Indian poetry has a long and rich history dating back to ancient times. It has been written in numerous languages including Sanskrit, Hindi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Urdu, Persian and English. The best known Indian poems are the ancient epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are still widely known despite being written thousands of years ago. Meghaduta, written by the great Indian poet Kalidasa as early as 5th century CE, is regarded as a poetic masterpiece. The most renowned work of poetry from the middle ages is Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas, which has been acclaimed as “the tallest tree in the magic garden of medieval Indian poetry”. Due to the influence of the British, numerous works of modern Indian poetry are in English. The most renowned modern Indian poet is however Rabindranath Tagore. His best known poems include Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo and Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata, both of which were written in Bengali but were also translated to English. Know more about Indian poetry through the 10 most famous poems by Indian poets.
#10 In the Bazaars of Hyderabad
What do you sell O ye merchants ? Richly your wares are displayed. Turbans of crimson and silver, Tunics of purple brocade, Mirrors with panels of amber, Daggers with handles of jade. What do you weigh, O ye vendors? Saffron and lentil and rice. What do you grind, O ye maidens? Sandalwood, henna, and spice. What do you call , O ye pedlars? Chessmen and ivory dice. What do you make, O ye goldsmiths? Wristlet and anklet and ring, Bells for the feet of blue pigeons Frail as a dragon-fly’s wing, Girdles of gold for dancers, Scabbards of gold for the king. What do you cry, O ye fruitmen? Citron, pomegranate, and plum. What do you play ,O musicians? Cithar, sarangi and drum. what do you chant, O magicians? Spells for aeons to come. What do you weave, O ye flower-girls With tassels of azure and red? Crowns for the brow of a bridegroom, Chaplets to garland his bed. Sheets of white blossoms new-garnered To perfume the sleep of the dead.
Hyderabad is the capital city of the Indian state of Telangana and bazaar is a Hindi word for market. In the Bazaars of Hyderabad describes the social and cultural life of the city through the beautiful common scenes in its traditional markets. The poem has a conversational tone. It is set in the form of questions and answers between the vendors and buyers in the market. It contains a rhythm and a beat, and the sequence of the phrases “What do you” and “O ye” marks the rhyme scheme of the poem. To describe the bazaars, Naidu uses rich sensory images and a vibrant sense of touch, sound, smell, sight and taste. In the Bazaars of Hyderabad has been described as an oriental gem by The New York Times. It is the most famous poem of Sarojini Naidu, who is known as The Nightingale of India.
|English Title:||Sun’s Charioteer|
|Poet:||Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar’|
Excerpt (In Hindi):-
'जय हो' जग में जले जहाँ भी, नमन पुनीत अनल को, जिस नर में भी बसे, हमारा नमन तेज को, बल को। किसी वृन्त पर खिले विपिन में, पर, नमस्य है फूल, सुधी खोजते नहीं, गुणों का आदि, शक्ति का मूल। ऊँच-नीच का भेद न माने, वही श्रेष्ठ ज्ञानी है, दया-धर्म जिसमें हो, सबसे वही पूज्य प्राणी है। क्षत्रिय वही, भरी हो जिसमें निर्भयता की आग, सबसे श्रेष्ठ वही ब्राह्मण है, हो जिसमें तप-त्याग। तेजस्वी सम्मान खोजते नहीं गोत्र बतला के, पाते हैं जग में प्रशस्ति अपना करतब दिखला के। हीन मूल की ओर देख जग गलत कहे या ठीक, वीर खींच कर ही रहते हैं इतिहासों में लीक। जिसके पिता सूर्य थे, माता कुन्ती सती कुमारी, उसका पलना हुआ धार पर बहती हुई पिटारी। सूत-वंश में पला, चखा भी नहीं जननि का क्षीर, निकला कर्ण सभी युवकों में तब भी अद्भुत वीर। तन से समरशूर, मन से भावुक, स्वभाव से दानी, जाति-गोत्र का नहीं, शील का, पौरुष का अभिमानी। ज्ञान-ध्यान, शस्त्रास्त्र, शास्त्र का कर सम्यक् अभ्यास, अपने गुण का किया कर्ण ने आप स्वयं सुविकास।
In the great Indian epic Mahabharata, Karna was the first-born son of Kunti. However, she abandoned him at birth as he was conceived before her marriage. Karna then grows up in a lowly family but becomes one of the best warriors of his time. He becomes friends with Duryodhana and ultimately fights on his side against his own brothers, the Pandavas. Rashmirathi brilliantly captures the tale of Karna capturing all hues of human emotions he is trapped in due to the various dilemmas he faces. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar is considered as one of the most important modern Hindi poets and Rashmirathi is his most famous as well as his most critically acclaimed work.
