World Poetry Day

A poetry is a form of literature that conveys meaning through rhythmic language. In Samskrt, the word used for a poetry is Kavita, from the root word Kavi, which has a host of meanings such as intelligent, skillful, wise, prudent, enlightened, and also a poet. A poet combines all these qualities within himself and has a special place in society.

Ramayana

The world oldest poetry is written by the first poet, Ratnakar, who is better known as Maharishi Valmiki. This first poem of the world was composed around 5100 BCE. His other master piece poetry is the Valmiki Ramayana, which chronicles the life times of Rama and the values that He stood for. It is one of the two itihasa, Epic Poetry, the other being Mahabharata.

More on the historicity of Rama and the Ramayana in our, Rama Trilogy and film, Historical Rama.

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Around 5100 BCE, in a deep forest, two Krauncha, Heron like birds were mating. A hunter shot one of them down with his arrow. Valmiki who happened to observe this incident was moved by pathos and from him naturally came forth a verse.

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Valmiki moved by pathos

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Thus came the first poem of humanity through pathos – “Sokah Slokatwam Aagatah”. It is for composing this poem, Valmiki is referred to as Adi Kavi, the first poet.

Valmiki badly shaken by this incident returned to his ashram, unable to utter anything further.

He then remembered to have said something on that occasion and asked his Sishya Bharadwaja if he remembered what he had said. Bharadwaja repeated what he had heard from Valmiki and they both were surprised at the particular pattern and rhythm in his utterance.

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Valmiki in conversation with Bharadwaja

William Wordsworth

William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet expresses poetry as,

 “Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, takes its origin from emotions, recollected in tranquility.”

This seems to aptly fit the incident of Valmiki watching the shooting of the Krauncha bird and the outcome being the first poem.

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William Wordsworth

Mahabharata

Mahabharata, another itihasa of this land, is the longest poetry in the world with over 1 lakh sloka. The historicty of Mahabharata events and Krishna is discussed in our book, Historical Krishna.

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Subjects expressed as poetry

In this land, every subject was expressed in poetry, be it philosophy, science, history or mathematics. There was a poetic garb for all modes of thought, and the expression of thought in poetic form was considered scientific. When thought reaches high pinnacle, it assumes the garb of poetry. A fit method to pass on through generations.

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Subjects found expression in poetry in this land

Teaching children thru Poems

Today, one of the first lessons taught to a child is a nursery rhyme.

The usage of nursery rhymes in the modern system of schooling is an import from India.

Dr. G U. Pope, one of the noted British educationist of India who had made Madras his base, observed the teaching of rhymes in India and remarked,

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Avvaiyar’s Aathichudi – Tamil classic rhymes

What Dr. Pope was referring to in this statement, is the Aathichudi, the timeless classic of Tamil learning for children. Aathichudi was composed by Avvaiyar a Tamil poetess who educated the people and rulers on good values through her simple yet profound oneliners.

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           Avvaiyar                                  Dr.G.U.Pope

Aathichudi in Tamil is a collection of simple verses where every verse starts in the Tamil alphabetical sequence. Each verse speaks of noble deeds that must be practiced by children through their life, thus inculcating values from early stages of life itself. In the order of the Tamil language vowels A, Aa, I, Ii, U, Uu ..etc. the Aathichudi verses go as,

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These could well be described as the earliest nursery rhymes of the world, as Aathichudi goes back to well over 2000 years ago.

The concept of Aathichudi, which educates a child to give, to share, to possess a calm and demure demeanour in their lives and so on, is a far cry from the nursery rhymes such as Jack and Jill which leave one searching for the message in the rhyme.

Meaningful poetry for educating children from their early years have been existing in all regional languages of India.

The usage of nursery rhymes in the modern system of schooling is an import from India.

Poets of this land

This land has seen poets from ancient to modern times. These poets were also saints who had dived deep into their selves. When they emerged from their divine experience, more often than not, there flowed from their lips, beautiful poetry, about their ethereal experiences. Poetry was a medium used by these poet saints to express the unfathomable.

Kabir

One of these poet saints was Kabir, whose poetry has influenced people across the world.  Kabir through his poems drew around the major principles, symbols and philosophy of both Muslim and Hindu thought. His works inspired even the Sikh Guru Arjan, who included Kabir’s teachings in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh text. Kabir works include Kabir Granthwali, Sakhi Granth and Bijak. The main feature of these works are his two line couplets, ‘Kabir-ke Dohe’ which convey His teachings and have inspired many over last few hundred years.

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Kabir

Tulsidas

Tulsidas is another poet saint, known for his popular work, Ramacharitamanas, which is composed in poetry form, in narrating the life of Rama.

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Tulsidas

Kalidasa

Kalidasa is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of this land. His poems are based on the Indian Purana and other scriptures. He is the author of two epic poems namely Raghuvamsa, an epic poem about the kings of Raghu dynasty, and Kumarasambhava, which describes the birth and adolescence of Devi Parvati, her marriage to Lord Shiva, and the birth of Karthikeya.

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Kalidasa

Kamban

Kamban was a Tamil poet par excellence, who is well known for his work, Ramavataram, popularly known as Kamba Ramayana. It is one of the greatest epic poems of India, written over thousand years back.

Tagore

In recent era, before independence, Rabindranath Tagore was another popular poet. Among his famous poems is the Gitanjali, for which he received the Nobel Prize.

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Rabindranath Tagore

Bankim Chandra

Bankim Chandra, was a freedom fighter cum poet who kindled patriotic fervor in the minds of other freedom fighters and the general masses, through his poem Vande Mataram. The first two verses of this song was adopted as the national song of India.

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Bankim Chandra

World Poetry Day

Poetry is one of the fine expressions of man, and is closest to his own nature. World poetry day was instituted by the United Nations in 1999, and is observed every year on 21st March. The idea behind this day is to promote the writing, reading and publishing of poetry, across the globe, and to bring different poets together to given impetus to poetry movements in the world.

In this way, this day celebrates one of humanity’s most treasured forms of linguistic expression.

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