The Exquisite totaya

The Sanskrit hymn, madhu danava darana deva varam which Sankaradeva composed and sang extempore on the occasion of his first meeting the king Naranarayana is one of his finest literary creations. The exquisite hymn, known as totaya (ṭoṭaya), is filled with allusions to all the events of the life of Krishna, in a nutshell.

The Complete Hymn

madhu-dānava-dārana-deva-varam:
varavārija-locana cakra-dharam 1
dharani-dhara-dhārana dheya param:
paramārtha vidāsubha nāsakaram 2
kara-curnita cedipa bhuri bhagam:
bhaga-bhusana-korcita-pādayugam 3
yuganāyaka-nāgara-vesarucim:
rucirāmsupidhāna sarira sucim 4
suci-cāmara-vāyu-nisevya tanum:
tanu-madhyaga-deha-suvesa-hanum 5
hanumanta-harisa-sahāya-ratam:
ratarānga-parāyana satrunatam 6
nata bartula sthula sudirgha bhujam:
bhuja gādhipa talpa sayānamajam 7
ajarāmar vigraha-viswa-gurum:
guru godhana kāmada kalpatarum 8
taruni-mana-mohana-sarva-subham:
subha-mangala-dāyaka-nila-nibham 9
ibha kumbaja mauktika mālyavaham:
vahalorasa mistaja sarvasaham 10
sahajāyate padmalāksa-cidam:
cidānanda-vinodana-veda-vidam 11
vidushāmana-maguna kambu-galam:
galasobhita kaustabha bhima-balam 12
balabhadra-sahodara-satya-vapum:
vapunirdita viswa-surāri-ripum 13
ripu yuthapa-yuthapa-darpaharam:
haramaulinighrishta padābjaparam 14
paraloka-sahāya-sahasra-mukham:
mukharāli kulākula mālya-sukham 15
sukha-moksada-daksa ramā-ramanam:
manaso-parimeya-sahasra pranam 16
pranatosi natosmi natosmi-harim:
hari vairi hutāsana bhogya-harim 17
hari kinkara sankara isapade:
padamiccana gāyati cāmritade 18

[Note: the amazing choice of words here. The first word of each line begins with a character-sequence from the last word of the line preceding it, eg. the first line ends with vara and the second line begins with vara and so on. Again, in each couplet, the last words of the two lines invariably rhyme with each other, eg. vara with dhara, para with kara, bhaga with yuga and so on.]

Sankaradeva beautifies the lines with rolling alliteration (latānuprāsa). The whole poem is a string of attributes of Visnu-Krishna ending in a salute in the final verse.

When Sankara composed and sang this Sanskrit hymn to Krishna, the king Naranarayana simply wondered. He said to himself, Know it for certain, it is a divine power that works. It is not the capacity of a human being that Sankaradeva displays.

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