Mirabai.pdf - 158 Seami Motokiyo ATSUMORI Singing to one...

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Unformatted text preview: 158 Seami Motokiyo ATSUMORI: Singing to one measure . . . (ATSUMORI dances.) First comes the royal boat. CHORUS: The whole clan has put its boats to sea. He [i.e. Atsumori] will not be left behind; He runs to the shore. But the royal boat and the soldiers’ boats Have sailed far away. ATSUMORI: What can he do? He spurs his horse into the waves. He is filll of perplexity. And then CHORUS: He looks behind him and sees I That Kumagai pursues him; He cannot escape. Then Atsumori turns his horse Knee-deep in the lashing waves, And draws his sword. Twice, three times he strikes; then, still saddled, In close fight they twine; roll headlong together Among the surf of the shore. So Atsumori Fell and was slain, but now the Wheel of Fate Has turned and brought him back. (ATSUMORI rises from the ground and advances toward the PRIEST with up— lifted sword.) “There is my enemy,” he cries, and would strike, But the other is grown gentle And calling on Buddha’s name Has obtained salvation for his foe; So that they shall be reborn together On one lotus seat. - “No, Rensei is not my enemy. Pray for me again, oh pray for me again.” 10 3% Mirabai SONGS The author of a large number of poems in Hindi called padas (‘fsongs”), Mirabai (c. 1498—c. 1547) or Mira, as she is more commonly called with af fiction, is the bestelenown woman poet of India and one of the country’s most pop— ular poets. Estimates of the number of poems in Hindi attributed to her vary fiom 103 to several hundred. Her poems, popular in the past, are sung and heard every- where to this day throughout India—in the Hindu temples and in secular paces, in town and in the country, in homes and in the street. Her poetry set to music is almost daily fare on theAll India Radio. She is particularly popular in Rajasthan, her native state, and Gujarat, the state where she lived for a considerable part of her life. There are several reasons for her popularity. Her poems express an intensely felt personal emotional experience that has a universal human quality about it and is, therefbre, readily shared by the readers, or rather listeners, for her poems are more ofien heard than read. Mira is one of the many medieval poets of India who first began to use the common languages of the people instead of the classical language of Sanskrit for literary expression. In this respect, they resemble their European contemporaries who adopted the vernacular languages instead of Latin fbr their writing. [Mira not only composed in Hindi, but in the simple Hindi of everyday speech, making for an easy rapport with her audience. Her poems are also strongly musical; they are almost invariably sung to a musical accompani- ment and often expressed in dance. The poemsare, therdore, generally referred to \' "i l I l I O as son rather than as poems. The subject of Mira} poetry ts religious, hence its sentiments are share}:l by all Hindus. The sentiments are coucheWy human rather than farmal reltgwus terms, hence her poems have a universal ap- peal reaching far beyond Hinduism. For the modern reader, Mira’s poetry has a special appeal as the work of a woman poet. She was a practitioner of Bhakti (“the Cult of Devotion”) an ap- proach to religion which is mentioned as one of the paths to salvation by Krishna 159 I60 Mirabai in the Bhagvad Gita of the Mahabharata, but which flourished most vigorously from the twelfth to the seventeenth century. Bhakti is a theismfocusin on the love of or devotion to one or another personal god During the late medieval and Wuhan, both gods of the Hindu triad (which also includes Brahma), became the main foci of Bhakti, Shiva pri- marily in South India and Vishnu predominantly in North India, their wor- shipers known respectively as Shaivites and Vaishnavites. In the earlier stages of his worshipin the Cult of Devotion, Vishnu was worshiped in the fbrm of his in— carnation as Krishna who is a character of central importance in the Mahab— harata and in the later phase, he was worshiped in his incarnation as Rama, the hero of the ancient Sanskrit epic, Ramayana, as well as of Tulsi Das’s Ramcarit- manas (Selection 24). Mira was a Vaishnavite and a worshi er of 'hn rishna. Most impor- tant in connection with Krishna? role as the subject of Bhakti is the legend of his growing up and his escapades as a handsome, Wei, flute-playing young cowherd in the pastoral community of Brindavan. All the young women of the community, known as gopis (‘cowgirls"), love him and are drawn to him by the sound of his flute. Chiq‘ among the gopis is Radha, his best beloved. In Bhakti centering on Krishna, the devotees aim to become like Radha in their love for him. In the case of male devotees, however, they can do so but symbolically. Mira, being a woman, can completely identifi/ with Radha in her love of Krishna. That is her advantage in being a woman. However; there are also severe disadvantages. She is not as