Archive for October, 2008

October 30, 2008

A portion from madhurAvijaya

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

duritaikaparam tuluShkanAtham drutamutkhAya jagat-trayaika-shalyam|
pratiropaya rAmasetu madhye vijaya-stambha-shatAni bAhushAlin||

O mighty and brave king! Go forth then, and without further delay uproot from my lands this Kingdom of turuShka-s, pain to the three worlds. Go forth my dear Lord, and securing your victory, establish One Hundred Victory Pillars in middle of the famed rAma-setu!

In February 1918, Professor D R Bhandarkar thus remarked in a lecture to the students of Calcutta University: “South India has recently become a land of discoveries. Not many years ago the students of ancient Indian poetics were taken by surprise by the discovery of Bhamaha’s work on Alamkara in Trivandrum. The dramas of Bhasa…for a long time remained hidden from modern eyes until…discovered seven years ago at the same place, viz. Trivandrum. Such was also the case with the Arthasastra of Kautilya, the work looked upon as entirely lost…” [1]

The first decade of the last century was indeed remarkable for re-discoveries of the lost manuscripts of several invaluable saMskR^ita works from the hidden chests of Kerala’s monasteries and private libraries. Among those delightful finds was this poetic yet historic chronicle of early vijayanagara period called madhurA-vijaya or kampArAya-charitam penned none other than by ga~NgAdevI the spouse of prince kampanarAya the son of bukkarAya, the co-founder of that empire. Discovery of this work in first decade of 1900s by Pandit N Ramasvami Sastriar from a traditional library of Trivandrum on a moth-eaten palm-leaf manuscript, sandwiched in a single binding between two unrelated works, remained an overlooked affair – thanks mainly to the luster of the other brilliant simultaneous finds of the category noted by Prof. Bhandarkar.

In later years however, and especially even after the publication of its contents by G Harihara Sastri and V Srinivasa Sastri, madhurA-vijaya remained and till date remains, contemptuously ignored by most of the secularist and marxist historians. And, for a good reason. This work not only falls outside their historiographic template that projects medieval Indian History as a perpetual victory march of Islam over defeatist Hindus, but also comes as a jarring note in their negationist orchestra of whitewashing the record of Islam in India.

We came to look into this source a very important reference it makes to rAma setu, thanks for pointing which go to our friend Shri Harish Duggirala. However, we feel compelled to provide in this note, a literal translation of one portion from this chronicle, where the queen-poetess records an event that triggers the campaign of her husband prince kampana against the Sultan of Madurai, finally resulting in the sealed fate of spread of Islam in south India.

Historical Background

The context of madhurA-vijaya is this. First wave of Jihad into South led by Malik Kafur the eunuch general of Ala-ad-deen Khilji, left dakShiNApatha stunned and in a state of shock by the unforeseen and unprecedented destruction and barbarity. While south was yet to recover from the resulting disarray, within a few years turuShka-s mounted a second wave of Jihad now under Khusaroo Khan, and yet once more after a brief period under Ulugh Khan aka Muhammad bin Tughlaq. The invading marauders left behind a local turuShka government in Madurai which later became a sultanate beginning with Jalal-ud-din Ehsan Shah and passed on to a series of hands, each proving oneself of a greater zeal than his predecessors in uprooting Hindus from the most sacred lands of their culture. It was then that important deities such as that of shrIra~Ngam were removed to the relative safety of tirupati hill shrines – a story well recorded in telugu chronicles. The year was around 1333.

While the banks of sacred tAmraparNI were scenes of such events, a few hundred miles towards its north, the shores of tu~NgabhadrA were to simultaneously witness another phenomenon. By the blessings of bhuvaneshwarI residing on her banks, an independent kingdom is conceived just then, to again raise the standards of Aryakula in face of Jihad and soon become a bulwark against Muhammedan progress in dakShiNApatha. After its first ruler Hariharadeva had stabilized it, the reign of vijayanagara came into the hands of bukkArAya, waters from whose hands were again supplying plenty of nourishment to the tree of dharma. Like a great monarch however, he looked beyond the immediate boundaries of his state, and he decided to go forward and eradicate the remnant of Jihadist imperialism anywhere in the entire region south of kR^iShNA to strategically secure the whole of dakShiNApatha, a policy which indeed eventually resulted in bringing Islamic progress in South India to a complete halt for over two and a half centuries, and protected Hindu culture here from suffering a similar ravishment as it did in the North.

