This is an exemplary book which elevated the status of Indian Literary Criticism to the peaks of the world literature. Shodasi is a name associated with a great hymn. The title suggests that it’s a book on spiritual discourse. A reading of this book suggests that the spirit of scientific temper is critical to comprehend Valmiki’s Srimad Ramayana. Besides this, command on Vedic or Scriptural knowledge is essential. What does a layman has to say when a towering personality like Viswanatha Satyanarayana himself extolled the critical acumen and serious scholarship of Seshendra Sharma.
Sharma has made it crystal clear that unless one has an apparent understanding of the plot’s context, psyche of the characters, and the milieu of the bygone days supplemented by extraordinary scholarship, sound knowledge of phonetics and awareness on contemporary issues; one cannot easily comprehend the poetic diction of Valmiki. The debate on the phrase “Netraturaha” is a fitting example. The uniqueness of the title, Sundara kanda, Kundalini Yoga, Gayatri Mantra secretly hidden in Trijata’s dream sequence, considering The Bharatha as an image of The Ramayana.... this book is a repository of many such critical discourses. It is replete with inconceivable and unfathomable issues. This magnum opus is an invaluable gift to the Telugu literature.
- VIPULA, Viswa Katha Vedika: May 2014
(An exclusive Telugu Monthly Magazine for stories)
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Valmiki Ramayana – Greatest Medicine for Mankind
The story of Ramayana is prescribed as textbook for students. Sita and Rama are worshiped as prime couple. No need to mention about reciting it. Whether Valmiki was satisfied with simple narration of the story? Seshendra Sharma denies it.
He analyzed it mentioning that to understand the inner meanings of Valmiki Ramayana, the scientific knowledge is essential.
The underlying secret of the sage’s mind will be known through the knowledge of science.
It is the firm opinion of Seshendra that the argument that “the sciences are for scholars only” is a conspiracy hatched by Selfish scholars and lazy uneducated persons.
Seshendra who has democratic ideology and conviction on science and literature informs the public about the secrets of Ramayana expounded by Valmiki. He explains that Valmiki dedicated ambrosia (The Greatest Medicine) named “Kundalini Yoga” to the mankind. The poetry in the metre of Anushtup Sloka is the honey coating to the medicine. It was explained with great introspection and exemplary scholarship. He concludes that the Ramayana is older than the Maha Bharatha and it is another form of Veda. Valmiki introduced the system of meditation in Ramayana. The Introspection and research bent of mind of Seshendra are spread over in the book in two streams. The exuberant fragrance of scholarship is experienced throughout the book.
The present generation can understand the scholarship of Seshendra in Vedas and Mantra Sastra. Seshendra is a poet who has composed unique Ruthu Ghosha (Cry of the Seasons: Metrical Poetry) and revolutionary free verse –Mande Suryudu (The Burning Sun).
- Andhra Prabha (Telugu Daily), 24th August 2014.
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Two Great Peaks in the world literary criticism and research
Shodasi: Secrets of The Ramayana and Swarnahamsa Harshanaishada from the mighty pen of the great Telugu poet, Gunturu Seshendra Sharma are considered to be the two great peaks in the world literary criticism and research. This is a truth most contemporary Telugu writers and readers aren’t aware of. The way Seshendra could discover Kundalini Yoga, Gayathri Mantra in Shodasi, he could discern the treasure trove of mantra yoga, Sri Mahatripurasundari, Chintamani mantra in Swarnahamsa.
At a time when our universities which are mere Degrees production Units, churn out “solid waste” in the name of research; Seshendra even while attending to his job as a Municipal Commissioner created research oriented critical volumes like a sage.
Though Shodasi was published in 1967 and Swarnahamsa in 1968; Swarnahamsa was created by him much before Shodasi was conceived. The concepts that Srinatha, Nannayya and Mallanatha, the Telugu Classical poets couldn’t decipher,
Seshendra could. He humbly submits that he is most fortunate that the triumvirate had left behind some pertinent concepts only to be discovered by him at a later stage.
Gunturu Seshendra Sarma, the well-known poet, critic and scholar of unfathomable depth, has to his credit quite a number of books in Telugu as well as English. A keen intellect and a lucid exponent of the intricacies in Samskrit literature, the author brought out a treatise on Ramayana. The book also reveals the symbolism in our epics and shows the spirit behind.
