Quintessence of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam of Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri English Version of Bhaktaranjini Malayalam Commentary Containing the original text in Devanagari, Transliteration, Anvaya, Word-by-word meaning and a detailed commentary in English, with a Foreword by Pujyasri Swami Dayananda Saraswati Volume – I, II & III.
Authors of the Original Malayalam Commentary:Late Mahopadhyaya Brahmasri K.G. Vancheswara Sastry and Late Mahopadhyaya Brahmasri R. Viswanatha Sastry
Authors of the present English Version: T.P. Sivasubramani, G. Sankaran, Parvati Sankaran and K.V. Gopalakrishna, Edited by Sri. S.N. Sastri
The author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri was born in 1560 A.D. in a family of scholars as the second son of Matrudatta in Melpathur Illam in Ponnani Taluka of Kerala. Matrudatta was said to be well—versed in all Sastras. Having undergone his Upanayanam at the right age, Bhattatiri duly studied Sanskrit from his father, Vedas from Madhavacharya and grammar from Achuta Pisharoti, whose niece was married to him.
Although a prodigy at the age of 18, even after marriage, Bhattatiri led a profligate life, being excessively indulgent in sensual pleasures, even going to the extent of neglecting his daily rituals like bath and prayer. One morning, Achuta Pisharoti was teaching astrology to his group of students in front of his house. Alt was at that time that Melpathur got up from his sleep and came out, awkwardly jumping across through the group of students, in a manner which evoked a loud remark from Pisharoti : “Having born in a good high—caste Brahmana's family, it is a shame that one wastes time like this.” This incident was a turning point in Melpathur's life. He immediately took his bath, went through his daily rituals, came to Pisharoti and with all humility, and became his ardent disciple.
The new Guru-sishya relationship bloomed into new dimensions which, later, paved the way for a revolutionary progress in the exposition of Sanskrit Grammar. His respect for his Guru enhanced V manifold, and so, too, the fondness of the Guru towards the Sishya.
It was, at this juncture, that Pisharoti was afflicted with paralysis. Rigorous courses of treatment on scientific lines, were of no avail. Probe into the causes of the ailment using horoscope as the medium, showed the cause as the fruits of action of the past lives. Atonement in the form of rituals and gifting of fruits of actions of the past were indicated. It was said that such a gift should be received only by a competent person befitting the qualities of a Brahmana in all respects. Melpathur was the choice of one and all to receive the gift of disease. Wholeheartedly receiving the ailment from his Guru, Melpathur decided to go to Guruvayoor and offer worship to the Lord there. He took the blessings of his revered Guru, Achuta Pisharoti, and also sent word to his friend Thunjathu Ezhuthacchan, who was also a great devotee of the Lord. Ezhuthacchan replied him jocularly that he should “start with the fish". Quick- witted as he was, Bhattatiri took the hint that he had been directed by Ezhuthacchan to compose a hymn in praise of the Lord describing all His sportive incarnations starting with the divine Fish (Matsyaavatara). He decided to compose a new "Bhagavatam" and praise the Lord!
Bhattatiri decided upon a self-imposed goal of composing this hymn, “Narayaneeyam” one dasakam per day, with the intention of completing 100 dasakams in one hundred days, thereby fulfilling the task of condensing Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam.
On the one—hundredth day, the Lord did grant Melpathur, the vision of the most coveted and glorious form of “Madana-gopala-murthy”, the form of the amorous delusive cow-herd boy, the captivating form of Sri Krishna, the abode of loveliness and embodiment of ravishing glamour surpassing even that of the God of Love, which has been the basis for his incessant imagination and hence, has been described by him on several occasions. With the experience of the glorious vision of the Lord, Bhattatiri was not only freed from all his ailments, but was also immersed in the ocean of eternal bliss.
Srimad Narayaneeyam of Bhattatiri captures in poetic Sanskrit all that is profound and elevating in our Vedic literature. The students of Chandas (prosody), Vyakaranam (grammar) of the classical Sanskrit language will find in this work of Bhattatiri a goldmine for fine examples. The lovers of Sanskrit sahitya (literature) will find themselves wondering whether they were reading a book of prestine devotion and philosophy or a profound work of Kalidasa and his like. For the informed devotees, every verse of Narayaneeyam is a means to let themselves overwhelmed by their altar of devotion. For a Vedantin, there is nothing more delightful than this book.
Rendering this work in any language calls for some extraordinary requisites like facility of pen, knowledge of the subject matter, grasp of the original author's vision, his language, and so on. To bring out an English version of this profound work is indeed an arduous task, the language being alien to the culture of the author of the original work.
