Myth - An Alluring Feature of Rabindranath Tagore's Poetry

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      Suggestiveness is such a quality of Tagore which maintains the interest of readers. Besides images, metaphors and symbols other devices of Tagore's art are cults, myths, legends, and ancient tales. He takes old myths and legends, modifies and alters them, and invests them with a universal significance. His mythopoeic imagination transforms old legends and makes them vehicles of his ideas of peace, joy, beauty, love and harmony.

The influence of Vaishnav poetry is indeed great on Tagore. Vaishnavism means the particular theistic religion of which Vishnu is the object of worship as the supreme reality. The literature of this sect is called Vaishnav Padavali which enshrines the love legend of Radha and Krishna. It is the richest poetic work for mediaeval Bengali Literature. These are mostly based on the love romance of Radha and Krishna. Radha is on her secret love - adventure, seeking her beloved.
Rabindranath Tagore

      The influence of Vaishnav poetry is indeed great on Tagore. Vaishnavism means the particular theistic religion of which Vishnu is the object of worship as the supreme reality. The literature of this sect is called Vaishnav Padavali which enshrines the love legend of Radha and Krishna. It is the richest poetic work for mediaeval Bengali Literature. These are mostly based on the love romance of Radha and Krishna. Radha is on her secret love - adventure, seeking her beloved. She loves taking risks in his daring pursuit and cannot pause, she only follows the ravishing call of the flute of her beloved. That is why the underlying myth of Radha Krishna is dwelling almost in every poem of Gitanjali in the beginning. This popular Indian legend enhances the popularity of his writings among Indian readers. The poems of Gitanjali, where the human soul, craves for union with God is picturized as the yearning of Radha or the woman lover for her beloved Krishna. The love is as pure and devoted as of them.

"I am only waiting for love to give myself up and last into his hands.
I want thee, only thee."

      The another poem where man is the flute of reed and Krishna the flute-player, great and unknown fills this flute with his spiritual music and hence gives vigour to human life. The call of Infinite flute symbolizes, in another poem, the message to the finite.

Ah, it call me out into the dusk.
In the lonely lane there is no passer -
by, the wind is up, the ripples are rampant in the river.

The unknown man plays upon his lute (Poem 74)

      In drama of love between Krishna and Radha is God's Lila in Vrindavan. Radha who surrenders everything to Krishna symbolises the human soul and terrestrial universe yearning with reckless passion for union with God. When the divine shepherd plays on his flute, Radha becomes restless and considers no sacrifice too great for the bliss of a meeting with her lover. Rabindranath transforms this story of sensuous passion and mystical longing, enlarging its significance and appeal. For him the divine shepherd is neither a human lover nor a particular deity but the great unknown who is loftier than any individual person, and the call of the flute symbolizes the message which the Infinite is constantly sending to the finite world. It is elusive but irresistible call not subtleties of passion, that becomes the dominant theme with Tagore.

Myth from Nature:

      Tagore is the great admirer of Nature. In Nature he finds the affection, inspiration and spiritual love. Man and Nature are inseperable. Artistically he had humanized the Nature. The objects of nature and the phenomena of nature are spoken of as human beings and said to perform functions peculiar to human beings. The Nature myths are very simple, innocent, charming and fresh. In this respect, he is equalled only by shelly among the poets of England. One of the beautiful poems of the Gitanjali speaks about morning or humanise morning thus:,

"There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth."

Again evening comes like this:

"And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool droughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest" (Poem 67)

The morning is a flower girl with a flower basket in her hand and the evening comes like a maiden with a pitcher of water on her head. The day to day activities of human life is thus seen in nature also. Simi- larly the yearning for Divine, the Infinite by the human soul is spoken of as a crane soaring skywards. The God is humanized as a musician, lover, king, poet, bridegroom, traveller and a boat man. God in many poems is a friend of man.

"ART thou abroad on this stormy night on thy journey of love, my friend?"
(Poem 23)

He is a lover and brother:

"He came and sat by my side but I woke not."
"Thou art the Brother amongst my brothers"
(Poem 77)

      And the human soul is the bride or beloved yearning for the arrival of the lover. When the day comes he is welcomed with a garland of flowers or a tatttered rag is spread for his seat.

