When poetry ends in babbling

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Palkuriki Somana (c.13th century), one of the tallest poets in Telugu, is an elder contemporary to Jalaluddin Rumi, a sufi poet from Persia and a younger contemporary to Saigyo, a monk-poet from Japan. He lived during the times of Kakatiya dynasty. His work played a crucial role in taking the classical Telugu poetry to a new direction. He was justly considered as one of the earliest and most energetic social protest poets in Telugu as he condemned various forms of social discrimination. His work is now undergoing a reappraisal in recent times after formation of Telangana state. But a critical assessment of his poetics is yet to take place.

In his ‘Indian Literary Criticism, Theory and Interpretation ‘(Orient Longman, 2002), an insightful compilation of texts from Indian Poetics, G.N.Devy has tried to locate a new poetics for medieval India in the ‘Bhavarthadipika’ . The scholars in Indian poetics have to note that even before Jnaneshwara could find an expression for the soul stirring emotions of his times, Somanatha had already grappled with the politics of the poetics. He observed that there is a direct relation between the form and the content. If one needs to question the social gap, he is also obliged to find out appropriate modes of expression to carry out the task effectively. In his earnest disapproval of the Brahmanical resurgence in the Telugu poetry of 11th century, he embraced the ‘deshi’ form of expression comprising a native meter, colloquial idiom, and brevity. He employed all major forms of ‘deshi’ meters- satakamu, ragada, gadya, udaharana to compose his major works in the traditional forms of puranamu (epic), caritra (hagiography) and bhasyamu (commentary).

After composing his first major work ‘Basavapuranamu’, he aspired to bring out a work which would be both passionate and erudite. He realized that while questioning the social gap is a political activity, bridging the gap is a poetic activity. He wanted to compose such a work which would really be a hall mark of his art of poetry (kavyakala) and would be remembered for his maturity of expression (kavyaproudhi). ‘Pamditaradhyacaritra ‘ is thus his lifetime work. The whole poem was composed in dvipada, a deshi meter. It is also the first multilingual poem in the entire Indian literature. Perhaps, the only one. Tikkana, the younger contemporary to Somana is known as ‘ubhayakavimitra’. It means, a friend to both the schools of poets. The duo could be Telugu poets and Sanskrit poets, the Brahmanical poets and the Virashaiva poets, the poets for the elite and the poets for the masses. And we can surmise that Tikkana followed the example of Somana in reconciling the seemingly opposing two schools of poetry.

When poetry ends in babbling

When one falls back on false and filler-words or
Chooses wrong ones, distorts the sequence
By poor composition, falls short of the proper
Verb, weakens the idiom, sounds irrelevant,
Unsavory, perturbs, exaggerates, self-contradictory,
Constructs loosely, incomplete and inattentive
Turns vulgar in diction, speaks unintelligibly
Skipping the cadence and finally when fails
To express fully, poetry becomes howling.
Like mixing the corn with the curd,
Lacks purpose and ends in babbling.

A marvel

As they encase the dent in a
Diamond with a little more gold
The Telugu in my verse is
Welded to Vedic Sanskrit,
For the composition be compact
and consistent to the meter.
I do not think it improper,
Rather a marvel to have
Inserted a Vedic phrase
In a couplet with ease.

Original from Telugu


జల్లి పూరక మపశబ్ద మక్రమము
వొల్ల విక్రియ జడ్డువొడ వసంఘటన
గాకువ్యర్థం బసంగతి విరసంబు
వైకల్య మత్యుక్తి వైరిపదంబు
దలవిరుపసమగ్రత శిథిలబంధ
మొలుపబంధంబు గ్రామ్యోక్తి గంటకము
ద్రాప ఛందోవిరుద్ధంబాదియగున
లాపప్రలాపోక్తి లాఘవంబనక
వసిగూర్చు కృతులునా వడ్లునుఁ బెరుఁగు
బిసుకుఁ చందపు బిలిబిలికృతులు గృతులె?


సొట్టైన రత్నంబుచుట్టునుఁ బసిఁడి
గట్టిన భావన నెట్టణఁ దెనుఁగు
సంధిపూర్వాపర సంఘటనముల
వేదసూక్తములకు వెరవైన మాట
లాదటఁ గల్పింతు నవిజలి యనక
వలనెరింగియు వేదవాక్యంబు ద్విపద
కొలఁదిన పలుకుటకును మది మెచ్చి
(పండితారాధ్య చరిత్ర, దీక్షా ప్రకరణము: కుకవి నింద)

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