Monday, December 12, 2005

A POET'S WAY OF CRITICISING ANOTHER POET


I was reading the UttaRarama Charitham by Bhavaboothi. I find him so adept in portraying the poignant moods of characters. The time he has chosen is also apt. The later part of SriRama's life, given to much recapitulation and nostalgia, provides a suitable thematic space for Bhavaboothi( Ist quarter of 8th cent.- Dr. Bhandarkar).
There are some stories which speak of the connection between Kalidasa and Bhavaboothi, though not historically valid but show the veins of criticism, registered by the succeeding generations of readers. One such story is interesting. After finishing the URC , Bhavaboothi wanted to have an opinion of the master-poet, Kalidasa. So he approached him and found him playing the chaturanga, a form of chess. After hearing him thru, Kalidasa wanted to give a hint for bettering the text in one place. Perhaps he didn't want to do it openly, for the reason that Bhavaboothi may be estimated low in the eyes of the beholders, but all the while the hint should reach the literateur. So what he did you know, he took some chewing leaves and pasting it on the back with the edible lime, he commented that சுண்ணம்(calcium) is a bit excess. The onlookers thought that Kalidasa was commenting about the pan leaves and the lime paste overleaf. But the message reached Bhavaboothi and made him thankful. Let us see about that.
In the first anka of the play URC, 27th verse reads
kimapi kimapi mandam mandamAsakti yogAt
aviralita kapOlam jalpatOrakramENa
asitila parirambha vyApruta ekaikadOshNo:
avidita gatayAmA rAtrirEva vyaramsIt
we were mumbling in whispers soft, random
in deep love entangled, cheek to cheek
lying close, one in another's arms embraced
night alone was over
with its watches passing by.( translation mine)
In the line 'night alone was over', by adding one anusvara, m, in the original rathrirEva becomes rathrirEvam, meaning 'night was over thus'. Eva in sanskrit means 'only', 'alone'. Evam means 'thus', 'in this manner'. Bhavaboothi originally while reading out to Kalidasa wrote only 'Evam'. In the verse it meant that the lovers SriRama and Sita were calling back to memory the bygone days in the forests and on one such occasion of intimacy the night time passed by in the manner described. Deascribing like this is not remarkable for a distinguished poet. So Kalidasa suggested that the letter m is an excess in the word 'Evam', removing it 'Eva' will be more natural, aesthetic and apt. How? In intimacy, it is but natural for the lovers to be unmindful of the passing time, even at the end of night.
So to say that night time only passed by leaving us still in whispers will be more aesthetic. In sanskrit this m is written at the top of the letter as a dot, which is called anusvara. So when Kalidasa, in his gentle way pasting the lime over the back of the pan-leaf and said one atom of lime was in excess, Bhavaboothi understood that he meant an anusvara, occurring in some descriptions. And finding out the anusvara in Evam was a child's play.
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