Uddaṇḍa Śāstrī’s Kokila Sandeśa
Translated by Shankar Rajaraman and Venetia Kotamraju
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The Kokila Sandeśa is a short love poem of 162 verses. A koel, the Indian cuckoo, is dispatched by a lovesick husband stranded in Kanchipuram to carry a message to his beautiful wife in Chendamangalam, Kerala. In his message, which stretches for most of the poem, the hero describes the route the koel must follow across a lush landscape, thickly carpeted in betel nut or cardamom trees and criss-crossed by rivers; the local temples alive with myth; and the fabulous cities whose palaces push the stars out of their orbits. The hero, who was abducted by mysterious blue-haired women in winged chariots as he slept next to his wife, reassures his beloved that he will soon be home and thus sustains her through the torture of separation.
Composed in the fifteenth century by Uddaṇḍa Ṥāstrī, a talented scholar and poet who left his village just outside Kanchipuram in search of patronage and travelled across southern India, eventually settling in Kerala where he found not only support and fame in the Zamorin court at Calicut but also a wife, the poem is one of the two best known messenger poems of Kerala.
Sandeśa kāvyas, or messenger poems, all take their cue from Kālidāsa’s famous Megha Dūta, The Message of the Cloud. Many of Kālidāsa’s successors composed their poems in celebration not only of their beloved, but also of their land. They thus become ancient literary travelogues and are perfect companions for the traveller as well as the pining lover.
The Message of The Koel is also available as an eBook (ISBN: 978-81-924112-1-7). In addition to the contents of the print book, the eBook includes photos of the various places the koel visits, and audio recordings of selected verses.
The eBook is in the new EPUB 3 standard and totally DRM-free which means you can copy, share and transfer it to your heart’s content. For more details about the technical aspects of the eBook please read this post.
Text and Textual Notes
To download the complete Sanskrit text of the Kokila Sandeśa please click here. You can also view the text in ten different scripts, including Malayalam, Roman, Tamil and Bengali. Please note that this is the edited version of the text as prepared by the translators and accordingly differs slightly from other available editions. To read about the edits made to the text, and for the bibliography, please click here for the translators’ notes.