Tuesday, July 3, 2007


(Excerpts from My Complete English Translation
of Tapasvini Mahakavya authored by
Swabhava-Kavi Gangadhara Meher of Oriya Literature)

In the galaxy of poets of Oriya Literature, Gangadhara Meher (1862-1924), popularly known as ‘Swabhava-Kavi’ is a scintillating star of first magnitude. ‘Tapasvini’, an eleven-canto Oriya Kavya based on the Sita-Rama-story of Ramayana, is regarded as the masterpiece of this great poet. With the prevailing Sentiment of Pathos, this epic poem depicts the post-banishment episode of Sita in the hermitage of Sage Valmiki. Sita, the adorable daughter of Earth and the devoted wife of King Rama, in her later life, appears as a ‘Tapasvini’ (A Woman practising penance or An Ascetic-maid) in this literary composition. The poetic presentation is marked with originality and significant innovations.

Published in 1915 for the first time, Tapasvini kavya reveals the ambition of the poet particularly to portray the character of a devoted wife flourished with Indian culture in the domain of Oriya literature and to establish the glory of Oriya language. Befitting the modern taste, the poet has used in this kavya different nine metres collaborating the old metres with the modern ones. Musical charm, grace of diction, serenity, rhythmic eloquence, lucidity with emotional touch and sweetness of meaning are the remarkable features of this work.

Like Kalidasa in Sanskrit and William Wordsworth in English,Gangadhara Meher is well-known as ‘Prakriti-Kavi’ (Poet of Nature) in Oriya literature. With own subtle poetic vision, in Nature, Gangadhara sees human feelings, conscious life and internal beauty. Nature with her lively aspects honours the exiled Sita as an esteemed queen. Depiction of Dame Usha (Dawn) in Canto-4th of 'Tapasvini' has earned much popularity all over Orissa. The quintessence of poet’s philosophy of life has been contextually reflected in the mouth of River Tamasa.

For wide popularization and comparative correspondence, 'Tapasvini' has been completely translated by me into Hindi, English and Sanskrit. From among these tri-lingual translations, Hindi Rendering has been published by Sambalpur University, Jyoti Vihar, Orissa in 2000. In all these translations, though it is not possible to keep in tact, the original metrical charm and musical sweetness, still endeavours have been made to authentically preserve, in my own words, the original sense of the epic poem without any deviation. Interest of rhyme in all these translations has been freely adopted, both regularly and irregularly.

Extracts from Canto-IV of My English Version of 'Tapasvini'
is presented below.
My Hindi and Sanskrit Versions are placed separately on this site.
All have been taken from published works.
Here in the muse of the poet,
Usha, Sita and Tamasa are found in a close emotional affinity.)

Auspiciously came
Usha, the blooming lotus-eyed dame,
in her heart cherishing keenly
thirst for a vision
of the virtuous Janaki.
Bearing dew-pearls as presentation
in her hands of leafage,
standing forward
in the outer courtyard
of Sita’s cottage,
in cuckoo’s tone spake she :
“O Chaste Lady !
Deign to give your sight ;
Dawned the night.” (1)

The saffron costume
of auroral shine,
flowers’ smiling bloom
and tranquil mien
make a room
in the mind to presume :
Some goddess of Yoga reaching the place,
by sweet words giving solace
calls to render relief
from pangs of grief.
From heaven on earth as if
has descended to bestow a new life. (2)

Musical tune Zephyr sang swinging,
Black Bee played on lute charming.
By Usha’s bidding, in dance
rapt remained Fragrance.
Kumbhatua bird as a royal bard
began to eulogize forward.
As the panegyrist premier
Kalinga bird appeared there
and spake in voice gracefully sweet :
“Wake please,
O Queen of the empire of chaste ladies !
Dawned the night.” (3)

The Vedic lore chanted by ascetics there
reverberated the darksome penance-grove.
Transcending the sphere
the high OM sound raised above.
From the lute of Sarasvati, the Speech-Goddess,
the tune jingling,
giving hearty propitiation
to Vishnu, the Lord of heaven,
as if could find own access
into the ears of Ananta, the Serpent-King.
By and by, the forest bore
brightness more and more.
With the incantation-power
energy as if increased further. (4)

The celebate hermitess
ascetic-maid Anukampa
meantime came near Sita
and with sonorous words spake :
“O Vaidehi ! please wake.
The delicate-limbed Usha
has now come here.
Giving thy sight duly gratify her.
Placing you once in lap, Tamasa
has awaited to attain happiness. ”(5)

From her bed got up Sita,
the devoted wife,
on the board of her mind perforated
by inner grief,
portraying the heroic image
of King Rama, like Sun’s reflection
in the dew-drop rested
in the heart of Lotus-maid.
Extending salutation
at the feet of Anukampa,
humble homage
at Usha’s feet, she paid. (6)

