Wanderings in the realm of lolimbarAja

A relatively minor affliction of the upper-respiratory tract had seized me in the long past days. Mis-creant recommended that I try a guTikA made by local traditional physician. I had known of Mis-creant’s disdain for traditional physicians in those days –not surprising given the peculiar tri-humoral obsessions of her former companions who had the misfortune of only “getting” Ayurveda, unlike her victorious self. So I was a bit surprised and decided it to give it a try. The pills came in a peculiar tubular guTikA-valgulikA on the label of which it was written that the authority for the preparation was a certain kavi lolimbarAja. As Mis-creant had mentioned the guTikA miraculously banished the affliction in a day, when normally such things lasted a week [I, the muni and mAtAshrI have since been empirically able to verify its abilities on other occasions]. This raised my curiosity about this peculiarly named kavi – I guessed his name meant a king of the bees – a biologically inappropriate name! The AchArya enlightened me that lolimbarAja was the author of an enormously popular work titled vaidya-jIvana, but told me that it was not really something to be read by kids like us. How could this be! I thought to myself –this forbidden stuff must really be something like rAjan shambAjI’s poems. So I looked into his concoctions and first found that the guTikA which had cured me was indeed found in its exactness in 3.7 of lolimbarAja’s vaidya-jIvana. Around the same time kR^iShNa-shUdra’s cousin ANi-kesha was afflicted by a strange illness. I mentioned this to Mis-creant – she had utter disdain for kR^iShNa-shUdra and ANi-kesha, but from my description of his symptoms diagnosed him as being kR^imi-grasta. Strangely again rather than recommending something from modern medicine she suggested that Ani-kesha go to the same traditional vaidya and obtain a particular concoction termed kR^imighna. Ani-kesha followed this advice and declared that to his utter relief he had been cured of this kR^imi-s. As this was an ancient issue that my atharvanic ancestors had dabbled in, I asked for the container of ANi-kesha’s bheShaja. Again it cited lolimbarAja as its authority and I found the recipe in 4.6 of this vaidya-jIvana. After this I paid a little more attention to his work and found that it was indeed a most unusual medical work. In its brevity it stood in sharp contrast to the prolixity that largely dominates medical works to date. But even more striking was its utterly singular structure for a medical treatise – it is in the form of a sexually charged conversation with his wife, where his wife asks medical questions and he goes on to answer them. In a sense it resembles a tantra with shiva and umA in conversation. I was struck, but felt I should be focusing on other things rather than being distracted by such verse and moved on.

It was then, that with my clansmen I made a visit to that remarkable shrine atop hill of seven crests besides the godAvarI. There after beholding the 18-handed ugrachaNDA in the great cave we beheld an itinerant tAntrIka arrive and perform a fire ritual. With the smoke from his fire forming a haze I beheld the hill of mArkaNDeya in the yonder horizon, and suddenly fragments of a verse of lolimbarAja came to mind:

ratnaM vAma-dR^ishAM dR^ishAM sukha-karaM shrI-saptashR^i~NgAs-padaM
spaShTAshTA-dasha-bAhu tad bhagavato bhargasya bhAgyaM bhaje
yad-bhaktena mayA ghaTa-stani ghaTImadhye samutpAdyate
padyAnAM shataM a~NganAdhara-sudhAsparddhAvidhAnoddharam ||

