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For these Bangalore youth, Sanskrit is everything

Author: Kestur Vasuki
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 2, 2012
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/nation/54441--for-these-bangalore-youth-sanskrit-is-everything-.html

For them Sanskrit is everything. They want Sanskrit to bridge the gap between past and the present. They are working towards bringing many untold and unheard Sanskrit verses to the benefit of the new generation.

They feel only Sanskrit can link a cultural, political and social history of the past. They translate Sanskrit verses and spread the knowledge to the general public and particularly to the generation next to keep the understanding of the rich literary past intact. They are also striving hard to build a group of Sanskrit readers to propagate Sanskrit poetry.

Venetia Kotamraju an Oxford graduate and Dr Shankar Rajaraman a renowned psychiatrist in Bangalore are working to bring the richness of Sanskrit alive. They have not only set up a Sanskrit book publishing house called Rasala but also striving hard to translate India’s most beautiful forgotten Sanskrit verses in to English. These scholars in their endeavor to popularise Sanskrit poetry, are sending poetry with English translation every week through their website www.rasalabooks.com to the generation next.

Their recent translation of 15th century Sanskrit scholar Uddanda Sastri’s love poems called “Kokila (cuckoo) Sandesa” is celebration of love and expression of social and cultural past.

The Kokila Sandesa, or The Message of the Koel, takes the reader on a literary tour across southern India and into Kerala. A lovesick husband, snatched from his beloved’s side as they slept, dispatches a koel, the Indian cuckoo, to their home in central Kerala with a message to sustain her until he can return.

The journey will take the koel across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and down the northern half of Kerala. Quite apart from the lush landscape, thickly carpeted in betel nut or cardamom trees and criss-crossed by rivers; the local temples alive with myth; and the fabulous cities whose palaces push the stars out of their orbits, the Kokila Sandesa is stuffed with historical, social and cultural details. We are introduced to the kingdoms of the Puralis, Kolas and Zamorins; the Mamankam festival and a varied cast of Uddanda’s contemporary scholars, poets and kings.

Composed by 15th century poet-scholar, Uddanda Sahsrti, the Kokila Sandesa is a celebration of the lush, temple-studded land of Kerala, Uddanda’s adopted home, in 162 rich verses.

According to Dr Shankar Rajaraman a psychiatrist by profession and an Astavadhani, which means that he has faced eight examiners in the traditional avadhana or poetry competition, composing verses on the spot and correctly identifying quotations from a huge selection of possible poems, Sanskrit poems were the links with the past which is beautiful and an understanding of the society in all respects. For him it also reflects human mind, its growth and absorption of intellectual capabilities.

Venetia feels Sanskrit poetry was set within an elaborately drawn and largely fantastic world which enchants but can also mystify the new reader. She said “Even those familiar with Indian mythology may find themselves wondering quite how a hunter can track a lion in the snow-bound Himalayas by the pearls they drop”.

“That pearls are found in an elephant’s temples and would therefore be likely to have lodged in the lion’s paws when he attacked and killed his prey, is not common knowledge. Rather it belongs to what the tradition calls ‘kavi-samaya’ or ‘poetic convention’,” she adds.
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