Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Mellifluous Veena

The Mellifluous Veena

THE  MELLIFLUOUS   VEENA—Its Divinity and Antiquity<b></b></b>

       While music, whether vocal or instrumental, has been considered divine all over the world, Indian music is considered divinity itself.  The very fact that we use the term ‘Gandharva Veda’ for music makes it abundantly clear that music was literally of celestials that explored the melody and gamaka of the Samaveda. Infused with profound transcendental meaning, Sruti and Raga and Laya sublimated human emotions in art leading to Madhura Bhakti. In fact, right from the days of Maharshi Narada to recent times represented by  saints like Jayadeva, Meera, Chaitanya, Tulasidas,  Kabir, Purandara, Tyagaraja , Annamacharya. Muthuswamy Deekshitar etc, music has represented virtually the rhythm of the Hindu way of life. Whether it is vocal or instrumental, Indian music has always remained divinity itself.

           Among the ancient classical musical instruments, the Veena has always remained the prima donna among Indian musical instruments. Temple paintings and scriptures associate the Veena with the Hindu pantheon of gods and goddesses in one form or the other. Goddess Saraswathi, the presiding deity for all Fine arts and education, holding a Veena is the first example of the sacredness of the Veena.

           The antiquity of the Veena could be traced back to the Vedic times. In fact, in the Rigveda we come across two terms ‘Vaana’ and ‘Kshona’ both of which refer to the Veena. The Taittariya Samhita of the Yajurveda refers to the playing of the Veena by two vainikas while the third accompanied them on the vocal music. We also learn that during the performance of the Ashwamedha Sacrifice, Veena accompanied the Vedic Mantras. One of the Mantras recited during the Yajna says “This, the Veena, is verily the embodiment of Beauty and Prosperity”. 
        There is an interesting but little known legend illustrating the magic of the sonorous notes coming out of the Veena. Once the sages, who were performing a Yajna in a forest, were troubled by a fire-spitting dragon that impeded their sacrifice and caused them untold miseries. So, they sought Brahma’s help. Brahma wondered if his consort Saraswathi could tame the dragon with her music. Saraswathi agreed and hid herself in the forest and played on the Veena. The dragon, attracted and bewitched by the melodious music, stopped its destruction and went in search of the source of the elusive melody. Soon it relinquished its havoc and developed such a yearning for the mellifluous music that it became restless without it. Finally it prayed to God to let him know who was producing the music.
          Saraswathi then appeared before the dragon and played the Veena. The enchanted dragon pleaded for salvation and a permanent place near the music. Satisfied by the earnestness of the seeker, Saraswathi agreed to the request of the dragon and replaced the peacock [which became her vahana] in her Veena with the dragon’s head so that it could always remain an integral part of the Veena and hear the music always.
          There is another interesting episode in the Rigveda from which we can infer that in ancient days Veena was played early at dawn. It is said that Sage Kanva was once captured and imprisoned by the demons and was kept blindfolded in a dark room. The condition for his relief was that with his eyes completely blinded, he should be able to tell the time of the day. Hours passed, night passed into day and at the break of dawn he heard the melodious notes of the Veena. He knew that the day had dawned since it was the practice in ancient days to practice Veena at the break of dawn. He told the captors that it was dawn without letting them know the source of his answer. He was set free.
         A great deal of religious significance is attached to the Veena and its components. Parts of the Veena are said to represent various gods. According to ‘Sangitha Ratnakara’ of Sarangadeva, even the seeing and touching of the Veena takes away several sins and confers Moksha. The Veena’s danda represents Shiva, the strings represent Uma, the shoulder represents Vishnu, the bridge represents Lakshmi, the gourd Brahma and so on. Thus, the several parts of the Veena represent various gods and goddesses and are capable of bestowing prosperity. The 24 frets are supposed to represent the 24 letters which form the Gayatri Mantram while the four strings represent the four Vedas. 
