The Vow of Panchali – By Bharathiar/Translated by Ha Ki Valam

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Introductory Note

The vow of Panchali (Panchali Sabadham in Tamil) is the culmination of a notable sequence of events in the epic Mahabharatha, which led to the Mahabharata war ultimately. Panchali’s other name is Draupadi. More about her here (especially the section “Game of Dice”).

The great Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi (Bharathiar) had penned Panchali Sabadham very eloquently, with modernist and revolutionary intones.

Below is a brief excerpt from the English translation of the same by Ha Ki Valam.

*

Sakuni’s Taunt 

“You have lost your all
You are not a king at all
You have lost your wealth
You have not, a jewel.
You have lost the kingdom
With the people and lands!
If you bet again
You can win again.
There is a chance
To get back the things!
All is lost to you
How will you five live?
Will you live a begging?
No, no, that is degrading.
There are your brothers
Bet them, get back the land!
Don’t you be so sorry
For the suggestion, darling
Win back your lands
By betting the young swans” –

*

So said Sakuni then
Trapping the victim again.
Karna laughed at this,
The court shed tears.

The wicked winner spoke
With visible merry spark
“If Dharma bets the four
I’ll bet the empire!
I will bet my whole empire,
If he bets the young brother!
If he wins this time
We give back all we have won.
Upon my honour, cousin!
How can you face your men?
Or Panchali, your life?
Won’t she chide, your wife?
Will that blue friend speak
After this downfall? Speak!
Don’t be dejected man,
Begin the play and win.”

*
Suyodhan did stop
The heads of the four did drop.
They did not speak or move
But didn’t even reprove!
Their pale faces shone
Like four moons in the morn!

*

Bhima sighed very deep
Like a snake in the cave.
Handsome Arjun’s face
Paled like chalk and cheese.
Righteous Nakula swooned
The wise Sahadev sank.
Nobody could speak
The four remained meek.
Bhisma, Ganga’s son
Raged like fire within.
Kings all heaved with pain
Vidura suffered again,
With raging torture tight
He shuddered to see the sight.
How five famous lions
Were being murdered by curs!

*

Betting Sahadev the youngest

Plunging eyes in Brahman
Balancing his life in Him
Who like a sage ever lives
That youngest, handsome, wise
Brother Sahadev by name
Spotless gem in fame
The great scholar, him,
Dharma bid again!
He bet and lost the gem,
Within a second’s time.

Losing Nakula

Again,bet the blind
The younger Nakula, kind.
The wicked won the jewel –
“I am a great fool”
A thought flashed on him.
Before he knew the thing,
The player pounced upon
The thoughtless king again,
“Aye, you tactful man
These are twins, who are born
Of a step mother, anon
You bet and lost the swans!
They are brothers, but who
Are not from Kunti’s womb.
They are Madri’s sons
So, you greed at once!
Bhim and Arjun who
Are greater than you,
You are afraid to bid,
And therefore you hid.
Behind the tactics, aye!
To bid the twins and play!
Madri’s son you bet
Why not Kunti’s ones
The wicked taunted thus
The victim raged, alas!
The chaste, the best to feel
The taunts of a cunning eel.

*

The discussion between Panchali and Dussasana 

He shouted without shame
Calling the lady by name
The rude, loud, inflamed
Voice echoed through the room.

The Princess went inside
He shouted again aloud
“Where do you go, you proud” –
Then he too followed.

Sensing his conduct rude
Then the lady fearless turned
She tried in vain to avoid
The man who was of fame devoid.

So she spoke to him
As behoved a queen:
“Gods upon this earth
Are my husbands of worth.
I am their wedded wife
And the proof of this is my life
My father is the king
Of the Punjab’s throne.
I am his daughter, man!
And none ever forgot this plain
Truth before my presence.
Now, your impudence!
Your ill-will is very bad
Your conduct is very rude
I do not follow your mood
Your impolite words indeed.
You have come inside my room
And speak calling me names?
And what do you want and why
Have you come, here, pray.
Tell your business and go,
Without much ado.”

The princess paused, beseeched;
The criminal began his speech.

“You are not the wife
Of Pandavas any more!
Your fine youthful life
Is for our brother!
You are not the girl
Of Drupada king, you fool!
You are sold slave!
Your lord is Suyodhana-brave!
Dharma, bet you woman
Our uncle Sakuni won
Dharma lost you in fun
Now, you are a woman won.

You are the sold slave
We have bought you in the play
Your husband is the king
Suyodhan of the Hind.

Do not tell me tales
As you have told that fool
Come with me, oh girl
I will not hear your tale.

“Dear brother-in-law
I cannot come alas
To insult your sister-in-law
Is not a noble deed.

To captivate a lady
In the gambling body
Is not a moral deed
And so you go indeed.

Are not you heroes then?
Are not you born of men?
Are not you king’s sons?
Are not you afraid of sins?”

The woman gasped with breath
Gushing through her mouth
The dare devil like death
Approached the angel with

An awful laughter loud
Roaring like the cloud
He leapt upon the mild
Pleading princess wild.

He seized her long, dark hair
Dragged her on the floor
Seizing her shining hair,
He dragged her through the mire.

He dragged her to the court
Through the City’s streets
She cried aloud with a heart
Bleeding by this onslaught.

He dragged, she cried for help
The crowd assembled and wept
But none came to her help
Their meanness who can describe.

Their queen was attacked thus
By a brute and that distressed
Queen called for help
No one came to her help.

There were men and men
Lords, nobles, children
But to help here there were none.

Troops, warriors, fine
Youths, lad and grown men of great renown
But to help her- there were none.

All stood aghast
Watched the beastly sight
Thronged the broad streets
Stood like tall oak trees.

