The Mother’s Divine Dance
Rabindranath Tagore met Sree Narayana Guru in 1922 and was deeply impressed both by the spiritual heights of his thoughts and by his enduring commitment to fight caste based injustices in Kerala. He is believed to have declared that surely this was the greatest paramahamsa then living in our country!
Few would disagree. Not many non-Malayalee Indians know however that the Guru was a gifted writer too. This is because the good Guru wrote substantially in Malayalam and translations in other languages came about much later.
Here is an English translation of a poetic homage paid by him to Mother Kali, extolling the divine beauty and the infinite might of the Devi. The Divine mother’s terrifying and simultaneously beautiful form, manifesting into itself both Siva and Shakti aspects is brought out with great artistry and supreme devotion. The poem is entitled Kali Natakam, meaning the Dance of Kali. The translation is by Vinaya Chaitanya and I found it in an anthology focusing on Malayalam literature in Vol 27, Sep-Oct 2009 of the literary e journal Muse India.
Kalinatakam: The Dance of the Black Goddess
Sree Narayana Guru
Translated by Vinaya Chaitanya
I adore you, Oh, one made of creative sound and the beginning point of space; Oh, eternal one, whose lotus feet are ever praised by Narada and other sages, adoration to the flower-jewel lamp that illumines the four Vedas, adoration, Oh, Mother, dear to the four-headed Brahma and other gods, adorations to you.
Bringing forth the whole universe and ruling over it, destroying them in sport, tasting, enjoying, playing, writhing, shouting out terrible cries, and residing in the realm of my joy, becoming clear, disappearing, filling and spilling out of the universe and permeating it like oil fills the sesame seed; remaining as the core, turning, twisting, pouring out streams of ever growing bliss; knowing the daily troubles that come to the devotees of your lotus feet, and burning out the seed of sorrow; the enlightened ones who remember you, even for a very short time, know no other form of the ultimate state. Filling the universe fully you rule over all equally without any harm you remain ever, without diminishing.
To know you thus, just a little, is hardly possible. Will your terrible form disappear, with the entire universe too? Who in the world is capable to ponder over and understand all this?
Oh, great divine ruler, great lord of the goddess, Oh, blessed one, Oh, great Maya, your magical creation of variety is puzzling indeed. Your matted locks, shining with crescent moon and bone, subdue the roar of the fall of the Ganga that makes the sky tremble and the insides shaken and torn in fear. Your necklaces of jasmine and precious stones shine, dancing, and swaying with your steps. Your golden crown blazes with priceless pearls. The beautiful fifth-day crescent humbled in defeat by your forehead pays tribute to it.
Falling into the red spot between your eyebrows, the lover of the Earth goddess who wears the seven seas for waistband. As well as Mahadeva and Brahma and all are caught in Maya, strange indeed! Even to the great souls, Oh, great Maya, your power is difficult to cross over, Your eyebrow tendrils trouble the flower bow of the limbless one if they fall on him, ever so slightly even, this god of desire vanishes, unmoving.
These same side-glances destroy the sorrow of those fortunate ones who contemplate your flower feet-the source of all goodness. Your eyes shine with tears of compassion that gush forth to wash away pain. Across the ocean of joy of your devotees you stand, listening to the praises sung by them with music and dance. Your golden earrings shine and jingle, and reflect on your mirror-like cheeks.
The red hibiscus flower worships your ruby-red lips, and your crystal-like teeth put to shame rows of pearls. Your beautiful shining face worries the full moon, its face clouding over. It is terrible and auspicious at once, the two canines sticking out of the pearly rows of your teeth are frightening and wonderful. To the jingling of the bells on your bracelet, dance your retinue of ghosts and spirits surrounding you. You are flying, shouting and shrieking, wielding spear, polished conch, sword and skull cup.
You voice, frightening, scatters mighty warriors and weakens the lion’s roar. Your laughter lends depth to the peal of thunder. Your hard, ball-like breasts grind, in rhythmic dance, the eight directions to dust.
You stand listening to the music and dance of celestial nymphs, playing drums, bells, flutes and veenas. Your golden breasts shine with vermillion and sandal paste, crystal clear and studded with gems is your veil.
You are seated under the Kalpavriksha, like another heavenly tree in bloom with necklaces of bunches of flowers and other decorations: no one, alas, is gifted enough to describe this, your beauty.
Your waist, just a handful, is covered over with flower and pearl-decked silk, the long hair spread behind is caught in your girdle. Your behind is a vehicle for the god of love, from which flow down banana stem-like thighs, worshipped by the elephant trunk as of superior beauty.
Your calves, golden and tender vanquish the quiver of the god of love. The beauty of your pink soles defeats the tortoise, sending it to practice penance under water. Your feet are like lotuses, brimming over with the honey of grace; drinking this and becoming inspired the chorus of celestial beauties sings and plays on harps of varied notes.
You listen to all this and dance with your companions while ankle bells tinkle, dancing gracefully on the peak of the Mount Kailas. Goddesses flock around you. Gods bow to you, worshipfully. Your fleeting looks flow bringing forth true bliss. And the desirable beyond desire, contemplating your twin feet, dwelling in your space, happily, enjoying, becoming confused, in bonds of selfish greed, with sorrow for gain, looms thus here because you don’t give a compassionate glance.
Oh, kindly one, adorations to you, again and again I bow to you, to reach the farther shore of this frightening ocean of change. Your feet are my only ship, I have no other refuge O mother, ocean of mercy, I have come to gain your honey-like side glance that can actualize wishes. May your lotus feet never turn away from me, I adore you.
Salutations again and again. May my mind not get stuck on wealth and sex and power of possession, losing itself in sorrow. May I not think that I am just this body. May I soon be released from the visible trap of maya, woven by the three qualities.
Everything in this world of change, even the moon and stars are but a flash of lightning. Hail, Oh, Siva Mother, Salutations, salutations.
More posts by this author:
- The Preceptor Paramount
- On Peacocks (and peahens?) and dancing
- Humanism, Vaishnavite style
- Buzz, learn and lead, Chapter 1
- Curry Leaves
After R & D and technical management experience of over three decades in petroleum and organic chemical industry, have been devoting the past fifteen years to the study of Tamil and Sanskrit classics, including dharmic works and doing some serious translation work. Have been a significant contributor to the medha journal almost since its inception upto 2013 and expect to continue my association with it.