ONE of the greatest classics of modern Hindi poetry, Kamayani deals with a very bold mythohistorical theme of human annals. The story of Mann and Shraddha, the progenitors of the human race after the Great Deluge, is found in our ancient religious scriptures from the Vedas to the Puranas. The Satapatha Brahmana copiously refers to Manu as the First Man and Shraddha-deva. There are references to both Shraddha and Manu in Chhandogya Upanisada. In his commentary of the Vedas, Sayanacarya speaks of Shraddha as `kama-gotraja', 'born in kama's clan'. The story of the Deluge and Manu's boat is mentioned in great detail in these scriptures. The Vedas are replete with references to Ida also. Thus, history is intertwined with hymns, mantras and dialogues in our Holy Scriptures.
Undoubtedly, Vaivaswata Manu is a historical person and to dub him as a mythical or fictional character would be a travesty of truth. As the father of the Aryan race in the current ‘manvantara' or era, Manu has become an inalienable part of Hindu psyche.
Historicity apart, even if the story is taken as an allegory the three main characters,—Manu, Shraddha and Ida represent Mind, Faith and Wisdom respectively. Whereas the meeting of Manu and Shraddha leads to the regeneration of the almost extinct godly race, the meeting of Manu with Ida helps the former in getting educated about the intricacies of law, constitutionalism and rulership. However, both Manu and Ida are compart-mentalized in their approach to life. It is Shraddha's catholicity, which provides a synthesis in the midst of chaos of divisive attitudes. The three worlds of Desire, Action and Knowledge perish in their individual entity to become merged and synthesized in the Eternal Bliss of the 'Siva tattva', which leads to Ananda or Bliss.
Born on 17 November 1923, Prof. Parmananda Sharma has a Master's Degree in English from Panjab University Lahore (now in Pakistan). After teaching English language and literature for about four decades in various colleges of Panjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, he finally retired in 1982 as Principal, Govt. College, Dharmshala.
Prof. Sharma has more than two dozen publications to his credit, including Hindi Kavyas, English poetry and prose and translation works of famous Buddhist Sanskrit classics of 9th and 10th centuries like Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara and Kamalsila's Bhavanakrama into English. His books have forewords from such eminences as Jawahar Lal Nehru and 1111 The Dalai Lama.
Nominated as `Rajkavi by the Panjab Govt. in 1964, Prof. Sharma was also member of the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi from 1977-82. He was nominated for life to the Governing Body of the prestigious Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in 1987 by HH the Dalai Lama.
Prof. Sharma is now permanently settled at Dharmshala, Himachal Pradesh.
Manu, according to Prasad, represents `Mana' or mind whose function is `manana' or contemplation. In the opening Canto, Manu's contemplation of a bygone era, coupled with the poet's graphic description of the great flood of gloom and doom and of the submergence into it of the entire fabric of the luxuriant epoch of god's revelry, is simply superb in terms of its poetic excellence and sweep of imagination. As the lone survivor of the race of gods, Manu tries to analyse the causes of his present predicament and quite believes that it was gods' on profligacy of a condemnable life-style that was responsible for the terrible denouncement. Underneath this analysis and contemplation lies a deep sense of loss and defeat, anxiety and remorse. The fury of nature relents, the floods recede and the battered face of earth again looks up to greet a new sunrise. Manu's hopes revive as the Gandhar girl appears on the scene.
