Poem – the arghya

Outspake Bhishma to Yudhishthir: ‘Monarch of this wide domain,
Honour due to crowned monarchs doth our sacred law ordain,

Arghya to the wise Preceptor, to the Kinsman and to Priest,
To the Friend and to the Scholar, to the King as lord of feast,

Unto these is due the arghya, so our holy writs have said,
Therefore to these kings assembled be the highest honour paid,

Noble are these crownéd monarchs, radiant like the noonday sun,
To the noblest, first in virtue, be the foremost honour done!’

‘Who is noblest,’ quoth Yudhishthir, ‘in this galaxy of fame,
Who of chiefs and crownéd monarchs doth our foremost honour claim?’

Pond’ ring spake the ancient Bhishma in his accents deep and clear:
Greatest midst the great is Krishna! chief of men without a peer

Midst these monarchs pure in lustre, purest-hearted and most high
Like the radiant sun is Krishna midst the planets of the sky,

Sunless climes are warmed to verdure by the sun’s returning ray,
Windless wastes are waked to gladness when reviving breezes play,

Even so this rajasuya, this thy sacrificial rite,
Owes its sanctity and splendour unto Krishna’s holy might!’

Bhishma spake and Sahadeva served his mandate quick as thought,
And the arghya duly flavoured unto peerless Krishna brought,

Krishna trained in rules of virtue then the offered arghya took,
Darkened Sisupala’s forehead and his frame in tremor shook,

To Yudhishthir and to Bhishma turns the chief his flaming eyes,
To the great and honoured Krishna, Sisupala wrathful cries.

poem – fest and sacrifice

Jumna’s dark and limpid waters laved Yudhishthir’s palace walls
And to hail him Dharma-raja, monarchs thronged his royal halls,

He to honoured kings and chieftains with a royal grace assigned
Palaces with sparkling waters and with trees umbrageous lined,

Honoured thus, the mighty monarchs lived in mansions milky white,
Like the peaks of famed Kailasa lifting proud their snowy height!

Graceful walls that swept the meadows circled round the royal halls,
Nets of gold belaced the casements, gems bedecked the shining walls,

Flights of steps led up to chambers many-tinted-carpet-graced,
And festooning fragrant garlands were harmonious interlaced!

Far below from spacious gateways rose the people’s gathering cry,
And from far the swan-white mansions caught the ravished gazer’s eye,

Richly graced with precious metals shone the turrets bright and gay,
Like the rich-ored shining turrets of the lofty Himalay.

And the scene bedecked by rishis and by priests and kings of might,
Shone like azure sky in splendourgraced by deathless Sons of Light!

Spake Yudhishthir unto Bhishma, elder of the Kuru race,
Unto Drona proud preceptor, rich in lore and warlike grace,

Spake to wise preceptor Kripa, versed in sacred rites of old,
To Duryodhan and his brothers, honoured guests and kinsmen bold:

‘Friends and kinsmen, grant your favour and your sweet affection lend,
May your kindness ever helpful poor Yudhishthir’s rite attend,

As your own, command my treasure, costly gifts and wealth untold,
To the poor and to the worthy scatter free my gems and gold! ‘

Speaking thus he made his diksha, and to holy work inclined,
To his friends and to his kinsmen all their various tasks assigned:

Proud Duhsasan in his bounty spread the rich and sumptuous feast,
Drona’s son with due devotion greeted saint and holy priest,

Sanjay with a regal honour welcomed king and chief of might,
Bhishma and the pious Drona watched the sacrificial rite,

Kripa guarded wealth and treasure, gold and gems of untold price,
And with presents unto Brahmans sanctified the sacrifice,

Dhrita-rashtra, old and sightless, through the scene of gladness strayed,
With a careful hand Vidura all the mighty cost defrayed,

Proud Duryodhan took the tribute which the chiefs and monarchs paid,
Pious Krishna unto Brahmans honour and obeisance made.