I read very carefully quite a few chapters the English version and found that does not leave much to be desired. In fact the material does not read like a translation; the fervour of the original, with the expanded vision provided by the Malayalam commentary, runs all through the pages.
I congratulate "the big four" translators for this valuable contribution to the English reading public.
SRIMANNARAYANEEYAM is the story of Lord Sriman Narayana. It is a devotional hymn consisting of 1036 slokas or verses, divided into 100 dasakams or chapters, each dasakam consisting of about 10 slokas. Composed by Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri (popularly known as "Melpathur" or "Bhc1ttatiri”), in adoration of the presiding Deity of the shrine of Guruvayoor, "Sri Guruvc1yoorappon", it is a condensed version (Bhagavata-artha-sangraha), or the quintessence of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam which consists of 18,000 slokas authored by the great sage, Veda Vyasa. It is said that the work has the blessings of Lord Sri Guruvayoorappan. As the story goes, the author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri voluntarily transferred on to himself, the ailment of paralysis from his Guru and relative, Trikandiyur Achutd Pisharoti ritualistically, in order to save him. in the process, he himself became a paralytic. He then got himself carried to the shrine at Guruvayoor where he could take shelter at the feet of the Lord. With ardent devotion, he sat at the feet of the Lord and composed this work, at the rate of a dasakam a day. At the end of the hundredth day, when he completed all the one hundred dasakams, it is said that he had the most glorious vision of the Lord and he was completely cured of his ailment.
This work composed in praise of Lord Krishna is considered to be a short and sweet substitute for Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam and is recited by devotees all over the world as a general prayer and also as a panacea for all ailments, arthritic paralysis in particular. Even now, sick devotees go to Guruvayoor and offer worship to Lord Krishna reciting this work of prayer in the firm belief that they would go back completely cured, physically as well as mentally. The yeoman service rendered by great scholars like late Brahmasri Anjam Madhavan Namboodiri and Upanyasa Chakravarti Brahmasri Sengalipuram Anantarama Dikshitar and others during the second half of the twentieth century, and by their intellectual and spiritual successors like Brahmasri Anjam Krishnan Namboodiri and Brahmasri B. Sundar Kumar and others in the present generation by their discourses overflowing with Bhakti in popularising and bringing home to devotees, the value of this great devotional hymn, cannot but receive special mention in this context.
The concluding words “Wonderful indeed, is the fortune of mankind !” of the first sloka of this great work, NARAYANEEYAM, have become the watch-word of Guruvayoor, because NARAYANEEYAM, an epitome of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam is identical to the Lord, and known as "the gospel of Guruvayoor". Devotees consider themselves extremely fortunate and blessed even to have a Darsanam of the Lord, who is the same as Brahman, the Supreme Consciousness. One can find these words inscribed right at the entrance of the shrine.
The idol of the Lord at Guruvayoor, supposed to be of divine origin, is said to have been worshipped by Vasudeva and then by Lord Krishna Himself at Dwaraka. Before the divine ascent of Lord Krishna back to His abode in Vaikunta-loka at the conclusion of His incarnation, He had instructed Uddhava, His devotee and minister that this image would come floating when Dwaraka would be engulfed by the sea, after His departure. At Uddhava’s behest, Guru (Brihaspati, the Deva- guru) along with Vayu (the Wind-god) looked for a suitable spot, and as instructed by Lord Siva, installed the same at the present location, which later came to be known as " GURU-VAYU-OOR", meaning the place of Guru and Vayu, the sanskritised name being "GURU-PAVANA-PURAM". As the Divine ascent was at the beginning of Kali-yuga, the temple is supposed to be about 5,100 years old. As the image had its origin at Vaikuntam, devotees consider this shrine as Vaikuntam on earth, or Bhooloka-Vaikuntam.
The following story stands testimony to the antiquity of the image, as narrated in the Guruvayoor Mahatmyam.
Long time ago, in the period Swayambhuva Manvantharam, King Suthapas, along with his spouse Prisni, desirous of begetting a child, did penance for twelve thousand divine years before the idol of Lord Vishnu, given to them by Lord Brahma. Immensely pleased by their devotion, the Lord appeared before them in the form of Lord Vishnu and asked them to seek any desired boon. Filled with great joy and ecstasy on seeing the comely divine form that appeared, Suthapas prayed thrice with considerable desire: "It would be good if a son equal to Thee is born". The Lord, lover of devotees that He is, stated: "Only I am equal to Me.
