ONCE the famous poet Vilo- chana of Banaras paid a visit to the court of King Bhoja along with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, who were all poets of a very high order
One conventional method of testing poetic talent was supplying part of a verse and asking the poet to complete it. King Bhoja offered the following line and asked his four guests to complete the poem as best they could:
“क्रिया सिद्धि सत्वे भवति महतां, नोपकरणे” (The great gain their ends not by implements but by their might.)
Poet Vilochana récited:
घटो जन्मस्थानं, मृग परिजनो भूर्जबसनो, वने वासः कंदादिक मशन मेवंविध गुणः अगस्त्यः पाथोधि अदकृत करांभोज कुहरे किया सिद्धि सच्ने भवति महतां, नोपकरणे
Agastya was born in a pot, lived among wild beasts, wore the bark of trees, and ate tubers for food. And yet, he drank down the oceans in a gulp. The significant gain their ends not by implements but by their might.
Once the demons menaced the world, Kalakeyas hid in the ocean during the day and came out at night. To facilitate their destruction in daylight, Agasthya, discovered in a pot and reared up by rishis living in the forest, drank down all the oceans in one gulp.)
Poet Vilochana was presented with a diamond for this verse. Then his wife recited:
रथ स्पेकं चर्क, भुजगनमिता सप्त तुरगा, निरालम्बो मार्गः, चरण विकल स्वारथिरपि रवियरिये वांतं प्रतिदिन मपारस्य नभसः किया सिद्धि सत्वे भवति महतां, नोपकरणे
(On a chariot with a single wheel drawn by seven horses with snakes for reins and driven by a charioteer without legs, the sun comes across the endless skies on a path that does not support it. The significant gain their ends not by implements but by their might.
The legend goes that the sun’s charioteer, Anur-meaning Thighless, was hatched out of an egg. His mother, an enslaved person anxious to be freed by her children, broke the egg prematurely, and his legs were not yet formed.)
Vilochana’s wife was awarded twelve precious stones and then her son recited:
विजेतव्या लंका, चरण तरणीयो जलनिधिः विपक्ष: पौलस्त्यो, रणभुवि सहायाश्च कपयः पदातिर्मयों सौ सकलमवधी द्राक्षस कुल क्रिया सिद्धि सत्त्वे भवति महतां, नोपकरणे.
(Crossing the ocean on foot, with monkeys as comrades-in-arms, a mortal, a mere foot- soldier conquers the invincible Lanka and kills the great Ravana and his entire demon clan.
This is a reference to Rama, who built a road across the sea to Lanka, conquered Ravana and rescued his wife, Sita, who Ravana, the monarch of rakshasas, abducted. Rama’s army had neither horses nor chariots.)
For this verse Vilochana’s son got sixteen elephants and his wife recited:
धनुः पौष्पं, मौर्वी मधुकरमयी चंचल दृशां कोणो वाणः सुहृदपि जहात्मा हिमाकरः स्वयं चैको नंगः सकल भुवनम् व्याकुलयति क्रिया सिद्धि सत्त्वे भवति महतां, नोपकरणे
(With a bow of flowers with a string of bees, the looks of a dam- sells for arrows and the torpid moon assisting him, a body-less being tortures the entire world. The great achieve their ends not by implements but by their might.
This references Man- matha, the Love God of Hindu lore. When he tried to make Lord Shiva fall in love with Parvati, Lord Shiva got furious and burnt Manmatha to death. But later, Shiva did wed Parvati. Rati, the wife of Manmatha, begged Lord Shiva to give her back to her husband. So he relented and granted that Manmatha should be alive even in a body-less state. While the other poets referred to heroes of one particular time, this poetess referred to an invisible hero of all time.)
King Bhoja considered this verse the best and showered the young poetess with all sorts of presents.
Chandamama October 1955 | Ramesh Tripathi