Archive for ‘Literature’

June 12, 2009

bhUShaNa: chaNDI grows fat!

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

dADhi ke rakhaiyan kI DADhi sI rahati cHAti bADhI marjAda jasa hadda hinduvAne kI!!
kaDhi gaI raiyati ke mana kI kasaka saba miTi gaI Thasaka tamAma turakAne kI!!
bhUShaNa bhanata dilIpati dila dhakadhakA suni suni dhAka sivarAja mardAne kI!!
moTI bhayI chaNDI binu-choTI ke chabAya sIsa khoTI bhaI sampati chakatA ke gharAne kI!!

Chests of the bearded fellows burn like bonfire, such now are growing the bounds of the Hindu Nation!!
Hopes of people are all answered, such is being demolished the vainglory of the turuShka-s!!
bhUShaNa says this hearing the hartbeat of the dillI-king in awe of shivA the manly —
Overfed chaNDI grows fat chewing the shikhA-less heads, and lays in waste the wealth of the house of chakatA (moghuls)!!

veda rAkhe vidita purAna rAkhe sArayuta rAmanAma rAkhyo ati rasanA sughara mai!!
hindun kI choTI roTI rAkhI hai sipahiyan kI kAndhe mai janeu rAkhyo mAlA rAkhI gara mai!!
mIDi rAkhe mugal maroDa rAkhe pAtasAh bairI pIsi rAkhyo varadAna rAkhyo kara mai!!
rAjan kI hadda rAkhI tega bala sivarAja deva rAkhe devala svadharma rAkhyo ghara mai!!

Protected the veda-s renowned, and the essence of purANa-s, keeping the name of rAma at your worthy tongue;
Protected the shikhA of Hindus, and empoy of the warriors, keeping yaj~nopavIta on your shoulder and a mAlA in neck;
Kept mughals wrenched, pAtishAha writhed, and crushed all enemies, with the divine-boon in your hand;
Blessed be you and empowered your sword O shivarAja rAjan, that the deities are protected in temples and swadharma in homes.

June 10, 2009

bhUShaNa’s characterization of different nations

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

jora rusiyAna ko hai tega khurAsAna hU kI
nIti inglaNDa chIna hunnara mahAdarI
himmata amAna maradAna hinduvAnahU ko
rUma abhimAna habasAna-hada kAdarI
nekI arabAna sAna-adaba IrAna tyo hI
krodha hai turAna jyo pharAnsa phanda-AdarI
bhUShaNa bhanata imi dekhiye mahItala pai
vIra-siratAja-sivarAja kI bahAdurI

Russians are as renowned for strength as khorAsAnians are for swordsmanship;
English suppress all in shrewd strategizing and Chinese in engineering;
But, it is by valour and manliness that Hindus distinguish themselves;

If Romans were known for their pride and glory, Ethiopeans are for timidity,
Arabs are for piety and Iranians for their courtesy and grace;
Turks are known for their uncontrolled wrath, and French for their intrigues and conspiracies
bhUShaNa has seen these different people on this earth
But found no match to compare with the bravery of shivAjI, the crown-jewel of bravery itself!

1. In listing Hindu as a nationality, along with English and French, Chinese and Russian, Turks and Iranians, it is clear that bhUShaNa is reflecting the contemporary consciousness of a Hindu-Nationhood and self-identity, which flies in the face of those who propose the perverted argument of Indian Nationhood being a post-British construct.

2. Are these attributes of people that he mentions, mere rhetoric of poetry, or is there any real sense that bhUShaNa felt about those? French for hatching conspiracy, and English for strategizing!!

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December 31, 2008

sarajA shivAjI rAma hI ko avatAru hai [shivarAja-bhUShaNa 166]

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

…and rAma setu also finds mention in the annals from the pen of the favourite poet of cHatrapati shivAjI.

