Saturday, 21 June 2014

The nymphs - Bhāravi

The beauteous nymphs then left the sky,
Attended by Gandharvas1 skilled,
And joyous notes of drum and shell
And sound of cars the blue vault filled.
And eager denizens of the sky
Poured forth to greet them as they went;
The orb of day with upward beams
Upon the nymphs his radiance lent.
The toil of the unwonted march,
The blowing breeze, the sun's bright shine,
Crimsoned their blushing cheeks and brow
As with the gentle flush of wine!
Celestial coursers fresh and powerful
Drew the cars with speed of wind;
Scarce the wheels did seem to roll,
But sky and space flew quick behind!
From regions far, close to the sun.
Where his red rays are bright and strong,
Far far they went, where like a braid
Celestial Ganga2 rolls along.
Cooling zephyrs, gently blowing,
Saturate with Ganga's spray,
Scented by the heavenly lotus,
Cheered the damsels on their way.
And in many a fold the clouds
Spanned the space 'twixt earth and sky,
And the steeds by drivers checked
Lighted on the earth from high.
The scented woods of Himalay,
Blooming creepers, beauteous trees.
Hailed the heavenly nymphs with joy,
Honoured by their matchless grace!

And now the nymphs in quest of flowers
Wandered through the woodland way,
Unheeding many a shrub and blossom,
So thick the flowers, so merry they!
The maddened bee forsook the bush
To cull the nectar from their arms;
Their pink white hands were like young shoots,
Their fingers wore the blossom's charms!
Sweetly flowed the mountain rill,
Her sands were robed with Kusa3 chaste,
And graceful strings of tuneful ducks
Like chain of gold bedecked her waist!
Cascades in silver masses fell.
And spread afar in ripples bright;
And all the wild woods seemed to smile
With the spray so pearly white.
And creepers oped their gentle blossoms
Decked with strings of dark blue bees.
Like tender-hearted gentle maidens
With their soft and trustful eyes!

All around the blossoms hung
As through the woods the damsels moved,
With female art, for needless help,
They asked the fond Gandharvas loved.
Some nymph with lifted, blushing face,
Still hung on soft tales whispered nigh;
Her idle hand no blossom culled.
The loosened robe forgot to tie!
Some with lower-buds decked her ringlets,
With her beauteous tapering arms.
And scarce rebuked the loving swain
Who gently clasped her swelling charms!
Some sought her lover's gentle aid
To blow the pollen from her eye,
And scarce the lover could regret
The sweet mishap that drew him nigh!
Laden with flowers the nymphs returned
From flowering woods, — a merry band,
Their weary feet scarce knew the way,
And often slipped on even land!
Their girdles rich in sparkling gems,
Hung loose below their slender waist;
The loosened zone proclaimed their languor,
And their panting heaving breast!
Their velvet cheeks were dewed with toil.
Like lotus dimmed with streaks of snow!
The gods in rapture viewed the nymphs,
Their languid charms, their movements slow!

To Ganga's sparkling cooling wave
The languid damsels slow repair;
Where fishes glance through lilies blown,
And notes of wild fowl fill the air.
The eager waters clasped the nymphs,
And played with garlands on their hair,
And rashly washed their Chandain paints,
In little wavelets fled afar!
Some damsel hid, and others searched,
Are those her eyes or lotus bright?
Is that her hair or string of bees?
Are those her teeth or lilies sweet?
Some nymph on others water threw,
Or washed and wet, yet lovelier shone!
Her face was flushed, her bosom heaved,
Scarce held her robe the loosened zone!
The sportive nymphs arose at last.
Like rain-washed lilies doubly bright.
Still sparkling with the glistening drops,
And radiant as the starry night!

So closed the day, and darkness fell
O'er stream and forest, far and nigh.
And beauty left the things of earth
And shone upon the starry sky.
Until the brightening eastern heaven,
Streaked with silver, faintly shone.
And pure and white as Ketak flower4
Spread the light of rising moon!
Slowly rolled the flood of light
0'er the dark and nightly sky.
Like the Ganga's ruddy wave
Mingling with the azure sea!
Like a disk of burnished gold,
Flooding earth and sky with light,
From the distant eastern main
Rose the glorious Lord of night!
And he drew the veil of gloom
From the face of earth so wide,
As a kinsman draws the veil
For to bless a bashful bride!

