gomatIdAsaH – 5

rAmasvamI (रामस्वामी) was a great teacher. He had a large circle of loving disciples who adored him not only for his profound learning, but also for the vAtsalya (वात्सल्य) he had for them. Many of them were poets and scholars of no mean order; and preeminent among them stands kerala-varmA (केरलवर्मा) , consort of the king’s sister, rAnI laxmI bAi. He is one of the great poets of kerala (केरल) and the father of modern malayAlam (मलयालम्) literature. In his vishAkhavijaya (विशाखविजयः) , a mahAkAvya (महाकाव्यम्) in twenty cantos describing the life and work of mahArAja vishAkham tirunAl (महाराज विशाखं तिरुनाल्) he tells us that rAmasvAmI shAstrI (रामस्वामी शास्त्री) was his brahmavidyopadeShTA (ब्रह्मविद्योपदेष्टा) and sAhityadeshika (साहित्यदेशिकः).
अगाधधीरथाहूय श्रीरामस्वामिशास्त्रिणम् ।
अहिनक्षत्रजः क्ष्माभृदहिनोत्केरलान्तिकम् ॥
ब्रह्मविद्योपदेष्टारं स्वस्य साहित्यदेशिकम् ।
केरलः प्रतिजग्राह बहुमानपुरस्सरम् ॥
sundararAja kavi (सुन्दरराजः कविः) , also a native of ilattUr (इलत्तूर) , had his early saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) education under shAstriar (शास्त्री). He was a poet and scholar and has to his credit  a number of  valuable works in saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) literature.
sha~Nkara pillai (शङ्कर पिल्लै) , son of a chief judge of Travancore, was another disciple. He studied vyAkaraNa (व्याकरणम्) and mantrashAstra (मन्त्रशास्त्रम्) under shAstriar (शास्त्री) and became a bhAShA-kavi (भाषाकविः). In the introduction to his devI-bhAgavata (देवीभागवतम्) in malayAlam (मलयालम्) , he refers to his preceptor by the eulogistic term “ilattUr-brahma-jyotis” (इलत्तूरब्रह्मज्योतिः) and pays homage to his many-sided attainments. Once the king asked the poet if his son was studying saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) , the latter replied that he had got not  one but two sons, meaning his students, ayyappan Potti (अय्यप्पन् पोत्ती / पोट्टी ?) and sha~Nkara pillai (शङ्कर पिल्लै), and that they were studying saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) very well. (The late mahAkavi ullUr parameshvara aiyar says that his father was a student of ayyappan potti.)

gomatIdAsaH – 4

While the poet was winning laurels wherever he went, his absence was keenly felt in the king’s court in trivendram (त्रिवेन्द्रम्). The splendor of the Palace sadas (सदस्) was on the wane for want of a versatile leader. With repeated messages, the remorseful king had the poet brought back to trivendram (त्रिवेन्द्रम्) and reinstated him in his former place with added glory.

rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was a follower of shrIvidyA (श्रीविद्या) of the samaya-school (समयमार्गम्) and an adept in the mantra-shAstra (मन्त्रशास्त्रम्). It is not known how and by whom he was initiated into the mysteries of shAkta-ism (शाक्तमतम्). He had his dIxA-nAma (दीक्षानाम) madanAnandanAtha (मदनानन्दनाथः), worshiped modinI (मोदिनी) in the form of the goddess tripurasundarI (भगवती त्रिपुरसुन्दरी) and initiated many disciples into the shrIvidyA (श्रीविद्या) cult. He often went on pilgrimage to tiruviDaimarudUr (तिरुविडैमरुदूर), a village on the main line of Southern Railway, and paid his respect to his dIxA-guru (दीक्षागुरुः) who is said to have expired a few years before 1885. In the 15th stanza of the AryAshataka (आर्याशतकम्) the poet makes obeisance to narasiMhAnandanAtha (नरसिंहानन्दनाथः) and other teachers. The great bhAskrarAya (भास्कररायः) is known to have spent his closing days at tiruviDaimarudUr (तिरुविडैमरुदूर), in the last quarter of the 18th century. It is possible that a disciple or one in the line of bhAkararAya (भास्कररायः) was the dIxAguru (दीक्षागुरुः) of the poet who came just half a century later.
rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was credited with supernatural powers. Once the king kept concealed in his hand a small golden image of  a five-headed hanumAN (पञ्चवक्त्रो हनूमान्) and asked the members of his assembly to compose a stanza describing the object which he had in his hand. The paNDita-s (पण्डिताः) were naturally nonplussed, but rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) is said to have given a correct description in the stanza :

