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allasAni peddana contd…

In a famous literary contest, peddana won the kavi ganDa penDEram. It is a heavy piece of golden anklet. In those days, people very high up in social hierarchy sported a ganDa penDEram. Wearing one implied great wealth, prestige and perhaps manliness (ganDa implying controller and sometimes, husband, esp. in Kannada). If it is awarded as a prize, it signifies a great recognition by one’s peers. It is said that one day, the emperor brought a glittering ganDa penDEram to the court. He had it placed on a central pedestal in the court hall. He then declared that any one who can compose poetry in Sanskrit and Telugu with equal felicity to the approval of the scholars of the court could claim it. Even after a long silence, no one came forward. The emperor was amused at the absence of response from the galaxy of digdantis and big pundits in the court and started to taunt and challenge them by saying:

"mudduga gamDa pemDiyaramun^ gonuDamcu bahUkarimpagA
noddika nAkosamgu mani yokkaru kOraga lErakO

Before kRShNa rAya could finish the verse, peddana stood up and completed it with a flourish:

"peddana bOlu pamDitulu pRthvini lErani neeverumgavE
peddana keedalamcinanu pErimi nAkiDu kRshNarANRpA

To meet the challenge posed by the emperor, peddana continued on extemporaneously, and composed-on the spot- what became a very famous thirty line ASu padyam (in utpalamAla mAlika meter). The first part of the poem is about Telugu composition and flows like honey sweet grape wine (drAkshA pAkam). The second part is about Sanskrit and is in nArikELa pAkam (one should spend time and effort to get to the meat of the poem just as one would do in peeling all the fibre surrounding the coconut and then literally using force to break open the shell).



"pUta merumgulun^ basaru pUpabeDamgulu jUpunaTTi vA
kaitalu? jaggu niggu nena gAvale gammuna gammanavalen^
rAtiriyun^ baval marapurAni hoyal celiyAramjampu ni
ddAtariteepulOyanaga dArasilan&vale lO dalamchinan^
bATiga baikonan&valenu baidali kuttukalOni pallaTee
kUtalanan&valen sogasu kOrkulu rAvale nAlakinchinan
jEtikolamdi kaugiTanu jErchina kan&niya chin&ni pon&ni mEl
mUtala chan&nudOyivale mucchaTa gAvale baTTi chUchinan^
DAtODanun&na min&nula miTArapu muddula gum&ma kam&manau
vAtera domDapamDuvale vAcavigAvale banTa nUdinan^
gAtala dam&michUlidora kaivaSapun^ javarAli sibbepun^
mEteli yabburampu jigi nibbara pubbabgu gabbigubba pom
bUtala nun&na kAyasari poDimi kin&nera mElubamti sam
gAtapu san&natamti bayakArapu kan&naDa gauLa pamtukA
sAtata tAna tAnala pasan divuTADeDu gOTa meeTu bal
mrOtalunumbalen^ haruvu mollamu gAvale naccaten&gu lee

reetiga samskRtambu pacarimceDu paTTuna BhArateevadhU
vrAtanayAnukUla padavArku_hUdvahahAra kimkiNee
nUtana GhalGhalAcaraNa_nUpura_jhALajhaLee_maramdasam
yAtakumAra_gamdhavahahAri_sugamdha_vilAsa yuktamai
chEtamu jalla jEyavale jillana jallavalen^ manOhara
dAtirasaprasAra_ruchira_prasarambuga sAre sArekun^


(For a Telugu Lipi font version of the episode, click here). Here is a translation from a paper by Prof. velcEru naaraayaNa raavu [Narayana Rao, V and David Shulman, 1995. "Coconut and Honey: Sanskrit and Telugu in medieval Andhra," Social Scientist, Vol. 23, No. 10-12, Oct.-Dec., pp. 24-40]:

Is poetry a surface sheen,
the green delusion of unfolded buds?
It must be real inside
and out, exploding fragrance,
an aching touch your body can't forget
by day or night, like of your woman,
whenever you think about it.
It should come over you, it should murmur
deep in the throat, as your lover in her dove-like moaning,
and as you listen, yearning comes in all its beauty.
If you take hold of it, your fingers tingle
as if you were tracing the still-hidden breasts
of a young girl, wholly embraced.
If you sink your teeth into it, it should be succulent
as the full lips of a ripe woman from another world,
sitting on your knees. It should ring
as when godly Sound strokes with her fingernails
the strings of her veeNa, with its golden bulbs resting
on her proud, white, pointed breasts,
so that the rAga-notes resound.
That is the pure Telugu mode.

If you use Sanskrit, then a rushing, gushing
overflow of moonlight waves, luminous and cool,
from Siva's crest, the mountain-born goddess beside him,
enveloping actors and their works, the dramas
spoken by Speech herself in the presence of the golden seed,
pounding out the powerful rhythms, the beat
of being, through drums and strings
and chiming bells and thousands of ringing anklets
dancing, drawing out the words, the fragrant and subtle
winds wafting essence of unfolding lotus
from the Ganges steaming in the sky should
comfort your mind. You should shiver
in pleasure again and again, each time
you hear it, as rivulets of honeyed juices and butter
and sweet milk flow together
and mix their goodness more and more
and more.


As a postscript to the translation, the paper goes on to say: "What we offer here in translation does not reflect the exuberant texture of the poem, which dramatically demonstrates the variation in Telugu and Sanskrit styles, the first with soft, lyrical and intimately murmuring syllables and the second with its high-sounding Sanskrit phrases, infused with the energy of repeated aspirates in an increasingly dense compound. This 2nd style retains the attention and marvel of the listeners even though they are almost certainly unable to follow the precise meaning of this intricately woven and immensely long Sanskrit compound, the like of which one rarely sees even in Sanskrit texts." The emperor and all the remaining poets in the court must have gasped in wonder at the brilliance and command of language shown by peddana. At the conclusion of the extempore composition, it is said that kRShNa rAya descended his high throne and with his own hands adorned the poet’s foot with the gold anklet! In fact, peddana himself described the incident in a cATu padyam.



Srinivas Paruchuri

Corrections and suggestions are welcome.

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