Wednesday, 15 July 2015

The advent of Indra - Bhāravi

Arjun, mighty in his strength,
All impure passions overcame;
And to his holy hermitage,
Rejoiced at heart, great Indra came.
He came disguised, — as come the gods, —
Even like an ancient anchorite,
Wearied by a tiresome journey,
Weak in limbs and weak in sight.
And his crimson plaited locks
Upon his white hair mingled fell,
As the evening's crimson radiance
Mingles with the moonbeams pale.
All wrinkled with the mark of age,
His eyes by fleecy eyebrows shaded,
Were like the lotus of the lake.
Its petals by a snow-fall faded.
But his limbs, though very slender,
Seemed instinct with strength and life;
Like an aged man and hoary,
Nourished by a careful wife!
In feeble form concealed, great Indra
Shone with more than mortal power;
The radiant sun is hidden faintly
By a light and passing shower!
And a grace divine he wore.
Albeit so ancient and so hoary,
And o'er the hills and woodlands spread
The lustre of his shaded glory!
Pritha's son received the guest, [1]
And held him in a fond embrace;
True friends an unknown joy inspire.
Albeit unknown to us their face!
And Indra, pleased at heart, received
Obeisance which to guests is paid,
And rested on a mat of grass,
In gentle accents thus he said.

"Well hast thou in early age
In these rites thy choice hast made;
Aged mortals like myself
Oft by worldly things are led.
And thy penance, noble youth.
Is endued with virtues fair, —
Handsome forms we often meet,
Handsome virtues, — they are rare!
Transient as the autumn clouds, —
Pride and pomp of humankind;
Pleasures please us for a day.
Bitter sorrows leave behind!
Mortals' days are full of evils,
Death cuts short our life's brief span;
Therefore in this fleeting world
Virtue seeks the holy man.
Wise and nobly thou hast chosen
Holy rites to virtue dear,
But, belying thy great penance,
Thy attire fills me with fear!

"Like a warrior, on thy mien
Wherefore wear'st this armour bright ?
Skins and barks of forest trees
Suit the holy anchorite.
Void of earthly vain desires
In the virtuous path you go;
Wherefore, then, noble youth!
Quivers and this mighty bow ?
And by mortals ever feared, —
Death's right hand, — this mighty blade!
Doth it in thy holy rites
Unto peace thy feelings lead ?
Sure against some mortal foe
War and triumph you must seek;
Weapons are designed for war,
In forgiveness dwell the meek!
He who sighs for warlike fame
Soils these rites and penance holy,
As the spring's pellucid water
Soils the fool who acts in folly.
Cherish not the lust of fame,
For it leads to sinful deeds,
Casts a stain on stainless rites,
And from peace our heart misleads.

"He who strives with lust of glory,
Wins awhile a vile success, —
But as livers end in oceans, —
So he ends in dire distress!
Wealth is won by evil measures,
As I to evils leads each morrow, —
Wealth is but a name for trouble.
Leads to sufferings and to sorrow!
Impure pleasures, joys of earth.
Kill our peace and steadfast faith,
And like snakes with poisoned fangs
Lead to danger and to death!
Fickle fortune, ever fleeting,
Loves not with a lasting love;
Only fools her favours seek,
Strange the motives, mortals move!
Fortune! if she spurned the fickle,
Twere no stain upon her fame, —
But the worthless and the worthy
To the fickle maid are same!
Love! it is an emptier sound,
Ending in delusion, pain!
Sad bereavement, death and loss
Rend the heart of luckless men.
When we meet the loved and true
Solitude as peopled seems;
Penury hath charms to please,
Sorrow is like happy dream!
When we lose the loved and true,
Pleasures mock us and delude;
Life is like a poisoned dart.
Company is solitude!

"Thus each fleeting earthly object
Ends in sorrow, ends in grief; —
Charity alone endureth,
Unto others bring relief!
And our life is vain and fleeting,
Fortune's fickle favours fly;
Righteousness alone endureth,
Turn not from the righteous way!
Stain not, youth, these holy rites,
Do them not with lust of war;
Seek salvation's stainless bliss, —
Than war's glory mightier far!
Conquer lust and vain desires, —
Born with mortals at their birth, —
Conquest of thyself, good youth,
Is the conquest of the earth!
Weak are they and narrow-hearted,
Earthly power who seek to wield;
Slaves of passions, slaves of impulse.
Even like cattle in the field!
Joys that pleased thee yesterday,
In thy memory dwell alone!
Pleasures are but fleeting dreams.
Be not thou to pleasures prone!
Ever wished, but still deceiving.
Cherished but to cause us woe,
Never present, — never leaving, —
Earthly joy — our greatest foe!
In this holy mountain range,
Where the Ganga, wanders far,
Work thy own salvation, youth!
Leave, leave this lust of war."

Thus the mighty god, disguised,
Spoke to Arjun, — paused awhile;
And in humble words but strong,
Arjun answered with a smile.

"Full of weight and wisdom, father,
Are the peaceful words I hear;
Full of import and suggestion
Is thy utterance, deep yet clear.
Like an independent Sastra
In its reasons strong in sooth,
Like the ancient holy Vedas
Mighty in its force and truth!
Inviolate in its ample force.
Like the vast inviolate seas;
Gentle in its wealth of sense,
Like a hermit's soul of peace!
Who could utter thoughts so noble
Save a great and noble heart, —
Words emphatic, peaceful, clear,
Void of quibble, void of art!
But perchance to thee unknown
The object of my holy rites,
Hence in accents sweet and peaceful
Speakest thou of anchorites.
E'en the god of speech will err
When he speaks of things unknown;
E'en the noblest efforts fail
Against inviolate rules when done!

