Some thoughts on medieval Sanskrit authors amongst our co-ethnics

Our co-ethnics represent one of the last great waves of brahminical settlers to the Southern country – a rather continuous process happening over 2500 years. Among them were many students of the shAstra-s, creators of sAhitya-s, vedic ritualists and more secretly transmitters of tantric lore. They were at the heart of what might be called one of the final waves of Sanskrit creativity before the transition to the “modern” era. Their Sanskrit creativity partially overlaps in temporal terms with that of their more westerly neighbors the Nambuthiri-s, whose efflorescence spawned one of the greatest endogenous scientific and mathematical developments in Hindu thought. Their activities also partially overlapped in temporal terms with the Sanskrit creativity in the va~Nga country resulting in the evolution of nyAya thought in a peculiar new direction – the navadvIpa school. There are several names among our medieval co-ethnics, whose productivity spans a wide range of topics. Some of these represent interesting and unusual mental feats. One such is the form of poetry known of viloma-kAvya – i.e. a poem which makes sense when read in both forward and reverse direction.
For example:
Forward (describes rAmachandra):
taM bhUsUtA-muktiM udAra-hAsaM vande yato bhavya-bhavaM dayA-shrIH |
Reverse (describes kR^iShNa):
shrIyAdavaM bhavya-bha-toya-devaM saMhAra-dA-muktim utAsubhUtAM ||

Two such works shabdArthachintAmaNi by chidambara kavi of Thanjavur (and in it from our same ancestral agrahAra) and yAdava-rAghavIya of veNkaTAdhvarin (notable vedic ritualist who performed soma rites in addition) from Kanchi were produced in the 1600s.

One of the greatest names among these was appayya dIkShita – the center of many an apocryphal tale, to which we will add. [This is not apocryphal] His grandfather nR^isiMha [acchan] dIkShita was an adviser of the emperor kR^iShNadeva rAya of vijayanagara. kR^iShNadeva was a man of many women, including scholarly ones among them who could write decent Sanskrit poetry. With one such wife he had gone to see the image of viShNu in the temple of varadarAja at Kanchipuram. acchan saw the beauty of kR^iShNadeva’s wife and composed verse. In this he stated that having seen kR^iShNadeva’s wife viShNu looked for a moment at the kaustubha to make sure that shrI had not left him to stand by kR^iShNadeva. So kR^iShNadeva named him vakShasthAlAcharya after the vakShasthala where the kausthubha rests. He composed Sanskrit lyrics on viShNu at varadarAja which were apparently used in the spring festival at Kanchi. He was an advanced vedic ritualist and performed multiple soma sacrifices. His second wife was a shrIvaiShNava woman of the family of shrIvaikuNThAchArya, which included devote vaiShNava-s and some expert pA~ncharAtra tantrics. Through her he had 8 sons who were learned brAhmaNa-s and founded agrahAra-s.

His 5th son, rangarAja-adhvarin was a great soma sacrificer and extraordinary student of the shAstra-s. He adopted an interesting philosophical position which accommodated vaiSheshika, nyAya, mImAmsa and advaita with the last as the overarching structure. He attacked bauddha philosophies and also was quite strong in his criticism of sAMkhya. He modified yoga in his own way to accommodate it within his philosophical framework. He performed the most grand vishvajit soma sacrifice.

His elder son was vinAyaka-subrahmaNya, who became famous as appayya. He overlapped with the reign of veNkaTapati of Penukonda who was in the midst of a life and death struggle against the Islamic Jihad that we have discussed in length before. veNkaTapati had patronized appayya and honored him at his court. This in no small measure illustrates the importance of the post-Talikota struggle of the last Vijayanagaran rulers in providing a safe haven for Hindu intellectual activity. His grand-nephew was the illustrious Sanskrit writer and minister nIlakaNTha dIkShita. One of his sons was gIrvaNendra who was imparted a kaumAra rahasya by my ancestor. gIirvaNendra wrote a kaumAra sAhitya known as kArttikeya-vijayaM.

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