By Jatindra Mohan Bagchi
Transcreated by Pradip Bhattacharya
[More than half-a-century ago Jatindra Mohan Bagchi, the Bengali poet, wrote a dramatic monologue depicting the dying Duryodhan at the end of the Battle of Kurukshetra on the shores of Dvaipayana lake. It is a daring creation, flying in the face of the general opprobrium heaped on the Kaurava prince and deserves to be more widely known. This is its first English rendering.]
In the far horizon streaks of blood
merge into the black gloom;
Below, on the darkling solitary plain
whose form sprawls, alone?
“Know you not who I am? That name have I not
forgotten– king am I– Raja Duryodhan!
Kurukshetra, is it over?–
Where am I– is this Dvaipayan?
O Queen, queen Bhanumati–
where are you, my wife, in calamity?
–Chariot; my chariot, — driver, charioteer–
Where, where are the guards gone?
Oh! the pain– torment agonising–
who calls the royal surgeon?
Royal valour, hero’s fortitude–
will even they give way today?
–Yet, yet I do not fear,
alone will I fight undeterred;
Yet, in unfair battle defeat,
Alas, my fate! even that I cannot,
shattered these thighs in dust lie;
Refuge-less my valour only
shouts out its impotence!
Vrikodar, wolf-waisted, Pandavas’ shame,
you blackened Pandu’s face–
like a thief in the night
dharma you burnt,
firing it with your own hands;
Un-Kshatriya in Kshatriya clan–
proof aright of Wind-god’s son–
On that tarnished Pandava name
of yours shame, shame,–
a thousand shames.
Did none have eyes in this world?
Alas, who is left in this wide world?
Bhishma, Drona, Karna gone–
Who will punish whom?
All, that deceiving Krishna’s work,
cruel intriguer’s evil counsel–
“Dharma-rajya”, righteous rule,
confusing words ever on his lips.
With Krishna a band of rogues
call him “friend”, serve as slaves.
That shame of Yadava clan
manipulates them, smiling.
Where’s Balarama, generous, valorous,
And where the clan’s shame, his brother,
partisan and cheat!
Oh– that pain, again, again!
Come near, O Sanjay,
See your invincible Duryodhan’s
Kuru clan-is it uprooted then–
Kurukshetra– is it annihilation?
Speak, Counsellor, why silent?
What is left to realise!
–You muse, to Duryodhan you won’t
relate that inauspicious news,–
Alas! at death’s throes now
has that any worth?
Today I recall in that assembly hall
Uncle’s folded hands-
Had then I known of today,
Would’ve I berated him so bitter?
Yet, considering royalty’s honour,
I repent not–
Who among his enemies is unaware
of Duryodhan’s sense of honour?
His morals, his acts, all,
all befit the King of kings–
The noble were honoured, genius welcomed,
bounty seeker returned with wealth.
Oh! That incident?
Kshatriyas’ right to gamble’s well known–
Who calls it sin? No tearful remorse
touches these eyes!
If violence you regard a crime,
you’re a coward;– proof of it:
Perpetual strife of god and titan
What say you to that?
Violence’s natural to creatures,
violence-bred food nurtures life–
Time’s desire mirrored in violence
is figured forth in the dynasty.
Panchali? Mention not, Counsellor!
Who marries five husbands,
as bride-price wins perpetual right
to mockery as fate’s boon!
King’s duties are grave, profound,
Desires, wishes, aren’t for him,
All life a one-pointed dedication,
you well know, O Sanjay.
Kunti’s sons, Draupadi’s husbands-
too harshly treated?
Kuru patriarch, in his kingdom,
is impartial, adamantine!
Needlepoint’s land I refused
Pandavas? Because I was miserly?
Duryodhan’s munificent hand
who knows not on this earth?
It’s not that, Counsellor,–
Justice’s just an excuse
of enemies to demand rights!
Were it a prayer? Gifting kingdom away
the forest would receive Duryodhan.
Only one thing I cannot forget,
Counsellor, which even today
pierces my heart,–
Abhimanyu’s heinous murder
by seven chariot-heroes!
–Oh, that agony! Shooting up
from thigh to skull
blacks all out!
Blind eyes, frenzied mind,
doomsday roar drumming in ears!
No physician left? Send messages
summon, call them–
this necklace as prize.
Dusk deepens in skies o’erhead
at plain’s end forest-skirted,
after lake waters grow black
in deepening darkness!
Hundreds of will-o’-wisp eyes light up
Ravening carnivores roam roaring!
Sanjay, tarry awhile,
perhaps my last night this!
Defeat, victory– not the issue,
they’re life’s partners I know.
Regrets have I none in this life,
by nature King is this Duryodhan;
above blame and fame
his all-ruling throne!
Only, a hundred pranams convey
at my father’s feet, Counsellor,–
tell him– I am that great father’s
Death I own proudly, easily,
my constant servitor,–
Life he steals,
steal he cannot fame
that is eternal.
What if father’s eyes are blind-
what can’t fate do?
Love for his son–I know,
is limitless. Yet not blind.
Desiring progeny’s welfare
shackling in chains of state-rule
in war he could’ve been party
following conventional advice;
–Of counsellors there was no shortage,
–Krishna, Vidura, heroic Bhishma,–
Yet with faith in his son
that head high-held bowed in respect.
–Better than cowardly peace
is even war eternal,–
In paternal love that kingly ethic
never forgot, that ruler of men.
–For proud son’s befitting father he,
supernal radiance in mind’s eyes;–
At his feet, hence, again and again
I bow today with body and soul.
Night deepens,–farewell, friend,
return home with pranam;
May Duryodhan’s glorious fame
live, constant companion!
As nearby Dvaipayan ripples,
hallowed by Vyasa’s holy name;–
may Kshatriya valour’s radiant star
shine in the gloom– Duryodhan.”