samasya pooranam

thaadham thadham dham thathadham dha dham dhaaH

This was the samasya put by king Vikramaditya to his courtiers. Samasya – the sanskrit word loosely translated as a problem, was a literary riddle to solve, where the last line of a quartet was given, and the poets have to come up with first three lines. Sounds easy, but then again they have to follow certain rules of line construction.

During schooldays our malayalam sir took us into the world of vriththam and how to identify a it in poems. A vriththam was like a raga which followed a certain pattern. This pattern was deduced by breaking the sentences into sections of 3 syllables, and then finding which ganam the section belongs to and then what is the ganam rule for that sentence.

Ganam was found for a section by classifying each letter (sound) as a short – laghu note denoted by a small crescent u or a long – guru note denoted by a long dash _. Mathematically there can be 8 ganams. Now the poets have to work out the vritham by finding out the pattern of ganams for the last sentence. Then they have to work with words following given pattern to solve the problem at hand, and most importantly the poem should make sense. Samasya’s followed these rules.

These set of rules were from sanskrit poetry and most of the languages which have originated from sanskrit also followed these rules for poetry. Though modern poetry has bypassed most of these, there are still poets who write poems within the set rules and solve the samasyas. I liked that poerty, where poetry was not just a set of rhyming words put together, but where it was like a problem waiting to be solved.

The “thaadham thadham” samasya was given by king vikramaditya after an incident he saw in his palace. A beautiful palace maiden was fetching water for worship from the pond. While climbing the steps she accidentaly drops the pot, which rolls down the steps making the noise, which vikramaditya puts as samasya to tease his courtiers.

Kalidasa was a poet in king Vikramaditya’s court. When all the other couriters failed, He asked for two days to solve this riddle. Kalidasa watched kings daily routine with care and found which all places he regularly visited. He keenly deduces what might have happened to cause this samasya. By the end of second day, he solves the samasya as below.

raamaabhishEke jalamaaharanth~yaH
hasthaachchyutho hEmaghaTo yuvathyaaH
sOpaana maargENa karOthi Sabdam
thaadham thadham dham thathadham dha dham dhaaH

roughly translated ::

fetching water for the worship of Rama,
the golden pot slipped from the maidens hand,
fell down the steps making the noise
thaadham thadham dham thathadham dha dham dhaaH

ps: this samasya is more than 1000 years old

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