Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » PEARLS OF WISDOM
Verses, prayers and quotes of choice. If you come across something you find inspiring, please post it here. You can also start threads on a particular theme and regularly post in something related.

Rabindranath poem -

Jagat - Mon, 14 Nov 2005 22:04:13 +0530
This post was truncated by an Explorer crash. Too bad. All you get is the bare bones.

Kheya by Rabindranath Tagore

e to mAlA naya go, e je tomAra tarabAri
jvale oThe Aguna jena, vajra heno bhArI
e je tomAra tarabAri

This is not a garland, but your sword, your talawAr.
It is bright as a blazing fire, and heavy as a thunderbolt,
---this, your talawAr.

taruNa Alo jAnalA beye
paRalo tomAra zayana cheye
bhorera pAkhI zudhAya geye
kI peli tui nArI?

The morning sun creeps through the window
and falls on your bed, covering it like a sheet.
The morning bird asks, with his trill
"What have you got there, my girl?

nahe e mAlA, e thAlA, gandha-jaler jhArI
e je bhISaNa tarabAri

"It's not a garland, nor a breakfast plate
nor is it a flask of scented water--
It is, it seems, a frightful talawAr."


tAi to Ami bhAvi base
e ki tomAra dAna ?
kothAya ere lukiye rAkhi
nAi je hena sthAna !
o go ! e ki tomAra dAna ?

And so I think, as I sit here,
Is this the gift you have given me?
Where can I hide and keep it?
There is no place for it I can find.
Is this the gift you have given me?

zakti-hInA mari lAje
e bhUSaNa ki AmAra sAje ?
rAkhate gele buker mAjhe
vyathA je pAya prANa

I am a weak woman, I will die of shame.
Does such an ornament befit me?
If I hide it in my heart,
it will burn my life airs with pain.

tabu Aji bahibo buke
ei bedanAra mAna
niye tomAri ei dAna.

And yet today I shall carry it on my breast
I accept this weight of suffering
I accept this gift, for you have given it.

Now I'll look to see if there is a better translation available.
Jagat - Mon, 14 Nov 2005 22:12:31 +0530
Yes. It has been translated in Gitanjali by Tagore himself. And it adds context that the verses I found miss.

I thought I should ask of thee - but I dared not -
the rose wreath thou hadst on thy neck.
Thus I waited for the morning,
when thou didst depart,
to find a few fragments on the bed.

And like a beggar I searched in the dawn only for a stray petal or two.

Ah me, what is it I find? What token left of thy love?
It is no flower, no spices, no vase of perfumed water.
It is thy mighty sword, flashing as a flame, heavy as a bolt of thunder.

The young light of morning comes through the window
and spread itself upon thy bed.
The morning bird twitters and asks,
'Woman, what hast thou got?'
No, it is no flower, nor spices,
nor vase of perfumed water
- it is thy dreadful sword.

I sit and muse in wonder, what gift is this of thine.
I can find no place to hide it.
I am ashamed to wear it, frail as I am,
and it hurts me when I press it to my bosom.
Yet shall I bear in my heart this honour
of the burden of pain, this gift of thine.

From now there shall be no fear left for me in this world,
and thou shalt be victorious in all my strife.
Thou hast left death for my companion
and I shall crown him with my life.

Thy sword is with me to cut asunder my bonds,
and there shall be no fear left for me in the world.

From now I leave off all petty decorations.
Lord of my heart, no more shall there be for me
waiting and weeping in corners,
no more coyness and sweetness of demeanour.
Thou hast given me thy sword for adornment.
No more doll's decorations for me!

Jagat - Mon, 14 Nov 2005 22:17:53 +0530
It's very much in the heroic mood of the early independence movement in India--the transition from madhura to vira rasas that characterizes the time. Anyway... gotta move on.

A little heroism, Arjun,
a little less moping in corners.
Wherever heroes die,
there are always joyful mourners.
Jagat - Tue, 15 Nov 2005 00:36:39 +0530
I think that implicit in this poem is a conception of the "well-rounded" individual as possessing a balance of active (heroic) and passive (loving) characteristics, and that love ideally moves one to action.

Pran ache tar se hetu prachar is Siddhanta Saraswati's famous line ("The devotee has life and therefore he preaches.") The debate that this line evokes begins with a reminder that Saraswati himself spent several years in intense bhajan and, according to the legend, had to practically be forced out of it by enthusiastic disciples.

Prana ache tar. Sometimes we need suffering to remind us that we are alive. Therefore the line in Rabi Thakur's poem--rAkhte gele buker majhe, byatha je pay pran.
Jagat - Tue, 15 Nov 2005 03:00:13 +0530
When I first read the poem, I admit to having thought of the phallic implications of the sword. This is not just because I am a man and I see phallic symbols everywhere.

Really there is no difference between a phallic symbol and what this sword symbolizes in the poem--empowerment. Men need swords as much, if not more than women do. This comes of something called "castration anxiety," which men need to overcome. Overcompensation of macho characteristics is, to me, the great malady of the male psyche. Manjari bhava is the medicine I prescribe.

The idea being that prema is ultimately more powerful and more resilient than the sword. The indication here being that the love of God, the only Purusha, in relation to whom we are all Prakriti, precedes genuine heroism, which comes in equal measure to man or woman in this world.

And this makes it important to give the context of where I found this poem. (This is the problem when you read in the subway on the way to work... even after you get to work you want to stay in the subway...)