Therefore, I shall myself incarnate as your son, in order to fulfil your desire. Since you have repeated your prayer thrice, I shall be assuming the aspect of your son in three births." Saying thus, the Lord disappeared. Not long afterwards, the Lord manifested Himself under the name," Prisnigarbha", as the son of Prisni and Suthapas.
It is the same couple who were born as Kasyapa and Adithi in the next birth. They also worshipped and prayed to the same idol of the Lord as in their previous birth. Thereafter, Adithi, who was very sad at the plight of their sons, the Devas, who were being tormented by the Asuras, observed the austerity known as "Payovratam" (details of Payovratam are given under the commentary of Sloka 2, Dasakam 30 which deals with the Vamana Incarnation.) and as a result of that, the Lord manifested Himself as their son, Vamana.
Later, the self-same couple, in their third birth, were born as Vasudeva and Devaki in the city of Mathura. Sage Dhoumya presented them with the same idol of the Lord which was worshipped by them in the earlier births. Owing to the force of habit or "Vasana", Devaki and Vasudeva worshipped that idol again with unstinted devotion. The Lord manifested Himself as their son, in this, their third birth also, as Sri Krishna. It was to remind them of the story of the two earlier births, that the Lord manifested Himself with the signs and symbols of Lord Vishnu at the time of His birth.
After slaying Kamsa, the Lord Himself installed and consecrated at Dwaraka, His own idol, the very same divine idol, which, in times gone by was given by the Lord to Brahma, by Brahma to Prisni-Suthapas, then to Adithi-Kasyapa and then to Devaki-Vasudeva. That idol became the object of worship by all, including the Lord. Later, at the time of the divine Ascent of the Lord, at His own behest, the idol was recovered and reinstalled at the present location at Guruvayoor by Guru (Bruhaspati or Jupiter) and Pavana (Wind-god) for worship by those born in Kali- Yuga! Fortunate indeed is mankind!
There are numerous instances which have happened even in the recent past showing the affection of the Lord of Guruvayoor to His devotees. Though many a common man has experienced these, one or two incidents which occurred in the life of the great devotee, Sengalipuram Brahmasri Anantharama Dikshitar, whose erudite discourses earned him the title of "Upc1nyczsa Chakravarti" and whose Tamil commentary on NARAYANEEYAM made this hymn very popular outside Kerala, are worth mentioning here.
In his book titled "SRIMANNARAYANEEYAM" in Tamil (First edition, 1960, reprint 1989), at the beginning of his commentary covering each dasakam, he has narrated his own experiences and various anecdotes in order to bring out the greatness of the Lord of Guruvayoor and the efficacy of prayers focused on Him, some of which are shared below:
• During his discourse at Alatur (Palakad Dt., Kerala) during the fifties, Dikshitar expressed his desire to visit the temple at Guruvayoor, and his host, banker Sri. M.N. Ramaswami Iyer readily agreed to take him. He reached Guruvayoor around 7 P.M. As he reached the temple, a member of the Cochin royal family, who was conducting Bhajanas there, and who had not even seen Dikshitar earlier, came running and conveyed to Sri. Dikshitar that he had told the devotees present, of his impending Bhagavatam discourses, and they have been awaiting his arrival since 4 P.M. As no advance information was given about his going to Guruvayoor, Dikshitar was very much surprised at this and on enquiry was told by the member of the Cochin Royal Family with tears of joy that Guruvayoorappan Himself was flashing such a thought along with Sri. Dikshitar’s image to him from 4 PM. Needless to say, Dikshitar stayed there for a week and conducted discourses on Srimad Bhagavatam and NARAYANEEYAM.
• It was on 4 August 1957, when Sri Dikshitar found himself without a suitable anecdote for inclusion at the beginning of a particular dasakam while writing his Tamil commentary on NARAYANEEYAM. Suddenly, the popular Ghatam Vidwan Alangudi Ramachandran entered and shared his own experience: Ramachandran's wife had been ailing for a long time, when a devotee came and told him that if he vowed to offer ' Pattu Koupeenam’ (Silken Loin cloth) for bracing the Lord for 7 days, his wife would be cured. He also said that the Lord might come even as a messenger. Ramachandran made a vow on the same lines and also gave Ayurvedic treatment for his wife in Kerala. She got completely cured.
• Similarly a famous doctor's wife had been ailing since long with paralysis affecting all her limbs below the hip and crippling her movement. No medicines worked. It was then that on crystal glass gazing, they were advised that she would get cured if a NARAYANEEYAM Saptaham is conducted in their house. They approached Sri. Dikshitar and the Saptaham were rendered. On the fourth day itself, she could move around on her own with ease, and she gained steady improvement and got cured. This occurred in November 1958.
