They are the lowliest of the low
They are ineligible for initiation.
At the portals of temples they are barred
By those whose business is the worship of God.
They seek Him where He actually exists
Where there is no fence
And is lighted by spontaneous love –
In the starry skies, in the flowering woodlands
In the deepest passions they feel
In the loves and losses of their fellow beings.
They cannot reach him along the way
Consciously designed with walls and barricades.
I have seen their devotee in the morning light
On the banks of the Padma –
The river that has no hesitation
In breaking the foundations of old entrenched temples.
I have seen him going his lone way singing
With his ektara in his hand
In the quest of the one who is closest to his heart.
I am a poet, I belong to them
I have failed in the observance of rituals
I am uninitiated
I am forbidden to enter the temple
Where God is imprisoned
My offerings cannot reach His altar.
The priest came out smiling and asked,
‘Have you seen the deity?’
I said, ‘No.’
Surprised he enquired, ‘You don’t know the way?’
I said, ‘No.’
Again he asked, ‘Have you no caste?’
‘No’, I replied.
My days thus passed;
Now I think
‘Who is my deity,
Whom have I worshipped?’
Is it he whose name I have heard from many
And read about in many tongues and scriptures
Imagining him to be the object of my devotion?
To prove this I have always tried hard
To propitiate him through my worships.
But now I see I have failed to do that –
Because I have failed in the observance of the rituals
I am uninitiated.
Shut out by the closed door of the temple
My devotion went towards the horizon –
Beyond the walls
Below the starry skies, in the flowering woods
Along the way deeply marked
By the loves and losses of my fellow beings.
*** *** ***
Those who are bound by rules and rituals
Thought I was not a human being
So friendless I used to play
At an open place where all roads meet
Carefully avoiding my touch
They passed by that place.
To offer to their deity
They plucked all the flowers prescribed by their scriptures
Leaving those which blossom in all climates and lands
Under the omnipresent sun
And are accepted by all.
Ignored by the pack
And hungry for companionship
I have wandered about
For friendship of those
To whom all are welcome
Who have no walls
Who are without any guard.
Outside villages and towns
I have found the companions of my loneliness
In the golden ages of history
They came with torches, weapons and messages
They are deathless heroes and savants
They are my friends
We belong to the same tribe and race
I am ever sanctified by their eternal sanctity.
They are on a pilgrimage of truth
They meditate for light
They are the fittest to be immortal.
I have lost the man
Where he is surrounded by boundaries
But I have found him at last
Where he is unbound by borders.
With folded hands I have prayed to him,
O you timeless one, you represent all humanity –
Please save us from the arrogance of narrowness
Of those who wear the marks of sects.
Blessed indeed am I, O great soul
I have seen you through the mists of darkness - - -
I have failed to follow the rituals
I am an outcaste.
*** *** ***
Translation of excerpts from poem 15 of the collection Patraput by Rabindranath Tagore. Written at Santiniketan on 18th Baisakh, 1343 BS (Summer of 1936) when the poet was 75.