DHRUWA CHARITAM (From Narayaneeyam)
Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri (1559-1632) was the celebrated author of Narayaneeyam, a devotional composition in Sanskrit verse which is a masterly summary of the main episodes in Srimad Bhagavatam. He was a scholar in the Sanskrit Language and its grammar on which he wrote his masterpiece Prakriya-sarvaswam which sets forth an axiomatic system elaborating on the classical system of Panini the grammarian.
Narayana Bhattathiri was born in a Namboodiri family of Kerala. He was a disciple of Achyuta Pisharati from whom he studied Sanskrit grammar. As a student he also studied the Rig Veda and Tarka Sastra (the science of logical reasoning and argument).
Bhattathiri was struck with paralysis when he was still young. The disease was painful and Ezhuthachan the author of Adhyatma Ramayana advised Bhattathiri “meen thottu koottuka” which in Malayalam meant ‘take fish as food’ or ‘start counting from fish’. It was obvious that the erudite Ezhuthachan would not have advised Bhattathiri, a Nambooiri brahmin, to eat fish since Namboodiri brahmins are staunch vegetarians. Bhattathiri figured out that the meaning of ‘start counting from fish’ was that he (Bhattathiri) should start recounting the incarnations of the Lord starting from the matsyavatara(incarnation as fish to redeem the Vedas from the asura named Hayagreeva) and go on upto the incarnation of Lord Krishna.
Bhattathiri took the advise and wrote his Magnum Opus based on Srimad Bhagavatam which chronicles the many incarnations of Mahavishnu and expounds the highest philosophy of the Hindus embodied in the Upanishads. He dedicated his work to Lord Krishna, fondly called by devotees as Guruvayoorappan, at the temple at Guruvayoor in Kerala. The work consists of 100 dasakas each containing 10 verses. However, a few dasakas contain more than ten verses so that the total number of slokas is not 1000 but 1034.
Legend has it that Bhattathiri composed one dasaka a day in the presence of the Lord and recited it before Him for His approval and the Lord did nod his head in agreement. The composition is directly addressed to the Lord telling him His own exploits and leelas. The refrain in the last sloka of every dasaka is a prayer to the Lord of Guruvayoor to remove his (Bhattathiri’s) ailments and sufferings. The Lord did cure Bhattathiri of his affliction by the time he completed Narayaneeyam and also revealed to him His captivating form which Bhattathiri has captured ecstatically in the 100th dasakam
Given below is a reproduction of the 17th dasakam from Narayaneeyam which tells the story of Dhruwa. This episode is described in chapters 8 – 12 in the 4th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is also given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
जाया बभूव सुरुचिर्नितरामभीष्टा |
अन्या सुनीतिरिति भर्तुरनादृता सा
त्वामेव नित्यमगतिः शरणं गताभूत् || 1 ||
(O Lord of Guruvayoor!) King Uttanapada, son of Swayambhuva Manu, liked his wife Suruchi very much. The other wife Suniti, neglected by him, her husband, and having none to turn to for help, always took refuge in You only.
अङ्के पितुस्सुरिचिपुत्रकमुत्तमं तं
दृष्ट्वा ध्रुवः किल सुनीतिसोतोऽधिरोक्ष्यन् ।
आचिक्षिपे किल शिशुः सुतरां सुरुच्या
दुःसन्त्यजा खलु भवद्विमुखैरसूया ॥२॥
The son of Suniti, Dhruwa, seeing Suruchi’s son Uttama seated on his father’s lap, himself wanted to climb on to his father’s lap. For this he was taken to task and sternly admonished by Suruchi. Jealousy indeed cannot be given up by those who have turned their face away from you.
