Eye of the Fish – A Swayamvar’s tale – Epic Poem (Archer’s Tale III)

Based on an Episode in Mahabharat (Mythology) Draupadi's swayamvar


The Swayamvar

The Swayamvar* was set
The condition but one
By bow and arrow to be decided
The target, a fish’s eye hit
Set on a pole a cubit high

In between was a wheel
Ever turning and spinning
And through its spoke
Was the arrow to be shot

By looking at the target’s reflection
Into a bowl of oil beneath
Many a warriors brave
Put themselves to the test

Yet their arrows only kissed the wheel
Some by their own arrows were beset
Yet the wheel remained spinning
And the fish astride therein

Was there not to be
A groom for the beauteous Draupadi
A son-in-law to serve Draupad's purpose?
There was of course Karna

The brave, but he stood denied
By the princess in her royal stead
And none could shoot the fish

The reflection on oil’s surface, shimmered
Never still, and who could cheat
The fate of wind, the spin of wheel
To hit the eye, which would lead
To begetting the princess’ hand

Then came forth, some mendicant sons
Set about by guise they seated
Awaiting their turn, were the Pandavas
Could they now win over

the Panchala’s*** well laid scheme?
Arjuna, the archer stood looking
His mind still, in concentration
Setting himself to the moment
The aim of winning the hand
Of the princess, not so fair**

First welled in him pride, on holding
Aloft his bow, for he was the greatest
The most achieved archer of his times
As also welled in him confidence

For having released arrows thousands of times

This would be just another shot
Another one of those days
His guru’s teachings would surely
Stand him now in good stead

To visualize he shut his eye, as he always did
To see his target met, in consciousness perceive
Yet this time all he perceived
Was the whirl of the wheel
The shimmer on the oil’s surface

But no eye of the fish
Let alone shoot, could he view
Was this to be demise of his reputation?
Did he in Panchala’s*** plan met his match?
Would he not hold the hand of beauteous Panchali?***

The trial set to find Drona’s challenger
Would call for test of skills
beyond the master’s teachings
Beyond senses, mind and prowess known hitherto still

The concept of the ordeal
Guided by the stratagem of Maya
Based on the workings of illusory schema
Was Vishwakarma’s kriti, his construct

If one concentrated on the fish’s eye     
The flicker of wheel would
Made the fish move, wave and shimmer
The whirr of a near impassable disc betwixt, a barrier

Were one, in seeking a moment’s opportunity,
concentrate to catch a gap betwixt the spoke of wheels
would forever be drawn to the revolutions
and in motion’s entice lose sight of the mark within

To see the target aligned
As one would verily lean                                    
The reflection of the archer
Would then render the target unseen

Were one to withdraw the perspective
One would have to counter
Not just the wind, however slight
But the tricks of reflection, refraction and light

The bowl of oil set, to the mesmerize
One and nearly all, aligned to the archer’s mind
Would on minds’ agitation tremble and shimmer
Offering no tratak to find therein

How was one to achieve target
without concentration, visualization nor aim
or considerations of the environs percept
And find that ephemeral now, to shoot the arrow?
 
Set to task the warrior in guise
remembered in between all extremity,
there was to be found divinity
and in his mind, the Parth summarily  invoked
Narsimha, the god of creativity

As his mind awhirl wavered, the oil
In the bowl did verily tremble
When he heard within
The voice, like a flute’s play

Smilingly tell him
‘Surrender to me’

Thence the mighty archer knew
That his entire prowess was meant
Only to lead him to this moment
But across the threshold of belief
He had to traverse himself

As Arjuna, he had come to know
The perimeter of his limit
Slowly Arjuna let go
his desire
to win,
or his fear to taste defeat

His yearning to win over a maiden
Or his trepidation to keep intact his name
He let go of all he had learnt
Of all he could control,
and surrendered

His sinews knew now a new master
His being was servile to a new light
He was a puppet to a moment
The arrow would keep its tryst
If it was divinely willed
Or he’d just let it be

The arrow shot was the child of the moment
Released by the one who was meant to release
Not as a warrior, great
But an inseparable knot in the fabric of creation
And the eye of the fish it did reach 

The court rejoiced, the princess beamed
The King gasped in wonder in having found
The son-in-law who’d serve his turn
The other suitors fumed in consternation

But an archer now stood illumined
By the true art of archery and
In having known who the real archer be
in knowing when to let go
and when to let be!

– Abhi


*Swayamvar

** Draupadi, Draupad’s daughter was reputed to be dusky

***Panchala, another name for Draupad, Panchali, another name for Draupadi

Written a few years back, this is I think, the final exploration of 'Let Go' in my archive. It was an exchange with Partha in Archer's Tale I, which lead to further details on the construct of the trial to be added. This poem about his namesake thus decicated to him.

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