श्रीमान् श्रीरामदासो जयति वसुमतीताततातार्यजातः
श्रीरक्षोनाथवक्षःक्षितिधरकुलिशप्रायदंष्ट्राकरालः ।
श्रीदः श्रीरामसेवासमरसमनसां श्रीधरोदारबाहुः
श्रीदाशाद्रीशचापप्रतिभटतनुमान् पञ्चवक्त्रो हनूमान् ॥
वसुमतीताततातार्यजातः । वसुमती पृथ्वी । तस्याः तात आपः । तासां तातोऽग्निः । तस्य अर्यः – स्वामी वायुः । तस्माज्जातो हनूमान् । 
श्रीदाशाद्रीशचापप्रतिभटतनुमान् । श्रीदः – कुबेरः । तस्याशा – उत्तरा दिक् । तत्रत्योऽद्रिः – कैलासः । तस्येशः शिवः । तस्य चापो मेरुः । तस्य प्रतिभटः (प्रतिभटा) – परिपन्थी (पन्थिनी) – तत्सदृशः(तत्सदृशी) तनुः – शरीरः (शरीरं) , तद्वान् । अन्यत्सुगमम् ।

gomatIdAsaH – 3

mahArAj Ayilyam tirunAl ascended the throne in 1860. This ruler was good scholar in saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) and malayAlam (मलयालम्) and a liberal patron of literature and music. Emulating the traditional bhoja (भोज) of dhArA (धारा), he asked poets and scholars to assemble in his court everyday and favor him by conducting learned discussions. He took delight in proposing samasyA-s which the members of the assembly completed.
rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी), the brightest in the galaxy of scholars and the favorites of the muses, excelled in this kind of literary pastime. The king cherished a high regard for the exalted intellectual and poetic abilities of rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) and showered on him liberal gifts and honors. The poet wrote his vR^ittaratnAvalI (वृत्तरत्नावलिः) and other works and dedicated them to his royal patron. The king consulted the poet with advantage in carrying on correspondence in saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) with poets and scholars and in judging the merit of literary men who came to the court for patronage. But this relationship between the king and the poet did not run smooth for long.

Once the king asked the paNDita-s (पण्डित) of the assembly to compose a stanza on the comparative merit of his reign and that of svAtI tirunAl. The paNDita-s (पण्डित) who were looking for a royal smile gave out their versification, maintaining in one voice that the rule of their patron surpassed that of his predecessor in all respects. The demand of the king was embarrassing to rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी). He took it as an infringement of his freedom as a poet and kept silent. When the king pressed him for his contribution, he submitted that he should be excused for his inability to sell away his gifts for a cheap gain. Then the mahArAja asked the poet with cynical asperity if he had tasted the offering to his Goddess before he came to the sadas (सदस्) . The poet replied : “whether I have tested the offering or not is immaterial, but it is the royal head that the intoxication has affected”. This was indeed very bold reply to a powerful potentate, but the poet was undaunted and left the court immediately. The incident gave a tremendous shock to rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) and it turned the course of his life. He felt that court life and royal favors  were destroying his nobility (साधुता) of heart and were implanting mental anguish (साधिता) instead.

( The poet is said to have recited the following verse on leaving the court :

पासनावासनायासनान्मे भृशम् ।
साधुता सा धुता साधिता साऽधिता
किन्तया चिन्तया चिन्तयामः शिवम् ॥

He fled the city and toured all over India visiting learned institution and places of pilgrimage. At kalkattA (कलकत्ता) he had literary discussions with tArAnAtha tarkavAchaspati, author of the well known saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) encyclopedia vAchaspatyam, who showered on him high praise. He introduced himself to the professors of the saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) college, banAras (वाराणसी), as a paNDita (पण्डित) from trivendram (त्रिवेन्द्रम्); bAlashAstrI (बालशास्त्री), one of the professors, asked him if he had known the author of the ma~njubhAShiNI (मञ्जुभाषिणी) commentary, and when the poet revealed that the commentator was no other than his humble self, the professor’s joy knew no bounds; he hugged him to his bosom and dubbed him abhinava mallinAtha (अभिनवमल्लिनाथः).

gomatIdAsaH – 2

On the first day, after taking the midday meals with the preparation of mangoes (Amra – आम्र) and ghee (Ajya – आज्य) in the palace kitchen at Panthalam, the boy remarked that he had sAmrAjya-bhojanam (साम्राज्यभोजनम् –> स-आम्र-आज्य-भोजनम्) which also means the enjoyment of universal sovereignty (साम्राज्य-भोजनम्). The Chief rAjA was pleased with the shrewdness of the boy and took him as a fellow student of his nephew kerala-vermA (केरल वर्मा) who was studying tarka and vyAkaraNa (व्याकरणम्) under him.

