Day and night
This world is bathed in a holy stream
Flowing from the sylvan source of life.
Covered in a stony shell O great city
You have deprived yourself of that gift
Dirty and unclean
You have effaced from your forehead
The marks of nature’s blessings
Coming to your horizon
The dawn loses its divine glow
The touch of your septic sky
Divests the stars of their natural shine
They forget their music
Their dreams are nightmares
In a disturbed sleep.
They lose their likeness to the heavenly blooms.
On the heavenly lute
As the beautiful melody is disrupted here
An insolent, monstrous and confused clamour
Imprisoned in artificiality
Their fetters they proudly worship.
Wallowing in the filth of hatred, jealousy and calumny
They keep their heart as a dark cavern
To nourish there an arrogance of narrow vulgarity
Which bites in secret
And speaks in indecent and uncivil speech.
Dishonouring people slinging stinking mud
Behind their mask they boast of their heroism;
In their neighbourhood
They dig tunnels
They spread scandals
And cause only mischief.
In their derisive gestures and clever speech
Everywhere in ironies and innuendoes
And in cruel jokes
They gloat over these.
Compared to this
Far better is the wild ferocity of the wilderness.
It wears no mask
About to pounce on its prey
Like a raging forest fire it has terrific power
It is simple and stark;
Its fury is spontaneous
Its cruelty is heroic
It is full of virility
It is full of life.
These impotent vermins are uncreative and destructive
And burrowing tapeworms are their boon companions
They are terrible because they are so small
Insidiously they bring epidemics
And these are the horrible gifts of an evil star of evil times.
All these make me feel like crying
For a death that is total –
‘O Rudra! Please release a devastating flood
From your matted hair
O Saviour, save us from this filth of pettiness
And the shame of these lifeless cadavers
That is destroyed time and again
By the rhythm of your dance of destruction
Let the calumnies perpetrated by these imbecile cowards
Be buried under the dust
Raised by your dancing feet’.
Translation of the poem – Kolushita (polluted) – from the collection Bithika by Rabindranath Tagore. Since the days of the Greek city states cities and urban centres have come to represent the ultimate stage of the progress of human civilization both material and intellectual. But far removed from the world of nature they pollute themselves not only physically but also spiritually and breed another culture, the culture of pettiness and vulgarity. I am yet to come across anywhere else such a virulent indictment of this culture as has been made in this poem. To see how virulent Tagore could be, if possible, one should read this poem in the original. In translation much of the edge of the indictment has been lost. It needs to be mentioned that throughout his life Tagore had to suffer vulgar attacks from a section of the Bengalis. Even after his death long ago such attacks have not ceased.
[In Indian mythology the trinity is represented by three godheads – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – the creator, the sustainer and the destroyer respectively of all creation – representing the three aspects of the Supreme Being. Shiva, also known as Rudra, is the destroyer who destroys everything when the world becomes saturated with unrighteousness and sin. His act of destruction is accompanied with a wild dance and blowing of a bugle. That is why he is also called Nataraj or the king of dancers. Mother Gaga was born of the tears of Vishnu and Brahma sent her to the earth for its perennial refreshment from accumulated filth. To save the earth from destruction from the impact of her fall from heaven Shiva first held Ganga in his matted hair.]
The original poem in Bengali script may be viewed at