I must confess that in those long past days this striking verse of lolimbarAja took me a while to understand, though I was immediately captivated by his poetry. He begins with a praise of the 18-handed ugrachaNDA (whose prAsAda we had just visited) and moves to boast to his wife (who is a ghaTa-stanI) that due to that goddess he can compose 100 verses within half an hour that rival the honey of a beautiful woman’s lower lip. lolimbarAja’s medical works are not uncommonly intertwined with such exquisite poetry describing (sometime quite explicitly) the pleasures of the company of good-looking and intelligent woman. In any case I spent some time learning about this remarkable intellectual and realized that he lived only 90 km away from the city of my youth. So with vaishya-jyotiSha, Igul, R and the feral brAhmaNa, we decided to make an expedition to this place. There were of course other attractions there like the birth place of the founder of the marATha nation and two famous medieval temples of vinAyaka. Originally, Mis-creant said we could go by her ratha on the sly, but we decided not to risk it because even the feral brAhmaNa was unsure of the way and we could waylaid by adhvesha-s. R then wanted to back out suddenly complaining that the buses were too dirty and that she could single-handed drive the ratha both ways without much fear. Finally, we all did go by bus having a raucous conversation all along the way. Based on the information given by my mahAraTTa acquaintances we located the place of his birth or the house where he lived for while with his wife ratnakalA. Other than some rubble and refuse there is really nothing much there to mark the site of this most popular physician of medieval India – who had apparently eclipsed all with his slim and quirky volumes. I stood for a moment in silence, taking in the experience of the memory of the great man amidst the nothingness – vaishya-jyotiSha and Igul sported indulgently resigned looks, R did not even bother to come near and the feral brAhmaNa looked quizzically at me.

Then we proceeded to visit the mountain fastness where the founder of the mahArATTa nation was born, and even before that naganikA, the wife of sAtakarNI, had ruled. The feral brAhmaNa asked me to narrate the story of lolimbarAja. We do not know the exact date of lolimbarAja – we can only say that he lived after the occupation of the Pune district by the army of Islam (~1350 CE) and before the late 1500s of CE when he was cited by the physician trimalla-bhaTTa. The little scraps we know of his life suggest that it was an interesting one befitting the author of such racy verse. He was the son of a certain dIvAkara paNDita, born in Junnar, and studied the mAdhyamdina shAkha of the shukla yajurveda. As noted above, he attributes his poetic skills to the worship of the 18-handed ugrachaNDA who rests atop the 7-crested hill. He also claims to have been an expert in music, reminding one shAr~Ngadeva. Interestingly, he acquired as his wife a Turkic woman named murAzA, the daughter of the Jihadi garrison commander of Fort Shivaneri. He converted her to the Hindu fold naming her ratnakalA, who then appeared as the famous interlocutor in several of his poems. They appear to have moved to northern mahArAShTra to the court of an unknown king named harihara. His uxoriousness found expression in a drug which he named ratnakalA-chUrNa and a whole poem he composed on her in vulgar marAThI – the ratnakalA-charitA, which gives me nightmares :-). When ratnakalA died and he gave up his medical practice and become a saMnyAsI singing songs to the gods. Finally, he composed the harivilAsa on the deeds of kR^iShNa, culminating in the killing of kaMsa. This harihara in whose court he lived was, in my opinion, unlikely to be a vijayanagaran ruler. Instead, I suspect he was a minor rAjpUt ruler of Baglana. This is supported by the fact that the lolimbarAja’s poetic style influenced the mahAkAvya of rudrakavi named rAShTrauDha-vaMsha-mahAkAvya (1596 CE) on the rAShTrakUTa-s of Baglana.

The company and the age prevented me from saying more about the content of lolimbarAja’s medical poetry then. But I wondered then whether it was his medical accomplishment or the raciness of his works that made him so popular. As he himself confesses:
yeShAM na cheto lalanAsulagnaM magnaM na sAhitya-sudhA-samudre |
j~nAsyanti te kiM mama hA ! prayAsAn andhA yathA vAra-vadhU-vilAsAn ||

It would have been nice if this could be rendered equally poetically in translation, but crudely it means: “Those who are not conscious of the attractions of alluring women, who are not immersed in the nectar sea of literature, how can they understand me? like the efforts of the blind to experience the charms of a courtesan.” In an earlier phase of my existence I might have been roused by it, but now I look at more Platonically :-). But every time I read a verse of lolimbarAja I was struck by it superb poetic quality.

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