Vashishtha Ganapati Muni is a prominent name among the greatest and most prolific scholars that India has produced in the modern age. The volume of his writings is vast and its quality is remarkable. But the tragedy is that after his death, very little research has been taken up on his works. The numerous Sanskrit writings of the Muni are not very popular even in academia. His writings cover a wide variety of topics – praises and prayers to various deities (stotras), poetic compositions (kavyas), philosophy (darshanam), logic (nyayashastra), medical science (ayurveda), astrology and astronomy (jyotishashastra), commentaries (bhashya), novel (akhyayika), letters (patrani) and many other important works like bharatacharitramimamsa which deals with the Vedic origin of the characters of the Mahabharata, mahavidyasutra which is a complete text dealing exclusively with the ten Wisdom Goddesses of the Tantra, where he has presented all the correlations of the mahavidyas from outer ritual to the highest spiritual knowledge.
When the freedom fighters were busy to see Mother India free from the hands of the foreigners then it was the Muni who, in 1934 prepared the constitution for India in Sanskrit. This work has five hundred and sixty sutras. Indranisaptashati is another important work of the Muni which bears the testimony of his deep love for India. There are seven hundred verses divided into seven centuries. Each century is further divided into four stabakas. In the twenty-fourth verse of each stabaka, the poet seeks the grace of the Divine Mother as an instrument in the immense task of serving his country in order that it regains its past glory. Here in this composition the Muni prays again and again to Goddess Indrani for the upliftment and protection of his country at this juncture when human efforts are not enough to release her from the bondage of darkness and inertia. All compositions of the Muni, whether those are in verse or in the form of aphorisms (sutras) or in prose (gadya), these were all spontaneous, a result of his tapas, an outpouring of his soul in seeking or gratitude to the Divine.
Therefore, translation becomes an important tool in order to popularise Ganapati Muni’s works, so that the entire world can benefit from the vast reservoir of knowledge that his works contain. This project aims at translation of Muni’s works from Sanskrit (source language) to Hindi and English (target languages), which are two of the most prominent languages in India. The translation of Muni’s works will open new vistas for further research in academia.
India has produced many exceptional poets and scholars, among whom, Kavyakanth Vashishtha Ganapati Muni is a prominent name in the modern era. He was born on 17th November 1878 in Kalavarayi, a small village in the Vizag district of Andhra Pradesh. He was a yogi, poet, philosopher, critic, scholar, an eloquent speaker, an ardent devotee of Mother India. He was single minded about the attainment of India’s freedom through the power of his tapas and believed that the future of India rests on a complete revival of the Vedic truths. He untiringly endeavoured to reveal the inner significances of the Vedic hymns.
Ganapati Muni’s story is beautifully depicted in his biography, Vashishtha Vaibhavam, composed by Shri Kapali Shastri. Ganapati Muni was educated at home by his father, who, like his ancestors, was well versed in Mantra Shastra, Astrology and Ayurveda. It is said that he could prepare a panchangam (almanac) at the tender age of ten.
After studying classical Sanskrit poems, he devoted himself to the study of grammar and poetics. He completely immersed himself into the writings of Vyasa and Valmiki and read their works repetitively. This gained him great expertise in the study of the Mahabharata.
His horizon widened and his intellect mellowed with an ever-deepening perception. He was married at an early age to Srimati Vishalakshi, but this did not stop him from pursuing his spiritual and scholarly expedition. Like the ancient Rishis, Ganapati wanted to experience immense strength and power by the practice of tapasya through mantra japa and meditation.
He used to visit one sacred place after another, and stayed there for a few days or even months, to pursue his tapasya even when he was just 18 years of age.
On one such visit to Bhubaneswar, in Orissa, at the famous “Lingaraj” temple of Lord Siva, during his tapas, the Muni had a vision, in which Goddess Lalitambika (Bhubaneshwari) appeared before him, offering divine nectar. As Ganapati tasted this heavenly nectar, the Goddess watched him with a sweet smile, full of grace. From then onwards, the sweetness of the nectar became an integral part of him. After this incident, Ganapati’s intellect developed a rare sharpness and he attained complete mastery over poetry. Indeed, the literary works composed after this incident are endowed with a distinct sweetness and grace.
