(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
Dr. Sonia Singh Kushwah & Dr. A. S. Kushwah
In the stream of Hindi poetry the divine is invoked with different intentions and motives revealing a nonessentialized attitude of the poet. The aesthetics of virah associated with the Bhakti configuration in Dharamveer Bharti’s Kanupriya is the focus of my study in this paper. Bharti has experimented with the traditional form of religious verse giving us a poetic range from faith to ecstasy, from ecstasy to limitations, from limitations to awareness, from awareness to surrender, from surrender to completeness. I wish to put forward the devotional poetics as exemplified in Kanupriya to express the unique and incomparable state beyond duality. Radha Krishna as a cult, as a myth and as God requires deep speculation to (re)define and (re)present the aesthetics of virah in Bhakti poetry.
Virah, spiritual, binary, aesthetic, saguna bhakti, sahaj, lila, viyoga, samadhi.
In the stream of Hindi poetry the divine is invoked with different intentions and motives revealing a nonessentialized attitude of the poet. The aesthetics of virah associated with the Bhakti configuration in Dharamveer Bharti's Kanupriya is the focus of my study in this paper. Bharti has experimented with the traditional form of religious verse to address the Infinite in his own subjective rather queer way creating a wide spectrum of response towards the hitherto unquestioned divine. The poetic range in Kanupriya moves from faith to ecstasy, from ecstasy to limitations, from limitations to awareness, from awareness to surrender, from surrender to completeness .The whole process is a cyclic process which begins with waiting and ends on waiting note. It is an act of emptying and fulfilment happening simultaneously in a rich outburst of emotive awareness with skilled poetic verbose. Dr. Charu Sheel Singh from the ‘Preface of Festivals of Fire: A Study of the Poetry of Niranjan Mohanty’ writes:
Scripts are garlands of letters which are waiting to become scriptures given the poet's imagination and his verbal repertoire. Inbreathings and outbreathings are divinely ordained activities within man, or for that matter in any created organism . It is an activity of emptying and fulfilling, assimilating and annulling, appropriation and expropriation. (v)
This principle is aptly applied to Dharamveer Bharti’s Kanupriya where the legend concerning the Hindu God, Krishna and Goddess, Radha is treated in a contemporary manner to bring forth the presence in a highly charged atmosphere of longings, separation and absence to create presence in absence with a profound devotional emotive intensity. The text is in the form of a monologue divided into cantos revealing the inner turmoil of the Finite to merge with the Infinite for a set goal which is self-discovery. This establishment of Saguna Bhakti has always been a favourite poetic outburst of Bhakti poets and even the modern poets like Bharti can present a panoramic view of virah with a wider significance to build a devotional intensity in contrast to the historical identity. This has been done with a religiously devotional and uncompromising faith in love that kindles more in separation. Its significance lies in the flux of the thoughts rather than the action in the outer world. The activity of mind becomes the focal point to express the deep longings and separation, thus opening the inner recesses of the mind that unfurls the personality like a seashell to bring out the "pearl" existence. The nature is replete with the examples of paradoxical circumstances where a Being is like a pendulum between the outer flow of emotions and an inner encounter of Reality. On the other hand there are examples of divinity experiencing an effortless (sahaj) state where the polarities and dualities dilute to remain unified with the centre. This effortlessness is in fact the touchstone method to finally claim the completeness of a Being. Krishna thus becomes unique and incomparable as he represents this sahaj effortless and complete state beyond duality. He happened in the ancient past but belongs to the future. He is still beyond man's understanding because he is worshipped as divine in spite of his lila that involves singing and dancing. A close reading of the scriptures proves that the religions of the past were all life denying and masochistic, extolling sorrow and suffering as great virtues. Krishna's vision of religion is of total acceptance of life. This totality exemplified in Krishna is yet to be born. Every religion, up to now has divided life into two parts, and while they accept one part they deny the other. Krishna accepts the whole life. That is why he is a complete incarnation. On the other hand, Kanupriya, the beloved of Kanu, the Krishna is Radha. She is the subject of numerous authors from times immemorial .Her suffering and longing due to the