Book Reviews

Rhymes of Wisdom: Wisdom of Indian Sacred Books

Rhymes of Wisdom/ Poetry/ KH Prabhu/ Publications, 2016/ ISBN-13 : 978-9385945380 pp. 86/ Rs. 170

About the Poet

K H Prabhu (b. 1941) has taught English for three decades in degree colleges. Though teacher by profession he is a writer by vocation. Even as a student he had to his credit publication of many articles in leading English papers such as The Times of India, Blitz, Junior Statesman, Citizen and Opinion. He is credited with the authorship of more than 25 law books in Kannada (which are read by law students all over Karnataka) two Kannada plays (one of them is in the Library of the Congress, Washington). He is a regular contributor to His Rhymes of Wisdom (Published by, Allahabad) is used as a textbook in many English medium schools. Many of his verses, fables, a study of Max Muller and his own memoir as a teacher have appeared in He was in the editorial board of I.B.H. Prakashana, Bangalore and, Hyderabad.

KH Prabhu’s major works include: Dharmo Raksati Baksitah ,1977; Dharmasastra and Arthasastra, 2007 (Translation); Holeya Banda Holeya, 1980; Maduve Kanoonu, 1985; Vision of Purandaradasa, 2017; Vaisnava Songs of Karnataka, 2019

About the Book

In the post-independence era, the Indian English poets made a tremendous shift from spirituality to specificity and then to contemporary themes, but the inclination towards the ancient Indian scriptures still reigned in the poetic hues of most of the Indian poets. The Imitative Phase of Indian English Poetry has been replaced by the Experimental Phase where new and modern poets take a step forward to experiment with the poetic expressions and challenge the prevalent poetic forms paving way for a more Indianized form of poetry which is much appreciated and well accepted as its roots lay deep in the Indian culture and Indian soil.

The introduction of English poetry begins with the nursery rhymes taught in the schools to which the children are introduced as early as their school learning commences. But the question arises whether these rhymes, which have a long-lasting effect on the little minds, have any or little connection with the Indian culture or situations in which they are being taught? Most of the English rhymes originated in Western countries and were written in the social set-up which is mostly unknown to the little children.

KH Prabhu writes, “…a cat going to London to look at the queen does not suit the cultural background of India. This made me think of composing some rhymes that have a bearing on our culture and social life, something that even a grown-up man can utter with dignity.” (Preface, p. 4)

In the book ‘Rhymes of Wisdom’ KH Prabhu introduces ‘the wisdom of ancient Indian sacred books and the Subhashitas, the time-honored quotable quotes written in Sanskrit.’ He deviates from the decades long trend of imitating and following the western poetry for the little children. The book contains 152 rhymes.

The centuries old ancient scriptures which are a treasure trove of in-depth messages and teachings that need to be imparted to the younger generations for them to carry forward the sacred flame of virtuous living and high thinking. The downward trend needs to be checked – in the virtues, the personal and social thoughts and the shift from spiritualism to materialism.

‘Poetry’, as Sri Aurobindo says, ‘has the capacity to transform the consciousness of the human beings to higher realms.’ It is the social responsibility of the poets to not only reflect but also uplift the present social conditions of the contemporary society. An Indian poet should aspire for the betterment of the society and to present such poetry which teaches the younger generation the essence of Indian scriptures and to contribute towards a virtuous, harmonious development of individuals and society as a whole. KH Prabhu’s ‘Rhymes of Wisdom’ is one such book which shall have a remarkable influence on the tender minds of the young children which shall further reflect in every possible way throughout their lives.

The rhymes in the book are based on the teachings of The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, The Bhagwad Gita, Hitopdesha, Panchtantr, Manusmriti, Garudpurana, The Vedas, Upanishads, Vikramcharitam. The values propagated by Mahatma Gaandhi, Saint Kabir, Puranadara Dasa are also reflected in many rhymes.

Mahatma Gandhi’s life was an offering to the Divine and the nation. His virtues are reflected in the rhyme ‘Deceiver Will Deceive’…

The deceiver will deceive himself finally
And his deceit bounces back ultimately
None has prospered by practicing fraud
Deceivers are always punished by God
(P. 85)

Just as Puranadara Dasa made the difficult Sanskrit tenets of Srimad Bhagvatam available to everyone in simple and melodious songs, similarly KH Prabhu has successfully composed four lined rhymes for the children based upon the high philosophies of Indian scriptures and philosophers. Puranadara Dasa’s song ‘Ajnyanigala Kude’ finds a marvelous expression in ‘Better Better’…

Better, better, quarrel with the wise
Than be a friend of the people unwise
Better, better, you live in the forest
Than be a friend of the people dishonest
(p. 80)

Many rhymes have been inspired by teachings of Hitopdesha and Panchatantra, which are the Indian texts in Sanskrit language consisting of fables with both animal and human characters and incorporate maxims, worldly wisdom and advice. KH Prabhu has conveniently presented the morals and virtues in simplistic and rhythmical patterns. Subhashitas from Manusmriti have been presented through simple and easily comprehensible rhymes.

Maintain, maintain, always cleanliness
Fair dealing is the greatest cleanliness
Where the earning is honest and fair
Everything is clean, no need for water

To ensure a harmonious, peaceful and all round development of the younger generations, the basic foundation should be strong enough to hold the building blocks of the future. ‘Rhymes of wisdom’ by KH Prabhu is a fine example of experimentalism and represents a commendable and remarkable change in Indian English Poetry.


More by :  Dr. Giti Tyagi

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