With admiration
Sita addressed her :
“In this world, thou art harbinger
of the rising of Sun,
the darkness-dispeller.
Thy tender feet compile brilliance.
To them I consign with firm aspiration.
O Ye fond of fair fragrance !
On my lord, King Raghu’s scion,
auspiciousness kindly confer.” (7)

With heart eagerly restless
at the end of the night,
Tamasa, the hermitage-hostess,
and sacred-streamed,
strewing on the yard flowers pleasant,
sprinkling water fragrant,
kindling auspicious Lucifer-lamp bright,
with her fish-eyes frequently gazing thus
was awaiting Sita’s arrival gracious. (8)

Accompanied by Anukampa that moment,
Sita, the jewel among the chaste,
highly applauded in the world by the overflow
of endless endearment
rendered by hermit-maidens, in haste,
from the hermitage went to the river-flow.
Her on own lap Tamasa placed,
with the wave-hands lovingly embraced. (9)

In her tone sweet as ambrosia
expressed amply complacent Tamasa :
“Daughter dearest ! In my mind
never was the hope that Sita, the necklace
of the heart of Royal Wealth-goddess
would fondly find
my lap as a sporting place
by forsaking the kingly pleasure-seekingness.
In this world, people all
solely because of your noble self will call
me very fortunate one
with words of appreciation. (10)

Wandering over several woods wide,
never wavering astray
by illusion of any gorge,
surmounting many an impediment
in my life limpid,
never deeming darkness
as a distress,
never thinking light
to be a delight,
for a remote way
ahead I’ve continued to forge
with my head humbly bent.
Gratifying every bank-dweller
with offering of water,
fruitfulness of my birth
I’m realizing worth. (11)

From the view-points
of all those attributes, my compeers
are Mandakini and Godavari ;
still both have enhanced glory
by earning the imperishable opulence
of your holy foot-prints,
also your physical fragrance that confers
deity’s divine excellence.
To acquire those I had inner thirst ;
Bereft thereof I was mentally accurst. (12)

Many a noble deed
I had done indeed.
Dharma betimes brought you therefore,
after discerning the earnest yearning
of my heart’s core.
Unattainable wealth I’ve got.
Heartful complacence
I’ll enjoy hence
by addressing and caressing
your sacred self on my lap everyday.
Aroma of your limbs will purge away
my life’s all the blot. (13)

Herons and flamingoes
roaming in rows,
cranes as well as sheldrakes couple-wise,
all these sportive players
of my lap beside me will reside for ever,
taking heartful drinks of my water
sanctified by ablution of your sacred body.
Singing your glory under the guise
of dulcet indistinct warbling-melody
immensely they’ll be pleasing my ears. (14)

To acquire sanctity
in touch with the body
of the devoted spouse,
flowers detached from creeper-house,
leaping and leaping
from remote regions,
will be rushing by floating forward
and will be moving
oft in your close proximity.
With your feet, O Compassionate Lady !
in my water during ablutions
them you’ll never discard. (15)

Stepping on my banks, My dear !
you’ll kindly meander
on pretext, presenting supernal splendour.
Earning this, the sylvan trees
will cheerfully bear
the pride of deities ;
also peace they’ll grant.
In the foliage, sure,
will remain perpetually pure
the lustres, rosy, darkish and elegant.” (16)

Sita replied :
“Like the water of coconut
sweet is this limpid water ;
nay, nay, not water, but
mother’s milk real,
flowing as the stream ambrosial,
from the mountain-breast
for Sita, the dead-like daughter.
Oh ! In this land, you’re indeed
my mother dearest
incarnate as Tamasa having a heart
riven by my severe smart. (17)

Pierced by crack
has been your back ;
the other side is seen.
Despite this, to delight the daughter,
opening the eyes of affections
you fondle and flatter
with the design
of words, lovingly sweet.
Effusive thanks, O Mother benign !
Sandy your heart has been
for the harsh heat
of my afflictions. (18)

Blemished by the vision
of denizens in King Rama’s empire,
Sita, ever-exiled, will ably stand
in your opinion
to sanctify in the world entire,
all the beings, movable
as well as immovable,
by virtue of own devotion to husband.
Mother verily knows
her daughter’s sorrows.
A burnt-faced daughter
looks moon-faced in the eyes of mother. (19)

Your banks have been, of course,
my permanent recourse.
In your serene lotus-feet
my hope finds a firm seat.
She, for whom, O My Darling !
the movable and the immovable ones
all turned nothing,
has her mother’s lap solely present
as the vast treasure of her endearment
in the mundane regions.
Having own gem-wombed mother
why would she seek shelter another ? ” (20)

(Extracted from published works) *
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For Hindi and Sanskrit Versions, please see :
For Original Oriya :
For My Research Article on Tapasvini, please see :
MuseIndia (Literary E-Journal) – Issue 21 / Sept.-Oct. 2008
(English Translations of Tapasvini By Dr. Harekrishna Meher) :

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