In writing the epic poem of Panditaradhya caritra, Somana had two objectives in mind. One, to prove to the elite that the deshi meter of ‘dvipada ‘ was capable of accommodating the grandest vocabulary from any language including Sanskrit. It is a testimony to his poetic skills, merit of his style and a scale of his scholarly heights. But the second objective is deeper and in a way complex. He knows that the society of his time was divided and the sociopolitical forces were further divisive. He was looking for space where the fragmented society could get integrated. He was sure that the orthodox society burdened with a caste hierarchy could no longer afford to keep people together. And he could not find a leader like a Basava in his life time. His ardent search turned into a journey and had finally taken him to Sri Parvata, present day Srisailam.
I would argue that the protagonist of Panditaradhya Caritra is not Mallikarjuna Pamdita, but the sacred mountain of Sri Parvata . He found the sacred mountain as the only solace that could bring diverse people together and lead them to a life, single minded and purpose driven. A model emulated by Annamayya, three centuries later. Somana found a a confluence of diverse languages, diverse traditions and diverse living systems on the road to the sacred mountain. A pilgrims’ progress four centuries ahead of the Pilgrim’s Progress.
You find the Tamil pilgrims, the travelers speaking Marathi and the crowds from Kannada land, all moving towards one destination. One can see the elderly devotees, the true devotees, the men with character and the men without character all along. One can find the truly detached, this-worldly, otherworldly and also a band of hypocrites, all traveling together. You can also see not only the elite but also the marginalized like the Chenchus and the Piccukuntlas. The entire canto devoted to the description of Sri Parvata reminds us of the Paradise from the Divine Comedy, in true letter and spirit.
One Mountain, Many Forms
Original from Telugu
నారఁగఁ బెన్నదులై ముక్తు లొసగుఁ