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Musings on Desikan's "araNyA-kAndam"

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Wed Dec 18 1996 - 21:40:05 PST

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNe namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha

Dear bhAgavatOttamAs,

We should not let the gentle humour of Verse #38 of the 'Raghuveera gadyam'
be lost on us. We must realise that a "kavi" of the grand stature of Swami
Desikan does not use humour like a two-penny showman : to merely draw out
guffaws out of the grand-stands. More importantly, it is employed to enable
us to draw deep, subtle and serious ethical lessons in a not-so-serious vein. 

In the reference to "mArichA" in this stanza, therefore, Swami Desikan can
clearly be seen to be warning everyone of the sure and dreadful fate that
will befall "seat & sofa-covers"(!!) and us, too, if we choose to resort to
deceit, subterfuge or deviousness in the practice of our devotion to Him or
His Consort.
("brahma-vEsham AbhAyamAna vEsham !!")

In a single, wry but brilliant poetic brush-stroke, Swami Desikan sends out
a great message, indeed, to our world today, witnessing, as it does
everywhere, the ever-increasing proliferation of deceitful pseudo-godmen,
pseudo-faiths and pseudo-cults all of which possess the allure of Truth but
hardly its substance. 

But we must now proceed, 'bhAgavatOttamAs', to a discussion of more
important matters in the 'araNya-kAndam" and specifically to Verse #28 and
explore how it is indeed pregnant with and redolent of the great theme which
I termed, in my last posting, as "Love between between Man and Woman".

Please note now, dear friends, that Verse #28 is, indeed, the inaugural line
in the 'araNyA-kAndam" and it reads :

               dandakAthapOvana-jhangamapArijAtha !

This is an exquisite construction of words and ideas, dear
'bhAgavatOttamAs', and I am afraid I can only weakly and clumsily paraphrase
(not translate) it in English as :

 "Oh (rAmA), Thou art verily the spirit-of-fragrance-in-motion ever stalking
the   deep and sacred groves of DandakA which sages find conducive to
perform their   penances in !". 

The key expression here, I think, is "jhangamapArijAtha" and we must begin
to take our cues from it.

Now, friends, this "pArijAtha"(I call it the very spirit of fragrance!), is
a hauntingly fragrant flower (I cannot recall its botanical nomenclature)
not so common even in the lusher parts of South India. It is a
pale-white/soft-orange hued tiny-petalled flower with a fragrance that can
put you in deep spell of contemplation. It is considered eminently suited
for the worship of Lord Rama and Hanuman in the 'nitya-aradhana-s' in homes
even today in India.

Now from the way the term "pArijAtha" is used in the above verse#28 by Swami
Desikan, it seems to suggest that wherever Lord Rama went about then in the
woods of Dandaka he seemed to spread the spirit of good cheer, love,
happiness and sheer goodness all around Him. His whole personality, AT THAT
POINT OF TIME, seems to have been suffused with and radiating "mAdhUryam"
instead of "vIryam".   
Now one must pause here, dear bhAgavatOttamAs, and ask,"Why?". Why is it
that Swami Desika, who upto this point in the 'gadyam' has been singing
panegyrics to Lord Rama's "vIryam" (martial magnificence), why does the
"kavi-simham" suddenly change tracks and begin to extol the Lord's quality
of "mAdhUryam" instead i.e. His sweetness or pleasantness of disposition
akin to the "pArijAtha"-fragrance?! 

It does not require great knowledge of Sanskrit, dear friends, to point out
that the quality of "mAdhUryam" is simply not, what one could call, a close
cousin of the quality of "vIryam". And yet, paradoxically, right at the
beginning of the 'aranyA-kAndam' we see Swami Desikan suggesting in Verse#28
that Lord Rama was in a state of elated spirits in the Dandaka woods and
certainly in the most un-warrior-like of moods !!

We must seek an answer for this poetic paradox, dear 'bhAgavatOttamAs',
because therein lies the seed of that great theme of "love between man and
woman" I have hinted.

We will examine this further in my next posting.

srimathE srivan satagopa sri narayana yathindra mahadesikAya namaha

srimathE lakshmi-nrsumha parabrahmaNE namaha
sri vedanta desika guravE namaha