KUCHELA VRUTTAM (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 Dasaka 33 from Narayaneeyam which is a summarised version of the story of Kuchela described in detail in chapters 80 and 81 of the 10th Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. A simple transalation in English is given for the benefit of those who cannot follow the original.
कुचेलनामा भवतः सतीर्थ्यतां
गतः स सान्दीपनिमन्दिरे द्विजः।
त्वदेकरागेण स धनादिनिस्पृहो
दिनानि निन्ये प्रशमी गृहाश्रमी ॥१॥
A brahmin named Kuchela happened to be a classmate of Yours at the house of Sandeepani. He spent his days as a householder with single-minded devotion to you, without any desire for wealth and with contentment and peace at heart.
तथैवनो चित्तजयं समेयुषी ।
कदाचिदूचे बत वृत्तिलब्धये
रमापतिः किं न सखा निषेव्यते ॥२॥
Though his wife was also of the same temperament, she had no such control of mind to the same degree. One day she said to her husband why he should not approach Krishna, a friend of his, for a living.
इतीरितोऽयं प्रियया क्षुधार्तया
जुगुप्समानोऽपि धने मदावहे ।
वहन् पटान्ते पृथुकानुपायनम् ॥३॥
Thus told by his wife who was tormented by hunger Kuchela set out, though detesting riches which would make men arrogant, eager to have a meeting with You carrying with him, tied at the end of his cloth, flattened rice as an offering.
गृहेषु शैब्याभवनं समेयिवान् ।
प्रविश्य वैकुण्ठमिवाप निर्वृतिं
तवातिसंभावनया तु किं पुनः ॥४॥
Reaching your city full of wonders, Kuchela entered the house of Shaibya, one of your consorts, and felt such peace as if he had come to Vaikuntha, more so because of Your receiving him with love and respect.
प्रपूजितं तं प्रियया च वीजितं
करे गृहीत्वाऽकथयत् पुरा कृतम्।
रपर्तुवर्षं तदमर्षि कानने ॥५॥
Kuchela was honoured by you and fanned by your consort. You held his hands in yours and narrated what had happened when both of you had been caught in an unseasonal heavy rain while, at the instance of the guru’s wife, you had been collecting firewood in the forest.
त्रपाजुषोऽस्मात् पृथुकं बलादथ
प्रगृह्य मुष्टौ सकृदाशिते त्वया
कृतं कृतं नन्वियतेति संभ्रमा-
द्रमा किलोपेत्य करं रुरोध ते ॥६॥
You forcibly snatched the bundle of flattened rice from Kuchela who was ashamed and embarrassed to give it to you. You ate a fistful of the flattened rice by which time Rukmini came in rushing with anxiety and held your hand saying ‘this much will do’.
भक्तेषु भक्तेन स मानितस्त्वया
पुरीं वसन्नेकनिशां महासुखम् ।
बतापरेद्युर्द्रविणं विना ययौ
विचित्ररूपस्तव खल्वनुग्रहः ॥७॥
Honoured by you who is a devotee of your devotees, Kuchela spent one night in the city and left the next day, alas! without money. Your blessing indeed takes various (curious) forms.
वदामि भार्यां किमिति व्रजन्नसौ।
Walking back home Kuchela sololoquized “If I had asked Krishna for money he would have given. Now what shall I tell my wife”. Then, with his mind immersed in the thoughts of your words, playfulness and your smile, he gradually reached a house shining brightly with precious stones.
किं मार्गविभ्रंश इति भ्रमन् क्षणं
गृहं प्रविष्टः स ददर्श वल्लभाम् ।
बुबोध च त्वत्करुणां महाद्भुताम् ॥९॥
Apprehending for a minute that he had lost his way he entered the house and saw his wife surrounded by maids and adorned with gold and diamond ornaments. Then he understood Your compassion and kindness par excellence.
स रत्नशालासु वसन्नपि स्वयं
समुन्नमत्भक्तिभरोऽमृतं ययौ ।
मरुत्पुराधीश हरस्व मे गदान् ॥१०॥
Himself living in halls studded with diamonds, he gained immortality with increasingly deep devotion to you. O Lord of Guruvayur who thus fulfils the wishes of your devotees ! take away my afflictions.