separation is expressed in various ways. But if we delve into the scriptures we will be amazed by the fact that the scriptures don't even mention Radha. This is so because Radha dissolved herself completely in the being of Krishna that a separate account of her became unnecessary. Still the saint poets sing of the love longings of Radha and Krishna constituting a body of prem yog or madhurya bhav in bhakti or virah bhakti. Viyog is, thus, a natural form of religious discipline legitimised by Lord Krishna as an ascetic form of religious practice—yoga's rival sibling. Both yoga and Viyoga developed as a result of the response to the inevitable separation between self and divine. Virahini delights in the suffering of separation imputing to it positive implications and religious valency. Yoga attempts to surmount it through a contemplative form of meditation and strict body discipline. Both vi(yoga) are meditative, yet viyoga is a verbalized form of meditation characterized by a straight forward lamentation addressed directly to the deity. Yoga has an indirect nonverbal method of meditation. Viyoga seeks to establish a direct sensible connection to the divine—a religion of the heart. Salvation is accessible through devotion. Yoga seeks salvation through a gradual process of self discipline and cerebral knowledge. In the differentiation made between the practices of viyoga and yoga we detect the recrudescence of the age old dichotomies between feminine /masculine, body/mind, emotional/rational and episteme/theorization. The devotional longings of Kanupriya are the manifestation of her transcendence. She passes through the various stages of intense intuitive urges of heart to gain total understanding of the Being's journey in relation to the cosmic plan that creates history.
The core element of Kanupriya is emotive intensity, a marked feature of viyoga bhakti. All action and reaction is complimentary to this emotive intensity. A viyogi or a virahini is the compilation of emotive intensity as well as an effortless awareness which is indicated in the text. The text is composed of five sections representing different stages of self awareness and discovery at the level of consciousness seen with reference to the Finite world and the Infinite force.
‘Purvraag’ is the first section that delineates the exterior landscape in harmony with the inner landscape of Kanupriya to intensify the “waiting”. The five songs in this section take up independently different images to exhibit the longings which are not seen as suffering but celebrated for the presence in the absence-a significant trait of the virah Bhakti. It is only in the last subsection of the first part that we come to know of the separation. The implication of waiting of the seeker as well as sought is the subject of the opening scene. The image of Ashoka tree and sand are employed by the poet to express the emotive intensity building a statement based on the sadless state of a devotee. Ashoka tree is a mythical symbol of the sadless state. Kanupriya addresses Ashoka tree to lay stress on the fact that this separation and longing is a matter of pure joy to her as it connects her to the Infinite with a bond like the seed with a tree.
O! Sheltering divine Ashoka
Why you say
You stand flowerless for a touch of my feet
O! How could you know that
For you, only for you
I merged in sand
To get deep inside the earth
Through your roots reached
The fibres of Your trunk
Slumbered in numerous forms
For the spring to come
So that you may sprout
From my Being. (Kanupriya 3)
The inevitable bond between the tree and the earth denotes the Indian traditional concept of the purush and pakriti, united in the process of creation. Here the longing is indicative of Kanupriya’s unlimited, vast and Free State, which stems from the experience of self- knowledge and the ultimate fruit is self- enlightenment. The image of Ashoka tree makes Nature visible as a gross aspect of Infinite. There is no such point in the cosmos where Nature ends and Divine begins. Nature through a subtle process of dissolution turns into divine, and it is divine itself which, through a subtle process of manifestation, turns into Nature. This is the principle of Oneness- adwait. The cyclic process of birth and rebirth is echoed in the image of merging in sand whereas the paradoxical situation dilutes with the recognition of the presence in the absence that culminates into ecstasy:
I belong to you
In your fibrous existence. (Kanupriya 3)
Bharti shifts the imagery from the earth element to the transcendental element of music, recognized as anhad naad. The finite is always in the limits of the body but it has to experience the limitless .The body becomes a musical instruments in the hands of the Ultimate who can penetrate all the veils to touch the soul for an immortal song. The Infinite too, waits for the Finite to dissolve completely for an eternal song.
