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Mahendra Kumar Mishra : Tapasvini of Gangadhar Meher

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Harekrishna Meher’s book – A Literary appreciation

‘Tapasvinī of Gańgādhara Meher’ authored by Dr. Harekrishna Meher is worth-mentioning in the arena of Indian literature. This book comprises Dr. Meher’s Complete English Translation of Oriya epic poem ‘Tapasvinī ’ written by Poet Gańgādhara Meher (1862-1924). The author has also thrown much light on the life and works of the poet with critical and comparative observations.

Gańgādhara Meher, famous as ‘Prakriti-Kavi’ or ‘Svabhāva-Kavi’ in Oriya literature, has composed various kāvyas, essays, autobiography and numerous lyrics, patriotic, devotional, satirical and socially reformative. Tapasvinī, an eleven-canto kāvya, is the magnum opus and a great classic of Gańgādhara, first published in 1915. Based on the stories of Rāmāyaṇa, this kāvya depicts Sītā’s post-exile episode in the hermitage of Sage Vālmīki. Here Sītā, the virtuous wife of King Rāma, is seen as Tapasvinī, a Lady Ascetic. Initially influenced by Kālidāsa’s Raghuvamsa kāvya and Bhavabhūti’s Uttara-Rāma-Charita drama, Tapasvinī is marked with Gańgādhara’s original thinking, innovations and novelty in presentation. As a bold literary patron of Indian culture, Gańgādhara has enhanced the glory of Sītā’s eternal love and faith for her husband.

In Tapasvinī, the main sentiment is Pathos (Karuṇ̣̣a Rasa). Here a line from English poet P. B. Shelley is worth-quoting: ‘Our sweetest songs are those tell of saddest thoughts.’ Regarding Rāmāyaṇa, especially the post-banishment incident of Sītā, Gańgādhara metaphorically describes:

(Original Oriya:
Rasa-ratnamaya kābya-śikharī,
Birājanti jahin Rāma-keśarī /
Rābaņa-bāraņa-rakata dhāra,
Jharai jharjhara nirjharākāra /
Kāndanti, Simhī kandare rahi /
Danti-dantāghāta-bedanā sahi // )

‘Plenteous is the Epic-mountain
with gems of sentiments.
There majestically roams Rāma-Lion.
Forming murmuring fountain,
blood-stream of Rāvaņa-Elephant flows further.
Residing in a cavern, there laments
the Lioness suffering affliction
by tusk-tossing of the tusker.’

(Canto-X, page- 152)

In this book, with a comparative deliberation on Gańgādhara‘s writings, Dr. Meher observes:
‘Kālidāsa’s words are mostly indicative or suggestive of sentiments, while like Bhavabhūti’s, appropriate words of Gańgādhara are mostly expressive and directly appealing to the hearts of the readers. In comparison to other sentiments, Pathos directly touches the core of heart and Gańgādhara has successfully portrayed the sentiment that leaves an ever-lasting impression in the mind. While reading different cantos of Tapasvinī, one can really experience the intensity of sentiment, and the eyes emotionally get suffused with tears.’ (page- xxii)

Like Kālidāsa in Sanskrit and William Wordsworth in English, Gańgādhara Meher is well-known as ‘Prakriti-Kavi‘ (Poet of Nature) in Oriya literature. Nature, alive and personified, presents her comely, gracious, fierce, tranquil and auspicious forms in various contexts. With poetic insight, Gańgādhara sees human feelings, conscious life and internal beauty in her., A beautiful form of Nature in Canto-IV, Ushā (Dawn), the blooming lotus-eyed dame, bearing dew-pearls presentation in her leafage-hands, standing in the courtyard of the cottage, honours Sītā as esteemed Queen by offering royal formalities of worship.

