Saturday, January 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.42: Pururavas Bites the Dust, Again

hRtaaM ca saunandakin" aanushocan
praaptaam iv' orviiM striyam urvashiiM taaM
sad-vRtta-varmaa kila somavarmaa
babhraama citt'-odbhava-bhinna-varmaa

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

Again, when the avatar Saunandakin
took away his 'Wide Expanse' Urvashi,

The wife whom, like the wide earth,
Soma-varman had made his own,

'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman whose armour,
so they say, had been good conduct,

Roamed about grieving,
his armour pierced by mind-existent Love.

Urvashi is the celestial nymph just mentioned in 7.38 as the wife of Pururavas, founder of the lunar dynasty (soma-vaMsha). The epithet soma-varman ('Moon Armoured') presumably reflects this provenance. The love story of Urvashi and Pururavas is as old as the Rg Veda, one hymn of which consists of a dialogue between the earthly king and his heavenly lover. The story was retold in Vikram'orvashii ('Urvashi [Won] by Valour'), one of three surviving plays of Kalidasa.

In line 4 citt'-odbhava, "he whose existence was mind," again means Kama, god of Love, who was rendered bodiless as a punishment for bothering Shiva.

In the penultimate verse of Saundarananda, Ashvaghosha writes:

This work is pregnant with the purpose of release:
it is for cessation, not for titillation;

It is fashioned out of the medicine of poetry
for the purpose of capturing an audience
whose minds are on other things.

That I have handled in it matters other than liberation,
following the conventions of a poem,

Is through asking myself how I might make it palatable,
like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet.

I suppose that today's verse, with its plays on the words uru (wide) and varman (armour) and its references to ancient Sanskrit literature, must have been part of Ashvaghosha's means of making his work palatable for a particular audience. The target audience, needless to say, was not sceptically minded English-speakers of the 21st century.

If we look for deeper meaning in a verse like today's verse, one view -- as espoused by Indophile scholars -- might be that Ashvaghosha acknowledged the debt that the Buddha owed to the ancient Indian culture out of which his awakening emerged. The content of Canto 2, undeniably, could be cited in support of that view. An alternative view, which I tend to favour, is that with the word kila ("so they say") in line 3, Ashvaghosha might have been hinting at a certain wry scepticism with regard to the rationality and integrity of the Brahmanical practices of ancient Indian kings like Pururavas/Somavarman.

From the standpoint of Ashvaghosha's conclusion in 18.63, adherence to either view might be just an obstacle in the way of the ultimate purpose of release.

EH Johnston:
When Somavarman also, who wore the armour of good conduct, was robbed by Saunandakin of his wife Urvashi, as of the sovereignty of the earth which he had obtained, he roamed about, it is said, lamenting her, with his armour pierced by the mind-born god.

Linda Covill:
When Soma-varman's lover Urvashi was taken over by Saunandaki as though she were conquered terrain, it is said that his armor of good conduct was broken by mind-born Kama and that he roamed about grieving for her.

hRtaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. taken , taken away , seized
ca: and
saunandakinaa (inst. sg.): by Saunandaki / Saunandakin (according to EHJ = bala-raama)
bala-raama: m. 'the strong raama,' N. of the elder brother of kRiShNa and third of the raamas (regarded as the 8th avataara of viShNu , sometimes as an incarnation of the great serpent sheSha or an-anta)
su-nanda: mfn. pleasing well , delighting
anushocat = nom. sg. m. pres. part. anu- √ shuc : to mourn over , regret , bewail

praaptaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with , found , incurred , got , acquired , gained ; fixed ; proper , right
iva: like
urviim = acc. sg. f. uru: mfn. wide , broad , spacious , extended ; f. " the wide one " , the wide earth , earth , soil
striyam (acc. sg.): f. woman, wife
urvashiim (acc. sg.): f. (fr. uru and √ash, to pervade) " widely extending " , N. of the dawn (personified as an apsaras or heavenly nymph who became the wife of puruu-ravas)
taam (acc. sg. f.): her

sad-vRtta-varmaa (nom. sg. m.): the armour of good conduct
sad-vRtta: n. a well-rounded shape ; the behaviour of good men , good conduct
varman: n. "envelope" , defensive armour , a coat of mail ; a bulwark , shelter , defence , protection ib. (often at the end of the names of kShatriyas)
kila: ind. verily, " so said " " so reported "
somavarmaa (nom. sg.): m. Soma-varman, 'Moon Armour'
soma: m. the juice of the soma plant; the moon, or moon-god
varman: n. armour

babhraama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble
citt'-odbhava-bhinna-varmaa (nom. sg. m.): his armour pierced by him whose existence was [purely] mental
citta: n. mind
udbhava: m. m. existence , generation , origin , production , birth; springing from , growing ; birth-place
bhinna: mfn. split , broken , shattered , pierced
varman: n. armour

No comments: