Romesh Chunder Dutt

(13 August 1848 - 30 November 1909 / Kolkata / India)

Maha-Bharata, The Epic Of Ancient India - Book Xi - Sraddha - (Funeral Rites) - Poem by Romesh Chunder Dutt

The death of Duryodhan concludes the war, and it is followed by
the lament of women and the funerals of the deceased warriors.


I

Kuru Women visit the Battle-field

Spake the ancient Dhrita-rashtra, father of a hundred sons,
Sonless now and sorrow-stricken, dark his ebbing life-tide runs!

'Gods fulfil my life's last wishes! Henchmen, yoke my royal car,
Dhrita-rashtra meets his princes in the silent field of war,

Speed unto the Queen Gandhari, to the dames of Kuru's house,
To each dear departed warrior wends his fair and faithful spouse!'

Queen Gandhari sorrow-laden with the ancient Pritha came,
And each weeping widowed princess and each wailing childless dame,

And they saw the hoary monarch, father of a perished race,
Fresh and loud awoke their sorrow, welling tears suffused their face,

Good Vidura ever gentle whispered comfort unto all,
Placed the dames within their chariots, left Hastina's palace hall!

Loud the wail of woe and sorrow rose from every Kuru house,
Children wept beside their mothers for each widowed royal spouse,

Veiled dwellers of the palace, scarce the gods their face had seen,
Heedless now through mart and city sped each widowed childless queen,

From their royal brow and bosom gem and jewel cast aside,
Loose their robes and loose their tresses, quenched their haughty queenly
pride!

So when falls the antlered monarch, struck by woe and sudden fear
Issuing from their snowy mountains listless stray the dappled deer,

So upon the broad arena milk-white fillies brave the sun,
Wildly toss their flowing tresses and in sad disorder run!

Clinging to her weeping sister wept each dame in cureless pain,
For the lord, the son or father in the deathful battle slain,

Wept and smote her throbbing bosom and in bitter anguish wailed,
Till her senses reeled in sorrow, till her woman's reason failed!

Veiled queens and bashful maidens, erst they shunned the public eye,
Blush nor shame suffused their faces as they passed the city by,

Gentle-bosomed, kindly hearted, erst they wiped each other's eye,
Now by common sorrow laden none for sister heaved a sigh!

With this troop of wailing women, deep in woe, disconsolate,
Slow the monarch of the Kurus passed Hastina's outer gate,

Men from stall and loom and anvil, men of every guild and trade,
Left the city with the monarch, through the open country strayed,

And a universal sorrow filled the air and answering sky,
As when ends the mortal's _Yuga_ and the end of world is nigh!

II

Gandhari's Lament for the Slain

Stainless Queen and stainless woman, ever righteous ever good,
Stately in her mighty sorrow on the field Gandhari stood!

Strewn with skulls and clotted tresses, darkened by the stream of gore,
With the limbs of countless warriors was the red field covered o'er,

Elephants and steeds of battle, car-borne chiefs untimely slain,
Headless trunks and heads dissevered fill the red and ghastly plain!

And the long-drawn howl of jackals o'er the scene of carnage rings,
And the vulture and the raven flap their dark and loathsome wings,

Feasting on the blood of warriors foul _pisachas_ fill the air,
Viewless forms of hungry _rakshas_ limb from limb the corpses tear!

Through this scene of death and carnage was the ancient monarch led,
Kuru dames with faltering footsteps stepped amidst the countless dead,

And a piercing wail of anguish burst upon the echoing plain,
As they saw their sons or fathers, brothers, lords, amidst the slain,

As they saw the wolves of jungle feed upon the destined prey,
Darksome wanderers of the midnight prowling in the light of day!

Shriek of pain and wail of anguish o'er the ghastly field resound,
And their feeble footsteps falter and they sink upon the ground,

Sense and life desert the mourners as they faint in common grief,
Death-like swoon succeeding sorrow yields a moment's short relief!

Then a mighty sigh of anguish from Gandhari's bosom broke,
Gazing on her anguished daughters unto Krishna thus she spoke:

'Mark my unconsoled daughters, widowed queens of Kuru's house,
Wailing for their dear departed, like the osprey for her spouse!

How each cold and fading feature wakes in them a woman's love,
How amidst the lifeless warriors still with restless steps they rove,

Mothers hug their slaughtered children all unconscious in their sleep,
Widows bend upon their husbands and in ceaseless sorrow weep!

Mighty Bhishma, hath he fallen? quenched is archer Karna's pride?
Drupad monarch of Panchala sleeps by foeman Drona's side?

Shining mail and costly jewels, royal bangles strew the plain,
Golden garlands rich and burnished deck the chiefs untimely slain,

Lances hurled by stalwart fighters, clubs of mighty wrestlers killed,
Swords and bows of ample measure, quivers still with arrows filled!

Mark the unforgotten heroes, jungle prowlers 'mid them stray,
On their brow and mailed bosoms heedless perch the birds of prey!

Mark they great unconquered heroes famed on earth from west to east,
_Kankas_ perch upon their foreheads, hungry wolves upon them feast!

Mark the kings, on softest cushion scarce the needed rest they found,
Now they lie in peaceful slumber on the hard and reddened ground!

Mark the youths who morn and evening listed to the minstrel's song,
In their ear the loathsome jackal doth his doleful wail prolong!

See the chieftains with their maces and their swords of trusty steel,
Still they grasp their tried weapons,--do they still the life-pulse feel?'

III

Gandhari's Lament for Duryodhan

Thus to Krishna, Queen Gandhari strove her woeful thoughts to tell,
When alas! her wandering vision on her son Duryodhan fell,

Sudden anguish smote her bosom and her senses seemed to stray,
Like a tree by tempest shaken senseless on the earth she lay!

Once again she waked in sorrow, once again she cast her eye
Where her son in blood empurpled slept beneath the open sky,

And she clasped her dear Duryodhan, held him close unto her breast,
Sobs convulsive shook her bosom as the lifeless form she prest,

And her tears like rains of summer fell and washed his noble head,
Decked with garlands still untarnished, graced with _nishkas_ bright
and red!

''Mother!' said my dear Duryodhan when he went unto the war,
'Wish me joy and wish me triumph as I mount the battle-car!'

'Son!' I said to dear Duryodhan, 'Heaven avert a cruel fate,
_Yato dharma stato jayah!_ Triumph doth on Virtue wait!'

But he set his heart on battle, by his valour wiped his sins,
Now he dwells in realms celestial which the faithful warrior wins!

And I weep not for Duryodhan, like a prince he fought and fell,
But my sorrow-stricken husband, who can his misfortunes tell?

Ay! my son was brave and princely, all resistless in the war,
Now he sleeps the sleep of warriors, sunk in gloom his glorious star!

Ay! My son mid crowned monarchs held the first and foremost way,
Now he rests upon the red earth, quenched his bright effulgent ray!

Ay! my son the best of heroes, he hath won the warrior's sky,
Kshatras nobly conquer, Krishna, when in war they nobly die!

Hark the loathsome cry of jackals, how the wolves their vigils keep,
Maidens rich in song and beauty erst were wont to watch his sleep!

Hark the foul and blood-beaked vultures flap their wings upon the dead,
Maidens waved their feathery _pankhas_ round Duryodhan's royal bed!

Peerless bowman, mighty monarch! nations still his hests obeyed,
As a lion slays a tiger, Bhima hath Duryodhan slayed!

Thirteen years o'er Kuru's empire proud Duryodhan held his sway,
Ruled Hastina's ancient city where fair Ganga's waters stray!

I have seen his regal splendour with these ancient eyes of mine,
Elephants and battle-chariots, steeds of war and herds of kine!

Kuru owns another master and Duryodhan's day is fled,
And I live to be a witness! Krishna, O that I were dead!

Mark Duryodhan's noble widow, mother proud of Lakshman bold,
Queenly in her youth and beauty, like an altar of bright gold!

Torn from husband's sweet embraces, from her son's entwining arms,
Doomed to life-long woe and anguish in her youth and in her charms!

Rend my hard and stony bosom crushed beneath this cruel pain,
Should Gandhari live to witness noble son and grandson slain?

Mark again Duryodhan's widow, how she hugs his gory head,
How with gentle hands and tender softly holds him on his bed!

How from dear departed husband turns she to her dearer son,
And the tear-drops of the mother choke the widow's bitter groan!

Like the fibre of the lotus tender-golden is her frame,
O my lotus! O my daughter! Bharat's pride and Kuru's fame!

If the truth resides in _Vedas_, brave Duryodhan dwells above,
Wherefore linger we in sadness severed from his cherished love?

If the truth resides in _Sastra_, dwells in sky my hero son,
For Gandhari and her daughter now their earthly task is done!'

IV

Funeral Rite

Victor of a deathful battle, sad Yudhishthir viewed the plain,
Friends and kinsmen, kings and chieftains, countless troops untimely slain,

And he spake to wise Sudharman, pious priest of Kuru's race,
Unto Sanjay, unto Dhaumya, to Vidura full of grace,

Spake unto the brave Yuyutsu, Kuru's last surviving chief,
Spake to faithful Indrasena, and to warriors sunk in grief:

'Pious rites are due to foemen and to friends and kinsmen slain,
None shall lack a fitting funeral, none shall perish on the plain.'

Wise Vidura and his comrades sped on sacred duty bound,
Sandalwood and scented aloes, oil and _ghee_ and perfumes found,

Silken robes of costly splendour, fabrics by the artist wove,
Dry wood from the thorny jungle, perfume from the scented grove,

Shattered cars and splintered lances, hewed and ready for the fire,
Piled and ranged in perfect order into many a funeral pyre.

Kings and princes, noble warriors, were in rank and order laid,
And with streams of melted butter were the rich libations made,

Blazed the fire with wondrous radiance by the rich libations fed,
Sanctifying and consuming mortal remnants of the dead.

Brave Duryodhan and his brothers, Salya of the mighty car,
Bhurisravas king of nations, Jayadratha famed in war,

Abhimanyu son of Arjun, Lakshman proud Duryodhan's son,
Somadatta and the Srinjays famed for deeds of valour done,

Matsya's monarch proud Virata, Drupad fair Panchala's king,
And his sons, Panchala's princes, whose great deeds the minstrels sing,

Cultured monarch of Kosala and Gandhara's wily lord,
Karna, proud and peerless archer, matchless with his flaming sword,

Bhagadatta eastern monarch, all resistless in his car,
Ghatotkacha son of Bhima, Alambusha famed in war,

And a hundred other monarchs all received the pious rite,
Till the radiance of the fire-light chased the shadows of the night!

_Pitri-medha_, due to fathers, was performed with pious care,
Hymns and wails and lamentations mingled in the midnight air,

Sacred songs of _rik_ and _saman_ rose with women's piercing wail,
And the creatures of the wide earth heard the sound subdued and pale!

Smokeless and with radiant lustre shone each red and lighted pyre,
Like the planets of the bright sky throbbing with celestial fire!

Countless myriads, nameless, friendless, from each court and camp afar,
From the east and west collected, fell in Kuru-Kshetra's war,

Thousand fires for them were lighted, they received the pious rite,
Such was good Yudhishthir's mandate, such was wise Vidura's might,

All the dead were burned to ashes and the sacred rite was o'er,
Dhrita-rashtra and Yudhishthir slowly walked to Ganga's shore!

V

Oblation to Karna

Sacred Ganga, ample-bosomed, sweeps along in regal pride,
Rolling down her limpid waters through high banks on either side,

Kuru dames and weeping widows thither in their anguish came
Due and holy rites to render to departed chiefs of fame,

Casting forth their jewelled girdles, gems and scarfs belaced with gold,
Gave oblations of the water to each hero true and bold,

Unto fathers, unto husbands, unto sons in battle slayed,
Offerings of the sacred water sorrowing wives and mothers made.

And so great the host of mourners wending to perform the rite,
That their footsteps made a pathway in the sad and sacred site,

And the shelving banks of Ganga peopled by the sorrowing train,
Wide-expanding, vast and sealike, formed a scene of woe and pain!

But a wave of keener sorrow swept o'er Pritha's heaving breast,
As unto her weeping children thus her secret she expressed:

_'He, my sons, the peerless bowman, mighty in his battle-car,
He who bore the stamp of hero, slain by Arjun in the war,_

_He whom as the son of Radha, chariot-driver, ye have thought,
He who shone with SURYA'S lustre as his countless foes he fought,_

_He who faced your stoutest warriors and in battle never failed,
He who led the Kuru forces and in danger never quailed,_

_He who knew no peer in prowess, owned in war no haughtier name,
He who yielded life, not honour, and by death hath conquered fame,_

_He, in truth who never faltered, never left his vow undone,
Offer unto him oblation, Karna was my eldest son!_

_Karna was your honoured elder, and the Sun inspired his birth,
Karna in his rings and armour Sun-like trod the spacious earth!'_

Pritha spake, and terror-stricken Pandav brothers groaned in pain,
And they wept in woe and anguish for the brother they had slain.

Hissing forth his sigh of sorrow like a trodden, hissing snake,
Sad Yudhishthir to his mother thus his inward feelings spake:

'Didst thou, mother, bear the hero fathomless like ocean dread,
Whose unfailing glistening arrows like its countless billows sped?

Didst thou bear that peerless archer, all-resistless in his car,
Sweeping with the roar of ocean through the shattered ranks of war?

Didst thou bear the mighty hero, mortal man of heavenly birth,
Crushing 'neath his arm of valour all his foemen on the earth?

Didst thou hide the birth and lineage of that chief of deathful ire,
As a man in folds of garments seeks to hide the flaming fire?

Arjun, wielder of _gandiva_, was for us no truer stay
Than was Karna for the Kurus in the battle's dread array!

Monarchs matched not Karna's glory nor his deeds of valour done,
Midst the mighty car-borne warriors mightiest warrior Karna shone!

Was he then our eldest brother we have in the battle slain,
And our nearest dearest elder fell upon the gory plain?

Not the death of Abhimanyu from the fair Subhadra torn,
Not the slaughter of the princes by the proud Draupadi borne,

Not the fall of Kuru warriors, nor Panchala's mighty host,
Like thy death afflicts my bosom, noble Karna! loved and lost!

Monarch's empire, victor's glory, all the treasures earth can yield,
Righteous bliss and heavenly gladness, harvest of the _swarga's_ field,

All that wish can shape and utter, all that nourish hope and pride,
All were ours, O noble Karna! with thee by thy brother's side,

And this carnage of the Kurus these sad eyes had never seen,
Peace had graced our blessed empire, happy would the earth have been!'

Long bewailed the sad Yudhishthir for his elder loved and dead,
And oblation of the water to the noble Karna made,

And the royal dames of Kuru viewed the sight with freshening pain,
Wept to see the good Yudhishthir offering to his brother slain,

And the widowed queen of Karna with the women of his house
Gave oblations to her hero, wept her loved and slaughtered spouse!

Done the rites to the departed, done oblations to the dead,
Slowly then the sad survivors on the river's margin spread,

Far along the shore and sandbank of the sacred sealike stream
Maid and matron laved their bodies 'neath the morning's holy beam,

And ablutions done, the Kurus slow and sad and cheerless part,
Wend their way to far Hastina with a void and vacant heart.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, October 15, 2010



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