Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems Part 4

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Tales Of Ind, And Other Poems is a Webnovel created by T. Ramakrishna Pillai.
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Now, therefore, let a silken veil be drawn, And underneath a bowl of oil be placed, And the reflection of thy face therein Let Bukka see and Timmaraj be saved.”

To this the queen consent unwilling gave, And Bukka to the palace gladly came, Resolved to freedom give to Timmaraj, If Chandra were like other maidens fair, But sure possess her, if she shone among The daughters of the earth surpa.s.sing fair, And like the moon among the stars of heav’n.

The veil was drawn, the bowl of oil was placed, And lo! was seen therein a face, whose like The royal Bukka ne’er had seen before In all his life; like lightning it appeared, Bright’ning the surface for an instant, and Like lightning vanished, planting in his breast Impa.s.sioned love for Chandra, and a love Too deeply rooted to be rooted out.

Then Chandra through the screen impatient said: “Now that this deed is done, delay no more My long lost husband to restore to me.”

And Bukka made reply–“O maiden fair, O Chandra! I am smitten by thy charms, Thy wondrous face is ever in my mind, And nought can now induce me to restore Thy Timmaraj to thee, to gaze upon Thy wondrous beauty and enjoy those charms.

My kingdom broad is at thy feet, and there Enthroned as queen my riches and my all Shall be at thy command, and therefore hear,– If, by to-morrow eve, thou dost not reach My tent pitched yonder, Timmaraj shall die, And to the pyre, if thou dost follow him, Sure I will myself die with thee, and thus A double sin will rest upon thy head.”

As the fond mother of an only child, When sick, clings closely to it, and for days And nights incessant watches it with care, When he, well versed in all the healing lore, Gives but to please her hopes of cure complete, But suddenly the dang’rous malady New shape a.s.sumes, the symptoms serious grow, The healer himself breaks at last the news Unto the anxious mother, who stands mute, And knows not what to do in blank despair– So felt the hapless Chandra when these words The treach’rous Bukka spake and left the scene.

Now ’twas her holy Brahmin priest appeared, And counsel gave again in words like these: “Grieve not, but well rejoice that Bukka builds His future hope on base dishonesty.

His fall is near, and Timma’s safe return Henceforth is sure, for he that hopes to win By treach’ry and deceit, fails sorely in This world of G.o.d, and therefore fear him not; It is the foe magnan’mous thou shouldst fear.

Our holy ancient writings say it is No sin deceit to conquer by deceit; And hence fail not to send immediate word That Bukka should to-morrow eve expect Thee as befits a woman of thy rank, And with a hundred maidens in his tent.

Take twenty litters, and let one appear More gorgeous than the rest, for thee to sit, Take but a hundred of thy faithful men, All armed to fight for their dear king and queen.

Thou art a kshatriya girl, thou knowest well To fight, and therefore take thy fav’rite bow And arrows and conceal thy person with A maiden’s veil, armed fully as thou art, And likewise let thy men be covered too, To look like thine own maids of honour, let Each litter, with a man inside, be borne By four, go forth equipped likewise, surprise The foe, bring him a prisoner, or upon The field of battle die a n.o.ble death.

And death need have no horrors unto thee, But unto those to whom this world is bright, Its prospects hopeful and its pleasures keen, And to the healthy and the young death’s pangs Are most severe when life is plucked, and from Sere age, when all is ready for the end, Life unperceived goes as from one that sleeps.

The gentlest wind brings down the serest leaf.

To sever from the parent stem by force The freshest must be plucked, and so with man.

And by the righteous and the just, when sore Oppressed with grief, dear death is welcomed most.

When the eruptions on the skin pain most, By cutting them relief at once is sought; E’en so, if n.o.ble Timmaraj is killed, Court instant death, thy dagger hurl, and bare Thy breast and lifeless by thy husband fall, Like that same bird that, full up to the throat, Swallows the little pebbles of the sand, And, soaring high aloft upon her wings, Suddenly closes them and drops down dead Near her dead lover, where the body bursts.

But this, if you find hard, run with thy life To this our safe abode, where willingly The fun’ral pyre we, with our hands, will raise And feed the flames thy body to consume.

Hence soon depart and Krishna will help thee.”

The morrow came, and Chandra sallied forth And, as directed by her Brahmin sage, Went with a hundred of her armed men, All veiled, surprised the foe, who, flushed with hope, Unguarded waited but to welcome her: Then safely rescued her lost Timmaraj; The fatal jav’lin wrung from Bukka’s hands, And himself too a prisoner brought in chains.

Then in the s.p.a.cious palace hall, amidst Her faithful men, the n.o.ble queen sat veiled With Timmaraj, long absent from the throne, And spake to Bukka, standing in the front With folded hands, in angry words like these: “By treach’ry thrice thou triedst to win, and thrice Hast failed, and, when my n.o.ble Timmaraj Went singly forth to bring the maddened beast, Concealed thou didst aim at his life and failed.

The hand of G.o.d had otherwise decreed.

And when upon the bridal seat we sat, And all were merry in my father’s home, Thou camest with a story, false and base, And for our lives we had to flee, and now Are strangers here, and when upon thy steed Unjustly thou pursuedst us both, it was My hand that stayed my husband killing thee, Else long ago the worms had eaten thee; Thy bones the jackals of the earth had tak’n; And nothing left of thee but thine own sins.

It was thy charger innocent that paid For them the penalty instead. Once more You came, and, like a lawless thief concealed, Carried my lord, when helpless and alone, And for his freedom vile proposals made, And for so many days these troubles wrought On me and these my faithful loyal men.

Know well, ’tis virtue that is sure to win, And truth and justice will prevail at last.

This very jav’lin will put thine eyes out; But pity for thy present state prompts me To let thee now alone–go safely home, And henceforth never even sin in thought.”

And like a criminal who, by pity freed, At once goes forth worse sins to perpetrate, So Bukka, vowing vengeance, left the hall, And henceforth love and hate alternate played In his dark breast–hate for this grave insult, And by a woman offered, and love too, A b.e.s.t.i.a.l pa.s.sion for her wondrous charms; And from that selfsame moment various plans His head devised her pride to humble and Her purity to sully, when alas!

The Moslems’ greed of power gave him sure hopes At last her Timma’s ruin to complete.

Unto the aged king of Vijiapore His only warrior’s and his only child’s Escape brought many toils and endless woe.

That Bukka, with a perjured tale, came on The day of marriage was made known to all, Soon after they had left their native home.

The aged monarch knew not where they lived, But sent his faithful servants far and wide To bring them home; the cruel Moslems, too, Aware that Timma’s absence weakened him, Combined a sudden rush to make upon The royal city, kill her ruler, and Divide the spoils and take his vast domains.

And now the wily Bukka with those foes Of foreign faith conspired; what though he fought As usual in the ranks of Vijiapore, Under the banner of her Hindu king!

To them he would run in the thickest of The fight and sudden turn the tide of war, And, from the conquered spoils, for his own share, He wanted neither lands nor riches, but Demanded Chandra and her lord alive.

And news of instant war had travelled far And wide, the princes and the chieftains poured Their loyal forces, ready to avenge Their Moslem foes, who, for no cause, thus dared Their city to invade so suddenly.

And Timma hastened with his wife at last, And was with joy received by all, who lost All hopes of ever seeing them alive.

And soon a council in the royal hall Was held, to name a leader and decide How best to strike at once th’ advancing foes.

Many felt proud by Timma to be led To victory in the field or glorious death, And many too in that a.s.sembly said That Bukka should not join their Hindu ranks, For he would, in the midst of battle, join The Moslem ranks and surely bring defeat And ruin too upon their aged king, The n.o.ble Ramaraj of Vijiapore, And cause their ancient kingdom’s overthrow.

But said one counted high for wisdom there: “_Do good, and so chide him that evil does_, Is the oft-quoted saying of our true And ancient faith, and this is but the war For mastery ‘tween different creeds and faiths, And hence let Bukka forthwith come to fight Against the common foes, who thus combined To mar our ancient faith and change our lives, And let our Ramaraj himself go forth And lead, and everlasting glory win, And in defence of our old Hindu faith, Or, if he falls, let him to _Swarga_ go To join th’ immortals there; and one word more To thee, O Timma,–bury all the past, And Bukka for his sins forgive, and both Go hand in hand to fight the Moslem foes.

To pardon is the spirit of our faith.”

To this consent was gladly giv’n by all, And the propitious day and hour to march Was soon named by the holy Brahmin priest, So deeply versed in all the starry lore.

Brave Timma sought his anxious wife ere he Went forth to fight, and thus took leave of her.

“Dear wife! the day to march is named at last.

Your aged sire and our dear monarch leads The war, and Bukka, as a Hindu true, Joins us to fight against the Moslem horde, And doubly glad I am that in this war, With Bukka vying in the field with me, And in the very presence of our king, Who well rewards the val’rous and the brave, The place of honour I will there attain For courage true, and prove once more before The world I am a worthy husband of A n.o.ble wife; so let me now depart.”

She made reply–“Some evil it forebodes That Bukkaraj should thus be madly told To join our ranks, for what is truth and G.o.d To one so steeped in sin? And sad it is My aged father goes with him to fight.

Trust not in him and keep a steady eye On him, e’en if within the thickest of The fight thou art, for any moment he May turn the tide of war; fight till the last, And, if thou comest back victorious from The field, I’ll be the first to welcome thee, But, if thou fallest fighting in the field, Or if, perhaps, it chances otherwise, Thou art left helpless and alone, here is Our ever ready jav’lin to kill thee.

Thy body forthwith shall be n.o.bly borne Unto the pyre by thine own faithful men, And I will gladly leap upon the flames.

But if thou comest routed and alive, Then Chandra nevermore shall see thy face.”

At early morn, upon th’ appointed day, The king his faithful servants summoned, and Before them all his only brother named To rule the kingdom and confided all His subjects to his care; then, at the head Of his brave troops, out of the city marched, Amidst the royal bards recounting in Sweet tones the glories of his kingdom’s past, His holy priests invoking Krishna’s help And chanting sacred hymns, and in the midst Of maidens of the martial Kshatrya race, Proceeding to the very city gates, And singing to their fathers, brothers, and Their husbands in shrill notes heard far and wide, That Swarga’s gates are ever ready to Receive the faithful if they bravely fall, The flames are ready to take their proud wives, But burning h.e.l.l gapes wide for to devour The cowards that run routed and alive; Their maidens’ sweet embrace awaits them not.

At last, upon the plains of Talicot, The armies met, fierce raged the battle, and Old Ramaraj fought n.o.bly in the field; And Timma too wrought dreadful havoc on The Moslems and their ranks oft shattered, but Alas! the ever treach’rous Bukka pounced Sudden on his own ranks; the king was slain; His ghastly head upon a pole was shown, And helpless and forlorn the Hindus stood; But, ere perfidious Bukka could run with The Moslem foes, to capture him alive, A faithful soldier Timma called, gave him His Chandra’s jav’lin, in his steady grip To hold, then boldly ran his body through And instantly fell lifeless to the ground.

A faithful few the body bore, and laid Before the orphaned and the widowed maid Their precious charge, and soon the pyre was raised.

Then, near the flames that brightened her bright face, Her uncle and her people shedding tears, Her n.o.ble husband lying cold and still, The story of her father’s cruel death Still ringing in her ears, she took farewell.

