Awaken them; they are knobs of sound
that seem to melt and crumple up
like some jellyfish of tropical seas,
torn from sleep with a hand lined by prophecies.
Listen hard; their male, gaunt world sprawls the page
like rows of tree trunks reeking in the smoke
of ages, the branches glazed and dead
as though longing to make up with the sky,
but having lost touch with themselves
were unable to find themselves, hold meaning.
And yet, down the steps into the water at Varanasi,
where the lifeless bodies seem to grow human,
the shaggy heads of word-buds move back and forth
between the harsh castanets of the rain
and the noiseless feathers of summer -
aware that their syllables' overwhelming silence
would not escape the hearers now, and which
must remain that mysterious divine path
guarded by drifts of queer, quivering banyans:
a language of clogs over cobbles, casting
its uncertain spell, trembling sadly into mist.
What a splendid poem so stupendous and wonderful, so full of bliss and blessing, so enchanting and captivating! Sanskrit, what is this language, how the stress pattern, sound and accent of it, Jayanta Mahapatra here dabbles in verse, tries to evoke that sense of wonder, myth and mystery, awe and suspense with the chants taking us far from, healing the wounds, keeping us spell-bound. Such is the impact and drift of the language. Men speak it not, gods speak it, is the adage doing the rounds for ages. Such a thing Mahapatra has written while describing the the-armed goddess, Durga going to be immersed on the final day of worship and the priests seeing her go tearfully. There is some sort of Vedic, Upanishadic idea running across the lines of Jayanta Mahapatra when he describes the chants going in the distant temples on the one hand while on the other the crocodiles keep moving into the deeper waters.
How mantric and syllabic is Sanskrit, how sacred the mantras, so sacrosanct and holy, so pious and purging! The mantras and its lines purify us, cleanse us inwardly, dispelling the doubts within, instilling a feeling of hope and strength in us.
Awaken them, they are knobs of sound, the poet speaks it while starting the poem named Sanskrit. When the words are uttered, they take us by strike, sweeping through. The knobs of sound seem to melt and crumple up just like some jellyfish of the tropical seas, torn from sleep with a hand lined by prophecies. They transport us into a different world of marine view and delving so is the sound impact. Listen you hard. Their male, gaunt world sprawls the page like the rows of the tree trunks reeking in the smoke of ages and the branches glazed and dead seem to be standing against the skies for to be closer. But they fail to find meaning or hold on to.
The sounds seem to be taking to sacred places and the ancient seats of learning so full of holy vocalizations. We do not know who discovered it. Who the pitches of sacred speech? Why is it so sacrosanct? How its rhythms? How its speech? How the syllables so overpowering and moving, beautiful and lucid?
When down the steps into the water of Varanasi, the lifeless bodies too seem to grow human, the shaggy heads of word-buds move back and forth between rain and summer. Even then the sounds can be heard telling linguistic mannerism and stylistics in which syllables, stresses, accents and pitches partake in divinely. The ghats too resound with so the bells, so the mantras chanted in all through the day.
On reading about Varanasi, we become reminded of Aldous Huxley’s Benares and his visit, Trailanga Swami, the Walking Shiva of Benares and the ghats of the holy city where one day Kabira remained it by the steps so that he might get a touch of the lotus feet of Guru Ramanada and the key words of the guru mantra fumbled in whispers to draw the life-long lesson from.
Such is the impact that the listeners feel it spell-bound, not letting to go, such is the power of the syllabic mantras. To hear the chanting, reading of the lines is to pass through the mystical paths divine guarded by the quivering banyan trees. A strange silence pervades in and holds us so magically and musically. We seem to gliding through the hazy ways, misty paths going through the banyans.
Sanskrit is a language of clogs over cobbles. The cobbled floors of the rock-built temples dance before the eyes when we read the poem. The banyan tree brings in the memory of Aurobindo’s Savitri. The rudraksha tree reminds us of Shiva and his rudraksha beads. Similarly the peepul tree reminds of Goutam Buddha. What more to say about Mahavira?
Sanskrit language, what about its akshara, dhvani, shabda, rasa, vinyasa, letter, sound, word, taste, structure? What to say about its ancientness, classical format? It is a language of the sacred heart, chaste feeling.
When we read the poem, the mind gets lifted to Sanskrit scholars of Europe and America, the world wide whose arduous labour, effort and scholarship have saved it from oblivion. We get reminded of the votary of Indian culture and civilization too. Goethe, Paul Deussen, Max Muller, A.A. Macdonell, Romain Rolland, A.B. Keith, Moris Winternitz and others come to the mind while talking about Sanskrit.
His imagery is far-fetched, very uncommon, generally the poets do not use in such a way, moving backwards, forwards as very unusual things are compared with the lively ones. One is not sure of which way it will take to and how the meaning will be in the end as he is very difficult and complex and his poetry means it not.
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