My pure melody!
You lay slept in me
Since long waiting
For this moment. (Kanupriya 5)
The sole experience of the divine is given verbal attire through various images. The presence is magnified in the Kadamba tree to which Kanupriya bows with deep gratitude and love. The reverence is indicative of the Beloved as a forest deity:
As an unknown
How often, I bowed in reverence
But you stand adamant, guileless, detached, nonpassionate. (Kanupriya 7)
The infinite can be felt through a process of surrendering self, patience, endurance, penance and reverence. This leads to a state self awareness where the salutation converts to an eternal bond of love which is inclusive of a complete self surrendering process:
You greedy of my complete self!
Why would you accept a salutation? (Kanupriya 8)
The graph of the communication between Kanu and Kanupriya is upto the utmost level of emotion as well as awareness. The name given to it is emotional awareness. The ecstasy is deep and so requires many images and references to express the longings. Therefore, the poet is still in search of some apt images to delineate the Oneness of the two which symbolise the finite and nonfinite as inseparable identity. The vastness of the ocean and the water element represents the bond between a drop and the ocean, a subject matter of many mystic poets. The blue waters of Yamuna in which Kanupriya enters to bathe is Kanu’s cosmic presence that envelops her for a close embrace.
The presence felt in the five elements of nature creates an ecstasy of being inseparable but virah needs longings and suffering too, so, that the intense outpour may reach its climax. This subsection takes up raaslila, the divine dance as the focal point to lament for not arriving at the call of the beloved. Although the One-ness is experienced an all the elements of Nature, physical presence is also inevitable. But if this physical presence is delayed and immaterialised temporarily, the longings may reach its climax:
Each moment I lament
For my return from the raas that night. (Kanupriya 10)
The night of complete union is to offer every particle of the body so that it may dissolve completely to become One. The being has to respond to the call of the world as well as the invitation of the Divine. The one who overcomes this duality to dive completely in the raas lila will definitely transcend the barriers of the Finite world. Raaslila is in fact a dance of celebration. It illustrates that life is a meeting of contradictory forces and all the happiness comes from the meeting of the opposites. The very mystery and ecstasy of life lies hidden in this unio mystica . If we look in the universe, we can observe the rhythm inherent in every object of nature .Raas is the miniature representation of this cosmic connotation. It firmly establishes the fact that an interplay of opposites, thesis and antithesis is essential for the creation. During raas Krishna represents the whole male element, the purusha and the prakriti is represented by Radha, the complete female. In raaslila, dance becomes more articulate to express the overflowing bliss. The fond memory of the ephemeral and profound presence of Kanu and the ritual circle dance (raaslila) becomes the turning point in the history of the divine love which is represented by Krishna and Radha. The separation is intentional to create a great significance in the history of mankind. The energy and the force of prakriti derived from Kanupriya will assist Krishna in spreading the message of karma and dharma.
The second section of the poem in which Bharti has used an extended image of mango blossom extends the range of emotions to a heightened level of awareness. It consists of the mango blossom song, meaning of mango blossom and an interrogative subsection in the end. The interplay of emotion in the dual forces of nature is sometimes comprehendible and sometimes it is non-comprehendible. A true seeker is in search of the answers to the divine signs. The inability to decode the Infinite's language awakens anxiety .It is verbalized in the extended image of Mango blossom. There are certain subjects, intense and personal which are understood by the heart but language fails to translate such emotions.
