Valmiki goes straight to the heart, and how!

Painting by J D Gondhalekar

PART ONE

Sometimes, without any elaborate tropes (figures of speech), without any difficult words, and without any complex compounds, Valmiki amazes the readers of his poetry by going straight to the heart and making readers feel strong emotions.

Here is an example of the ‘adikavi’ conveying a very deep feeling with the simplest of words. While entreating Rama to allow her to accompany him to the forest, Sita says (2.30.15)—

patraṃ mūlaṃ phalaṃ yattvamalpaṃ vā yadi vā bahu
dāsyasi svayamāhṛtya tanme’mṛtarasopamam

(पत्रं मूलं फलं यत्त्वमल्पं वा यदि वा बहु।
दास्यसि स्वयमाहृत्य तन्मेऽमृतरसोपमम्॥)

English translation:
“Few or plenty—whatever leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like delectable nectar for me.”

Hindi translation:
“थोड़ा (अल्प) या बहुत (बहु)—जो भी पत्र, मूल, या फल आप स्वयं लाकर [मुझे] देंगे वह मेरे लिये आस्वाद्य (स्वादु) अमृत के समान होगा।”

The verbal forms used in the verse (दास्यसि and आहृत्य) are very common and simple to understand. The other words used in the verse (पत्रम्, मूलम्, फलम्, यत्, त्वम्, अल्पम्, वा, यदि, बहु, स्वयं, तत्, मे, अमृत+रस+उपमा = अमृतरसोपमम्, etc) are so common that even laypersons with little knowledge of Sanskrit can understand them. And yet, Valmiki weaves magic with these simple words. Just read the verse, understand it, and feel the force of the words in conveying the feeling of Sita.

I would say the word ‘स्वयमाहृत्य’ is the life of this verse. It is not that every leaf, root, or fruit will taste like nectar; nor even every leaf, root, or fruit that Rama shall give will taste like nectar; it is only that leaf, root, or fruit that Rama brings himself and gives to Sita that will taste like nectar.

PART TWO

There is more to this simple verse than a deep feeling. There are many deeper meanings that can be read into it, for the word अमृतरसोपम is pregnant with meanings. When seen simply, अमृतरस means ‘delectable nectar’ (अमृतं रस इव आस्वाद्यम्, as the Vachaspatyam says), which corresponds to the meaning given above.

However, there are several other meanings of अमृतरस. अमृतरस also means ‘the essence of nectar’ (अमृतस्य रसः सारः, as per Vachaspatyam). With this, we get a second meaning

Meaning 2
“Few or plenty—whatever leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like the essence of nectar for me.”

In addition, अमृतरस also means ‘the supreme Brahman’ (अमृतं मोक्षः रस इव यस्य, Vachaspatyam). This is because the word अमृत also means liberation (मोक्ष). With this, the we get a third meaning—

Meaning 3
“Few or plenty—whatever leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like the supreme Brahman for me.”

Here is more. अमृतरस also means “the taste of liberation” (अमृतस्य मोक्षस्य रसः). This is the meaning when one takes the same meaning of अमृत as above (मोक्ष) but parses the words as a determinative dependent compound in the genitive case (षष्ठी तत्पुरुष समास). The verse then gives rise to a fourth meaning—

Meaning 4
“Few or plenty—whatever leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like the taste of liberation (moksha) for me.”

We are not done yet. अमृतरसोपम can be split as either अमृतरस + उपम (अमृतरसः उपमा यस्य) or अमृतरसा + उपम (अमृतरसा उपमा यस्य). The feminine word अमृतरसा means “dark-coloured grapes” (अमृतस्येव रस आस्वादोऽस्याः, as per Vachaspatyam). The literal meaning is “that which tastes like nectar”. With this, the verse has a fifth meaning—

Meaning 5
“Few or plenty—whatever leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like the dark grapes for me [which taste like nectar].”

And finally, as per the Ayurvedic text Bhavaprakasha, अमृतरसा is the name of a cooked delicacy (पक्वान्न, from which comes the Hindi/Gujarati word पकवान/પકવાન) made from flour and curd which is cooked in cow’s ghee. If one reads this meaning, a sixth meaning is—

Meaning 6
“Few or plenty—whatever [raw] leaves, roots, or fruits you will yourself bring and give [me] shall be like Amritarasa, the cooked delicacy.”

CODA

That is Valmiki for you. Deep with the simplest of words. And with six meanings, he is serving a six-flavoured feast (षड्रस भोजन) for our minds.

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