In this clever kavitta, with a marvelous turn of phrases, our king of poets bhUShaNa churns out a dual-meaning (shleSha) poem.  On one hand, he offers a description of rAmachandra, and on the other that of shivAjI’s, and in the last line equates the two.  Here is the kavitta in manaharaNa meter variety:

सी-ता संग सोभित सुलच्छ्न सहाय जाके
…भू पर भरत नाम भाई नीति चारु है
भूषन भनत कुल-सूर कुल-भूषन हैं
…दासरथी सब दास जाके भुज भुव भारु है
अरि-लँक तोर जोर जाके संग बन्दर हैं
…सिन्धु रहैं बान्धे जाके दल को न पारु है
तेगहि कै भेंटै जौन राकस मरद जानै
…सरजा सिवाजी राम ही को अवतारु हैं !!

The two different meanings are in the subsequent lines in different colours:

Whose presence is ever embellished by Sita by His side and graced by lakShamaNa to His assistance
Whose side shrI never leaves, and who is always assisted by the generals of good lakShaNa
Whose brother named bharata is always eager to spreads benevolence on earth in his name
Whose name this earth takes with affection as a “bhartA”, the nourisher
Says bhUShaNa, He Who is the real crown-jewel of all sUrya-kula
Says bhUShaNa, He Who is the real crown-jewel of all shUra-s (braves)
That son of dasharatha, whose arms are supporting the weight of entire earth
In whose service are valorous rathI-s (Lieutenants) to support the weight of the kingdom
To fame of whose might is destruction of laMkA in collaboraton with vAnara-s
Who breaks the very back of the enemy, such are whose mighty arrows
Who even constructed a bridge over ocean, whose army has no count
At doors of whose forts are always dwelling elephants, whose army has no count
Who knows how to slay rAkShasa-s when encountered
The Very embodiment of manliness who meets his enemies only with his sword
That shivAjI, the Lionheart, says bhUShaNa, is none other than another incarnation of rAmachandra!

Do notice the turn of words… “sindhu rahain bAndhe” means ‘constructed setubandha’ and since sindura also means elephant, the phrase becomes “sindhura hain bAndhe”, ‘Elephants are tied’ too!  Likewise, “marada” while means ‘slaying’ in one sense, but also ‘Manliness’ in the second…

It is not without a reason that bhUShaNa has always left us mesmerized!

December 30, 2008

cHUTyo hai hulAsa… [shivarAja bhUShaNa 150]

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

Words of fire from kavirAja bhUShaNa have always held us captivated since the days of boyhood.  Whenever we heard from our teachers and elders, his terse cHappaya or kavitta in unadulterated braja, we were quickly transported to some other world with our heartbeats accelerated and those hormones further soaring that run high during youth.  Our childhood memories associate bhUShaNa with one of our AchArya-s in school who used to teach us hindI and saMskR^ita, and who transmitted this contagious bhUShaNa-fascination to many of us.

This magnum-opus, shivarAja-bhUShaNa, the fiery poetic annals of the life of the cHatrapati founder of the hindavI swarAja written by bhUShaNa, his contemporary, appears to have quickly lost out these days in popularity, probably since his kliShTa braja is hard to understand even for an average speaker of Hindi, what to say of non-Hindi speakers, in this age when all our languages, indeed the whole cultural continuum, seems to be suffering a major, lasting, and deliberate disruption. While we can do little about that, what we shall do for our own pleasure is to reproduce and translate in English, some of these words, although we are not upto the task to preserve even to a small fraction, the original fire that the lines of bhUShaNa radiate.

