Thursday, April 15, 2010

DURGA BHAGWAT CENTENARY LECTURE

DURGA BHAGWAT---CENTENARY LECTURE-L.S.SANGH

I AM DEEPLY INDEBTED TO THE LOKMANYA SEVA SANGH FOR GIVING ME AN OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CENTENARY CELBRATIONS OF DURGA BHAGWAT.

KINDLY ALLOW ME TO BEGIN BY RECOUNTING A CHARMING STORY OF A GREAT SON OF INDIA, AN ASLI PUNEKAR-- PROF. D.D.KOSAMBI. WHY DID I CALL HIM AN ASLI PUNEKAR ?. THOUGH HE HELD THE CHAIR FOR MATHEMATICS IN THE TATA INSTITUTE OF FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH, BOMBAY FROM 1946 FOR 16 YEARS HE WOULD TRAVEL EVERY DAY FROM HIS OWN HOUSE AT THE “BORI”COLONY IN POONA BY DECCAN QUEEN—ATTEND TO HIS LECTURES AND IN THE EVENING BOARD THE DECCAN QUEEN—AND GO BACK TO POONA. THIS WENT ON FOR SIXTEEN YEARS. LETTERS USED TO BE DELIVERED TO PROF. D.D.KOSAMBI C/O DECCAN QUEEN—INCLUDING ONE FROM SIR JOHN COCKROFT, CHAIRMAN OF THE BRITISH A.E.C. HIS SEAT WAS HIS ONLY—NO ONE DARE OCCUPY IT.

JUST LIKE PROF.KOSAMBI, LETTERS WERE DELIVERED TO DURGABAI C/O ASIATIC LIBRARY. AS A LIFE MEMBER OF THE ASIATIC LIBRARY FROM 1956 I MYSELF HAVE SEEN HER FOR OVER FORTY YEARS ENSCONCED IN A GREEN SOFA IN THE FOYER OF THIS PRESTIGIOUS LIBRARY—BETWEEN THE IMPRESSIVE STATUES OF BARTLE FRERE AND JOHN SARGENT AND MAHAMAHOPADHYAYA P.V.KANE. THIS TINY LADY—IN A NAVVARI SARI COULD BE SEEN DAILY EITHER WRITING OR LECTURING TO A SMALL BAND OF ADMIRERS, SCHOLARS AND EXPERTS FROM THE VARIOUS FIELDS OF ARTS. I HAD GUTS ONLY TO SAY”NAMASKAR” INITIALLY. AS I WORKED IN THE ADJOINING RESERVE BANK I USED TO VISIT THE ASIATIC LIBRARY DAILY AND MET HER QUITE REGULARLY.

RENOWNED LITTERATEUR, THINKER AND STAUNCH PROPONENT OF THE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION DURGA BHAGWAT WAS BORN IN INDORE IN 1910 AND PASSED AWAY IN 2002. BESIDES BEING A WRITER AND A THINKER SHE WILL BE REMEMBERED IN THE ANNALS OF MARATHI LITERATURE AS A STAUNCH UPHOLDER OF DEMOCRACY AND FOR HER FIERY SPEECH AGAINST THE EMERGENCY AS PRESIDENT OF THE 51ST ALL INDIA MARATHI LITERARY MEET AT KARAD. SHE WAS JAILED AND THE COUNTRY RECOGNISED IN BHAGWAT THE “REAL” DURGA AND IN INDIRA GANDHI THE “ARTIFICIAL” DURGA. SHE CAMPAIGNED AGAINST THE RULING CONGRESS PARTY IN 1977 GENERAL ELECTION AND REMAINED A STAUNCH ENEMY TILL HER DEATH. SHE DECIDED NOT TO ACCEPT ANY STATE SPONSORED HONOURS ( WITH ONE EXCEPTION )AND DECLINED AN OFFER OF JNAN PEETH, THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS AWARD FOR INDIAN WRITERS.
BEFORE CHAIRING THE MARATHI SAHITYA SAMMELAN SHE WAS ELECTED CHAIRPERSON OF TAMASGIR MEET—TAMASGIRS COME TYPICALLY FROM YOUNG PROSTITUTES. SHE WAS PROUD OF THIS AND CONSIDERED IT A GREAT HONOUR.
BHAGWAT DID HER B.A FROM ST.XAVIERS COLLEGE, BOMBAY. SHE SPENT SIX YEARS IN THE JUNGLES OF MADHYA PRADESH PREPARING A THESIS ON TRIBALS. SHE IS RESPECTED FOR HER DEEP STUDY OF OUR EPICS RAMAYANA AND MAHABHARATA. SHE WAS CONFERRED THE SAHITYA AKADEMI AWARD IN 1972. A TREMENDOUS SCHOLAR, SHE WAS AN EXPERT ON ANTHROPOGLOGY, SOCIOLOGY, BUDDHIST LITERATURE. SHE WAS PROFICIENT IN A NUMBER OF LANGUAGES-SANSKRIT, PALI, BENGALI,GERMAN APART FROM HER MASTERY OVER MARATHI AND ENGLISH.
HER NOTABLE WORKS INCLUDE “PAIS”, A COLLECTION OF ARTICLES BASED AROUND RELIGIONS, THEIR LITERATURE AND PRACTICES, VYAS PARVA HER STUDY OF MAHABHARAT. SHE WAS AN EXPERT IN RELIGIOUS LITERATURE, WORKS OF MARATHI SAINTS FROM DNYANESHWAR TO TUKARAM, MAJOR WORKS OF VYASA MUNI, ADI SHANKARACHARYA. HER BOOK “RITUCHAKRA” DESCRIBING NATURE IN EACH INDIAN MONTH IS HER MOST FAMOUS WORK. HER TRANSLATION OF SIDDARTHA’S JATAK KATHA ACQUIRED GREAT POPULARITY. HER REPERTOIRE INCLUDED A COOKERY BOOK.
SHE REMAINED A SPINSTER AND WHEN ASKED ABOUT IT, SHE TOLD JAYWANT DALVI THAT SHE SPENT SEVERAL YEARS OF HER YOUTH IN RESEARCH, DURING WHICH SHE WAS VICTIM OF FOOD POISONING AND BY THE TIME SHE RECOVERED IT WAS TOO LATE.
AMONG HER IDOLS WERE VYASA MUNI, ADI SHANKARACHARYA, GAUTAMA BUDDHA, HENRY DAVID THOREAU AND SHRIDHAR VENKATESH KETKAR.