• Dikshitar himself appears to have been cured of a chronic ailment by praying to the Lord of Guruvayoor---a miracle wrought by the fervent recitation of NARAYANEEYAM
The above and many similar anecdotes go to show that the Lord is amidst us, guiding and steering us ahead,. Let us rededicate ourselves to selflessly sing in His praise!
Although volumes can be written about this great devotee-poet who will be remembered for ever for his contribution of composing this great devotional hymn, only a very short historical background is given here for the sake of brevity.
Bhattatiri’s Life History
The author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri was born in 1560 A.D. as the second son of Matrudatta in Melpathur Illam situated on the northen side of the Bharata river (Bharata Puzha), about two miles from the great temple of Tirunavay in Ponnani Taluka of Kerala. Matrudatta was said to be well-versed in all Sastras. Having undergone his Upanayanam at the right age, Bhattatiri duly studied Sanskrit and the Vedas under his guru Madhavanodikkan. His elder brother Damodaran taught him Tarka Sastra and his father, Bhatta-mimamsa.
At the age of 18, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri happened to come into contact with Achuta Pisharoti of Trikkandiyoor temple and attracted by his niece, desired to marry her. (In those days, only the first male progeny of a Namboodiri family was entitled to marry from the same caste and the others had to seek bride from families of Ambalavasis, who traditionally did service to the Lord, like making garlands and other auxiliary duties. Achuta Pisharoti belonged to that class, although he himself was well-versed in Astrology and numerous other Sastras. Unfortunately, after marriage, Melpathur became excessively indulgent in sensual pleasures and even went to the extent of neglecting his daily rituals like bath and prayer which irked Achuta Pisharoti badly. One morning, Achuta Pisharoti had completed his temple duties and was teaching astrology to his group of students in front of his house. It was at that time that Melpathur got up from his sleep and came out with slight hesitation, awkwardly jumping across through the group of students, in a manner which evoked a loud remark from Pisharoti: "having been born in a good high-caste Brahmana’s family, it is a shame that one wastes time like this." Having heard this remark and smitten with remorse, Melpathur immediately took his bath, went through his daily rituals, came to Pisharoti and with all humility prayed to him,
(O Great one! Ocean of compassion! Kindly offer the raft of knowledge from your mind overflowing with affection and uplift this dull-witted and unfortunate one who is immersed in the sea of ignorance! I have no refuge other than you!)
This incident was a turning point in the life of Melpathur. His behaviour underwent a radical change and he virtually turned an altogether new leaf. He requested Pisharoti to accept him as a disciple. The new Guru-sishya relation- ship bloomed into new dimensions which, later, paved the way for a revolutionary progress in the exposition of Sanskrit Grammar. Melpathur studied Astrology and Paniniya Vyakaranam (Panini’s Grammar), and many other works on Alankara- sastras (expositions in usages and figures of speech) under the guidance of Pisharoti. His respect for his Guru enhanced manifold, and so, too, the fondness of the Guru towards the Sishya.
Bhattatiri was extremely fond of composing poems. This trait in his character is seen even when he was nearing sixty and authored the book Prokriya-sarvaswom which is intertwined with excellent specimens of his interesting poetic ventures. during this period, he has written many prabondhas (poetic narratives) for “Chakyar Koothu" discourses by lravi Chakyar who became his bosom friend. In this context, he composed six poems without the usage of nasal alphabets in the form of Soorpanakha’s lamentations after her nose was cut off!