त्वन्मोहिते पितरि पश्यति दारवश्ये
दूरं दुरुक्तिनिहतः स गतो निजांबाम् ।
सापि स्वकर्मगतिसन्तरणाय पुंसां
त्वत्पादमेव शरणं शिशवे शशंस॥ ३॥
Dhruva was severely scolded (by his step mother) while his father, deluded by You and completely under his wife Suruchi’s control, was a silent spectator. Dhruwa went (for solace) to his mother who advised him to take refuge at Your feet for crossing the difficulties faced a result of one’s karma (actions)
आकर्ण्य सोऽपि भवदर्चननिश्चितात्मा
मानी निरेत्य नगरात्किल पञ्चवर्षः|
त्वामारराध तपसा मधुकाननान्ते || 4||
Taking his mother’s advice the noble Dhruwa, just a boy of five years, set out from the city, determined to worship You by his intense tapas in Madhukanana. On the way he met with Narada who initiated him into mantramarga, the path of attaining the Lord by chanting the mantra of His names (and gave him the dwadasaakshara mantra ‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’. )
ताते विषण्णहृदये नगरीं गतेन
श्रीनारदेन परिसान्त्वितचित्तवृत्तौ ।
निन्ये कठोरतपसा किल पञ्चमासान्॥ ५॥
Uttanapada was immersed in grief and was anxious for his son but he was consoled by Narada who visited the city. In the meanwhile the boy Dhruwa performed rigorous tapas of gradually increasing intensity for five months.
आविर्बभूविथ विभो! गरुडाधिरूढः ॥६॥
The power of Dhruwa’s intense tapas was such that (the living beings) in all the four quarters were gasping for breath by intense suffocation. Humbly requested by the celestials, Your heart melted with rising compassion and kindness and you revealed Yourself to Dhruwa seated astride Garuda (your vehicle).
दृग्भ्यां निमग्नमिव रूपरसायने ते ।
संस्पृष्टवानसि दरेण तथादरेण ॥७॥
Dhruwa was carried away by the waves of overflowing joy on seeing your bewitching form before his very eyes and looked as if he was immersing himself by his eyes in the nectar of your beauty. Sensing his longing to shower praises on you (by words), You went near him and tenderly touched him with your conch on his cheek
माभाषथास्त्वमवगम्य तदीयभावं ।
राज्यं चिरं समनुभूय भजस्व भूयः
सर्वोत्तरं ध्रुव! पदं विनिवर्त्तिहीनम् ॥ ८ ॥
The moment he was touched by the Lord with His conch, Dhruwa gained instant Knowledge of the Truth and his heart was completely purified. Recognizing his inner emotions and feelings You said to him “ O Dhruwa!
may you rule over your kingdom for a long time and then attain such exalted position from which there is no return (to the cycle of births and deaths).
इत्यूचिषि त्वयि गते नृपनन्दनोऽसा-
रेमे चिरं भवदनुग्रहपूर्णकामः
ताते गते च वनमादृतराज्यभारः॥९॥
O Lord! when You returned to your abode, Dhruwa went back to his city gladdening the hearts of all his subjects and his father and enjoyed life for long with all his desires fulfilled by Your blessings. When his father retired to the forests, following tradition of his forefathers, Dhruwa took over the reins of power in the kingdom.
यक्षेण दव! निहते पुनरुत्तमेऽस्मिन्
यक्षैः स युद्धनिरतो विरतो मनूक्त्या ।
त्वद्भक्तिमेव सुदृढामवृणोन्महात्मा ॥१०॥
When Uttama was killed by a yaksha, Dhruwa went to war with the yakshas headed by Kubera but retracted his steps on the advise of Manu. Kubera was pleased with the peace process and appreciated the patience of Dhruwa. Dhruwa accepted unwavering devotion to You as his reward.
मात्रा समं ध्रुवपदे मुदितोऽयमास्ते ।
वातालयाधिप! निरुन्धि ममामयौघान् ।११॥
In the end Dhruva, along with his mother, was led by your attendants in a vimana (air plane), to the abode called dhruvapada where he lives happily with his mother. O Lord of Guruvayur! please cure all my ailments.