Beyond The Beaten Track: Offbeat Poems From Gujarat (Heritage Collection)

Crazy Capital (Dalpatram)

There were once a crazy king and his crazy capital
the price was the same there for a seer1 of sweet and vegetable.
Everything, good or bad, was priced the same
nothing was sold with any discrimination.

Wandered there a mentor and his pupil
into the town for alms went the disciple.
He got sukhadi2 at a shop in exchange for flour
crowed how he’d profited on his return to the mentor.

Not even a night we should spend here, the mentor declared,
where a single price for every article sold is charged.
Justice for the thief would be the same as for the upright
punishment dispensed here would never fit the crime.

We mustn’t stay with these people even for a day
let us depart quickly, disciple, and go to another place.
Great is the opportunity here for victuals, the pupil said
I will not give it up and go with you to another place.

The mentor advised and argued a great deal,
that this was not a place suitable at all.
But when the disciple refused adamantly to listen,
the mentor then did depart and from the town hastened.

Stayed on in the town for long the disciple
and ate and drank merrily to his fill.
Now let me tell you befell him what misfortune
This I am telling for the benefit of every such person.

Robbers went for burglary to a merchant’s house
but the house’s walls collapsed and buried the four fellows.

Next morning the thieves’ mother lodged a complaint.
Hearing the hag’s plea, hanging was ordered for the merchant.

What sort of a house you built that so many got killed?
Digging into the wall at night four thieves got buried!

The merchant pleaded it was all the mason’s fault.
Truly he was not to be blamed at all.

The mason was condemned and thus escaped the merchant;
but the mason said the fault lay with the careless artisan!

The artisan claimed that water poured was much in excess;
the water pourer was to blame - the fault was not his.

If you go to the gallows, to the water pourer the king said,
such crimes in this town would never be committed.

Distracted I was by a mullah3 on the street loitering,
thus the excess water got poured, forgive me O king.

So the mullah was tried and got sentenced to death
and he was seized and to the gallows was brought.

But the gallows’s diameter was large and the mullah too thin;
and this was reported by an attendant to the king.

The king shouted why bother me now and then with questions!
Get hold of a fat fellow and execute him at once.

Officers searched here and there and found the gluttonous mendicant;
having eaten so much for so long he had become very corpulent.

The disciple begged for a reprieve and went repentant to his teacher.
Saved his pupil with a marvelous ploy on return did the mentor.

The mentor approached the king and whispered in his ear:
if anyone ascends the gallows now, to heaven he will go this hour!

The disciple said he should be hanged, the guru shouted, “No, I”;
but to get the full benefit it would be he, insisted the king!

The mentor and disciple were escorted far from the place,
and the king ascended to the gallows, suffering much pain.

Where the king is benighted, justice will follow suit –
how can we hope for the reform of such a crazy state?

1 About a kilo.

2 A sweetmeat made of flour, jaggery, and ghee.

3 Muslim teacher or priest.

અંધેરી નગરી (દલપતરામ)

પુરી એક અંધેરી ને ગંડુ રાજા, ટકે શેર ભાજી ટકે શેર ખાજા;
બધી ચીજ વેચાય ત્યાં ભાવ એકે, કદી સારી બૂરી ન વેચે વિવેકે.

ત્યાં જઈ ચડ્યા બે ગુરુ એક ચેલો, ગયો ગામમાં માગવા શિષ્ય પેલો;
લીધી સુખડી હાટથી આપી આટો, ગુરુ પાસ જઈને કહે ખૂબ ખાટ્યો

ગુરુજી કહે રાત રહેવું ન આંહીં, સૌ એક ભાવે ખપે ચીજ જ્યાંહીં;
હશે ચોર ને શાહનો ન્યાય એકે, નહિ હોય શિક્ષા ગુનાની વિવેકે.

ન એ વસ્તીમાં એકવાસો વસી જે, ચલો સદ્ય, ચેલા, જવું ગામ બીજે;
કહે શિષ્ય ખાવાપીવા ખૂબ આંહીં, તજી તેહ હું તો ન આવીશ ક્યાંહીં.

ગુરુએ બહુ બોધ દીધો જ ખાસો, નહિ યોગ્ય અહીં રહે રાતવાસો;
ન માની કશી વાત તે શિષ્યે જ્યારે, ગુરુજી તજીને ગયા ગામ ત્યારે.

રહ્યા શિષ્યજી તો તહીં દિન ઝાઝા, બહુ ખાઈ પીને થયા ખૂબ તાજા;
પછીથી થયા તેહના હાલ કેવા, કહું છું હવે હું સુણો સર્વ તેવા.


