Monday, May 3, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.26: Educating Indians

kaNvaH shaakuntalasy' eva
bharatasya tarasvinaH
vaalmiikir iva dhiimaaMsh ca
dhiimator maithileyayoH

= = = = - = = -
- - = - - = - =
= = - - - = = -
= - = = - = - =

As Kanva did for Shakuntala's son,

The intrepid Bharata;

And as the inspired Valmiki did

For the inspired twin sons of Maithili.

Here are two further examples from ancient Indian legend/history of forest-dwelling sages unselfishly bringing up princes like their own sons.

The story of how Kanva brought up in his ashram the son of King Dushyanta and his wife Shakuntala is originally told in the Mahabharata. But the story is best known through its dramatization by Kalidasa (the Shakespeare of Sanskrit) in what is celebrated as his greatest play, The Recognition of Shakuntala:

Abandoned at birth by her parents, Shakuntala is reared in the secluded forest hermitage of the sage Kanva. She grows up to be a good-looking but innocent maiden. While Kanva and the other elders of the ashram are away on a pilgrimage, King Dushyanta comes hunting in the forest and chances upon the ashram. He is captivated by Shakuntala, courts her in royal style, and takes her as a wife. He then has to leave to take care of affairs in the capital, but not before getting her pregnant with the baby who will become the intrepid Bharata. Surrounded only by wild animals, the child grows strong and makes a sport of opening the mouths of tigers and lions and counting their teeth. Before leaving the king has left Shakuntala not only with a bun in the oven but also with a signet ring, to be presented to him at court so as to claim her place as queen. Enter the anger-prone sage Durvasa, who arrives when Shakuntala is lost in her fantasies, so that when she fails to attend to him, he curses her by bewitching Dushyanta into forgetting her existence. The only cure is for Shakuntala to show the king the signet ring that he gave her. When eventually she travels to meet the king, the ring is lost while she is crossing a river: it slips off her hand when she dips her hand in the water playfully. On arrival the king refuses to acknowledge her. Shakuntala is abandoned by her companions, who return to the ashram. Fortunately, the ring is discovered by a fisherman in the belly of a fish, and Dushyanta realises his mistake - too late. The newly wise Dushyanta defeats an army of Titans, and is rewarded by Indra with a journey through the Hindu heaven. Returned to Earth years later, Dushyanta finds Shakuntala and their son Bharata by chance, and recognizes them.

Along with the Mahabharata, the other great Sanskrit epic of ancient Indian history is the Ramayana, "Rama's Journey," the authorship of which is attributed to Valmiki.

Maithili, or the princess of Mithila, refers to Sita, Rama's wife, who (Wikipedea informs us) is esteemed as the standard setter for wifely and womanly virtues for all Hindu women.

Sita was a foundling, discovered in a furrow in a ploughed field and adopted by Janaka, king of Mithila in present day Nepal. Since she was the princess of Mithila, she is known as Maithili.

The final book (Uttara Kanda) of the Ramayana describes how Rama, bowing to public opinion, banishes Maithili to the forest, where the sage Valmiki takes her into his ashram. Here the princess gives birth to twin boys, Lava and Kusha, who become pupils of Valmiki and are brought up in ignorance of their royal identity. Valmiki composes the Ramayana and teaches Lava and Kusha to sing it. Later, Rama holds a ceremony which the sage Valmiki, with Lava and Kusha, attends. Lava and Kusha sing the Ramayana in the presence of Rama and his vast audience. When Lava and Kusha recite about Maithili's exile, Rama becomes grievous, and Valmiki produces her. Maithili calls upon the Earth, her mother, to receive her and as the ground opens, she vanishes into it. Rama then learns that Lava and Kusha are his sons.

Here, as I hear him, Ashvaghosha, as an Indian himself, might be intending to deliver a kind of critique of and direction for Indian civilization, in which asceticism is risible and big hair and body-paint are ridiculous affectations; but education is valuable and care for the welfare of children, regardless of their blood-line, is laudable.

EH Johnston:
And as Kanva did for the son of Sakuntala, the impetuous Bharata, and the inspired Valmiki for the inspired sons of the princess of Mithila.

Linda Covill:
as Kanva did for bold Bharata the son of Shakuntala, and as wise Valmiki did for the wise sons of Maithili.

kaNvaH (nom. sg.): m. Kanva
shaakuntalasya (gen. sg.): m. [son] of Shakuntala
iva: like

bharatasya (gen. sg.): for Bharata
tarasvinaH = gen. sg. tarasvin: mfn. quick , violent , energetic , bold
taras: n. rapid progress , velocity , strength , energy , efficacy

vaalmiikiH = nom. sg. vaalmiiki: m. N. of the celebrated author of the raamaayaNa (so called , according to some , because when immersed in thought he allowed himself to be overrun with ants like an anthill ; he was no doubt a Brahman by birth and closely connected with the kings of ayodhyaa ; he collected the different songs and legendary tales relating to raama-chandra and welded them into one continuous poem , to which later additions may have been made ; he is said to have invented the shloka metre , and probably the language and style of Indian epic poetry owe their definite form to him ; according to one tradition he began life as a robber , but repenting be took himself to a hermitage on a hill in the district of Banda in Bundelkund , where he eventually received siitaa , the wife of raama , when banished by her husband)
iva: like
dhiimaan = nom. sg. m. dhiimat: mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhii: f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer ; understanding , intelligence , wisdom
ca: and

dhiimatoH = gen. dual dhiimat: mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
maithileyayoH = gen. dual maithileya: m. metronymic fr. maithilii (daughter of the king of Mithilaa, a city said to have been founded by mithi or mithila -- the capital of videha or the modern Tirhut , and residence of King Janaka)

No comments: