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Ram Temple in light of two poems “Deeno Daan,” and “Shabvahini Ganga”

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Ram Temple is the talk of India right now and whose inauguration on January 22, 2024, is carried out in much detail in the Indian media. However, two poems “Deeno Daan,” by Rabindranath Tagore written 123 years ago, and “Shabvahini Ganga” by Parul Kakkar reflect on the contemporary that needs attention to review the narrative that’s built to eulogies Ram Temple.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem “Deeno Daan” that was about a rich temple whose priest says it has no god. This poem is a dialogue between the King and the Priest where the King is exuberant about the grandeur of the temple he has built to house the god. The priest argues that there is no god in the temple and with all the money and the pomp and glory, the temple is hollow. According to the priest, the god does not reside in the palatial houses but in the poverty-stricken puny miser, who could not provide shelter in their own homes.

Parul Khakkar’s poem “Shabvahini Ganga” was written in the backdrop of COVID-19 vagaries, where teeming millions were running helter and skelter for a cylinder of oxygen and the holy River Ganga became full of corpses.

 The essence of both poems is to separate religion from politics and the domain of the two cannot be entwined. The effort of both the poets remember their god, in moments of crisis, and have no money to afford the expenses of the temple rituals. Both the poems and sad commentary on contemporary India, though written in different timelines have identical messages wrongs cannot be made right by the King Monarch or the Viswa-Guru.

Here are some of the excerpts from the original Bengali poem “Deeno Daan” by Rabindranath Tagore translated in English by Sandipto Das Gupta.

There is no god in that temple”, said the Saint.

The King was enraged; “No God? Oh Saint, aren’t you speaking like an atheist? On the throne studded with priceless gems, beams the golden idol, and yet, you proclaim that’s empty?”

 “It’s not empty; it’s rather full of the Royal pride. You have bestowed yourself, oh King, not the God of this world”, Remarked the saint.

 The King frowned, “2 million golden coins were showered on that grand structure that kisses the sky, I offered it to the Gods after performing all the necessary rituals, And you dare claim that in such a grand temple, There is no presence of God”?

 The Saint calmly replied, “In the very year in which, twenty million of your subjects were struck by a terrible drought; The pauperized masses without any food or shelter,  came begging at your door crying for help, only to be turned away, they were forced to take refuge in forests, caves, camping under roadside foliage’s, derelict old temples; and in that very year when you spent 2 million gold to build that grand temple of yours, that was the day when God pronounced:

 “My eternal home is lit by everlasting lamps, Amid an azure sky, In my home the foundations are built with the values: Of Truth, Peace, Compassion, and Love. The poverty-stricken puny miser, Who could not provide shelter to his homeless subjects, Does he fancy giving me a home?”

 That is the day God left that Temple of yours and joined the poor beside the roads, under the trees. Like the emptiness of the froth in the vast seas, your mundane temple is as hollow. It’s just a bubble of wealth and pride.’

 The enraged King howled, “Oh you sham cretin of a person, leave my kingdom this instant’. The Saint replied calmly, “The very place where you have exiled the Divine, Kindly banish the devout too”.

 –Rabindranath Tagore, 20th of Shravan, 1307 (as per Bengali Calendar)

Parul Khakkar’s poem titled Shabvahini Ganga describes Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a ‘naked king’ ruling a ‘Ram Rajya’ (kingdom of gods) where the sacred Ganga serves as a ‘hearse’ for corpses.

The 14-line poem was the voice of all Indians who were saddened by the tragedies wrought by the pandemic and angered by the government’s aloofness and mismanagement of the situation.

The poet describes a regime where the king’s aloofness to the citizens of his country has been exposed and there is helplessness, poverty, and mismanagement all around. The poem hits out not only at the government but also at the mainstream media, the opposition political parties, and others as they choose to remain silent and spineless under the reign of the ‘naked king’.

Here are excerpts of Parul Khakkar’s poem translated from Gujarati into English by Rita and Abhijit Kothari:

The corpses spoke in one voice: “All is well, sab kuchh changa-changa”

Lord, in your ideal realm the hearse is now the Ganga

Lord, your crematoriums are too few; fewer the wood for pyres

Lord, our pall-bearers are too few, fewer yet the mourners

Lord, in every home Yama performs the dance of macabre

Lord, in your ideal realm the hearse is now the Ganga

Lord, your smoke-belching chimneys now seek respite

Lord, our bangles are shattered, shattered are our hearts

The fiddle plays while the towns are ablaze, “Wah, Billa-Ranga”

Lord, in your ideal realm the hearse is now the Ganga

Lord, your clothes are divine, divine is your radiance

Lord, the town entirely sees you in your true form

If there be a real man here, come forward and say

“The emperor has no clothes”

Lord, in your ideal realm the hearse is now the Ganga.

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