Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WORSHIPPER

King Bimbisar
Bowing his head, he begged of Buddha
for a piece of nail from His toe.
Placing it in the secluded palace- garden,
meticulously he built on its top,
a very beautiful stone stupa –                      
a marvel of architectural art.

In the evening hours putting on fresh clothes,
The queen and the princesses used to come
with a basket filled with flowers
 and on a golden plate
- at the bottom of the stupa -
with their own hands would light a row of
golden lamps.

When Ajatashatru became the king     
after occupying his father’s throne,
With the blood that was spilled, 
he wiped out the religion of his father
and threw away in the sacrificial fire
all Buddhist scriptures which were there.            

Ajatashatru then called upon         ,
all women residing in the city,
“Beside the Vedas, Brahmin and King,
there is nothing else on earth to worship for,
Strictly remember these few words –
if by chance you forget, danger you will face.” 

At the end of that day in autumn
Srimati, the slave- girl,
after taking bath in cool holy water
- Carrying a plate with flowers and lamps –
with head down, went at the feet of the Empress
and silently she stood.

Shaken with fear the Queen said,
“Don’t you remember,  
Ajatashatru has proclaimed that
who so ever performs puja on the stupa,
will either be impaled or banished till death.”


Turning from there slowly she went
to the daughter in law, Amita’s room.
Placing a golden mirror in front,
she was tying her long luxuriant hair
and putting vermillion on the parting,
with utmost care.

Seeing Srimati, the line wavered and her hand
began to shake - She told her,
“You senseless woman, how dare you bring
puja offerings, please go away at once –
if someone, somewhere comes to know,
grave danger will follow.”

In the light of the rays of the setting sun,
near the open window –
Princess Shukla sitting alone
 was busy reading a poetry book.
Hearing the jingle of the anklets,
startled she looked at the door.
       .,
Seeing Srimati she put her book down
and hurriedly went to her.
Cautiously she whispered to her ears,
“Who doesn’t know today, what the Royal order is? 
Is this the way for anyone  
to rush towards one’s death?”

From door to door went Srimati
with the puja plate in her hand,
She called everyone, “You women of the city,
it is time now for puja of the Lord.”
Hearing her call, some got scared  
and some hurled abuses at her.

The last light of the day became barely visible
on top of the mansions of the city.
The deserted roads were plunged into darkness,
Din and bustle were dying down.
The bells of the aarati started ringing                                                    
in the ancient temple of the Palace.

In the darkness of a clear autumnal night,
numerous stars were shining in the sky.
At the lion-gate, the last post was sounded
and the prisoners sang the evening note      
“The cabinet- meeting has come to an end,”
 announced the gateman.

At that moment, the startled palace- guards
suddenly looked and saw
that in the middle of the desolate royal garden,
-At the bottom of the stupa,    
in the thick of the darkness –
there seemed to have appeared 
a chain of lamps burning in rows!

With open swords, the royal guards,
at once ran there and asked,
 “Who are you the mischievous one   
performing aarati, only to invite death?”
In a sweet voice came the reply,               
“I am Srimati – servant of Buddha, the Lord.”

On that day, blood was spilled
on the white marble slab.
On that clear autumn night in the royal garden,
 - in silence and solitude –
Suddenly went off at the bottom of the stupa,     
the last aarati’s flame.
                                                  Dr DEBIDAS RAY

English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled
“Pujarini” from his collection of poems Katha” in        
Rabindra Rachanavali.Vol.1.1961, pp623-25.                                                                
The first line of the original Bengali poem- nripati bimbisar. 

Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY

April 2017 p1-3.

LIFE' S GUARDIAN

Oh my most intimate one,
Have you quenched all your thirst
                     getting into my heart? 
Crushing my chest like the grapes in a vineyard
I squeezed million streams of joy and sorrow
and after filling the cup, I offered it to you.
So many colours, so many scents,
so many tunes and so many verses,         
I stitched together to make your bridal bed.
I kept on melting the gold of desire
and made new images every day
                            for your transient plays.

You only chose me –
 I don’t know with what fond  hope .
Oh you the guardian of my life,
did you like my mornings and my nights -
my acts and my plays during your lonely stay?        
In rains and in autumn, in winter and spring,
the heartfelt sound of all those songs,       
did you manage to hear them all   
while sitting alone on your throne?
Plucking the flowers of your dream
on the expanse of your apparel ,
did you stitch them to make a garland    
to put on yourself and unmindfully  
roam around in the garden of my youth?  