No one came and crushed
The shameless dog to death
No one freed the queen
From the hands of the mean.

He dragged the angel pure
He dragged the beautiful star
He dragged the chaste pearl
He dragged the purest jewel.

He dragged the diamond blue
He dragged the fairy so true
He dragged the empress through
The dark hair in the streets.

He dragged her to the court
The brute without a heart
The outraged lady at last
In this state reached the court.

Before the durbar hall
The lady burst like a ball
Of moral fire and called
The men to behold her fall.

Bhishma’s argument 

Bhishma rose from his seat
The grand old man the great-
Did they answer the just
Question that was directly put

By the indignant mouth
Of Panchali that wept
In front of all in the court
That outraged, honest womanhood?

“Oh lady, hear me please!
Dharma has lost you at dice
Now you his actions refute
By discussing this and that.

Sakuni, the player expert
Has conquered your lord, the great.
Your say, “the very act
Of bidding you as bet

Was the worst, unjust
Unheard of crime at most,
Therefore you are not lost,”
That is your argument straight

You say that “he had no right
When he himself had lost
In the play in the first
Therefore you are not lost.”

You say “his act is illegal!”
And say it is not moral
Neither it is lawful
So, you are not yet sold”

That is your argument fine-
It is logical and sharpened, thine.
Please is according to the code
Of the Vedas, very, very old.

That law of vedic code
Is very much old and cold
It does not fit into the mould
Of present time penal code.

That moth-eaten law is inert
That is null and void in the first.
So your argument is lost
So I regret to say, “you are lost”.

Women were equal to men
In every respect and kind
In that ancient time
Now it is not so, you mind!

Present day law is this-
One can sell one’s wife
Or give her in charity dire
Or compel her in anything in life
Law of jungle, I confess!

After selling his self
He can sell your life!
That is the law, the practice
I am powerless at this injustice.

One will shudder at this,
The just will rage, refute.
To learn, to see the practice
But I am unable to release.

You from the fettered laws.
No, I am powerless alas
I am compelled to pronounce against
Your question, so very just.

Pardon me, daughter “ he said
And dropped low his head
The empress insulted thus
Poured out with great outburst.

“Well, well, oh father great!
You are leading us finely, good!
When Ravana imprisoned the chaste,
Sita, the angel-blessed,

He sat with pride in his court
And asked his ministers about
The justice of his act
They applauded him with one heart!

If the ruler is the devil
His law will applaud evil
You are saying the cruel
Law of devils and evils!

You did compel my lord
To play, to gamble, oh dad
Was it just and honest
To coerce a man to the worst?

Was it honest, I ask.
To coerce a good monarch?
Was it not pre-planned arranged
Was it not conspiracy concealed?

You built a hall, alas,
To ruin us, on the fall
Anon now to say me “lost”
To the serpent-flagged the worst?

Have you no sense of pity?
Do you ever respect purity?
Have you no daughters and wives?
Have you no sisters to save?

Will you have the stain on you?
Will you bear this infamy, pray?
Will you rejoice at this?
Save me, save me, alas!

Panchali prayed, complained
Folded her hands and cried,
She trembled like a wounded deer
Down rolled her tears and hair!

She cried, she wept, resisted
The iron grip of the attacker-
Hearing her pitiful cries
The sinner called her names.

Dress with dust, and body with dirt
Hair disheveled, with broken bleeding heart,
She struggled and struggled and wailed
Crying very loud, but failed.

The beast did drag her
The bull did mock at her
He pulled her hair
And pushed her before.

Bhima saw the scene,
He could not keep mum,
Raging like a lion
Within the iron chains,
He looked at Dharma askance,
And poured out with vehemence.

*

The vow of Panchali 

The pious Panchali rose
To take a vow, with force:-
“Upon the eternal feet
Of the Power Supreme
The Mother of creation great
I take this vow serene!
With the gushing blood
That rushes like a flood,
The blood of the sinful swine
Of that name Suyodhana,
And the blood of that
Animal did insult
Mixing the red blood streams
Of these sinners extreme
I will bathe in it
With the vengeful heart!
I will spread the blood
Upon my hairy head,
The dark, long hair,
Will be drenched fair.
I will shampoo my hair
And comb them, all you hear!
The oil should be the blood
Of those two murdered curs!
The comb should be made
Of their ribs, indeed!
The comb should be carved
Out of their bones of chests!
The skeleton of their chests
Should become the comb, rarest
With that oil and comb,
I will dress my hair so long,
My hair oil their blood,
My comb made of their chests!
Then and then only,
I will tie my hair truly
My hair will never be tied
Before these things are made!
My hair will be disheveled
As and when he, them, touched!
It will never be tied
Before these two have died!
The hair will be tied on my head,
When these two are dead.”

So said Panchali,
All said, “surely, surely”!
“Sure” said the saints and gods,
“Sure” said all the elements
“Sure, sure” thundered the clouds,
“Sure, sure” echoed the Universe!
“Long live Panchali,
Long live Dharma, the holy.
All cried, “sure, amen”.
The world said, “amen, amen”
All heads did bow
Before the queen’s vow!

Her luxuriant hair waved
Her vow, days afterwards, was proved.
Here, we finish the tale,
Because the vow is told.
Rest is well-known to the world,
It is better I leave it untold!

Conclusion

The tale has been told
Of Panchali bold.
The vow was proved
When the comb was made.
Let us then bow
To the mother of the vow,
Let the world progress
Towards eternal peace.


 


 

About Bharathiar:

Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi also known as Bharathiyar (11 December 1882 – 11 September 1921), was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist, a social reformer and a polyglot. Popularly known as “Mahakavi Bharathi”, he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time. His numerous works included fiery songs kindling patriotism during the Indian Independence movement.