Krishna Dulal Barua
The age of Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev (1449 – 1569) and Mahapurush Madhabdev (1489 – 1596) was an age when ‘Assam blossomed like a lotus of thousand petals’ (as remarked by Prof. Vasudev Sharan Agarwal). The lyrics of the unique songs called Borgeet composed by Sankardev and Madhabdev brim with a rare resplendence in their original Assamese language. They are, in essence, truly the ‘gems’ of Assamese poetry.
The pre-eminent scholar, Dr Banikanta Kakati termed the Borgeets as ‘Noble Numbers’ while Kaliram Medhi, the distinguished litterateur, called them ‘Songs Celestial’. The devotional Borgeets led to the formation of a new school of Indian Classical Music in Assam bearing a distinctive identity of its own. The lyrics of the Borgeets were composed in the Brajawali form of the Assamese language and their contents are primarily a glorification of Lord Krishna. Madhabdev, the chief apostle of Sankardev, too, contributed substantially in the development of the society and culture, language and literature of Assam maintaining an exemplary inextricable bond with his mentor in every field of activity. He successfully retained the characteristics of the Borgeet tradition in his individual efforts too.
Also read: Ecocentrism in Sankardev
The distinguished musicologist and exponent of Borgeet, Bapchandra Mahanta has recorded a total of 192 Borgeets in his invaluable collection, Prabandhagaanar Paramparat Borgeet with elaborate notes, meanings and a comprehensive introduction tracing the tradition of Borgeets from Prabandhagaan. Thirty-five of these Borgeets were composed by Sankardev and the remaining one hundred and fifty-seven by Madhabdev. The collection includes four unpublished Borgeets of Madhabdev recovered from the Sachipat (aquilariaagollocha or eaglewood tree) texts of Thukubil Sattra. The following couple of Borgeets are a humble attempt on my part to render them in English:
At Thy feet by Sankardev Raga : Kedar Refrain : I pray for my life, O' Lord Prostrate at thy feet Save me from being rooted out By the venom of earthly life Verse : Fleeting is company, wealth and youth Wife, son all are in vain Everything in life is so transient As true and worthy, what do I embrace As drops of water on lotus leaves Not for a moment is the mind still No fear have I for fleeting joys, O' Lord Till I behold Thy supreme feet Sankara says, O' Hrishikesh Tide me over this ocean of woes Lord of wisdom, guide me, instil the urge Along the path of supreme bliss ................... Original: Pawe pori hari
Quit your slumber, Lord by Madhabdev Raga : Shyam Quit your slumber Kamalapati, wake up, it's dawn Rise Govinda, let me behold your moonlike face The eastern horizon is softly glowing alive Sunlight emerges piercing the fading darkness The lotus blooms with bees hovering around The curd-churning women of Braja sing your paeans Dama and Sudama keep calling you aloud Look there, even Balarama has woken up and arrived Nanda has gone to the pen, the drovers for the tending Surabhi needs the grazing-ground, wake up Gopal Get ready with cream and butter, the cane and the flute The calf has to be untethered, the cow moos Madhava exclaims, "What devotion has bestowed you, Mother With the Lord of the Three Worlds as your protector!" .................. Original: Tejore Kamalapati (Incidentally the Borgeet resembles a sonnet)
Krishna Dulal Barua is a prominent translator and writer based in Nagaon, Assam. He received the Katha Award for translation in 2005.
One thought on “Gems of Assamese Poetry”
Great job translating Bargit into English. The world will understand the value of Assamese poetry and music.