Atulprasad Sen, bar-at-law (1871-1934) was a consummate lyricist, composer, and singer, specializing in kirtan, thumri, ghazal (he practiced law in Lucknow and took music lessons from the North Indian maestros of Hindusthani music). Some of his airs on devotional and patriotic themes are simply superb, to say the very least. One of the lyrics on the latter theme is appended below in my translation. Although its context was the dire condition of late colonial India, it is still relevant for India’s predicament in postcolonial times, resonating particularly with the current political and cultural malaise afflicting the subcontinent.|
Bharata Bhanu, kotha lukale!
Punah udibe kabe purababhale?
Ha re Bidhata, se debakanti
kalera garbhe kena dubale.
Achhe Ayoddha, kotha se Raghaba,
achhe Kuruksetra, kotha se Pandaba,
achhe Nairanjana, kotha se mukati,
achhe Nabadvip, kotha se bhakati,
achhe tapoban, kotha se tapodhan,
kothk se Kala Kalindikule?
Purusa abaruddha apana deshe
nari abaruddha nija nibase.
Kotha se birendra suradanabari?
Kotha se bidusi tapasi nari?
Simhera deshe bicarichhe shiba
biryabidambita khala kolahale.
Nanaka Gauranga Shakyera jati
nahika samya, bhede atmaghati.
Dharmera beshe bihare adharmi.
Kotha se tyagi, premi o karmi?
Kotha se jati yahare bishva pujita
O the glorious Bharat,
where do you remain in hiding!
When would you rise in the East again?
My God, why did you drown its dazzling frame
into the void of the ages?
There’s Ayoddhya but no Raghab,
There’s Kurukshetra but no Pandabas.
The Nairanjana still flows but doesn’t bestow deliverance.
Nabadvip still stands, but bereft of piety.
Ascetic bowers abound but no sages.
Where’s the Dark One on the Kalindi’s shore?
Men remain prisoners in their own land
and women confined in their own homes.
Whither is our Hero, defier of gods and demons?
Where are the ascetic women scholars?
Now jackals with their crooked, craven,
and impotent clamor roam in the land of the lions.
The race of Nanak, Gauranga, and Shakya has lost
Its equipoise and turned cantankerous and suicidal.
The profane and the profligate move about
in the guise of the pious.
Where are the renouncers, the philanthropes, and the doers?
What happened to the race that commanded
the world’s respect at the dawn of time!