|English Title:||Cloud Messenger|
|Published:||5th century CE|
A year from amorousness: it passes slowly. So thought a Yaksha by his master sent, for scanting duty, to the Rámagiry: to mope in penance groves as banishment by rivers Sítá's bathing there made holy. Áshádha's ending on the mountain found him weakened, gold ring slipping from his wrist. And mixed his pleasure as a cloud came down so playfully to hug the summit mist, as elephants in heat will butt the ground. In tears withheld he took his fall from grace, from wealth attending on the King of Kings. The otherworld that brimmed in cloudy air was still discomfort when far longing brings a breath to hold him to that neck's embrace. With now the rainy month stood close at hand, to fresh Kutaja blooms he adds his plea and asks most courteously the cloud bring news of welfare to his loved-one — words that she, revived to hear of him, will understand.
Kalidasa is widely regarded as the greatest Indian poet of all time and Meghaduta is his most famous poem. Consisting of 111 stanzas, the verse is unique to Sanskrit literature as it goes beyond the verse-repeating or chorus form, normally the form preferred for love poems, and instead strings the stanzas into a narrative. The poem talks about a yaksha (nature spirit) who has been exiled to Central India for neglecting his duties. While pining for his wife on a mountain peak, he sees a cloud and he tries to convince it to deliver a message to his beloved. He does so by describing to the cloud the many beautiful sights it will see on its northward course to the Himalayan city of Alaka, where his wife awaits his return. Meghaduta initiated the genre of Sandesa Kavya, or messenger poems, most of which are modelled on it. It also inspired the play Maria Stuart by 18th century German dramatist Friedrich Schiller.
#7 Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo
|English Title:||Where The Mind Is Without Fear|
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by the tireless efforts of men; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where the currents of tireless striving originate and flow without hindrance all over; Where the clear stream of reason and thoughts has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of lowly habits and deeds; Where the valour is not divided in 100 different streams; Where all the deeds, emotions are blissfully given by you My father, strike the sleeping India without mercy, so that she may awaken into such a heaven.
Written before India gained its independence, this poem represents Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of a new and awakened India. The first nine lines of the poem presents a number of statements beginning with “Where”. These statements describe a place which Tagore is hoping India will be after independence. In the last two lines of the poem, he then makes a plea to his Father, for his country to wake up into “that heaven of freedom.” Rabindranath Tagore is a towering figure in world literature and the most famous modern Indian poet. His best known poetry collection is Gitanjali and it was largely due to Gitanjali that he won the 1913 Nobel Prize for Literature. Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo is the most renowned poem from Gitanjali.
