Book review : Translation of an epic value
It gets tough when descriptions and Peddanesque knots are involved, but the A translator plods on bravely. Srinivas Sistla has given us a reason to...
It gets tough when descriptions and Peddanesque knots are involved, but the A translator plods on bravely. Srinivas Sistla has given us a reason to celebrate; the first A full-fledged translation of Allasani Peddana's Manu Charitra Prema Nanda Kumar The linguistic embroidery of Allasani Peddana is justly famous. The brilliant court-poet of Emperor Krishnadeva Raya, and hailed as Andhra Kavita Pitamaha by virtue of being the author of the first prabandha in Telugu, Allasani Peddana has transformed an episode in the Markandeya Purana into an epic of great charm. After a detailed, autobiographical introduction to his own literary career, Srinivas proceeds to launch his translation with a comparative study of the Sanskrit Purana tale, its Telugu translation by Marana (14th century) and the detailed narrative classic of Allasani Peddana. A favourite and friend of Emperor Krishnadeva Raya, Peddana (15th century) takes up the events leading to the birth of Swarochisha Manu. To put it briefly, a Brahmin Pravara gets from a siddha a magic unguent. On applying it to his feet and thinking of the Himalayas, Pravara is transported to that region. He is not able to return for with his wandering around the lovely areas, the ointment has melted away. Meanwhile he meets a lovely gandharva girl (celestial damsel), Varudhini. Varudhini falls in love with Pravara but he excuses himself and vanishes from the place, meditating upon Agni. Taking advantage of the situation, a Gandharva puts on Pravara's form and makes love to Varudhini. The son born of this union is Swarochi who becomes the king of a city built on the Mandara Mountain. The heroic Swarochi marries Manorama, a niece of Varudhini. Then follow several scenarios that together seem to be a debate on ekapatnivrata (vow of monogamy), for Swarochi has married Vibhavari and Kalavati also. Deers and does and swans speak with clarity of purpose, and miracles are a dime a dozen. Finally Swarochi marries a transformed doe and their son is Swarochisha who is kind-hearted, truthful, pure and a tapasvin (ascetic). His prayer on the ten incarnations of the Lord Vishnu reminds us of such a prayer in Amukta Malyada. A pleased Mahavishnu crowns him as the second Manu. So ends the epic poem. A grand theme from India's extensive Purana literature, the story of the celestial damsel Varudhini has been embellished by the master poet as if to demonstrate certain ardent scenarios in the Kama-Sutra. Though the poem has been held in high regard by contemporaries as also recent scholars like Viswanatha Satyanarayana, Manu Charitra can be a trap for the enthusiastic translator because of its simple theme and flowing narrative. The soulful descriptions of nature come through with satisfactory ease as when Pravara detects the presence of a woman by the scent in the air: