The monk called Upagupta -
Once upon a time he was fast asleep
under the wall of Mathura city.
The city lights were blown off with the wind
All doors of the township were shut.
The evening stars of the Sravan–sky were
covered under dark clouds.
Someone’s foot with her anklet suddenly
resounded on his chest.
The startled monk woke up from sleep
In a moment disappeared his dreamy state.
The bright light of her lamp, rudely struck
his kind beautiful eyes.
The courtesan of the town was going on a love tryst
inebriated with the spirit of her youth.
Dressed up in a blue outfit,
her bells were making a sweet jingling sound.
Inadvertently, when she trod on the body of the monk,
Holding the lamp, she could see the tender fair beauty of his
A smiling, unruffled, young face,
His eyes gleaming with rays of kindness,
Over his shining forehead, there was a glow of calm tranquil peace.
The woman spoke in a gentle voice casting a shy look.
Forgive me – please – you callow youth
Kindly accompany me to my house.
The ground underneath is rough and hard, it can’t be your bed.
The monk replied in a kind voice, “You the charming one,
My time has still not come.
Thou blessed one, go wherever you are going –
When the time is right, I myself will come to your grove.
Suddenly, a rainstorm with flashes of lightening
opened its wide mouth
The lady was totally shaken with fear.
The blowing sound of the terrible affray was filling the air
The thunder in the sky, in a cruel joke
unleashed a loud roaring laughter.
At a later date….
The year hasn’t ended yet, the chaitra-evening has come
The wind was restless and blowing freely
Buds have appeared on branches of trees
Bakul, Parul and Rajanigandha have blossomed in the royal garden.
From a great distance, comes with the wind, the sweet tune of the flute.
There is no one left in town: all residents have gone to the pleasure-grove
to celebrate the festival of flowers.
Seeing the city totally deserted, silently smiles, the full moon of night.
In the lonely road under the light of the stars, the monk is the lone passer-by
Overhead there is the avenue of trees
The cuckoo is cooing again and again
At long last, has the night’s love-tryst eventually arrived for him?
Beyond the city limit went the ascetic, near the outer boundary wall.
He came and stood by the side of the moat,
near the shade of the mango - grove.
He wondered who that woman was, lying on her side right under his feet.
She was gravely ill with pustules of small-pox spread all over her body.
The dark stain of the disease has blackened her skin
The people carrying her beyond the moat of the city
have thrown her away and shunned her poisoned company.
The monk sat down and lifted her afflicted head upon his own lap.
On her parched mouth, he poured water
and chanted mantra over her head.
With his own hand, he then smeared her body with cool sandal paste.
The buds were falling, the cuckoo was cooing, the night was full of stars
“Who are you, oh my kind saviour,” asked the woman. The monk replied,
“The moment of truth has arrived tonight and here I am Basavadatta”
Dr DEBIDAS RAY.
English translation of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem entitled ‘Abhisar’
Published in SANCHAYITA,11th.ed, 2010, p341- 343.
Original Bengali poem first line : sannyasi upagupta
Published in THE VISVA-BHARATI QUARTERLY
August 2017 pp1-2.