With your eyes fixed in my heart  
what are you looking for, my sweetheart?  
Have you forgiven all my failings, omissions and mistakes?
For days without puja and the nights without service,
how many times you went back my lord
while the flowers for offering blossomed and withered
in the forlorn forest.
The pitch to which you tuned the strings of this veena  
went down and down time and again,
The music that you composed - oh my poet –
can I ever aspire to sing ?                
When I went there to water your garden
I fell asleep in the shade, 
In the evening when I came back,
I came with eyes full of tears.

Whatever I possessed - oh lord of my life -
Have I now exhausted them all -
the shows and the songs,
the vivacity, wakefulness and slumber?
Lax has become my embrace,
gone is the passion from my kisses -      
Has the night’s love tryst in life’s grove      
ended at its dawn?
Dissolve then, our meeting of today,
bring in new fashion and new shows -
Accept me once more as your own
renewing the old familiar one.
A new marriage will tie me down  
to a new knot in life.

English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled
 “Jibananath” from his collection of poems “Chitra” in
Sanchayita, 11th ed. 2010. pp.265-7.

The first line of the original Bengali poem is – Ohey antaratama.

Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY

Dec 2016 p1-3.

AT THE END OF THE DAY

The day comes to an end – darkness descends on earth
There is no point carrying on rowing the boat any more.
“Listen, whose country is this where a
foreigner like me has landed?”
just as I asked this with a smile on my face,
at once without speaking a word -
splashing water from her full pitcher-
with head down, walked away the young lass.
Anchor my boat in this ghat I shall.
                                                                                                                
Shadows are silently creeping 
on the ground under thick forest cover.
The still water evokes no response,
Motionless are the leaves.
The birds in the forest are already asleep.
In this golden evening on the middle
of the lonely path
only the pitcher, struck by her bangles
makes a metallic cry.
The very sight of this does appeal to me.

The lightening from the cloud
is splashing over the golden trident.
The lamp is burning in the temple at a distance.
The shadowy path, made of white marble
is totally covered with shed bakul flowers.
On seeing the rows of dwelling houses
and the gardens with fences,
restless becomes the mind of the passerby.
The lamp is burning in the temple at a distance.

From the royal palace, the distant air
carries the purabi tune in the sky.
The world has moved forward to somewhere unknown,
no idea why a sense of detachment overcomes my soul
This coming and going again and again
and venturing to places far away abroad
does not appeal to me anymore.
The purabi tune is filling the sky.

On top of the palace in the forest slowly descends night,
there is no point in rowing the boat any more.
If somewhere I find a place where I can take shelter,
I will give up this traffic of buying and selling
and at once go there –
where along that winding path
with head down, walked away the young lass
carrying the full pitcher on her waist.
Let me anchor my boat here in this ghat.
                                                                    - Dr DEBIDAS RAY

English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem
entitled “Dinaseshe” in his collection of poems “Chitra”
in Sanchayita, 11th ed.2010, p257-8.

Original Bengali poem first line –Din sesh hoye alo andharilo dharani

Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI  QUARTERLY

August issue 2016.  p1-2
x

Friday, August 26, 2016

MANASI

You woman, you are not a creation of God alone,
It’s man who made you what you are
by infusing beauty on to you from his heart.
The poets sit and spin your apparel with golden threads.
By attributing new glory to you, the artists have made
                                                       your image immortal.
How many colours, how many aromas and jewels
                                                              are on display -
Pearls come out of sea, gold comes from mines,
From the garden in spring comes the bouquet of flowers,
The insects inject their life into lac - to colour your feet.
By imparting shyness, by dressing you up and covering you with veils,
they have made you hard to access and kept you hidden.
Burning desire has cast its shadow on you -
In reality, half of you is woman, the other half comes from imagination.


Note:
‘Manasi’ The graceful woman of one’s imagination.


English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled “Manasi” from his
collection of poems  Chaitali in Sanchayita,11thed., 2010 p.285.

The first line of the original Bengali poem- shudhu bidhatar sristi naha tumi nari

Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY

Volume 24 Number 4 Jan 2016 – March 2016 p 11.
A CHANCE- MEETING

It was a chance meeting in a railway compartment,
                          never ever thought it would happen.
I have seen her before often in red colour saris-
as bright as the colour of pomegranate flowers.
Today she is wearing a black silk sari -
putting a part of it on top of her head
and around her face which is as fair and
beautiful as dolon chanpa flowers.
It seemed that the black colour has brought about
an aura of remoteness around her own self which was
similar to that of the blue vitriol of a Sal tree forest,
lying beyond the furthest point of a mustard field.
I saw a very familiar face hidden inside the seriousness
of the unknown.