|English Title:||Lake of the Deeds of Ram|
Excerpt (In Hindi):-
चौपाई बंदउ गुरु पद पदुम परागा। सुरुचि सुबास सरस अनुरागा।। अमिय मूरिमय चूरन चारू। समन सकल भव रुज परिवारू।। सुकृति संभु तन बिमल बिभूती। मंजुल मंगल मोद प्रसूती।। जन मन मंजु मुकुर मल हरनी। किएँ तिलक गुन गन बस करनी।। श्रीगुर पद नख मनि गन जोती। सुमिरत दिब्य द्रृष्टि हियँ होती।। दलन मोह तम सो सप्रकासू। बड़े भाग उर आवइ जासू।। उघरहिं बिमल बिलोचन ही के। मिटहिं दोष दुख भव रजनी के।। सूझहिं राम चरित मनि मानिक। गुपुत प्रगट जहँ जो जेहि खानिक।। दोहा/सोरठा जथा सुअंजन अंजि दृग साधक सिद्ध सुजान। कौतुक देखत सैल बन भूतल भूरि निधान।।1।।
Ramcharitmanas is an epic poem which tells the story of the Hindu deity Rama. It is structured around three conversations that happen between: the deities Shiva and Parvati; the sages Bharadwaj and Yajnavalkya; and the sage Kakbhushundi and Garuda, a legendary bird who is the vehicle of God Vishnu. Ramcharitmanas covers the story of Rama in detail including why he was incarnated on earth; his childhood and adolescence; his marriage to Sita; his exile; Sita’s abduction by Ravana, the king of Lanka; and finally the great war between Rama and Ravana. Even though Tulsidas was a great Sanskrit scholar, he wrote Ramcharitmanas in the vernacular Awadhi dialect of Hindi so that the story of Ram was accessible to the general public and not just the Sanskrit-speaking elite. Ramcharitmanas is widely regarded as one of the greatest works in world literature. Among other things, it has been acclaimed as “the greatest book of all devotional literature”. It has had a huge impact on Indian culture and had initiated many cultural traditions including that of Ramlila, the dramatic enactment of the text.
#5 Vande Mataram
|English Title:||Mother, I Bow To Thee|
|Poet:||Bankim Chandra Chatterjee|
“Mother, I bow to thee! Rich with thy hurrying streams, bright with orchard gleams, Cool with thy winds of delight, Dark fields waving Mother of might, Mother free. Glory of moonlight dreams, Over thy branches and lordly streams, Clad in thy blossoming trees, Mother, giver of ease Laughing low and sweet! Mother I kiss thy feet, Speaker sweet and low! Mother, to thee I bow. Rich with thy hurrying streams, bright with orchard gleams, Cool with thy winds of delight, Dark fields waving Mother of might, Mother free. Glory of moonlight dreams, Over thy branches and lordly streams, Clad in thy blossoming trees, Mother, giver of ease Laughing low and sweet! Mother I kiss thy feet, Speaker sweet and low! Mother, to thee I bow. Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands, When the sword flesh out in the seventy million hands And seventy million voices roar Thy dreadful name from shore to shore? With many strengths who art mighty and stored, To thee I call Mother and Lord! Though who savest, arise and save! To her I cry who ever her foe man drove Back from plain and Sea And shook herself free. Thou art wisdom, thou art law, Thou art heart, our soul, our breath Though art love divine, the awe In our hearts that conquers death. Thine the strength that nerves the arm, Thine the beauty, thine the charm. Every image made divine In our temples is but thine. Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen, With her hands that strike and her swords of sheen, Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned, And the Muse a hundred-toned, Pure and perfect without peer, Mother lend thine ear, Rich with thy hurrying streams, Bright with thy orchard gleams, Dark of hue O candid-fair. In thy soul, with jewelled hair And thy glorious smile divine, Loveliest of all earthly lands, Showering wealth from well-stored hands! Mother, mother mine! Mother sweet, I bow to thee, Mother great and free!
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote this poem in a spontaneous session using words from Sanskrit and Bengali. It was included in his 1881 novel Anandamath. Vande Mataram was composed into song by Rabindranath Tagore. The song was first sung by Tagore in a political context at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. It soon became hugely popular as a marching song in the Indian Independence Movement. People worked themselves up into a patriotic fervour by shouting the slogan “Vande Mataram”. The British, fearful of an inflamed Indian public, made the recital of the song a crime. After independence, the first two verses of Vande Mataram were declared the “national song” of the Republic of India. Vande Mataram continues to enjoy enormous popularity in India. In a 2002, Vande Mataram, from the film Anand Math, was ranked second in an international BBC poll for the most famous song of all time.
