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Written by S Nagarajan

Article no. 1721; dated 16  March 2015

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The book under review titled Pun In Sanskrit Literature – A New Approach is a fantastic book.

All Sanskrit lovers and pun lovers should read this book without fail.

The book was first published by Mysore University, India in 1982. The author Gurupad K Hegde is a great scholar and has written this book after intense study of Sanskrit literature for many years.

The book has nine chapters.


The first chapter deals with the pun as alankara in Sanskrit literature.

The origin of pun starts with the first kavya (adi kavya) of the world written by the world’s first poet, sage Valmiki.

The origin of Ramayana is from a sloka of pun! The verse starts with ‘ma nisada’ is a curse on the hunter that he should never attain salvation for he killed the beautiful krauncha bird which was absorbed in love. And wonderfully, the verse also means that the great Lord Vishnu may attain a position for ever as he killed the demon Ravana and Vali.

The author describes in detail the root cause of the concept of fun, the nature of the words in pun and objects of the pun in the second chapter.

The author gives numerous examples to explain the figurative combinations in the great and beautiful language Sanskrit in chapter three.

Chapter four of the book deals with the role of pun in classical Sanskrit literature. The author indicates Shakespeare’s lines in Othello (III-2) The word ‘lies’ in the conversation of Desdemona and Clown is a witty use of pun to mean ‘lodging’ as well as telling a lie!


The great poets Sri Harsha, Bhavaputi, Asvaghosa, Bharavi, Magha, Dandin have used Slesha or pun in their works.

And it is to be noted that the only language which has kavyas where two or more stories are narrated throughout the full length of a poem is Sanskrit. Thus we have kavyas which describes Ramayana and Mahabharata in the same verse!

Needless to say that the author has dealt the Mahabharata kuta slokas which means the slokas with knots!

While the fifth chapter deals with functional pun and the sixth chapter deals with perceptional pun and the seventh with situational pun! The eighth chapter of the book deals with the impact of pun in iconography.

The author concludes in his concluding chapter that pun is everywhere starting from vedic literature to the modern literature which gives the experiences of day to day business of life.

Over three hundred selected verses are given as examples to understand the pun in Sanskrit literature.

On completing the book we are wonderstruck with the author’s deep reading as well as with the vastness of the wonderful t Sanskrit literature!

Index of subject and index of 300 verses will be useful to the readers.

Finally, we may pray that more such books should come to enlighten us!


Hanuman Killed Rama! Sanskrit Puzzle!


Compiled by London Swaminathan
Post No. 1014; Date- 1st May 2014

Prahelikaa means puzzles. This is very ancient art. Puzzles featured in Vedic sacrifices called ‘satras’ which went on for a long period. To dispel the inevitable monotony, the priests used to discuss set puzzles.
Prahelikaa (puzzles) is of two kinds: invented puzzles and traditional ones. This is practised for a two fold purpose – innocent sport and fooling people. In the past, puzzles used to be employed to befool the bridegroom’s party. These sports are becoming rarer with the progress of civilization.

The Sanskrit literature contains hundreds of udbhata-slokas (verses) which are beautiful specimens of this art. One can be cited for illustration:

“Hato hanuumataa raama, sitaa harsam
Upaagataa rudanti raakshasaa sarve haa haa raamo hato hatah

angry ram

The puzzle is based on the popular story of Ramayana. It means Hanumat has killed Rama, Sita is delighted, and the Rakshasas are crying – Alas, alas , Rama is killed. This is absolutely contradictory. The puzzle is solved by detecting a simple euphonic combination in two places, the word ‘aaraama’ (means garden) and not ‘rama’. Then it means, Hanumat has destroyed the garden, viz, the Asokavana, Sita is delighted and the Rakshasas are crying, “Alas, Alas the garden is destroyed.”

In our Pauranic literature we find so many beautiful illustrations of this art of Prahelika (puzzles).
(This is taken from Sixty Four Arts in Ancient India by A.B.Ganguly)

In the Mahabharata we have stories of Vyasa dictating difficult and tricky verses/slokas to the fulfil condition of Lord Ganesh that composing verses should be nonstop. Vyasa has already put a condition on Ganesh that he should not write anything without understanding. This shows that the great art of puzzles and riddles has been used by the Hindus from time immemorial.

Yaksha Prasna (question and answer session) is also another proof for tricky questions and intelligent answers.

( I have dealt with both these Mahabharata stories elsewhere in my posts)

Sanskrit Wordplay ‘Slesa’ (puns)

Classical Sanskrit literature can abound in puns (slesa). Such paronomasia or wordplay is raised to a high art; rarely it is a cliché. Multiple meanings merge into single word or phrase. Most common are pairs of meanings, but as many as ten separate meanings are attested.

Yuktam kadambarim srutva kavayo maunam asritah
Banadhvanav anadhyayo bhavat iti smritir yatah

It is right that poets should fall silent upon hearing the Kadambari, for the sacred law rules the recitation must be suspended when the sound of an arrow (the poetry of Bana) is heard.
Bana is the author of Kadambari; bana means arrow in Sanskrit

——-Someshvaradeva’s Moonlight of Glory 1-15

Sanskrit Pun is taken from HITOPADESA introduction, Translated by Judit Torzsok, Newyork

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