According to the author, Sage Valmiki has observed Ramayana as though it is a story of a dynasty in its outward appearance. But when the story part is kept aside, the hidden secrets of the Mantrasastra come out. Valmiki’s Ramayana is full of Vedic literature, language and usages. Ramayana can be appreciated from three angles. The poetic beauty, the historicity and the secret meaning of mother Parasakti. Later Upanishads have taken Valmiki Ramayana as the way to the Mantrasastra. Rama’s wife Sita is considered as Parasakti. In Devi Bhagavatham Sita is described as Goddess Gayatri. The author has taken unusual pains and quoted Vedic dictations which are literally taken by Valmiki in his Ramayana. Thus it has been a product of Vedas and the usages in Ramayana and the words used therein and the similies adopted by Valmiki speak inexplicably the secret of Mother Lalita in his stories.
The author has given and attached a very great significance for Sundarakanda in Ramayana. The author has quoted numerous quotations from Smrithis and Srithis to establish that Sundarakanda is beautiful because Anjaneya the Jeeva has seen Sita the Parasakti. Hence this canto is so styled as Sundara. According to the author “Sita” means “Kundalini.” Hanuman has seen Sita while she was sitting on the ground. Ground means Earth. Earth denotes Mooladharam. The serpent Kundalini stays in this. Thus it is symbolised as Sita sat on the ground. Hanuman the Yogi has the vision of Kundalini in Sita. With the aid of Ida and Pingala, Kundalini travels in Sushumna through spinal cord crossing the six fluxes, and finally reaching Sahasraram. This again speaks of “Shodasi.” Rama is a beautiful man. He is having a Sundari in Sita (a beautiful woman). The descriptions are beautiful in this canto. Thus it is synonymous with “Soundaryalahari” of Sankaracharya.
The author expressed that Mahabharata is a reflection of Ramayana in all the cause, origin and delivery. Innumerable similarities are quoted from both Valmiki and Vyasa to prove that the usages, style and similies are almost similar in both the epics. He compares Vyasa’s “Nalacharitam” with Sundarakanda of Valmiki in the vision of Srividya.
The author further argues that Kalidasa’s “Meghasandesam” is only an imitation of Valmiki. The flight of Anjaneya in search of Sita is the basis for Kalidasa’s “Meghasandesam.” Both Sita and the Yaksha’s wife are described as “Syamas” – meaning in the middle of youth. The duration of separation is one year in both the cases. Ultimately the author said that “Meghasandesam” is the offspring of Ramayana, with yearning to see Parasakti.
The author has taken the readers in his book to that sublime beauty where there is no further argument, than to enjoy the flow of citations with their intrinsic meaning and full of scientific vision. His unsurpassed knowledge in Mantrasastra has enabled him to pass dictums vivisecting the symbolic mysticisms into splinters and handing the kernel of truth under each word, usage, and application. He deserves all praise for this meritorious contribution to our literature.
Ramayana, a replica of Vedas
There are several versions of the Sri Ramayana, one of the two greatest epics. Following Sri Valmiki Ramayana several editions have been published in various languages, besides scores of commentaries written across centuries. Late. Gunturu Seshendra Sharma, scholar poet of 20th Century unearthed secrets of the Ramayana through his popular Telugu book “Shodasi”.
The novelty of nomenclature Shodasi , called Sri Vidya is reflected , in the 16th Chapter . Sharma’s intellectual depth comes forth in analyzing Sundara Kanda specially through Kundalini Yoga . The author highlights hidden truth in Valmiki’s thought that is similar to Vedas and says that Trijata’s dream in Sundara Kanda reflects Gayatri Mantra of 32 Syllabi in 4 lines. Sharma pays rich encomiums in the description of Lanka surrounded by three impregnable borders. He compares these three borders with Trikuta viz... Shakti , Kaamaraaja , Vagbhava Kutas with those of Sri Vidya in Kundalini . A staunch believer of Vedas, the author feels that Ramayana is a replica of Vedas and oriented towards the character of Indra . He concludes that in Ramayana the mentioning of the supreme God is Indra and not Vishnu, as the presiding deity of valour in Vedas. Utterances of the word Vishnu were considered to be imaginary overstatements in the author’s view.
This book lends a new perspective to the Ramayana by adding the dimension of Kundalini Yoga .
The foreword by Vishwanatha Satyanarayana adds credibility to the book. The current work is an English translation of the original by Gurujada Suryanarayana Murthy , a scientist by profession . His proficiency in the subject is evident in the translation throughout that doesn’t swerve from the original’s purport.