         The wood used for making the Veena is jack wood which is considered sacred. In Kerala it is considered that Goddess Mahalakshmi resides in the jack wood and it brings prosperity to the Veena player. It is on this account that the Veena is particularly worshipped during the Navaratri festival. In ancient days, wood from jack trees grown in the temple courtyard was used to make the Veena. It was believed that such wood absorbed the resonance of the temple bells. Nowadays other types of wood are also used.   
          The strings of the Veena in Vedic times were made of spun grass known as ‘Munja grass’. Sinews of an animal called Godha was also used for the strings in respect of some Veenas.. It was much later that the metal wires came into use. The best known Vedic Veena was called ‘Maha Veena’ and it had 100 strings of the Munja grass. This instrument was played with sticks. It was also called by the name ‘Shatatantri Veena’ Veena with 100 strings]. Probably this could have been the forerunner of the present day ‘Santoor’ popular in Persia and Kashmir which also has 100 strings and which uses two rods to produce melodious music. Goddess Saraswathi’s Veena has 7 strings and is called ‘Kachhapi’. The Veena held by Maharshi Narada is called ‘Mahati’ and it has 4 strings. Lord Shiva is said to have used a Veena called ‘Analambi’ and it has only one string.
          Ever since the Vedic Age, the Veena has constantly remained in the centre stage of the world of instrumental music in India for the past thousands of years. Its greatness and sanctity has been hailed by several scriptures as also by several saints, poets and singers as would be evident from the following representative references:
        1. We learn from the Valmiki Ramayana that Ravana obtained Lord Shiva’s grace by pleasing him with his playing on the Veena.
        2. It is said that Ravana was so fond of  the instrument that his flag was painted with the picture of a Veena
        3. In the ‘Uttara Rama Charitam’, Lava and Kusha, sons of Lord Sri Rama, sang the entire Valmiki Ramayana to the accompaniment of Veena in the  court of Lord Rama during the Ashwamedha Sacrifice.
        4. Bharatha Muni in his Natya Shastra refers to two Veenas by name Chitra and Vipanchi
        5. Acharya Shankara in his Tripura Sundari Stotram refers to two Veenas by name Vipanchi and Vallaki.
        6. Kalidasa in his composition ‘Shyamala Dandakam’ says that Goddess Sharada uses a golden Veena since he refers to the same by the word ‘Manikya Veena’. He also refers to a Veena by name ‘Mayura Veena’ which was peacock in shape in his popular drama ‘Malavikagnimitram’
        7. Bhasa in his drama ‘Pratijna Yougandharayana’ refers to a Veena called ‘Ghoshavathi’ which was played by Raja Udayana.
        8. Saint Tyagaraja has sung in his famous composition ‘Mokshamu Galada’ [Saramathi Raga and Adi Tala] thus:  ‘Veenavadana Loludou Shivamana’ meaning that Lord Shiva resides in the mind of the Veena player.
         The present form of Veena is very much different from what it was in ancient days in shape, size and design.  Today’s Veena is a polyphonous instrument designed and developed by one Govinda Dikshitar during the reign of Raja Raghunath Naik when the Naiks were ruling Tanjore. Hence it is also known as Tanjore Veena. The instrument has a fretted fingerboard with 4 strings for the notes and 3 drones cum tala strings. 
           While the Veena is generally held horizontally, the renowned Veena Vidwan Venkatarama Das of the Vijayanagara Kingdom had the rare distinction of holding it vertically and playing on it. This type of playing the Veena was therefore referred to as ‘Urdhva Veena’. Another great Vainika Vidwan who had this distinction was Sri. Sangameshwara Shastry from Andhra Pradesh who lived between 1874-1931. He was an ardent devotee of Goddess Lalitha. By virtue of his ardent practice and expertise, he possessed a high degree of perfection. Gurudev Ravindranath Tagore was so much fascinated by Shastri’s talent that he took him to Shantinikethan, enjoyed his recitals for some time and lavished presents on the great Vainika Vidvan.  Shastri breathed his last while playing the Ananda Bhairavi Raga on the Veena.
           Such is the sanctity of the Veena that Maharshi Yajnavalkya in his “Yagjnavalkya Smruthi’ writes:
“Veena Vadana Tattvajnah Shruthi Jati  Visharadah
Talajnascha Aprayasena Mokshamargam hi Gachchathi”
Meaning “One who is well versed in Veena playing with the principles well understood   and who has mastered Sruthi, Jati, Raga and Tala, attains salvation without effort”

“Saa  Me  Vasatu  Jivhagre  Veena  Pustaka  Dharini”

-May Goddess Saraswathi, holding the Veena and the book, always reside in my tongue.