I am reading a book (one of the many that I always have on the go) about Kabir by one Hajari Prasad Dvivedi. Though Rabindra (and other Bengali works, including Vaishnava ones) is quoted in this book, it is in Hindi. Dvivedi is a very entertaining writer, even while being informative historically and critically. Besides this, he is a fan and follower of Kabir, which altogether makes a mix that I find particularly appealing.

The first poem he quotes to begin the chapter is centered on the metaphor of a veil, the meaning of which is somewhat obscure. One thing we can be sure of, however, is that the veil is a feminine symbol—it is enclosing and covering, protective and soothing.

cunariyA hamarI piyA ne sanwArI
koI pahirai piya kI pyArI
ATha hAtha kI banI cunariyA
panca ranga paTiyA pArI

cAnda suruja jAme Ancala lAge
jagamaga joti ujArI
binu tAne yaha banI cunariyA
dAsa kabIra balihAri

My beloved gave me a veil--
who could wear it but the one he loves?
This veil is eight hands long
and the fabric dyed with five colors.

The moon and the sun shine on the border
Filling it with sparkling light.
This veil was made without a loom,
Kabir gives it glory above all.

Dwivedi interprets the veil as bhakti, which he says is a causeless gift from God. He quotes the famous Upanishadic verse—

nAyam AtmA pravacanena labhyo
na medhayA na bahunA zrutena
yam evaiSa vRNute tena labhyas
tasyaiSa AtmA vivRNute tanuM svAm

The Self cannot be attained through learned discourses
Nor through intelligence, nor through long study.
The Self is attainable to the one He chooses.
To him, the Self reveals His own form.

Kabir's poem is full of allusions. Dwivedi identifies the eight hands the eight periods of the day ("Time"). He interprets the five colors as the “pancha tattva,” though unfortunately he is obscure about which set of five he thinks it means.

Dwivedi, however, decides to make a point not really found in Kabir’s song, nor apparently in any Kabir song, because he has to use the above Rabindranath poem to make it. He says that though God makes the gift of the “shringar” veil of bhakti, it is not “light” or “soft,” but comes with a heavy burden of responsibility. So he takes the feminine symbol and turns it into a masculine one, which seems unjustifiable, at least from the point of strict adherence to the interpretation of Kabir.

Another Kabir song with a veil in it--

merI chunarI meM pari gayo dAg piyA
panch tatta kI banI chunariya
solaha sai band lAge jiyA
yaha chunarI mere maike tem AyI
sasurA meM manuAM khoya diyA
mali mali dhoI dAg na chhutai
gyAna ko sAbun lAya piyA
kahai kabir dAg tab chhuti haim
jab sAheb apnAya liyA

My Love, my veil is stained.
Made from the elements five,
Absorbed in sixteen hundred sensory traps,
The veil that came from my parental home
Lost its luster in my in-laws’ house.
I wash it over and over, yet the stain goes not!
My Love, bring the soap of knowledge.

Says Kabir: These stains will eventually leave
When my Love makes me his own.

"Strange though it appears, in this love song, Kabir the weaver, uses the word Chunri (Veil) deftly to unveil the misperception of "truth" as an identification with one's body rather than with the invariant "Self." Perhaps rightly so, as the "Self" cannot get tainted! The love song seems to be indicative of a complete union towards oneness by which one transcends the merely sensual existence to one that is universal. The latter to me personally makes more sense as an absolute union or Samadhi is possible only when the mind becomes focused on a single idea, the idea that there is none other than the Self." (This comment from

Hmm. There is a hint of the parakiya mood in this song. I'll have to think about it some more.
Jagat - Tue, 15 Nov 2005 23:43:04 +0530
I spent those nights in Radha Kund;
I had one long dream of Vrindavan.
And I awoke, hearing shukas and sharis,
watching the sunlight waft over
the smooth and spotless sheets
of my North American bed.

I thought to myself:
Surely Radha and Krishna have left me a garland;
surely there is a legacy of prema left by this dream
that will embrace the world,
that will envelop it like a veil.

But as I look again,
I see that I was given
a strange gift--a sword,
which runs me through,
which beheads my world,
which punctures all my colored balloons.

I am exposed: am I unable
to carry the sword of conviction,
though like a beast of burden,
my back has been made strong
from bearing the bricks
of so many sweet theories?

Unlike Rabindranatha's maid,
my yes is not so readily made.
Jagat - Wed, 16 Nov 2005 21:35:06 +0530
Rabindranath's poem has been having an unxpected effect on me. This poem came to me in the Metro this morning. I know it will sound strange to some people, but here it is.

The flower garland and the sword,
From safety to the brink,
It’s all a case of binaries,
For that is how we think.

The flower garland and the sword,
As old as yang and yin:
One is all about going out,
The other, going in.

Ah, but it’s not such a simple thing
This business of yang and yin,
It’s not as clear as black and white,
Or piety and sin.

Brahma is the God without,
Atma, God within.
Women look for Brahma God,
The Atma is for men.

But that’s because what each one owns
Is the other’s secret need,
The man has always held the sword,
While woman holds the seed.

And so, the woman wants the world
The man, he wants repose.
The woman yearns to wield the sword,
The man to hold the rose.

Now please don’t get all huffy, folks,
I don’t want it on the chin.
Sexual identities in themselves,
Are not of gold, but tin.

The identity of Brahma and Self
Is where the Srutis end;
And the unity of opposites
Is where the genders bend.

The sexes are our greatest clue
To Sri Jugal Kishor,
Where contrasts are at last resolved,
And One makes love not war.