The Southbound March

This is the point from where the poetess-princess begins her narrative in madhurA-vijaya. After providing the prevailing scenario and background, she limits the scope of her chronicle to describing, in a very poetic and sonorous narration of one campaign that was trusted by the Emperor, her father-in-law, into the command of her husband kumAra kampana. The mission of the campaign was to liberate the tamil country of madurai once ruled by mighty pANDya-s and now usurped by Mohammedans, then being ruled by turuShka-s mercenary Kurbat Hasan Kangoo.

Being empowered by the Emperor, kampana amasses his forces and amid the chants of brAhmaNa-s performing dIkShA-s with atharvan mantra-s, public cries of ‘jaya, jaya’, and ladies of city showering akShata, he marches swiftly southwards at the head of a large cavalry. Some draviDa kings would submit to him as vassals, while some others will require some military attention. Finally, having conquered large regions in northern parts of Tamil country, he sets up his headquarter in kA~nchIpuram. Here he would stay for some time slowly encircling the region controlled by Mohammedans, monitoring their movements, and waiting for the right moment to pounce upon Madurai and deliver the final sucker punch. The period is around early 1370s.

Staying in kA~nchIpuram, while prince is discharging his duties of expanding boundaries of vijayanagara and consolidating its control over territories recently won, this period is remembered by the poetess as a romantic honeymoon. The seventh sarga is devoted by her to record the amorous memories of the time spent in the gardens of kA~nchI, swinging in her husband’s arms and tasting the fruits prescribed by the shAstra of third kind. There are several palm-leaves lost in manuscript leaving a lacuna at this point, although going by the theme it is probably not such a disastrous loss of historic information.

Petitioner from madurA

This honeymoon, indeed a distraction from the original mission as it seems to the reader, comes to an abrupt end through the visit of a remarkable visitor. A weird yet impressive lady, apparently a citizen of Madurai, comes to appeal the vijanagara General to quickly save the tamil country from the tyranny of mohammedans and not delay the operation anymore lest nothing worth saving would be left. The event forms the transition from seventh sarga to eighth, and we shall now turn to a literal translation of this heart-rendering appeal:

O King! That city, which was called “madhurapurI” for its sweet beauty, has now become the city of wild animals, making true its older name “vyAghrapurI”, the city of tigers, for humans dwell there no longer. (1) The famed temple of shrI-ra~Ngapattana has fallen to decay, and its structure being reduced to rubble. So much that viShNu who famously slept there in his deep yoga-nidrA, has now literal protection only of the hood of sheSha-nAga who has to be ever cautious from the falling bricks of the debris. (2) How do I describe the condition of the abode of the slayer of gajAsura! In the bygone days after slaying the gajAsura, Lord shiva had taken its skin for his garment. And now being stripped he has gone back to being digambara. Wild elephants have now made the shivali~Nga their plaything, and all but spider-webs are the decorations of his abode. (3) (when such is the state of those famous temples – ) how would other deva-sthAna be any better! Moth have eaten away the once-beautiful wooden structures, the maNDapa-s have developed cracks in which now grass grows, and garbha-gR^iha-s of many others are dilapidated and crumbling. My Lord, my heart is crying as I describe to you the situation of our beloved devatA-kula. (4) Those deva-mandira-s which used to resound with the joyous and pious beats of mR^ida~Nga, today only the echo of fearful howls of jackals can be heard there. (5) That ga~NgA of South, mighty kAverI, which used to earlier flow in proper channels curbed with dams created by our noble rulers of past – she now flows like a vagabond without discipline like her new lords these turuShka-s, her dams being breached beyond repair. (6)

In our agrahAra-s mighty columns of sacred yaj~na smoke used to curl up and reach the skies in mid of sonorous chants of vedic mantra-s. Alas! On this day from those same agrahAra-s emit only the despicable odours of animal meat being roasted by musalmaans, and the vedic chants have been replaced by harsh noises of drunk goons. (7) The gardens of madurA were once famous for its nAlikera-trees. The turuShka-s have chopped down the nAlikera-s and replaced these with terrible iron-shUla-s upon which are adorned the garlands of human skulls to terrify the people. (8.) Those our streets which used to once echo with the pleasing sounds from the anklets of our young ladies playfully walking, those are now filled with the noises from iron shackle in which our brAhmaNa-s are these days bound, sounds that pierce into our hearts like iron-thorns. (9) Spiders have taken over all our gopura-s, and the beautiful sculptures of roof decorations now only support their cobwebs. (10)

