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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jamboo-phalani, जम्बूफलानि

 

जम्बूफलानि पक्वानि
पतंति विमले जले
तानि मत्स्या न खादंति
जालगोलक शंकया!

3 poor brahmins from a village outside Ujjaini were on the way to the court of Emperor Vikramaditya seeking alms. On the way they passed by a picturesque stretch along the river bank where a tall Jāmbool tree stood laden with ripe fruit. They refreshed themselves with sweet fruit and cool water and sat down to rest in the shade of the large tree. Some fruit laden branches of the tree stretched over the water and from time to time, ripe fruit would fall into the clear water. They watched for a while and noticed that every time a jāmbool would fall in the water, several river fish would swim closer to the fruit and then dart away without eating!
Intrigued, the 3 brahmins described the peculiar occurrence –

जम्बूफलानि पक्वानि - ripened jāmbool fruit,
पतंति विमले जले - fall into the clear waters,
तानि मत्स्या न खादंति - them (the fruit), fish wouldn't eat,
जलमध्ये डुबुग डुबुग || ー'plonk', 'plonk', (they sounded) in the water!

They knew not why the fish never ate the delicious fruit. Puzzled they, went on with their journey to Ujjaini. As they queued up outside the Imperial shrine for alms from the Emperor, they noticed a court official talking to each alms seeker and handing them a coin. When the 3 brahmins approached the official he asked them what they sought. Ashamed to say they were seeking alms, the three said they had a verse to recite to the Emperor.
The official asked them to recite the verse, and the three recited:

जम्बूफलानि पक्वानि
पतंति विमले जले
तानि मत्स्या न खादंति
जलमध्ये डुबुग डुबुग ||

"Very nice, but the last phrase sounds crude!" said the official, "can't you refine it before you recite it for Emperor"? Looking sheepish, the 3 brahmins told the official what they saw by the river bank and how they did not know why the fish never ate the fruit. "Alright", said the official, "when you go to the Emperor, recite these 3 lines and at the end add this phrase - जालगोलक शंकया!

The 3 brahmins did as they were told. On hearing the verse, the Emperor smiled. He gave the brahmins a gold coin each as a gift and said, "O learned ones, the verse you just recited is very nice, but there is something different about the last line. Tell me did you really compose the complete verse?"

The 3 brahmins were again abashed, "O Mighty One, that court official over there, he changed the last phrase of our verse!" they said. The Emperor laughed and beckoned official who approached smiling. "Few can finesse a verse the way you can Kālidāsa!", said the Emperor.

जालगोलक शंकया! - (because they) suspected (the fruit) to be the round-weights of a net!

The tale, most probably is apocryphal; but by attributing the above lines to none other than Kālidāsa, (Sanskrit composer - known for such great works as Meghadootam, Shākuntala, and Kumāra Sambhava), they become difficult to forget!!

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