Concerning Nature, with a critical discussion on Tapasvinī, Dr. Meher remarks:
‘From social point of view, Sītā is regarded as a daughter of King Janaka; yet she was born from the furrow of earth, and therefore an offspring of Nature. A subtle true observer and a proficient literary commentator of Nature, Gańgādhara Meher is the first and most successful poet in Oriya literature to give a complete epic form to the post-exile episode of Sītā with a beautifully impressive touch of Pathos. He is a worshipper of Truth, Good and Beauty. His is an all-encompassing artistic view with idealistic faith and sincerity.’ (page- xxxvi)

Rāma’s love for his beloved wife Sītā is sincere and dedicated. He discards her simply because of the false public censure. Separated and perplexed, he depreciates the royal throne of Ayodhyā. To perform the king’s duty, i.e. gratification to the people, he sacrifices his personal happiness of life; still his mind’s black-bee remains rapt in relishing the sweet mead of the Lotus-Queen blown in the lake of heart. Contextually Rāma addresses his sense-organs:

(Original Oriya:
Āu eka kathā kahuchhi ekatā bāndhi tumbhe mana sańge /
Chāla hruda-sare ananta bāsare biļasiba rasa rańge //
Mo prāņa-sańginī naba kamaļinī phuţi rahiachhi tahin /
Smaraņa-bhāskara chira-tejaskara asta tāra nāhin jahin // )

‘One thing more I like to tell,
Be united with mind and hasten to dwell 
in the lake of heart where bliss sublime
you all will sportively enjoy for endless time.

There abides my life-mate
new Lotus-maiden in full efflorescence.
Ever-scintillating and never-set
remains the Sun of reminiscence.’
(Canto-III, page - 38)

Public censure separates the royal couple from each other; yet the beloved lady of vast heart patiently endures the sufferings. Despite separation and pathos, a happy union of the couple at the end is maintained by the poet to honour the tradition of Indian epic literature. Dame Sleep (Nidrā) and Yogamāyā come to the cottage of Sītā to take her on their laps. Illustrious virtuous Lady Sītā views the royal coronation of King Rāma with herself as Queen, along with Bharata, Śatrughna, Kuśa and Lava. On this auspicious occasion, deities and demi-gods shower flowers from the firmament. Thus Tapasvinī ends with the following lines:

(Original Oriya:
Ghare ghare prāņe prāņe nagare nagare /
Nadī-nābe sindhu-pote kandare kandare //
Rajanī bāsare sandhyā prabhāta samaye /
Sukhe duhkhe dhanī dhana-hīnara hrudaye //
Uchchārita heuachhi ‘Jaya Sītā-Rāma’ /
Chāhin mugdha hele Satī-lalanā-lalāma // )

‘In every house, in every life, in every city,
in the river-boat, in the bark of the sea,
in every cavern,
at day and night,
in the even and the morn,
in dolour and delight,
in the hearts of the affluent
as well as of the indigent,
reigns ever-reverberant
the Victory-to-Sītā-Rāma chant.
Observing all these,
stood entranced at the scene,
Crest-Crown of the chaste ladies,
the Great Queen.’
(Canto-XI, page-180)

Gańgādhara’s philosophy of life is found reflected in Tapasvinī. Forbearance, modesty, theistic trend, noble activities and humanistic approach are traced contextually. He believes in both deed and destiny, but never resorts to pessimism. In the mouth of River Tamasā, he expresses:

(Original Oriya:
Bane bane bhrami bhrami
Gaņda kuhuke na bhrami
Bahu bādhā atikrami svachchha jībane /
Andhāra duhkha na gaņi
Āloka sukha na maņi
Chālichi dūra saraņī nata badane //
Janama karuchhi saphaļa /
Toya dāne toshi tīra-bāsī sakaļa // )

‘Wandering over several woods wide,
never wavering astray
by illusion of any gorge,
surmounting many an impediment
in my life limpid,
never deeming darkness
as a distress,
never thinking light
to be a delight,
for a remote way
ahead I’ve continued to forge
with my head humbly bent.
Gratifying every bank-dweller
with offering of water,
fruitfulness of my birth
I’m realizing worth.’
(Canto- IV, page -50)

As Dr. Meher suggests, Tapasvinī may be construed as ‘Sītāyana’ in Indian literature, since it prominently features the sublime character of Sītā. Mayadhar Mansinha, an eminent Oriya poet and critic, regards Gańgādhara Meher as ‘Classical Star’ and ‘Miniature Kālidāsa’ of Oriya Literature, while Binod Chandra Naik, a modern poet and writer, describes Gańgādhara as a ‘Supreme Craftsman’ creating Tapasvinī kāvya with rhetoric patterns, like weaving Sambalpuri saree with ornate designs at the loom.