"Father! thy advice is holy,
But, alas, it suits not me,
As the starry sky of midnight
Doth not suit the light of day!
I am of the Kshatriya race,
Pandu's son, of Pritha born;
Serve the mandates of ray elder,
By his foes of glory shorn.
I these holy rites perform
Obedient to great Vyasa's word;
Toiling still in ceaseless penance'
For great Indra, mighty lord!

"Oh! woeful are decrees of fate,
And mortals' bliss is often crossed!
His kingdom, brothers, and his wife
Our elder staked on dice and lost!
And now in evenings long and drear,
My brothers grieving at their fate.
With proud Draupadt great of heart,
The term of my devotions wait.
They tore the garments from our backs.
And shamed us in the palace hall;
They pierced our hearts, — our foe men vile, —
With bitter taunts upon our fall.
And in the presence of the chiefs
They dragged Draupadi chaste and true!
Death sealed in her disgrace a vow
Of vengeance on our impious foe!
Behind Duhsasan, — impious chief! —
Appeared Draupadi, — great in mind,
Even as the shadow of a tall tree
Is at sunset cast behind.
'In vain I look upon my lords,
Untrue to duty and to me' —
Such bitter thoughts her bosom rent,
And checked the tear-drop in her eye!
Our virtuous elder bore unmoved
The insult dire, the blow unkind!
Oh! what is conquest over foemen
To such conquest of one's mind ?
For noble hearts retain their peace
Albeit by grief and passions riven;
The ocean steps not o'er its bounds
Albeit by mighty tempests driven!
'Twas friendship with our impious cousins
Which unto this shame hath led, —
Bitter is his untimely end
Neath falling banks who sits for shade.
Men who fear nor sin nor shame,
Right and wrong who do not see, —
Who can compass their designs ?
Who can fathom fate's decree ?

"Disgraced, insulted by our foe,
My heart, my heart had ceased to beat.
If in this strong and vengeful arm
I hoped not retribution great!
Disgraced, insulted by our foes, —
Low, low, as cattle on the plain,
We shame to see each other's face,
Nor show our face to other men!
Humbled by the loss of glory,
Humbled by disgrace, alas!
Mortals, when bereft of honour.
Are like low and trodden grass!

"But look aloft! Yon mighty peaks
By living beings are not crossed!
Loftiness is virtue rare,
Honour is a mortal's boast!
Fickle Fortune smiles upon us.
True and constant is our fame.
And the name of man befits us.
While high honour decks our name!
Highest in the rolls of honour! —
He is worthy of his fame;
And the finger of the counter
Pointeth not to worthier name!
Even this lofty towering range
Might be crossed by living wight.
But the man of worth and honour
Is inviolate in his might!
Glory on their race they bring.
Glory on the earth they spread.
Whose effulgent stainless honour
Casts the moonbeams in the shade!
And their wrath like lurid lightning
Cowering foemen soon will pierce;
And their name in glory's records
Stands in pride through untold years!

"I seek not joys, I seek not wealth,
Fleeting as the water's race,
Nor trembling for the fear of death,
Seek I Brahma's holy grace!
But I seek to wash the stain, —
Stain for which this heart hath bled, —
With the tear-drops for our foes,
By their sorrowing widows shed!
If the hope on which I've rested
Be unreal, idle, vain,
Be it so! Thy words are wasted,
Pardon if I cause thee pain!
Till I conquer, — crush my foes,
Win again our long-lost fame.
Salvation's self to me were vain, —
Hindrance to my lofty aim!
For the man is yet unborn,
Or is dead like trodden grass,
Who will let his good sword sleep.
Tamely let his glory pass!
Whose warm blood moves not in ire, —
The conquered loon, — the crouching slave,—
Dost thou, holy anchorite,
Call him man, — that abject knave ?
Beshrew the title of a man,
Void of worth and manlike pride;
Welcome is that honoured name
Graced by worth and manlike deed!
He whose name in wonder spoken
Pales the name of other men,
He whose deeds are known to foemen,
He is Man among all men!

"Yet more! Our good, long-suffering elder
Vows revenge against the foe, —
Awaits my help, as thirsty travellers
Wait the cooling draught in woe.
Unmindful of his elder's hest,
Unmindful of his elder's bliss.
The man who shirks his task in trouble,
Is a traitor to his race!
And wherefore preachest to me, father!
Life retired before my time,
The ancients forest-life prescribed
Not in our youth but after prime.
My mother, living in the woods,
My brothers in misfortunes dire,
My duty, as by Vyasa told.
Forbid me, father, to retire!
And honour's maxims, holy saint.
Forbid the noble and the true
To seek for safety in retirement
From a great and conquering foe!
Then let me, father! on these hills
Like clouds of autumn waste away!
Or pleasing Indra, mighty monarch, —
Wipe our shame in battle's fray!"
Arjun spoke, and gracious Indra
Stood in heavenly form and might,
Clasped the young and pious hero,
Bade him worship Siva great!

"To Siva, mighty god, thy worship pay.
For he alone can help thee in the fray,
And thou shalt be unconquered in thy might;"
Thus Indra spoke, and vanished from his sight.

Bhāravi (6th century) India
Translated by Romesh Chunder Dutt (From "The Hunter and the Hero", or "Kirdtdrjuniyam" - Book VIII)
[1] Arjuna's mother was Kunti or Pritha

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep your comments relevant and free from abusive language. Thank you.