We are thankful to Mr. Sadani for having brought out this excellent rendering of Jaishankar Prasad’s Kamayani. Kamayani a Hindi classic published in 1937 is an ambitious modern epic based on the story of how Manu, the first man, procreated mankind after the great Deluge had subsided and the world with its varied forms of life emerged out of the chaos. The book is of a symbolic nature and all its characters, Manu, Shradha, Ida etc are but different mental attributes, couched in human shape. It shows man’s endeavor to rise from the basic animal stage to the stage of perfection, through enormous trials and tribulations.
The onward march of the human self from elemental passions to the height of sublimation has been depicted in the poem with consummate skill. The absorbing poetic images, the solemn music and the dignified sweep of rhythm keep the reader spellbound to the last. Though there is an abstract hard-core of philosophy embedded in mythology, it is nowhere apparent, nor it impairs the easy flow of the narrative. Kamayani is an epic in which science, philosophy and ethnology joined hands. That is why this should be looked upon as a precious gem, Indian literature should be proud of.
Mr. Sadani’s version is not a mere rendering. It is a sort of transcreation of the original, barring certain limitation, which no translation can escape in transforming oriental ideas and images into English, having no parallel or synonymous words. His language is simple, lively and colourful, style vigorous and vibrant Music. A comparative study of the book with it’s Hindi original will convince the reader of it’s fidelity and success.
Born in 1890 in the holy city of Banaras, Jaishankar Prasad grew up to be a prodigious poet. He had the first glimmerings of poetry when he was just a child of nine. He composed verses which amazed his teacher and elders. By the time he was seventeen, he had already started contributing his writings to the literary magazines of the day. But, the early passing away of his parents cut short his schooling in class VIII. Thereafrer, he joined his ancestral business for livelihood.
But, the genius in him was ever awake. He studied Hindi, Sanskrit and English at home, with earnest zeal and devotion. He gained deep knowledge of Sanskrit literature, Philosophy, Tantras and Puranas. This gave him a strong base on which he built the mansion of his supreme poetry. So profound are his philosophic and phychological observations that we are astounded by their original charm and universal validity. Prasad has written 29 books covering every field of literature: dramas, novels, short stories, literary essays, lyrics and poetry. Amongst his poetical works, Kamayani stands out as the crowning glory of modern Hindi poetry. Prasad harmonises the seeming dualities on the surface of life in an integral whole of everlasting bliss. Dynamism and lyrical flow, lurking pathos and eddying delights, charm of nature and spiritual revelation-all blend themselves in the sweetest music-like the Moonlight Sonata of Beethoven or melodious chants of Vedic hymns. But, the brilliant career of savant Prasad was thwarted by the tragic sickness that brought about his untimely end. He passed away at the age of 48-like the radiant sun setting mid-zenith-leaving a very rich literary heritage for the posterity.
Bharatiya Vidya Mandir was established in 1948 at Bikaner for research on important aspects of literature, history and culture. The institution has published many books in Hindi and Rajasthani besides the Journal ‘Vaichariki’.
Simplex Concrete Piles (India) Ltd. Although a Construction Company in collaboration with Bharatiya Vidya Mandir is publishing important works of literature and culture in English also for national and international readership. We have already published 4 books of Hindi poetry translated into English verse by eminent translator Sri Jaikishandas Sadani.
“Kamayani and “Ansu” by renowned poet
“Rosary of Hymns” Selected poems of mediaeval saint poet
“Pramlocha” by contemporary poet and scholar
Dr. Ambashankar Nagar.
These books were released in a very impressive function in Kolkata. Outstanding scholars participated in it.
As Hindi and taught in several univerasities of the world. We have the pleasure to publish “Kamayani” in Bilingual Hindi –English edition. This will make the book more comprehensive and make comparative study easier.
Another set of books under print are :
(1) “Rosary of Hymns” selected poems of Surdas in deluxe edition of Bigger size containing about thirty miniature paintings depicting episodes from life of Sri Krishna as depicted in respective verses of Surdas.
(2) “Wisdom of the Upanishads” by srik Jaikishandas Sadani revised and enlarged.
(3) The mega project of publishing Indian culture in 8 volumes is well in progress and will be published as books becomes ready in near future.
We are glad to place Kamayani (Bilingual-Hindi-English) before readership of our country and abroad. We are confident the book will present the philosophic depth and poetic acumen of the great Hindi poet Jaishankar Prasad.
