dran at cs.albany.edu dran at cs.albany.edu
Mon Oct 25 23:50:48 UTC 1993

Regarding the word `karNamUlam' there is an amusing story
imvolving the great grammarian Melpattur Narayana Bhatta(tiri),
who lived in the 16th century, and the King of Ambalapuzha, a
small kingdom in Kerala. It seems there was a tradition in
Ambalapuzha of reciting the Mahabharata daily. When
Narayanabhatta visited Ambalapuzha, the resident scholar who was
supposed to recite had fallen ill, and the King asked the
newcomer whether he knew how to read Sanskrit `together.' [The
exact question in Malayalam was `kUTTi vAyikkAn aRiyAmo?' The
word `kUTTi' can be taken to mean `collecting together' or
`adding anew.']  Narayanabhatta said yes.

The part of the Mahabharata for recital that day was the
karNaparvan. Bhima was giving a lot of trouble to the Kauravas.
Narayanabhatta added a new verse he had just composed:

   bhImasenagadAtrastA duryodhanavarUthinI   |
   SikhA khArvATakasyeva karNamUlamupAgatA  ||

This literally means that the army of Duryodhana, terrified by
Bhima's club (gadA), ran to Karna like the way the hairline of a
balding man reaches his ears. [Please correct me if my
translation is wrong.] The Raja, who was bald, appreciated the
pun on the word `karNamUlam' very much, but protested that the
sloka was spurious. Narayanabhatta calmly replied that he had
just created the sloka since the King had asked to read `kUTTi'
(`adding').  The King realized that he was dealing with no tyro.

We don't know the historicity of this anecdote. But we do know
that Narayanabhatta wrote his grammatical magnum opus
`prakriyA-sarvasva' at the insistence of this King of


P.S. This anecdote is given in the book `The Contribution of
Kerala to Sanskrit Literature' by Dr. K. Kunjunni Raja.


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