Suddenly, putting aside the newspaper,
she greeted me with folded hands.                      
That broke the barrier of social formality
and I began conversing -
‘How are you, how is life etc.’
She kept looking out of the window with a gaze
seemingly triggered by the memory
of the closeness of our earlier days.
She gave very brief answers to one or two queries
and didn’t reply to some.
By restless gestures of hand she conveyed –
‘What was the use of all these talks,                       
it would be far better if we remained silent.’

I was there on another bench with her companions.
At some point she gestured to me with her finger    
to come up to her.             
I thought to myself how bold she was –
I went and sat on the same bench with her.
In the background of the noise of the carriage
she said in a soft voice,                  
‘Please don’t mind,
 there is no time to waste.
I have to get down at the next station itself.
You will go far, 
we will never meet again.
Therefore, the answer to the question
that has remained pending so far,
I want to hear directly from you.
Will you speak the truth?’
I said, ‘I will.’

Still looking at the sky outside, she then asked,
‘Those days of ours which are gone,
have they gone forever -
Is there no trace of them left?’
I remained silent for a while
and then said,
‘The stars of the night they are all there,
deep inside the light of the day.’

I had a doubt whether I made it up or not.
She said, ‘Stop, you can go to the other side now.’
They all got down at the next station.
I carried on my journey alone.


English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem
entitled “Hatat dekha” from his collection of poems
Shyamali in Sanchayita, 11th.ed 2010 pp 719-21.

Original Bengali poem first line – rail garir kamrai hataat dekha
Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY

Vol.24 Number 4 Jan 2016 – March 2016 pp 9-10. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

UNFINISHED

UNFINISHED

Tell him, please tell him -
At long last I met him.
At that time at the end of a shower,
the sun had come out and touched
the blooming bunch of Gulmohar flowers.
At the temple inside the forest,
there was sound of music from the trees,
The song of praise of the eternal was heard –
Tears flowed from my eyes,
I felt humbled by the prayer,
Mesmerized were my mind and soul.

Over how many births and rebirths,
the boon from the gods
-on speechless nights of destiny -
has been writing across the sky,
words of reassurance of this meeting of ours!
Along the shore of existence,
I have carried the message of that meeting
through the flow of my blood.
Looking at the distant sky, my eager eyes
search for a note for the lyric embedded in that meeting.

Please tell him today –
‘We have come to know each other now.
You guest of mine, silently and repeatedly
like a shadow - trembling – you came to my door.
On how many nights of the month of Chaitra
-through the fragrance of unseen flowers -
your breath coming close to me, vibrated my veil
and made the strings of the sitar cry.’

Please tell him today –
‘I felt deeply ashamed within.
I could not say anything as my throat was choked,
Neither did I have the dress befitting the occasion.
It is full moon that is hidden in my bosom,
It was the new moon only, that you encountered that day.
Day by day, my dear, my offerings are bound to increase -
Please forgive me for my penury of the day.’

Dr DEBIDAS RAY.

English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled
“Asamapta” from his collection of poems “Mahua” in
SANCHAYITA, 11th.ed 2010, pp625-6

Original Bengali poem first line – bolo, tare bolo


Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY
Volume 24 Numbers 2 & 3 July 2015 – December 2015 pp2-3

SAGARI

 SAGARI

Outwardly, overcome with uncontrollable passion,
she surges into an inspirational state
and hurls waves - roaring with laughter-
towards the sun and the moon.
Her restless eyes- in a response to light - remit light.
At times, through the wall of darkness,
there appears the frowning eye of the storm.
Every now and then, the ensuing stir
- in a fiercely whirling speed -
ravages the sanctity of the coast.
Deep inside her, it is all silent and solemn,
Neither the bottom nor the shore is anywhere
to be seen.
It seems, as though it is limitless austere endevour
that she has saved and stored within.
Is her name Sagari?

Dr DEBIDAS RAY

English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled
‘Sagari” from his collection of poems Mahua
2nd edition 1934 (reprinted 1958) p.109.

First line of the original Bengali poem: bahire se duranta aabege

Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY
Volume 24 Numbers 2&3 July 2015-December 2015 p.1.