Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bhakti blazes the vernacular

The book in four sections does not disappoint.

Schelling's book has four sections, each representing a geographical zone. It covers poets from 1BCE to the 20th century. Each poet is introduced with his/her fascinating life legend. “Bhakti took birth in Dravidian lands/ ripened in Karnataka, came to/ womanhood in Maharastra,/ grew crone-like in Gujarat/ Reaching Vrindavana she re-emerged/ a nubile young woman.” Sensual, defiant, and experimental, Bhakti blazed the vernacular, shattering Sanskrit hegemony. Schelling admits that “there exist, hundreds, even thousands of poets”, and wonders whether other creeds should not also be included.

Shaivite poets abound. Tipputollar's Muruga incantation is a maturing germ. “This is the hill of the Red one/ of red glory lilies/ flowers of blood”, followed by Nakkirar (6c) “The women/wear wreathes of buds/ fingered and forced to blossom/ so they smell differently/../ in leaf skirts/shaking/ on their jeweled mounds of venus/../ the shaman/ is the Red one himself” on to Manikkavasakar (9c) “I wept/ danced, and cried aloud,/ I sang and I praised him”. The Vira Saiva poets emerged in the 10{+t}{+h} century. Mahadeviakka is implacable (12c) “My lord, white as jasmine, is my husband./ Take these husbands who die/ decay, and feed them/ to your kitchen fire!' (Tr.Ramanujam). Among the 12 Alvars, Antal,(9c) rules. Krishna is her husband. “The gnat entering the woodpile/ hollows it-/ the lord entering me/ has taken all/ consumed my woman hood.” (Tr. Dehjia). Ksetrayya's (7c) fascinating poems on Muvva Gopala's love-making, are jointly rendered by Ramanujam, Rao, and Schulman.

Full report here Hindu

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