So, here goes the first episode (in no particular order of SB):

छूट्यो है हुलास आमखास एक संग छूट्यो
…हरम सरम एक संग बिनु ढंग ही
नैनन तें नीरधीर छूट्यो एक संग छूट्यो
…सुखरुचि मुखरुचि त्यों ही मनरंग ही
भूषण बखानै सिवराज मरदाने तेरी –
…धाक बिललाने न गहत बल अंग ही
दक्खिन के सूबा पाय दिली के अमीर तजें
…उत्तर की आस जीव आस एक संग ही ॥
(SB.150, ‘sahokti’ alaMkAra in kavitta meter of the ‘manaharaNa’ vareity)

With all excitement evaporated; matters of palace and forts interest no more;
Harem and chivalry have suddenly lost meaning;
Pride has left the glances so also bravery the heart;
Tastes and Pleasures, ‘ve all dried up; face paled…
O shivarAja, how should bhUShaNa speak of your manliness!
Effect of your terror is such, that
No boastfulness (of their bravery, by their bards) brings life back to the Amirs of Delhi,
When ordered to march to the Southern Provinces,
Indeed cease both at once: hopes of ever returning back to the North, and desire of life!

The poem describes the terror of the founder of marahaTTA nation in the hearts of the Imperial officers of Delhi, when they hear about their posting in the South.

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)

September 26, 2008

The Hoax Called Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – 3: Vikrama, Poetics and Upanishada

by Sarvesh K Tiwari

In the previous parts (1:hitopadesha, 2:pa~nchatantra and chANakya) we have seen how the ancient texts of nIti have treated the aphorism of vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM.  In this concluding part, we shall survey the rest of the sources where this shloka has appeared and understand the contexts of its usage.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in vikrama-charita

Very few monarchs come close to finding a comparable place in the Hindu subconscious, which even after the elapse of a millennium, the memory of legendary bhojadeva paramAra of dhArAvatI commands. Unlike others confined to the pages of history, his legacy lives on in so many ways, in urban proverbs and rural songs, in crude jokes and scholarly legends, or in massively popular folklores inspired by siMhAsana-battIsI aka dvA-triMshata-puttalikA-siMhAsanam or vikrama-charita, which to this date are the favorite of rural storytellers.

First composed probably during the reign of bhoja in the eleventh century CE, or more likely shortly afterwards, this collection of thirty-two tales eventually became so popular that these were transmitted very early, as early as 1305, to even far away Mongolia and thence to Russia and Germany, so that even today ‘Arji Buji’ (from rAjA bhoja) is a hero in Mongolian folklore, and at least one story of Grimms’ collection of German tales is based on this work too.

The framework of the collection is such, that in its each tale bhoja tries to ascend a throne belonging to the legendary vikramAditya, supported by a base of thirty-two statuettes.  In each attempt, one of the statuettes would recite to him a story about the greatness of vikramAditya and demand bhoja whether he was up to him in virtue.  Hearing the tale bhoja would silently step back from the throne in humility, until the very end of the work when he would be proclaimed entitled to the throne by the very decree of Gods, a symbolic way of the author to claim for bhoja the same pedestal in glory as that of vikramAditya the chief hero of these tales.


It is in this popular work that we find our next stop for the shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, and at last here it is seen definitely in a positive sense. There are six major recensions found of vikrama-charita: a most common southern recension, manuscripts of which are found mostly from Andhra; a metrical recension with entire text in anuShtubha meter; a prose-only brief recension; two individual jaina recensions in devanAgarI mostly from central and western India; and finally a recension of vararuchi. Then there is another popular collection of tales spawned by vikrama-charita: twenty-five vetAla fables known as vetAla pa~nchaviMshati or vetAla pachIsI, the germs of which are found in one of the 32-siMhAsana tales itself.

Among all the six recensions, VK can be sited in three, coming in three separate stories.

In the southern recension mostly in Telugu manuscripts, the shloka appears in the opening of a tale called sarvasva-dakShiNA-yaj~na-varNanam recited to bhoja by the third puttalikA named suprabhA. Here the VK shloka is a very different variant from the popular one:

अयं निजः परोवेति विकल्पो भ्रान्तचेतसाम
पुनस्तूदार चित्तानां वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम (वि.च, आन्ध्र, ३.१)

ayaM nijaH paroveti vikalpo bhrAnta chetasAm
punastUdAra chittAnAM vasudhaiva kuTumbakam (VC, Andhra, 3.1)

