THE BARD OF SIVABHARATAM
'He that would hope to write well hereafter in laudable things', says Milton. Ought himself to be a true poem'. Sri Gadiyaram Venkata Sesha Sastri was...
"He that would hope to write well hereafter in laudable things", says Milton. Ought himself to be a true poem". Sri Gadiyaram Venkata Sesha Sastri was one who had lived up to this lofty Miltonic ideal There are certain works of art with an inexhaustible gift of suggestion to which criticism may return again and again. Gadiyaram's magnum opus, "Sivabhrarthamu" is one such immortal work Gadiyaram was born on April 7 in 1894 into a cultured family at Nemalladinne village in Jammalamadugu taluk of Cuddapah District. At an early age he came to Proddutur and received instruction in Sahitya, Tarka and Vyakarana from Sri Rupavatharam Sesha Sastri. He also studied the Yajurveda and the Upanishads at Sri Shatdarsanam Vasudeva Avadhani. Later he specialised on his own in Jyothisha and Vastu Sastra. Gadiyaram was drawn to various forms of versification and started composing not merely in various kinds of metres but in a novel way too. He became adept in Ashtavadhana and in collaboration with Sri Durbhaka Rajasekhara Satavadhani (the author of "Rana Pratapa Simha Charitramu), he delighted people with his literary genius in many Ashtavadhanams and Satavadhanams at various places and won laurels. He worked as a Telugu Pandit in the Municipal High School at Proddutur. He edited for a couple of years, "Brahmanandini" a monthly magazine devoted to literature and culture. He opined that a poet's spirit should respond to his country's spirit. True to this poetic ideal, he brought out his masterpiece "Sri Sivabharatamu" in 1943, when the freedom movement was in its full swing. With its theme of liberation, the poem inspired the Telugu people with profound patriotism and the poet was hailed as a great inspirer. There are certain works of art with an inexhaustible gift of suggestion to which criticism may return again and again. Gadiyaram's magnum opus, "Sivabhrarthamu" is one such immortal work. The title is intriguing and significant. The poem is not only the life-history of Sivaji but also of Bharatamatha. Free from prose, it has in all 2,389 verses in varied metres. It is divided into eight "Aaswaasas' or books. Book I narrates the birth of the hero, Sivaji against the back-ground of the patriotic struggle of his heroic father, Shaji, to establishing an independent state as a bastion of the Hindu Dharma. After touching upon the patient wait of the enslaved people for liberator, the second book depicts Shivaji's childhood and shows that the child is the father of the man. Shivaji's marriage at Sivaneru, his visit to the court of Bijapur sultan, the protest against cow-slaughter and the Sultan's pragmatic solution to it, his training into a great soldier and ruler under the tutelage of Dadaji Khandadev and finally his decision to find with the help of the Mavales, a new independent state, are the other aspects of this "Asawaasa". Sivaji's taking over of the fort of Torna, passing away of Dadoji, annexation by Sivaji, through paraleys, of Chakanu, Supa, Simhagadh and Purandara territories, Tukaram's epistolary blessings to Sivaji, Sivaji's conquest of many forts in the South, his noblest courtesy shown to Muslim woman brought captive by Abaji, Samartha Ramadasa's inspiring meeting with Sivaji, and arrest of Shaji as his son's accomplice by Bijapur Sultan are the highlights of Book III. Shaji's release from prison through his son's sagacity, defeat of Bijapur Sultan's army by Sivaji, his fight with the Mores, his second journey of conquest, and his pact with Aurangazeb form the stands of narrative in the IV Book, Book V is devoted to the events culminating in the death of Afzalkhan and to the intensified attack by Bijapur Sultan's armies, Baaji's death and finally to the sultan's virtual surrender to Sivaji. Book VI deals with Sivaji's political and military moves to out manoeuvre those of the formidable army of Aurangezeb. Book VII celebrates Sivaji's visit to the Delhi Court, his imprisonment and escape, and the capture of Simhagadh and the death of Tanaji, Book VIII the last part, closes the poem with the description of the coronation of Sivaji. Sivabharatham is a historical epic par excellence. Passing through the crucible of Gadiyaram's powerful imagination, the dry as dust historical details simply tingle with life. Absolutely true to history, the narration at the same time gains in picturesquness and characterisation. Conjured by the poets magic wand, the characters of the past come to life, walk and talk before us and thrill us-yes, thrill us to the core of our being. The great poet not only makes history picturesque, recreates the heroes and patriots of the heroic national past of our sacred mother land, but also enshrines in his work universal values: honour, patriotism, courage, courtesy, loyalty, tolerance and all that is noblest in the Hindu way and view of life. Gadiyaram 's vision is archetypal in that his characters are represented as archetypes reminding us of those that have become part and parcel of Hindu legend and mythology. For instance the poet sees Jijiya as Satyabhama, Katyayani, Sita, Sakuntala, divine cow, Subhadra, Vinatha etc. in different contexts. Sivaji is seen as a Lord Siva, Adisankara, Garuda, Bhargava Rama, Bhima, Vamana, Parikshit etc. Dr Chilukuru Narayana Rao, a great scholar, calls it "a stream of honey". Viswanatha Satyanarayana describes it as "the sweet flow of the Ganges", Rallapalli says that "Its flow is radiant, serene and sweet". The imagery of "Sivabharatham" is bold and novel. It is pre-eminently agricultural as pointed out by a scientist-literate, Dr Sardesai Tirumala Rao in his "Sahitya Tathvamu - Sivabharatha Daraanamu", a close reading the poem. The imagery shows the poet's identification with the agricultural country, that is India. Some critics dismiss the poem as a mere narrative without any architectories. But they forget that the narrative here does supremely well its duty of capturing the stirring human drama of the past. No architectonics is needed. The narrative with its dramatic texture is enough and to spare. It will make the epic go all the way through posterity. Honours have been showered on the poet for this epic. He was presented with 'Kaviganda Penderam' (a gold anklet) and 'Swarna Veera Kanakanamu'. In the Bhuvana Vijayam held in 1945 at Hindupur, he was awarded a cash prize of Rs 500/- as the best poet in Telugu by the composites Madras Government in 1948. He had the honour of 'Gajarohanam' too. In 1967, the Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi honoured him with a fellowship and a gold medal. The Silver jubilee of Sivabharatham was celebrated in 1968 at Proddatur under the president-ship of Sri Rallapalli Anantha Krishna Sharma and the poet was felicitated with "Kanakabhishekamu". In June 1974 during the Chatrapati Sivaji Tercentenary celebrations the Maratha Mandir of Bombay greeted him with a gold medal and purse for his Sivabharatham. This classic brought him some more honours. He was a nominated member of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council from 1959 to 1968. He was the Vice-President of the Andhra Pradesh Sahitya Akademi from 1969 to 1973. For his services to the cause of literature and language Sri Venkateswara University conferred on him, an honourary doctorate in 1976. Gadiyaram has more than 20 works to his credit. His "Srinatha Kavita Samrajyam" shows his keen critical insight into the works of Srinatha. His "Raghunatheeyamu" is another historical poem by him. Goverdhana Saptasati and Uttara Ramayanamu are some of his translations from Sanskrit. His Ramayana (Valmiki Hridaya Vishakaranamu) containing 7,000 verses has been published recently. At the ripe age of 86 he passed away on September 20, 1980 at Proddutur. His was a life an achievements and supreme fulfillment.