In the intense moment of encounter
I become still and breathless
Why you don't understand this my Dark Beloved? (Kanupriya 15)
This section presents virah, accompanied by erotic expression involving restlessness and transcendence simultaneously. It can further be described as vyakulta— a word that connotes anxiety, agitation, distress or bewilderment. Bharti takes a detour through the metaphorical language involving a bodily experience of a self emotionally driven by a perpetually and immitigably absent Beloved. The Mango blossom song sings of this self realization. The awareness of the Being has been an inevitable part of the Infinite since time immemorial. The mystic quest of discovering this one-ness makes this section enchanting:
I am the sole companion in your lila life after lives. (Kanupriya 15)
The vyakulta of not being able to reach at the call of the flute beneath mango blossom is due to many factors which include fear, doubt and melancholy. These mental states are referred as the friends to Kanupriya to surround her so that the meeting time is delayed and postponed. This restlessness in both the seeker and the saught makes waiting more significant. If the Lover waits, the Beloved also waits with the same intensity. Lover can surrender to the two worlds. But, if the union is not accomplished, the lament denotes the helplessness of the Being. In this regard the confession of the protagonist becomes significant in this subsection:
How to narrate,
The moments of deep encounter
Which slip from my hands
Your call that i sometimes am not able to hear
Not able to know the meaning of your meeting
My dark heart blushes at this. (Kanupriya 19)
Kanupriya as a protagonist evolves from the state of utter despair and restlessness to announce the fact that she is a self aware woman. As a woman, she is confident, unwavered and determined to meet eternally because she knows the meaning of self awareness which comes only after the realization of the One-ness. She knows that if she has to seek herself than she has to seek him. A complete dilution is necessary to tread the path. In order to be one she must be able to read the various signals given by the Beloved. Here are present some of the images which delineate the symbolism of intuitive understanding:
Quite often you sent a halpopen lotus
I understood that you have invited me
In the twilight hour
Many times you sent hand full of Jasmine
At once i knew
Your palm remembers me. (Kanupriya 20)
The emphasis on the flower images highlights the delicacy of the thought of self-awareness associated with the union of the two beings. The hands and the eyes are to offer a passage to the Infinite. They are emptied so as the beloved is filled to the brim. The body, thus, becomes a medium to experience the Infinite. Its significance lies in being a gateway to the Ultimate.
How often have you uttered,
Listen! your lips, eyelashes, arms,
Your feet, all your body, this gold complexioned body
Are mere paths
They dilute in the moments
Of intense encounter
Empties. (Kanupriya 23)
Once it is emptied it is filled with the divine fragrance which is odourless, shapeless and colourless giving the spirit a freedom, weightlessness that releases all pressures and complexities of mind and matter, blood and mire. The erotic images are to offer a complete surrender to remove the notion of dualism. The mango blossom represents the desire of the Beloved to give her eternal wedlock, an allegorical representation in the sufi and mystic poetry. The various techniques to express the Infinite encompass the lila of the lilabandhu God.
Why I forgot
My lilabandhu my friend's effortless way
Whom so ever he wishes to empty
He fills him with completeness. (Kanupriya 22)
The arguments presented here are the emotive monologues revealing the intimacy of the two as separate but one in their inner intents. It is one of the prevalent forms of Bhakti where God is treated as friend, (the sakha bhav). In the narrative of desire for union with God, the self as body and not simply as a metaphor entity began to take a much more central place. The shift is from mind to the body, and more specifically to a discourse that is built around the cartography of the body rather than the quasi-analytic categories of the mind. The manner in which this cosmicization of the body takes shape falls into a predictable Indian pattern of mystical reading practice where structures are understood in terms of homology or allegory. Indian devotional poetics is replete with examples where attempts have been made to achieve the state of bliss to a trance, a state of intoxication that leads to the condition of the siddhas, the perfect ones.
I feel that this text belongs to the mystical / meditative tradition where the basic concept of man woman love is heightened defined and felt in the texture of the work. The verse is heavily coded with a clear directive to the way to still the mind so that the enlightened state is achieved as easy union. The desire to break dualities and the desire to collapse categories is strong in devotional poetics along with an equally strong desire to merge the self.