“Dear uncle and my faithful men! grieve not: I see a cloud, now looming yonder there, No bigger than the hand of man, that shall Expand and rain and water to purge all The land of th’ innocent blood shed on it, For mother India’s cup of woe is full, And but three decades more,–there will come from The far-off ends of this vast globe of ours,– A little island planted in the sea,– A handful of a n.o.ble race to trade, And shall from thee ask for a plot of land, And they shall prosper for their valour and Shall be exalted for their righteousness.

They shall befriend the helpless and the poor, And like the streams that seek the ocean broad, The chickens that run to their mothers wings, The maidens helpless and forlorn, that court The succour of the chivalrous and the brave, The orphans poor, the bounty of the kind, All men of Ind, all races and all creeds Shall to their banner flock, to live in peace And amity; the tiger and the lamb Their thirst shall quench both from the selfsame brook.

The giant brute before the weakly sage Shall bow, and men shall fear to even gaze Upon the maidens that go forth alone, Adorned with naught but chast.i.ty, and from All lands the wisest shall revere our faith.

He that desires our homes to plunder and Sully the honour of our women, him Punishment terrible shall sure await.

Three hundred years more and the little plot Of land thou gavest shall grow and expand Into an empire huge, unwritten yet On hist’ry’s page, and shall surpa.s.s the dreams Of warriors bold in times of old, and like The creepers that, entwined around the oak, Luxuriant grow, safe from the storms that blow, And flow’rs give forth to beautify the scene, Her sons shall everlasting peace enjoy, And blessings, hitherto unknown to man– The grandest scene for G.o.d to ever cast His loving eyes upon, and for the world Of man to wonder at, and there shall be One sway, the sway of reason and of truth; One creed, the creed of righteousness and love; And mercy for all living things on earth; One brotherhood, the brotherhood of man; One fatherhood, the fatherhood of G.o.d.

But hark! there comes a shout, and yonder runs Exulting Bukka to seize me alive.

But these kind flames are ready to save me.

Run, uncle, run at once to far-off lands And continue thy sway in safer climes.”

So saying, she leapt on the fun’ral pyre, And speedily to ashes were consumed The faithful wife and her departed lord.

The monarch, who thus from the Moslem ran, In honour of this n.o.ble maiden, reared A princely town,[5] and here the Saxon came, And mother India was for ever blest.

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: Vijianagar is here called Vijiapore.]

[Footnote 3: Literally, the moon.]

[Footnote 4: The allusion here is to the ancient custom of _Swayamvara_ (self-choice), which is the election of a husband by a princess or a daughter of a kshatriya at a public a.s.sembly of suitors for the purpose.]

[Footnote 5: Chandragiri.]

_THE KORATHY’S LULLABY._

The Korathy is the tattooer of the Indian village, who offers her services for a small fee. Hindu females are very fond of having their bodies tattooed. The Korathy first makes a sketch of the figure of a scorpion or a serpent on the part of the body offered to her for tattooing, then takes a number of sharp needles, dips them in some liquid preparation which she has ready, and p.r.i.c.ks the flesh most mercilessly. In a few days the whole appears green. This is considered a mark of beauty among the Hindus. While the tattooing takes place the Korathy sings a crude song, so as to make the person undergoing the process forget the pain. The following is as nearly as possible a translation of the song which I myself heard:–

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

Your lotus eyes can soothe the savage beast, Your lips are like the newly blossomed rose, Your teeth–they shine like pearls; but what are they Before the beauties of my handiwork?

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

I’ve left my home, and all day hard I toil So to adorn the maidens of the land That erring husbands may return to them; Such are the beauties of my handiwork.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair; In days of old fair Seeta laid her head Upon the lap of one of our own clan, When with her lord she wandered in the wilds, And like the emerald shone her beauteous arms.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

And often in the wilds, so it is said, She also of the Pandus went in quest Of one of us, but found not even one, And sighed she was not like her sisters blest.

Stay, darling, stay–’tis only for an hour, And you will be the fairest of the fair.

My work is done; rejoice, for you will be The fairest of your sisters in the land.

Rejoice for evermore, among them you Will shine as doth the moon among the stars.

TALES OF IND,

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