Though it is not possible to keep intact, the rhythmic eloquence, metrical charm and musical sweetness of original Oriya poem, Dr. Meher has sincerely and faithfully endeavoured to preserve the original sense in his own English words without any deviation. In Tapasvinī, the style of English rendering by Dr. Meher bears a special significance marked with creativity. Lovely words having both regular and irregular rhyming are noticeable in his presentation-style. Alliteration, grace of diction, lucidity, eloquence, musical affinity, sweetness of speech and like attributes are observed here. As a well-done translation, this Tapasvinī kāvya adds a unique feature in English and may be useful in the sphere of comparative study among various literatures.


(1) 'Tapasvinī of Gańgādhara Meher' English Translation by Harekrishna Meher.
ISBN : 81-87661-63-1. (ISBN-13: 9788187661634) Pages- xl +180 = 220. First
Edition 2009. R.N. Bhattacharya, A-127, HB.Town, Sodepur, Kolkata-700110, India.

(2) ‘MuseIndia’ Issue-21, September-October 2008.
Extracts from English Tapasvini by Harekrishna Meher

(3) Tapasvinī (Hindi Version) By Harekrishna Meher. Sambalpur University, Orissa. 2000.

(4) Gańgādhara Granthāvalī Editor : Hemanta Kumar Das
Pustak Bhandar, Berhampur, Orissa. 1977.

(5) Gangadhar Meher (Makers of Indian Literature Series), Binod Chandra Naik.
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 1996.

(6) Musepaper (Gangadhar and Bhavabhuti* poet-gangdhara-is-influenced-by.html)

(7) Srijangatha (Svabhāvakavi Gańgādhar Meher - Ek Amar Pratibhā):*

(8) News Today (Chennai, 29 Dec. 2009) Gangadhara Meher - Kalidasa of Orissa by V. Sundaram.* col.php?section=20&catid=33&id=20798


Focus – Contemporary Oriya Literature

  Sachidananda Mohanty : Introduction

  G K Das : Face Book of Oriya Literary Culture

  Manoj Das : Farewell to a Ghost. Tr. by the Author.
  Pratibha Ray : The Cave. Tr. by Bikram K Das
  Punya Prava Devi : The Indictment. Tr. by Prahlad Mohanty
  Sarojini Sahoo : Dreamer. Tr. by Gopa Nayak
  Mihir Kumar Sahoo : Tasteless Gulab Jamun. Tr. by Aruna Mukhopadhyay
  Paramita Satpathy : Hunger. Tr. by Prasant Das
  Gourahari Das : The Glass Puppet. Tr. by Monalisa Jena
  Dipti Ranjan Pattanaik : The Shade of the Babul. Tr. by Chandan Das

  Salabega : Tr. by Kumarendra Mallick
  Bidyut Prabha Devi : Translated by Sachidananda Mohanty
  Ramakanta Rath : Translated by the Poet
  Pratibha Satpathy : Tr. by Chandramani Narayan Swamy
  Chandra Sekhar Rath : Tr. by Sashibhushan Rath
  Amarendra Khatua : Tr. by the Poet
  Yashodhara Mishra : Tr. by the Poet
  Manu Dash : Tr. by the Poet
  Sunanda Pradhan : Tr. by Jayanta Mahapatra, J.P.Das and Gyanasis Jena
  Bharat Majhi : Tr. by Sailen Routray
  Hrushikesha Mohanty : Tr. by the Poet
  Pitambar Tarai : Tr. by Panchanan Dalai

Literary Criticism
  Satya P Mohanty : Senapati’s Classic Novel: Six Acres and a Third
  Sachidananda Mohanty : Senapati and Colonial Modernity
  Subhendu Mund : Translating Bhagabata of Jagannatha Das
  Priyadarshi Patnaik : Kalapurusa of Guruprasad Mohanty
  Mahendra Kumar Mishra : Tapasvini of Gangadhar Meher
  Narayan Jena and Pramod Kumar Das : Ramachandra Behera’s Gopapura

Book Review
  John Creyke : “J P Das’ A Time Elsewhere” Tr. Jatindra K.Nayak

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