(Friday Review: 2nd October 2015)
In the galaxy of Indian poets and critics, the position of Seshendra as a luminary is unique. He visualizes the cross currents of tradition and modernity as perpetually interacting and moving towards the future, in new directions. As a Telugu poet and critic, he is a multifaceted genius, seminal in his thought, his writings in various genres facilitating the evolution of new modes of literary activity among the new generation writers.
As Seshendra says with all humility in the First Memorial Lecture on the Jnaan Peeth Award-winner Viswanatha Satyanarayana titled “Valmiki to Kalidasa - Ashram Kavya Yuga,” “…my guru. His blessings have been with me all my life and it is only through his blessings that I am today.” Seshendra’s interaction with Viswanatha for years is evident from the latter’s Forewords to Seshendra’s epoch-making works Shodasi Ramayana and Ritu Ghosha. The traditionalist facet of Seshendra is evident in Shodasi Ramayana. It is a new interpretation of a part of Valmiki Ramayana in terms of Kundalini Yoga. The Sundarakanda represents the quintessence of Valmiki Ramayana’s thought. The first verse of the Sundarakanda, “Tato Ravana Nithayah,” etc., has been interpreted by Seshendra as representing an attempt by Hanuman to traverse the path of the Sushumna, which is the mystic path situated between the Ida and Pingala, thereby reaching the final goal, of oneness with the Kundalini Sakti. In the chapter on Indra Paratva as opposed to Vishnu Paratva, the critic makes an original thesis: that the Ramayana closely follows the predominant position of Indra in the pantheon of gods, which is the Vedic pattern as against the supremacy of Vishnu which is the Puranic pattern. “Shodasi” is related to the Maha Mantra “Sri Vidya.” Viswanatha in his Foreword says that it is Seshendra’s commentary on Gayatri Mantra. He wonders about Seshendra’s genius in reading the Maha Mantra “Sri Vidya” with such deep significance. While maintaining that no one else has read Mahabharata and Ramayana together in the way Seshendra could do, Viswanatha says that not only Telugu people but Indians at large should be grateful to Seshendra for writing Shodasi Ramayana.
Seshendra’s interpretation of Sri Harsha’s Naishadhiyacharitham based on the story of Nala in Vyasa’s Mahabharata is another landmark in his studies in Sanskrit literature. He goes beyond Mallinatha, Srinatha and Nannaya and maintains that Naishadhiyacharitham synthesizes Mantra Sastra, Yoga Sastra and Vedanta Sastra. The work is an allegory on the journey of the soul, a discourse on Matter and Spirit.
In his Foreword to Ritu Ghosha (“CRy of Seasons”) too Viswanatha showers praise on Seshendra’s poetic genius. In this poem Seshendra renders the beauties of the seasons that determine time. His understanding of the sounds of seasons is not merely in external terms. He makes an in-depth study of the human time in different aspects in relation to the seasonal time. Viswanatha says that Seshendra’s eminence as a poet lies in his understanding of the multiple aspects of the seasons, the deep resonances between the human system and the seasonal variations. In this sense, according to Viswanatha, Seshendra’s writing is of the highest order.
One of Seshendra’s major poems, Gorilla, uses the Tantric philosophy to reinforce the poet’s views on modern life. While Shodasi Ramayana explicates the Sundarakanda as presenting the power of Kundalini, the modern epic Gorilla deals with the will traced through the pages of Vedic philosophy. As Seshendra says in his Preface, “The great power of universal creation is the vital force which forms the subject matter of contemplation for many thinkers of ancient India in the Vedic, Tantric and Darshanic systems of philosophy.” According to the poet, even in the turbulent contemporary life, the individual can summon all the superhuman energy of the primordial Apeman to destroy evil forces around. The invocation to Gorilla is significant:
“O Gorilla, arise, Gorilla! Rise from your slumber, O Creative Power sleeping in man. O Pitamaha, O Grandsire, who first saw the sun and moon, awake! Mankind is imploring helplessly for you.”
Inspired by Primordial force, the poet says:
“The ocean does not sit at anybody’s feet and bark. The voice of a storm does not know how to say yes. The mountain does not bend and salute. I may be a fistful of earth, but when I lift my pen, I have the arrogance of a nation’s flag.”
