Where solid ground and rushing waters
Have not parted ways
The river, like the instinct to sing, ripples with the songs and stories of all those who live by it: their loves, their battles, their leisure, their work, their gods, their desires, their losses, their endurance, their loneliness. The river is the song of transformations, ends and endless creation.
Now in verse, the miraculous, Kalidasa evokes the audience listening to a recital of the Ramayana:
“And the people sat beside the river
And they listened,
Enraptured, they listened.
Tears ran down their faces like pearls,
Like dew dripping from the forest leaves
In the stillness of a windless dawn.”
And, as if remembering someone they saw on shore
As the river of words carried them on,
They remembered how a king walked from his palace.
How he left his splendid home.
How he walked deep into the forest shadows
And walked through reeds and swamps.
He came to the great river,
Radiant, enticing, imperious, vast.
And he looked silently
Upon the Ganges flowing through the three times:
Clear, with cool waves loved by sages,
Giving life and dharma to teachers and the places where they teach.
Song rose in his heart from a distant mountain spring. He joined his hands in prayer. He sang, and his song was like a life giving river. He sang, and the sky shone with his melodious voice.
“O you who are love,
In your clear waters apsaras play.
“O Ganges of the gods, asuras and gandharvas
Meandering through the endless sky,
“O river of celestial lotuses,
Sacred river, roaring, quivering, smiling
With sparkling teeth of white foam,
Curling like a young girl’s wind-blown hair;
“O river of swirling whirlpools and peaceful ponds,
Crying river, roiled and unsettling;
Holy river where goddesses bathe
Amid white lotus clouds
And the plangent calls of swans and cranes;
“You are garlanded with dark trees,
Brocaded with green lily pads,
Aflame with red water lilies,
Jeweled with gold and silver dancing light,
Powdered with pink pollen dust,
“Blushing like a longing lover,
Suddenly you draw near, you touch, you whirl away.”
Song rose in his heart as from a distant mountain spring. He joined his hands in prayer. He sang, and his song was like a life-giving river. He sang, and the sky shone with his melodious voice.
“You strike the dry land
And ten thousand pearls spray in the air
Rising, rising up in iridescent clouds.
“In every spinning droplet,
The moments of our history,
The moments of time, our life and death,
Shine in the sky, O pearl pure Ganges.
“O pearl pure Ganges,
O river of milk,
O life of all,
O river of blood,
O ever-flowing one,
“Echoing the future,
Reverberant in full expanse,
You carry off all sin,
All sorrow, all regret.”
– as published in THE WANDERER, Mountain Treasury Press, 2014Photo by the river Ganges in Haridwar and Laxman Joula by Jeevan Singla, India.
Photo by river water by Unsplash
Painting of the goddess Ganga by unknown.
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