‘Twas a gathering fair and wondrous on fair Jumna’s sacred shore,
Tributes in a thousand nishkas every willing monarch bore,

Costly gifts proclaimed the homage of each prince of warlike might,
Chieftains vied with rival chieftains to assist the holy rite.

Bright Immortals, robed in sunlight, sailed across the liquid sky,
And their gleaming cloud-borne chariots rested on the turrets high,

Hero-monarchs, holy Brahmans, filled the balls bedecked in gold,
White-robed priests adept in mantra mingled with the chieftains bold.

And amidst this scene of splendour, pious-hearted, pure and good,
Like the sinless god VARUNA, gentle-souled Yudhishthir stood,

Six bright fires Yudhishthir lighted, offerings made to gods above,
Gifts unto the poor and lowly spake the monarch’s boundless love.

Hungry men were fed and feasted with an ample feast of rice,
Costly gifts to holy Brahmans graced the noble sacrifice,

Ida, ajya, homa offerings, pleased the ‘Shining Ones’ on high,
Brahmans pleased with costly presents with their blessings filled the sky!

poem – ravan’s coming

Ravan watched the happy moment burning with a vengeful spite,
Came to sad and sorrowing Sita in the guise of anchorite,

Tufted hair and russet garment, sandals on his feet he wore.
And depending from his shoulders on a staff his vessel bore.

And he came to lonely Sita, for each warlike chief was gone,
As the darkness comes to evening lightless from the parted Sun,

And he cast his eyes on Sita, as a graha casts its shade
On the beauteous star Rohini when the bright Moon’s glories fade.

Quaking Nature knew the moment; silent stood the forest trees,
Conscious of a deed of darkness fell the fragrant forest breeze,

Godavari’s troubled waters trembled’ neath his lurid glance,
And his red eve’s fiery lustre sparkled in the wavelets’ dance!

Mute and still were forest creatures when in guise of anchorite,
Unto Sita’s lonely cottage pressed the Raksha in his might,

Mute and voiceless was the jungle as he cast on her his eye,
As across the star of Chitra, planet Sani walks the sky!

Ravan stood in hermit’s vestments,-vengeful purpose unrevealed,-
As a deep and darksome cavern is by grass and leaf concealed,

Ravan stood sedate and silent, and he gazed on Rama’s queen,
Ivory brow and lip of coral, sparkling teeth of pearly sheen!

Lighting up the lonely cottage, Sita sat in radiance high,
As the Moon with streaks of silver fills the lonely midnight sky,

Lighting up the gloomy woodlands with her eyes serenely fair,
With her bark-clad shape of beauty mantled by her raven hair!

Ravan fired by impure passion fixed on her his lustful eye,
And the light that lit his glances gave his holy texts the lie,

Ravan in his flattering accents, with a soft and soothing art,
Praised the woman’s peerless beauty to subdue the woman’s heart:

‘Beaming in thy golden beauty, robed in sylvan russet drew,
Wearing wreath of fragrant lotus like a nymph of wilderness,

Art thou Sri or radiant Gauri, maid of Fortune or of Fame,
Nymph of Love or sweet Fruition, what may be thy sacred name!

On thy lips of ruddy coral teeth of tender jasmine shine,
In thy eyes of limpid lustre dwclls a light of love divine,

Tall and slender, softly rounded, are thy limbs of beauty rare,
Like the swelling fruit of tala leaves thy bosom sweetly fair!

Smiling lips that tempt and ravish, lustre that thy dark eyes beam,
Crush my heart, as rolling waters crush the margin of the stream.

And thy wealth of waving tresses mantles o’er thy budding charms,
And thy waist of slender beauty courts a lover’s circling arms!

Goddess or Gandharva maiden wears no brighter form or face,
Woman seen by eyes of mortals owns not such transcendent grace.

Wherefore then, in lonesome forest, nymph or maiden, make thy stay,
Where the jungle creatures wander and the Rakshas hold their sway?

Royal balls and stately mansions were for thee a meeter home,
And thy steps should grace a palace, not in pathless forest roam,

Blossoms rich, not thorn of jungle, decorate a lady’s bower,
Silken robes, not sylvan garments, heighten Beauty’s potent power!