Article No. 605--The Melliflous Veena--Its Divinity and Antiquity
Created : December 18, 2010 8:22 AM

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Distorted Definitions

APARTHA KOSHA [Distorted Definition] IN ENGLISH

ACTING: Behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances.
ADVOCATE: The only profession where a man can lose his brief and a woman her
ADOLOSCENCE: A stage when kids start questioning the answer.
ADULTERY: Democracy applied to lust: Stealing some one else’s rightful position for yourself..
AIR RESERVATION: Adjusting our seats to theirs.
BIKINI: The funniest apparel when brevity is the wit of soul.
BEAUTY PARLOUR: A place where men go to shave face and women to save face.
BEST SELLER: A book where there is a beautiful girl on the cover and no cover on the beautiful girl.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT: Spending summer in Delhi.
CHAIR: Headquarters for hindquarters.
DIETING: Penalty for exceeding feed limits.
DHOTI: The only man’s apparel easy to wear and easy to share. One size fits all
EGOIST: I-Specialist.
ELEPHANT: An animal by washing which you do something big and something clean.
EDUCATION: What little information you are left with, after subtracting what you
have forgotten from what you have learnt from what you have been taught.
FASHION: A woman’s eternal struggle between her admitted desire to dress and the
unadmitted desire to undress.
FRACTIONS: Two-storeyed numbers.
FLATTERY: Counterfeit money which, but for vanity, would have no circulation.
FORTIFICATION: Two twentification.
FLATTERER: A man who feeds you with an empty spoon
GOVERNMENT: An institution with too much overheads and too much underhand.
GOVERNMENT PROGRAMME: That which has a beginning, a muddle and no end.
GAMBLING: One sure way of getting nothing for something.
HOUSEWORK: What a woman does that nobody notices unless she does not.
HANDKERCHIEF: A piece of apparel used in a funeral to hide tears not there.
INHERITANCE: Will-gotten gains.
INDIGESTION: Failure to adjust a square meal to a round stomach.
INSURANCE AGENT: A man who does not worry about his future as long as the others are worried about theirs.
INFLATION: A stage when a millionaire lives the life of a billionaire.
JAIL: The best place to meet people with conviction.
KISS: An application at the headquarters for a position at the base.
LOVE: Where an attachment precedes a declaration
LAW: Where a declaration precedes an attachment.
LAMP POST: Easing spot for roaming dog
MARRIAGE: An investment that pays you dividend if you pay interest.
MAN OF THE HOUR: He, whose wife tells him that she would get ready within a minute.
MOTHER: Not a person to lean on, but a person who makes leaning unnecessary.
MATHEMATICS: He who hides between two mats with an ICS qualification.

MINT: A factory creating wealth without advertisement
NIGHT CLUB: A drinking establishment where the tables are reserved
but not the guests.
NUDIST CAMP: A place where men and women air there differences.
OPTIMIST: A man who does crossword puzzles in ink.
PREGNANT: The shape of things to come.
PIGGY BANK: Equipment, which makes misers out of children and bank robbers
Out of parents.
POT HOLES: Depressed speed breakers.
POSTMAN: The only profession where you get a sack the very day you join.
QUADRUPLETS: Womb mates.
RESEARCH: A process of finding out what you are going to do now, when you cannot
Keep on doing what you are doing now when you quit what you are
doing now.
SHOW BUSINESS: A business where each candle on a birthday cake becomes
a coffin nail to a female star.
TROUSERS: A dress, which is singular at the top and plural at the bottom.
UNCOVERED DEFICIT: A Finance Minister’s wife with poorly proportioned exposure.
VIRTUE: What you learn on your mother’s knee
VICE: What you learn at some other joint.
WOMAN’S MIND: A place which is always kept clean by frequent changes.
WASTE OF ENERGY: Telling a hair-raising story to a bald headed man.
WELL DIGGING: A profession where you start at the top and end at the bottom.
XANTHIPPE: A philosopher’s touchstone for patience
YAWN: An opening made by a bore.
ZERO: The only number individually ignored but collectively recognized..
ARTICLE NO.579---APARTHA KOSHA [Distorted Definitions ]
Created: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 9:21 PM