Kamayani literally means ‘the daughter of Kama’. In Indian literature Kama denotes something more than a mere libido-sense. As Vincent Smith has rightly pointed out, it bears a combined meaning of Libido and Eros of the Greek mythology. It is the basic urge of life-the creative urge and instinct; the sense to preserve, protect and expand. In Vedic hymns, it has been praised as an all-pervading consciousness and the root of life. The daughter of Kama is Shraddha, which etymologically means ‘the preserver and the purveyor of Truth.’ Shraddha implies urge, faith and determination to live with Truth as its basic principle. Manu the great sage defines Shraddha as a symbol of determination i.e., ‘Sanklpa.’ Shraddha, the heroine of this great epic, therefore, symbolises the basic guiding principle of man and his life.
Prasad has taken the great myth of Deluge as the source of his literary theme and story. In Indian Mythology Deluge does not stand exclusively for a mere physical and universal inundation but also bears a deep philosophical and metaphysical significance. It marks the end of the urge to live and stands for complete inaction; inertia and annihilation. It is the Thanatos-the God of Death and Destruction overpowering the urge to live and create i.e. the Eros. Kamayani begins from the great Deluge, when Manu, the protector (not creator) of mankind and the lonely survivor of the ‘Sur-Civilisation’, found himself left on the Manoravasarpana-the great Himalayan peak. Desperate and desolate, he had lost the urge to live that is the spirit of Eros. A little later, he finds nature blooming again and therefore, realizes that it is the life, which is everlasting and supreme and not the death. At this moment Shraddha comes and attracts Manu towards a life of action and fulfillment. She discards renunciation and false asceticism. Her message is the message of will to live life of action transforming the ‘I-consciousness’ into the ‘world-consciousness’ for therein lies the complete fulfillment of life and its Summum Bonum. This is what is philosophically called the Eternal Bliss, the Anand. In Indian philosophy it means an all pervading consciousness with equality of thought, mind and action and an endless magnitude of human consciousness with a glorious realization of truth without any material dimension. This is the ‘Bhuma Tattva’. Kamayani, that is Shraddha, therefore, resuscitates Manu’s lost vigour and enthusiasm and puts him back into a life of action and creative attachment.
Great epics always begins in a state of despair and darkness. Milton’s Paradise is first lost to be regained later. Hell precedes Heaven in Divine Comedy. Manu fails to realise the truth and the purpose of Shraddha’s dedication and loses himself in the mire of lust, passion and sensuousness. Pandora’s Box is now open and the Innocent Sin repeated. He deserts his spouse Shraddha and one day finds himself in the land of Ida, the queen of the Saraswat Kingom. At heer instance, he rebuilds her kingdom with a material outlook and prosperity. Class struggle begins. Hatred and distrust again cast their gloom on man. The modern civilization of science and machine is born and causes an irretrievable wound of stress and strain and discontent and despair. Manu tries to molest Ida but faces a great upsurge and mass revolution forcing him to retreat. Shraddha, who saw and realized all this in a dream, comes to Manu and takes him to the Himalayas. Manu now contemplates and realizes his fault and regains the eternal bliss and paradise.
This kaleidoscopic view of the story of Kamayani amply displays that it is not a mere mythology nor a story of events and episodes. Manu is a character symbolizing the ‘mind’ and its life and its life and its struggle. It is the struggle of life for its complete fulfillment-the eternal joy and bliss.
Prasad always regarded Indian Scriptures and Puranas (from which he drew the source of this story) as historical documents in which many interpolations were subsequently wantonly done., History according to him, is not a mere statement and document of political events but is ‘a biography of society, its culture and patterns’. A cogent interpretation of history in his view, is an infalliable source of strength for any race and community. Kamayani presents a phychological interpretation of human history-not racial, not material but the basic conflict of ‘man’ – his littleness and limitedness, follies and faults of his life and the continuous struggle, he is involved in. the base of Kamayani is historical, sociological, anthropological and above all phychological in its structure.
Kamayanai is an allegory. Its characters are symbolic and allegorical.
Shraddha, as state above, is the daughter of Kama and the preserver of truth with an infalliable will and determination to live a conscientious and moral life. It denotes an unshakeable faith in righteous, just and good human conduct. Manu stands for man and his mind, mind in all layers of human consciousness, both individual and collective. Ida, is a symbol of of material wealth and prosperity. It embodies the rational and intellectual approach of the modern mind, shorn off creative, compassionate and balanced erotisation of self and its energy.
This allegory of Kamayani falls in line with the great Indian tradition of metarphorical and allegorical works like Probodh Chandrodaya. Its outstanding merit is that the surface story is neither rendered subordinate nor weaken itself to inane. It maintains to get on very well and runs parallel to the implied or the suggestive story. The reader, therefore, never finds himself in a dry and arid land of philosophical contemplations or intellectual exercises nor is chained with the surface story.