Lady of the sylvan forest! other destiny is thine,
As a bride beloved and courted in thy bridal garments shine,

Choose a loved and lordly suitor who shall wait on thee in pride,
Choose a hero worth thy beauty, be a monarch’s queenly bride!

Speak thy lineage, heaven-descended! who may be thy parents high,
Rudras or the radiant Maruts, Vassus leaders of the sky,

All unworthy is this forest for a nymph or heavenly maid,
Beast’s of prey infest the jungle, Rakshas haunt its gloomy shade,

Lions dwell in lovely caverns, tuskers ford the silent lake,
Monkeys sport on pendant branches, tigers steal beneath the brake,

Wherefore then this dismal forest doth thy fairy face adorn,
Who art thou and whence descended, nymph or maid or goddess-born?

poem – brother’s faithfulness

Tears bedewed the face of Lakshman as he heard what Sita, said,
And he touched the feet of Rama and in gentle accents prayed:

‘If my elder and his lady to the pathless forests wend,
Armed with bow and ample quiver Lakshman will on them attend,

Where the wild deer range the forest and the lordly tuskers roam,
And the bird of gorgeous plumage nestles in its jungle home,

Dearer far to me those woodlands where my elder Rama dwells,
Than the homes of bright Immortals where perennial bliss prevails!

Grant me then thy sweet permission,-faithful to thy glorious star,
Lakshman,shall not wait and tarry when his Rama wanders far,

Grant me then thyloving mandate,-Lakshman hath no wish to stay,
None shall bar the faithful younger when the elder leads the way!’

‘Ever true to deeds of virtue, duteous brother, faithful friend,
Dearer than his life to Rama, thou shall not to forests wend,

Who shall stay by Queen Kausalya, Lakshman, if we both depart,
Who shall stay by Queen Sumitra, she who nursed thee on her heart?

For the king our aged father, he who ruled the earth and main,
Is a captive to Kaikeyi, fettered by her silken chain,

Little help Kaikeyi renders to our mothers in her pride,
Little help can Bharat offer, standing by his mother’s side.

Thou alone can’st serve Kausalya when for distant woods I part,
When the memory of my exile rankles in her sorrowing heart,

Thou alone can’st serve Sumitra, soothe her sorrows with thy love,
Stay by them, my faithful Lakshman, and thy filial virtues prove,

Be this then they sacred duty, tend our mothers in their woe,
Little joy or consolation have they left on earth below!’

Spake the hero: ‘Fear no evil, well is Rama’s prowess known,
And to mighty Rama’s mother Bharat will obeisance own,

Nathless if the pride of empire sways him from the righteous path,
Blood will venge the offered insult and will quench our filial wrath!

But a thousand peopled hamlets Queen Kausalya’s hests obey,
And a thousand arméd champions own her high and queenly sway,

Aye, a thousand village-centres Queen Sumitra’s state maintain,
And a thousand swords like Lakshman’s guard her proud and prosperous reign!

All alone with gentle Sita thou shalt track thy darksome way,
Grant it, that thy faithful Lakshman shall protect her night and day,

Grant it, with his bow and quiver Lakshman shall the forests roam,
And his axe shall fell the jungle, and his hands shall rear the home!

Grant it, in the deepest woodlands he shall seek the forest fruit,
Berries dear to holy hermits and the sweet and luscious root,

And whenwith thy meek-eyed Sita thou shalt seek the mountain crest,
Grant it, Lakshman ever duteous watch and guard thy nightly rest!’

Words of brother’s deep devotion Rama heard with grateful heart,
And with Sita and with Lakshman for the woods prepared to part:

Part we then from loving kinsmen, arms and mighty weapons bring,
Bows of war which Lord VARUNA rendered to Videha’s king,

Coats of mail to sword impervious, quivers which can never fail,
And the rapiers bright as sunshine, golden-hilted, tempered wen,

Safely rest these goodly weapons in our great preceptor’s hall,
Seekand bring them, faithful brother, for me thinks we need them all!’