I HAVE CHOSEN TO SPEAK ON HER BOOK “THE RIDDLE IN INDIAN LIFE-LORE AND LITERATURE” WHICH WAS PUBLISHED IN 1965. ACTUALLY IT IS AN ELABORATION OF THE CHAPTER ON THE RIDDLE IN HER MARATHI BOOK”LOKATHITYACHI RUPAREKHA”—AN OUTLINE OF FOLKLORE. IT GIVES CONCISELY THE EXACT PICTURE OF THE ESSENTIAL FORMS, FEATURES AND TRENDS OF THE RIDDLE, BOTH RITUALISTIC AND LITERARY, WITH THE RELEVANT CULTURAL BACKGROUND.
THE RIDDLE INCORPORATES A QUESTION PRIMARILY AND AN ANSWER SECONDARILY. A FACT IS CONCEALED IN THE QUESTION IN THE FORM OF A METAPHOR. THE ANSWER REVEALS THE HIDDEN MEANING. CONCEALMENT IS CRUCIAL TO A RIDDLE.THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF THE RIDDLE IS IMPARTING KNOWLEDGE OR MORAL INSTRUCTION. THE RIDDLE HAS INFLUENCED POPULAR IMAGINATION MORE THAN ANY OTHER ORAL TRADITION. THE INDIAN TRADITION OF RIDDLES IS VERY ANCIENT, EVEN PRE-VEDIC. IT IS AN EVER-ALIVE POPULAR INSTITUTION WHICH KEEPS BOTH PEOPLE’S FAITH AND THEIR WIT PERENNIALLY GOING ON.
THE VEDIC RIDDLES ARE POETIC IN FORM AND CONTENT AND DRAW MUCH FROM THE SOURCES OF POWER, MYSTERY, BEAUTY AND LIFE ITSELF.A SAMPLE FROM THE VAJASENIYA SAMHITA.
WHO WANDERS LONELY ON HIS WAY?
WHO IS CONSTANTLY BORN ANEW?
WHAT IS THE REMEDY FOR COLD?
WHAT IS THE GREAT CORN VESSEL CALLED?
ANSWER:
THE SUN WANDERS LONELY ON ITS WAY.
THE MOON IS CONSTANTLY BORN ANEW.
FIRE IS THE REMEDY FOR COLD.
THE EARTH IS THE GREAT CORN VESSEL