free as men in pursuing her love. Her fieedom is severely curtailed by the norms and taboos of her society. Unlike men who only have to renounce the world fbr love of Krishna, she additionally has to rebel against social customs. Her path to divine love is thus riddled with much greater hardships and pain than that of men. However; her joy in fulfillment when it comes is also far greater and more direct. The rewards as well as the limitations of her quest are thus pe— culiar to her position as a woman. Another feminine aspect of Mira? poetry is its closeness to the tradition of womenisfolksongs. It is customary fbr women in India to sing on festive and other important occasions, such as the season of rains and the coming of spring. Their songs contain feminine sentiments, their desires, sufiéring, and joy. .They are sung to women, even when the subject is a male. Similarly, Wd WW”. ough written to be ‘ are mam y with other women, the feelings in her poetry yet appeal alike to men and women. Except for what little can be gleaned from internal evidence in her poetry, not much is known with certainty about Mira’s life. Even the information fbund in her poems is not always very clear. There is consensus only on the following minimal facts, although nothing in them is totally beyond dispute. Mira was the daughter of a Rajput chief; Ratan Singh, of the famous royal warrior clan, the Rathors. Her mother died when Mira was still very young. Since her warrior Songs 161 hither was often away, she was raised by her grandfather; Rao Dudaji, the ruler o/'Merta, a small principality in Rajasthan in western [11411125776 received the education usual for a Rajput princess: learning Sanskrit, studying the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures, and cultivating courtly graces, including training in music and dance. Her family were Vaishnavites and devotees of Krishna. Very curly in her li e, Mira consequently acquired a leaning toward the worship of Krishna. There are various versions of the story of her receiving in her childhood an image of Krishna. She became greatly attached to the image and is said to have dreamed that she was married to the god. She took the image with her when, in 1516, she was married to Bhol' Raj, the heir apparent of the formidable Rana .S'nga Sisadiyafthe King of Mewar and the acknowledged leader of all the . h’ajputs, who would about eleven years later ht a ainst the Mu hal con ueror . lhzbur (Selection 4). The Sisodiyas were also devotees of Krishna, although they Q i cimiilhineously worshiped the Mother Goddess Durga, which created some con- 0‘ . (/licts for Mira. It seems that Rana Sanga’s mother encouraged Mira in her $3)? . Krishna worship, initiating her into the practice of receiving Vazshnava holy men into the palace for spiritual interaction. Mira continued the practice after the old s , s queen’s death. : / .1 Mira’s marriage to Bhoj Raj remained childless. Some of her poems seem to 24!) ,r , imply that the marriage was never consummated. When Bho] Ray died about t?) I527, Mira became still more absorbed than before in the worship of Krishna 1‘ . and in receiving holy men into the women's quarters in the palace. Afier Rana Cflqéz ‘iI .S'angais death in 1528, his successor sons, seeing her activities as unbecoming a re- . , {Em s/rectable woman, tried to discourage them, failing which they began to persecute ' 1 her. In dq‘iance, Mira openly floated propriety and began to go into town, min— gled with the holy men there, and danced befbre Krishna: image in the public temple. The persecution grew worse. Vikramjit, her younger brother-tn-law, tried to kill her by sending her a poisoned drink, by putting a snake in a flower basket sent to her; and other similar machinations; but she miraculously survived all at- tempts at her li e. However, continuously harassed, she finally left Chittaur; the capital of Mewar, and returned to Merta, to take refuge with her uncle, Vtramjz, who now ruled there. Her stay there was short-lived, for Virasz was expelled from Merta by a neighboring king. ‘ . . Leaving Merta, Mira became a wandering ascetic. She spent some time tn Brindavan, the place where Krishna of the cowherdfigend grew up and as a young lover sported with the gopis. After Brindavan, she wandered to other places and finally went to Dvaraka, the capital of Krishna’s state in [the Mahalaharata. She lived therefor most of the rest of her life, worshiping at the Ranchor temple dedi- cated to Krishna. The fillowin sto is told about the end 0 her l: c. Overwhelmed by its enemies, ' ewar e an evil days. The King, a ong with his people, feeling that this was retribution for their mistreatment ofMira, requested her to return to Chittaur. Caught in a dilemma between the desire not to leave Dvaraka and re— luctance uncharitably to turn down the King’s request, she sought a resolution 162. Mirabai from her deity. Going into the Ranchor temple, she began to dance before the image of Krishna and kept on dancing until she disappeared into the image, a .. fitting end to the legend of her quest, a legend best embodied in her poetry rather ’ than in factual biography. T he poems in the fillowing selection exemplify the main phases and awed: of 1' Mint? love: her longing, her safi‘ering in separation, and her joy in union with j; Krishna. a; I No, Rana} I will no more submit to you, for now Giridhar is my Lord.2 1 Jewels and camphor, no matter what they say, have the same fate; the I same end awaits the bars of gold and the clods of earth alike. , Now my refuge is the richest of the rich. I meditate on Him. Now that I have attained communion with my God, there is no sorrow left. My master is my Lord. My heart is filled with pleasure in the company of saints, but my relations like this not. A thousand and one times, they try to change my mind, but I will obey my own heart. , I have now become friends with the Dark Ones The crown on His head shines with gems and a priceless necklace dangles on his : chest; I hear sweet music of his ankle bells. Giving up all sense of shame and modesty, I have found shelter at His feet. 0 Mira’s Lord Giridhar, take me away, take me away, from this mean world. Translated from the Hindi by Surjit S. Dulai. Copyright, Surjit S. Dulai, 1997. 1Rana, literally “warrior,” is the title of address for a king, especially among the Rajputs‘i" famous for their valor and martial prowess. The Rana addressed here is most probablygu her brother-in—law, Rana Sanga’s son Vikramjit, who persistently persecuted Mira for; her unconventional conduct in meeting with the holy men, going openly into town co,- worship at the public temple there, and mingling with the common people. 2Giridhar, meaning “upholder of the mountain," is Mira’s most favorite name for; Krishna. It is derived from a legend in which Krishna saves the people of Bra], among“ whom he lived as a young man, from the wrath of the god Indra who hurled the mount rain Govardhan at them. Krishna caught the mountain and held it up. f 3“Dark One” (Shyam) is a common epithet for Krishna because of his dark blu‘el complexion. ll; Songs 163 2 Darling, let my life be an offering of light to you. Let your praise ring in my heart morn and eve. I will make of my body a lamp and of my mind a wick. I will burn in the lamp the oil of love; its light shall shine day and night. I will lay down on the floor the carpet of knowledge and make my devotion a decoration for my house. For you, my beloved, I will give away all my wealth and my life. My bed is filled with patterns of many rich colors; it is decked with many flowers; but I pass my days counting stars, my beloved does not come. The month of Sravana has passed and Bhadra has begun.4 The rainy season is here. Dark clouds cover the sky and showers pour from eyes. ‘ My parents gave me to you and you have left. You know well that besides you I think of no other love. You are my only love; you alone can make me truly happy. Mira is filled with anxiety; make her your own. 3 Make me your servant, my Lord, make me your servant. I will be your servant and tend your garden. Daily will I see you, and through the bowers and lanes of Brindavan,S I will sing your praise. Seeing and remembering you will be my reward for service and your love will be my wealth. All three are best for me. I will lay out green plots and among them, here and there, build bowers and in them, dressed in flowers, I will meet my beloved. The yogi comes to Brindavan to practice yoga and the ascetic for austeri- ties. The devotee has come here to sing the praise of Hari.6 Deep and silent is Mira’s Lord. 0 heart, do not impatient be, for your Lord will come to meet you at the dead of night on the banks of the river of love. 'l In the Hindu calendar, Sravana is the first month of the rainy season. Bhadra follows Sravana. ”T he name of a village and its surrounding pastures where, according to one legend, Krishna grew up in a cowherd community and as a young flute-playing cowherd lover spotted with the young maidens of the village. (‘ Hari is another name for Vishnu, hence for Krishna. I64 Mirabai 4’ Now I have only Gopal 7 Giridhar and no one else. In the company of holy men, I have abandoned all sense of shame. Everyone knows how with tears I have watered the vine of love. It has flowered at last and brought me nectar as fruit. When I came here, the Had/erase knew, but the world shed tears. Now I have no one with me—no servant, no friend, or relation. I churned the curds and took out the pure butter, throwing away the whey. Mira is now the servant of her beloved Giridhar, let whatever happens happen. 5 Forsake me not, my King! I am a helpless poor woman, my Lord, bereft of all strength. You are the crown on my head. Worthless am I, without a single virtue, while you are great and full of everything good. Your slave, to whom else can I go? You are the jewel of my heart. Mira has no other Lord but ydu; it is for you to redeem her honor. 