Shraddha's emergence is both dramatic and reassuring for Manu. As a kindred soul in a world of loneliness and anxiety and of loss and grief, he contemplates her as an object of absolute refuge, a god-sent prop for his wilted clan. That she too has suffered likewise adds to a sense of mutual kinship and belongingness. Self-confident, rank and natural in stance, Shraddha speaks to Manu with fervour about a new order for their ruined world. She becomes his hope for the future. Manu's sadness saddens her and she tries to lift up his spirits and inspire him towards constructive, positive emotions instead of him continuing to mull over the past. She seems to understand Manu's mindset and its problem, his sentimental rumblings into an irreversible past. She speaks of change as an inexorable law of nature for renewal and revival, She dilates on its importance for continuity with transformation and resurrection. Her words seem to echo and reflect the message of contemporary nationalistic and culturistic upsurge of Prasad's times when India's struggle for freedom was at its peak. The will to win and not to yield, to march ahead with confidence and not to wilt under adversity—such was the inspiring call in inspiring words. For Prasad, Shraddha is an epitome of what her name means—faith. And, she does try to re-kindle in Manu the faith of a rejuvenated future, a vision of change spelling renewal and faith in a new order of equality and justice. Her parting words to Manav, her son, also amply illustrate this aspect of her. character. Imbued with such ideal traits, Shraddha is still a simple woman, a traditional Indian householder who sums up Tennyson's Victorian ideal of a `woman for the home' and 'for the needle she' . Spinning yarn on the spindle and being busy with other domestic chores are instances of her being, first and last, a simple domestic lady. In fact, it is this latter brand of Shraddha that disgusts Manu who totally disapproves of her theories of non-injury and non-killing. An adventurist and a philanderer, he deserts her much to her discomfiture. The desertion of Shraddha by Manu is a standing slur on Manu's conduct and in direct contrast with Shraddha's continued devotion to him and her subsequent search for him. Of course, at a much later stage in the poem, he does exhibit some sort of a repentance for his apostasy towards and maltreatment of Shraddha who, in turn, seems to have already forgiven him for it.
Manu appears to be totally impervious to the finer print of love. He is a renegade who betrays and deserts Shraddha when she needs him most as a companion and as a parent of her child-to-be. No qualms of conscience hinder his crude and cruel act of infidelity to his mate. His synonym for love seems to be `vasana' or lust alone. His atrocious behaviour towards Ida is equally condemnable. The kingdom so assiduously raised from its ruins with the wise assistance of Ida was reduced to shambles once again by Manu's act of gross indiscretion. His hands are gory with the blood of his own subjects who, in fact, were entitled to protection at his hands. His own obduracy and ego lead him to his downfall. Imagine what would have been his fate if Shraddha had not re-entered his life to lead him out of the morass of his own conceited existence to the soothing and life-giving peace of Siva-soaked Himalayas. In the canto titled 'Ida', Kama's voice chastises a distraught Manu as the latter broods over the fate of Saraswat : You never imagine happiness beyond worldly pleasures. "You have been not only selfish but egoistic too. You loved Shraddha's body alone and never noticed her pure inner self. The new order of humanity you. are out to found will remain entrenched in jealousy, quarrels, narrow-mindedness and divisiveness. With mutual bickering peace shall remain elusive as ever.
" 'Swapna', the canto in which Shraddha dreams a dream is a foreboding of things to come in the life of Manu and his new-found companion, Ida. Manu's lust leads to another catastrophic sequence of events. That dreams do sometime forebode the future could be some justification for this canto. However, the portion delineating Lord Rudra's ire is superb in its diction and content. In addition, this canto also gives an inkling into Shraddha's mental ramblings on love, life, world, joy and sorrow. She also gets a peep into Manu's busy, hectic life under Ida's guiding care. Both of them appear to Shraddha like two work-alcoholics in hurry, eager to develop the state of Saraswat in every conceivable field. Manu has a malady—the malady of self-righteousness The long discussion between Manu and Ida in Sangharsha or struggle amply highlights this trait of his character. He, himself a law-maker, considers himself above law. Freedom for him means license and recklessness of conduct. He is despotic and sell-willed. Ultimately, it is this trait that becomes his undoing.P>
Ida represents Buddhi or intellect. When she is first introduced in the poem, she is depicted in glowing words of poetic diction as one who is absolutely brilliant of intellect, sharp in logic, wisdom-endowed, ambitious and forward-looking. She dreams of mastering Prakriti or nature through knowledge and science—Jnana and Vjnana. She is action-oriented, aiming at augmenting material prosperity through research, innovation, application and development of natural resources. She is, in a way, the poem's strongest and most brilliant character. She advocates discipline and industriousness. She is a votary of organized work culture, of upliftment of her society through laws regulating division of work and classes. She resuscitates the mined state of Saraswat through hard work and administrative acumen. In the characterization of Ida, Prasad has depicted a woman of intellect and action with the determination to achieve. Manu's act of grievous indiscretion and misconduct towards Ida once again destroys the. edifice so carefully renovated by both their efforts. Manu also compounds his misconduct by waging a war against his own people. Prasad's dramatisation of this portion of the episode is excellent as he deals with the themes of the people's revolt, nature's ire and the terrible reaction of an angry Rudra-deva.
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