvidya is considered to be the most sacred. Hence it is also known as Śrīvidya. The deity Lalita is symbolized in the Śrīcakra for the worship or upāsana. According to the smṛtis, not only the desire to learn Śrīvidya follows purity of mind during several preceding births but the birth during which Śrīvidya is learnt would be the culmination of the cycle of births:

Caramē janmani yathā śrīvidyōpāsakō bhavēt |

Nāma sāhasra paṭhasca tathā caramajanmani ||

The primary text for learning the Śrīvidya is Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram. The Sanskrit word ‘sahasra’ normally means a thousand but in this context, it need not notate a number. Depending upon the strength of his desire and the intensity of his ardour the upāsakaḥ can choose any one of the following five deities for internalizing through intense abstract meditation. They are Aṃbikā (Lakṣmi, Sarasvati), Śiva, Viṣṇu (Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, Hayagrīva), Gaṇapati, Sūrya.[5] The ṛṣis of sanātanadharma internalized these deities through their upāsana. Based on their spiritual experiences, they revealed the divine nature of the deities encoded in the stōtras. Among all the stōtras, Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram may be said to be the most sacred. The sahasranāma stōtras of all other deities generally list synonyms of their names, define their general nature and describe their conquests. Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram is different. Every name is an aphorism and has a deep cryptic meaning. In point of fact, the stōtram encodes the entire corpus of knowledge that was revealed in the four Vēdas.

Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās might have commenced his Śrīvidya upāsana quite early in life but he wrote the commentary at a mature age―he turned eighty when he commenced it. He fervently wanted to share the illumination he experienced with his compatriots―in a language they did not know was theirs, but hoped at some time they would, enticed by the lyrical euphony of his translation. Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram is believed to be written by the eight deities known as Vāgdēvis in the Sāmavēda tradition to be chanted in a rhythmic metrical intonation. It would be appropriate for any translation to be written in a similar melodic metrical rhythm. Talli Vinki may be said to be the first poetic translation capable of being chanted in such a rhythmic metrical intonation. The translation is in the dvipada or in the long form mañjarīdvipada metre that lends the text a melodic flavour for chanting. In each verse he defined the name, explained its significance and the benefits it bestows on the upāsakaḥ. In some cases where the cryptic names need instruction of a guru, he merely translated them without further explanation.

Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās finished translation of the work in 1944 and was eager to publish it but could not do so because of scarcity of paper (and many other commodities) caused by the war raging in Europe. In late 1944, he was faced with one of the most critical situations in his life. It was one of those crises, which puts a man’s character to an existential test. In a way the goddess might have given him an opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of his upāsana. His only grandson who just turned twenty-two was afflicted with a very severe form of small pox. Again, as in the case of his elder brother, doctors had no hopes about the young man’s survival. He meditated a whole night chanting Śrīlalitāsahasranāma Stōtram praying the goddess to bless his grandson with life and offering his life as barter. Miraculously the grandson began recuperating from the next day and was completely healthy in nine days. On the tenth day, January 2, 1945 Ādibhaṭla Nārāyaṇa Dās, the sage, shuffled out of his mortal coil.

[1](1967). “Nāṭu Telugu”. Introduction to Sīma Palku Vahi, Nāṭu Telugu–Telugu dictionary In Ādibhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa Dāsa Vyāsa Pīṭhamu. (1974). Joga Rao, S. V. (Ed.). Eswara Rao, K. (Publisher). Guntur. pp 67-90.

[2]Narayana Das, Adibhatla. (1974). “Mattu” (Introduction). Talli Vinki. Ibid.pp 110-121.

[3]Neelakantha Sastry, Oruganti. (1974).“Toli Paluku” (Introduction).Narayana Das, Adibhatla. Talli Vinki, (1974).Joga Rao, S. V. (Ed.).Dasa Bharati Prachuranalu. Guntur.

[4]Prabhavananda, Swami. 1977. The Spiritual Heritage of India. Sri Ramakrishna Math. Madras.p.15

[5]Over time many other sahasranāma stōtras have been composed and chanted but only the five (including their parenthetical variations mentioned) were ordained by the ṛṣis and may be said to have vēdik imprimatur. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

హరికథలో వ్యాకరణశాస్త్ర చమత్కారం


జానకీ శపథము హరికథలోని ఈ సీసపద్యంలో చమత్కారం వ్యాకరణ శాస్త్రంలో కనీసం

ప్రాధమికమైన ప్రవేశముంటే గాని అవగావహమవదు.


పల్లమువంకఁ బ్రవర్తించె నీర్వి శే

ష్యము జాడఁజను విషేషణముభంగి

అడవి కార్చిచ్చుల కాదేశమై కొండ​

వరదయాగమమయ్యె జెరువులకును

అల ప్రకృతిప్రత్యయము లట్టు లన్యోన్య​

మెడయ కేళ్ళుం గాల్వలేకమయ్యె

కర్మభావవప్రయోగంబుల దప్పని

యాత్మనేపదమట్టు లలరెకప్ప​

వడి నలౌకిక విగ్రహవాక్యము వలెఁ

గోకిల రవప్రమోగంబులేక యుండె

పల్లవిత బహువ్రీహి సంపతటలమగుచుఁ

బ్రబలి వ్యాకరణమువలె వానవెలిసె

Friday, July 30, 2021

ఒక సీస పద్యంలో సర్వమత సారం!

ఆది కారణ మెన్న రాదు కావున స్వ​

భావము లోకమని చెప్పు బౌద్ధమతము

జగ మబద్ధము బ్రహ్మ సత్యం బటంచు నెం

తయు, బోధపర్చు నద్వైతమతము

సగుణుఁ డీశుడు ప్రపంచము వానియిచ్ఛావి

భూతి యంచు గణించు ద్వైతమతము

ఇహమె నిక్కము పరం బెల్లఁ గల్ల యటంచుఁ

దెల్లము సేయు నాస్తిక మతంబు


ఇన్నిమతములలో సార మెంచి యెంచి

దయయు నిర్మోహము న్భక్తిధర్మబుద్ధి

నాల్గిట న్గ్రమముగఁ బొందినయము మీఱ

జయము మనమంద వలయు నో సభ్యులార​!

Friday, July 23, 2021

గజరాజును రక్షించటకు బయలుదేరిన శ్రీహరిని అనుసరించిన శ్రీలక్ష్మి విధము

అంసభాగంబున నాడెడు గొప్ప కొ

ప్పున సన్నజాజులు పుడమిరాలఁ

జిన్ని కెంజాయ వాల్గన్నుల కమ్మల​

దివిటీల మును నటుల విధ మొప్ప​

హరిహరాకృష్ట చేలాంచెలంబున నీవి

యందునఁబాణిద్వయంబు మెరయ

మోము వేకువ చందమామ పోల్కిని వెల్గ

నధరంబు పైఁగెంపులలరుచుండఁ

గాలి పావడ జీరాడ కాంచి వీడ​

కౌను జవ్వాడ నారద మౌని పాడ​

మేచకముతోడఁ  దొల్కరి మెరుపుజూడ​

నేఁగుదెంచెను లక్ష్మి సర్వేశునీడ

     — గజేంద్ర మోక్షణము (1886). పు 26