The source of sweetness

The setting and solving of riddles crops up in accounts of jesters, with the Chinese Dongfang Shuo being particularly good at besting a fellow jester.  On this occasion, it is an Indian king who proposes the riddle, and the legendary jester who solves it, simultaneously exposing a seedier side to a lauded poet. 

One day in court, Krsnadevaraya proposed a riddle: What was the source of the incomparable sweetness of the wise poet Dhurjati’s verse?  Madhurya, the sweet quality attributed to his verses, is a feature of poetry discussed in poetics handbooks. 


Some said it was fate (adrsta), some ascribed it to his purity, or to the grace of the goddess Sarada. Tenali Rama determined to find a better answer. He followed Dhurjati at night when the poet made his way to a courtesan’s house, and waiting for him there till morning.  The next day Tenali Rama was able to proclaim in the court:


“Aha! I have discovered (the secret) – (the sweetness comes from) sipping the streams of nectar issuing from the sweet lips which remove great distress, the lips of delicate but aggressive women who delude the whole world.”


 (“ha telisen bhuvanaikamohanoddhatasukumaravaravanitajanataghanatapaharisantatama-dhuradharoditasudharasadharala grolutam jumi!“)

Source:  Kalahastirajesvara Rao, Tenaliramalinguni kathalu (Rajmandri, 1967), pp. 25-26

Image credit: Daria-Yakovleva at Pixabay


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