The fifteenth Sarga begins with a description of the rainy season –
कटु भेकगणेन चुक्रुशे कलकेकामुखरेषु केकिषु |
कवयः कवयन्तु तावता कविपाशः किमुपैति मूकताम् ||
Even as peacocks cooed sweetly, frogs continued to croak. Do poetasters remain silent just because great poets are busy composing poetry? (15.14)
The sixteenth Sarga has a short description of the noon –
अस्ञ्चरत्पान्थमनालपद्द्विजं सरोजकोशोदरलीनषट्पदम् |
प्रतप्तहेमप्रतिमं समस्तमप्यभूदहर्मध्यगते जगद्रवौ ||
There was not a soul on the street. None could hear Brahmins chat. Bees rested within lotus. When it was noon, the world seemed like molten gold. (16.35)
The next Sarga, in which is narrated the story of how the Pāṇḍyan king’s younger brother, a cheat, joined hands with the neighboring ruler to defeat his brother in war, contains a description of summer –
तपने जगत्तपति निष्करुणं समये समस्तमयशो निहितम् |
सचिवः खलः शिथिलयन्प्रकृतीर्नृपतिं किलापदि निमज्जयति ||
It was the sun who scorched the world but the season was blamed for it. When a wicked minister torments the subjects it is the king who is put in trouble. (17.57)
The eighteenth Sarga that follows describes a battle between the Pāṇḍyan king Śivapādaśekhara and his enemy, the king of Colas –
अवभिद्य बिम्बमहिमद्युतेर्दिवं प्रति गच्छतां युधि भटाश्वदन्तिनाम् |
गणनाममर्त्यगणका वितेनिरे चरमाङ्गसीम्नि निभृता विवस्वतः ||
When soldiers, horses and elephants, killed in battle, cleaved through the sun’s orb on their way to heaven, they encountered a few accountants from the divine realm waiting at the other end to keep count (18.19)
The above verse plays on the poetic convention that those killed in battle reach heaven by cleaving through the sun.
The nineteenth Sarga starts with a description of Suguṇapāṇḍya’s hunting expedition followed by a description of the final dissolution of the universe, Pralaya, and the events preceding it –
द्रवीकृतैः प्रथममथोपशोषितैः स्थालीकृतैर्हिमशिखरैः समन्ततः |
हिमालयो मृदुपलमात्रशोषितो विदिद्युते भुवि किल वेत्रदण्डवत् ||
The snowy peaks of Himalayas first melted away and then dried up exposing the bare lands underneath. Covered everywhere with dry grass, the mountain stood like a piece of reed. (19.41)
The Sarga that follows contains a description of bad poets who dominate the literary field much to the dismay of genuine poets –
काव्यागमज्ञा सुखमाक्षिपन्तु का तत्र चिन्ता भवतः प्रसादात् |
अहो वयं प्रव्यथिता अमीभिः काव्याध्वदुष्टश्वभिरेडमूकैः ||
Let those that understand the secrets of poetry censure us as they wish. We do not fear them for Śiva is kind to us. But what we cannot bear are these deaf and dumb fools who plague the path of poesy like rabid dogs. (20.21)
The twenty-first Sarga has a description of the Cola country followed by a devotee’s plea to Śiva in verses that overflow with emotion –
नीतिं श्रितोऽस्मि चरणौ तव चन्द्रमौले |
आतः किमत्थमियमापदि मे महत्या-
Having disregarded the commonsense wisdom that one must always seek help from a single source, I, O Śiva, took recourse to the pair of your feet. And now, each of your feet, thinking that the other will take responsibility of protecting me from this calamity, doesn’t seem to care anymore. (21.31)
The last Sarga contains an enumeration of Śiva’s sixty-four pastimes as part of a praise sung by gods. The poet, under this pretext, has managed to summarize the entire content of his epic-work.
Nīlakaṇṭhadīkṣita as a master story-teller
One of the sixty-four episodes is narrated below. The near-verbatim translation of the stories proves how capable the poet was in adding subtle details to the narrative so as to make it all the more interesting.
How the young boy was crowned a king
King Vīrapāṇḍya had several sons from dance girls and not one from his queen. But as days passed, Lord Śiva, pleased with his devotion, granted him a son from his wife. It was not long before the king was killed by a tiger when he went out hunting. The king’s sons from the dance girls grabbed this opportunity and made away with his wealth leaving behind his five-year old son, now a pauper. Though elders in his family wanted to coronate the boy as the king’s successor, they wondered – “Without a crown how can we coronate him and unless we coronate him, where can we procure the gems to make him a crown? With each depending on the other, anointing him as our next king seems a far-fetched idea. But with Śiva’s blessings on our side, how can we lose hope? On a second thought, who knows what fate has waiting for us?” When they were wondering thus, Lord Śiva appeared before them in the garb of a merchant. Surrounded by several of his servants and literally glittering with prosperity, he told them that he was a gem-merchant and asked his men to lay bare his wares. And then he laid bare his vast knowledge of gemology.
“There is not a soul on this earth who has not seen gems and not one who has not worn them on his person but like the knowledge of the Supreme Self, the essence of what gems are is known only to the chosen few. Who knows how they were born from Bala’s body when he was made Indra’s sacrificial beast and Brahma granted the former a boon? Who has heard of the gems that were produced from the Śiva’s person or the foam flowing from the mouth of the primeval boar? Or for that matter, from the dirt of Indra’s thousand eyes and the bones of Dadhīci?”
“Who knows their different sources, on the earth, in the heavens above and the worlds below? Who has an inking about their color, shape, feel, weight, measurement, cost, flaws or merits? Who has ever heard of how they are classified or which among them are genuine? Who can identify those among them that are artificial in color alone and those that are artificial in every sense? And who knows when, how and who should wear them? Who has the faintest idea of how to sell and buy or to gift and accept them when gifted? Who has learnt how to guard them safely or test them thoroughly? Who understands their secrets, divine or philosophical? Who is a master of their classification based on the four castes? Who knows how they are divided in to masculine and feminine, how they are differentiated in to animate and inanimate or how mortals and immortals should employ them? Who can answer how difficult or easy it is to procure them, which among them are accidental in origin or which have medicinal value? Who can even spell the names of their hundred varieties? And who, may I ask, has the capacity to know all about gems other than Śiva, gem among gods, whose bow is Meru, the mountain with gem-studded peaks? It behooves this grandson of Devapāṇḍya, the king’s son, to accept these gems. After you have designed a crown with these gems and coronated the prince with it, pay me whatever suits you”.
Saying so, he gave them his gems and disappeared, servants and all, before their very eyes. Convinced by this act that he was the Lord himself, they praised the young prince’s fortune, fashioned a crown in keeping with custom, and anointed the boy as their next king. The new king who had already bathed in a shower of Śiva’s grace, bathed again in the ritual waters of the coronation ceremony. (14.55 – 14.81)
To be continued.
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