Learning Sanskrit by Fresh Approach – Lesson No. 122

Learning Sanskrit by Fresh Approach – Lesson No. 122

संस्कृतभाषायाः नूतनाध्ययनस्य द्वाविंशत्यधिकशततमः (१२२) पाठः ।

Pun श्लेषः is a very interesting literary ornament अर्थालङ्कारः   of any language. This cannot be more true for a language as Sanskrit. I came across the following one in a post by Dr. Subramanian Swamy on his Facebook page.

तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज माज्ञानदायकम् |

तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज माज्ञानदायकम् ||

When doing search on the internet on this verse, I came across some interesting mention at https://www.facebook.com/INDClub/posts/995595803792674 There it is said that “… In 1982, Gurupad K. Hegde wrote an entire book titled “Pun in Sanskrit Literature”. (published by Mysore College and has more than 300 examples. …”

Since both lines are identical, the pun or difference in meaning would come from splitting the words differently, i.e. by different पदच्छेद-s.

(1) तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज माज्ञानदायकम् = तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज मा अज्ञानदायकम्

(2) तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज माज्ञानदायकम् = तम् आखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज मा-ज्ञानदायकम्

With these two पदच्छेद-s, the syntax will also be different.

(1) तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज मा अज्ञानदायकम् → राजेन्द्र अज्ञानदायकम् तमाखुपत्रं मा भज |

(2) तम् आखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज मा-ज्ञानदायकम् → राजेन्द्र तं मा-ज्ञानदायकम् आखुपत्रं भज |

For deciphering the meanings, we need to focus mainly on four words अज्ञानदायकम् तमाखुपत्रम् मा-ज्ञानदायकम् आखुपत्रम्

(1) अज्ञानदायकम् –

  • (1-1) न ज्ञानम् इति अज्ञानम् (नञ्-तत्पुरुषः)
  • (1-2) दायकम् – दा-धातुतः ण्वुल्-प्रत्ययेन विशेषणम् यद्ददाति तद्दायकम्
  • (1-3) अज्ञानस्य दायकम् इति अज्ञानदायकम् (षष्ठी-तत्पुरुषः)
  • (1-4) अज्ञानदायकम् = That which causes unintelligence

(2) तमाखुपत्रम् –

  • (2-1) तमाखोः पत्रम् इति तमाखुपत्रम् (षष्ठी-तत्पुरुषः)
  • (2-2) तमाखोः – “तमाखु” (= tobacco) इति नाम | तस्य षष्ठी विभक्तिः एकवचनं च |
  • (2-3) पत्रम् – “पत्र” (= leaf) इति नपुंसकलिङ्गि नाम | तस्य प्रथमा विभक्तिः एकवचनं च |
  • (2-4) तमाखुपत्रम् = tobacco-leaf

(3) मा-ज्ञानदायकम् – माज्ञानदायक-इति सामासिकं विशेषणम् | अत्र पुंल्लिङ्गि | तस्य द्वितीया विभक्तिः एकवचनं च |

  • (3-1) मायाः ज्ञानम् इति माज्ञानम् (पञ्चमी-तत्पुरुषः अथवा षष्ठी-तत्पुरुषः)
  • (3-2) माज्ञानस्य दायकः माज्ञानदायकः (षष्ठी-तत्पुरुषः)
  • (3-3) मायाः – मा (= Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati) इति स्त्रीलिङ्गि नाम | तस्य षष्ठी विभक्तिः एकवचनं च |
  • (3-4) माज्ञानदायकः =
    • (3-4-1) One who provides knowledge of or about (षष्ठी) मा i.e. Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati
    • (3-4-2) One, who provides knowledge (as available from (पञ्चमी) मा i.e. Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati

(4) आखुपत्रम् – आखुपत्र-इति सामासिकं विशेषणम् | अत्र पुंल्लिङ्गि | तस्य द्वितीया विभक्तिः एकवचनं च |

  • (4-1) आखुः पत्रं यस्य सः आखुपत्रः (बहुव्रीहिः)
  • (4-2) आखुः = a mouse
  • (4-3) पत्रम् = vehicle
  • (4-4) आखुपत्रः = one, who has a mouse as his vehicle i.e. गणेशः

(5) The सुभाषितम् is said to have the context of an incident between a king and his well-wishing minister.

  • The king had become addicted to chewing tobacco-leaf. The minister knew that that is not good for the king. So, he said to the king राजेन्द्र अज्ञानदायकम् तमाखुपत्रं मा भज Do not chew the tobacco-leaf, which causes loss of intelligence or which brings to you a blemish of being unintelligent
  • The king agreed, but asked, “What can I do ?” The minister suggested राजेन्द्र तं मा-ज्ञानदायकम् आखुपत्रं भज Engage yourself in singing the praise of Ganesh, who provides knowledge.

(6) It was possible for the minister to use the same words, but convey two different meanings, because Sanskrit affords great freedom from syntax.

(7) The two different meanings would get more appropriately conveyed by difference in intonation.

  • In the first instance तमाखुपत्रं राजेन्द्र भज माज्ञानदायकम् would have the word तमाखुपत्रं being said in one continuous utterance.
  • In the second instance the same word तमाखुपत्रं would rather be pronounced as तम् आखुपत्रं with clear split of the संधि.

(8) This brings forth some significance of Vedic mantras often written with diacritic marks, called as स्वरांकनम् In the present case,

  • for the first instance the तमाखुपत्रं may rather have a short vertical line, superscript between the letters मा and खु, rather, after the letter मा, indicating some extended pronunciation of मा. So the word would be written as तमा|खुपत्रं
  • for the second instance apart from clear split as तम् आखुपत्रं, there could be an underscore below the letter त suggesting a little stress on this letter, which will also help the split pronunciation. So it may rather be written as म् आखुपत्रं.

(9) Even when writing माज्ञानदायकम्

  • for the first instance, where it is to be interpreted as संधि of मा + अज्ञानदायकम् one may write it with an अवग्रह (ऽ) hence as माऽज्ञानदायकम्
  • for the second instance, where it is intended to be a compound word, one would write it as a single word माज्ञानदायकम्.
  • Note, संधि is compulsory when composing a compound word. In a sentence, it is optional. This is very succinctly clarified in a verse संहितैकपदे नित्या नित्या धातूपसर्गयोः | नित्या समासे वाक्ये तु सा विवक्षामपेक्षते ||

(10) Using स्वरांकनम् would rob the verse of the intended pun. Using the अवग्रह would also rob the pun from the write-up, though the pronunciation would be the same.

(11) Use of स्वरांकनम् or of अवग्रह then is a matter of discretion विवक्षा. When pun is intended, the discretion विवक्षा should rather be not to use them.

(12) Statements of philosophical, eternal truths would have no pun, no double meaning, only one meaning. Hence स्वरांकनम् is very important for such statements as in Vedic literature. स्वरांकनम् is related to pronunciation, related to correct pronunciation, and that is how Vedic literature is said to have been passed on and preserved down thousands of years, we must acknowledge the significance of this oral tradition that we have the Vedic literature till date even though great libraries of Nalanda and Takshshila were burnt down, where, they say, the embers were burning for nearly four weeks (so huge was the store of knowledge !)

(13) Knowledge acquired should be retained in the mind and in the memory. That is the essence of the oral tradition. God has provided human mind with incalculable amount of memory storage, that too with great retrievability. ऋषि-s and मुनि-s had realized that and put a great faith in that and very thoughtfully devised the teacher-disciple scheme of education (गुरु-शिष्य-परंपरा), rather than the present day textbook scheme of education.

(14) Coming back to the verse, most charming part is that two statements, grammatically opposite of each other, one in the affirmative and the other its negative, तमाखुपत्रं मा भज and तमाखुपत्रं भज are both valid !

(15) The verb भज is also interesting. The धातु is, भज् having क्त-कृदन्त as भक्त. This धातु भज् has as many as 20+ shades of meaning as detailed in Apte’s dictionary.

  • भज् I. 1 U. (भजति-ते but usually Atm. only; बभाज, भेजे, अभाक्षीत्, अभक्त, भक्ष्यति-ते, भक्त) 1 (a) To share, distribute, divide; भजेरन् पैतृकं रिक्थम् Ms.9.14; न तत्पुत्रै- र्भजेत् सार्धम् 29,119. (b) To assign, allot, apportion; गायत्रीमग्नये$भजत् Ait. Br. -2 To obtain for oneself, share in, partake of; पित्र्यं वा भजते शीलम् Ms.1.59. -3 To accept, receive; चामुण्डे भगवति मन्त्रसाधनादावुद्दिष्टामुपनिहितां भजस्व पूजाम् Māl.5.25. -4 (a) To resort to, betake oneself to, have recourse to; शिलातलं भेजे K.179; मातर्लक्ष्मि भजस्व कंचिदपरम् Bh.3.64; न कश्चिद्वर्णानामपथमप- कृष्टो$पि भजते Ś.5.1; Bv.1.83; R.17.28. (b) To practise, follow, cultivate, observe; तृष्णां छिन्धि भज क्षमाम् Bh.2.77; भेजे धर्ममनातुरः R.1.21; Mu.3.1. -5 To enjoy, possess, have, suffer, experience, entertain; विधुरपि भजतेतरां कलङ्कम् Bv.1.74; न भेजिरे भीमविषेण भीतिम् Bh.2.8; व्यक्तिं भजन्त्यापगाः Ś.7.8; अभितप्तमयो$पि मार्दवं भजते कैव कथा शरीरिषु R.8.43; Māl.3.9; U.1.35. -6 To wait or attend upon, serve; (दोग्ध्रीं) भेजे भुजोच्छिन्नरिपुर्निषण्णाम् R.2.23; Pt.1.181; Mk.1.32. -7 To adore, honour, worship (as a god). -8 To choose, select, prefer, accept; सन्तः परीक्ष्यान्यतरद्भजन्ते M.1.2. -9 To enjoy carnally; वसोर्वीर्योत्पन्नामभजत मुनिर्मत्स्यतनयाम् Pt.4.5. -1 To be attached or devoted to; आसन्नमेव नृपतिर्भजते मनुष्यं विद्याविहीनमकुलीनमसंस्कृतं वा Pt.1.35. -11 To take possession of. -12 To fall to the lot of any one. -13 To grant, bestow. -14 To supply, furnish (Ved.). -15 To favour; ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम् Bg.4.11. -16 To decide in favour of, declare for. -17 To love, court (affection). -18 To apply oneself to, be engaged in. -19 To cook, dress (food). -20 To employ, engage. (The meanings of this root are variously modified according to the noun with which it is connected:– e. g. निद्रां भज् to go to sleep; मूर्छां भज् to swoon; भावं भज् to show love for &c. &c.). -Caus. 1 To divide. -2 To put to flight, pursue. -3 To cook, dress. -II. 1.U. (भाजयति-ते, regarded by some as the caus. of भज् I) 1 To cook. -2 To give.
  • Almost each of the 20+ meanings can be applied in the interpretation of the verse. Does not that make the verse such a multifaceted pum ?
    • Especially I think in तमाखुपत्रं मा भज the meaning “Do not become subservient to it” Is not habit of eating तमाखुपत्रं compelling, that one becomes slave of that habit ?
    • The poet seems to have used the verb भज very pleadingly when saying तमाखुपत्रं मा भज. He is not just saying “do not chew the tobacco”. The minister does not want the king to become a slave of that bad habit, which is as good as losing one’s discretionary intelligence. That is what bad habits are अज्ञानदायक. They rob you of your discretionary intelligence.
    • The second line suggests, rather recommends a noble engagement, a perfect antidote to bad habits.

(16) The verse is not just a sage advice given by a minister to his king. It is a caution and advice to all of us to desist from such dangerous things as tobacco. That is why the verse is a सुभाषितम् !

शुभमस्तु !!


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