A Note On Naatya From Dance Maestro Dhananjayan

Sent: Saturday, June 26, 2010 11:40 PM
Subject: Fwd: kalasagar award

Herewith attached the article I promised to send. Dhananjayan

By. Naatyaachaarya V.P. Dhananjayan,

Bharatakalanjali. Chennai. 20


Having spent almost two decades in the Kalakshetra, Chennai founded by
the legendary Smt. Rukmini Devi we formed liberal views on the
International performing arts scene. Rukminidevi brought in several
innovations within the flowing traditions of the ancient theatre and
yet she did not claim to be an innovator or modern choreographer or
taken credit for the imperative changes taken place in the performing
arena. Now Kalakshetra has become a phenomena and its style of
Bharatanaatyam has become the measuring rod for the best technique.
Rukminidevi never assigned it the name ‘Kalakshetra style’ likes of
the way people attach a tag to their style as Tanjore style, Vazhuvoor
style, Pandanallur style etc. For her it was always two distinct style
of performing arts namely “good’ and ‘bad’ styles of Bharatanaatyam.
She used to say to us, her direct disciples, that whatever we do, do
it well. By attaching a Kalakshetra tag one does not become the best
traditionalist or orthodox, puritan etc. The so called Kalakshetra
style of technique is established and popularized by our batch of
students and myself and Shanta being the first couple dancers to come
out of the precinct of this temple of art are largely responsible for
popularizing and establish the beauty and strength of the method
Rukminidevi used. The incredible credit should go to Smt. Sarada
Hoffman, who meticulously made us practice the ‘good’ style to make a
distinct “Kalakshetra’ style. Needless to say that we have
contributed much to embellish the technique that we learned in
Kalakshetra and several innovative technique and formations within
the aesthetic parameters of a particular distinct style of performing
art has added to the already existing ones.

As it is well known now, it was Rukminidevi who started using the word
‘Bharatanaatyam’ in place of ‘Sadiraattam, Daasiaattam etc in vogue
during the immediate past centuries. All the initial resentments met
a natural death and this name passed the test of time to continue as a
meaningful nomenclature to adorn a technique, which encompasses
physical, mental and spiritual levels of delineation.

During our studentship in Kalakshetra (1952 to 1968) we have been
taught to pronounce each language, as it should be written in the
respective language. Based on that our generation of students
continue to practice and try to pass it on to our lineage. Some of
the mistakes crept into the English printed media remain unchanged and
because of the urban education and English medium schools, vernacular
is getting diluted with anglicized spelling and pronunciation. There
are so many such wrong usages in our languages. Since I am a
performing artiste with almost six decades of performing, teaching and
choreographing experience, my concern is about some of the wrong
usages found in my profession. I think it is my duty to point out
these important aspects and ignorance expelled. So the purpose of
this article is to draw attention to the words SAMSKRUTAM and NAATYA.

“SAMSKRUTAM” OR SAMSKRUT is certainly the most complete language and
as the meaning goes, samyak (well) + krutam (done)= samskrutam (well
done) a well constructed every sense. Scholars all over the world with
out pride and prejudice accept this. Bust some how the land of its
origin (Bhaarat) does not even pronounce the word correctly. WE write
and pronounce in an anglicized way as “san +skrit” which may have a
different meaning altogether. I have been appealing to people, print
media and scholars to change the wrong practice and use the original
correct term SAMSKRUTAM. Some of the western scholars have changed
and they are able to pronounce this word correctly as ‘samskrutam’,
where as we Bhaarateeya are still clinging on to the spelling and
pronunciation left behind by our invaders.

The same way our performing art tradition has a beautiful ‘term’
called Naatya, but they are always referred as mere ‘dance’. This has
nothing to do with tradition or modernity

‘Dance’ is a connotation commonly used for all kinds of movements.
Actually speaking the term ‘dance’ cannot be a true translation for
our ‘Naatya’. The closest equivalent to the meaning of ‘nritta’ may
be passed of as ‘dance’. Last year (18th December 06) in my lecture
demonstration in Music academy, the Academy’s expert committee
unanimously endorsed my views that Bharatanaatyam should be referred
only as ‘Naatya’.

Our performing arts encompasses physical, mental and spiritual aspects
hence the Samskritam connotation of ‘Naatya’ cannot be substituted by
the word ‘dance’ which remains at the physical level of any movements.

It will be interesting for our media and critics to know that western
classical Ballet tradition never use the word ‘dance to denote a
Ballet performance. The term ‘ballet’ according to Oxford dictionary
‘combined performance of professional dancers on stage’

Over the centuries the term ‘ballet’ became synonymous with the
classical dance technique of the West.

