A man, spirited away from his wife's side as they slept by some mysterious women, is stranded alone and wretched in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. As the season of Vasanta arrives, bringing to bud love alongside the flowers and trees, the pain of separation intensifies and it is at that moment that he sees a koel, the Indian cuckoo. Invoking the bird's sympathy, he asks it to fly to Chendamangalam in central Kerala with a message for his beloved.
Thus begins Uddanda Sastri's Kokila Sandesa, or The Message of The Koel, a short love lyric set in mediaeval southern India. The nameless hero describes the route the bird must take from Kanchipuram to Chendamangalam. Despite the hero's insistence on the urgency of the task, it is a wandering and leisurely itinerary designed to take in the chief sites of northern Kerala in particular the mountains, rivers, temples and cities that Uddanda himself knew so well.
Uddanda Sastri was a 15th century scholar and poet, originally from a small village near Kanchipuram, who travelled to Kerala in search of patronage and recognition for his prodigious scholarly and poetic talents. These he found in abundance in the Zamorin court of Calicut, where he reigned invincible in the great intellectual debates of the day until his rivals resorted to magic to defeat him through a 12-year-old boy. He also seems to have married a Malayali woman, a lady of the Marakkara household in Chendamangalam. It is to this house - elaborately described in the poem - that the koel is sent. The story, as told by the descendants of this family who still live in Chendamangalam, goes that Uddanda, who though settled in his adopted land was always on the move, had returned to Kanchipuram and wasn't permitted by his failing health to travel back to Kerala. It was then that he wrote this poem, in which he assumes the role of the love-lorn hero and his wife the pining heroine.
The Kokila Sandesa is one of the hundreds of messenger poems inspired by Kalidasa's Megha Duta, in which a cloud is sent from central India to the Himalayas. These poems, which span the Indian subcontinent in terms of language, period, belief system and geography, often possess a highly wrought beauty as well as being of great use to the historian. The Kokila Sandesa is particularly rich in historical, sociological and topographical detail, but it is also a lyrical paean to the lush, temple-studded land of Kerala by one of her most talented adopted sons.
There every house has a freshly whitewashed terrace,
every terrace has a bed laid out for love with scented flowers,
every bed has a pair of lovers under passion's sway,
and in every couple the mind-born god of love himself,
who conquers the world,
ranges at will.
There are 162 verses in the poem, split across two halves. The first part details the route the koel must take. The second brings us ever closer to the heroine with a description first of her city, then her house, then her apartment and finally the lady herself, in a state of abject misery. The actual message is delivered only in the closing few verses.
The entire poem is composed in the mandakranta metre, a slow, melancholy rhythm said to be perfectly suited to the 'love-in-separation emotion' (vipralambha-srngara-rasa) in which most messenger poems thrive.
Today, the Kokila Sandesa is barely known outside Kerala. It is hoped that this, the first full translation of the poem into English, will introduce new readers to the richness of the verse and perhaps inspire them to set off for the lands Uddanda so vividly describes with a copy of the poem in their pocket.
|The Wonderful World Of Kavya||v|
|The Message Of The Koel|
Item Code: NAI407 Author: Uddanda Sastri Cover: Paperback Edition: 2012 Publisher: Rasala, Bangalore ISBN: 9788192411200 Language: Sanskrit Text With English Translation Size: 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch Pages: 132 Other Details: Weight of the Book: 205 gms