The inner world becomes meaningful, not through philosophy but through emotions of love. In fact love is not that something which the body shirks from or despises. The body revels in love but enjoys not so much real, physical union but separation, the condition of viraha. The relationship between love in union and love in viraha is the most important motif in the bhakti literature and possibly in Indian culture. The virahini does not seek happiness in union, instead she wishes to remain in an in- between condition, alternating between the psychological condition of union and separation. The condition should not be confused with perpetual indecision nor with a refusal to accept happiness; rather the alternatives insinuates an unpresentable love for a lover who will never come. When this situation is mapped on to the devotee-God nexus, the samadhi that arises is purer.
This makes Kanupriya a heavily coded romance narrative with dual referents. The way divine loves is absolutely different from the ways of the world. It aims to keep the inner limitations intact, to preserve ones nijta like a newly-wed woman. The Infinite embraces completely but also sets free. It is a bondage that is bondless.The bodily urges takes us to the final identification of the self. In the subsection, Tum mere kaun ho, The Beloved is addressed with different salutations to explain the intense emotive urge. Kanu becomes the intimate friend, the saviour, the aim, the goal, the deity sought and she is the energy, the force, the yogmaya, limitless and vast. Together they are the fellow travellers in this timeless history of culture. The varied relationships, addresses and monologic interrogations envelop the text into a mystic aura. It seems that they are together for ages and so shall remain in the creation of the final identity, the knowledge of the self.
The third section srishti sankalp takes us a step further and the journey of Kanupriya moves ahead for the creation of history. The metaphor of motion is employed to denote the never-ending wheel of motion denoting the cosmic energy. The sun, moon, ocean, and the entire nature coordinate, compliment and subordinate the process of creation as well as of destruction. The cosmic flow is governed only by the will of the Ultimate.
The flow of your innumerable universe
Merely is the repetition of
Our intense love and
O my Creator!
The meaning of your complete identity
Is your Creation
The meaning of your complete creation is
The meaning of your desire
Is I. (Kanupriya 38)
The rhythmic motion of the universe in which the Infinite and the Finite unite to give meaning to the world is the union of purush and prakriti.This rhythm can be compared and contrasted with the rhythm of raas lila to drive a deeper connotations of the play acts of divine. The flow of energy, the infinte innumerable universes in the cosmos are all the outcome and repetition of the intense love of purush and prakriti .The oneness and the never divisible nature of the creator and the creation gives a faith as well as creates fear too. The second subsection of srishti sankalp deals with fear but it begins with the acceptance of the belief that the entire nature is the object of play (lila) for the Infinite. Dharamveer Bharti employs imagery of woman body and nature to strongly put forward the manifestation of infinite in finite.
Is my lilatan
For you to taste. (Kanupriya 39)
The presence of the Infinite is in the depth of night, in the laughter like day, in the touch of a flower and in the embrace of the green fields. Then, fear and doubt are meaningless. All the secrets, mysteries, determination and desires, are objectified in the union of the purush and prakriti, the Finite and the Infinite. The interplay of the dualities fosters a strong faith of the presence in absence and the manifestation of Infinite in Finite.
The culmination of the faith of Oneness gives maturity to be fearless and strengthens the belief that the body is a call for the Infinite. We are questions and the divine is the answer as the human being arrives on this earth with a purpose. The last section itihaas denotes the greater cause for which Krishna and Radha existed. The war of righteousness, the dharmyuddh and the message of Gita are historical facts for which the energy source was derived from Radha. She is left behind which creates lots of controversial commentary on the Krishna Radha myth. Here I would like to make a bold statement that Radha is far greater than the message of karma, explicit in Gita. Radha as a philosophy is much more gigantic than Gita. She alone represents all the theories of righteous action, dutifulness and awareness. She was the passage to uplift Kanu for the mystic heights. She was a bridge between the lilabhumi and the battlefield. Under That Mango Tree depicts the virah at its highest .The routine way of coming to the same place and feeling the same pangs of separation intensify the restlessness of a virahni. The news of the battle of Mahabharata comes to her to create a paradoxical situation. Only a complete being can live the two extremes of opposites with a sahaj bhav .Kanupriya cannot be grief-stricken in the separation. She feels pride for the Yugpurush Krishna, her Beloved.
