Rabindranath Tagore’s Chitrangada: English Translation Part III
‘Chitrangada’, a dance drama by Rabindranath Tagore in 1892, is based on the love life of Manipur’s princess Chitrangada and Arjun, the third Pandava of the epic Mahabharata. Lopa Banerjee translates it into English. Part 3.
Chitrangada: The Warrior Princess
[Princess Chitrangada emerges, in her new form.]
Chitrangada: Ah! Who do I see?
Who did emerge in my body
Ripping off the pages of my past?
Am I an obscure dream from a past birth,
Unknown, unidentifiable to the world around?
No more am I Chitrangada, the princess of Manipur—
I am nothing but the transient flower germinating at night,
Nothing but the orphan bloom of the wild forest,
Lasting for a single morning, just before the dust consumes it,
[Dancing at the bank of the lake.]
Who plays the soulful flute, awakening my whole body,
My senses, thus?
My soul is overwhelmed with the weight of this pure bliss,
With the burden of this inexplicable sadness.
My body and soul, filled to the brim
With the music of the flower, blooming,
The air around, reverberating with its intoxicating aroma.
I am filled with this sudden hope
That the sacrifice of my body, my entire being
Has been enriched with a fiery language.
Whom do I write today, with my newly transformed body?
My heart speaks the language of the caged soul,
When all I want is to be set free.
Which is this female demon whom you have tied to my old, familiar body?
This grace, this voluptuous beauty, isn’t it a mammoth curse?
This sudden flood of ravishing youth, like a tidal wave
Rushing to engulf my bloodstream, turning me insane?
[She starts dancing, filled with the excitement of her new look.]
This wild ecstasy, filled with the intoxication of a heady dream,
What is this uncontrollable surge that ebbs and flows
Giving birth to such excruciating pain
Flowing in my veins, burning my senses?
It runs all over my body, in sudden spurts of a flash of lightning.
I feel submerged, I lose myself
In the roaring winds, in the restless flood of my agitated youth.
My wordless offering of love cries out, in desolation…
I pray to you, handsome prince, forgive her
For all her beauty and charm is a deception!
Only for a momentary sweep of emotions,
She has come to lead you astray
With her sweet seduction.
She descended from the kingdom of illusions
In her hands, dangles the key to your dream world.
The key to unlock the door of your indifferent heart,
While you lose yourself to her sweet seduction.
[Arjun enters the scene.]
Arjun (mesmerized): Ah, whom did I see?
Is she the manifestation of ‘Maaya’, the illusion,
Or does she exist in the real world?
Is this the body of a woman, or her shadow
Colored with the glorious rays of bewitching beauty?
[Chitrangada enters again.]
Arjun: Come closer to me, I pray
Whoever you are. Tell me, I beseech you,
Tell me you are not merely a dream to fade away soon.
The magnificent beauty of your body fills me with desires galore.
Take me to the zenith of my passions, beautiful lady!
Chitrangada: You are my guest, the cherished one,
Tell me, by which name should I welcome you?
Arjun: I am the third Pandava, Arjun, blessed warrior princess!
Take my fame, take all my worthy deeds,
Take my masculine strength and pride,
Take everything I have, bless me with your bounty.
Chitrangada: What is this deception that I bemoan,
Would you be defeated by its falsity?
What a shame, oh, what a shame!
Ah, you valiant, warrior prince, you have won the entire world!
And now, will you be ensnared thus, by this enchantress,
Caged, in your pursuit of chasing this mirage?
What a shame, oh, what a shame!
This vain beauty that I now embrace, this transformation
Such a concocted heaven of my transitory dreams,
Such a momentary offering….
Is this worth being your gift?
What a shame, oh, what a shame!
Arjun: Ah, gorgeous woman, your exquisite beauty
Crushed, trampled over my vows of celibacy,
Tearing them to shreds.
The masculinity I wear and adore is impatient.
A woman scared of the sacredness of rituals, I am not.
I am a man, tied to the purity of the shastra, the scriptures.
Come, my dear lady, let our bold, feisty love
Lead us both to unknown, uncharted terrains.
Chitrangada: Well, then let it be so.
Let us begin the trail together. But do remember,
The scanty dewdrop you have been seeing
At the edge of the kingshuk flower,
Is all but your illusion.
I know you have been enamored by it,
But remember, it will be your beloved for only a moment.
What a beautiful farce! Which God from the heavens
Floated this boat housing such an illusory dream?
Come with me, the paramour of my dreams,
Let us immerse ourselves in this magnificent game of lies!
In the beautiful surge of music and gaiety,
The air will reverberate with the essence
Of dance and youthful mirth.
The sweet aroma of the flower orchard
Will intoxicate the indolent noon.
Bless the garland dangling in my bosom,
Heaving in excitement.
In this magical night, my dear, nurture it
With the water of love, moist with our longings.
The new sun extends his golden rays,
Obliterating all shame.
Arjun: Your overwhelming charm, dear lady
Is all but an enticing dream to me.
You are the unique one, complete in yourself.
You are the pride of the creator, the Almighty.
You are the bounty, the wealth, never to be demolished,
The end to all nothingness,
You are the answer to all that is true, in devotion, in love.
Chitrangada: I am not the one you think I am,
Alas, Partha, my hero, alas,
My appearance, mesmerizing you, is all but a deception of a God.
Go away, I pray, go away, my valiant hero.
Do not sacrifice your valor, your greatness at the altar of falsehood.
Go away, I pray.
Arjun: What is this thirst, this burning sensation, usurping my senses?
My thirsty, shivering being, surrounded by diabolical fire
Of desires, kills me, bit by bit. My heart, in flames,
Wishes to break free of the cage of my human boundaries.
My senses, my being, charred by the pangs of my restless heart.
A cruel arrow pierced my heart, inflicting unbearable agony.
In my heart, the flame flares up,
In my eyes, I see a mirage of unquenched desires.
Who is it that welcomed me with a garland, spelling my doom?
My familiar world, vanished behind the shadow of a vain dream.
I lose myself in the bewitching lies of the crimson spring.
My journey towards the uncertain perplexes me,
Yet, I am caught under its magic spell.
Here I go, in search of unknown horizons.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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