It was in Kashi that Ganapati came to know that an assembly of scholars (harisabha) is going to be organised in the city of Nabadwipa in Bengal. The assembly was meant for scholars to showcase their scholarship. Ganapati’s friends advised him to obtain a letter of introduction and participate in the assembly. The twenty-two years old Muni attended the assembly and proved himself to be the best among them. Because of this, he was honoured with the title of ‘Kavyakanth’ by the eminent scholars who attended the harisabha. Kavyakanth can be translated as the one who has a poetic voice.
The Muni then returned to the south in his 25th year. From Kanchipuram he came to Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai) in 1903 to perform tapas. He visited Sri Brahmana Swamy twice before he accepted a teaching job at Vellore in 1904. Later in 1907, he resigned his job at Vellore and returned to Arunachala. The Muni still felt that his life’s purpose was not fulfilled and he approached Brahmana Swamy for his grace and to gain inner realization, peace and the true import of tapas that he still lacked. On 18th February 1907 the Muni approached Brahmana
Swamy, who was staying in the Virupaksha cave, and prostrating himself at his feet, prayed to enlighten him about the nature of tapas.For quite sometime Brahmana Swamy gazed silently at Kavyakantha. Then he broke his 11 years of long silence and spoke gently, “If one watches where his notion of “I” springs, the mind will be absorbed into that. That is tapas. If a mantra is repeated and attention is directed to the source where the mantra sound is produced, the he mind will be absorbed in that. That is tapas.” The Muni was filled with joy to have found his guru. He conferred the full name of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi to Brahmana Swamy, whose original name was Venkataraman. Thus, the meeting was of profound significance not only for Kavyakantha but also for the world at large, which could learn from such a high authority about the real stature of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the Silent Sage of Arunachala. Following this momentous meeting, Ganapati composed his great devotional poem, Umasahasram, a thousand verses in praise of Uma, the Divine Mother, as a part of his tapas in gratitude to the great Goddess for having given him the Maharshi as his Guru (Master). This work is the magnum opus of Sri Vasishtha Ganapati Muni.
Ganapati Muni passed away in 1936 leaving behind a remarkable legacy for us to cherish and propagate. Vasishtha Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni was equipped with such unique scholarship and ability to express that he could write or speak elaborately on any topic with apparent ease. Therefore, his writings cover a wide range of topics, including spirituality, cosmology, metaphysics, science, poetry, linguistics, etc. He composed poetry, sutras, wrote commentaries, and penned novels, articulating his views on many serious topics with force, intensity, fluency, lucidity and loftiness.
In addition to he being a poet, patriot, yogi, Tantrik, a Rishi with right vision, the Muni was an excellent avadhani. He was in possession of an exceptional retentive memory, a great power of concentration, ability to compose unblemished extempore poetry, spontaneous creativity, imagination, poetic ability and quick thinking, and all these add a lot to his consummate scholarship and literary genius.
As a scholar poet, Vasishtha Ganapati Muni has many spiritual and other writings in Sanskrit to his credit. Umasahasram, gitamala, ramanagita, ramanacatvarimshat and saddarshanam are a few titles well-known among his disciples and others. But very little is known about his other numerous Sanskrit writings, covering a wide variety of topics – praises and prayers to various deities (stotras), poetic compositions (kavyas), philosophy (darshana), logic (nyayashastra), medical science (ayurveda), astrology and astronomy (jyotishashastra), commentaries (bhashya), a novel (akhyayika), letters (patrani) and many research works. His versatility can also be judged from his samrajya-nibandhanam, a proposed constitution for India and lalibhashopadesha, a new language for the people of India. These compositions, whether in verse (shokas) or in the form of aphorisms (sutras) or prose (gadya), were all spontaneous, a result of his tapas, an outpouring of his soul in seeking or gratitude to the Divine.
His stotrakavyas, umasahasram, indranisaptashati, pracandacanditrishati, gitamala are meant for those longing for a great spiritual realisation. The indrasahashranama is a composition of thousand names of Indra culled from the Rigveda, and strung into a garland of one hundred and eight verses. The ramanacatvarimshat, 40 verses in praise of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, is chanted daily both at the Sri Ramana Ashramam and in the homes of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s innumerable devotees. The Muni had a unique ability of rendering philosophical thoughts in the form of poetry (shlokas), and his vishvamimamsa, ramanagita, saddarshanam and tattvaghantashatakam remain testimony to this. Ramanagita is the recording of questions put forth by disciples and the answers given by the Maharshi and is one of the most cherished writings of the Muni. His saddarshanam is the Sanskrit rendering of Sri Maharshi’s Tamil writing, ulladu narpadu (Forty Verses on Reality) on which his beloved and learned disciple, Sri T.V. Kapali Sastriar, has written a faithful commentary in Sanskrit, reflecting the spirit of Sri Maharshi’s original teachings.
