Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ups and downs are part of life - कूप-यन्त्र-घटिका-न्यायः


kūpa-yantra-ghaṭikā nyāyaḥ
कूप-यन्त्र-घटिका न्यायः

At least as far back as the start of the Common Era, a wonderful water-wheel device was made in India for irrigation. It had an ox moving the machine, just like an oil-extraction device. The ox’s movement moved a smaller Ferris wheel kind of mechanism, with buckets instead of seats. At any given time you would find some buckets full of water, some half full, some empty, some emptying, some getting filled.

This is the depiction of life. At any given time, we see people of all levels and states of physical, mental, financial health, sorrow and joy. And with time, a given bucket undergoes the increase and decrease of water. Similarly, a given person also undergoes ups and downs in life. These buckets are wonderful snapshots of life around us. We should not be perturbed too much by the downs, as long as we do our best in a given situation. Just like the good times passed away, so will the bad.

This is also referenced in the classic Sanskrit drama Mṛichchhakaṭikam (The Clay Toy Cart) 10:60 where at the end, the protagonist summarizes the events of the play by quoting this nyāyaḥ.

Another version simply says ghaṭī-yantra nyāyaḥ. In Prabandha-Chintā-Maṇi, ‘O wealth-blinded-stupid person, why do you laugh at someone fallen in trouble? Wealth is not permanent, why is it surprising? Do you not see the buckets of a water-wheel, the empty ones are getting filled and the full ones are getting emptied!’
आपद्गतं हससि किं द्रविणान्धमूढ, लक्ष्मीः स्थिरा न भवतीति किमत्र चित्रम् ।
किं त्वं न पश्यसि घटीजलयन्त्रचक्रे, रिक्ता भवन्ति भरिता भरिताश्च रिक्ताः ॥
āpad_gatam hasasi kim draviṇāndha-mūḍha lakṣhmīḥ sthirā na bhavatīti kimatra chitram; 
kim tvam na pashyasi ghaṭi-jala-yantra-chakré riktā bhavanti bharitā bharitāshcha riktāḥ.

Ups and downs are part of life, endure.
Language notes: कूप-यन्त्र-घटिका न्यायः = kūpa-yantra-ghaṭikā nyāyaḥ | kūpa = a water well. yantra = instrument, machine. ghaṭikā = small vessel.

Photo by Tim Booth

This Maxim has been covered in the book Attitude Shift - Sanskrit Maxims for Contemporary Life and Leadership.

And now the language aspects of the shloka -

kūpa-yantra-ghaṭikā nyāyaḥ

kūpa = well
yantra = instrument, machine
ghaṭikā = small pot. ghaṭa= a regular pot for carrying water
nyāyaḥ= maxim, saying, situational statement. other meaning is justice, but not in this usage.

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved. Check us on Facebook


  1. बहुत ही सुन्दर कथन है। वास्तव में धन के अन्धो के लिए यह एक चेतावनी है। परन्तु आप ने यह नहीं लिखा कि यह कथन लिया कहाँ से है.

  2. बहुत अच्छा कथन परन्तु यह कहाँ से लिया गया है?


Please do add your name and place, after the comment.