Kanu and Kanupriya are one even if they are assigned different roles to be played in different geographical regions. I do not agree with Dharmveer Bharti when he says:
Counsel me too
Friend! what is justification,
The intensely painted moments
If are meaningless attractive words
Then what is justified, Kanu? (Kanupriya)
Bharti puts forth that Krishna, the flute player, cowherd boy, butter stealer, lovefully love is now engaged in war. Arjun’s dilemma was removed by the verdict of Gita. If Gita can provide illumination to Arjuna, Radha too wishes to be consoled by Krishna on the subjects of action, self dharma, decision and responsibility. But I believe that Radha is the source of all action in Krishna. Their physical separation was intentional and there are so many instances in religious scriptures to prove that they were One. That’s why Krishna in his final hour remembers Radha. Emotionalism is seen as a threat that would open up levels of desire and sexuality but this section presents the metanarrative of dharma and karma. Kanupriya rises above the metanarratives of dharma and karma.
Samudra swapn is the retreating phase when the poet is about to conclude. The dream image seen by Kanupriya regarding the sea parallelling the image of Lord Vishnu on his Seysh shaiya in the ocean is to bind up the play, the lila. It takes us to the last phase of Kanu's life as a Finite being under the pipal tree with Kanupriya's fond remembrance to conclude the emotive intensity where the waiting is experienced by both of them.
The conclusion gives the answer to the previous questions. Kanupriya could not come on the appointed day under the mango blossom as she had to come to this hour. She will be there when no one is there ever waiting in the difficult turns of lives. She rejected to merge in him like a drop and rejected the timeless raas as she had to be temporal to come at the final call of Krishna. The love making was done with Radha but the design of history gave her a gap. The devotional longing dissolves self and self-interest into pure selfless love. The centrality of love is the outstanding feature of this text.
Radha constitutes the whole of Krishna's tenderness and refinement. She is his song and dance and all that is feminine in him. The appropriate symbol to describe the union of Radhakrishna is found in yin-yang symbol. This symbol is in the form of a circle whose circumference is made of two fish, one white and the other dark. The tail of each fish is in the mouth of the other, and thus they make a complete circle in the universe. In a very sense, Dharmveer Bharti’s Kanupriya offers a saga of inhibitive binary of finite and infinite.
Bharti, Dharmveer. Kanupriya. New Delhi: Bhartiya Gyanpith Prakashan, 1965. Print.
Singh, Charu Sheel. “Preface.” Festivals of Fire: A Study of the Poetry of Niranjan Mohanty. Eds. Binod Mishra & Sudhir K. Arora. New Delhi: Adhyayan, 2010. Print.
About the Contributors:
Dr. Sonia Singh Kushwah, Associate Professor in the Department of English in K.R.G. Govt. P.G. College, Gwalior has an experience of 18 years of teaching UG and PG classes. Her articles and poems are published in national and international magazines, journals and books. She is a propagator of peace and feminism, rooted in Indian tradition and culture. She has attended numerous national and international conferences including Writer’s Festival. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. A. S. Kushwah is Professor and Head of the Department of English in S.L.P. Govt. P.G. College, Morar, Gwalior, M.P., India. His distinguished poetry has found place in eminent research journals of International repute and anthologies. He was invited for poetry recitation by International Movement for Interdisciplinary Study of Estrangement (I.M.I.S.E), Naples, Italy in 2008. He has attended numerous national and international conferences including Writer’s Festival.