તસ્કર ખાતર પાડવા, ગયા વણિકને દ્વાર;
તહાં ભીત તૂટી પડી, ચોર દબાયા ચાર.

માત પ્રભાતે ચોરની, ગઈ કરવા ફરિયાદ;
શૂળી ઠરાવી શેઠને, ડોશીની સુણી દાદ.

એવું ઘર કેવું ચણ્યું, ખૂન થયાં તે ઠાર;
રાતે ખાતર ખોદતાં, ચોર દબાયા ચાર.

વણિક કહે કડિયા તણો એમાં વાંક અપાર;
ખરેખરી એમાં નથી, મારી ખોડ લગાર.

કડિયાને શૂળી ઠરી, વણિક બચ્યો તે વાર;
ચૂક ગારો કરનારની, કડિયે કરી ઉચાર.

ગારો કરનારો કહે, પાણી થયું વિશેષ;
એ તો ચૂક પખાલીની, મારી ચૂક ન લેશ.

પુરપતિ કહે પખાલીને, જો તું શૂળીએ જાય;
આજ પછી આ ગામમાં એવા ગુના ન થાય.

મુલ્લાં નીસર્યો મારગે મેં જોયું તે દિશ;
પાણી અધિક તેથી પડ્યું, રાજા છાંડો રીશ.

મુલ્લાજીને મારવા, કરી એવો નિરધાર;
શૂળી પાસે લઈ ગયા, મુલ્લાને તે વાર.

ફલ જાડું શૂળી તણું, મુલ્લાં પાતળે અંગ;
એવી હકીકત ચાકરે, જઈ કહી ભૂપ પ્રસંગ.

ભૂપ કહે શું હરઘડી, પૂછો આવી કોઈ;
શોધી ચડાવો શૂળીએ, જાડા નરને જોઈ.

જોતાં જોતાં એ જડ્યો, જોગી જાડે અંગ;
બહુ દિન ખાઈને બન્યો રાતેમાતે રંગ.

શિષ્ય મુદત માગી ગયો, ગુરુ પાસે પસ્તાય;
ગુરુએ આવી ઉગારીઓ અદ્ ભુત કરી ઉપાય.

જોગી શૂળી પાસ જઈ, કહે ભૂપ સુણ કાન;
આ અવસર શૂળીએ ચડે, વેગે મળે વિમાન.

ચેલો બોલ્યો હું ચડું, એ ગુરુ કહે હું આપ;
અધિપતિ કહે ચડીએ પળે, પૂરણ મળે પ્રતાપ.

ગુરુ-ચેલાને ગામથી પહોંચાડ્યા ગાઉ પાંચ;
રાજા શૂળી ઉપર રહ્યો, અંગે વેઠી આંચ.

જહાં ભણેલ ન ભૂપતિ, નીપજે એવો ન્યાય;
દેશસુધારાની તહાં, આશા શી રખાય?

Category in Beyond The Beaten Track

Authority and Power


I studied this poem at school. At that time the concern was its length, for we had to memorize poems in those days! When I read it again, I was struck not only by its delightful narrative, but also by its contemporary relevance. Is our governance today any less crazy than the functioning of the princely states in Dalpatram’s 19th century days?

About The Author

Dalpatram (Dalpatram Dahyabhai Travadi) (1820-1898) was born in Wadhwan town of Surendranagar district of North Gujarat. Dalpatram had a rudimentary education in the village school. He tried to study the Vedas (ancient Indian scriptures) from his father but gave up the attempt due to the father’s hot temper. At 14 he embraced the Swaminarayan sect. He learnt traditional poetics and writing in Vraja Bhasha from Dayanand Swami. He went to Ahmedabad for the advanced study of Sanskrit. In Ahmedabad he came into contact with an English judge, Alexander Forbes, and became Forbes’ teacher of Gujarati language and literature. He roamed with Forbes all over Gujarat to collect literary materials, and assisted Forbes in his educational and awareness initiatives. Later Dalpatram joined Gujarat Vernacular Society. He also edited a periodical called ‘Buddhiprakash’. From childhood Dalpatram was addicted to rhyme. His early attempts were at writing stories in verse form. Dalpatram was a prolific writer of poems, essays, and plays. Several of his poems are still recited for their grace and wit. He was called ‘chatur kavi’ (clever poet) because of his penchant for writing poems with a clever twist. He is still remembered for his elegy at the passing away of his friend and benefactor Forbes. He has been hailed as a stimulator of modernity in Gujarati poetry.