Siddhars and the knots in Mahabharata

Ganesha, the Deva of the intellect, agreed to scribe the Mahabharata for Vyasa under one condition. Vyasa had to dictate at the speed of Ganesha's writing. Vyasa too got a promise from Ganesha. Ganesha would not write a single line without understanding it. Vyasa dictated the Mahabharata to Ganesha in chunks of a few hundred verses. He inserted a "knot" or a difficult to understand line at the end of each chunk. This made Ganesha pause and think. Vyasa could thus mentally work on the next chunk. Anyone with a knowledge about Mahabharatha has heard about the existence of "knots" in the text.

I recently came across an illustration of a knot while listening to an Upanyasa, or the traditional style of narrating. This knot is a sensible looking sentence, It reads गङ्गा जलं केशव नारि केतु (Ganga jalam Keshava naari ketu).  Every word in the sentence is meaningful. The sentence makes no sense despite the sentence being syntactically correct. The word boundaries have to be changed to understand the meaning of the line. This knott definitely forces a reader to pause. 

SIddhars who wrote their works in the Tamil language have borrowed this idea of a knot in plenty. One finds very few sentences in their texts without a knot, The first task of a tranlator is to locate meaningful word boundaries. The next task is to locate words which Siddhars consider to be technical terms. Such words normally convey a certain meaning but a different meaning in Siddhar texts. Siddhar texts talk about pharmocological preparations, ideas related to sorcery and descriptions of spiritual techniques. Certain words take a contextual meaning based on the domain of knowledge. Siddhar Agasthiyar created a text just to supplies hints about idiosyncrasies in Siddhar texts.  It was fun to discover a few idiosyncrasaies while translating Agasthiyars text. I recently published a translation of the Tattuvum 300 text, from Tamil to English.