This tale which opens with VK is about vikramArka’s bravery in renunciation. He once decides to perform a grand ya~jna in ujjayinI, in connection of which he dispatches a brAhmaNa towards south to invite Sea-God. While Sea-God did not come, he returned the brAhmaNa with a gift of four rare magical gems for vikrama, each of which had a different magical quality. By the time this envoy returns back to ujjayinI, the yaj~na is completed and the king has donated everything he had to others. Having nothing left with him, he would ask this brAhmaNa to accept any one of those gems whichever he chose. An interesting debate would ensue between the brAhmaNa, his wife, son and daughter-in-law, about which one of the four gems should be kept. In the end they being undecided, vikrama would generously grant them all the four gems, even though he had no wealth left with himself and was in need.

In the jaina recension, the shloka of VK appears in an intriguing tale known as paropakArAya-svadehAhuti-dAna, recited by suprabhA who is here the seventeenth statuette. This tale too is about the magnanimity of vikrama and his generous disposition. In this story, there is a certain ruler of an insignificant fiefdom who once overhears the praises of vikrama and inquires as to why vikrama was so great. He is told that it was because of his generosity in donations. In jealousy the ruler decides to perform his own enterprise of donations, but having not sufficient income he would think of generating wealth through tantra-prayoga. He contracts a group of sixty-four yoginI-s to perform a certain anuShThAna which every time conducted would produce for him a certain amount of gold. However each time he would have to give up his body in an arduous prayoga at the end of which the yoginI-s would resurrect him with a new body. This painful exercise was undertaken a few times while vikramAditya came to learn about it. So one day when the prayoga was on, at the right moment vikrama would appear at the scene and jump into flames. The yoginI-s would be greatly pleased and after resurrecting him, they would grant him a desired boon. The story climaxes with vikrama’s generosity, when he appeals to yoginI-s to grant wealth to the jealous ruler without having to repeatedly undergo that ordeal.

In yet another jaina recension, and a quite late one written by paNDita shubhashIla gaNi in 1437 CE, the standard shloka of VK recurs in yet another story where it represents the justice of vikrama.

In the other recensions the shloka is simply absent.  Incidentally, bhojadeva also composed (or commissioned) a compendium of subhAShita-s attributed to kauTilya, titled chANakya-rAjanIti-shAstra, and VK is not found in the versions we have seen so far.

VK appears this way in vikrama-charita, representing the generosity and justice of the king, and yet, not in any sense of universal brotherhood as is commonly misunderstood these days.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in Classical Poetics

Now, if the authors of various recensions of vikrama-charita decided to quote VK to highlight the magnanimity of their hero, it must have surely been a popular shloka by their time representing the sentiment of generosity.  Indeed VK has appeared in all of these, explicitly in sense of being quoted from some reference.  If so, where could that be from?

We have to understand that by the time of their composition, the art of poetics in saMskR^ita literature had been transformed into a proper discipline of science.  Precision in characterization of each emotion, appropriateness of expression, accuracy in usage of right meters for specific purposes, acceptable tolerance of liberty with grammar in poetry, how and when new words can be coined if at all – these had become commonplace knowledge among not only saMskR^ita literati but even broader elites.  A few distinct, independent, and competing schools of thought on poetic discipline had already evolved and matured such as the vaidarbha, kAshmIraka and gauDIya schools.

And as far as quoting from a common text is concerned, we should remember that by this time, the system of yellow-pages-like encyclopedic anthologies of subhAShita-s, the free floating, orally transmitted, public domain maxims, adages and aphorisms, had also become quite popular. Such anthologies, often called kosha-s or saMgraha-s were not only useful to common users to enhance their expression in speech, but also certainly referred by the dramatists and prose-writers such as those of vikrama-charita, to quote suitably according to the mood and situation of the context.

subhAShitAvaliH of vallabhadeva is one such grand collection with thousands of such poetic phrases coming from dozens of poets, and classified under various topics.  It lists the shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM as an ideal expression of audArya, the sentiment of generosity, in its following variant:

