Close Reading: Safal Rajni – 3

Having set up the dynamic of the speaker’s homespun language and the literary artistic language that possibly the poet knows, Mehta still maintains the authenticity of her voice in the next stanza.

“Into the love battle,” is my translation for suratsangraam-shu hun-a taan jaee bhadee. Surat is the Sanskrit term for “intercourse” in the sense of love-play. Sangraam, again Sankrit, means battle. The joint term, in some research is credited as Mehta’s own invention, so this village milkmaid is using some fairly literate description for her situation. But, what she says about it is Prakrit/Apabhransha based. The suffix –shu or shum/shun (indicating an ending “n” sound), has a fascinating history and transition of meanings. The Gujarati Vidypith dictionary indicates that the roots of this term are “kiddas” in Sanskrit and ka-ee-s in Prakrit basically translated as “what.” Its use to suggest sarkhun, that is “like” or banne, that is “both,” appears as entry no. 7 and 8 which mentions its Sanskrit root as samam or Prakrit as si-oon. Entry no. 10 lists an Apabhransha root sahun with a Sanskrit equivalent, saha, meaning “together” or “with.” Implying all these associations with the English term “into,” also allows the reader to bring slang association of “she’s into him”.

While this is pretty fine-spun analysis, let’s stay with it for a little longer. Hun-a taan jaee bhadee is straight from the colloquial language: Hun-a indicates a pattern of speech in the local idiom, extending the basic term “I” with a spoken longer aa sound. Jaee means “went.” Bhadee is the feminine term from the masculine bhad, which is sourced from Prakrit bhad (“d” glottal) and Sanskrit, bhat (“t” glottal) meaning “the brave one.” Specifically for the feminine term, bhadee, the dictionary sources its root from a pure country origin, deshya, verb, bheedavu, which means, “to crowd” or “crush.” So in the active verb form that the speaker is using, she is saying she went and “crowded” her lover. [1]

The linguistic tension between the formal and the colloquial obtaining throughout the remainder of the poem perfectly portrays the speaker’s sense of wonder, at her super-ordinary experience. Narsinh Mehta’s paen to divine love physically experienced shows his poetic skills. As his audience, readers or listeners, we recognize that the extraordinary becomes manifest linguistically as well as experientially.


[1] Translating both active verb forms, bhidi in the first line and bhadi in the second as “crushed,” gives another equivalence between the “earth upholder” giridhar and the village woman and illustrates the dramatic irony in Mehta’s portrayal of the paradox of the divine mingling with the mortal.

About meenapoetartisan

word lover, meaning maniac, bilingual with metalingual interests, sometimes potter, poet, playwright, writer, mover to music, always a pontificator.
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