Birth Of Death - Poem by Aniruddha Pathak
Narrate shall I now how Death came ‘pon Earth,
Said Vyasa to Yudhishthir so shattered
By Abhimanyu’s death he wished to die,
‘Shame on me, a young dream now lies scattered’.
A story ‘tis of gilded Golden Age,
Of king Akampan that had lost his all
In war, lost a dear son1 that fought battles
Brave in a losing cause at costs too tall.
Lost in grief, short of hope, he wandered ‘lone,
Looking in vain for peace, mind off from war,
That never was in sight— lucky still to
Meet sage Narada, his life’s sole Poll Star.
‘Brave he was to take on celestial gods,
‘Yet, enemies came and conspired to kill,
‘Pray tell me what death is, what dying means,
‘Life unfolds, tell me Death’s destiny still.’
So said, the sage told a withered story—
Of Birth of Death, of old age and disease:
When Brahma had all this here created,
Death had place nor page in the scheme of His.
The life lived and lived for endless long years,
No one died and yet new life came to be,
The Goddess Earth could scarce the burden bear,
Life was ne’er-ebbing-e’er-waxing vast sea!
An endless ocean of life in a tide,
Taxing Mother Earth’s meagre means, no pause,
Ere long it caused chaos, cathartic ill,
The food too scarce was to fuel hungry maws.
When hard it was to breathe, the Creator
Felt concerned: how to turn the giant tide,
How to lighten the burden borne by Earth,
Ere, crushed by hefty weight, the poor soul sighed.
Brahma thought for long hours and days on end,
‘Poor me, oh how I never thought of this? ’
A way out yet eluded no less still,
His three heads showed creases where ere was bliss.
His eyes in rage looked like a rod red hot,
And flames of fire flared forth worlds to consume—
The heaven high till solar space yon Earth,
As if nigh was the cosmic night’s dour doom!
Gods and goblins sauntered soon to pray,
Earthlings too came earnest, came seers, came peers,
To placate kindly God, easy to plead
Shiva, folded hands, eyes flooding with tears.
Shiva, sacrifice dwelling in his matted locks,
Concerned, compassionate, in common plight,
Volunteered to plead and pacify
Brahma—to rise to his creative height.
Seeing Shiva with folded hands, said He
Bowing, ‘pray do tell me what I should do’;
‘The Father of this cosmos aught be kind,
‘Yet, scorching it— rage ere long ye would rue’.
‘Not enraged am I ‘pon my Creation,
‘Nor am I engaged to destroy, O Lord,
‘Wondering, how to lighten Earth’s burden,
‘I assure— I have no punishing rod.’
‘I thought for long without succeeding still,
‘Frustrated, in dry rage, my eyes flash fire’;
‘But let not this Creation come to naught’,
Said Shiva, ‘be thou pleased, relax O Sire’.
‘Save these lakes, save rivers, save all thine sons
‘And daughters; spare this pan universe pain,
‘Think of a wise way out, and better still—
‘How if they die to get born once again? ’
‘Let Time unto three-fold time zones divide:
‘One is what hath come, never to return,
‘One that is vast, unknown, not yet in ride,
‘And present that unfolds, now on the run’.
He hearkened wise and well, three heads of his,
Restrained his rage, recalled his scorching flares,
Absorbed all fire unto eternal bliss,
Of course, let birth and death bear equal shares.
Let humans tread a path one of a twain1:
The path of karma—of good deeds, to earn
Fruits, place in heaven, earn and spend in chain;
Or of knowledge—the path of no return.
Brahma created a form female-head,
A thought born of the need, of weird form—
Black and red from rainbow, tongue and mouth red,
Eyes burning yellow, like a raging storm.
She came to be and stood there facing South,
A tad confused as to cosmic mission,
With a kind smile awaiting a word from Lord’s mouth,
Which, when came, came like lightning from heaven.
‘Dear daughter, Death art thou, nay, a goodwill,
‘Thine mission ‘tis to kill all life alive,
‘Born art thou of mine rage, and aught thou kill
‘Evil and good no less, wise with the naïve’.
So said, poor maid with a mission, of all, to kill,
Began to shed tears founting from deep grief,
But thinking ahead of mankind’s goodwill,
The Lord held forth her copious tears on a leaf.
Suppressing her motherly grief, somewhat
Emboldened by Brahma’s eternal grace,
She breathed courage if but for a moment,
Bowing like a creeper, said keeping a kind face’:
‘O thou of wise words, be graceful to me,
‘I wonder why one would want a woman—
‘A mother natured kind— to come to kill,
‘Oh killing life, know not, how I e’er can.’
‘Scared am I of sin, be graceful to me,
‘I scarce can imagine what would the kin
‘Of them slain—friends and well-wishers alike—
‘Say of this cruel act of mine so mean.’
‘I scarce can stand sufferings in the lands,
‘But pardon me—me in thine last refuge,
‘O ancestor, I plead with folded hands,
‘Not equal I feel to the task this huge.’
‘Let me go do long arduous tapas
To please thee’; but the Lord passed His decree:
‘Do carry out what thou art born to do,
‘Worry not, no evil shall come ‘pon thee’.
‘Naught much can be done on what ordained is,
‘Get on to thine mission, have faith in me,
‘Thou shalt incur no sin, my word in bliss,
‘Be thou a trigger in the hands of Destiny! ’
Poor woman! Kind of heart, called still to kill,
Fains if she could utter a word of will,
Protest, pretend, nor procrastinate still,
Say yes, nor no, served of a bitter pill.
She soon slipped away from Lord’s kind visage,
To a far off hermitage of a sage,
The goddess of Death did ardent tapas,
Fifteen cosmic years2 on one foot solus!
Failing when to soften Brahma’s mind still,
She meditated for twenty more years,
And pleaded, ‘spare me Lord but I can’t kill
Innocent life, nor can stand grieving tears.
This too when failed to move Him, she took to
Deep silence— of thought, speech, and inner soul,
And took to waters3 to moist Brahma’s heart;
Said He, ‘Life is born to fulfill a karmic role’.
‘Resist not my daughter to me so dear,
‘Dharma thine own alone cleanses inner being,
‘’Divine will shall assist thee; have no fear,
‘None shall blame thee killing life living’.
‘In men thou shalt live as man, as woman
‘In women, in life an image of mine;
‘Life shall grow old to ail— in flesh and mind,
‘Let it conspire to kill in course of time.
And shall get born in a perennial chain,
A new life to live, new body and mind,
O to carry on all over again
The journey’s goal whence was ere left behind.
‘I’ve saved copious tears ye shed at my gate,
‘Let them ailments be of many a kind,
‘Ill emotions like rage, desire, and hate
‘Shall do the trick as clock set to unwind.
No bane, Death’s boon, and man’s greatest of friend,
Creation can’t come to be without Death,
As there’s no new beginning if no end,
Let Death get born along with life’s first breath.
And so was Death born in ancient years,
A boon to life to beget new body,
O to carry on with onward journey,
A young driver, new vehicle, changed gears.
This poem is based on an episode in Mahabharata.
1. Known as pravrtti, or path of karma; and nivŗtti, or path of knowledge.
2. Brahman years: Brahma-loka, the abode of Brahma, being light years away,15
years are to be taken in cosmic term, time being relative to space.
_____________________________________________ ________________________ - Epics | 01.06.12 |
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