Rama spake; his valiant brother then the wondrous weapons brought,
Wreathed with fresh and fragrant garlands and with gold and jewels wrought,

‘Welcome, brother,’ uttered Rama, ‘stronger thus to woods we go,
Wealth and gold and useless treasure to the holy priests bestow,

To the son of saint Vasishtha, to each sage is honour due,
Then we leave our father’s mansions, to our father’s mandate true!’

poem – the fall of bali

Star-eyed Tara softly counselled pressing to her consort’s side,
Mighty Bali proudly answered with a warrior’s lofty pride:

‘Challenge of a humbled foeman and a younger’s haugty scorn
May not, shall not, tender Tara, by a king be meekly borne!

Bali turns not from encounter even with his dying breath,
Insult from a foe, unanswered, is a deeper stain than death,

And Sugriva’s quest for combat Bali never shall deny,
Though sustained by Rama’s forces and by Rama’s prowess high!

Free me from thy sweet embraces and amidst thy maids retire,
Woman’s love and soft devotion woman’s timid thoughts inspire,

Fear not, Tara, blood of brother Bali’s honour shall not stain,
I will quell his proud presumption, chase him from this realm again,

Free me from thy loving dalliance, midst thy damsels seek thy place,
Till I come a happy victor to my Tara’s fond embrace!’

Slow and sad with sweet obeisance Tara stopped around her lord,
Welling tear-drops choked her accents as she prayed in stifled word,

Slow and sad with swelling bosom Tara with her maids retired,
Bali issued proud and stately with the thought of vengeance fired!

Hissing like an angry cobra, city’s lofty gates he past,
And his proud and angry glances fiercely all around he cast,

Till he saw the bold Sugriva, gold-complexioned, red with ire,
Girded for the dubious combat, flaming like the forest fire!

Bali braced his warlike garments and his hand he lifted high,
Bold Sugriva raised his right arm with a proud and answering cry,

Bali’s eyes were red as copper and his chain was burnished gold,
To his brother bold Sugriva thus he spake in accents bold:

‘Mark this iron fist, intruder, fatal is its vengeful blow,
Crushed and smitten thou shalt perish and to nether world shalt go,’

‘Nay that fate awaits thee, Bali,’ spake Sugriva armed for strife,
‘When this right arm smites thy forehead, from thy bosom rends thy life!’

Closed the chiefs in fatal combat, each resistless in his pride,
And like running rills from mountains poured their limbs the purple tide,

Till Sugriva quick uprooting Sal tree from the jungle wood,
As the dark cloud hurls the lightning, hurled it where his brother stood,

Staggering ‘neath the blow terrific Bali reeled and almost fell,
As a proud ship overladen reels upon the ocean’s swell!

But with fiercer rage and fury Bali in his anguish rose,
And with mutual blows they battled,-brothers and relentless foes,

Like the sun and moon in conflict or like eagles in their fight,
Still they fought with cherished hatred and an unforgotten spite,

Till with mightier force and fury Bali did his younger quell,
Faint Sugriva fiercely struggling ‘neath his brother’s prowess fell!

Still the wrathful rivals wrestled with their bleeding arms and knees,
With their nails like claws of tigers and with riven rocks and trees,

And as INDRA battles Vritra in the tempest’s pealing roar,
Blood-stained Bali, red Sugriva, strove and struggled, fought and tore,

Till Sugriva faint and falt’ring fell like Vritra from the sky,
To his comrade and his helper turned his faint and pleading eye!

Ah! those soft and pleading glances smote the gentle Rama’s heart,
On his bow of ample stature Rama raised the fatal dart,

Like the fatal disc of YAMA was his proudly circled bow,
Like a snake of deadly poison flew his arrow swift and low,

Wingéd dwellers of the forest heard the twang with trembling few,
Echoing woods gave back the accent, lightly fled the startled deer,

And as INDRA’S flag is lowered when the Aswin winds prevail,
Lofty Bali pierced and bleeding by that fatal arrow fell!