‘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.
[The Sakhis (female accomplices) of Chitrangada gather and sing, addressing Arjun.]
You may go, if you are intent on going away.
But once you go, remember it is your destiny to return.
And return, you will.
For, I am not the one who will stoop to dust, with my futile tears.
If life is an opulent celebration of youth,
I will not exit, extinguishing its mirthful light.
I am not the timid one, silent in my prayers.
I will gain fortitude every time
Your boundless doors remain closed in my face.
I do not fear moments like these which create obstacles on my way.
For I will emerge the victor, and that is my destiny.
I have faith, I will open up your heart to the myriad glories of love.
[Chitrangada emerges in the scene, to bathe with her friends.]
Ah, what is this tempting invitation of the unfathomable water
That I keep hearing, Sakhi, time and again, in sudden spurts?
My soul, my entire being, restless,
Comes out in the open, dying to break free.
I will float in the waters, my body and soul surrendering
To the high tide of love.
My mundane thoughts will immerse in this wellspring of love.
I will attain salvation, as the waters will pacify
The fires of my vain desires burning, deep within me.
Look how the waves gush,
Look how the waves prance and preen—
My deep, inner core shaken by the surge.
What is this restlessness, this juvenile impatience
That marks the sky? The wind blowing haywire
As if a lovelorn Apsara’s scarf, tender and exhilarating.
Far, far away, on the banks of the river Sindhu, whose anklets
Create the tinkling sound, echoing all the way?
[Addressing her Sakhis]
Chitrangada: My friends, adorn me with new jewelry,
Dress me up as the beautiful princess I have never been,
Create me in the new splendor of love.
The curse of early winter had turned the garden of my youth barren—
Let the bounty of spring obliterate its emptiness,
Bestowing it with rich beauty and vigor.
Let my empty branches be fully endowed with the robe of new leaves,
Be born anew, let their sense of shame sink into oblivion.
We welcome the eternally beautiful youth…
With the enchanting mantra of love,
With the Veena playing the sweet music of amorous hearts.
Let the restless dance of ecstasy create ripples in the body,
Usurp its every core, honoring the richness of youth.
[Arjun enters, and starts meditating. Chitrangada starts dancing, surrounding him.]
Chitrangada: You are my hero, I will devote my heart,
body and soul to you.
Arjun: Forgive me, please, I pray,
I am not worth your devotion, worthy lady,
I have sworn to celibacy, a brahmachaari I am.
Alas, my cursed fate! All my life,
I have stifled the ‘woman’ in me,
Rendering it futile! What was it all for?
Shame on my skills of archery,
Shame on my physical prowess!
See how the momentary flood of my feminine tears
Blew away the masculinity I had nurtured within me
All these years!
See how the vain sighs of my youth
Aggravated the wellspring of love
Hidden within me, tormenting me to no ends.
Such a luscious spring replete with tears
Never came in my life, Sakhi.
The pangs of my viraha, the red anguish of separation,
like the crimson kingshuk flower,
Spread manifold in my entire being.
In your lovelorn soul and its longing,
There was the elemental burst of the sun’s scintillating rays.
We never knew when it all transformed
To the torrential downpour of the month of Asharh!
Alas, dear Chitrangada…
Look, the wild flower at the gate to the creeper-house
Has adorned herself with lush green leaves.
For whom does she stay awake all day and night,
Whom does she seek so ardently?
All the while, it had remained hidden beneath a hardened stone.
Alas! How did it gush over, like a sudden spring of tears!
Chitrangada: In the verdant southern breeze, far in the sky
A forlorn soul sings a sad refrain.
The buds that have sprouted in the grove
Wish to shed off their outer layers, touched by the ardor of spring.
Alas! Chitrangada, brave woman, what a pity!
You ventured into the forest for your hunting expedition
And was reborn as the hunted deer, instead?
Chitrangada: Why does he render me so restless,
Knocking relentless at the bolted door of my senses?
How do I get over the anguish
Of not being able to surrender myself to him?
All the while, you were brimming with the vanity of your prowess,
Warrior princess, look, at whose feet did you submit yourself
Stooping, in your humble defeat? Ah, what a defeat!
One Sakhi of Chitrangada:
Accursed be the celibacy of an arrogant man!
How dare he shatters precious womanhood
With such an impertinent stance?
Where are the Cupid’s arrows?
Hail thee, God of love, isn’t it your defeat too?
Awaken from your slumber,
Make our sakhi Chitrangada the messenger of your victory.
Bestow her with demure womanhood,
The rightful armor and strength of a weaponless woman.
[Chitrangada pays her offerings to Madan, the God of Love.]
Chitrangada: What should I offer at your feet
The mighty God of love? My bouquet is empty.
A wretched woman I am, I offer the unadorned aanchal
Of my sari, spread it unceremoniously, in the path you will tread.
Unworthy of being your devotee, I am,
My offerings to you are scarce,
Fill them with the abundance of flowers with which
You create your magnificent floral bow…
Take me along in your expedition of winning hearts!
Bless me with your resplendent mark of victory
Carve it in my forehead, as you set out in your journey.
I beg of you, fill my barren, lovelorn body and soul
With your sweet nectar.
I promise, I shall hail your name in praise,
Invoke the joyous spirit of spring in my whole being,
Let the verdant breeze carry the message of spring,
I beseech you.
[Madan, the God of love appears before Chitrangada.]
Madan: Ah, the noble princess of Manipur, Chitrangada,
I know you, you are the saintly lady I have heard of.
You were never into the act of worshipping me.
Then why, now, were you tempted to invoke me?
Why now, did you come to my door, with your offerings?
Tell, me, oh lady, I pray?
Chitrangada: All my life, I had been trained
To imbibe the masculine teachings.
Never did I teach myself the art of winning a man’s heart.
See, how my youthful, flowery body has been bruised,
Tormented, deprived of love.
My hero, the valiant warrior Arjun, a brahmachaari
Never looked at my face, failed to see the woman in me.
He went away, rejecting my feminine desires.
O God of love, I pray you,
Take pity at this unfortunate woman,
Grant me a boon, only for a year’s time,
Fill me with the beauty of luscious flowers…
Let my body, my entire being
Be blessed with your heavenly grace.
Let me shine, resplendent, an unparalleled beauty
In the bosom of the earth.
Madan: I grant you my boon, dear lady.
In your amorous glance, I set my fifth arrow,
The deadliest one.
You will emerge the victor, dear lady,
Arjun, the saintly prince will be all yours, in no time.
You will render him a captive lover in your arms,
Your smile, a mockery of his vows of celibacy.
Chitrangada, the beautiful princess of Manipur,
Be blessed, invading the heart of the prince you desire.
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