From the vast and variety of his sutra writings, it would be difficult to single out any one as more meritorious than the other. Dashamahavidyasutram (the ten cosmic powers of the Divine Mother as described in the tantras) is an outstanding composition, in which the Muni has described the ten cosmic aspects of the Divine Mother and their significance. Here he has also brought out the association of these ten cosmic aspects of the Mother as described in the Tantra with the corresponding Vedic deities. Thereby, not only he has been able to bring forth a link between the Vedas, Upanishads and Tantras, but has also been successful in dispelling several misconceptions on the significance of these deities. These compositions reflect the Muni’s great powers of Yogic perception. The way in which he has expounded the different deities such as kali, tara, bhuvaneshvari, tripurasundari, pracandacandi etc. and correlated them to the Vedantic concepts has once and for all removed all antagonisms and bridged the so-called gulf between the Vedantic and Tantric schools of philosophy.
Rajayoga-sarasutra is a short and concise exposition of the Upanishadic methods of the inner quest. Caturvyuhasutra is a revelation of the cosmic divinities wherein the Muni has expounded the four important emanations – akasha, kala, vidyut and surya – of the Vedic deity Indra. Jaiminiyatarkavartikam is his own interpretation of the sutras of Jaimini, where he has advocated that the Vedas are indeed paurusheya (of human origin). Further, in this he has given his own interpretation of the mimamsa philosophy, placing it on a higher pedestal in relation to Vedanta. His shabdapramanacarca also discusses the origin of the Vedas. Pancajanacarca and vivahadharmasutram are related to social aspects. In the former one the practice of “untouchability” is condemned with the authority of the shastras. In the latter he deals with marriage as a sacrament. His other sutra writings also include cikitsanushasanam (Ayurveda) and ganaka kanthabharanam (Astronomy).
The prose writings of Vasishtha Ganapati Muni too are extensive and these include commentaries on several texts including the Vedas and Upanishads; a study on the different characters of the great epic poem Mahabharata; letters to Sri Ramana Maharshi, The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, and many others. His commentaries on Rigvedic mantras and the ishopanishad, though brief, are revealing and illumining. The Muni has given his own original spiritual interpretation of the Mantras, and he was highly critical of the ritualistic interpretation of the Rigvedic Mantras by Sayana, a 12th Century commentator on the Vedas. The Muni’s commentary on the ishopanishad is original and is in the light of the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. His bharata-caritramimamsa is unique as it establishes a link between some of the important characters of the Mahabharata and those mentioned in the Vedic texts. Ramanagita, saddarshana and the commentary on the upadeshasararam, thirty verses written by Sri Ramana Maharshi in Sanskrit and which reveal the greatness of the teachings of the Maharshi, are amongst the most popular writings of the Muni.
His novel, Purna, in Sanskrit, though incomplete, is unique in many ways. The style and diction that the Muni used here make it an unparalleled novel of his time. It not only depicts the ability of the Muni to write beautiful Sanskrit prose spontaneously, but also records his powers of expressing the feelings of the heart and not just the logic of the mind.
In the letters of the Muni to Sri Maharshi and The Mother of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, one can find the art of letter writing in Sanskrit. Through these letters he was able to express lucidly his deepest aspirations, concepts and thoughts. However, it is difficult to summarise the thoughts, perceptions and literary ability of the Muni. The Muni was indeed a versatile genius and can be compared with Kalidasa and Shankara in poetic renderings, with Vyasa in sutra writings and with Patanjali, Shabara and Shankara in writing commentaries. The writings of the Muni are not just products of literary activities but are the records of his unique Yogic experiences and subtle visions, which will be a guiding spirit and light for centuries to come.
This project proposes to facilitate translation of the works of Ganapati Muni from Sanskrit (source language) into English and Hindi (target languages). Translation, as we know, widens the reach of a work and takes it to a wider audience. While translation in Hindi can make Muni’s work popular in India, the translation in English can take his work overseas to a much larger audience. Translation with detailed annotations of Muni’s works will also allow researchers to have the texts in their desired language along with giving them multiple perspectives and explanations through annotations and explanations. This will also make it easier for further translation into various other Indian as well as foreign languages.
The project proposes a one-year paid fellowship programme the details of which are mentioned below: