Stone cuts deep
A bell trembles,
touched by the pain
of countless people.
Across the temple square,
that settles on my shoulders
has nowhere to go:
neither a silence
nor an answer.
Stone cuts deep, the first line sets it rolling and says it all in a muted and muffled tuning what it means to communicate to us mythically and mystically the historiography of stones and structures carved out of, the Himalayan wisdom and delving, taking us to the mountains and hills away from human habitats and dwellings to Mount Kailash, Neelachal Hills, Vindhya Ranges and Dhaulagiri and so on. Where Bhagirath doing the penance for? What it the sin of the Sagar sons?
To say the things with a novel technique and attitude is the chief quality of Jayanta Mahapatra as for what does it take place when we hear the bells tinkling, jingling or being tolled, how are the prayers said, how the chants doing the rounds, the mantric chants so syllabic and sacred falling, pattering like rain drops, touching the heart. The brass bells, how to say the history about? If to view him, he is but an absurdist and life is but an absurd drama from his angle of viewing. We do not know why are we here and for what. What are we? What our purpose? Which is what? What are we doing and where are we going? We do not know what our purpose, what our mission. We are just here, just here. We are but puppets into the hands of Destiny, as Hardy says it. We are but absurd drama actors, as Samuel Beckett says it. Jayanta Mahapatra is so philosophic that none can comprehend him. Let us see how he begins a small poem named Listening to a Prayer where he discusses the effects of the mantric spell and recitation. How are the rocks, mountains and stones so sacred to us?
The lines speak when we read them, go through it line by line as here lies it the religious, sacred view of life and delving. Rituals, spirituality, myth and mysticism, religion, philosophy, theology and cosmology all take it over.
Stone cuts deep into our psyche and ethos, stone, only stone so historic, archaeological, mythic and Puranic whose part are we and can we without rocks, stones and trees? The bells seem to tremble hearing the aspirations and pains of the people gathered to say the things of their own, to pray to and worship. But how the flowers of our human reverence when care-worn lies it? How our worship if the self is not with the personal interest? How to hear it all?
Across the temple square the wind has nowhere to go as it is congested and packed with crowds. It settles on his shoulders. There is no silence. Even there is none to answer which is what. Just the ‘manna’ is with.
Jayanta Mahapatra here in the poem, ‘Listening to a Prayer’ drawn from A Rain of Rites collection, speaks about stones which cut so deep into our ethos, myth and mysticism, stones held with so much of reverence and respect.
Though the approach is existential, nihilistic, pantheistic and absurdist, instead of it charms us as the poems of George Herbert and Thomas Treharne engage us. Let the heart be a temple and e the worshippers going to worship. Where to go, to the inner temple or the outer temple? The heart is a temple of God. Here one needs to confess and fumble one’s own faults. How to pray for redemption? How the mythic base of ours? The mythic load burdening us? How to cut the mythic ice? Stones tell the stories of ours; our myth and mysticism, religion and spirituality. How our rock-built temples? Who built them and when? None knows it and we go discussing invasion and destruction brought onto.