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follow-up on "PPS" posts

From: M K Sudarshan (sudarsan_at_batelco.com.bh)
Date: Wed Feb 12 1997 - 00:41:36 PST

Dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s',

Over the past week it was good to receive private e-mails from some of you
on the posts on Swami Desikan's "PPS". 

Some of you have raised interesting questions thereon. I have to confess I
am unable to answer them all adequately. Please understand I am only a
plodding and free-lancing undergraduate in SriVaishnavism. Hardly can I be
expected to come up with good answers all the time !! 

I promise you however I shall consult with knowledgeable people I know back
home in India who I believe would be able to offer some insight. I will
share the same with you all when I receive them. Until then I beg your patience.

Two questions so raised by some young 'bhAgavatOttamA-s' which I found
amazingly pertinent deserve mention here. I thought I might share it with
the "list" as it may be of interest, if not profit, to all of us.

One question relates to a matter of purely literary appreciation.

The other pertains to a matter of philosophical speculation.

Both questions had me really foxed for a while and, I confess, it was with
considerable difficulty that I managed to offer what I believe -- but still
am unsure -- is a plausible response.

The question on literary value was with regard to the quotation I had used
from Swami Desikan's "Raghuveera-gadyam" while describing Bharatha's acts in
Chitrakoota woods which we said, it may be recalled, were an ideal
representation of the 'prasAdana-parva' phase of a spiritual aspirant. I
quote from my post of 5 February :

              *********************************************
" ....In Swami Desikan's "Raghuveera-gadyam" there is a verse (#25) which
alludes to the fact that the whole world attains prosperity when filled with the
Lord's "prapanna-s" and especially of the sort that Bharatha was -- he who
bent his head and welcomed the Lord's 'padukA-s' on his head :

" praNatha bharatha makUta-thata sugha-ti-tha pAdukA-grayAbhishEka-nirvarthitha
  sarvalOka yogakshEma !!" "
              ************************************************

The question put to me on the allusion above was on the following lines:

"Why is Swami Desikan using a seemingly redundant expression of "bharatha
makUta-thata...grayAbhishEka ..etc." ? What is the need here to indicate
that Bharatha "bent" his head to receive Lord Rama's 'padUkA-s'? We know it
is physically impossible to receive something on one's crown with head held
high or at eye-level, isn't it ? So why use a special poetic emphasis where
none seems necessary? Or is there a special significance attached to the
superfluous expressions that indicate Bharatha's "bent head"?

This is a very pertinet question, indeed, from the point of view of literary
criticism or "rasa".

My own response to this is as follows and I am not sure if it is convincing.
Perhaps some scholar on the "list" can add to,or enhance, my views :

Rarely does a poet of Swami Desikan's calibre and genius use a word
carelessly or without a specific intent for it. I have heard that in
Sanskrit poetry there are several evaluative yardsticks by which a poet's
verses are judged and Swami Desikan consistently surpasses them all.

One such yardstick is called "parichita-mivAtApi gahanam". This, I learn,
means that some words used by a poet may appear, at first glance, very
familiar, even commonplace, to the reader; but when read by a critical mind
the same words yield a plethora of meaning.

I suppose it will therefore require deeply-schooled minds to realize the
wealth of significance hidden in Swami Desikan expression in GS #25 of the
"Raghuveera-gadyam" which seems to denote Bharatha "bending" his head to
receive the Lord's sandals on his crown.

But even from a purely lay perspective, such as mine, I believe that the
suggestion of "bent head", in the context of our discussions on Desikan's
'PPS' and of Bharatha's appearance on the scene in Chitrakoota, is not at
all un-poetic or inappropriate.

On the contrary I think "makuta thata ...etc." is an extraordinarily
graceful expression yielding enormous significance and is in keeping with
the poetic standard of excellence called "parichita-mivAtApi gahanam" !

Let me explain.

Think of a grain-seed for a moment -- any grain-seed like rice, wheat, maize
or ragi.The seed is sown by a farmer in the soil. It sprouts and grows into
a sapling. Then the sapling grows further and before long it turns into a
long stalk. The stalk with its tall stem grows erect and is commonly seen to
sway in the wind but it never "bows". Then the stalk sprouts grain-pods --
wherein the "fruit" of rice or maize or wheat grains collect. The stalk
meanwhile still stands erect although "weighed down" somewhat by the load of
nascent-grains it holds at the end of its stem. After many months the
grain-stalk turns yellow and is "ripe" for harvest. At this point the
grain-stalk begins to "bend" by itself and offers itself, and its "fruit" of
rice or wheat grains, to the farmer to pluck by way of harvest !! The happy
farmer extracts the "grain" and throws aside the "stalk".

We saw Bharatha too behave like the grain-stalk as he traversed the various
phases of the 'paramapada-sOpAnam'. He was a mere "seed" until he became a
"vivEki"; then much like a rice or wheat sapling he "grew" through the
rigours of summer and rains ("virakthi" and "bheethi") into a "long, erect"
stalk -- holding the "potential" of harvest in the form of "grains" in its
pods but still "unripe" to be "plucked" away by the Lord ! But finally in
Chitrakoota, Bharatha completes the "prasAda-hetu" phase and performs
"prapatti" --- in other words the "grain-stalk" had "yellowed" (or
mellowed!) through the seasons and grew "top-heavy" carrying a "load" of
grains in its crown. The load grew so heavy that the "stalk" by itself
eventually "bent its head" to offer the "farmer" the harvest of its "fruit"
--- grains of rice, wheat or maize !! 

Bharatha too thus did "bend his head" to that Great Farmer, the Lord Rama,
to offer his "load of grains" ("bhAra-samarpaNam") in what was a sort of
"ritual harvest" ('paduka-grayAbhishEka' perhaps!) marking the Pleasure of
the Lord in His Harvest ('sarvalOka yogakshEma')!!

In view of all the above, dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', I personally think Swami
Desikan's choice of words in :
  
" praNatha bharatha makUta-thata sugha-ti-tha pAdukA-grayAbhishEka-nirvarthitha
  sarvalOka yogakshEma !!" 
 
is a marvellous ("adhbutha") instance of "parichita-mivAtApi gahanam" in
Sanskrit poetry !!

If one reads the words in this stanza in the "Raghuveera-gadyam", conveying
as they do the idea of Bharatha's "bent head", in conjunction with Desikan's
description of the soul's "journey" ascending in phases the
'paramapada-sOpAnam' unto the "prasAdana-parva", one cannot miss
appreciating their felicity and utmost aptness for the occasion !!

WHEN THE SOUL IS "RIPE", dear 'bhAgavatOttamA-s', THE HEAD BY ITSELF SAGS !!

That, I believe, is the central message of GS#25 of the "Raghuveera-gadyam" !!

As regards the other 'philosophical' issue raised, I shall discuss it in my
next post.

nrsumha-priyan,
sudarshan