“O You gullible Lord!
I knew from the beginning
that You would be cheated
in the sharing of the treasures
from the ocean's churning1.
“Indra took Uchhaishravas
the peerless horse
and the marvelous elephant Airavat!
Krishna took Laxmi,
and the snow-white conch shell,
and released the moon
of ambrosial light!
They all drank up the nectar,
and cheated You of it – ”
“You forget, You forget –
how trivial is the ocean's nectar
and how lucky the One
whose good fortune
is the nectar of Your lips!”
“Oh! Stop it, I know
You have learnt to deceive
All the same, tell Me
why did you drink up the poison?”
“It so transpired, Beloved,
that at the time of the churning
I saw sea's daughter2
embrace Krishna's body.
So arresting was
her fair arm around his dark neck
that I longed to see
that hue on My neck –
just put Your arm here.
Gleams it not
like lightning in a cloudbank?”
Then everywhere in the cosmos
infinite, deep love surged
and that embrace rendered the poison
providential for the universe!
1 Lord Vishnu (called Krishna in this poem, an incarnation of Vishnu) organized the churning of the sea by the suras (gods) and the asuras (their cousins) to get at the elixir that could rejuvenate the suras, his favourites. In the process various valuables emerged from the ocean, including the nectar of immortality, but also the universe-destroying poison that Shiva, the Great God drank up to save the cosmos.
2 Laxmi, like Aphrodite/Venus, emerged from the sea. She was taken as spouse by Vishnu
'અરે ભોળા સ્વામી ! પ્રથમથી જ હું જાણતી હતી,
ઠગાવાના છો જી જલધિમથને વ્હેંચણી મહીં.
જુઓ ઇન્દ્રે લીધો તુરગમણિ ઉચ્ચૈ: શ્રવસ, ને
વળી લીધો ઐરાવત જગતના કૌતુક સમો;
લીધી કૃષ્ણે લક્ષ્મી, હિમ સમ લીધો શંખ ધવલ,
અને છૂટો મૂક્યો શશિયર સુધાનાં કિરણનો.
બધાએ ભેગા થૈ અમૃત તમને છેતરી પીધું
અને- 'ભૂલે ! ભૂલે અમૃત, ઉદધિનું વસત શી ?
રહી જેને ભાગ્યે અનુપમ સુધા આ અધરની !'
'રહો જોયા એ તો, જગ મહીં બધે છેતરાઈને
શીખ્યા છો આવીને ઘરની ધરૂણી એક ઠગતાં.
બીજું તો જાણે કે ઠીક જ. વિષ પીધું ક્યમ કહો ?'
'બન્યું એ તો એવું, કની સખી ! તહીં મંથન સમે,
દીઠી મેં આલિંગી જલનિધિસુતા કૃષ્ણતનુને,
અને કાળા કંઠે સુભગ કર એવો ભજી રહ્યો,
મને મારા કંઠે મન થયું બસ્ એ રંગ ધરવા,-
મૂકી જો, આ બાહુ ઘન મહીં ન વિદ્યુત્ સમ દીસે ?'
તહીં વિશ્વે આખે પ્રણયઘન નિ:સીમ ઊલટ્યો;
અને એ આશ્લેષે વિષ જગતનું સાર્થક બન્યું !
The churning of the ocean in search of the nectar of immortality is one of the great myths of Hinduism. It consolidated the reputations of two major gods, Shiva and Vishnu, for they did things that no other god or demon could. Vishnu masterminded a joint venture of the gods and their cousins, the demons, and got the gods, his favourites, almost the entire nectar contained in the ‘kumbh’ or pot that rose from the sea. But the churning yielded not just elixir; it also threw up (as it usually does) a world-destroying poison that no one but Shiva could consume. Even today, the event is celebrated on a massive scale at the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna rivers at Prayag, in a festival called ‘Kumbh Mela’. Millions gather at this festival held every twelve years in what has been dubbed the greatest show on earth.
‘Shesh’ (Ramnarayan Pathak), B.A. L.L.B. (1887-1955) was born in Ganol in Dholka taluka of Saurashtra. His higher education was in Bhavnagar and Mumbai. He practiced law in Ahmedabad, but when he was diagnosed as having TB, he left practice and settled in Sadra. Later he taught in an English medium school. Still later, in the midst of the Gandhiji-led struggle for freedom, he left the school and joined Gujarat Vidyapeeth, a university founded by Gandhiji, where he taught logic, epistemology, and linguistics. He edited ‘Prasthan’ and played a notable role in moulding the sensibilities of the new crop of writers. Later he left the Vidyapeeth and made his living by giving tuitions. During these years he participated in the freedom struggle and was jailed. In 1935 he joined S.N.D.T. Women’s University in Mumbai and served there until 1952. Thereafter he taught in various colleges in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. He served as advisor to All India Radio owned by the Government of India. He married twice, and his second marriage was with Hiraben Pathak, also a poet and literary critic. The couple was childless. He was the President of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad in 1946. ‘Shesh’ was profoundly influenced by Gandhian thought but retained his originality and literary exuberance. He was a poet, essayist, playwright, short story writer, humourist, researcher, and literary critic (famed for his work Brihad Pingal). He authored a large number of volumes of literary criticism. He published a couple of volumes of short stories, a couple of volumes of essays, and a volume of his plays was published posthumously. He co-translated several European short stories. He published one volume of poetry, while another was published posthumously. He received an award from the Delhi Sahitya Akademi and also the Narmad Gold Medal.