Although I have been a sporadic visitor to Kavita Kosh for quite sometime now, it was only today that I noticed their “motto”: मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठाम. Now it turns out I knew just enough Sanskrit to be completely mystified by this; since it translates to “O hunter, may you never be deemed honorable”.   Why would a poetry collection have this curse as a motto? A quick Google Search was in order.

And the results turned out to be more interesting that I thought possible, and there is a literally “epic” legend surrounding this simple phrase.   It turns out that in the second chapter of the ancient epic Ramayana,  the sage Valmiki goes to the bank of a river, just after having heard a rendition of the exploits of Rama from Narada.  While he and his disciples are bathing in the stream, they see a blissful couple of birds, the male of which is presently shot at and killed by a hunter. The melancholy of the sudden separation afflicted upon the female avian brings forth a spontaneous verse of approbation from the sage:

मा निषाद प्रतिष्ठां त्वमगमः शाश्वतीः समाः ।
यत्क्रौंचमिथुनादेकमवधी काममोहितम्  ।

Now, there would be nothing so very special about an impromptu curse as a response to a heart-rending spectacle, except that Sanskrit legend maintains that this was the first ever Sanskrit verse outside of the Vedas which followed metrical rules. In fact, in the story, after he has calmed down, Valmiki wonders what might be the reason for his sudden metrical outburst, gives the metre the now famous name of shloka, and proceeds to versify the story of Rama  in the new metre, which ultimately grows into the Ramayana.

Needless to say, the legend surrounding this verse as lying at the very origin of poetry* has made it quite famous among Indian litterateurs, and hence the enigmatic Kavita Kosh motto.

* The legend treats this as the first metrical verse of human origin, since it maintains the Vedas are not of human origin.