#4 Hanuman Chalisa
|English Title:||40 Chaupais On Hanuman|
Excerpt (In Hindi):-
दोहा श्रीगुरु चरन सरोज रज, निजमन मुकुरु सुधारि। बरनउं रघुबर बिमल जसु, जो दायक फल चारि।। बुद्धिहीन तनु जानिके, सुमिरौं पवन-कुमार। बल बुधि बिद्या देहु मोहिं, हरहु कलेस बिकार।। चौपाई जय हनुमान ज्ञान गुन सागर। जय कपीस तिहुं लोक उजागर।। राम दूत अतुलित बल धामा। अंजनि-पुत्र पवनसुत नामा।। महाबीर बिक्रम बजरंगी। कुमति निवार सुमति के संगी।। कंचन बरन बिराज सुबेसा। कानन कुण्डल कुँचित केसा।। हाथ बज्र औ ध्वजा बिराजे। कांधे मूंज जनेउ साजे।। शंकर सुवन केसरी नंदन। तेज प्रताप महा जग वंदन।। बिद्यावान गुनी अति चातुर। राम काज करिबे को आतुर।। प्रभु चरित्र सुनिबे को रसिया। राम लखन सीता मन बसिया।। सूक्ष्म रूप धरि सियहिं दिखावा। बिकट रूप धरि लंक जरावा।। भीम रूप धरि असुर संहारे। रामचन्द्र के काज संवारे।। लाय सजीवन लखन जियाये। श्री रघुबीर हरषि उर लाये।। रघुपति कीन्ही बहुत बड़ाई। तुम मम प्रिय भरतहि सम भाई।। सहस बदन तुम्हरो जस गावैं। अस कहि श्रीपति कण्ठ लगावैं।। सनकादिक ब्रह्मादि मुनीसा। नारद सारद सहित अहीसा।। जम कुबेर दिगपाल जहां ते। कबि कोबिद कहि सके कहां ते।।
Stotra, a Sanskrit word for a “poems of praise”, is a literary genre in Indian religious texts. Hanuman Chalisa is a devotional stotra addressed to Hanuman, a devotee of Lord Rama and one of the central characters in the Indian epic, the Ramayan. A chaupai is a quatrain verse in Indian poetry that uses a metre of four syllables. Hanuman Chalisa consists of 43 verses: two introductory Dohas, forty Chaupais and one Doha in the end. The first ten chaupais describe the auspicious form, knowledge, virtues, powers and bravery of Hanuman. The next ten chaupais describe the acts of Hanuman in his service to Ram. The last twenty chaupais describe the need for the divine grace of Hanuman. In the concluding doha, the poet requests Hanuman to reside in his heart, along with Ram, Lakshman and Sita. The Hanuman Chalisa is recited by millions of Hindus every day and a large population of India knows it by heart.
#3 Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata
|English Title:||Dispenser Of The Destiny Of India|
Excerpt (In Hindi):-
जन-गण-मन अधिनायक जय हे भारत भाग्य विधाता । पंजाब-सिन्धु-गुजरात-मराठा, द्राविड़-उत्कल-बंग विंध्य हिमाचल यमुना गंगा, उच्छल जलधि तरंग तब शुभ नामे जागे, तब शुभ आशिष मांगे गाहे तब जय गाथा । जन-गण-मंगलदायक जय हे, भारत भाग्य विधाता । जय हे, जय हे, जय हे, जय जय जय जय हे ।
In Hindu philosophy, Para Brahman is the formless spirit that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond. It is the “Highest Brahman” that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualizations. Penned by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in a highly Sanskritized Bengali, Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata is a poem dedicated to the Para Brahman, who hailed as the dispenser of the destiny of India. Consisting of five stanzas, the poem was first sung on the second day of the annual session of the Indian National Congress in Calcutta on December 27, 1911. When India became independent, the first stanza of the poem was adopted as the National anthem of India. It became known as Jana Gana Mana.
|Era (Approx):||Ancient (Not Known)|
To sainted Nárad, prince of those Whose lore in words of wisdom flows. Whose constant care and chief delight Were Scripture and ascetic rite, The good Válmíki, first and best Of hermit saints, these words addressed: “In all this world, I pray thee, who Is virtuous, heroic, true? Firm in his vows, of grateful mind, To every creature good and kind? Bounteous, and holy, just, and wise, Alone most fair to all men's eyes? Devoid of envy, firm, and sage, Whose tranquil soul ne'er yields to rage? Whom, when his warrior wrath is high, Do Gods embattled fear and fly? Whose noble might and gentle skill The triple world can guard from ill? Who is the best of princes, he Who loves his people's good to see?
