Enjoy this literary gem from the inexhaustible treasure of Mahabharatha!
The story how Mahabharatha was recorded goes like this: Sage Vyasa managed to get Vinayaka as his scribe for the task upon one condition: Vyasa must narrate without a single pause. The sage accepted it with one proviso: Vinayaka must understand what is being said before writing it down. This innocuous ‘clause’ put to good use enabled Vyasa to compose the epic without a break!
Here’s an instance where the sage used a brilliant literary artifice to gain time:
Background: It is in Virata Parva. The mandated year of remaining incognito had just expired for the Pandava’s. Duryodhana labouring under a miscalculation amassed his troops in full strength and raided the border areas of Virata herding away their cattle. This was planned to draw the Pandava’s out prematurely from their hiding and thus gyp them of their rights once more – they would surely come to the aid of Virata in the face of this provocation and thus expose themselves. .
Scene: A chariot is seen to be coming towards them from a distance. Duryodhana wondered who could be the warrior venturing out thus all by himself?
Pitamaha Bhishma standing by his side responds, in Vyasa’s words:
‘Gangajalam keshava naari ketu’
Four words totally unrelated to each other! What sense to make out of them?
Gangajalam = water of River Ganges; keshava = a name given to god Vishnu; naari = woman; ketu = a planetary god.
Of course, Vinayaka figured it out not before giving Vyasa a much-needed respite. Here’s how:
Ganga ja: One Ganges gave birth to = Bhishma;
lam kesha = lankesha = Ravana, King of Lanka;
vana ari = one who destroyed the vana (Ashoka vana where Sita was held captive)
ketu = flag;
Now it reads as: Bhishma (said): It’s one who has on his flag one who destroyed Ravana’s vana = It’s one who has Aanjaneya on his flag = Arjuna.
So it was Arjuna on a chariot driven by the young prince of Virata!
Clever, isn’t it?
The story goes on from here to record how Arjuna single-handedly defeated the entire force of Kaurava’s in this episode.
Am glad from inside languages like Sanskrit, Tamizh…would continue to confound smartest of lexical analysers!
This is from an upanyasam on Hari Vamsam by venerable Shri Anantha Padmanabhachariar.
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