Some maxims of ve~NkaTAdhvarin

Our medieval coethnic, ve~NkaTAdhvarin (1600s of the common era), was a shrauta ritualist, keen observer of humanity, master poet, proponent of vishiShTAdvaita and shrIvaiShNava bigot, all simultaneously rolled in one. In his writings we encounter a brilliant account of the sacred geography of India, which shows that the concept of akhaNDa bhArata was not lost despite the Mohammedan irruptions, and a prescient fear of the rAvaNa-like Europeans who were to bring misery upon the peoples of our land. He was the son of raghunAtha sUrI of the Atreya gotra and lived in kA~nchIpuraM. Some of his subhAShita-s have the beauty that might even earned them a place in the great collection of the nAstika vidyAkara, had he lived in an earlier era. Let us look at some of these:

manda-praj~naadhyApanaM kShudra-maitrI nIrUpa-strI-saMgatir nIcha-sevA |
sArAsAra-j~nAna-hInaanusAraH keShAM na syAt kheda-saMpAdanAya ||

Teaching those of dim intellect, friendship with losers, companionship with an ugly woman, serving the lowly, following one lacking the [discriminative] knowledge of the essential from the trivial – who indeed is not brought to regret by these?

One who has lived life long enough indeed encounters such situations and cannot disagree with ve~NkaTa.

para-saMyoga-mahimA laghor api yataH svataH |
gurutvaM Avahaty eva pramANaM tasya pANiniH ||

The greatness of association with an eminent one is such, that even if one is a light-weight by himself [associated with the eminent one], he becomes the bearer of weighty attraction; the testimony for this is pANini [himself]!

This is a beautiful grammatical shleSha: para-saMyoga might be taken to be association with an eminent one and also simultaneously taken to mean association with a consonant. In the latter sense it refers to the pANinian rule, wherein an intrinsically laghu syllable become guru if associated with a consonant.

We know well how in places like the mlechCha-desha a lowly Indian graduate student associates with a mighty mlechCha professor so that he might attain gurutva by “para-saMyoga”.

mAnArhaM kusuma-kuleShu kaitakaM tat prAyeNa prathita-vivekaM ekaM eva |
dhutturais samam amaradru guchCham achChaM bibhrANAM na bhajati dhUrjaTer jaTAM yat ||

Perhaps in the floral clan the ketaki flower alone displays discrimination; hence it is verily worthy of respect, for it does not share a place in the locks of the thick-locked one [rudra] which bears the dhuttara flowers and divine tree’s unsullied inflorescence together.

This is a classic example of the shrIvaiShNava’s bigotry towards rudra in particular. It is a play on the tale that the ketaki flower was deprecated by rudra for betraying his li~Ngodbhava form to brahmA, thereby being excluded from rudra worship. So the shrIvaiShNava sees it as a paragon of discrimination, because it does not associate with rudra’s locks, where both the lowly dhuttura flower and the unsullied heavenly flowers occur indiscriminately together.

karNATI-chikurA ivaati kuTilA gauDI-kaTAkShA iva svAbhAvyAttaralAsh cha ghUrjara-vadhu-pAdAbjavad-rAgiNaH |
mandA mAgadha-sundarI-hasita-vat svalpAsh-cha tan madhyavat pANDya-strI-stana-van-naTanti malinAH pashyanti chordhvaM khalAH ||

[The crooks are] like the curly locks of the Kannada women, they are fickle like the fluttering eyes of the Bengali women, they are prone to passion like the pink lotus-like feet of the Gujarati women [play on rAga; makes sense only Sanskrit], unaffected like the gentle smile of the Bihari women [play on manda; makes sense only Sanskrit], and mean even as their slim waists [play on svalpa; makes full sense only Sanskrit], are sinful, act deceitfully and snootily like the dark, dancing, upturned breasts of the Tamil (i.e. from the pANDya country) women [play on malinAH, naTanti and UrdhvaM khalAH].

This is one of the classical themes of describing women from different parts of India. The absence of certain parts like sindhu, gandhAra, and kAshmIra seen often in earlier works might reflect the overwhelming of those regions by invaders when ve~NkaTa was writing.

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