Jayaraman Mahadevan’s book of poems, “Unnamya Drstam” is simply brilliant. The first thing that strikes the reader is the friendly, easy-to-understand manner in which it is arranged. With English introduction to context, translation and notes to understand each poem, it is so much easier for novices in Sanskrit to absorb the mood and meaning of the compositions. The next thing that strikes the reader is how contemporary the themes and ideas in the poems are.
Dr Jayaraman’s erudition is deep and his command of Sanskrit awesome indeed; yet there is a lucidity that runs through his verse. The stanzas adhere to rules of classical prosody, the words sparkle in a wide variety of grammatical forms, yet have a modern ring to them. An artistic endeavour is successful when the audience is moved to empathise with the sentiments that the poet intends to convey. The candid photographs accompanying the compositions draw the reader near and give a more personal connection to the situation and help the sahrdaya appreciate the poetry better.
Shatavadhani Dr R. Ganesh’s erudite and comprehensive Foreword in Sanskrit says everything that there is to say on this subject, in his characteristic manner. As he rightly points out, scholarship and creative genius are rare to find together and yet in the field of Sanskrit we have many stellar figures throughout history. In modern times though, this has well-nigh disappeared and it takes a lot of perseverance for an individual to reach any degree of success in this classical art. Inborn creative genius cannot be artificially wrought, but it still takes much learning and training to compose poetry in the well-established genres of the tradition.
Dr Jayaraman studied Veda-s, Vedanta-s, Upanishad-s and Yoga in Veda Vijnana Gurukula in Bengaluru and obtained PhD for his research in Tantra Yukti from Madras University. He is currently Head of Research in Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai. “Unnamya Drstam” is like a window into his mind, indicating deep scholarship, respect for traditional values, hard work, perseverance, self-discipline and trustworthiness. Along with his spouse Dr Sowmya Krishnapur, he is involved in many activities that promote learning of Sanskrit.
The title poem, “Unnamya Drstam” is a delightful, simple poem that presents the poet’s thoughts lucidly in each stanza. To look up and see the expanse of blue sky dotted with white clouds wafting by and the lone black speck of a crow gliding along gives rise to a train of thoughts. The lines of the poem can be interpreted at several levels. While the literal meaning pertains to what the poet sees directly before him, the sky reminds him of the vastness of eternity, the clouds connect him to reality and the crow to his immediate cares! And yet the poet sums up by saying that however expansive and timeless the heavens seem, it is only the crow after all which is endowed with consciousness!
The next poem is another delightful little reverie on the inviting, sublimely beautiful streak of cloud in the vastness of the blue expanse that seems to draw him away from the chores of daily life for a fleeting moment of relaxation when he chances to look up. The first section of the book consists of poems on nature and its healing qualities, offering balm to tired minds. Jayaraman’s favourite poem is on trees, the ultimate gift of Mother Nature.
The “Conquest of the Blue Whale” (“Jayet Neelatimingilam”) is a remarkable poem impelled by the poet’s dismay at the dangers that youngsters were being exposed to in the name of adventure by the obnoxious video game, “Blue Whale.” The second section of poems consists of tributes and homage to teachers, Gurus and leaders of society such as Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Krishnamacharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati, political leaders such as Atal Vajpayee, Manohar Parikkar and even the well-loved Tamil dramatist and comedian, “Crazy” Mohan.
The first poem in this section is dedicated to Jayaraman’s own teacher, Sri Ramachandra Bhat. The Ashtanga Yoga derives its name from the eight limbs of Yogabhyasa, given by the sutra:
Yama- Niyama –Aasana – Praanaayaama – Pratyaahaara – Dhaaranaa – Dhyaana – Samaadhayo’ ashtaavangaani || II.29
Jayaraman has composed this homage to his teacher with each verse beginning with one of the anga-s, or limbs, of yoga.
The third section consists of stotras and prayers to gods and deities, composed in the conventional mould with a freshness and newness that speaks of this century. Each has a novel approach while presenting sincere devotion. The “Rathayatram Yami” (I Travel to Rathayatra) dedicated to Lord Jagannatha of Puri uses the symbolism of the atman residing in the corporeal body, likened to a rider in a chariot (ratha) in the Upanishads.
The other sections consist of verses penned while visiting picturesque rural places, tourist sites and miscellaneous occasions in the course of life. The last portion of the book consists of songs on deities, sung to rhythm and available in audio files online to aid the appreciation of these compositions. The variety in theme and format in this small book is wide indeed!
In colleges and universities these days, Sanskrit verse is rarely taught in its original form, recited with rhythm and metre. Most teachers are unable to recite poetry with the melody and lilt in voice that it merits and simply read it as if it were prose. The modern Western view of regarding Sanskrit poetry (and perhaps of other classical Indian languages too) solely by its meaning, that too in translation into English, has been greatly detrimental to the pursuit of poetry. When most Indian students find it difficult to even read or recite our epic poetry in their mother tongues, how can one expect fresh composition from the younger generations! It was in an environment rich in rhyme and rhythm that the great Tamil poet-saint, Tirujnanasambandhar composed his first hymn when he was barely three years old – an event that cannot be easily envisaged today.
Dr Jayaraman is keenly sensitive to rhythm and vrtta, as metre is known in Sanskrit. His favourite being Sloka vrtta, there are several instances where Malini, Indravajra, Vasantatilaka and Sardulavikridita are employed, brought to our notice by naming the vrtta in every poem. For those well versed in Sanskrit, this gives a ready clue to the rhythm to be used while for the vast majority of others, it helps to learn about these vrtta-s.
In modern times when most people value education for its utility in securing employment and opportunity to increase one’s income and traditional learning in the fine arts is waning, Jayaraman and Sowmya represent a rare class of young multitalented scholars who have gained great erudition in the ancient language and also put it to good use in contemporary terms. Being personally acquainted with the two of them as well as Acharya Shatavadhani Dr R. Ganesh, it has been my great pleasure to review this brilliant book of poems.
Publisher: Vyoma Linguistic Labs Foundation, Bengaluru. (2020)
The book can be ordered online here – https://digitalsanskritguru.com/product/unnamya_drishtam/?v=c86ee0d9d7ed
The songs in the book can be heard here – https://www.sanskritfromhome.in/course/unnamya-drishtam-sanskrit-songs/
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