My Lord, The yards of the houses of nobles earlier used to be awash with the waters perfumed by sandal and camphor. My heart is filled with sorrow, seeing those very verandahs now being cursed by the streams of tears of shackle-bound dvija-s. (11) It is hard to say my King, whether we get more troubled by hearing the ill-ominous noises emitted by owls that now live in our abandoned gardens, or get more perturbed by the Persian language uttered by the pet-parrots from the houses of those musalmans. (12) Earlier during the times of pANDya-s, our ladies used to bathe in tAmraparNI, and her waters used to become white from the sandal-paste of their breasts. But now, my lord, she only wears the colour of red, from the streams of blood flowing into her, from the cows slaughtered all over the country by the sinful occupiers! (13) There is no agriculture left, as Lord Indra being angered has stopped sending rains. Those then, who escape the misery from turuShka hands, prematurely meet yamarAja through starvation. (14)

My King! I am unable to bear the looks of those draviDa ladies who used to be once richly gifted in beauty. Raped by the ravaging turuShka-s, those tender women now have dry lips and warm breaths, and their long undone hair is terrible to look at. I can not describe the dishonour and suffering always painted on their faces, knowing no hope of protection. (15) With Shrotriya-s gone, the veda-s have disappeared. With dharma-kathA gone, character has also departed. With Dharma and puNya-s gone, all nobleness has disappeared. Only in gain seems to be the person of kali, the promoter of vice. (16)

Relating this way all the condition of madhurApurI to kampana, the lady then made to appear a divine sword, and approached the king. This lady petitioner now reveals that she is no other than the presiding devI of madurA. (17)

From 18th to 25th, she would now relate a mythology of the sword of how it originally belonged to shiva, who gave it to the pANDya-s, and by the virtue of which lakshamI always playfully resided in the houses of chola-s and pANDya-s. Now, seeing pANDya-s become unable to wield the mighty sword of shiva any longer, sage agastya has decided to take it away from them and instead invest it into the kShatriya grips of vijayanagara. From 26th to 29th she describes the qualities of this divine sword, and blesses kampana for victory.

My king, this sword being unable to be wielded by other kings even in imagination, is now being invested into your lotus-hands by the providence. (30) Take this and go forth, chop down the heads of turuShka-s of lengthy hair, red eyes and terrible voice. Go, quickly cover the earth with their skulls. (31) Let the rising sun of your bravery diminish the moon-smiles of the drunken women of turuShka-s. (32) This earth is tired of continuously oozing with the sweats of adharma burning from the fires of the ill-deeds of turuShka. Now quickly cool her down by showering over her the blood of these miscreants! (33) My dear King, Go forth then and let this sword of yours help the pishAcha-s and DAkinI-s satisfy their thirsts to fullest from the wine that flows in the veins of those vidharmI tyrants. (34)

duritaikaparam tuluShka-nAtham drutamutkhAya jagat-trayaika-shalyam|
pratiropaya rAmasetu madhye vijaya-stambha-shatAni bAhushAlin||

O mighty and brave king! Go forth then, and without further delay uproot from my lands this Kingdom of turuShka-s, pain to the three worlds. Go forth my dear Lord, and securing your victory, establish One Hundred Victory Pillars in middle of the famed rAma-setu! (35)

Ten palm-leaves after this are lost, and the next sarga, ninth and the last, describes the rage of the armies of vijayanagara pouring into madurA, resulting in complete rout of mohammedans and effectively liberation of the whole lands of dakShiNApatha.

There has been a single manuscript found so far of madhurA-vijaya, spread over sixty-one palm leaves. Several leaves are missing in middle and some towards the end. Besides its value for historical insights, the work is a fine sample of poetry of vaidarbha-school and on footsteps of kAlidAsa’s style as confessed by poetess in its preface. It is divided in nine sarga-s and composed in a variety of meters: anuShtup, upajAti, mAlinI, dr^uta-vilambita, and shikhariNI. The work is also significant that it is one of the earliest medieval poetry found so far from the pen of a woman. Poetess also pays gratitude to the telugu poets of Andhra-desha, indicating probably that the poetess herself belonged to telugu mother-tongue, and also signifying parallel progress in, and equal respect for, the poetry in both the languages. What is most significant however is that poetess never lets her poetic mind get the better of the responsibilities of an honest chronicler, and despite the poetic embellishments she keeps the account historically accurate.

[1] Lectures on the Ancient History of India (D. R. Bhandarkar, Univ. of Calcutta Publication, 1919)

1. madhurAvijayam ga~NgAdevyAvirachitam (Ed. By G. Harihara Sastri & V. Srinivasa Sastri, The Sridhara Power Press Trivandrum, 1924)
2. madurAvijaya mahAkAvyam (Ed. with Hindi Translation by Dr. Sharada Mishra, Shri Sharada Publications, Patrakaranagara Patna, 2001)

October 16, 2008

rAjA bhojadeva and rAma setu

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

This interesting reference to rAma setu comes from one of those trifling and forgotten episodes, which although insignificant in detail, change the course of history.

