Wordplay in Sanskrit

I have a habit of downloading a copy of interesting e-books that are freely available on the internet so that I can browse through my collection whenever I am bored and I don’t have a working internet connection.

This evening, I noticed an interesting PDF document in my collection which goes by the title “Interesting and Amazing Creations in Sanskrit”. The document is still available in the public domain. You can find it here

I found several interesting verses in them. Presenting one here just for the record

tam bhU-su-tA-mu-kti-mu-dA-ra-hA-sam van-de ya-to bha-vya-bha-vam da-yA-srI |
srI-yA-da-vam bha-vya-bha-to-ya-de-vam sam-hA-ra-dA-mu-kti-mu-tA-su-bhU-tam ||

The first line addressed to Lord Rama in prose order is:

bhUsutAmuktim udAra hAsam bhavya bhavam yato dayAsrI tam vande |

Meaning: I pay my homage to him who released the daughter of the earth (Sita), whose laughter is deep, whose embodiment is grand and from whom mercy and splender arise everywhere. = Lord Rama.

The second line addressed to Krishna in the prose order is:

bhavyabhatoyadevam samhAradAmuktim uta asu bhUtam srI yAdavam vande||

Meaning: I bow down before Krishna, the descendent of Yadava family, who is the lord of the sun as well as the moon, who liberated even her (Pootana) who wanted to bring an end to his life, and who is the soul of the entire universe.

The beauty of the verse in case you haven’t noticed already is that the second line when read in reverse is the first line, and the first line when read in reverse is the second line! In other words, this is an example of  a palindromic verse.

The PDF document contains several such examples of showcasing the wordplay found in Sanskrit Literature.

I shall leave you with two more:

  1. Verse written as a magic square such that it reads the same when read in all four directions. These types of verses are called sarvatobhadra, meaning perfect in all directions. The four directions being:
    1. Starting from top-left parse the rows from left to right till you reach the bottom-right syllable.
    2. Starting from the top-left parse the columns from top to bottom till you reach the bottom-right syllable.
    3. Starting from bottom-right parse the rows from right to left till you reach the top-left syllable.
    4. Starting from bottom-right parse the columns from bottom to top till you reach the top-left syllable.
      Ex: This sarvatobhadra palindromic verse from Shishupala Vadha written in the 8th century by the poet Magha.
  2. Verses which present a solution to the Knight’s tour problem ( I kid you not!). There is a quadruplet from Vedanta Deshika‘s 13th Century composition named Paduka Sahasra. Each line in the quadruplet contains 16 syllables. Thus the first two lines can be arranged on a chess board from square 1 to square 32. Now, the third and the fourth lines of the quadruplets are anagrams of the syllables present in the first two lines. So if you now traverse the chess board following the syllables of the third and the fourth line, such that the syllables are ordered on the chess board as per the first two lines, you end up completing the knight’s tour. Here’s a demo of the solution to the knight’s tour problem available as FLASH animation. And here’s more material explaining the meaning of the verses.

About gautshen

A jack of many trades of which , Linux Kernel Programming puts food on the table. Also pursuing his PhD in the area Theoretical Computer Science at the Chennai Mathematical Institute. Is an avid reader interested in the Hindu traditions and philosophy. Loves Bicycling and Good Music. Name is Ranjal Gautham Shenoy.
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