Tagore Translations

Songs from Bhanusingher Padabali: Translations by Radha Chakravarty

Renowned translator and academic Radha Chakravarty has translated two songs by Tagore written originally in Brajabuli, a dialect based on Maithali that was popularised for poetry by the medieval poet Vidyapati. Composed in 1877. it became a part of Bhanusingher Padabali in 1884. This song draws from the lore of Radha and Krishna.

Gahana Kusuma Kunja Majhe

(Amidst the Densley flowering Bower)

In the densely flowering forest grove
The flute sings softly of tender love.
Shame and scruples cast aside,
            O beloved friend, come, step outside!
In delicate, graceful blue attire,
Heart aflame with budding desire,
In your doe-eyed gaze, a guileless smile,
	    Come to the bower, O friend, awhile!
Flowers pour forth their fragrance, strong
Birds pour forth a river of song
From the moon, pure nectar streams,
	    In the silver radiance of its beams.
Hear the gently humming bees, 
Amidst the countless blooming trees,
Clustered blossoms fill the bower—
             Bakul and jasmine, in full flower.
Shyam himself is here, behold! 
Eyes overflowing with love, untold.
Immortal glory, grace divine
	   Shames the moon, and pales its shine.
O band of women, let us race—
On Govinda, to feast our gaze!
Bhanusingha’s hymn of praise
         At the sacred feet of Shyam, he lays.
Shaono Gagane Ghor Ghanaghata 

(The Dark Monsoon Skies)

So dense the clouds in the monsoon sky, so dark the night’s black veil!
Dare I set out for the forest, friend?—A woman, so alone and frail?
Wild winds flail the Yamuna waves, peals of thunder overhead,
Flashing lightning, crashing trees—my body trembles in sheer dread!
Rain descends in dancing chimes, from the clustered clouds above,
Sal, piyal, tal and tamal—so dark the densely wooded grove!
Tell me, friend, amidst this storm, why Kanha plays this cruel game—
From the grove, on his magic flute, tenderly calling Radha’s name?
Attire me in strands of pearl; with ornaments, my brow adorn;
With champak garlands bind these locks, flowing long and free, unshorn.
In the dark, at dead of night, go not, O maiden! to Nawal Kishore—
Your faithful servant, Bhanu pleads—so terrifying is the thunder’s roar! 

Both these songs have been excerpted from Krishna in Indian Thought, Literature and Music, ed. Mandira Ghosh, Shubhi Publishers, 2021

Radha Chakravarty is a writer, critic and translator. She has co-edited The Essential Tagore (Harvard and Visva Bharati), nominated Book of the Year 2011 by Martha Nussbaum, and edited Shades of Difference: Selected Writings of Rabindranath Tagore (Social Science Press, 2015). She is the author of Feminism and Contemporary Women Writers (Routledge, 2008) and Novelist Tagore: Gender and Modernity in Selected Texts (Routledge, 2013). Her translations of Tagore include Gora, Chokher Bali, Boyhood Days, Farewell Song: Shesher Kabita and The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children.  Other works in translation are Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Kapalkundala, In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi (nominated for the Crossword Translation Award, 2004), Vermillion Clouds: Stories by Bengali Women,and Crossings: Stories from Bangladesh and India. She has edited Bodymaps: Stories by South Asian Women and co-edited Writing Feminism: South Asian Voices and Writing Freedom: South Asian Voices. Her poems have appeared in Journal of the Poetry Society of India, Contemporary Major Indian Women Poets, The Poet, Hakara, Narrow Road Journal, Krishna in Indian Thought, Literature and Music, The Fib Review, The Skinny Poetry Journal and Indian Poetry through the Passage of Time. Forthcoming books include Our Santiniketan (translation of Mahasweta Devi’s memoirs; Seagull Publishers); The Tagore Phenomenon (Allen Lane), Kazi Nazrul Islam: Selected Essays (Nazrul Centre for Social and Cultural Studies) and Mahasweta Devi: Writer, Activist, Visionary (Routledge, UK).  She is Professor of Comparative Literature & Translation Studies at Ambedkar University Delhi.



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