Practitioners of Naatya and the media have been erroneously using the
word BALLET to denote our dance technique. This wrong usage should be
thwarted and our printed media should take it up seriously and change
that to Naatya. The India Current being one of the best cultural
magazine which gives so much space for the promotion of our art and
culture should seriously take up the cause of changing this trend and
start using the term “ Naatya” for all our classical performing arts,
especially Bharatanaatyam. It is my earnest appeal to the printed
media people to give specific instructions to all their advertisers,
Art critic and article contributors on performing arts to use the term
‘Naatya’. Failing which the media Editors should themselves change
the word Dance to Naatya wherever it is relevant. Since people are
well aware of the term Bharata-naatyam, it need not be called or
advertised as a dance performance. Naatya means a combination of
Nritta, Nritya and Nataka. (Dance, expressions and drama)

Another blatant mistake our artistes make is that a dance drama is
publicized as ‘Ballet’ not realizing that we are actually referring to
the western dance technique. Westerners are often confused when we
advertise our dance drama as ballet.

Suffice it to say that we have a meaningful word “Naatya’ and the word
‘Dance’ and ballet should be replaced with that word wherever it is
possible and establish a new tradition of Naatya.

V.P.DHANANJAYAN, Bharatakalanjali, Chennai.

Figure Vedanta And The Hindu


Who is a Hindu : It is unfortunate that students of Indian History in our country have been fed with many historical untruths for the past two hundred years or so by having been made to study History text books written by British authors and such other authors as sponsored by the then British Government. In keeping with their avowed objective of capturing power with a divide and rule policy, the British Government re-wrote Indian History to suit their convenience and prescribed those text books for study in schools and colleges. One such distorted truth was the Theory of Aryan Invasion. According to this Theory, the Aryans migrated to India from Central Asia and other places as nomads in search for a living. This Theory has been totally demolished by subsequent research and archeological excavations.

The Aryan Invasion Theory, in its simplest form, posits that India was inhabited by Dravidians till about 3,000 to 4,000 years ago when the fair skinned Aryans from Central Asia invaded the Sub-continent, and pushed the black Dravidians to the South. It has now been proved beyond doubt that the Aryans were original settlers in India who have been born and brought up in India ever since the dawn of civilization. In fact the word ‘Arya’ is a Sanskrit word which means ‘refined and cultured’. That is why all our ancient texts call India as ‘Aryavartha’ which means ‘the land of the cultured and refined people’. In fact the Sanskrit lexicography, the Amara Kosha, defines Aryavatha as Punya Bhoomi or the Sacred Land. The famous poet in Sanskrit, Kalidasa, in his drama “Shakuntalam” uses the word ‘Anarya’ for describing an ‘uncultured person’. In fact many interesting details about the life and culture of Aryans can be gathered by a study of the Rig-Veda. Sanskrit in its archaic form was the language of the Aryans.

The River Ganga, known as the Ganges in English, has a tributary by name Sindhu [Which is a Sanskrit word] which the Englishmen called ‘The Indus’. In fact, the Sindhu is considered one of the 7 sacred rivers of our Country. The area in and around these two rivers was popular as ‘The Indo-Gangetic Plane. When the Aryans were staying in these areas, the Persians invaded this region. Because the natives were inhabitants of the Sindhu river belt, the Persians identified as them as the ‘Sindhus’ and called them as ‘Hindus’ due to the fact that in the Persian language, the letter “s” is generally transliterated as “h”—for example, the word ‘Saptah’ [A week] becomes ‘Haftah’ in Persia.. Therefore, the term “Hindu” originally referred to the well-defined geographical areas of ancient India watered by the Indus River, its inhabitants came to be known as “Hindus” and their religion as ‘Hinduism”. The Greeks later found it hard to pronounce ‘h” and dropped it altogether, so that we became known as Indians. The Greeks therefore, called the Sindhu River as the “Indus” River, its inhabitants “Indians” and the geographical area “India”.

What is Vedanta : Man’s eternal nature is total happiness and this is possible to realize only he is prepared to accept and recognize the fact that the whole world is cast in the mould of the Divinity and Divinity exists in every living being. This can be achieved only when one lives a virtuous life which is the purpose of all religions in the world. That subject which teaches every one as to how to lead such a virtuous life which ultimately leads to total and permanent happiness is called ‘Vedanta’, Vedanta is universal in application and has no geographical boundaries, caste, creed or any such distinction.

