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Thursday, January 29, 2015

O Absence! What a Torment Wouldst Thou Prove…

There is an exclusive Sarga in Kishkinda kanda that offers the reader  a fine description of the varsha ritu—suddenly life getting rejuvenated, getting a fresh lease, and the whole universe swaying in celestial joy under the dark clouds… in the first showers of the season. Countryside shines in deep emerald. Birds, being relieved from the scorching summer winds, chirp in raga. Monsoon rains simply wash away the old and give life to new creativity. They are the muses to poets and Valmiki is the first to offer us an excellent poetry woven around rains. Let us take a peep…..

After killing Vali, having directed that Sugriva be installed on the throne of Kishkindha and Angada may assume the office of Prince Regent, Rama arrives at Mount Prasravana to live in a cave till the end of the monsoon.

Looking at the sky that is overcast with clouds “giving birth to the elixir of life,” Rama says to Laksmana: “esā gharma pariklistā nava vāri pariplutā / sītā iva śoka samtaptā mahī bāspam vimumcati” (VR 4-28-7)—this earth, that is overly agonized with the searing-summer having been now immersed in fresh rain-water, is radiating heat as Sita who tormented with grief is shedding tears.

Perhaps, disturbed by the thunders and lightning, Rama wonders: “kaśābhih iva haimībhih vidyudbhih iva tāditam / antah stanita nirghosam savedanam iva ambaram” (VR 4-28-11)—the sky, being lashed on all sides by whips of gold in the form of lightnings emitting groans as rattle of thunders, appears antahsa vedanam iva full of anguish inside. This very thought might have reminded him at once of the plight of Sita, his beloved, in Lanka making him lament thus: “Flashing in the nīla meghā āśritā vidyut interior of a somber cloud, the sphurantii vidyut lightning appears to me like the raavanasya anke sphurantii tapasvinii vaidehii iva penitent Vaidehi struggling in the grasp of Ravana” (VR 4-28-12). Interestingly, as the saying goes, “As the one Sun appears / To each observer a different Sun”, the same lightning appears to Sudraka as a lamp for Vasantasena but to Valmiki as a reminder—reminder of the fate of Sita.

Seeing the Kutaja trees in blossom standing on the mountain peaks, Rama, asking Laksmana to look at them, says: “Saumitre O son of Sumitra! Look some are withered at places by the heat radiated by the earth after the fresh shower and thus appear as though bathed in tears, while at other places they look sated with rain water—just as a lover feels on meeting his beloved—and thus they are kāma samdīpanān rekindling love in me though I am śoka abhibhūtasya overwhelmed by grief”(VR 4-28-14).

Recalling that it is time for Lord Vishnu to slowly fall asleep, Valmiki makes the protagonist of the epic, Sri Rama, wonder: “nidrā śanaih keśavam abhyupaiti / drutam nadī sāgaram abhyupaiti / hrstā balākā ghanam abhyupaiti / kāntā sa kāmā priyam abhyupaiti” (VR 4-28-25)—sleep is slowly stealing over Lord Vishnu, river is swiftly running to join the sea, the female heroine is gleefully moving on her wings closer to the cloud, a loved woman full of longing getting closer to her beloved.

Sri Rama, perhaps, looking around the gaiety forest wonders: “jātā vanāntāh śikhi supranrttā / jātāh kadambāh sa kadamba śākhāh / jātā vrsā gosu samāna kāmā / jātā mahī sasya vana abhirāmā”(VR 4-28-26)interiors of the forest have become joyful with the charming and playful dance of peacocks; the Kadamba trees are exhibiting the flowers of their boughs; the bulls have become eager for union with cows that are equally adaptive; the earth has assumed an attractive appearance with its enrapturing crops and orchards.

There is another beautiful verse—stringing verbs together as a garland perhaps to present the reader with an happening image of the rainy season in the forest—that Valmiki, makes Sri Rama wonder with: “vahanti varsanti nadanti bhānti / dhyāyanti nrtyanti samāśvasanti / nadyo ghanā matta gajā vana antāh / priyā vihīnāh śikhinah  lavamagāh” (VR 4-28-27)—surging are the rivers, showering are the clouds, trumpeting are the rutty elephants, shining are the forests, speculating are the loverless, rocking are the peacocks, reassured are the monkeys.