अयं बन्धुः परोवेति गणना लघु चेतसाम
पुंसामुदार चित्तानां वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम (उदाराः, ४९८)

ayaM bandhuH paroveti gaNanA laghu chetasAM
pumsAmudAra chittAnAM vasudhaiva kuTumbakaM (subhAShitAvaliH, udArAH, 498.)

vallabhadeva has listed VK as third in the sequence under ‘generosity’ (ironically, next to the section on niggardly misers). vallabhadeva hands us another very significant lead by assigning the authorship of this shloka to udbhaTa bhaTTa an eighth-century poet from kAshmIra, who was an important milestone in the progress of kAshmIraka brand of poetics, the development of which began with bhAmaha and completed in mammaTa.

Now let us then examine where exactly and in which context udbhaTa might have uttered this verse.  Of all that is available anymore from the pen of udbhaTa, and he is said to have composed at least three major works, we are unable to find the shloka of VK. We do know through his contemporaries that he composed bhAmaha-vivaraNa a commentary on bhAmaha, kumara-sambhava a kAvya, and kAvyAlaMkAra-sAra-saMgraha, a treatise on recommended expressions and embellishments in poetry. Of these the first two are lost and not extant anymore — the first one probably falling to disuse after mammaTa had delivered the last word on the subject, and kumara-sambhava probably drowned in competition to the mahAkAvya of same title by the emperor of saMskR^ita poetry. However, his kAvyAlaMkAra-sAra-saMgraha is still extant besides other snippets of his, quoted by writers such as indurAja the teacher of savant abhinavagupta in his laghuvR^itti, or indeed like the three verses of his preserved by vallabhadeva in subhAShitAvaliH from where we came to him.

Therefore, it is entirely possible that udbhaTa might have used the shloka of VK is some works which are lost to us, although we have no means of knowing the context in which he would have used VK. But we do know that he would have been only quoting this shloka and not have been its original author as claimed by vallabhadeva, since more than a full millennium before udbhaTa, viShNUsharman had already quoted it in pa~nchatantra.

Talking of poetry and talking of vikramAditya and bhoja, another name that naturally springs up in our minds is bhartR^ihari, the maverick elder brother of vikramAditya. bhartR^ihari’s three famous volumes of a hundred shloka-s each, nIti-shatakam, vairAgya-shatakam, and shR^iMgAra-shatakam, are very widespread and commonly found. Although the contents of shataka-s vary between various versions of theirs, the sholka of VK is not found in any of these that we have seen so far except for one edition compiled by Marxist historian D.D. Kosambi. [bhartR^ihari-viracita-shatakatrayAdi-subhAShita-saMgraha, D.D.Kosambi (1948.)]. However, considering the overwhelming evidence of VK being absent in a vast majority of various recensions of bhartR^ihari’s trayI, it seems more sensible to conclude that it must have been an interpolation in this single source where kosambi sighted it. Besides, as the earlier works already quote this shloka, that rules out its authorship to bhartR^ihari.

vasudhaiva kuTumbakam in upaniShada

So far we have seen hitopadesha and pa~nchatantra, compendiums of aphorisms of kauTilya and bhartR^ihari, Andhra and jaina recensions of vikrama-charita, encyclopedic anthology by vallabhadeva and through him the snippets of udbhaTa. Nowhere, not in the least, do the authors of any of these works ever claim to be the origin of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam. In every single instance, the verse has been explicitly quoted as a remark often appended with ‘as has been said’.

But there is one and the only one exception to this where this shloka comes as a natural, inherent and intrinsic part of the base text, and that is why we had kept that source to be examined in the end.

