Rama meets Sharad in the Woods

Yesterday was a special day. Throughout the world, followers of the Sikh path celebrated the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev. It was Ashwin purnima if you computed your months according to the solar calendar and Kartik Purnima for the lunar month observers. Either way, it qualified as Sharad Purnima. Delhi and its neighbourhood had no rains for weeks, and the full moon on a reasonably clear sky would have met the expectations of visitors to Agra and the Taj Mahal or the pilgrims to Amritsar and the golden temple.

Valmiki’s hero had been pining for his beloved at just such a time near Kishkindha long ago in tretayuga, Lakshmana proving quite ineffective in diverting his thoughts or soothing his feelings. Sugriva had not yet delivered on his promise of organizing search parties soon after the rains had stopped. The poet uses the opportunity to produce a fantastic word-picture of the sharad season, in the words of Rama.

Devendra seems to have fulfilled his mission satisfactorily this year. The earth certainly appears green and plentiful after the rains.

The clouds with the dark hue of petals of blue lotuses, that had been roaming in all directions and showering in plenty all over the thickly grown forest trees, have retired like elephants inactive after exhausting their rut.

Cool rain-laden winds that had borrowed the strong smells of wild kutaja and arjuna flowers have come down in speed and seem to be relaxing.

There is simultaneous silence from depleted clouds, relaxed elephants, peacocks in peace and slowed down torrents of water down the hill slopes.

The hill slopes are coated here and there with minerals washed down from atop by rains that have since subsided and thus display interesting colours and odours.

The mountain rivers, reduced in their flow, expose sandy patches. They recall the behaviour of bashful maidens in love play who both cover and display their charms in part.

The sharad season exhibits its charm divided among the seven-lobed leaves on palai trees, the changing lights of the sky, whether sun-lit, moon-lit or just star-lit, and the playfuness of wild elephants.

The sharad charm is enhanced in its picturesque nature through the loveliness of sun-bathed lotus ponds and streamlets.

Gathering the scent of the seven-lobe palai blossoms and the hum of bees buzzing above them, the gentle breeze seems to increase the rut flow in elephants.

Swans play with chakravakas, their wings now free from adhering raindrops but coated with pollen from lotuses on their path, and relax on the sand banks of the river, spreading their wings.

The glory of the season also shines in separate ways in the gait of intoxicated elephants, in the proud stance of herds of cows, and also in the placid waters of the brooks.

Peacocks stare at the cloudless sky, voluntarily shed their treasured plumes and appear to lose their interest in the company of peahens.

The wood is alight with the golden aura of vengai trees almost bent in the weight of their smelling sweet blooms.

Intoxicated by the scent of palai flowers, and still seeking lotuses from the brooks, elephants move majestically accompanied by their mates.

The luster of the cloudless sky resembles that of a freshly sharpened, polished saber.

Rivers, no longer rain-fed, appear slowed down in their passage.

Cool breezes carry scents from dhavana blooms.

The distant sky is clear and bright in all directions.

Mud that was slaked by rain has dried up by the rays of the sun and breaks down leading to dust in the wind.

Festering in their feelings of enmity or envy, the kings in their various kingdoms must be planning to lay sieges around.

The season adds to the handsome appearance of bulls, which, surrounded by admiring cows, still seek out other bulls to fight with and bellow their intention.

A slowly roaming male elephant in rut attracts the attention of love-lorn she-elephants , which surround it and follow in its wake.

The peacocks, which had shed their plumes and their vanity, walk along to the river banks and slow down their gait, as if afraid of being chased by the swans in the rivers.

Elephants stir up the waters of the lotus-brooks before drinking, frightening the water-fowl in the process.

The river waters are clear as there is no stirring up of the mud below by fast currents. Sand forms in little islands in their midst because of depleted flow.

Herds of cows graze on the banks. Saarasa birds call out gently and sweetly. Swans join them willingly.

Sounds have indeed come down everywhere,- in the movement of rivers, in the cloud free skies, in the thinning mountain torrents, in the wind and even among peacocks and frogs.

Serpents of different sizes, shapes and colours, which had been confined to their treeholes and anthills during rain have come out lean and humgry, hissing in search of feed, even displaying their poisonous fangs.

As Chandra (the moon) seeks out and touches Sandhya (twilight) with his rays, she glances lovingly at him with stars for her eyes and releases herself from the reddening sky she had been wearing.

Chandra now has for his companion, beautiful Nisha (the night), whose starry eyes show his disc as her face and who wears silky white moonlight for her dress.

Flying swans carrying sheaves of paddy grain in the moonlight appear to be carrying garlands.

The water in the large pond with one sleepy swan and sundry kumuda flowers seems to mimic the sky with the moon and stars.

The streams wearing rows of swans for girdles and wearing the kumuda and kalhara flowers around their necks appear like well decorated young girls.

It will be daybreak soon as indicated by the breeze bringing distant sounds of curds being churned for butter, cows lowing for their young ones, bulls making appropriate noises out of love and cowherds playing flutes to calm the cattle.

As white broom-reeds sway in the breeze on river banks, they appear to be dancing like ladies clad in white.

Wasps fully drunk with floral nectar, and decked with pollen from water- and tree- flowers hum and buzz around, attracting their mates.

The clear waters reflect the white loveliness of flowers. The clamour of krauncha birds can be heard above the ripe paddy fields. The setting moon is still bright. It is most certainly the sign of sharad.

Like the dresses of women going away after happy nights with their lovers, the rows of fish on the flowing rivers are disorderly.

The rivers also display their faces here and there. These faces are adorned skillfully with chakravaka birds for rochana tilaka, shaivala moss for fish- and leaf- tattoos and kaasha and dukoola grass for white silk scarves.

The god of love, Manmatha roams in the forest vigourously with his bow of sugarcane and floral arrows accompanied by swarms of bees.

As I see, the generous clouds which had satisfied the earth with plenty of showers and filled rivers and ponds, enabling satisfactory growth of grains and fruits are no longer there.

Sharad is assuredly hailed by chakravakas and its own variety of song birds and also by gently swaying graceful rivers.

While I am sure kings of several regions are taking out armies against other kings in battle already, I see no signs of Sugriva or the help he so readily promised.

I have tried to be free rather than literal in translating the Adikavi. I have left out the lines that actually refer to Sita. Conceding that Kishkindha could have been south of the Vindhyas, I have introduced the palai tree and the vengai tree without his permission. My excuse is that palai leaves are palmate with seven leaf-lobes and the vengai is a forest tree with white odorous blossoms. Both are known in South Indian hill sides and nearby forests. For those who have read later kavis, especially Kalidasa, and are able to notice rather similar descriptions of Nature as in the latter kavyas, I have this to say:

“This rishi of old was not an ordinary poet. Indeed, he could be considered the forerunner of a lot of poetic imagery that has been effectively developed after him.”



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