Describing that ‘nature’s music,’ audible in rainy season, Valmiki makes Rama observe: “satpada tamtrī madhura abhidhānam / plavamagam udīrita kantha tālam / āviskrtam megha mrdamga nādaih / vanesu samgītam iva pravrttam” (VR 4-28-36)—concerted music has commenced—sweet melodies of Veenas (string instrument) in the form of humming of honeybees in an increasing speed duly accompanied by the sound of mridangam (percussion instrument) in the form of the rumbling clouds, and the taal (sound of beating time) by mouth in the form of the croaking of frogs in the woodlands, as though programmed. It even has dancing and singing, says the poet: “kvacit pranrttaih kvacit un nadadbhih / kvacit ca vrksa agra nisanna kāyaih / vyālamba barha ābharanaih mayūraih / vanesu samgitam iva pravrttam” (VR 4-28-37)—rather, music with dance has been set in operation in the forest by peacocks merrily dancing at one place, crying loudly like singers at another, and resting elsewhere high on the trees with plumaged tails as their dangling decorations.

Obviously, being smitten by rains and looking at the waterfalls that are sparkling like pearl necklaces getting broken and the pearls being scattered in caves in which peacocksare crying loudly (VR 4-28-49); the water streams that are falling in all directions just as the svarga strī hāra mauktikāh, the necklaces of celestial women that are suratām arda vicchinnāh disjointed when violently pressed during sexual embrace (VR 4-28-51), Rama pines at the absence of his beloved, Sita thus: “deprived of my wife and disinherited from my extensive kingdom, I am toppling down like a kilnnam nadi kulam iva, riverbank that is toppled over, O Laksmana!” (VR 4-28-58).

He further sums up his trauma inflicted by the rains thus: “śokah ca mama vistīrno my grief is enormous for varsāh ca bhrśa durgamāh / rains are exceedingly difficult to pass; while rāvanah ca mahān śatruh apāram pratibhāti Ravana appears to me an endless expanse” (VR 4-28-59). Seeing the roads that are extremely difficult to tread, which incidentally ruled out martial expedition, Rama says, “I did not feel inclined to say anything to Sugriva.” Therefore, keenly seeking the goodwill of sugrīvasya nadīnām ca prasādam abhikāmksayan Sugriva as well as a favorable turn of rivers, I am abiding by time (VR 4-28-63).

Going through Valmiki’s evocation of rains, one is tempted to marvel at the strength of rains to kindle romanticism even in a man extremely saddened by the absence of his beloved. It also speaks about the integrity of the kavi, for his poetry subtly reminds the reader about the importance of the “authenticity and sincerity of the pursuit of goals”— as is reflected when Rama says, “I did not feel inclined to say anything to Sugriva” for rains have made roads unpassable—in the realm of ethics, politics, and aesthetics, that the modern day romanticists (Isaiah, 1990) are talking about.

The poet’s greatness in authentically narrating the psyche of a man in a situation like the one Sri Rama is in, reflects well in how Sri Rama muses about Sugriva: “Sugriva, having overcome his enemy and been united with his wife and being crowned as King, enjoying happiness during the rains that offer many excellences” (VR 4-28-57). The poet thus shows how vulnerable people are to fall in the abyss of ‘self-pity’ when they are deprived of their longings.

Aside of the beauty of the verses, a reader is more likely to wonder: How Laksmana—who is also away from his wife and for that matter for more years than Rama—could have put up with the hearing of all that Rama narrated about the beauty of rains and the romanticism embedded therein?

Maharshi appears to have taken Laksmana as a man of no emotions! A mere sounding board! Otherwise, how else can one explain Laksmana’s comforting words submitted to Rama: “O ruler of men, Sugriva will before long accomplish all this desired object of yours… Awaiting the autumn, bear you this obstruction caused by the rains…”

Laksmana, what a great character!


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