Prasad was a great cultural and philosophical poet. He was a Shaiva and an erudite scholar of Indian literature. He is known as one of the most successful philosophical poets of the modern Romantic poetry of Hindi literature. He is wholly mystic. Kamayani is a mystic epic with a deep philosophical approach and understanding. Its mysticism strengthens man to discover the totality of his life-a life of universal love and brotherhood. That is the ‘Kindgom of God in man.’
Kamayani therefore, is an epic with a practical purpose and point of view combining human ethos and pathos in its poetic creativity. It couples individual with society not merely with a contractual agreement but with a mutual and organic gravitational pull. Kamayani is not a pessimistic document of human failures. It does not agree with the philosophy of Schopenhauer or Nietzsche. It does not confirm the views of Darwin and Freud. In fact, Prasad realized that the modern age with all these views, does not augur well for future. It’s a SPHINX dying of its own riddles and enigma. Man needs a reassurance of his basic human goodness and energy. This ‘moment of history’ must slowly but perceptibly glide into a ‘moment of humanity’ without which man, now at the end of this tether, has no future. Kamayani is practical in its ideal and hopefully reassuring in its contents. It reinterprets human skill and demeanor.
Kamayani is refreshingly new and is traditionally and mythologically old. It is both the story of the ‘first man’ that is Manu and also of the modern man, who is equally symbolized and characteristically displayed in him. The enigma of Manu, his conflict and struggle, his lack of faith and determination, his pseudo-attachment and hedonistic interpretation and the way of life, phychological inhibitions, complexes and perversions are impressingly same. Akin to modern man, he is phychologically abnormal, schizophrenic and nostalgic with a diseased auto-erotic base. Prasad wrote Kamayani when Freud had established his libido-theory and the Pleasure Principle. Manu is Freudian in nature dealing in sensuousness and passion only. To him, Shraddha does not exist as a ‘woman’ in the true sense of the term, but only as a source of sensuous satisfaction.
Kamayani is reckoned as the second best epic after Ramacharit Manas (Tulsidas). Its relevance is unquestionable. It has already won the coveted distinction as an immortal work of great importance, creative skill and poetic excellence. Sri J.K. Sadani has translated it into English and I must felicitate him for not taking liberties with the poet and for not deviating from the original spirit and content. It is said that translation is a well night impossible task and never justifies itself as it never carries with it, the original meaning, import and creative disposition of the writer. Sri Sadani, I should not be chary to say, is an exception. To the best of his ability, he has acclimatized himself to the creative and poetic climate of the original work and has maintained its basic creative urge and skill. I am sure, it will gain its spurs and meet its objective to present the noble perspective of this great epic and through it the phychological story of man caught by an octopus of confusion and chaos, yet trying to free himself to discover the real path of human glory and readiness to become really human. This translation, therefore, is a window that opens upon a great world.
In Aryan Literature the history of Manu the progenitor of mankind stretches from the Vedas to the Puranas and in ancient lores. The story of evolution from the union of Shraddha and Manu, may be taken as allegorical as is done by the Nirukta in interpreting the ancient Vedic history. But the story of Manu as the promulgator of a new era of mankind has been accepted by the Aryans since time immemorial. Therefore, it is proper to look upn Vaivaswat Manu as historical personality. Generally people look upon legends and history as fiction and truth respectively. But at times truth is stranger than fiction. Every tribe of prehistoric men in the early dawn of knowledge had mingled a great deal of emotion in their expression. Their records have been preserved to-day as legends or Puranic stories. In their historic characters much emotional grandeur has been intermingled such that sometimes situations seem to be highly exaggerated. To a rational mind which collects bare facts such events can be explained away as being only metaphors or allegories. Yet it has to be agreed that some truth is definitely linked up with the available facts. With the man of today there is only a chronological history of culture, but from the time when historical recording began, just before that the collective consciousness of by gone days dived in deep indelible furrows over his memory of the colourful past that went before; though it appears very exaggerated and starling today. Probably it is for this very reason that we have to understand the meaning of ancient shrutis on the basis laid down and interpreted by the Nirukta so that we can blend their meaning in a manner suitable for our understanding.