It is true that there are several religions in the world but the basic purpose of all of them is to find out the true meaning of life and the purpose of life and to locate the true source of eternal happiness. Just as the Greek mind and modern European mind tried to find out the solution to all these problems in the existing mundane world, so also our forefathers started with the external world. All of them significantly failed. While the West stopped exploring further avenues, our forefathers belonging to the Sanathana Dharma continued their search. Having been convinced that the solution does not lie in the material world, they turned the searchlight towards the shining SOUL of man neither [The Spirit or the Atman] and found the answer there. The answer was the ‘Upanishads’, otherwise called the ‘Vedanta’

The message of the Upanishads of which the forerunner was the Vedas was heard by our ancient Rishis who heard the Truth by their intense Tapas through an intuitive sight and obtained a treasure house of spiritual knowledge and sublime ideas revealed to them directly by Divinity in communion with them. The Vedas are therefore known as ‘Shruti’ which means what is heard. It is for this reason that the Vedas are called ‘Apourusheya’ which means ‘not composed by human beings’ .The essential feature of Vedanta or the Upanishads is thus the direct perception of Truth. This experience of Truth is not coloured by the senses or the mind; it is an intuitive revelation. The Vedic Rishis did not create Truth as they were only the medium through which the eternal Truth could be conveyed for the purpose of transmitting it to posterity. These Truths were articulated to the students by the Rishis in the Gurukala system of education.

When the Vedas were heard there was no system of writing in India. But such was the scrupulous zeal of those Brahmins who got the whole Vedic literature by heart by just hearing it from their preceptors that they were able to transmit to them down the line faithfully, absolutely as they had heard.

Latest research in philosophy and Vedanta has estimated that there must have been a gap of about 1,000 years between the Vedic Age and the Upanishadic Age. In the Upanishads, our ancient Rishis arrived at infallible conclusions regarding God, Nature of Man and Soul. Having made a thorough study of the Upanishads, a great Spanish philosopher has described the Upanishads as ‘The Himalayas of the Soul’ and states ‘Just as the great mountain determines the climate, rainfall and physical features of the Peninsula, so do these lofty heights of wisdom in Vedanta determine the quality of the spiritual wisdom of the race that inhabits it’.

The bedrock of the eternal impersonal principles experienced by different Rishis at different period were collected together in the concluding portion of the Vedic Literature known as the Upanishads ; therefore, they are called the ‘Vedanta’ or ‘the End portion of the Upanishads ‘. The term Vedanta is, however, used in a wider sense to represent wisdom contained in all the sacred texts that have the Upanishads as the basis and elucidation of their teachings. In the deepest sense, the Upanishads contain the very essence of the Vedas, referring primarily to knowledge. By ‘Knowledge’ is meant the direct knowledge of the Brahman

Vedanta is a world literature, a universal phenomenon. Vedanta’s attraction to the Western mind in particular has been deep and pervasive and has a left an indelible impression on the philosophy of scholars and poets like Schopenhauer, Nietzche, Max Muller, Deussen, Romain Rolland, Somerset Maugham, T.S.Eliot, Wordsworth, Coleridge and a host of others.. In fact ‘The Razor’s Edge’ by Somerset Maugham introduces the subject matter with a quotation from the Kathopanishad.

B.M.N. Murthy

Created:Saturday, June 26, 2010 2:59 AM

The Palindrome


A palindrome is generally defined as a word or a phrase that reads the same forward or backwards. However the definition goes much deeper and encompasses even full sentences. There are palindromic sentences in which the words, not letters, have been used as units. Even in mathematics we
have the term “palindrome” used in respect of integers that are not changed when reversed. We can see the analogy of palindrome even in other fields as well. For example, in the field of music there are certain melodies that are the same backwards, paintings and floral designs with mirror reflective symmetry, the bilateral symmetry of some of the birds like the flying seagull, which is an example of visual symmetry. Another popular example of the palindrome, as applied to birds, is the bird ‘Gandabherunda’ which adorned the Royal Signia of the erstwhile Mysore Maharajas.

In the language palindrome as applied to the English language, words containing more than 7 letters are generally not palindromic with the rare exception of the 9 letter word “MALAYALAM”. Examples of 7- lettered palindromic words are REVIVER, REPAPER, DEIFIED, ROTATOR etc. It is sheer coincidence that some well-known personages have palindromic names like LON NOL, the former Cambodian Prime Minister, U NU, former Prime Minister of Burma, REVILO P.OLIVER, well-known Professor in the University of Illinois.