After commencing the studentship under Trikkandiyoor Achutha Pisharoti, Bhattatiri’s life-style underwent radical change. But for the time taken for the unavoidable daily routine activities, he used to spend most of his time in studies and writing. He was gripped with an ardent fever to learn more and more. It was, at this juncture, that Pisharoti was afflicted with paralysis. Being a good Ayurvedic physician himself, Pisharoti, in collaboration with other physicians, took rigorous courses of treatment on scientific lines, but to no avail. His knowledge in astrology prompted him to probe into the causes of the ailment using horoscope as the medium, which showed the cause as the fruits of action of the past lives. Atonement (Prayaschitta) in the form of rituals and "Karma- vipaka-danam (gifting of fruits of actions of the past) were indicated. When the question of gifting the fruits of actions came up, it was said that such a gift should be received only by a competent person befitting the qualities of a Brahmana in all respects. Just as Lord Krishna was pointed out by Sahadeva as the fittest person to receive the "Agrya-puja" during the Rajasuya Sacrifice (Ref: 08557), Melpathur was the choice of one and all to receive the gift of disease. Being extremely fond of his Guru, he considered it an honour and wholeheartedly received the ailment from his Guru ritualistically. In course of time, Pisharoti showed signs of recovery and Melpathur was getting more and more engulfed in sickness. At that time, many people believed in the curative powers of the Lord of Guruvayoor whose glory was sung even by Vaasudeva Kavi, Bhattatiri’s own friend, through a work called "Bhramara-sandesam", as follows:
(Where the Lord, Himself being immensely sacred, is the destroyer of afflictions which purify one of his sins, that Lord, Sri Vaasudeva shines there.) Melpathur therefore decided to go to Guruvayoor as soon as his condition would be slightly better to permit travel. He ardently prayed to the Lord to let this happen, and the Lord did hear his prayer. Signs of improvement started showing up. It was on one "Onam" day after lunch that Melpathur set out to Gurvayoor along with his younger brother Mathrudatta. He took the blessings of his revered Guru, Achuta Pisharoti prior to departure, and also sent word to his friend Thunjathu Ezhuthacchan, who was also one of the foremost among the devotees of the Lord. Ezhuthacchan replied him jocularly that he should "start with the fish". Quick-witted as he was, Bhattatiri took the hint that he had been directed by Ezhuthacchan to compose a hymn in praise of the Lord describing all His Lilavataras (sportive incarnations) starting with the divine Fish (Matsya-avatara). He decided to compose a new "Bhagavatam" and praise the Lord!
Bhattatiri decided upon a self-imposed goal of composing one dasakam per day, with the intention of completing 100 dasakams in one hundred days, thereby fulfilling the task of condensing the Bhagavata Mahapuranam. Could it be that the concept of composing the hymn in the form of dasakams, and containing the entire work in 100 dasakams dawned in his mind, due to his desire to give it, the shape of a mini-Rig Veda?
After completing his daily ablution and routine rituals during the small hours of the day, he used to go up on the mandapam meant for prostrations, recite Vedic hymns in praise of the Lord, offer prostrations and circumambulations, and sit in meditation. Sitting face-to-face to the Lord, next to the corridor on the north- east corner of the south Mandapam, he would compose the hymn. Food used to be the "neivedyam" which was distributed to devotees after the Puja at noon.
After completing one dasakam, he would spend his time in reading Bhagavatam, sitting in meditation and performing worship by prostrations and circumambulations. At night, he would go and sleep at some suitable place outside the temple. His younger brother Matrudatta was attending on him all the time, and used to write down the slokas as soon as composed. This was his routine.
Two days went as planned. On the third day, there was a severe aggravation of his ailment. His mind was agitated and he thought it might not be possible to continue his worship. But somehow, with the help of his brother, he reached the usual place of worship but found it impossible to do anything. He heard others reciting the Lord’s names. Some others were meditating. Yet others were repeating the Lord’s stories and reveling in them. "Blessed, indeed, are those devotees", he thought! But Melpathur could only complain to the Lord about his own ailments. The slokas he wrote on the third day (dasakam 3) contain only his lamentations and reflect all the thoughts that passed through his mind.
The rest of the dasakams also end up with a prayer to the Lord to cure him of his ailments; in some cases, there is a line of prayer in the middle too! Hence one has to guess that the poet was suffering from excruciating pain till he completed the ninety-ninth dasakam, which ends up with the prayer “O Lord of Guruvayoor! Krishna! Save me from ailment!”
On the one-hundredth day, the Lord did grant Melpathur, the vision of the most coveted and glorious form of "Madana-gopala-murthy", the form of the Maya- manusha-vigraha-- the amorous delusive cow-herd boy, the captivating form of Sri Krishna, the abode of loveliness and embodiment of ravishing glamour surpassing even that of the God of Love, which has been the basis for his incessant imagination and hence, has been described by him on several occasions. With the experience of the glorious vision of the Lord, Bhattatiri was not only freed from all his ailments, but was also immersed in the ocean of eternal bliss, which is reflected in his words.
It was on the 1712210th day of Kali-yuga according to calculations by experts based on the last word of the hymn "AAYUR-AROGYA-SOUKHYAM" (for details, see foot-note on page 1323.) that this great devotional hymn was completed. This corresponds to 23'd Vrischikam 763 M.E (7th December 1587 A.D.). Bhattatiri was just 27 at that time. According to certain accounts, he lived up to the unusual age of 106. The life of Bhattatiri is another example, among several others, how adverse experiences turn out to be blessings in disguise, and how a person’s sufferings pave the way for his greatness and bestow immense good to the world at large. One cannot ignore the fact that but for the pangs of excruciating pain Bhattatiri endured from the throes of paralysis, humanity would probably not have been blessed with this garland of gems, by name, NARAYANEEYAM.