One dark night a contingent of armed men, under a crimson flag decorated with golden garuDa, the royal insignia of mAlava country, was swiftly riding on the wild banks of vetrAvatI (betavA) along with a prisoner and an execution-warrant.

Despite being a mighty ruler of mAlava, with boundaries stretching between chambal in north to godAvarI in south, paramAra mu~njadeva was living with a sense of insecurity from a young prince, a nephew of his own and hardly a teenager. This prince, bhoja his name, was quickly gaining many admirers among paNDita-s and Generals alike. Despite being inflicted with a terrible brain tumor, he was proving himself to be a rare talent of both shastra and shAstra, hard to say which his better forte was. All the influentials of the kingdom were foreseeing the promise of the chakravartin-crown kissing his brows. Envy and alarm having taken possession of the king’s better judgment, he at last decided to liquidate this potential danger to his throne, and ordered his trusted guards for a secret execution, for which the prince was now stealthily being taken into the woods on the banks of betavA in thick of that night.

The young victim of royal envy was composed to bravely meet his end, and after his prayers to vAgdevI and mahAkAla of ujjayinI, the youth had only one last wish. Once the executioners return back to the capital, they should pass on a message to his king-uncle, which he scribbled upon a cloth in form of a chhanda, his last, and apocryphally, in his own blood:

मान्धाता स महीपतिः कृतयुगालङ्कारभूतो गतः

सेतुर्येन महोदधौ विरचितः क्वासौ दशास्यान्तकः

अन्येचापि युधिष्ठिर प्रभृतयो याता दिवं भूपते

नैकेनापि समं गता वसुमती मन्ये त्वया यास्यति॥

{An emperor like mAndhAtA passed who came to grace the satya-yuga. In the next happened another great king, the slayer of the ten headed tyrant and who constructed even a bridge over ocean, and he too passed. Yet in the next yuga came yudhiShThira of mighty fame, and he passed too. While all those great monarchs departed in their respective eras, the earth did not accompany any of them. It however seems likely, O Emperor, that she might finally go with you when your own time comes.}

Having scribbled these last lines of his life, bhoja was now ready to meet his death.

But little did he know that destiny had other plans for him.

Seeing an unnecessary and wasteful end to such a talented prince, a ray of mercy arose in the heart of the commanding officer. At his risk, and in his hope against hope, he decided to put off the execution by a day and leaving bhoja in custody of his men, he rushed to the capital and delivered the message to the King. The King, reading the lines, was so moved that all his envy was washed away now by guilt. When the commander informed him that prince was still safe, he was overjoyed and not only did he himself bring bhoja back, but also declared him the heir in preference over his own sons.

And indeed it would seem destiny had other utility of bhoja when it inspired him to scribble that chhanda on the banks of betavA that night and saved his life. For, it was then that hundreds of miles away on the shores of the Oxus and Syr-Dariya, barbaric hordes of turuShka-s and Usbecs, having recently equipped themselves with the zeal of Islam, were gathering storm to pour down upon the Hindus, for the first time inside India-proper to the east of Indus.

It was bhoja, who had now become the mighty ruler of mAlava when the savage marauders from west and now followers of Quran, marching under the banner of mahamuda of gazna, invaded gujarAta which was on bhoja’s south-western neighborhood and ruled by an enemy prince. When bhoja heard of the sack and desecration of somanAtha, even in the domain of his enemy, he immediately marched with his army and that of his neighbours to punish Mahmud. And chroniclers, both Hindu and Muslim, record that bhoja meted out such harsh retaliation on the returning army of turuShka-s and Usbecs, marching in pursuit of Mahmud all the way upto Indus, destroying entire Muslim enemy that was met on the way and crushing invaders so completely, that never again in his life Mahmud dared to set his eyes to the east of Indus. The complete annihilation befell the branch of forces of Quran that had wandered northwards beyond the banks of Ganga, and this ensured that India was safe from Islamic invasions for almost 150 years to come. No wonder bhaviShya purANa remembers bhoja as the slayer of muhammad, and alludes to prophet appearing to bhoja in dream and giving him his confessions of creating a corrupt dharma.

And that chhanda which bhoja wrote that night mentioning rAma setu, was not to be his last after all. During the long fifty-five years of his reign, despite being always on the battlefield he did compose numerous works varying greatly in nature, spanning across the subjects of philosophy to politics, poetry to civil architecture, and much more.

(The basic story as well as the said chhanda is recored by biographer merutu~Nga in his prabandha-chintAmaNi)

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