As famine environed Sravastipur in despair
With all round wail in the air,
Asked Buddha his devotees –
“Who will shoulder the duties
Of all the hapless to feed
At this hour of need?”
Ratnakar Seth only did blight
To respond, “No way do I sight –
To satiate the vast populace,
Far beyond me is this awesome menace.” –
With his hands folded
And in shame hung his head.
Says Jaisen, the army chief –
“Lord’s command I’d comply only if
The blood of my chest
That I can offer at best
Would be any rescue
To grow grains even a few.”
Says Dharmapal with a sigh
“Alas, my ill luck runs high;
My farm where gold would sprout
Now blasts under drought –
Even King’s revenue
Is long due.”
They look at faces of one another
Coming out with no answers;
Silent in that hall
The aggrieved eyes of Buddha fall
To the mortified habitat out there
Like the evening star’s stare.
Slowly then arose
A blushing red rose
The orphan maid yet with grace,
Running down her face
Compassion molten into tears
Says in her humble voice melodious –
“Supriya, the meanest nun takes up Thy onus –
All starving souls are my children
It’s my duty to get them food grain.”
All there struck with wonder –
“A hermit girl, how do you dare
This awful task to shoulder,
Your boast rests on what treasure?’
She bows to all;
Says, “I have this begging bowl;
The most infirm I am, a destitute lone
So will shower on me your compassion.
On your mercy thus,
Lord’s command will be victorious,
At your home lies my treasure
Overflow will my bowl at your pleasure –
Your alms noble will ease out
The curse of drought.”
Original poem Nagarlakshmi (The Goddess of Wealth of the town) of the book Katha in Bengali, written by the Rabindranath Tagore in 1899.
This is a poem based on Buddhist legends like a good many of its kind while Lord Buddha preached his noble mission for welfare of mankind 2500 years back. The moral it preaches is, charity is not a matter of mere indifferent parting with one’s surplus wealth for the purpose of the poor where real compassion for them is lacking. Neither isolated contributions of a few rich is the answer when a calamity overtakes a populace, if those untouched by it are mere onlookers to the situation leaving the hapless to their fate.
The need of the hour is then to inspire all for the cause of the suffering mankind. Even when a calamity does not make it too obvious, humanity is deeply ailing somewhere, somehow, thus our sympathy for their solace is never redundant. The saints from age to age have only tried to keep this spirit alive so that man is not reduced to a creature existing for self comfort alone with a crippled soul. But all these saints were humble beings at the beginning of their mission e.g. Ramakrishna, Vivekananda & Mother Teresa to name a few recent ones. Yet, their message of love grew into great institutions congregating countless people around the globe to contribute their might selflessly for various noble causes with their souls inspired by the said humble saints.
Even amidst the onslaught of materialism today, their effort to elevate man to divinity will remain resplendent like the morning star to guide man in the right direction whenever greater objectives of life will be lost sight of. This poem is only one of Tagore’s several of its kind mainly for the children which may implant such superior values in them and ensure their upbringing in the line of highest human ideals. Inclusion of such pieces in our school texts may, therefore, serve the great cause of building ideal citizens for any country.