In the seventh adhikaraNa of the second chapter of shrI-bhAShyam, the prominent and most celebrated commentary on bramha-sUtra, AchArya rAmAnuja is critiquing the philosophies of kApAla, kAlamukha and pAshupata schools of shaiva mata-s in its thirty-sixth sUtra. There, he quotes in support of his arguments the first line of a rather less known and referred upaniShada – mahopaniShada (“eko ha vai nArAyaNa AsinnabramhA neshAnaH… sa ekAkI na ramate” MU1.1). Now this upaniShada, although not as much circulated or read as the others, is certainly not devoid of authenticity and importance. For, we also find many other classical vedAntins making references to mahopaniShada, including but not limited to yamunAchArya in puruSha-nirNaya, nArAyaNArya in tattva-nirNaya, and yAdavaprakAsha in his commentary on the bhagavadgItA, to mention but a few.

The shloka of vasudhiava-kuTumbakam, a slightly different variant of it, is to be found in this mahopaniShada as the seventy-second shloka of its sixth chapter. Here instead of ‘ayaM nijaH paroveti’, the shloka reads as ‘ayaM bandhurayaM neti’ (‘this is a friend and that one not’), while the rest of the anuShTubha remains the same.

To understand the total meaning and context of VK here, quoted below are the shloka-s 70-73 from its sixth chapter:

उदारः पेशलाचारः सर्वाचारानुवृत्तिमान
अन्तःसङ्ग-परित्यागी बहिः संभारवानिव
अन्तर्वैराग्यमादाय बहिराशोन्मुखेहितः
अयं बन्धुरयं नेति गणना लघुचेतसां
उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकं

भावाभाव विनिर्मुक्तं जरामरणवर्जितं
प्रशान्त कलनारभ्यं नीरागं पदमाश्रय
एषा ब्राम्ही स्थितिः स्वच्छा निष्कामा विगतामया
आदाय विहरन्नेवं संकटेषु न मुह्यति
(महोपनिषद ६.७०-७३)

The above text is describing the lakShaNa and behaviour of great men who are elevated to the coveted brAmhI sthiti of spiritual realm. The above says:

“(That elevated one in brAmhI sthiti) is generous, always clean in behaviour, in accordance to the established norms of conduct, and free from all attachments in life. From inside, he has renounced everything, even though outwardly he would appear to carry out worldly duties (like any other mortal. However, unlike) the small hearts of (ordinary) people (who discriminate by) saying ‘This one is a friend and that one a stranger’ these (great men in brAmhI-sthiti) are of magnanimous hearts and embrace the entire world as their own family. They have gained liberation from all constraints of ordinary life, like old age and death; their fires (of klesha-s) have become extinguished; and in them no attachment finds any shelter (anymore). Such (Listen O best amongst the brAhmaNa-s, are those who have achieved) the status of brAmhI sthiti, the absolutely pure; that which is beyond all cravings and sufferings. Equipped with such attributes they freely roam (the earth), without knowing any calamity.”

Not a recommendation or prescription of any sort, not an ideal or a goal for soceity to acheive, having nothing to do with anything outside the realm of individual spirituality, and simply a statement on the very nature of the bramhavetta-s of highest attainment.

Closing Remarks

We had set out on an excursion into the forest of saMskR^ita literature, to figure out where does the famed verse of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam come from, what was the sense and context in which the ancient AchArya-s had uttered it, and whether they ever meant this shloka to mean a recommendation for unconditional universal brotherhood or a principle of state. We also wanted to figure out the origin as well as transmission of the shloka through the periods of Hindu history.

1. mahopaniShada (6.72) uses the shloka to describe one of the lakShaNa-s of brAmhI-sthiti of highest level of spiritual progress. As we noted earlier, mahopaniShada is the only text where the shloka of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam is the natural and intrinsic part of the rest of the text, whereas in others the shloka has been quoted as an explicit quotation. We have therefore a very strong reason to comfortably believe that this upaniShada might be the original source of this shloka.  Indeed, by the very nature, upaniShadakAra-s, tend to be original except for quoting the passages of or retelling the themes from veda-s or at times from other upaniShada-s, but never from any external literature, whereas the reverse can be seen very often.  Besides, an upaniShada quoting an already popular shloaka and in a natural sense of its integral text is unimaginable.  Indeed the upaniShada having VK and so many early texts as the pa~nchatantra quoting it, itself would support an early date for this part of the mahopaniShada if not whole.

