Jayanta Mahapatra

(22 October 1928 - / Cuttack / India)

Dawn At Puri - Poem by Jayanta Mahapatra

Endless crow noises
A skull in the holy sands
tilts its empty country towards hunger.

White-clad widowed Women
past the centers of their lives
are waiting to enter the Great Temple

Their austere eyes
stare like those caught in a net
hanging by the dawn's shining strands of faith.

The fail early light catches
ruined, leprous shells leaning against one another,
a mass of crouched faces without names,

and suddenly breaks out of my hide
into the smoky blaze of a sullen solitary pyre
that fills my aging mother:

her last wish to be cremated here
twisting uncertainly like light
on the shifting sands


Comments about Dawn At Puri by Jayanta Mahapatra

  • Uddhab Naik (9/7/2016 1:06:00 AM)


    awesome lines..... (Report) Reply

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  • Bijay Kant Dubey (9/2/2016 10:04:00 PM)


    The structure of Dawn At Puri is that of the three-line format and he has followed it unto the last. A small poem it transmutes and transforms many a thing. The first three lines of the first stanza speak about three things distinctly, the first about the crows crowing which but a common ornithological scenery here in India., the second line about the holy ling on the sands which was but once as living man and the third about heat and dust, hunger and poverty doing the rounds all over, a vast country to feed and clothe is the greatest problem, a country reeling under illiteracy, ignorance, backwardness, superstition, inaction and fatalism. Indian poverty described uniquely by the crows, astrologers, palmists, pundits and the middle men, the dana-doers and the dana-takers.
    Though the poet does not say it, but it contains several layers of hidden meaning. Who can but say it that burning on the holy sands of Puri complex will have the privilege of crossing by the Gateway of Heaven? It is difficult to arrange for the makeshift logs for an outsider.
    The second stanza is a line and count of the widows, Indian widows waiting to enter the Great Temple, perhaps with Jai Jagannath, Krishna Murari. The contrast is, what they to get? What for to pray to as there is nothing left in their lives?
    The stanza is about the austere, waterless eyes of the widows who are so distraught and destitute after the death of their husband that these appear to be caught into the fishing nets by the dawn's shining strands of faith.
    The fourth about the frail dawn light catching the leprous shells scrambled together, just as a nameless mass. Here we are dumb-struck to comment anything. Poetry turns useless here. Similarly piety too. Religion is not in rituals; pontifical shows. Where is God? Here doubt thrashes faith for being hypocritical and egoistic. Service to man is service to God.
    The fifth stanza is a scenery of a dead body burning on the sea beach and the light lighting up it all. And suddenly breaks in the solitary sullen pyre out of his hide burning somewhere or far, telling of the last rituals being done, the body being cremated around the halo lit around with the flames feeding upon on the holy sands of the Puri temple. With it, the poet gets remembered of the wish of his ageing mother. The aging mother of the poet too feels it so.
    The sixth one is all bout the same wish of his old mother twisting certainly like light on the shifting sands. But light is light, frail and dazzling, shaky and shifting so are the sands so is faith, what to rely upon/ Faith too changes and takes sides with, cannot be relied upon. There is nothing in this world certain and taken for granted. Everything is but in a flux, ever-changing, ever-shifting.
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  • Bijay Kant Dubey (10/29/2015 9:51:00 AM)


    Dawn At Puri by Jayanta Mahapatra as a poem is not only a poetical piece from an Indian English poet, but from an Oriya Christian who has taught not literature, but physics in the classrooms. Jayanta is primarily an imagist for whom poetry is but imagism; image-making and a weaver of myths too, private and personal. As a poet, he is very complex and tedious as because images can never be explained easily and the second thing is this that he is a modern poet and that too from physics where the theories of light and darkness, the origin of the universe will definitely make a way for. In Jayanta, there lie in many a trait; feature. He is an image-maker, a myth-weaver, a dreamer, a visionary; a realist, a surrealist, a feminist; a modern, a modernist and a post-modern, psychological, sociological, historical. A poet regional, he is first an Oriya then an Indian, national and international. Generally, Puri, Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack are the hub round which the whole spectacle of his poetry revolves.
    Though it is difficult to paraphrase an Indian English poem, shorter in form and expression, generally the modern poets, in addition to it, Dawn at Puri is a poem of Puri and the adjacent Jagannath temple and together with it, the faith and doubt implied in, inculcating, faith as for the queue of the devotees consisting mainly of the widows or the women past their hectic life while on the other hand the lepers as an unrecognized mass, deciphered and figureless twitch the soul for an expression, make us sorry for that, telling of how the Kingdom of God, what man's life and what it remains it here.
    The poem begins with the endless crows crowing, not calling unexpected guests or something of the disaster to come, but in the likewise manner as it happens at Gaya relating to the pinda-dana. There must be crows to take foods offered to as the numbers are dwindling. If we see differently, taking Daruwalla under consideration, the vultures are difficult to be sighted on the doonger-varis and the Parsis are facing problems in connection with doing away with the dead bodies. But whatever be that, we are here on the sands of Puri marking the funerals; the pyres burning, so did see Jayanta Mahapatra. As a poem it is contradictory too as the poet with the cawing of the crows, refers to the theme of hunger and with it the scarcity of food and the plenty of food wasted. The poor country, food problem, hunger, literacy, uneducation and blazing earth all get referred to on the one hand while on the other the plenty and diversity of India lies it contradicting the thesis. Whatever be the point of deliberation, the poet refers to the cawing of crows, the pyres burning on the holy sands and the holy skull lying thereon.
    The white-clad widows are waiting to enter the great temple, the gateway to heaven, Jagannath Puri temple who have nothing left with them to aspire for, dream or desire, past their centre of activity, taking time to, passing their lives. Here the poet makes us remember of Mahadevi Verma, Mira Bai and Suryakanta Tripathy Nirala who wrote the poem Bharat Ki vidhwa, The Widow of India. Together with it, come the pictures of The Fakir of Jungheera by Derozio who marked on the banks of the Ganges at Bhagalpore and the dislodging of the obsolete and heinous Sati system taking to the days of William Bentick, Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar when they took to it as offence or sin against humanity and God.
    Their austere eyes tell of their tearless faces, dried from weeping and the falling of tears, tuned stone and they are standing as rocks and stones never to melt anymore and the stare caught in the net of the dazzling feeble sunlight glistening at dawn.
    The frail early light falling on the lepers and catching them light pains us with its imagery so do the poems of Nissim Ezekiel who hears the leper music on the platform and Daruwalla who refers tot hem and the amputees and here lies in the Christian sensibility at work, service to God is service to man. It is also an irony to see the lepers sitting at the gate of the rock-built temples, stupendous and magnificent in their structure, contradicting faith and doubt, human life and piety and questioning, what is God, what religion, where is He, who actually religious? Service or piety? Purity of feelings or in the false show of religiosity?
    And in the midst of all this, the smoky blaze of a sullen solitary pyre lights up the landscape reminding him of the wish of his ageing mother. It may not be applicable to him, but the people in a general way thinks of the feelings of the motherly old folks, as he is a Christian. But instead of it, her last wish to be cremated here twists certainly like light on the shifting sands.
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Poem Submitted: Friday, December 27, 2013



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