Thursday, January 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.40: Blocked Flow

naaShaM gataayaaM param'-aaNganaayaaM
gaNgaa-jale 'naNga-pariita-cetaaH
jahnush ca gaNgaaM nRpatir bhujaabhyaaM
rurodha mainaaka iv' aacal'-endraH

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When his favourite wife drowned
in the waters of the Ganges,

King Jahnu, his mind possessed by disembodied Love,

Stopped the Ganges with his arms,

Like Mount Mainaka, paragon of non-movement.

The first two lines include an alliterative play on the word aNga, which means a limb of the body or the body itself, and sounds like gaaNga, "Swift Goer," the name of the river we call the Ganges. "Favourite wife" is literally "chief woman of well-rounded limbs" (param'-aaNgana); and "disembodied Love" is an-aNga, the Bodiless One, i.e. the god of love Kama whom Shiva angrily disembodied when Shiva's love for Parvati came into conflict with his ascetic practice.

There a lot of legends linking the royal sage Jahnu with the River Ganges, which features in this and the following verse. One legend, as alluded to by the Monier-Williams dictionary, says that Jahnu drank up the waters of the Ganges.

Ashvaghosha appears to refer here to an alternative version in which Jahnu holds back the Ganges with his arms. And bhujaabhyaaM rurodha "he stopped it with his arms," seems to me to carry more of a connotation of blocked flow.

That being so, whereas acal'-endraH, lit. "indra among not movers," means on the surface simply "lord of mountains," it can also be read as another satirical jibe at practitioners who are stuck in the conception that sexual Love, or denial thereof, is the primary thing in practice.

The non-movement (a-cala) of a mountain can be seen, in the sense of stillness, or relative absence of noise in the system, as the original virtue of sitting-dhyana. It can also be seen, in the sense of fixity, or lack of flow, or getting stuck in a wrong conception like Brahmanism, as the greatest of evils. In this verse, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is hinting at the latter sense of a-cala, non-movement.

EH Johnston:
And when his dearest wife was drowned in the waters of the Ganges, king Jahnu, with his mind overcome by the disembodied god, blocked the river with his arms, just as Mainaka, lord of mountains, held up the Ganges.

Linda Covill:
When his favourite wife perished in the waters of the Ganges, King Jahnu, his mind encompassed by disembodied Kama, dammed up the Ganges with his arms like Mainaka lord of the mountains.

naaSham (acc. sg.): m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
gataayaam (loc. sg. f): mfn. gone to, arrived at
param'-aaNganaayaam (loc. sg. f.): his top woman, favourite wife
parama: chief , highest , primary , most prominent
aNgana: f. " a woman with well-rounded limbs " , any woman or female

gaNgaa-jale (loc. sg.): in the waters of the Ganges
gaNgaa: f. ( √ gam ) " swift-goer " , the river Ganges
jala: n. water
anaNga-pariita-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.): his mind seized by the bodiless one / the God of Love
anaNga: mfn. bodiless ; m. N. of kaama (god of love , so called because he was made bodiless by a flash from the eye of shiva , for having attempted to disturb his life of austerity by filling him with love for paarvatii)
pariita: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

jahnuH (nom. sg.): m. N. of an ancient king and sage (son of aja-miiDha , of su-hotra , of kuru , of hotraka ; ancestor of the kushikas ; the Ganges , when brought down from heaven by bhagii-ratha's austerities , was forced to flow over the earth and to follow him to the ocean and thence to the lower regions in order to water the ashes of sagara's sons ; in its course it inundated the sacrificial ground of jahnu , who drank up its waters but consented at bhagii-ratha's prayer to discharge them from his ears ; hence the river is regarded as his daughter) ; N. of a himaalaya cavern (from which the gaNgaa is bursting forth)
ca: and
gaNgaam (acc. sg.): f. ( √ gam ) " swift-goer " , the river Ganges
nRpatiH (nom. sg.): m. m. " lord of men " , king
bhujaabhyaam (inst. dual.): m. the arm

rurodha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect rudh: to obstruct , check , arrest , stop , restrain , prevent , keep back
mainaakaH (nom. sg.): m. (fr. menaa) N. of a mountain (son of hima-vat by menaa or menakaa , and said to have alone retained his wings when indra clipped those of the other mountains ; accord. to some this mountain was situated between the southern point of the Indian peninsula and laNkaa)
menaa: f. name of an apsaras (= menakaa , wife of hima-vat and mother of parvatii)
iva: like
acal'-endraH (nom. sg. m.): top of the non-movers, king of mountains
acala: mfn. not moving , immovable ; m. a mountain , rock
indra: m. the god of the atmosphere and sky ; ifc. best , excellent , the first , the chief (of any class of objects)

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