The Preaching in Guise of Myth:

      Tagore is no preacher but still his poems do have an underlying message or preachings. And when the message is in form of a beautiful myth, it is more effective. The poem of perfection in Gitanjali where the gods repent on the loss of one of the stars in the long chain of stars in the sky. The lost star, they think has been the best one. But in the deepest silence of the night the stars know that unbroken perfection is over all and search for what is not there is vain-seeking

"Only in the deepest silence of night the stars smile and whisper them- selves-Vain in this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!?" (Poem 78)

An another mythical fable says:

"Masters are many in your hall, and songs are sung there at all hours. But the simple carol of this novice struck at your love. One plaintive little strain mingled with the great music of the world, and with a flower for a prizes you came down and stopped at my cottage door."
(Poem 49)

      This poem of Tagore preaches that the power of love is great. The simplicity and honesty are the great virtues to win over the Almighty. He comes to you because of your true love and devotion rather than scholarship are austere practices. The poet's simple carol, in these lines of poem no 49, which he sang and won for him the grace of God. There is a mythical background also in the poem no 50. Here the power of charity is being praised. As Bhagavad Gita preaches:

"By this shall ye propagate, be this to you the given of desires."

      Means one gets in proportion to what one sacrifices. Myth in the poem is thus described: Kuchela or Sudama, the boyfriend of Krishna, was living a life of utter poverty. One day he remembered his friend Krishna the Lord of prosperity and visited him in rags. He offered Krishna some stale corn meal he carried with him. Krishna ate it exhibiting great pleasure and with each morsel that he took Kuchela grew wealthier. On reaching home he found his home flooded with wealth and splendour. This is the beautiful mythical background of the poen where the poet, a beggar, who expects an offering from the prince is shocked at the opened palms of the prince in front of him. And he miserly gives a little grain of corn to the prince and later repents when this giving of his is turned into the equal quantity of gold. He repents:

"I bitterly wept and wished that I had the heart to give thee my all." (Poem 47)

The Rainy Season: The Mythical Significance:

      The rainy season is invested by Tagore with a new mythical significance. lt is in dark, rainy nights that the human soul feels lonely and longs to go out and meet the beloved. This loneliness and this desire for union is characteristic of all life. Thus the clouds wander in search of their beloved and the stars also suffer from the pangs of separation. Says Sen Gupta, "The pang of separation which the stars feel as they gaze at one another becomes lyric among rustling leaves in the rainy darkness of July. In the busy moments of noon tide work the poet is with the crowded but on the dark lonely days when the clouds heap upon clouds. It is only for the far away lover that his soul pines in pensive loneliness."

The Few Other Myths in His Writings:

      The Indian mythology accepts that Shiva the God of gods or the Great God is both the creator and destroyer. He is the ascetic God, whom Uma tried to seduce but failed. Later she did penance which moved the God and he took her to be his wife. In his metty locks, he had the Ganga imprisoned, which is freed and allowed to flow when the heart of the God is melted by prayers.

      Shiva is also represented as the dancer, the Natraj, the God of dance. The Natraj myth fascinated Tagore. His dance symbolises the cosmic dance of destruction and creation. It symbolized the eternal rhythm of birth, death and rebirth. It symbolises the union of change and the changeless, as for example the eternal cycle of seasons of permanence and impermanence. It is an expression of the cosmic energy which seeks unity in diversity. The movements of the body in a dance are a process of self-revelation. The sun and stars are the anklets round the feet of the divine dancer. It symbolises the divine act of bringing order out of disorder, the shaping of formless matter into form, till inert matter vibrates with life.

      The Ganga coming out of the locks of Lord Shiva symbolises freedom which is at the root of divine creation. It symbolises the deliver ance of beauty and spring from the bondage of winter. The union of Shiva and Uma symbolises the union of the Terrible and the Frail. Shiva is also called Bholanath or the Ever-forgetful. So forgetful and absent minded are called Bholanath. Like a child the great God Shiva makes his toys and breaks them in mere play, like a child He becomes free by breaking the webs of his own weaving.

The Myth of Urvashi:

      The famous poem Urvashi of Tagore has transformed the ancient myth to suit his purpose. Urvashi, the fairest of women came out of the sea when it was churned by the Gods. She was taken to heaven by Indra, and was appointed a dancer to the gods, and blessed eternal youth. She symbolises the dance who scatters the manifold beauties of Nature as she dances; she symbolises the eternal yearning of soul of man for beauty for union with the Eternal; she symbolises freedom of the heaven and the earth and joy of world; She is an embodiment of creative spirit, ideal beauty, eternal youth and boundless joy.

      Sen Gupta says regarding this poem Urvashi. "He represents Urvashi as the bearer of the goblet of celestial nectar, but he also makes her the purveyer of poison thus completing the picture of beauty which in all places and ages gives man his richest experience but has also full potentiality for destroying him. The legendary story helps the poet to make Urvashi a marvellous creation of symbolists imagination; she is a beautiful woman who sprang out of the foam on a particular day and has been sending a thrill of rapture over the universe ever since, and yet in her unfading youthfulness and power of enchantment she is less an individual than the embodiment of the poet's idea of the principle of beauty. Nowhere else does an ancient myth pass so unobtrusively into a modern symbol. Tagore's Urvashi is the essence of pure beauty, timeless and eternal as God himself."

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