The rhapsody of reading Megh-dut in Manipuri by Kh Gourakishore
- Part 2 -

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

  Young Kalidas chopping a branch (Artist's imagery)
Young Kalidas chopping a branch (Artist's imagery)

How can a cloud so moving, mixed and got of water vapour, fire and wind be used by Yakhsa appropriately as messenger ? But he in eagerness and grief confused mistakes as sentient a thing that's not

Like most translators, Gourakishore had the right to abandon literalness and focus on lyricism. Compare his well-chosen Manipuri translations, first with a dull English translation, in verse (1), and spirited translations in the rest.

Verse (1)

Thoudang thouoide haibagee cheirakta chahi kumja ama mashanou kainana
mashagee Shakti marai chaithana, pamel namerugee inglaba urumda
mabema seetagee seba fangkhraba puinya chellaba laijaga eroinana.
Ramgiree kouba cheengee ashramda leirammee kanagumba yaksh ama.

And its lifeless English translation:
A year from amorousness: it passes slowly.
So thought a yaksha by his master spent,
For scanting duty, to the Ramagiry:
To mope in penance groves as banishment
By rivers Sita's bathing there made holy.

Other felicitous English translations:

Verse (4)

Engen thadi tharakhai kainabagai meichak meihumtha,
Mashanou fibuk kaidanaba leichinda paojenge khalladuna.
Cheengee malika anoubi leirangna pujagee pochang shemjaraduna,
Harao ethak epom ehouna, okchare leichinbu pukning haraona.

The rains now at hand, seeking to sustain the life of his beloved,
He thought to induce that cloud to carry her news of his welfare;
With fresh kutaja blooms he tendered it the guest-offering
And with loving heart spoke affectionate words of welcome.

(Kutaja are white flowers of the Sanskrit Kutaja tree, used for Ayurvedic medicine)

Verse (7)

Achakpagee ingnafam oiriba leichin, kubergee shaptagee kainaraba eigee
ipao puduna nungshikada youru, chatpiyu yaksaningthou kubergee konungda;
mapan leikonda dhyan touriba mahadevgee kokkee chandramouleena
dolal pumbabu irang langhanna, - alka konung uba fangani

Thou art a shelter for the burning, the distressed; so, cloud, to my dear one
Bear a message from me, lonely by kubera's displeasure.
Go to Alka, home of the yaksha-lords; its palaces gleam
With moonlight from the head of Siva, who dwells in an outlying park.

Verse (10):

Liree liree humba malangbana nangbu tapna tapna thouri.
Nashanou nongin shakhenbishu nungshina sheishakli oi-oinana,
Ashaba atiyagee ningthiba makoida haru hunbagee nungaiba ningshingna,
Pareng pareng oina nganu thanggongshingna napukning huningngai dreeshya oigani.

As a favouring breeze drives thee ever slowly forward,
And thy companion the chataka warbles sweetly here on the left,
Surely the hen-cranes, for the intimacy that can make them fertile,
Will attend, forming a garland in the air; in thee their eyes rejoice.

[Chataka birds are pied crested cuckoos that have flown all the way from Africa ahead of the Monsoon, and are recognised as an omen for the rain to come.]

Verse (64):

Sanagee thambalna neengthina leitengba manos sarobargee laija thaktuna
Arabatkee chenglouda wanglen mikupta maikhum oibagee nungaiba peeduna
Lengleng chatpa kalpadrum unashingbu enafi fijangum ethak houhanna,
Makhalmakha ayamba shannaba maongna, kailas cheengdonda nungaina koiyu.

As thou sippest the water of Manasa lake where grows the golden lotus,
Creating at will the fleeting pleasure of a head-cloth for Airavana,
Shaking the garments on the wishing tree with water-dappled breezes,
Enjoy that mountain, varying the gleam of its crystals with shadow.

Verse (114) - the first 2 lines:

Tangja-shajyadagee bishnuna lengkhatpa mera thagee shap loibafao,
Watliba loidam marifaobasidi mit uishinduna khanglammu chanabi.

'When the rainy season is over, Vishnu has risen from his serpent couch, my curse shall end;
Close thine eyes and endure the four months that yet remain.'

