Classical Telugu Poetry: An Anthology

By Velcheru Narayana Rao; David Shulman | Go to book overview

FIVE
Mañcana
Late twelfth to early thirteenth centuries?

A poet of uncertain date, but clearly exemplifying the early and relatively simple prabandha style, Mañcana presents us with the earliest Telugu extract from the kathā narrative tradition. His Keyūraṉbāhuṉcaritramu takes Rājaśekhara's Sanskrit play, Viddhaṉsālabhañikā, for its frame narrative, but the superb short tales that constitute most of the work are derived from other kathā sources, including some known from the Pañatantra literature (as in our third selection, below).1


THE BRAHMIN WHO KEPT HIS WIFE IN THE BASEMENT2

Once there was an aged Brahmin, skilled at physiognomy. He took to wife a young virgin whose body had all the good signs, and he kept her in the basement, so that she would not become addicted to other men. She matured there3 and became beautiful. Her husband waited for the right moment and went down there one night. He looked at her affectionately; he wanted to make love right away. She pointed at a burning lamp and said, “Fire is a man. The light is fire. I shouldn't set my eyes on another man, and it isn't right for him to see me. I disapprove of women who make love to their husbands with the light on. ” So she put out the light and made love to him.

He was happy. His wife's gentle words touched him, and he was sure

____________________
1
See George Artola, “Ten Tales from the Pañcatantra, ” Adyar Library Bulletin 29 (1965), 30–73.
2
Mañana, Keyūra-bāhu-caritramu, ed. Vedamu Venkatarayasastri (Madras: Vedamu Venkatarayasastri and Sons, 1970), 3.213–45.
3
This was clearly a prepuberty marriage.

-102-

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