Awadheshwari published in 1987 got the Sahitya Akademi (The National Academy of Letters, India) award 1988. A well researched political novel of the Vedic times, it is a brilliant word- picture of the socio-political ethos of the period. In particular, it centers on the fulcrum of the practice of Nagoya, the practice, prevalent at the time, of legal adultery, of an infertile husband allowing his wife to beget progeny from another man. Through a host of plots and subplots, it tells the reader how the practice came to an end. The novel is one among the all-time bests of creative fiction in Kannada.
S.M. Punekar (1928-2005) was a well-known writer, poet and critic in Kannada and English. He was honored with many esteemed awards including the Sahitya Akademi (The National Academy of Letters, India) award for Awadheshwari 1988. As eminent literary figure he visited Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Hungary and England.
PP. Giridhar (1951- ) works as an Associate Professor at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, My sore. His translation ‘ Parasangada Gendethimma iMacmi11an 1ndi 1998) won him the American Kannadigas’ special sward He edits a journal called translation Today.
This is a political novel of the Vedic times. The main characters of Purukutsa, Trasadasyu, Vri shajana, Purukutsani, and Shambarasura all figure in the Rgveda. The first three of these have written Vedic hymns*. They are the forefathers of the forty-second descending generation of Sri Ramachandra of Ayodhye. The scripture of ‘Brihaddevatha’ says that the main incident of the novel viz, the discord between Trasadasyu and Vrishajana happened during the time of Trayyaruna, Trasadasyu’s great grandchild. Some purana-niruktas however affirm that Trasadasyu and Trayyaruna are the same person. Trasadasyu figures seven times in several such variant spellings as tridas, trasathha, and trita in the hundred Mohenjodaro seals that I have read. Based on the spelling of ‘trita’, I have deduced that the composer named askutsa or tritaaapta is indeed Purukutsa (the last chapter), and translated the hymn. I believe that my translation is more appropriate although it enlists help from Sayana, Oldenburg and Griffith. A script called ‘akshapada’ had developed right during the Vedic times. Harappan seals were written in this script (from right to left like the Arabic script). Only these are contemporaneous with the Vedas, The Brahmanas, the Upanishads, Nirukta, and Brihaddevatha are of relatively recent origin. Harappan seals were not available for Skandaswamy, Saayana and the Germans all of whom tried to interpret the Vedas. The Akshapada script was syllabic in nature. This syllabic script died once phonemic scripts like Kharoshthi, Brahmi, and Nagari scripts came on the scene. It was used till the Vedic times just for writing the sacrificial boards. Panini has ridiculed these board-writers, dubbing these as ‘copyists and writers.’ The practice of doing these boards and keeping them in remembrance of auspicious occasions was in vogue until I had my thread-investiture ceremony. It is remarkable that the names of several Rgvedins figure in the Harappan seals. Not all the authors of the Rigvedic hymns were ascetics. Vrishajana was of course a vicious reviler. Yet he has composed hymns and he figures in the seals. Kings who performed the horse-sacrifice, ascetic renunciates who got sacrifices done, murderers like Takshaka, carpenters, musters of guards of elephant-houses, watchmen, mementoes of tantric sacrifices done to effect curses done by servants hurt by their bosses, and the Harappa seals all play before our eyes Vedic life. Not all who lived during .the Vedic times were ascetics. Some of them have sung their personal jealousies and animosities in the hymns. (Puru)Kutsa’s outpouring of ‘Oh the heavens and the earth! Understand my plight!’ is an anguished cry of someone who has suffered in the whirlpool of life. To give it a sacrificial-spiritual interpretation because it is a Rigvedic hymn is to do disservice to his poetic prowess. Hurt by Vrisha’s vituperation, the sensitive Trasadasyu has called himself a demi-god in an access of self-respect. Oldenburg has interpreted his hymn as a paradox without quite understanding the feelings of someone struggling in a severe identity crisis of the kind that Hamlet found himself in. One can get wise to the propriety of Kutsa’s statement if one does not understand his existential predicament in which neither self-calumny nor self-praise was within his control. The reply that Trasadasyu gave Vrisha has found expression on two dumb script less seals. In one a huge elephant is, with a meek face, suffering the stings of two scorpions. (chelu (Kannada for scorpi on)-vrischika (Sanskrit for scorpion)-Vrishajana. See the cover page). In the other a wild deer is ambling along with a relaxed tread, fastening its eyes on two stars. Two scorpions are giving chase. A boy is standing in the middle. Neither of the seals has a script. The word vrishajana has been after some deletion turned into vrischika, with an ironic meaning, in what is a silent picture. This could be construed as a great cartoon of the Vedic age.
