Archive for category Bengal

The mystic poet Ramprasad Sen

Some poets live, compose poems and then when they die, sadly their poetry dies with them. There are very few poets whose poems and songs remain fresh long after they are gone. Ramprasad Sen was one such mystic Bengali poet whose devotional songs on Mother Kali, called Ramprasadi, are sung to this day at Durga puja, centuries after he died. His songs to Kali were filled with so much pathos that it they have continued to touch people’s hearts even today.

Ramprasad Sen’s father was an Ayurvedic vaidya (physician) and a Sanskrit scholar in the town of Halisahar, in Bengal, where Ramprasad was born. As a youth, Ramprasad showed promise in poetry and learning new languages. He learnt Persian, Sanskrit and Hindi. However, he seemed very detached from worldly pursuits and his father realized that Ramprasad was not inclined to train in the family profession. Moreover, Ramprasad was always immersed in longing to see his real cosmic mother Kali. This was a cause of immense anxiety to his parents and they soon concluded that marriage would wake up Ramprasad to the real world and therefore, he was married.

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Upagupta, the disciple of Buddha, lay sleep in
the dust by the city wall of Mathura.
Lamps were all out, doors were all shut, and
stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August.
Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets,
touching his breast of a sudden?
He woke up startled, and a light from a woman’s
lamp fell on his forgiving eyes.
It was dancing girl, starred with jewels,
Wearing a pale blue mantle, drunk with the wine
of her youth.
She lowered her lamp and saw young face
austerely beautiful.
“Forgive me, young ascetic,” said the woman,
“Graciously come to my house. The dusty earth
is not fit bed for you.”
The young ascetic answered, “Woman,
go on your way;
When the time is ripe I will come to you.”
Suddenly the black night showed its teeth
in a flash of lightening.
The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and
The woman trembled in fear of some unknown danger.

* . *
A year has not yet passed.
It was evening of a day in April,
in spring season.
The branches of the way side trees were full of blossom.
Gay notes of a flute came floating in the
warm spring air from a far.
The citizens had gone to the woods for the
festival of flowers.
From the mid sky gazed the full moon on the
shadows of the silent town.
The young ascetic was walking along the lonely street,
While overhead the love-sick koels uttered from the
mango branches their sleepless plaint.
Upagupta passed through the city gates, and
stood at the base of the rampart.
Was that a woman lying at his feet in the
shadow of the mango grove?
Stuck with black prestilence, her body
spotted with sores of small-pox,
She had been hurriedly removed from the town
To avoid her poisonous contagion.
The ascetic sat by her side, took her head
on his knees,
And moistened her lips with water, and
smeared her body with sandal balm.
“Who are you, merciful one?” asked the woman.
“The time, at last, has come to visit you, and
I am here,” replied the young ascetic.

-Rabindranath Tagore

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The Pundit who was mistaken for a Coolie

From time to time, in the sacred land of Bharath, are born the kind of people who make such a large impact on society within a very short period of time in their lives. One perfect example of such a great man was Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who was the pillar of the Bengal Renaissance and a very active social reformer who strived to remove the crippling ills that were prevalent in the Hindu society during his time.


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Empty your cup

This is a small anecdote from the life of Sri Aurobindo. At a younger age, when Aurobindo was still on the path to realization, he was a little frustrated about not getting results despite intense meditation and practice. He was sitting on the rocks overlooking the sea on the Pondicherry shore and sharing his anxiety with colleagues and friends. They were drinking tea, and Aurobindo’s filled teacup was placed on a rock in front of him.

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Vande MAtaram

Vande MAtaram, the national song of India, was composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, in a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit. It was first sung in the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. Most of us are familiar with the first paragraph of the song, but there is more. Those of us who neither know the whole song nor its meaning, it is shameful.

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Khudiram Bose (3 December 1889 – 19 August 1908)

This story is about a very fierce and patriotic freedom fighter called Khudiram Bose, who died at the gallows, for throwing the first bomb at an Englishman, at the tender age of 19. He died with the Bhagavad Gita in his hands, love for his country in his heart, and a beautiful smile on his face. His life has been immortalized by the great Bengali poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam. Khudiram Bose epitomized the revolutionary patriotic spirit that was to sweep Bengal in the first half of the 20th century.

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