At dawn the heavenly nymphs arose,
Decked themselves with jewels rare;
Went to Arjun's5 hermitage
With sweet glances, graces rare!
On tbeir feet the tinkling bells,
On their waists the sounding chain;
With soft music filled the woods
Till the birds sang back the strain!
Vole with penances and rites,
Clad in arms, but calm and great,
Peaceful as the mighty Vedas,
Arjun great at last they met!
Radiant in a robe of light
On the lofty hill he stood,
Like the beauteous lord of night
Seemed the lord of all the wood!
Pale with penances, — but great,
Warlike, — in his peaceful bower,
Alone, — but strong as hosts in war,
A saint, — but wielding Indra's power!

To him, more than mortals mighty,
Slow the artful damsels come,
Conscious of their matchless beauty,
Vain they know his rites and aim!
Slow and soft a music soundeth
Through the glades and o'er the hills;
Every season brings its blessings,
And the wood with rapture fills!
Round the hermitage of Arjun
Malatis6 in blossoms grow;
Washed by rains the lotus blossoms
With a lovelier freshness blow!
On the luscious berries feasting
Kokils7 sing their joyous lay,
Gladdening e'en the mourner's bosom
With their wondrous melodv!
Breezes blow through sweet Kadambas,
Wafting peacocks' notes of love.
Gently fanning pious Arjun
From his rites his heart to move!
Mango blossoms lend their fragrance,
Cooling zephyrs gently move,
Spring and winter move conjointly
Wakening gentle thoughts of love!
On the jasmine's opening blossoms,
Shaken by the gentle breeze,
Sweet as quivering lips of maidens,
Love's sweet kisses press the bees!
Jasmine sweet nor lilies scented
Ope so sweet, when darkness flies.
As upon the saintly Arjun
Oped the nymphs their merry eyes!

Before the saints the nymphs appear,
And lightly step upon the grass;
Their tender feet vermilion painted
On the heather gently press!
Some nymph behind her maid conceals —
From coyness, or from female art, —
Her sidelong glance on Arjun sends,
Betraying feelings of her heart!
Another frolics on the meadow
In her blooming loveliness;
The wanton zephyrs oft disclose
Her budding charms, bewitching grace!
Some damsel resteth on the green.
On her fair hand her pale face raising,
And with her soft and languid eyes
Upon the beauteous hero gazing.
Another sings with thirsty lips
And frequent sighs some ancient lay,
And her soft eyes and heaving bosom
Speak the words she cannot say!
Some sprightly nymph beside the tree
From her sweet and laughing eyes
Sends on Arjun tender darts,
Rapid as the arrow flies!
Another damsel scours the plain.
Her loosened robes held on her breast
But scarce her nimble feet can move,
The slipping zone restrains her haste!
But vain these blandishments and charms,
And vain each winning female art!
Still steadfast in its lofty faith,
Unmoved like rock is Arjun's heart!

Attended by their swains the nymphs withdrew,
And Arjun, to his purpose ever true,
With pious rites, and faith, ennobling, high,
In prayers sought the Lord of earth and sky.

Bhāravi (6th century) India
Translated by Romesh Chunder Dutt (From "The Hunter and the Hero", or "Kirdtdrjuniyam" - Book VII)

Notes
1: Celestial musicians, loved by the nymphs.
2: The holy celestial river, which descended to earth and became the Ganges
3: Kusa grass(Desmostachya bipinnata)has long been used in various traditions as a sacred plant
4: Ketak (Pandanus odoratissimus) is a fragrant flower used in making perfume and aromatic oil
5: Arjun the warrior prince - featured throughout the Kirdtdrjuniyam
6: Mālatī (Aganosma dichotoma) is a vine with very fragrant white jasmine-like flowers
7: Kokil: The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) is a member of the Cuckoo group of birds

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