Who was Bhushan?
One of the best poets, ever?
Kaviraj (King among Poets) Bhushan was born in Trivikrampur, (now Tikwapur) in Kanpur district, in Uttar Pradesh. His father, Ratnakarji, a poet himself, was a Kanyakubj Brahmin, who had four sons: Chintamani, Bhushan, Matiram, and Neelkanth (Jatashankar). That, all of Ratnakarji’s sons ended up being poets was a fortuitous event. We do not have exact details of Bhushan’s birth or death, however, according to Mishra Brothers, he was born around 1614 CE and died somewhere around 1714 CE. Yes, this grandmaster poet of medieval India, lived for over a hundred years!
We have no records of his full name, either. It is said that he was addressed as Kavi (poet) Bhushan by the son of the King of Chitrakoot, Rudraram, where the poet was in residence. Later, Bhushan, aged 54, reached the court of Chh. Shivaji in 1667 CE. (There is a difference of opinion between scholars about his life after he left Chitrakoot, but there’s a general agreement about his arrival in the Deccan.)
How he met Chh. Shivaji, is perhaps, an interesting highlight of Bhushan’s life.
The stories of Shivaji’s campaigns and his heroism were rapidly spreading through the country. After a tiff, if we can call it that, with Aurangzeb, Bhushan escaped from Agra, to meet Shivaji; perhaps, to find patronage there. (We will tell the Aurangzeb story when we get to the verses. Yes, there is poetry involved; would it be any other way!)
Bhushan was perhaps some distance from Raigad, where he must have halted for rest. There, a man enquired of his business in the region. Bhushan readily informed him of his purpose. This stranger, then coaxed him to give a flavour of what he would recite at court.
Little did Bhushan know that this curious stranger was Chh. Shivaji himself, in disguise.
After some coaxing, Bhushan recited this verse:
इन्द्रजिमि जम्भ पर बाड़व सुअम्भ पर, रावन सदम्भ पर रघुकुल राज है।
पौन बारि वाह पर संभु रति नाह पर, ज्यों सहस बाह पर राम द्विजराज है।।
दावा द्रुम दण्ड पर जीता मृग झुंड पर, भूषण वितुण्ड पर जैसे मृगराज है।
तेज तम अंस पर कान्ह जिमि कंस पर, त्यों मलिच्छ वंस पर सेर शिवराज है।।
This verse is a compilation of multiple imperfect similes (मालोपमा अलंकार). It talks of the dominion of one over the other — about ten of them, taken from mythology, history, nature, and philosophy — and at the end, states, that this is how Chh. Shivaji exercises his domain over the foreigners (Mughals).
This verse will have its own detailed article in the days to come.
Continuing with our story, the still-disguised Shivaji is, needless to say, impressed and asks the poet to repeat this verse. Again. And again. And again. The poet obliges, repeats it fifty-two times. After which the tired poet claims exhaustion and refuses to recite it another time.
At this moment, Shivaji discloses his identity and tells the poet that he was willing to give as many villages to the poet as many times he would have recited the verse, alas, only fifty-two villages were in the poet’s destiny. These 52 verses, which are perhaps the best examples of the use of Homeric simile (the closest, I could find to describe वीर-रस), are called the Shiv-Baavani. (Baavan is 52, in Hindi)
Some sources say that he recited 52 different verses of his much larger composition, the Shivraj-Bhushan, a collection of 442 verses. (Which does seem more believable). Some sources attribute only 18 recitations. None however, deny the event, itself.
In his lifetime, Kaviraj Bhushan composed many poetic works; three of them stand out – Shivraj Bhushan, Shiva-Baavani, and Chhatrasal Dashak. Most authorities agree that Shiva-Baavani is an extract of Shivraj Bhushan. Chhatrasal Dashak was written in praise of the Bundelkhand King Chhatrasal, and consists of ten verses (दशक).
Kaviraj Bhushan was a prolific poet and master of poetic devices. A majority of his poems are in the Homeric simile, and there is significant and masterful use of other figures of speech like the alliteration, metaphors, homonyms, puns, and (perhaps excessive) hyperbole. We also see a continuing use of religious references, legendary and mythical stories, as well as abundant natural metaphors.
Note: The above extract has been formed from various sources, and all the sources are listed below. Some of them are available for free, online, some are print books.
About the Project
Before we dive into the project, a few notes about this project for our kind readers. At this time, this is a project undertaken out of pure love and respect for the art and culture of the Indian subcontinent. We are not experts in poetry, so most of the work you see here is a labour of lots of love and research. There will be mistakes and omissions; none of them are careless or deliberate.
In the days to come, we will publish each verse of the Shiva-Baavani as a single article, move to Chhatrasal Dashak, and then take on Shivraj Bhushan. Stay tuned.
If you believe you can help, we welcome any kind of support. For more information, please see this invitation.
Actual words of Kaviraj Bhushan’s poems will differ from source to source. We are aware of that. When we refer to a source, it will be mentioned. We believe, that given the oral tradition of this art, there will be differences between various texts, because of who compiled it, at what time.
We are sensitive and receptive to corrections; please offer them kindly.
Shree Rajendra Chandrakant Rai, a wonderful teacher that we never had, for helping us understand the language, the structure, and the very beautiful translations, rendered with love and thoughtfulness.
Nayan Namdeo for helping with the invitation for this project as well as his encouragement, proof reading, and the book treasures that he has helped us with.
Shilpi Awasthi, a wonderful artist, for the artist’s impression of Kaviraj Bhushan, used as the featured image of this post.
- पं॰ हरिशंकर शर्मा कविरत्न, श्री छत्रसाल दशक, प्रकाशक, रामप्रसाद एण्ड ब्रदर्स, बुकसेलर्स, आगरा, १९२७
- आचार्य विश्वनाथप्रसाद मिश्र, भूषण ग्रंथावली, वाणी प्रकाशन, २०१२