It Shraddha and Manu are taken as metaphors of consciousness and reflection respectively, there is a ‘very laudable and praiseworthy imagination’. It gives us an authentic psychological history of mankind. Today we look upon truth as being facts. yet we are not satisfied by mere chronology of dates and events but are keen on discerning the phychological import of events through an extensive research of history. What after all is their basic significance? Profound experiences of the Soul, Yes. It is this approach alone which gives an insight into the truth of events. Mere events become gross and momentary and fade away into oblivion but the subtler experience or import becomes the abiding truth for ages to follow; from which men of every generation draw inspiration in giving expression to the history of their times.
‘Doomsday Deluge’ is one such event in the history of ancient India, which inspired Manu to promulgate a culture of mankind very different from that of the gods. This is verily nothing but history. The description of this event is recorded in the eighth chapter of the Shatpath Brahmana.
The fickle natue of the gods with their unbridled desire for pleasure and passion sounded the death knell of their culture and closed the final chapter of their epoch. Manu was the founder of this ideology. Manu is the first ‘born-man’ of Indian history. Rama, Krishna and Buddha are amongst his progeny. In the Shatpath Brahmana he is called Shraddhadeva. In the Bhagavata also Shraddha and Manu are considered to be the first parents of the human race. In the Chhandogya Upanishad a metaphorical interpretation has been assigned to Manu and Shraddha. This interpretation is somewhat on the lines of the Nirukta. In the Rig-Veda, Shraddha and Manu are looked upon as Rishis or seers. In the Sukta (aphorism) on Shraddha, Sayana while introducing Shraddha states that Shraddha is the daughter of Kama. For this reason she is also known as Kamaani. Manu is the first guide, and the first to enkindle the fire on the altar for offering sacrifices and is also the hero of several Vedic legends.
In Vedic literature there are several stories rich with references regarding them but they are all scattered and their chronology is very ambiguous. The description of the great deluge starts in the eighth chapter of the first canto of the Shatpath Brahmana in which there is a reference to a boat landing on the northern region of the Himalayas. After the subsiding of the deluge, the place where Manu landed is called-‘Manoravasarpana.’
After the meeting of Shraddha with Manu, in that lonely land, once again there was an endeavour to rehabilitate the deserted region. But by meeting the Asura priests Manu performed the animal sacrifice.
With Yajna the primeval instinct of Manu, inherited from gods, is reawakened; his coming in contact with Ida diverted the course of his life on a path quite distinct from that of Shraddha and in a very different direction. One was the embodiment of Faith and the other the symbol of Intelligence.
Referring to Ida it is said in the Shatpath Brahmana that her birth or revelation was due to Pushti Pak Yajna and when she appeared, Manu enquired of her “Who are you?” Ida replied, “I am your daughter”. Manu again questioned, “How are you my daughter?” she replied, “By your oblations of curd, butter, etc, I have had my birth.”
Manu was highly enamoured of Ida, and was drawn away from Shraddha. In the Rig-Veda there are reference to Ida in several places. She is described as the guide of Prajapati Manu and a true ruler of mankind.
There are many hymns in the Rig-Veda regarding Ida. In these hymns the name of Ida is linked with that of the Divine Sarasvati who represents the origin, growth, flowering and splendor of Indian civilization. In colloquial Sanskrit the word ‘Ida’ is a synonym of earth or intelligence or speech. In the Shatpath Brahmana there is a reference to a heated discussion between Ida or Speech and Manu or Mind in which both strive to assert their supremacy.
In the Rig-Veda, Ida is described as Intelligence which imparts mankind the faculty for acquiring knowledge. In more ancient times probably Ida was linked up with Earth. But in the Riga-Veda 5-5-5 along with Ida and Saraswati there is a clear description of Mahi or earth. From this it is clear that Ida is distinct from Earth. Ida is also called a ‘nerve’ carrying intelligence.
From this it can be surmised that it was the impact of Ida which helped Manu’ intellectual growth in establishing the kingdom. Thereafter when he tried to assert his right over Ida also, he fell a victim to the wrath of the gods. For this crime he had to bear untold misery and privation.
Ida was the sister of the gods, giving consciousness to entire mankind. For this reason there is an Ida Karma in the Yajnas. This erudition of Ida created a rift between Shraddha and Manu. Then with the progressive intelligence searching for unbridled pleasures, the impasse was inevitable. This story is so very ancient that metaphor has wounderfully mingled with history. Therefore, Manu, Shraddha and Ida while maintaining their historical importance may also express the symbolic import. Manu represents the mind with its faculties of the head and heart and these are again symbolized as Faith (Shraddha) and Intelligence (Ida) respectively. On this data is based the story of ‘Kamayani’. In linking up the threads of the story, I have not hesitated to give apt expression to the needed imagination.
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