Kavi Samaya: Snakes

This week’s verse, taken from Kālidāsa’s well-known Raghuvaṃśa, employs the kavi samaya that snakes’ hoods contain jewels and that snakes eat air.  It is taken from a rather lovely passage in which Rāma, recently re-united with his beloved Sītā, describes to her the lands they fly over as they journey back to Ayodhyā in their flying machine, Puṣpaka.


वेलानिलाय प्रसृता भुजङ्गा महोर्मिविस्फूर्जथुनिर्विशेषाः ।

सूर्यांशुसंपर्कसमृद्धरागैर्व्यज्यन्त एते मणिभिः फणस्थैः ॥

See how those serpents,

laying themselves out to feed on the breeze from the shore,

are hidden by the tumult of the breakers.

It is only the jewels set in their hoods,

glowing pink in the rays of the young sun,

that betray them.


13.12 of Kālidāsa’s Raghuvaṃśa


Sorry for our absence last week, but we do have good news – Rasāla’s general editor, Dr Shankar, has won the Karnataka Sanskrit University 2012 prize for best poem. The poem in question is his Devīdānavīyam, which he composed entirely in various citra-bandhas (specific shapes and patterns established by the tradition) – testament to his skill as a kavi.

4 thoughts on “Kavi Samaya: Snakes

  1. How delicately beautiful. Thank you, Venetia. Here is Vali Dakkani, the South Indian master of the Urdu ghazal, deploying two kavi-samayas: the first analogizes the beloved’s locks to snakes and is shared with the Persian ghazal of that period; the second seems peculiar to Dakkani (rather than Hindustani or North Indian Urdu), probably derives from Braj-mediated Sanskrit and compares the beloved’s scented body to a sandal-wood tree:

    khushbū badan pe terī zulfāñ nahīñ hai chaundhar
    kāle bhujhang milkar ghere darakht-e sandal

    Not locks splayed on your scented body.
    Jet snakes gripping a sandal-wood tree. 

    (Vali Dakkani, d. 1707)

    • Thank you so much for this Prashant. This verse also touches on another Sanskrit kavi samaya – that snakes are always found near the sandal-wood tree (candana). Is this your translation? My Hindi is not nearly good enough to understand more than a few words of the Urdu but I love the translation.

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