Pundareeka Vanam

In Vedanta Desikan’s Raghuveera Gadyam, there is a phrase:

“chaNDakara kiraNa maNDala bodhita puNDarIka vana ruchi luNTAka lochana”.

Here, Swami is describing the divine eyes of Sri Rama as a forest of lotuses (”puNDarIka vana”) that have blossomed early in the morning by the Sun’s rays. During his time, there was a kavi called Dindima Kavi. When he saw this work, he raised an objection to this adjective. He said that poets when using a metaphor for eyes would compare them to a lotus and not a whole lotus forest. He said that this comparison was against poetic rules and that no poet had done this before.

Swami Desikan replied that Kalidasa had actually used this comparison. When describing the state of Indra upon seeing Manmada who he had invited to go disturb the penance of Shiva, Kalidasa had used the same metaphor.

Dindima Kavi answered that it was appropriate there because Indra has a thousand eyes and therefore it was alright to compare them to a lotus forest. He said further that if paramapadanAthan was being described it would have been alright (”sahasra sIrshA puruSha: sahasrAkSha sahasrapAt”). But, since in the avataram of Sri Rama, He had descended as a man, this metaphor was incorrect.

Swami Desikan said that he was not just a poet. He was simply describing what was actually seen - that Raghavan had eyes like a forest of lotuses. He was not making anything up like ordinary poets; he was simply stating a fact. Therefore, this did not have to follow ordinary rules of upamAnam.

Dindima Kavi asked if Vedanta Desikan had actually seen Sri Rama’s eyes.

Swami replied that he had not, but he was following the footsteps of his acharya who had. And that acharya is none other than Swami Nammazhvar.

Nammazhvar in his Thiruviruththam states

punamO? punaththayalE vazhi pOgum aruvinaiyEn
manamO? magaLir! num kAval sollIr puNdarIgaththu angkEzh
vanamOr anaiya kaNNAn kaNNan vANAdu amarum dheyvath
thinamOr anaiyIrgaLAy ivaiyO num iyalvugaLE?

Azhvar saw Him directly (Azhvar’s words are about Sri Krishna, but also apply to Sri Rama) and stated “puNdarIgaththu angkEzh vanamOr anaiya kaNNAn”. Swami Desikan said that he had used the exact same words of Azhvar when stating “puNDarIka vana”.

Therefore, there is no poetic dOsham in the work.

(as heard in an upanyasam by HH Sri Thirukkudandhai Andavan)