Many world leaders have spoken palindromically. After Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the Mediterranean Island of Elba, he was asked whether he could have invaded England. He astounded his questioner by responding in English “ABLE WAS I ERE I SAW ELBA”. Coming to recent times, Ayatollah Kohmini, on learning about the Shah of Iran, declared “NO EVIL SHAHS LIVE ON”. President Reagan, after reviewing the mistakes of his Democratic predecessors, appears to have said “STAR COMEDY BY DEMOCRATS”

In a palindrome contest sponsored by the New Statesman magazine in England in 1967, the following entry by one Mr. James Michie won him the First prize:

The following are a few examples of palindrome with the word as a unit:



While words, sentences, poems etc have been deliberately composed or created with the definite purpose of giving it a palindromic effect, there have been occasions when spontaneous outbursts have become palindromic by sheer coincidence. Carl Sagan, the world famous Astronomer, while deeply thinking about the extra-terrestrial life, appears to have mumbled “RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR”. Similarly, a poor woman who saw her reckless child knocking down a bottle of milk on dinner table appears to have shouted “NO, SON”. A honeymooner after having spent the whole day enjoying the beauty of Niagara Falls appears to have mumbled in her sleep “NIAGARA, O, ROAR AGAIN”.

In keeping with its richness, vocabulary and flexibility, Sanskrit has retained its pre-eminent position even in palindromes. In a letter published in the Scientific American, November 1970, Mr. George Hart, a world authority on palindromes has stated that that the most complex and exquisite type of palindromes ever devised and composed are authored by Sanskrit aestheticians [Alankarikas as they are called]. In the opinion of Mr. Hart, Shloka No.27 in the 19th chapter of the famous epic poem “SHISHUPALA VADHA” by the Sanskrit Poet Magha of of the 7th century A.D. is the world’s best palindrome. The verse is the description of the march of an army



Created: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 9:23 PM

A Comedy Of Commas

The Importance of Punctuation in English

The Importance of Punctuation: Misplaced commas and other forms of punctuation in the English language is often an embarrassment and create a lot of confusion, misunderstanding and even occasional financial irregularities, as would be evident from the following illustrations:

1. It is said that an ancient Greek, consulting the Oracle of Delphi as to whether he should go a-warring, was told :

“Thou shalt go thou shalt return
Never by war shalt thou perish”

Optimistically adding commas after ‘go’ and ‘return’, The Greek took up arms, and was promptly killed in the war. He should have put the second comma after ‘never’.

2. A riddle runs like this :

Every lady in the land
Has twenty nails on each hand
Five and twenty on hands and feet
This is true, without deceit.

The sense is sometimes confused by placing a comma at the end of the second line. If instead you put commas after ‘nails’ and ‘five’, the verse merely states the obvious.

3. Punctuate the following sentence so that it makes sense :

That that is is not that that is not that that is not is not that that it is not that it it is.

Answer: That that is, is not that that is not; that that is not, is not that that is. Is not that? It is.

4. In a co-educational high school, the following sentence was given to punctuate :

‘Woman without her man is imperfect’

The boys wrote ‘Woman, without her man, is imperfect’
The girls wrote ‘‘Woman! Without her, man is imperfect’

5. In the year 1890, a Congressional clerk in America was supposed to write “All foreign fruit-plants are free from duty” in transcribing a recently passed in the Congress; but while typing he changed the hyphen to a comma and wrote “All foreign fruit, plants are free from duty”. Before the Congress could correct his error with a new law, the Government lost over 2 million dollars in taxes.

6. A District Attorney in America introduced an unpunctuated confession taken down by a Police Officer that said:

“Morgan said that he never robbed but twice said it was Crawford”

The prosecution contended that this should have been punctuated as “Morgan said he never robbed but twice. Said it was Crawford”. The defence said the sentence should read “Morgan said he never robbed; but twice said it was Crawford”. The last introduced a reasonable doubt and the accused was set free.

7. A woman whose husband had joined the Navy gave the Pastor of the Church, a note just as he was mounting the pulpit one Sunday morning. The note said “John Anderson, having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety.”
The Minister in haste pulled out the note from his pocket and read aloud “John Anderson, having gone to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety”.

B.M.N. Murthy


ARTICLE NO. 576--The Importance of Punctuation in English
Friday, June 18, 2010 9:35 PM