SARVAGNA KAVI: Biographical notes

The time of Sarvagna cannot be placed definitively. Research based on the early references to his work and his usage of script some of which became extinct later, one can place him to be in the early seventeenth century. According to Sarvagna (which is a pen name), his real name was Pushpadatta. His father was a Shaivaite Brahmin and his mother was a Shudra widow named Mali. His father met his mother at a place in present day Dharwar district in Karnataka on his way to Benares on a pilgrimage. Sarvagna grew up as a wandering monk. About a thousand verses are attributed to him, all in the meter Tripadi or three line stanzas. His poems deal with religion, morals, customs, astrology, weather-lores and even riddles. His Vachanas or sayings are often quoted by scholars and common folks alike. No two books of his work are alike and it is probable that several verses attributed to him were composed by imitators.

Stanza 1: Sarvagna was made of the same stuff as everyone. However, by learning one word of wisdom from each, he became a mountain of knowledge.

Stanza 2: While borrowing it is like eating a meal of milk and honey. When the loan is due to be paid, it feels as if the bones in the body are broken (This is a warning to credit card debts in particular!)

Stanza 3: A drunkard is like a pig. The poor pig, however, is helpful. The drunk is worse and useless.

Stanza 4: What is the use of circling round the temple without any feeling? It is like the ox which circles round the oil crusher. (Note: In old times oil was extracted in little ox pulled crushers).

Stanza 5: What use is giving advice to a fool a hundred times? It is like raining on a rock for hundred years. Will it ever soak in?

Stanza 6:One who has control over his pants, hand and mouth is like Vishnu and Brahma. He has nothing to worry. (Note: control over sexual conduct, behaviour and speech is what Sarvagna is talking about)

Stanza 7: If fools claim that they jumped over six mountains, agree to it. It is not worth fighting over.

Stanza 8: For one who knows how to speak, it is like water pouring out of Eta from a well. For one who does not know, it is just the rope hanging down. (Note: Eta is a device to draw water from a well. It is a pot tied to a rope).

Stanza 9:Learn somethings from those who know; Watch somethings from those who do; Learn otherthings by self experience.

Stanza 10: Offering food (to the hungry), telling the truth and putting others above oneself is a happy way to heaven.

Stanza 11: A wife who keeps the home warm, watches expenses, knows what is on your mind and acts accordingly is everything. Who cares if the heavens catch fire!

Stanza 12: One who gives (alms) without advertising is superior. One who gives and talks about it is medium. Only a knave talks much and gives nothing.

Stanza 13: The company of good men (women also) is like enjoying sweet honey. The company of evil men is like the stinking stuff in the sewer.

Stanza 14: By wearing a mark of ash (Note: orthodox Hindus wear such marks on their forehead and other parts of the body during religious rituals.) one were to reach heaven, a donkey (that rolls in ash) should reach there surely.

Stanza 15: By dipping in the river everyday ( Note: baths in holy rivers are parts of Hindu rituals.) a Brahmin were to jump to heaven, the frog which is born and lives in water should surely go to heaven.

Stanza 16: By dabbing sandalwood paste on the forehead one were to reach heaven, the stone used to grind the paste should be first to go there.

Stanza 17: No one knows everything. The learned are few. There is no guarantee that the smart bring wisdom. Knowledge is not available for all.

Stanza 18: A service without flowers, the king without a horse and friendship with one who does not know the language (one who cannot carry an intelligent conversation) are a waste.