Meghadut is a short poem known as Kavya (strophic poetry ie a poem containing stanzas of varying line lengths). It is a love poem that he has made into a narrative by stringing the stanzas. It has 111 stanzas and is written in unrhymed stanzas of four lines in the slow-moving Sanskrit mandakranta metre, which means each quarter of a verse (pada) contains seventeen syllables, a form longer and more elaborate than other metres like the amustubh, which has only eight syllables per quarter of a verse, or upendravarja, which has in each of the four lines eleven syllables. This enabled Kalidas to express his feelings and the mental state of both lovers, longing desperately for each other during their separation (viraha).

Meghadut was hardly known outside India until the 1960s, though the poem was first translated into English by Horace Hayman Wilson in 1813. The narrative used here, is in the context of the monsoon, which is a very exciting time for Indians and of viraha (the anguish of separation). The forlorn and despondent Yaksha in his anguish, mistook a cloud as a being that was not.

Megha-dut (Cloud messenger) is Kalidas' most famous lyrical poem. It's separated into two parts: (1) Purvamegha (Previous cloud) and (2) Uttaramegha (Consequent cloud). The first section consists of Kalidas' religio-geocultural mind, beginning with a description of the route from Ramagiri to Dasapura (verse 1-47). It is considered to be based partly on Ramayana, tracing the routes Ram and Sita took on their return from Lanka to Ayodhya.

The second section shows his mythological mind, as the cloud reaches the region of Brahmavatra and proceeds towards the Himalayan range, up to the mythical city of Alaka (verse 48-63). From verse 48, when Brahmvarta or Kuruksetra is described, Kalidas bases the rest of the itinerary mostly the route from Kuruksetra to Naimsa (modern Nimasar) in the epic of Mahabharata, for describing the route to Alaka.

The story is about a Yaksha (a divine attendant of Kuber, the god of wealth in Alaka. This Yaksha was so occupied with his newly-wed wife that he was grossly negligent of his duties to Kuber. Whereupon, Kuber exiled him from Alaka, city of the gods in the Himalayas for a period of one year.

He was thereby separated from his wife and began to live on the 'lofty hill of Rama' (?Ramagiri). There he remained dejected with the pang of separation from his beloved wife, thinking about her all day and all night.

One day, in the beginning of the monsoon, when a cloud perched on the peak, he asked it to deliver a message to his love in the Himalayan city of Alaka. According to many European scholars, Kalidas' description of the cloud's routes may apply to Ramagiri on which Rama resided during his exile. They identify Ramagiri with Ramtek, located, 45km north of the city of Nagpur. Udaygiri is one of the places mentioned in the Meghadut and it is an important site for celebrating varsam asavrata, or rainy season celebration.

Towards the end of the eight month of banishment, one day the Monsoon rain came splashing on Earth. The Yaksha saw a rain cloud pass by. He requested it to carry a message to his wife, who was then languishing in the city of Alaka on Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, pleading: "first hear from me the path suited to your journey as I describe it to you, and then, O cloud, you will hear my message, aggregable to your ear."

The cloud then received characteristic signs to identify the Yaksas' dwelling and meet the lonely, weeping and miserable spouse, who was still counting the days to his return. The Yaksha in his eagerness for the cloud to reach his wife, began to instruct the route it should take while travelling northwards. It's loving and pictorial description of the journey, instructing the cloud to visit places with political importance and sacred Tirthas (sacred spots, particularly associated with water). Kuruksetra seems to be starting point of Kalidas' imaginary journey.

This designated itinerary of the cloud from Ramagiri located in central India (Madhya Bharat) to the mythical city of Alaka in the Himalayan range is the essence and beauty of Meghadut. As many of the story of Kalidas and Meghadut remain unexplained, further research can only answer those questions. Sri Gourakishore's "Megha-Dut" will remain an inspiring source for those who are doing PhD thesis on it in Manipuri. His translation contains interesting choices of words, and word order ie sentences making sense. It has rhythm on top.


 Sri Gourakishore Singh
Sri Gourakishore Singh

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com and Website:
This article was webcasted on March 08, 2019.

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