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Mar 14, 2017

Dhauli: Mahapatra

By: Bijay Kant Dubey

Dhauli is one of the poems taken from the poetry-collection named Waiting written by Jayanta Mahapatra, a poet of note from Orissa and of an Oriya background, historicity, art and culture, but of physics as the subject of his study. Without knowing Orissa and Orissan history, one may not understand what the poet means to say herein as it is a poem of some historical background. Asoka, the battle of Kalinga fought and lost here matter it most and the bloody, gruesome aftermath of it which moved and motivated Asoka so much that he admonished the idea of waging wars at the cost of human loss and casualty, bloodshed and violence. The poet just recreates the scene with a flurry of ideas drawing from existential, nothingness and absurd domains. There is nothing as that to tell historically, but to describe from the light and darkness and the creation of the universe points of view.

Dhauli is actually in the mode of Wilfred Owen’s Futility, the horror and terror, futility and bloodshed of war which but Asoka not Jayanta is thinking. On reading the poem, we feel it whether Asoka is the protagonist of it or Jayanta. It is definitely not of Asoka, but of Jayanta as he keeps ruminating and reminiscing privately and personally.

When the Kaling war was over, the fields and fallows of Dhauli took a different outlook as there scenes would have been terrible, the landscape filled with dead and slain bodies blood-smeared and rotten. It would have cumbersome to cover up it all the gory scene and sight of the deadly bloody war whose images hinged on for posterity to reckon with at war and in peace.

The earth too planned for doing away with in its natural way, covering up slowly the remains and skeletons, burying the existent in due course of time. The wind, rains, heat and dust, rains and wind, birds of prey and animals, time and duration would have helped in coming out of the rut.

The place is the same but with a changed scenario. There is nothing like that as those the things of yore, the events and happenings of the past, only the scars survive it in terms of rock edicts telling of the battle as does he Tennyson in The Charge of The Last Brigade.

Jayanta Mahapatra as a poet is not for pleasure-giving, but instead of adds to our woe and misery, instead of lightening taxes our mood. Poetry should be for pleasure too, but rather than that he makes us somber and grim-faced.

The first stanza of the poem deals with the Kalinga war and the instant aftermath of it, what it happened thereafter when the war was over:

Afterwards when the wars of Kalinga were over,
the fallow fields of Dhauli
hid the blood-spilt butchered bodies.
The red-smeared voiceless bodies left attended or unattended would have been the scene to strike with awe and horror.

The second stanza tells of the natural process of the earth to dispense and do away with. Wind, heat, dust, rains, time, soil and grass play their part.

As the earth
burrowed into their dead hunger
with its merciless worms,
guided the foxes to their limp genitals.

The third stanza tells of what it stays and what not. There is nothing that lies written it here. Everything is but in the process of time and this time has a duration to follow in its trail. The evening  different with a mood of own to recreate. The waters of the Daya fresh and fine tickling over the edicts, singing of its murmur and flow rather than the rock edicts.

Years later, the evening wind,
trembling the glazed waters of the River Daya,
keens in the rock edicts the vain word,
like the voiceless cicadas of night:

The fourth and last stanza sums up as thus:

the measure of Asoka's suffering
does not appear enough.
The place of his pain peers lamentably
from among the pains of the dead.

Asoka’s suffering does not appear to be enough. What is more important was the loss and casualty inflicted upon the Odia psyche. What it devastated most is the Kalinga war and its consequences. The pains of the Odias there was none to nurture and heal, balm and bandage and it was only in course of time.

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