It would be futile to narrate things in the Vedic language just because the subject matter is Vedic. Walter Scott who tried to imitate the language of eight hundred years ago is today the butt of ridicule. What do we know about the Vedic language? Real Historical Realism comes into existence from dull incidents. Besides Purukutsani, two other princesses are described as ‘father’s maidens.’ Coins were in currency in Sumeru even as far back as 4,500 B.C. They were in vogue even before that in Egypt. Indian coins have been described in the Vedic Hymn to Goddess Lakshmi, the Srisukta: kaansvusthitaain lziranvapraakaaiaam It is from the word ‘kaans a’that the Kannada words kaasu “money, coin’ and kanchu’ bronze! Have been derived. The Kannada word ‘raaya’ has been used in the plural in the Vedas. After the gold coin went out of vogue this word became ‘rupayya’. It was in the Vedic times that all our betting games came into being: letta, card games and so on. To include padi and godhuma under betting games would be ridiculous. Pargitor in the book, ‘Dynasties of Kali Age’ has suggested another vitally important possibility viz, the original puranas might be in Prakrit. Sanskrit might have risen in 3500 B.C and for all India publicity the Sanskritisation of the Prakrit puranas took place. Sanskrit names like Hathaway, Bhagiratha were used for middle-eastern names like Yahya, Phaga in the Purina’s. The idea was idealization of a mixed culture. I have read somewhere that a letter with Dasharatha’s (Testate) signature has been found in the royal correspondence of the Egyptian kings. The Himalayas were not that high then. Contact with Asia and Africa through land was still possible. Horses from Caucasus, paper and glass from China, and knives and swords from Turkey and Armenia used to come to India only through land routes. As far as I can tell, it is impossible to liven up those times through language. Nil Titivating what happened in our own language style, I have left the cause-effect relations between them to be deduced by the reader. All I want to say is that this is also a type of Historical Realism. There is no reason to think it would be absurd to recount unfamiliar ancient incidents in familiar language environs. To mention railway trains isn’t necessary at all. The core of Historical Realism is the feeling of ‘they are like us’.
Some German and English scholars created this divine illusion that ‘Aryans came over to India through the Khyber pass’, based purely on linguistic evidence. Why this labored difficulty, I thought to myself before I wondered: Is there mention of this displacement of people in the Vedas. This illusion hasn’t yet died out. Geologists have novel Ted that the western part of Africa split into two about 5,000,000 years ago, and floating off several thousands of miles, became the present South America. I’ve attribute this to geological phenomena like earthquakes and volcanoes. They have called this the ‘drift of continents’. Hardpan seals have been found even in summer and Babylon. How did they get there? By ship? Was there Suez Canal then? The names of all the kings that figure in the Vedas are all perusal Middle Eastern. Why is this so? How and why did names like Ikshvaku (Isaac), I k,rukutsa (ferula), Trasadasyu (Tausipha), Nabhanedishte (Nehuchednajhar), Narasimha (Naram-Sin, the Babylon king) come into vogue in India? And why did they disappear? Kanaka, which was once a historic Egyptian province, is Karnataka in India. Goddess Elam is Llama in Karnataka. Thebes the city deity is Theban devi here. The Greek Oedipus is Yavapai here. (This is mentioned in the seals) Alexander has become Skanda the son of Shiva and he come part of the piranhas. There is only one explanation h)r these geographical-historical displacements viz. Drift of Continents. The eastern part of Africa didn’t float away in Folk piece unlike the western part that did. It came; away in several island pieces, joined together in front and at the hack before turning into seamless mountains and becoming the peninsula that India is today. Those who saw this were Menu (India), Noah (The Old Bible), and Thesis (The ancient Greek hero), these people lived before 5000 B.C. I’ve yarns that came into existence about these people are wonderfully exciting. Geologists believed hitherto that the drift of continents happened because of the explosion of a volcano when the earth’s outer crust got soft. The American scientist named Gold, who appeared on the scene recently, says for such a fundamental event to happen there need be no volcano. He surprised the world by saying that such events could happen because of the expansion of the Methane gas. This process continues to happen in the Pacific Ocean even today. A Richard Chase novel describes a new island that has recently emerged from the ocean bed.
If this is true, our guess of what happened could be included in history as a ‘geological phenomenon’. Manu is a historical figure, and not a fictitious figure. His name figures in the seals. It is ridiculous to say that the Aryans came to India grazing their cattle via the Khy her Pass. None came from outside. Everyone came along with their landmasses. They came along with the language, civilization, learning and knowledge that they had developed in their lands. The Himalayas erupted, and stood as a massive and protective fortress for India because f the great destructive floods that took place during Manu’s time. What caused the Himalayas was the fact that the Matsya country came floating and pushed eastward the Trutsu Empire that existed before. This is the Fish-Incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The mat sty ‘i’avatara. The continent of Brigukuchha came floating and merged with the east part of the Matsya country. This is the Tortoise-Incarnation, the second of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, the kuur, nata’t’atara. The Boar-Incarnation, the third of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, the varuahavatara is the event of the creation of the Vindhya Mountains after the Varahata landmass came floating to join the bottom part of the Bhrigukachha landmass. There is an ancient story, a legend, which says that Vindhya came in the way of Sun’s movement, but Sage Agastya stopped it. In the Man-Lion incarnation the ,iurasirnhavatara, the Middle East landmasses of Sumeru and Babylonia came to India along with the sacred codified texts of Naram-sin and along with the memory of HiranyakaShipU, the rakshasa king whom Lord Vishnu vanquished, became Kashmir and thus the northern tip of India. In the Dwarf-Incarnation the fifth of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, the vamanavatara the piece of land that came along with Emperor Bali became Baluchistana-Bhalika. An island floated away to turn into the Bali island. In the parashurarnavatara, the Parashurama-IticarilatiOn the Konkan belt and the Austria continent joined to become Dakshinapatha, the geographical entity south of the Vindhyas. The Rama-Incamation, the ramavatara achieved the cultural union of these coalescing landmasses. In Lord Vishnu’s Krishna-Incarnation Dwarake shone as the gateway to India. Nonviolence became India’s prescribed duty, man’s obligatory moral demeanor in the Buddha-Incarnation. In the present age of Kalki-Incarnation, we have become the stooges of history.