Ramayan or Ramayana is an ancient Indian epic poem written in the Sanskrit language and attributed to legendary Maharishi (“Great Sage”) Valmiki. It narrates the story of Rama, the prince of the city of Ayodhya in the Kingdom of Kosala. Rama is the eldest son of King Dasharatha. However, his step-mother Kaikeyi wants the kingdom for her son Bharata. Thus on the behest of Kaikeyi, Dasharatha is forced to unwillingly send Ram to a fourteen year exile to the forest. During the exile, Rama’s wife, Sita, is kidnapped by Ravana, the powerful king of Lanka. With the assistance of his brother Lakshmana and his devotee Hanuman, Rama then wages war against Ravana. With a length of 24,000 verses, the Ramayana is one of the largest ancient epics in world literature. Read by millions of people every year, it is also one of the most influential texts ever written. Among other things, the characters of the poem, including Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata, Hanuman and Ravana are all fundamental to the cultural consciousness of the nations of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
|Era (Approx):||Ancient (Not Known)|
Wrathful sons of Dhrita-rashtra, born of Kuru's royal race! Righteous sons of noble Pandu, god-born men of godlike grace! Skill in arms attained these princes from a Brahman warrior bold, Drona, priest and proud preceptor, peerless chief of days of old! Out spake Drona to the monarch in Hastina's royal hall, Spake to Bhishma and to Kripa, spake to lords and courtiers all: “Mark the gallant princes, monarch, trained in arms and warlike art, Let them prove their skill and valour, rein the steed and throw the dart.” Answered then the ancient monarch, joyful was his royal heart, “Best of Brahmans and of warriors, nobly hast thou done thy part! Name the place and fix the moment, hold a royal tournament, Publish wide the laws of combat, publish far thy king's consent. Sightless roll these orbs of vision, dark to me is noonday light, Happier men will mark the tourney and the peerless princes' fight. Let the good and wise Vidura serve thy mandate and behest, Let a father's pride and gladness fill this old and cheerless breast.” Then the good and wise Vidura unto his duties bound, Drona, blessed with skill and wisdom, measured out the tourney ground, Clear of jungle was the meadow, by a crystal fountain graced, Drona on the lighted altar holy gifts and offerings placed, Holy was the star auspicious, and the hour was calm and bright, Men from distant town and hamlet came to view the sacred rite. Then arose white stately mansions, built by architects of fame, Decked with arms for Kuru's monarch and for every royal dame, And the people built their stages circling round the listed green, And the nobles with their white tents graced the fair and festive scene. Brightly dawned the festal morning, and the monarch left his hall, Bhishma and the pious Kripa with the lords and courtiers all, And they came unto the mansions, gay and glittering, gold-encased, Decked with gems and rich baidurya, and with strings of pearls be-laced. Fair Gandhari, queen of Kuru, Pritha, Pandu's widowed dame, Ladies in their gorgeous garments, maids of beauty and of fame, Mounted on their glittering mansions where the tints harmonious blend, As, on Meru's golden mountain, queens of heavenly gods ascend! And the people of the city, Brahmans, Vaisyas, Kshatras bold, Men from stall and loom and anvil gathered thick, the young and old, And arose the sound of trumpet and the surging people's cry, Like the voice of angry ocean, tempest-lashed, sublime and high!
Mahabharat or Mahabharata is an ancient Indian epic composed in the Sanskrit language by legendary Maharishi Vyasa. It primarily focuses on the struggle between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, for the throne of the kingdom of Hastinapura. They are led by their eldest brothers Duryodhana and Yudhishthira respectively. The conflict culminates in the Great Battle of Kurukshetra, where numerous ancient kingdoms align themselves with one of the sides. The story of Mahabharata has numerous themes, the most prominent of which include Dharma, the duty and responsibility of an individual; and Karma, the action of an individual and its repercussions. The Mahabharata was transferred through oral tradition for centuries before it was finally put to text. It is the longest known epic poem ever written consisting of over 200,000 individual verse lines. Roughly, this is ten times the length of the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. Mahabharat contains numerous texts within it like the Bhagavad Gita, which has influenced many great thinkers, including Mahatma Gandhi, Aldous Huxley, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Nikola Tesla.