Besides, so many of vedAntin commentators especially of vaiShNava bent, quoting it in their works supports its popularity: in shrI-bhAShyam (2.7.36) by rAmAnujAcharya (~1080 CE), in puruSha-nirNaya by yamunAchArya, in tattva-nirNaya by nArAyaNArya, in a commentary on the bhagavadgItA by yAdava prakAsha, and a complete commentary on mahopaniShada by sha~nkarAnanda (~1300 CE).

The AchArya of mAnasataraMgiNI suggests that the parts of mahopaniShada might actually have predated mahAbhArata, as supported by not one but two references to the mahopaniShada in the nArAyaNIya section of the shAnti parvan as follows:

महोपनिषदं मन्त्रम अधीयानान स्वरान्वितम
पञ्चोपनिषदैर मन्त्रैर मनसा ध्यायतः शुची || १२.३२५.२
इदं महोपनिषदं चतुर्वेद-समन्वितम
सांख्ययोगकृतं तेन पञ्चरात्रानुशब्दितम || १२.३२६.१००
(नारायणीय, शान्तिपर्व, महाभारत)

It does seem likely that the pre-mantramArga pA~ncharAtra vaiShNava-s had a mahopaniShada that was the core of the text that today survives under that name, and VK might be present in that ur-text of mahopaniShada.  This would also mean that a such a mahopaniShada was in place before it became widely popular and viShNusharman quoted it.

2. pa~nchatantra (5.3.37) has it come from a declared fool who is killed by his naivety, suggesting it as a symbol of impracticality. This text was certainly written towards the end of the mauryan empire.  In political sphere, smaller janapada-s were witnessing a revival along side foreign invasions. In social sphere, jaina, bauddha and vaiShNava mata-s were witnessing popularity.  It must have been under such politico-social conditions, and in response to the pacifist tendencies, that viShNusharman must have warned against the tendency represented by vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, by making it an utterance of a fool who dies from his naivety itself.

3. hitopadesha (1.3.71) goes a step further along the same lines as pa~nchatantra, and clearly demonstrated through two satires, its usage by subversionists as well as tendency of gullible to fall for it.   It also praises the realist heroes that are not influenced by VK-speech.

Immediately preceding to its composition, one should also notice the southern version of pa~nchatantra-s mentioning a similar message in their tales, an iconographic representation of which was even sculpted on the bas-relief of the mahAbalIpuram temple by the pallava-s, an image of which is presented in the end of this article.

4. kauTilyan compendiums don’t have VK, except for two minor recensions, and kauTilyan thought is incompatible with what is generally understood as the sentiment of VK.

5. 8th century udbhaTa bhaTTa might have quoted it in some poetical work that is no more extant, and therefore we don’t know its context.

6. subhAShitAvaliH (udArAH.498.) lists this as a subhAShita for its poetic value in representing kindness.  Also important to note is that by this time, people had already forgotten the source of the shloka, as vallabhadeva mistakenly attributes its origin to eighth century kashMiraka poet udbhaTa, not knowing that it was present even in such popular texts as the pa~nchatantra.

7. The three recensions of vikrama-charita (Andhra 3.1, Jaina 17.3, Jaina-shubhashIla 6.270) quote VK to stand for generosity and justice, but still not any universal brotherhood.

Now we can safely conclude by saying that this shloka, snatched away from the original contexts as mahopaniShada presented it in, and disregarding how hitopadesha and pa~nchatantra and vikramacharita have used it, when it is sited by politicians and policy-makers as an ancient authority of liberalism and internationalism, the shloka is no more than a hoax.  When our scholars site this shloka as an evidence of some sort of an ancient Hindu vision of utopic universal brotherhood, the shloka is again no more than a hoax.  And when we hear our religious preachers sermonise using the shloka for people to follow the ‘principles’ of vasudhaiva kuTumbakam, the shloka is no more than a hoax in that context too.


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