The author, Melpathur Narayana Bhattatiri was an erudite scholar in Sanskrit, well-versed in the choice of words which make the work highly rhythmic and poetic, with a very high literary value, comparable to any of the compositions of classical Sanskrit poets. The devotional fervour of the work is extremely high and the exposition of the Vedanta philosophy, especially in the last 10 chapters has no comparison. The ruling sentiment is Bhakti or devotion to the Lord, which serves as the means for attaining the four Purusharthas or values of life, namely, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (worldly prosperity), Kama (desire of sensual enjoyments) and last, but not the least, Moksha (emancipation from the worldly ties). Embracing the Bhakti cult with unstinted devotion to the Lord, he was always eager to propagate Bhakti among his readers. Totally devoted to the path of devotion and mentally committed to the task of inspiring others—aside from the immediate need of curing himself of his ailment, he took up the stupendous task of epitomizing Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam describing the sportive incarnations of the Lord, ending up every chapter with a fervent appeal for help.
BHATTATIRI’S CONTRIBUTION TO SANSKRIT LITERATURE:
Bhattatiri has authored many works in Sanskrit, totaling to about 40, major and minor, which can be classified into different groups, viz., sastric or technical, Prabandhas or narratives, Prasastis or panegyrics and devotional hymns or Stotras. In the first category, fall the Prakriya-sarvasvam, Apaniniya-pramanam and Dhatu-kavyam, which are books on grammar. Mana-meyodayam is a philosophical work on Purva-mimamsa. Among his narrative compositions, the Ramayanam, Maha-bharatam and Bhagavatam written in Champu style (prose and poetry mixed) are renowned. Some of the Prasastis are devoted to some rulers (of the small principalities which comprise the present Kerala) are said to be written much against his own wishes. Among the devotional hymns, this work, NARAYANEEYAM is the major work.
In the early thirties of the twentieth century, a Malayalam commentary on "NARAYANEEYAM" entitled "BHAKTARANJINI " was published. It was authored by late Brahmasri Mahopadhyaya K.G. Vancheswara Sastry and late Brahmasri Mahopadhyaya R. Viswanatha Sastry, both eminent Sanskrit scholars who lived in the erstwhile State of Travancore, now part of Kerala. Both the authors had acquired the highest qualification of Mahopadhyaya available at that time, had specialised in Nyaya and Vedanta, and were well-versed in grammar. The commentary for the first fifty dasakams was authored by Brahmasri Vancheswara Sastry and the second fifty, by Brahmasri Viswanatha Sastry.
Written vividly and exhaustively in lucid style in highly sanskritised Malayalam overflowing with Bhakti, this book had attracted letters of appreciation from innumerable number of devotees and intellectual giants of that era, such as Kavitilakan Kottarathil Sankunny, Mahakavi Ulloor Parameswara Iyer and Punnasseri Nambi Neelakanta Sarma. This testifies to the scholarliness of the authors, the excellent literary quality, the high devotional fervour and the sense of dedication that animated the work.
This commentary was out of print for more than 60 years. Also, the readership of the book was restricted to those knowing Malayalam. As ardent devotees of the Lord of Guruvayoor, who is no other than Lord Krishna, on whom this devotional work is centered and to whom the book is dedicated, it was our desire that if rendered in a form which would make it accessible to a wider readership, particularly those who are not familiar with Malayalam, it would serve the cause of devotion many times over! Language is never a barrier in developing devotion to the Lord! Also to be borne in mind are the members of the younger generation, including those living abroad, who are not in very close touch with their mother tongue, Malayalam. Then there are the devotees of the Lord the world over, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or nationality who ardently believe in Lord Krishna. It was after taking all these into account, that an English version of this work was envisaged.
We, a small group of four like-minded friends, brought together by sheer Divine Grace have taken upon ourselves, the stupendous task of bringing out an English version of this work. It is essentially based on the original Malayalam work but does not purport to be a word for word translation of it. Wherever considered necessary, we have sought to amplify, explain and illustrate. We have also brought in wherever possible, quotations with English meanings from Srimad Bhagavata Mahapuranam of which, "NARAYANEEYAM" is an epitome. We are acutely conscious that any translation of a work from one language to another cannot capture the true flavour of the original but we have endeavoured to keep as close to it as we could. Such merit as readers may find in this version is entirely attributable to the learned authors of the "BHAKTARANJANI" commentary and the faults entirely to us.
THE ENGLISH VERSION HOW IT IS DIFFERENT FROM OTHERS.
