While the 2nd Standard textbook covered the legend Ramayana in different chapters, the 3rd Standard textbook similarly covered the epic Mahabharatha. The most important chapter turned out to be the escape of Pandavas from the Araginamane - the house made of wax. The picture of Bheemasena carrying the other Pandavas and his mother Kunthi on his shoulders remains permanently etched in our memory. Almost at the same level of interest were the chapters covering the killing of Kichaka and Bakasura by Bheemasena.
One of the many stories in the book was a funny story called Jambada Koli (dA§zÀ PÉÆÃ½). The story is about an old woman in a village. The woman lived alone in the company of a hen (PÉÆÃ½). She also maintained a firepot (CVÎ¶ÖPÉ) - a vessel containing charcoal, which is kept burning 24 hours. The matchbox had not been invented in those times. Hence it had become a routine for the village folk to get up in the morning on hearing the clucking of the hen of the old woman and rush to her home to collect the fire from her firepot.
After sometime the old woman starts thinking that the entire village is at her mercy for the sunrise in the morning and igniting their ovens at home. She thinks but for her hen’s clucking the sun would not rise in the village and there would be no morning! Also but for her firepot, there would be no cooking of food in the village! She feels herself very proud. So much so she gets an idea to test her ability to stop the normal life in the village.
That evening she carries her hen and the firepot and moves to the nearest forest. She spends the entire night and the next day in the forest. She returns to the village in the evening. On her way back she meets Ranganna, one of the villagers. The following was the conversation:
Ranganna: Where had you been auntie? How is that you are carrying your hen and firepot with you?
Woman: I will tell you. But first tell me know what happened in the village yesterday?
Ranganna: Everything was perfectly normal here and nothing special happened. But why do you ask this question?
Woman: Are you sure Ranganna? Do you mean to say there was sun rise in the village and people could cook their food normally?
Ranganna: I am quite sure, auntie.
Woman: I don’t think the sun would rise without the clucking of my hen and there was the morning! I am also sure they could not have cooked their food in the normal course in the absence of fire from my firepot!
Ranganna: Now I understand. Oh! You the proud hen (Jambada Koli)! You thought that but for the clucking of your hen, the sun would not rise and there would be no morning! Also people could not cook their food without the fire from your firepot!
Woman: I am sure. But….. I don’t understand!
Ranganna: Let me tell you Jambada Koli (the proud hen) that there was the normal morning with the sun rising promptly in the east! He did not wait for your hen to cluck! Only some people woke up late as they did not hear your hen clucking.
Woman: But the people definitely had no fire to cook their food!
Ranganna: You are wrong again! On seeing your house locked they collected the fire from the firepot of the blacksmith in the village.
Woman: Are you sure?
Ranganna: Your absence here did not bring the life to a standstill as you perhaps thought! I can only pity your line of thinking!
The story ended here. We really enjoyed the story. The picture of the old woman (Jambada Koli) carrying the hen and firepot engaged in conversation with Ranganna remains etched in our memory.
Among the other lessons was the story of the origin of the legendary Panchatantra - the animal fables. The story tells the efforts of a King to educate his sons who were going astray. When all his efforts grow in vain, the King entrusts the children to the care of his court scholar (Asthana Vidwamsa) – Shri Vishnu Sharma.
Vishnu Sharma finds a novel way to educate the hardened sons of the King. He takes them home and starts telling them the animal stories titled Panchatantra. The animal stories were so interesting that the boys were totally smitten by them. The collection of the stories is considered as a treatise on political science and human conduct. The story has five parts with each part containing a main story which in turn contains several stories emboxed in it. The following were the five main stories:
- Mitra Bheda – The Separation of Friends
- Mitra Labha – The Gaining of Friends
- Kakolukiyam – Of Crows and Owls (War and Peace)
- Labdhapranasam – Loss of Gains (Monkey and the Crocodile)
- Apareekshitakarakam – Ill considered Action
At the end of the storytelling sessions, the boys found themselves fully educated to take forward the traditions of the royal family. Such was the power of the Panchatantra stories. Even though the lesson told us the origin of Panchatantra, we had to wait for reading the entire Panchatantra stories for some more years. The stories were written in a poetic format in Chandamama by Navagirinanda.
Among the poems was another legendary Kannada work – Govina Haadu-UÉÆÃ«£À ºÁqÀÄ (Punyakotiya Kathe-¥ÀÄtåPÉÆÃnAiÀÄ PÀxÉ). This was one poem which every Kannada student knew by heart. The poem tells the story of a cow called Punyakoti. The cow is caught by a tiger called Arbuda while grazing. The tiger is about to kill Punyakoti when it begs to allow it to go back and feed its calf. It promises the tiger that it would return after feeding its calf and making alternative arrangements for its keep up. The tiger allows it to go back.
Punyakoti goes back, feeds its calf and requests the other cows to look after it in its absence. It keeps its words and gets back and surrenders to the tiger. The tiger is moved by the truthfulness of Punyakoti. It refuses to eat the cow. Rather it commits suicide by jumping from a hillock. The story is elaborately told in the poem in a very appealing manner. As students from Malnad we were very familiar with tigers attacking and eating our cows. Hence the story was more relevant to our daily life.
One of the other poems in the book was a poem called Marnoumiya Padagalu. The poem is sung on the occasion of Mahanoumi falling in the month of Ashvayuja during Navaraathri by a group of boys. The boys visit all the houses and sing this traditional poem seeking gifts from the house owner. The conclusion of the poem is very interesting. Obviously it is applicable only to those who refuse to offer gifts to the boys! I am reproducing the poem below from my memory:
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The last lesson in the textbook was another interesting poem. The poem is an extract from a collection of Kannada moral writings called Subhashithagalu. It highlighted the responsibility of fathers in giving education to their sons/daughters in their childhood:
ªÀÄPÀÌ½UÉ vÀAzÉ ¨Á®åzÉÆ¼ï
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MgÀvÉAiÀÄ ¤ÃgÁzÉÆqÉ vÁA
§gÀ£ÀA ¦AV¸ÀzÉ ¸ÀÄUÀÄt gÀvÀßPÀgÁAqÀ
If the father fails to educate his children in their childhood,
It is as good as killing them!
If he leaves lot of money for them,
It is only bad for them!
Education in childhood only saves them!
Even a little education helps you come up in life
Provided you have those qualities
Even a small stream of water
Can reduce the impact of drought
------To be Continued-----
A V Krishnamurthy
19th April 2013