Dams · Riverine Literature · Rivers and Culture · Rivers in Literature

Riverscapes of a Lonely Poet: Jibanananda Das

Again I shall return to the Dhansiri’s banks, to this Bengal,

Not as a man, perhaps, but as a shalik bird, or a white hawk.

As, perhaps, a crow of dawn in this land of autumn’s new rice harvest,

I’ll float upon the breast of fog one day in the shade of a jackfruit tree.

Or I’ll be the pet duck of some teenaged girl — ankle bells upon her reddened feet —

I’ll spend the whole day floating on duckweed-scented waters.

Once again I’ll come, smitten by Bengal’s rivers, fields, to this

Green and kindly land of Bengal, moistened by the waves of the Jalangi.

 

Perhaps you’ll gaze at buzzards soaring, borne upon sunset breezes,

Perhaps you’ll hear a spotted owl screeching from a shimul tree branch,

Perhaps a child is strewing puffed rice on the grass of some home’s inner courtyard.

Upon the Rupsa river’s murky waters a youth perhaps steers his dinghy with

Its torn white sail—reddish clouds scud by, and through the darkness, swimming

To their nest, you’ll spot white herons. Amidst their crowd is where you’ll find me.

~ Jibananda Das, from Ruposhi Bangla (Bengal the Beautiful) Sonnet 1 Continue reading “Riverscapes of a Lonely Poet: Jibanananda Das”

Dams · Rivers

Kirtinasha to Vidrupa: The Lesser River Goddesses of South Asia

Above: Narmada at Khalghat Photo: Parineeta Dandekar

“Ahalya, you will be an eternal dry river. Your path will be rocky and parched. You will receive water only when you meet the pious Godavari. That will be your only redemption”.

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Ahalya by Raja Ravi Varma Source: Wikimedia Commons

Thus spoke Sage Gautam, pushing his wife Ahalya into a quagmire of dark desperation for ages. Ironically, it was Indra who, driven by lust, impersonated Sage Gautam and met Ahalya. In some versions of the story Gautam curses Ahalya into a stone slab, in some she becomes uncultivable, barren land. Till date, there exists a marriage custom in certain communities where the newly wed girl touches a dry stone by her feet.. it should remind her of her fate if she “strays” like Ahalya. But that is another story.

In the Western Ghats of Maharashtra where the Godavari rises, there is a tiny river called Ahalya meeting Godavari at the Trimbakeshwar Temple. If women and even Goddesses were made to suffer at the hands of patriarchy, how can rivers, the sacred feminine, be far behind?

Ahalya is “redeemed” now by her children. Sewage of Trimbakeshwar temple town flows in her. And she is covered under concrete. Ahilya Teerth Sangam is a holy place: it is unbearably filthy. Continue reading “Kirtinasha to Vidrupa: The Lesser River Goddesses of South Asia”