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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