No doubt, there are quite a number of commentaries for NARAYANEEYAM, in Malayalam, Tamil and English. Even in English, there have been many, with word for word meanings, paraphrased following the prose order in Sanskrit and a short gist of the contents of the sloka in English. Such word for word meaning given in English, when read alone, does not make a complete sense, as the prose orders in Sanskrit and English may, and often do, vary. For instance, for the sentence, "Rama killed Ravana", the prose order in Sanskrit could be corresponding to "Rama Ravana killed". In order to avoid this sort of linguistic problems, we have sought to rearrange the words of the prose order in Sanskrit (the anvaya) in Sanskrit to accord with the prose order generally followed in English so that even for one who confines himself to the English part, the present arrangement would make for a complete and coherent sense even on first reading.
The scheme followed in the presentation of the slokas is on the following pattern:
1. A preamble (wherever necessary) for the sloka.
2. The text of the sloka in Sanskrit in Devanagari script.
3. Transliteration to English. The difficult words have been broken with hyphens to make reading easier.
4. The Anvaya (prose order) in Sanskrit. The difficult words have been broken with hyphens to make reading easier.
5. The word for word meanings tabulated such that the Sanskrit words appear on the left and the corresponding meanings in English on the right.
6. Sources for quotations are cited, wherever they could be traced, with meanings in brackets. Wherever source could not be traced, such quotations have been marked "SNK"(Source Not Known), "SNA" (Source Not Available) etc.
7. Every dasakam ends with a prayer on the last line of the last sloka. There are a few exceptions where the prayer is not in the last sloka, but in an earlier one. Such prayer has been used as the "footer" for every page in that dasakam.
As stated earlier, the work is done by a group of four like-minded friends, comprising T.P. Sivasubramani, G. Sankaran, Parvathi Sankaran, and K.V. Gopalakrishna, brought together by sheer divine grace. Of these, barring Parvathi Sankaran who is a housewife, the other three members are officials retired from service in Central Government/Public Sector. All the four have been students of Sanskrit in the earlier part of their career. T.P.Sivasubramani had, infused into his blood, the habit of reading and reciting NARAYANEEYAM, right from his boyhood days, which he inherited from his father, a very ardent devotee. G. Sankaran and K.V. Gopalakrishna were students of the first commentator, Brahmasri. Vancheswara Sastry. Smt. Parvati Sankaran has been a student of philosophy and has been doing the critical study of NARAYANEEYAM as well as teaching the epic to groups of devotees.
The work is edited by Shri. S.N. Sastri, himself being a retired Central Government official, an erudite scholar in Sanskrit and Vedanta Philosophy, and more than anything else, a totally dedicated and devout Narayana-Bhakta, who has authored another commentary of NARAYANEEYAM in English, which was published by the Chinmaya Mission in 1988.
The book, in 3 volumes, is being published by a charitable Trust, aptly named "THE BHAKTARANJINI TRUST" founded by K.V. Gopalakrishna, son of Brahmasri Vancheswara Sastry, the first co-author of the Malayalam commentary, without any personal profit motive, the entire work being an act of “Nishkama-karma" undertaken by the four co-authors and the editor himself. It might be interesting to note that the entire work starting from creation the English version and all works up to sending it for printing has been done by the four septuagenarian co-authors themselves in their home pcs, as a measure of cost reduction, to the benefit of the devotee-readers. The Trust is committed to spend any accrued profits for philanthropic causes only.
When we undertook the task of creating this English version of the scholarly BHAKTARANJINI Commentary on NARAYANEEYAM more than five years ago, we did not have a clear realisation of the magnitude and complexity of the work involved. However, due to the grace of the Lord of Guruvayur, we were blessed with the will and the energy to complete the task without any hitch.
NARAYANEEYAM, an exquisite poetic work of epic proportions, is suffused with Vedanta philosophy which the Malayalam commentators, the great masters of Vedanta that they were, had explored and expounded to the maximum possible extent. We bow down to those masters with reverential gratitude for having given us the opportunity to learn at least fragments of, if not become well-versed in, this branch of philosophy. Although we have, in all earnestness, striven to bring out the best of it into English, we have, for obvious reasons, scrupulously and judiciously refrained from venturing into highly abstruse regions. In this respect, as also in other respects, all lapses and deficiencies that may be found in this work are entirely attributable to us. It is well said:
“Whatever deficiencies you find in the work certainly do not belong to those great masters, but verily belong to me; and whatever good is found here, certainly belongs to them, and not to me”.
