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
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.