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The God Gave A Bench To The College Of Poets; And Mingling With Them Contributed To The Improvement Of The Tamil Language

While Vamashasegara Pandian was ruling, the god Brahma, who in Casi had previously made ten aswamedha sacrifices, was intending to bathe in the Ganges, with Gayatri, Savittri and Saraswathi (his consort); but Saraswathi being occupied in attending to the strains of a Gandharva, (celestial musician), delayed her coming, and Brahma bathed without her; which creating a pique in the mind of Saraswathi, she reproached her husband; who recriminated, and pronounced his fiat that she should undergo on earth many human births. Saraswathi, alarmed, said, "I am the support of your life, and shall I thus be extinguished?" Brahma, somewhat softened, said, "The fifty-one letters which compose your body shall at once become forty-eight learned poets; and as for the three remaining differing and principal letters, Sundaresvarer shall be born together with you, and shall be your aid. In consequence the forty-eight letters were born from different persons in various places at the same time; and, as they grew up, they learned many books; studied the eighteen languages, and stringing beads of poesy, as votaries of Siva, they wandered in many countries, and overcame all the bards they met with; till at length the whole forty-eight persons met together on the banks of the Tambirabarani river (at Tinnrvelly) and felt a common desire to go and display their art before the Pandian; while on the road to Madura, they were met by Sundareswarer, in the appearance of a poet, who asked them, "Who, and whence are you?" They replied, "We are poets, who are subjects of a strong desire to go to Alavayi and see the god there. You appear to us as if you were Sundaresvarer; take us with you, and reveal yourself to us." He replied "Very good;" and, taking them with him, showed them the shrines of Sundaresvarer and Minatchi; and then disappeared. The poets now discovered that the god had really been their conductor; and wondering, rendered him praises. The Pandian heard of them; and, reflecting within himself that these appeared to be poets of no ordinary class, he determined on building a choultry expressly for their accommodation; which was done in the enclosure of the temple, on the north-west quarter. Many envious poets, of inferior powers, came to dispute with the forty-eight, seating themselves on the same level; at which the forty-eight, being annoyed, went into the temple and besought the god, that as formerly he had given a bench without being asked to a sorry minstrel, so that on being thus asked he would give them, who were poets, a bench to be elevated above the ground, on which none but themselves might be seated; or such only be elevated to a seat on the poetical bench as were their own equals in learning. The god himself appeared as a poet, and gave them a silver bench, resembling the appearance of the moon, and just one cubit long extending its length, so as to accommodate only such as were entitled to his honour), and said, "This will be sufficient to accommodate you all; and should one of you be wanting, it will diminish in proportion." The poets took the bench and offering incense, fixed it in its place; which they discovered with great joy, and then continued their learned labours. Afterwards, when other poets had come, and had been put to shame, the forty-eight began to dispute among themselves, in consequence of which discussion, the god came as a poet, and ascending the bench, which afforded him a place, he set their jarring sentiments in order, and explained the different meanings of their verses so as to re-produce concord and thus, while the god formed the forty-ninth, and they were all for a long time harmonious, it came to pass that Vameshasegara Pandian crowned his son Vamesha sudamani; and delivering the kingdom over to him, the father approached the feet of the god, (that is, he died).


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