Shri S. Ranganathan was born in 1927. After a brilliant academic career, he enrolled as an Advocate of the Madras High Court in 1952 and practiced law till 1964. he was appointed as Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in 1964 and became its President in 1976. he was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court in 1987. After retirement, Sri Ranganathan was a Member of the Law Commission of India and the Chairman of the Authority for Advance Rulings till 1997.
Sri Ranganathan has published articles and books relating to tax jurisprudence. The present publication is his maiden attempt at translation, on a comparative basis, of two fascinating pieces of Sandesha Kavya in Sanskrit literature, one by Kalidasa and the other by Vedanta Deshika. Kalidasa narrates the story of a Yaksha, separated from his beloved, sending a message to her through a could. Vedanta Deshika portrays Rama as sending a message to Sita, after the return of Hanuman, through a Swan, to reassure her that he is on his way to rescue her after defeating and killing Ravana. The treatments of a like topic by the two Master bear great similarities but are also significantly different.
Mr. Justice Ranganathan has made a remarkable contribution to a field not related to law bi this book 'Megha Dutam and Shri Hamsa Sandeshah, A Parallel Study.'
Considering the uniqueness of the learning and the values of Shri Vedanta Deshika one may have to delve deep to find the contrast between Meghaduta and Hamsa Sandesha inspite of their being parallel.
An anecdote is narrated as to a friendly intellectual combat between King Bhoja and Kalidasa before a learned audience. It is attributed to Bhoja that he said "Bharya bandu-samamnasti, rasam kamaeasam rasam": Retorting to the same, Kalidasa who is considered to be unrivalled in his mastery of depicting Kamarasa is believed to have said "Mata bhandhusamam nasti, rasam jnanarasam rasam":
While Meghasandesha is a tribute to Kalidasa's mastery in depicting the anguish of a separated couple in which the thread of Kamarasa runs throughout, Hamsa Sandesha of Vedanta Deshika, is saturated with jnanarasa, though the outward appearance resembles that of Kalidasa'sKamarasa.
Yaksha is considered to be superior to mankind. Yaksha was in exile for dereliction of duty; but Rama, the Avatara of God, as man, was in exile in the discharge of his duty inter alia to ensure that his father remained "satyasangara". It was also in the discharge of his duty:
The opening word of Kalidasa in Megha Sandesha is about an unknown Yaksha by use of the word 'Kaschit'. If one is lost in (worldly pleasure), he will be rendered an unknown one. On the other hand, Deshika, by contrast, starts with the word 'Vamshe jatah.' It is to emphasise that the message sent through Hamsa is not that of an ordinary human being but of the Lord in his avataraas man. Hamsa Sandesha is in from only the expression of a separated lover, as if depicting the pangs of one not able to enjoy the. But its real mould is the to the jeevatman of the Divine Grace. The paramatman has great concern for That is why at the level of mere romance, in Megha Sandesha, the messenger is the cloud which is back, symbolic of ignorance. But to be at the level of i.e. to achieve the union of jeevatman with paramatman, one should have spotless white knowledge. Hence the choice of Hamsa as a messenger. The notes of Mr. Justice Ranganathan on this aspect are very telling. He says that swan was one of the forms of Avatara of lord Vishnu, that Vishnu in Avatara of Rama sends his message through Hamsa which from he took when he instructed Brahma in the Vedas. Hamsa is the vahana of Brahma, the Creator. The thought conveyed is that the messenger, the Hamsa, is being sent by the Creator, who is in Avatara of Rama-He created even Brahma the Creator and so is the Creator of Creator-to the jeevatman whose ultimate goal should be reaching the paramatman. The thirst of the jeevatman should always be the thought of the lord. Hence the description by Valmiki: "sita Bhakti Dridhavrata":
To such the Lord volunteers and sends the message because He feels ostensibly the pangs of separation of a sincere devotee. Only if one's knowledge is perfect, the jeevatman will be able to truly realize the paramatman.
Hence the contrast in the two messengers: the Hamsa in Hamsa Sandesha and the cloud in Megha Sandesha: the cloud being the antethesis of living being": and the messenger Hamsa, an animate white creature, being the symbol of Saraswati and so symbolic of true knowledge, "Sarva-Shukla Saraswati":
Mr. Justice Ranganathan has dong great service to every one interested in Hindu philosophy and Sanskrit literature. The book is written in simple English in his own inimitable elegant style. We were together in the Presidency College and the Law. He was one of the most brilliant student in those days and medallist in the Law College. He was studious and used to read a lot of books apart from the books of the curriculum. He has kept alive the pursuit of knowledge throughout. He has thoughtfully chosen the subject for his book. His translation is rendered in such simple language as to be easily understood. His notes under each stanza show the depth of his learning. It is a commendable work.
The Megha-Dutam or Megha- Sandesha of Kalidasa narrates the story of a Yaksha, separated from his wife due to a curse. The Yaksha sends a message to his wife through a cloud. In this poem, we get a glimpse of the Himalayan regions. The poet's eye, "in a fine frenzy rolls over the ridges, cliffs, scarps, valleys, dales, glades and the gritty uplands. "the poem abounds with "chrystal-clear vignettes" remarkable for their precision and romantic charm. The poem is divided into two parts, the poorva-megha consisting of 63 stanzas and the uttara-megha of 52 stanzas. The first part describes the journey of the could from Ramtek (near Nagpur) to Alaka, the city of Kubera, the Lord of the Yaksha, resting in the laps Kailasa. The second part, starting with a description of Alaka and its citizen, concludes with the message of the Yaksha for his beloved. Many readers are left with a pangs of regret that Kalidasa did not think of writing a sequel to the poem conveying the beloved's response to the Yaksha which could have been an extremely challenging task.
Like the Yaksha, shri Rama had also ordained for himself about a year's separation from Sita. The agony that he suffered must have been most unbearable during the last one month, particularly after Hanuman brought word of her location in Lanka. Shri Vedanta Deshika, no doubt thematically inspired by Kalidasa, composed the Hamsa-sandesa in which he conceived of a massage sent by Rama to Sita through a Swan. (a Swan, in Sanskrit literature, symbolises an Acharya). The message through the Swan, like the earlier one sent through Anjaneya, reflects the efforts of the paramatman (or the Supreme soul) to trace and give succour to the jivatman. The Hamsa-Sandesha is also divided into parts called Ashvasas, the first of 60 and the second of 50 stanzas. Consistent with the Divine status of the sender of the message and its purport, the poem bristles with descriptions of natural scenery integrated with holy place of pilgrimage. The poem does not simply stop with the message but also briefly touches on the sequel, viz. Ravana-Samhara and Rama-Pattabhisheka.
The author is no Sanskrit scholar. It was only a piece of good luck for him that a few years ago he happened to come across the Megha-Dutam of Kalidasa and the Hamsa-Sandesa of Shri Vedanta Deshika and grope his way through them with assistance from other translations. He was overwhelmed not only by the lifestyles were totally divergent from one another but also by an astounding similarity of concepts in several place although, while the object of Kalidasa was to depict a "romance" on an ethereal plane, Deshika's canvass was a more transcendental and spiritual one. Ever since, the author has been impelled by an uncontrollable impulse to bring out a parallel version of the two works (with English translation and some notes)and share his aesthetic enjoyment of the two masterpieces with other readers. He has taken the courage to do doubt with a certain amount of trepidation but also with a sense of achievement or, rather, fulfillment.
The two poems are set out below side by side to make a comparative reading possible which is bound to be most enjoyable. Vaishnavite religious scholars, who are devotees of Shri Vedanta Deshika, read in several passages of the Hamsa-Sandesa improvements over, and refinements of, the poetic work of Kalidasa. Suffice it to say that both are pieces of excellent literature which can be read and enjoyed without entering into this controversy.
The author dedicates this humble work to the memory of his parents who instilled in him a love for Sanskrit and a reverence for Shri Deshika. He wishes to acknowledge the cooperation and encouragement received from his wife, Ms. Rhemalatha. He is highly indebted to his guide, philosopher and friend, Shri Parasaran, for having agreed to contribute a scholarly foreword. He would also like to express his gratitude to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for having agreed to sponsor this publication and, in particular, to Shri Ganesh Avadhani of their Bangalore Kendra for having gone through the manuscript and expressed his encouragement. Last, but not least, he would like to record his gratitude to Shri (now late) Justice E.S. Venkataramiah, former Chief Justice of India, but for whose help this publication would not have been possible. A word of appreciation is also due to Shri Shahjahan and Ms. Mythili of Capital Creations, Delhi for their meticulous attention to detail and neat printing as well as to Shri Arun Sinha for having typed out the manuscript.
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