As stated elsewhere, this work cannot be regarded as a true translation of the original Malayalam work as we have made many adaptations to suit the present day conditions and needs without, we hope, detracting from its main literary and devotional aspects.. Wherever found necessary, we have also sought to explain and elaborate. We are also acutely conscious of the fact that any attempt to create a version of a work in a language different from that of the original, particularly in the case of a magnum opus such as the Bhaktaranjini Commentary, is bound to substantially miss out on the flavour of the original, especially the charm of language, which is difficult, nay, impossible to capture. However, we have endeavoured, to the best of our abilities, to project the spirit of the original work as faithfully as we could.
All suggestions for improvement will be greatly appreciated.
We are indeed extremely grateful to Pujya Swamiji Sri Dayananda Saraswati for having written a kind foreword for the book and to Sri S.N. Sastri for his invaluable scrutiny and editing of the typescript. We ardently seek their blessings, as our preceptors, to ensure wide readership and acceptance of this humble offering to the Lord.
We are ever grateful to Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai for their kindness in permitting us to use translations of passages from the Upanishads wherever quotations are given, and extracts from Comments on Narayaneeyam and Bhagavad-Gita by Pujya Swami Tapasyanandaji at appropriate places in the book. Similarly, we acknowledge, with thanks, the kindness shown by Gita Press in permitting us to use translations of portions from Srimad Bhagavata Maha- puranam, wherever cross-references and quotations are given.
We are also thankful to the printers, the Bangalore Press, who, in a short span of time, have done a fine job of printing the book at a reasonable cost.
In conclusion, having dedicated this work to our Gurus, the two great masters who authored the Malayalam commentary, we fervently make an offering of this work to the Lotus Feet of our Ishta Devata (Beloved God), the Lord of Guruvayur, that Madana-gopala-moorthy whom the author Bhattatiri has repeatedly striven to picturise in our mind’s eye in his vivid and incomparable way, and beseech Him to shower His blessings for Peace, Prosperity and Harmony on this troubled world of ours.
"May Krishna, the preceptor of all animate and inanimate beings, protect me. I always offer my salutations to Krishna. I am well-protected by Krishna Himself and my mind is always given to Krishna (thoughts about Krishna.) My own origin is from Krishna alone. I am Krishna’s servant. May I have unshaken devotion in Krishna. O Krishna! I prostrate before you." (It is said that Bhattatiri spontaneously recited this Sthuti on Lord Krishna when his Guru Achuta Pisharoti tested him on his knowledge of different "Vibhaktis"---inflection of nouns, case terminations- in Sanskrit grammar.)
By the divine grace of Lord Guruvayoorappan, we are happy that it has been possible to bring out a revised second edition of the English version of the Bhaktaranjini Malayalam commentary of SRIMANNARAYANEEYAM. When we say, "revised", it does not imply that many portions have been really revised, but that the major part of the commentary has been retained, with correction of errors which had inadvertently crept in the first edition, and addition of some new features.
We have, as requested by many readers, included some important "stutis" and important portions from the Vishnu-puranam, like Prahlada-stuti, and from the Bhagavata Maha-puranam like Chatuh-slokee-bhagavatam, Rudra Gitam, Narayana Kavacham, the Gopika-gitam as given in Bhagavatam, the Madhurashtakam by Sri Vallabhacharya, the Sri Krishna-ashtothara-satanaama Stotram etc., at appropriate places in the main body of the book, and in different appendices at the end of each volume. A special write—up on Raasa-lila, the most important episode in the Krishna incarnation authored by Dr. Chith K. Puram has been included for supplementary reading in the appendix of volume II with his permission. We are immensely thankful to Dr. Chith for this erudite contribution. The Guruvatapureesa Pancharatna Stotram composed by Sri. Anantharama Dikshitar and the Guruvatapuranatha ashtakam composed by Mahamahopadhyaya Brahmasri Ganapathi Sastrigal, (with English translation by Sri. S.N. Sastri) which has become very popular and are being sung by devotees at the end of Narayaneeyam recitals everywhere has also been included.
Another important feature in the book is the splitting of compounded words with hyphens at appropriate places, given in the Anvaya for each sloka. This has been deliberately done, although considered to be a bit unconventional, to help the reader, especially the beginner, in avoiding wrong pronunciations. We are specially thankful to the different Yahoo groups in the internet, namely the Guruvayoor, Krishna Bhagavan, 4B, Pattars and Iyers 123, US Brahmins internet groups etc., for the world-wide publicity and support they have given in popularising this book and the message of Bhattatiri. This will go a long way in enhancing the level of Bhakti to Lord Krishna, universally.
May the Lord shower His divine grace on His devotees and protect this troubled world of ours from all miseries. LOKAH SAMASTHAH SUKHINO BHAVANTHU.
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