Monday 8 August 2011

Saket by Mythili Sharan Gupta

Saket is an epic poem in Hindi written by the poet Mythili Sharan Gupta, telling the story of Ramayana in a modern idiom.  Mythily Sharan (1886-1964) belongs to the period of Mahavir Prasad Dhwivedi.  During this period, Khari Bholi Hindi came into prominence and Gupta, by his ever so many poetical works proved that Khari Bholi could be used for poetry also.  He was a Sanskrit scholar, nationalist and thoroughly Gandhian in his outlook.  His poetic works are Saket, Dwapar, Rang me Bang, Kaba aur Karbala, Yashodhara, Tilottama, Panchavati, Jayadradh Vadh, Gurukul, etc.  Next to Thulasidasa’s Ramcharitamanas, Gupta’s Saket holds an important place in Hindi literature because Gupta is a sincere devotee and adorer of Lord Ram. 

Most of us are aware that there are many versions of Rama Katha in many languages and they are very popular.  They include Adyatma Ramayana, Adbuth Ramayana, Anandha Ramayana, Yog Vashishta, Bhudha and Jaina Ramayana.  Ramcharitamanas, Kamba Ramayana (Tamil), Pothana Ramayana (Telugu) and Kirthivasa Ramayana (Bengali).  Besides, Kalidasa Raghuvamsa, Bhoja Champu (composed collectively by Kalidasa and Raja Bhoja) are wonderful works in Sanskrit.  Afterwards, Bhava Bhuti’s Uttara Rama Charitam and Bhasa’s Pratima Natakam (Sanskrit) are read even today.
In Tamil, we have Rama Nataka Keerthanaigal by poet ‘Arunachala Kavirayar’.  So from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari, Rama’s greatness, life and philosophy are remembered and retained by devout Indians of most languages.
What is the purpose of Saket?  In the very beginning, the poet confesses:
“Ram Thumhara Vritha Swayam Hi Kavya Hai, Koyi Kavi Ban jaye, Sahaj Sambhavya Hai” (Oh Ram, your very life is a melodious poetry, so any one writing about you become naturally a poet).  The poet wonders, “Ram, are you a human being?  Aren’t you God?  Are you not pervading the entire universe?  If so, I am ready to deny the existence of God.   Let God excuse me.  In case, you don’t dwell in my mind, my mind will be surrendered to you.  I can’t exist without you”.
Life at Chitrakut was very pleasant for both Rama and Sita, Lakshmana had gone out to collect some essentials and Rama was in deep meditation.  Sita was singing and watering the plants and creepers.  The mobile and immobile objects were watching the divine couple.  Suddenly, Sita broke her silence and asked Rama “Pleas tell me about our next destination.  I have no mind to leave this place.  Of course, your decision is final.  What are your plans?  Why this meditation?”
Rama with a smile begins to say: “Darling, my incarnation is just not to destroy devils and demons.  I have come here to establish Sanathana Dharma.  You know the rivers are in spate during the rainy season.  Their waters are to be controlled, channelised for posterity.  Nothing should be wasted.  In the garb of a man, I want to sow the seeds of humanity.  Everybody should be happy and contented.  He should not be avaricious.  Jealousy must be avoided.  Perfect amity and brotherhood are my concerns.  For the sake of social progress, individual liberty should be curtailed.  Frankly speaking, I am not bringing down heaven here.  But my idea is to transform the earth into a heavenly abode.”  Rama appears not to be a monarch but a lok-nayak, interested in the welfare of the people and in the formation of a utopian state.  His statement brings to our mind John Ruskin’s “Unto This Last”, translated into Hindi “Antyodaya”.
Saket kavya contains 12 chapters, the first seven consisting of the events leading upto Rama’s coronation, Manthara’s conspiracy, Rama’s exile are narrated by Urmila, wife of Lakshmana.  The eighth chapter describes Rama’s life at Chitrakut, Bharatha’s ardent desire to take back Rama to Ayodhya, Rama’s refusal and the coronation of the holy padukas.  From chapters 9 to 12, the remaining part of the story is completed by Hanuman and sage Vasishta.
A major portion of the eighth chapter and the entire ninth chapter are important and unique.  Reader of Ramayana are familiar with the characters of Urmila and Kaikeyi.  Kaikeyi paved the way for Rama’s exile and Urmila willingly accepted 14 years separation from her husband.  Kaikeyi wanted to atone for the sins committed by her.  In Gupta’s opinion, all the poets, the historians, the litterateurs, have completely forgotten those two women, rather neglected and ignored them.  One is young and married recently.  The other is somewhat old, self-centered due to circumstances and provocations.  Hence the author says that it is his duty to eradicate the black mark imprinted on the poets ever since the days of Valmiki.  Justice must be done using the liberty allowed without crossing the limits.  How is it done?  Now, let us go to Chitrakut and witness the scene there.
Bharata – Oh Rama, the crown is yours.  I never wanted it; only my mother is to blame.
Rama – You have expressed your wish.  (Turning to those assembled) Poor Bharata His mother herself failed to read his mind.  How can others measure his plight and console him?
Kaikeyi – (Suddenly) Rama, if your statement is true, go back to Ayodhya. I am the real culprit.  I ought to have controlled my mind.  I lost my wisdom, allowed myself to be provoked by Manthara, who is after all a servant maid.  I am a member of the royal house of Raghu dynasty.  But I have committed a Himalayan blunder.  I regret it now, and I am ready to atone for it.  The common saying is that sons only go astray, not their mothers.  But alas, in my case it is quite the reverse.  The son is always on the right path, but his mother (myself) is a sinner and has tarnished the image of the royal family.
“Matha na kumatha, putra   kuputra bale he
Hai putra putrahi, rahe   kumatha matha”
Rama – “Sow bar dhanya hai,   voh ek lalki maye
Jisne jana hai Bharat sa   Bhai”
(Really we have to appreciate and congratulate such a mother who gave birth to noble son like Bharatha who is really a sparkling jewel).
Thus the poet has tried excellently to exonerate Kaikeyi.  Tamil poet Kambar has expressed a similar view, “Even thousand Ramas are no comparison to one Bharatha”, (Ayiram Ramar nin kezh avaro therihilen amma).
Next we will turn to Urmila.  However much she tries to console herself, her feelings burst out.  She does not care for royal dignity; ordinary citizenship is enough for her.  She has only duties to perform and she hates fighting for kingship.  In her opinion the state belongs to those who toil and work for the prosperity of the nation.  Urmila’s agony and sorrow possess literary importance.  The following lines are a revelation of the poet’s skill, originality and creative art.
“Vus rudanthi virahini ke   rudan ras ke lep se
Aur paakar thaap uske priya   Virah vikshepse
varana varna sadaiva junke   ho vibhushan karna ke
Kyon na banthe kavijanonke   tamra patra swarna ke”
(Rudanti:- a rare herb.  The roots are crushed to prepare juice.  The thick juice is applied on copper plates which are heated in a special furnace.  High temperature and chemicals in the juice transform the copper into pure gold fit for making ornaments.  This is a kind of alchemy.  Perhaps the poet is aware of this process  and has used it skillfully, using his imagination and applying the figure of speech called pun – shlesh alankar in Sanskrit.  Rudanti also means a lady always shedding tears of sorrow).
Hence the poet feels strongly, “If only the tears of Urmila are applied on the copper sheets used by poets for writing, heated using the fuel gathered and stored due to the 14 years’ long separation, certainly every letter composed by poets will be golden and worth hearing and listening to for generations.  The transformed gold is useful for making earnings; so also Urmila’s lamentations.  The imagination is not running riotous but praiseworthy.
At the close of chapter 9, the poet uses the new metre of poetry coined by Abdur Rahim, the poet and commander-in-chief of Akbar’s army.  The meter is called “Baravai”.  The concluding lines are
“Avadhi shila ka ur par tha,   guru bhar
Thil thil kaat rahi thi drig jal   dhaar”
(Urmila of Ayodhya is just like a solid stone heavy due to tons and tons of sorrow, the pathos accumulated slowly running out of her eyes in the form of small droplets).
Another female character not belonging to the epic period has been glorified by the poet’s aesthetic approach.  Siddhartha, the royal prince deserts his wife Yashodhara and infant Rahul in search of peace, truth and salvation.  He returns as Buddha, the Great.  Yashodhara belongs to the Kshatriya race, well-known for valor and sacrifice.  Though afflicted, she feels proud of her husband.  “Oh! He has gone out for a noble purpose.  But he could have taken leave of me.  Who am I to prevent him?”
“Siddhi hetu swami gaye,   bade gaurav ki bath
par chori chori gaye, yahi   badi vyaghath”
(For a universal cause he has left, a proud moment in my life, I agree.  But he went stealthily, that only injuries my soul)
Gupta holds Indian womanhood in high esteem.  He is an advocate of their rights and praises them for their tolerance, patience and sacrifice.  They are the ideal homemakers, always ready for compromise and accommodation for the welfare of the family.  A noble woman is willing to erase herself for the sake of a noble pursuit.  Just see the description of Bharatiya woman in the following lines:
“Abala jeevan hai, tumhari   yahi kahani
Aanchal mein doodh aur   aankhon mein paani”
(This is her pathetic story.  She is to take care of the infant; so her aanchal is wet with milk.  At the same time, she is shedding tears of sorrow due to the desertion of her husband).
In any field, there should be scope for changes and progress, but we must bear in mind that continuity is essential.  Literature is no exception; progressivism called ‘pragativadh’ (presenting epic and historical characters in a modern innovative form) is the keynote of Mythili Sharan’s poetry.
Article by : T. P. Vanamamalai
Source: Bhavan's Journal 31 December 2008
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit:


  1. Is the entire poem explanation available?

  2. Mam is there a way to find the translation works of Mythili Sanran Gupta ji. Apparently my grandfather translated Pachavati to Telugu in 1950s. Unforuanatley I cannot find any of his works now. Could you please guide.

  3. Came here to know only about lakshmana and urmila