Seshendra’s message is that deriving superhuman’s energy from Primordial Nature, the individual can survive the onslaughts of contemporary life.
Another poem of Seshendra widely read in India and abroad, My Country, My People has indeed heralded a new era in the poetry of twentieth century anguish. In his Foreword to the Greek translation of the poem, the contemporary Greek poet Nikhi Phorus Vruttakose says, “Personally I would compare the pain and anguish of the poet with the one of Loutre Mont (the founder of Surrealism) in his lyric Mald-Aurore. The difference is that Seshendra’s protest is not made in the void. He walks firmly on the soil. At times we observe in his poem a Biblical and Prophetic tone which attracts us.” Contemporary Progressive Poetry in Telugu, under the leadership of Sri Sri, has been replaced by Seshendra’s traditional wisdom, redefining the nature of contemporary man as a social being. The poet as humanist exhorts the masses to wake from slumber and march on the path to glory:
“Come, my people, take up your ploughs. Come with your women, your children, come out of your hearths and homes, from prisons of your schools and offices, your academies and assemblies. Come, let us see centuries blown off in the winds of time.
Come, walk with me through the villages, towns and cities. Flow like floods, roar like floods, through the streets and highways of our nation.”
In Kaala Rekha, besides a score of critical essays on the traditional modern poetry, Seshendra shows remarkable insight into the genre of Ghazal in Urdu poetry in five essays on the subject. He calls Ghazal an art of magnetism, a fire, a culture. His friendship with Faiz Ahmed Faiz gives personal touch to the essays. Seshendra sees in Ghazal poetry the heights of love poetry in observing that even though Islam does not accept idol worship, the Ghazal poets have ushered in a tradition of idolizing the beloved. He calls the Sanskrit metre Anushtup, an Urdu Shait and maintains that the number of Ghazals in Valmiki’s poetry cannot be seen anywhere else. He also sees closeness of Vemana’s Telugu metre Aataveladi and the Ghazal.
As evident in his brilliant interpretation of Sundarakanda in Shodasi Ramayana, Seshendra as an Indian critic has firm grasp of the Indian mythology. Elsewhere in his critical essays too he has sounded the depths of both the Indian and Western lore, in a comparative perspective. In his long letter of July 18, 1984 to me, Seshendra analyzes Jessie Weston’s From Ritual to Romance (used by T. S. Eliot in writing The Waste Land). While admiring Weston’s book as “a monument of quest and scholarship….that captures the original source or sources of the Grail Legend now found embedded in Christian liturgy,” with his in-depth knowledge of Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as the Indian folklore, Seshendra corrects the Western critic, suggesting that she should have taken the Rishyasringa version of the Ramayana instead of the one of Mahabharata. He maintains that Weston should have taken into account the fertility ritual in Ramayana.
Seshendra’s treatise Kavisena Manifesto deals with an ambitious literary movement to give new directions to the writings of the new generation poets. The basic aim of the movement is to inculcate literary consciousness in the intelligentsia in the present day climate of social consciousness related to the causes of political and economic conditions. In Kavisena Manifesto the poet-critic synthesizes the traditional Indian poetics and modern European theories such as the Greek, Roman and Marxist. As Seshendra says in his letter of June 12, 1979 to me, “At the physical level these theories are riddled with vulgarized antagonisms all of which are only accretions of the ignorance of blind folks in politics and literature. But the visionary mind always revels in discovering the integrity of the whole in life and cognition of life.”
Modern Indian literature in English translation is gaining currency in the university departments, having been included in M. A. (English) courses. Seshendra’s works have been prescribed for study in such courses, several of them being translated into English, French, German and Greek besides many Indian languages including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Kannada.
With titles conferred on him, like “Navakavita Pitamaha,” “Raashtrendu,” etc., Seshendra participated in a score of Kavi Sammelans at the state and national levels. He lectured widely in India and abroad including Greece, West Germany, Mauritius and Kenya on Indian literature and tradition. He also lectured on the subjects at several Indian universities including Rajasthan, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Tirupati, Anantapur and Visakhapatnam besides India International Centre, New Delhi, Telugu Academy, Hyderabad and Kalidasa Academy, Ujjain. The honours bestowed on Seshendra were climaxed by the Central Sahitya Academy Award and Honrary D.Litt by the Telugu University in Hyderabad. No wonder he was nominated to the Nobel Prize in Literature.
-Prof. D. Ramakrishna
( Kakatiya University : Warangal : India )