There is nothing new to us, nothing is outside, nothing apart from us. It is our geography and history that have made tolerance and peaceful coexistence possible. Lord Vishnu’s valorous achievement (the unsystematic welding together of so many continents) is what has made possible here the deep synergy that obtains among so many cultures, communities, languages and castes. Isn’t this the subject of the Vedic Hymn to Lord Vishnu, the vishnusukta:
idam visthnurvichalkramee treedhaa ni dadhee padatn I
samuuLyamasya paansuree II
(Through this entire world strode Lord Vishnu, thrice his foot he planted
and the Whole was gathered in his footstep’s dust.) The 154th suukta of the first mandala of the Rigveda (the VishNu suukta) is a delightful description of how the Himalayas rose as a kind of architectural formation of the high mountains after a welding together of so many islands.
Vishnornu Kam viiryaani pravoocham yaha paarthivaai
Yoo askabhaayaduttarm sashastham vichakramaa
(I will declare/praise Lord Vishnu’s mighty deeds, of Him who measured out the earthly regions, of Him who propped the highest place of congregation thrice, striding and setting down his feet.) .
pra tadvishNuhi, stavare viiryeeNa mrigoo na bhiiinaha kucharo girislzThaa .(the second line of this verse is not given) .
(For this his mighty deed is Vishnu lauded, like some wild beast, dreadful, prowling, roaming the mountain.) .
pra vishNavee shuushameetu manma girikshita
urugaayaya vrishNee I
ya idam diirgham prayataln sadasthameekoo vimaye
(Let the hymn lift itself as strength to Lord Vishnu, the Bull with a big striding tread and dwelling on the mountains, Him who alone with they’re steps has measured this long and far-extended Common dwelling place.) .
Taa vaam vaastuunyushmasi gamadhyee yatra gaavoo
Bhuuri shungaa aayaashaa I
Atraaha tadurugaayasya vrishnaha paramam padamava
Bhaati buuri II
(We may go into your dwelling-places where there are many-horned and nimble oxen. For, mightily, there, shines down upon us the widely-striding Bull’s sublimest
mansion) (Rgveda 1.154)
If we are not obstinate about giving every Vedic poem a sacrificial-ritual interpretation, we can see that the koreroing hymn documents the eye-witness account of the way the Himalayan range of mountains, the architectural feat that it is, rose like a cow with high horns. This was the event of Manu’s times. People who are skilled at argumentation and who lived after the Vedic times juggled with words to get the sacrificial- ritual interpretation. They didn’t know that this was a geographical phenomenon. Had these scholars at least had the poetic heart of a Kalidasa, they could have pictured that astonishingly wonderful scene.
Puurvaaparoo tooyanidhii vagaahva shtitaha
(The Himalayas that rose pushing the oceans of the west and east) .
What a delightfully graphic scene! There is a world of difference between saying that the Vedic sayings were used for sacrificial rituals after taking the place of divine sayings, and that all the Vedic compositions were constructed only for sacrificial rituals. Even though Vrishajana’s biting tirade has figured in the Rigveda, which sacrificial ritual is it useful for? Even people who believe that the Vedas are authorless, not man-made, would have to select appropriate hymns for the success of their sacrificial rituals. There are such noble hymns as well. But those who aver that every hymn is meant only for sacrificial rituals have small minds. .
it was through the great poet Da. Raa. Bendre that I came to know for the first time that Vivaswat, Manu and the Ikshwaku sage-kings that figure in the Bhagavad-Gita belonged to Egypt. That great soul is no more. He was the, one who told me that he went sleepless for three days after reading my novel, ‘Gingival Gangamayi’. It is only at the instance of, and on the basis of some of his light veined but suggestive talk that I have decided to write a book called A Unified Theory of Oriental Paleography in the near future. There is no death for sublime souls, says Yeats. I dedicate this novel to the late Bender, praying that, even if he is not with us, he would inspire me from time to time and afford spiritual sustenance. .
Many fine Kannada minds, people of as high a caliber and stature as Bendre, Govinda Pai, B.M.Shrikantayya, Veerakeesari, Deevudu, Kuvempu, Pu.Thi .Na, Puttuswamayya, Masti, have studied and plumbed the depths of the Kannada culture. It is true that this book is not of the same order. Yet the purpose is the same. It is but proper to remember them here. My supplication here is that readers should read this attempt to add to that mainstream Kannada tradition as a piece of creative fiction, and not as a piece of research. .
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