Shabari: Poem by Divine Grace
The expression of one’s self and its various facets takes a lot of creative outlets! Just when, poetry became one of such outlet for me, I don’t know. The first poetic work of mine, (by poetic I mean, atleast in structuring, grammar and content) was when I was in my 9th Standard. It was titled “Oh! My life please come to an End”. I have indeed travelled a long distance since then, and thankfully am spared with my life intact!! The inspiration to write in Kannada was also imbibed in me during my highschool days. I was very adept in writing essays in both English and Kannada, and for me poetry formed a well organized prose, albeit with lyrical/rhyming structure. Though I wrote more in English than in Kannada, I did give equal priority to both the languages. Now before this turns out to be a boring hackneyed monologue about my poetic abilities, and you all start yawning your brains out (just as I myself am doing), let me tell you about the poem that has brought me much acclaim, accolades and appreciations from all over the world!
“Shabari” is a poem written in Kannada, that describes the devotion of Shabari for her Lord Rama. The inspiration for the same came about when I had been to a dance program organized by Smt. Padma Iyengar (daughter of noted Kannada poet Pu.ti.na), thanks to Usha Aunty for making it possible for me to go. There the danseuse Smt. Bhramari Shivaprakash presented a dance ballet “Shabari-punya lahari” on the composition of Sri Sediyapu Krishnabhat. It was this performance that moved me, and inspired me to create this, which has enriched me by its sheer beauty and humbled me with its divinity. “Shabari” for me is a testimony that all talents that are vested in a human being are but gifts from the divinity that is omnipresent, to utilize the same for the enrichment of the self, and the surrounding.
When I began writing “Shabari“, I had to do a lot of thinking about the presentation of the character. It had to be different than the other presentations that were done so far, be it by Valmiki, or our very own Kuvempu and Sediyapu. Each of these presented Shabari in a different context. I can analyse the same and contrast with my presentation of the character.
Valmiki Ramayana lists Shabari as an old lady in the ashram of Sage Matanga, who yearns for Lord Rama. She belonged to the family of hunters. She had been directed by the sage to wait for Rama who would be her gateway for salvation. Upon the arrival of Lord Rama, she feeds him, and eventually dies at his feet. Lord Rama performs her last rites.
Kuvempu, while remaining true to this version, nevertheless differs from it, by not letting Shabari recognize Rama in the first meeting. Shabari represents a Jivatma that is shrouded by the Maya (Illusion) had has to be lifted off by the grace of the Paramatma. And hence, she is unable to recognize Rama, till Rama introduces himself.
Sediyapu, pictures Shabari as a huntress who disgusted by the killings of her favorite animals on the eve of her wedding, abandons her family, and eventually takes shelter in the ashram of Sage Matanga. Sage Matanga before his demise instructs her to wait for Shri Rama, as he is the one she is supposed to serve, and attain salvation from. Shabari waits for years, and eventually receives Rama, feeds him, and dies at his feet.
The “Shabari” that I envisioned was all of this, and yet different from the ones pictured till now. The poem has 3 sections. The first section describes the way she yearns and waits for her Lord. Her belief in the words of Sage Matanga is so intense that she has already wasted years in preparing for the arrival of Lord Rama. Each day, she looks forward for his arrival. This yearning has taken the form of a penance, and her aatma has seasoned and time has arrived for her salvation! Lord Rama, on the pretext of searching his estranged Sita, comes to Shabari. He is completely disheveled, tired, and void of all his charm.
The second section describes in detail the meeting of Shabari and Lord Rama. Shabari is filled with motherly affection at the sight of the 2 young men at her door step, and asks them their names. Lord Rama being very humble shies to introduce himself, and hence Lakshmana with equal humility introduces his brother and himself. Shabari is filled with awe and stays rooted, till beckoned by Lord Rama. She happily embraces him, and joy fills the entire universe! Lord Rama asks her of any wish that she wants fulfilled by him. At this time, Shabari is in filled with emotional turmoil. She is unable to ward off the motherly affection that arose at the first sight of them and with the knowledge of Lord Rama’s divinity her heart is filled with devotion. Lord Rama, being omniscient, realizes her state, and at first decides to appease her motherly affection. He complains of hunger, and requests her to feed him. Shabari is filled with joy, and immediately brings in a lot of fruits, and tastes each one of find out if they are sweet and fit for him to taste. Having fulfilled her maternal desires, Lord Rama asks her if she has any more wishes materialistic or divine! He is ready to bring down the riches of all worlds at her feet and give her the kingdom of heaven. Shabari declines them all, and asks him for her salvation!
The 3rd section describes the salvation of Shabari. I felt that Shabari’s years of penance cannot go unrewarded, and hence made Rama show his divine form of Lord Vishnu to Shabari. She is filled with awe and bows down at his feet. Shabari dies and instantly her body is aflame! Thus ends the story of supreme devotion and its eventual liberalization from the mundane bonds.
P.S:- I’d like to express my gratitude to Prasad Naik, and S. K. Shyam, editors of www.thatskannada.com portal, who published this poem for the first time, and specially to Mr. Prasad Naik, for reporting the change in the web link.