In an atmosphere of saMskR^ita (संस्कृत) culture, rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) attained in a few years to a high degree of pANDitya (पाण्डित्यम्) in the two shAstra-s (शास्त्रम्). He then studied the advaita-vedAnta (अद्वैतवेदान्तम्) under appA-dIxita (अप्पदीक्षितः) of tiruvAla~NgADu (vaTAraNya) (तिरुवलङ्गाडु – वटारण्यम्) and visited litarary centers acquiring proficiency in several shAstra-s (शास्त्रम्).

The family deity of rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was the Goddess gomatI (भगवती गोमती) enshrined at sankaran koil (S.R.) twenty miles northeast of ilattur (इलत्तूर), and his family used to visit the temple on all auspicious occasions. One day when rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was chanting the 500 stanzas (पञ्चशती) of the poet mUka (मूककविः) at one sitting, he had a vision of the Goddess (भगवती), felt a thrill of serene joy creeping over his body and began to break in numbers. He was now the elect of the Goddess (भगवती गोमती) and called himself “gomatI-dAsa” (गोमतीदासः). This prefix to his name is invariably found in the colophons of his works.

His fame as a poet and scholar had now a secure basis. The name of svAtI tirunAl (स्वाती तिरुनाल) as a patron of art and letters had spread throughout the country. mahArAja uttram tirunAl who succeeded his brother in 1847 was equally zealous in maintaining the patronage. rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) thought of trying his fortune at trivendram (त्रिवेन्द्रम्) where he was sure his talents would receive encouragement. About 1849 he went to trivendram (त्रिवेन्द्रम्) and paid his respects to the mahArAja, and the latter having already heard about rAmasvAmI’s (रामस्वामी) abilities from the rAjA of Panthalam took him into his vidvat-sadas (विद्वत्सदस्). This assembly was constituted by the best talents of the country, and rAmasvAmI’s (रामस्वामी) poetic genius and scholarship found a fertile soil for their full development. uttram tirunAl was a well-known patron and author of kathakali-s, and rAmasvAmI  (रामस्वामी) wrote at the instance of the king his only malayAlam work jalandharAsura-vadham (जलन्धरासुरवधम्) (kathakali) which won him high praise.

gomatIdAsaH – 1

This is an introduction to devIstotramAlA (देवीस्तोत्रमाला) of shrI gomatIdAsa rAmasvAmI shastrI (गोमतीदासः रामस्वामी शास्त्री) by G. Harihara Sastri (हरिहरशास्त्री). It was written in 1962. I’m posting it here for benefit of all.

न कुतूहलि कस्य मनश्चरितं च महात्मनां श्रोतुम् ।
– बाणः ।

rAma kavi of ilattur

The rulers of the erstwhile State of Travancore in the extreme South of India were, from time immemorial, well-known for their munificent patronage of art and letters; and many of the Maharajas themselves were eminent poets and artists. ilattur (इलत्तूर) rAmasvAmI shAstrI (रामस्वामी), author of the devotional poems now issued, adorned the vidvat-sadas (विद्वत्सदस्) of four successive sovereigns of Travancore after mahArAja svAti tirunAl (स्वाती तिरुनाल), the famous poet and composer (1813-47), and was regarded as the greatest poet of kerala (केरल) in the 19th century A.D.

Life of rAmasvAmI shAstrI (रामस्वामी शास्त्री)
rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was born in November 1823 in the village of ilattur (इलत्तूर), four miles east of Shencotta where the Southern Railways crosses the Western Ghats. His father sha~NkaranArAyaNa (शङ्करनारायण) alias Andi shAstrI was of a very pious and religious disposition and his mother’s name was kR^iShNAmbA (कृष्णाम्बा). rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) received his preliminary saMskR^ita (संस्कृत) education from the paNDita-s (पण्डित) of his native village. Seeing the unusual precocity of the boy his father sent him to Panthalam for higher studies. Panthalam, a small principality west of the Ghats, was for centuries a center of saMskR^ita (संस्कृतम्) studies, and its rulers, known as pANDya rAjA-s (पाण्ड्यराज), had vestiges of political rights over ilattur (इलत्तूर) till three years before rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) was born. It was, therefore, in the fitness of things that the villagers regarded the rAjA-s of Panthalam with a sense of suzerain-ship. There was no cart-able road across the Ghat-s at that time and rAmasvAmI (रामस्वामी) is said to have trudged on foot the distance of sixty miles to reach his vidyApITha (विद्यापीठ).