BHAGWAT GOES ON TO DEAL WITH RIDDLES FROM THE MAHABHARATA ONWARDS.THE MOST FAMOUS IS THE YAKSHA PRASNA WHERE A CRITICAL SITUATION EMERGES IF THE RIGHT ANSWER IS NOT GIVEN. THUS THE FOUR PANDAVAS ARE STRUCK DEAD BY THE YAKSHA AND YUDHISHTIRA BY ANSWERING ALL QUESTIONS CORRECTLY BRINGS HIS BROTHERS BACK TO LIFE.
“PRAHELIKA” REFERS TO VERSES WHICH CONCEAL THE REAL MEANING AND SUGGEST ANOTHER AND ARE USED IN CONVERSATIONS OF THE LEARNED AND IN WITTY REPARTEES. A SAMPLE—
PAANIYAM PAATHUM ICCHAMI TVATTHAH KAMALALOCHANE
YADI DASYASI NECHHAMO NO DASYASI PIBAMYAHAM
LITERAL MEANING—
I WISH TO DRINK WATER FROM YOU, O LOTUS-EYED GIRL.
IF YOU GIVE ME, I DO NOT DESIRE IT.
IF YOU DO NOT GIVE, THEN I DRINK.
THE SOLUTION TO THE RIDDLE IS
I WISH TO DRINK WATER FROM YOU, O LOTUS-EYED GIRL.
IF YOU ARE A SERVANT GIRL, I DO NOT DESIRE IT.
IF YOU ARE NOT A MAID-SERVANT, THEN I SHALL DRINK IT.
A VERY POPULAR RIDDLE IS “SAMASYA”. IN THE FIRST THREE LINES ONE OR MORE QUESTIONS ARE PUT—THE SOLUTION COMES IN THE LAST LINE. THE KING WOULD OFFER THE FOURTH LINE TO THE PUNDITS AND THEY WERE ASKED TO SUPPLY THE FIRST THREE LINES. THE MOST FAMOUS AND TRAGIC SAMASYA LED TO THE DEATH OF KALIDASA.
ONCE THE KING OF CEYLON KUMARASENA , A FRIEND OF KALIDASA, DECLARED A RIDDLE AND OFFERED TO GIVE A HANDSOME REWARD TO ONE WHO SOLVED IT. THE RIDDLE WAS
“KUSUME KUSUMOTHPATTHI SRUYATHE NA CHA DRISYATHE”
“ THAT A FLOWER IS BORN OF A FLOWER,IS HEARD OF, BUT NOT SEEN”.
KALIDASA, WHO WAS IN CEYLON, HEARD THE RIDDLE FROM A COURTESAN AND COMPOSED THE SOLUTION IN ONE LINE—
“BALE TAVA MUKHAMBOJE KATHAM INDIVARADVAYAM”—
O. GIRL, HOW IS IT THAT ON THE LOTUS OF YOUR FACE THERE ARE TWO BLUE LOTUSES (OF THE EYES”)?
THE COURTESAN KILLED THE POET AND WENT TO THE KING AND DEMANDED THE PRIZE.THE KING DETECTED THE KALIDASA TOUCH, FOUND OUT HOW THE RIDDLE HAD CAUSED HIS FRIEND’S DEATH AND JUMPED INTO THE FUNERAL PYRE OF THE POET AND WAS BURNT TO DEATH. KING BHOJA WAS ANOTHER KING FAMOUS FOR HIS SAMASYAS.

DURGA BHAGWAT HAS AN INTERESTING CHAPTER ON THE RIDDLE AND THE PROVERB. IN SANSKRIT AS ALSO OTHER LANGUAGES THERE ARE A LARGE NUMBER OF POEMS DESCRIBING VARIOUS GODS.


APPARENTLY THESE ARE OF FINITE GODS OF
THE EPICS AND PURANAS BUT TO THE MAN WHO
HAS RECEIVED THE “MASTER-KEY” ( GURU-KILLI )
THE MEANING WOULD BE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT.

SHE GIVES AN EXAMPLE OF A MARATHI VERSE OF JNANADEVA(13TH CENTURY),

“GOD VITTHALA QUARELLED WITH HIS CONSORT RAKHUMAI, AND WHO WILL PUT A STOP TO THEIR QUARREL NOW? IT IS I JNANADEVA, HUMBLE AT THE FEET OF NIVRITTI ( ELDER BROTHER AND TEACHER OF JNANADEVA ),WHO WILL DO IT ”.

THE MEANING OF SUCH VERSES IS NOT SO SIMPLE. NAMES AS VITHALA, RAKHUMAI ARE TO BE INTERPRETED AS BRAHMA AND MAYA AND THE NAMES OF NIVRITTI AND JNANADEVA ARE TO BE TREATED AS COMMON NOUNS MEANING RENUNCIATION AND KNOWLEDGE, RESPECTIVELY. THE VERSE WILL MEAN NOW—THE ETERNAL SOUL—BRAHMAN OR SELF—ATMAN IS ALWAYS IN CONFLICT WITH MAYA—ILLUSION WHICH CAUSES ALL DELUSION AND MAKES THINGS APPEAR DIFFERENTLY FROM WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS.
WHO WILL STOP THIS CONFLICT?
IT IS KNOWLEDGE ALONE WITH RENUNCIATION.
I HOPE THAT IN THE BRIEF TIME ALOTTED TO ME I HAVE SHOWN YOU A GLIMPSE OF THE GREAT WORK DONE BY THIS GREAT LADY, I OFFER MY SALUTATIONS TO HER AND THANK ALL OF YOU FOR A PATIENT HEARING.
P.P.RAMACHANDRAN
12-09-2009

1 comment:

Vivek said...

A wonderfully gripping narrative, and posted at the most appropriate time.

I wonder if anyone here could help me recall the complete third line of the following samasya:

kA shambhukAntA, kimu netraramyA
shukArbhakah kim kurute phalAnAm
ko nAmasmaraNe [? ? ? ? ?]
gauri mukham chumbati vAsudevah