Bharatavarsha now Awaits a New Mahakavya

Bharatavarsha now Awaits a New Mahakavya

On August 15, 1954, just seven years after India attained freedom, DVG delivered a deeply contemplative radio lecture, calling for a national introspection. It remains relevant till date.

Editor’s Note

This is an English adapted version of D.V. Gundappa’s Kannada radio lecture relayed on August 15, 1954 from the Mysore Akashavani. Translated and adapted from the original by Sandeep Balakrishna.

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WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP between national freedom and poetic inspiration? Those who believe that freedom is related to our individual lives must equally believe that it is related to poetry (i.e., literature). This is because there is not an inch of space on the stage of human life which does not invite the poet. The poet has an entrance wherever our minds can go. Poetry is the vicissitudes of the life of our hearts. If the lives of people can obtain freshness from the political freedom we have achieved, that same fresh energy can also provide a fresh inspiration to poetry.

If the poet is able to envision a new beauty in life as a result of the fruition of national freedom, that inner realization takes form in his poetry and becomes a fresh inspiration for the people. If the sunrays of freedom are the inspiration for the flowering of the lotus of our life, poetry provides the nourishing nutrients of the earth to it.

What is the kind of new life that we must aspire for, now that we have attained freedom? That India must become a second England? Or become a shadow of Russia? Or become a reflection of America? Must India aspire to be known as the greatest country that manufacture bombs? Must it aspire to show the cure that makes bombs redundant? If the full fruit of India’s freedom means the blind imitation of Western nations, not too many would be interested in it.

But if it isn’t so, if India should live as the original India, we must rekindle our interest in our Svadharma. So, what are the contours of this kind of India? What is the life-fulfilment of this new India? It is our new-generation poets who need to provide answers to these questions.

Three inner strengths exist within a poet which are not discernible in most other people: the first is the subtle and secret dais of the life of the world. This is the inner experience. This is talent. The second is the raw material derived from this inner experience, which, through the application of the creative originality, gives birth to a new story on the dais of his mind. This is imaginative inspiration. The third strength of the poet: the external presentation of this internal creation. It is the composition of literature. It is the fulfilment of language.

The spear that pokes and wakes up the inspiration slumbering inside the cave of the poet’s heart is the physical world that surrounds him. When there’s a great experience outside, great inspiration stirs inside him.

Thousands of years ago, someone squeezed a drop of sourness into the milk of one family, which was the center of the national life of this country. As a result, sacrifice and valour simmered over. Valmiki’s throat choked with compassion. The world was gifted with the Ramayana.

At another time, someone started a smoke with raw firewood in the stove of a family that was central to the nation. Dharma and heroism stood upright. Vyasa’s eyes clouded with tenderness. The world was enriched with the Mahabharata.

At some point in history, ethical doubts and moral frailties wracked the Italian society. Dante’s mind turned inward with worry. The Divine Comedy was born.

At another time, the people of England were regaled by great adventures and immense enthusiasm because Shakespeare’s vision had turned to the subtleties of human nature.

Thus, if an intense question or inquiry arises as a result of the events of the world, the answer begins as a journey in the poet’s inner life and reveals itself in his work.

Indeed, can someone honestly claim that there is absolutely no challenge in the life of the contemporary world? Quite the contrary. Today, we are observing the troubles rife in the Western world as a result development and progress. This is the same Western world which was supposed as our Guru of progress. Prosperity and an abundance of unhappiness have ensued as a consequence of their progress in the natural sciences. The excesses and haste of science have altered the price of material things which until then were fixed by old religions. Thanks to the glory of materialism, avarice and craving have established absolute dominance over our lives.

The only goal of our lives has now become a quest for increasing the standard of material living. An unceasing competition, jealousy, and war has erupted between nations, races, and individual men to acquire suzerainty over land, metal, coal, oil, forest, industrial raw materials and customers. It appears that there is no place left on the earth that can act as a sanctuary of peace and contentment.

The old beauty has vanished from life, and there’s no sign of a new form of beauty replacing it. In such trying times, it is our desire to see if some new revelation of beauty strikes the eyes of our poets.

If we were to claim that the world can overcome this formidable fort of distress through the illuminating rays of Dharma, it would appear that it is nothing more than mere wishful thinking expressed in words.

So, what is Dharma? We can say that the roots of its philosophy lie in our Vedas. But the philosophy that lies only in books and doesn’t appear in practical application is akin to a lifeless body in a glass coffin. If a philosophy needs to be recognized as living, it must be applicable to life situations. How does it matter if a principle or ideal is lofty but is impossible in practical application? How should we apply the values extolled by our Rishis to the problems and questions of today?

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THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR SOCIETY have been irreparably displaced. The conduct, customs, and traditions handed down to us from ancient times have been erased. Old beliefs have faded. Is it even possible to literally adhere to the codes laid down by Manu and Parashara in the today’s atmosphere? Is it possible for us to live away, cut off from today’s world? Is it even necessary? Is it appropriate to do so? Or is it possible to refashion that old world to suit contemporary impulses in a way that is concordant with individual freedom and social norms? This is the question.

It is foolish and unjust to claim that everything in the modern civilization is bad. This civilization is but one phase in the aspiration for progress intrinsic to human nature. The path of benefit lies in properly understanding it. The problem does not lie in the natural sciences. It lies in the manner in which we use these. Thus, it is more appropriate if we try to locate this problem in our purpose and methods. What is required for us now is an examination of our approach to ethics and a new code of ethics. However, ethics is the infant of the heart and the intellect. The work of literature is to beautify the heart of this marital couple and thereby rectify their intellect.

THE WORLD NOW AWAITS A MAHAKAVYA (Epic Poetry) of this nature. What we today seek from literature is not mere entertainment but the revelation of the grand and the exalted. Of course, there exists literature of some substance in the literary annals of every nation in every age. What is rare is the literature that delivers fulfilment.

This new literature must evoke the 19th Parva (Canto) of the Mahabharata and the joy of the 4th Canto of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It could be poetry, prose, drama, novel, history, contemplations. It could be written in any style. But the favour that it must bestow upon us is life-renewal. It is not enough if it’s emotionally charged. It needs to contain the vital essence of philosophical examination. The flood of the emotion of the heart must flow by consoling the restless and questioning intellect.

The inspiration for germinating such life-nurturing literature cannot be achieved without Tapas. Neither should only those endowed with literary ability perform this Tapas. All of the educated people of the country, all thinking people must perform this Tapas in their respective fields.

Our Rishis performed Tapas for Rama’s avatara (incarnation). Dasharatha performed a Yajna. Likewise, all the citizens of this country need to sanctify themselves for the birth of this new Mahakavya. The writer must wear the garment of Diksha, a sacred vow. India’s leaders and nationalists must not merely content themselves with the current happenings. They need to closely examine the country’s real nature, its various circumstances, its history and the impulses and ideals hidden in its soul in order to recover the revelation of its Svadharma.

If our newly acquired political freedom aids this kind of examination of Dharma, the resultant fresh flowering of the mind and intellect might sow the seeds of inspiration for fresh literature.

Several nations in the world have remained independent for ages. When we observe the number of Mahakavyas that arose in those countries, it becomes clear that the true fountainhead of literature is not freedom but the exercise of it.

Literature arises from the sea of the people’s heart and from the inner churning of the poet. National freedom provides the opportunity and the stimulus for this Samudramanthana.

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