6 Stand before my eyes, my dearest Lord, stand before my eyes and forget me not! I am adrift on the ocean of life, hurry and pull me out to the shore. O Mira’s Lord, dear Giridhar, let this union never end. 7 For you I have forsaken all joys; why do you now keep me waiting? The anguish of separation burns my heart; come and quench its fire. My Lord, it does not behoove you to leave me so; come and smiling call me to your side. . O my beloved, Mira is your slave through ages; come to her now and soothe her limbs with your touch. Song: 165 8 0 my friend, while the world sleeps, I alone, separated from my love, keep awake. Apart from their beloveds, those in baremr9 make garlands of pearls; but here am I weaving a garland of tears. My nights pass counting the stars in heaven. When will the hour of happiness arrive? O Mira’s Lord, beloved Giridhar, leave me not after you have once come to me. 9 I will dance before the lord of my heart and thrill Him with my abandon and beseech His love. Love shall be the ringing ankle bells on my flying feet and emotions the flowing garments swaying around my frame. I will scatter to the four winds all restraints required by noble birth and social rank. I will go straight into the arms of my beloved Lord. Mira will dye herself in the color of her own dear Hari. 10 O sweet—tongued one, come to the house of your own Mira. How long will she have to wait, wait and look expectantly at your path? It is time that you had come. 0 come to me with an easy heart, you need have no misgivings. Your very presence will spread happiness all around. And I will dedicate this soul and body to you, my darling Shyam. I am in deep distress and can bear no more delay. Come; your presence \ will be the consummation of my desire. For you I have sacrificed all luxuries. Kajal, tilak, and tambol,10 I have given them all up. In your absence, time hangs heavy. I wait and wait, my head lying wearily against the palm of my hand. Pray come! Mira, your slave for ages and ages, bares her bosom for you. " Women’s quarters in a king’s palace or a nobleman’s house. "'Some of the items of a woman’s toilette. Kajal is a finely ground substance used for darkening the eyes; tilak is the cosmetic dot, generally on the forehead; and tambol is a kind of perfume. 7Literally, "caretaker of cows,” hence a name for Krishna. 8Devotees; practitioners of the Cult of Devotion. I66 Mirabai 11 Ah my friend, I am mad with love. No one knows how I suffer. My bed is a bed of thorns. How can I sleep? My beloved’s bed is in the firmament. How can we be united? Only one who suffers, and no one who has never suffered, knows What it is to suffer. Only he who has tasted the poison, and no one else, knows its bitterness. Maddened by suffering, I roam from forest to forest, in search of cure, but no physician have I found. 0 Mira’s Lord, only then will I find relief when Shyam is my physician. 12 My Lord, you tied the knot of love; now where have you fled? You kindled the light of love; nowvyou have gone away abandoning her who knows no one but you. You launched the boat of love; now you have left it adrift, tossing in the ocean of separation. O Mira’s Lord, when will you return? Without you I can live no more. 13 The beauty ofMohan11 has made me captive. In the bazaar and on the street, he teases me. I have not yet learned the sweet desire of my beloved. He has a handsome figure, like lotuses are his eyes. His glance is thrilling and enchanting are his smiles. He is razin cows on the bank of Jamuna,12 la 'n sweet music on his g g P Y1 E . flute. Mira surrenders her body and soul to Giridhar and clasps his lotus—feet. 14 My beloved is angry with me, O my dear sisters, he is angry with me. I have searched for him in the bazaars and in the village squares. Again and again, I have looked for him in the courtyard. Lamp in hand, I have gone in search of him in every house and searching } I have bitterly wept. Ah Giridhar, Mira’s Lord, she sings your praise and hugs your lotus-feet. u Literally, “charming” or “captivating,” an epithet for Krishna. 12A well-known river, a tributary of the River Ganges. Delhi, the capital of India for cen- ‘ turies, is located on the banks of the Jamuna. The river also flows by Brindavan. (See I: footnote 5.) Songs 167 15 The Sravana clouds pour forth their rain and fill my heart with solemn music. My soul is filled with expectation and I hear Hari’s foorsteps. Thick dark clouds gather on all sides and the lightening Hashes. A storm is imminent. A drizzle and a halting rain come down. A cool breeze blows with a caressing touch. It is Giridhar, Mira’s beloved Lord, singing a joyous and holy hymn. 16 I hear I-Iari’s footsteps. From the fortification of the palace, I look out to see when my King will come. The frogs, the papia,13 and the peacock shout in joy, and the cuckoo has bedecked herself for the meeting. . The clouds hanging low pour down rain and the lightning has shed her bashfulness. The earth has decked herself in new clothes to meet her Lord. 0 dear Giridhat, O Mira’s beloved and King, quickly come and be united with...
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