Shankha Vishwajanin
Shankha Vishwajanin in Bengali

Being familiar with traditional operas as part of western culture that he was exposed to at an early age, Rabindranath composed numerous dance-dramas in his own inimitable style. Often for these compositions he chose story-lines from Indian epics and scriptures; around them, with a touch of his magic wand of creative genius and lyrical sense, he wove exquisite tapestries sparkling with human values, timeless and universal. These stories made a special niche among the gems of world literature.
In Shankha, we bring these stories to our readers. This is the second in the series. The first appeared in the Puja (Autumn) 1998 issue.

Gandharba Sourasen was the handsome lead-musician in the divine court of the gods. One day, Madhushree, his fiance, went on a journey far away to Sumeru, the heavenly peak, to pay homage to the Sun. Worried about her well-being, Sourasen was inattentive as his mind strayed. That day at the court his song missed a beat. Urbasi, dancing to his music, was thrown out of rhythm. Indra, the king at the court, was enraged; he banished Sourasen from the heavens. "Go down to earth. There you will suffer and cause sufferings to others; that will mitigate your offense of missing rhythm." On her return, Madhushree was beside herself with grief. She pleaded with Sachi, the queen of heavens, to allow her to go with Sourasen. Her ardent prayers were granted.
Sourasen was reborn on the earth as Aruneshwar, the king of Gandhar. He lost his good looks as part of his punishment. Madhushree became the princess of the Madro dynasty; her new name was Kamalika. Kamalika's picture happened to reach the court of Gandhar, as the king was planning to take a bride. At first sight it won his heart - haunting him in his thoughts and his dreams. Aruneshwar sent his marriage proposal to the king of Madro, Kamalika's father, to marry her. Kamalika's father happily consented. Aruneshwar sent his Beena, the musical instrument most dear to his heart, as a gesture of appreciation. The Beena became the symbol of his presence at the wedding ceremony. On an auspicious day, they were married.
Kamalika came to her husband's home in Gandhar. In spite of her earnest pleas, Aruneshwar still kept himself shrouded in darkness. He hoped that his looks, marred by Indra's curse, would not matter when Kamalika truly falls in love with him someday. "Please don't spoil the intense joy of our union! Let it be beyond mere sight. You can see me in my music." He implored. "Look inwards to your heart, my darling; time will come for your wish to be fulfilled."
Days went by. Kamalika was still adamant to see his face. "Our year-end ceremony would start tomorrow." The king said. " You may watch from the palace-roof. I will take part in the festivities there - among a group of dancers." "But how would I recognize you?" asked Kamalika. "Imagine - any way you wish to." Said Aruneshwar. Kamalika's eager eyes scanned every face they met. The day after, she told the king -" I enjoyed the dance in the woods very much! But one of them seemed to spoil the show; I can't understand - how did he manage to be in such a select group of dancers! what special qualities did he have?" The king's face grew darker; he said - "Someday, you'll understand - by the good graces of your own feelings." However, Aruneshwar had to finally give in to Kamalika's persistent requests. It was a dark night when Kamalika reached the end of her patience and desired to leave, if her wish goes unfulfilled. Aruneshwar could not hide any more; in the early morning light, he uncovered his face. "Oh, how dreadful! how could I be so ill-fated!" Kamalika cried out and ran away from the palace. The king was very sad; he knew all along that this was going to happen.
Kamalika took her lonely shelter in the royal retreat in the woods. Night followed night. Heart-broken, Aruneshwar never knew where she went. He used to come down to the woods on many a moonlit night and played on his Beena. The sound of the melancholy music coming from his yearning heart drifted through the air to reach Kamalika. Her heart would melt - as the haunting melodies evoked her feeling of true love towards Aruneshwar. Longer she stayed away from him, stronger this special feeling grew. The exquisite music stirred her soul like nothing else ever before. Kamalika's heart grew fonder, resonating to this feeling of unquestioning love for him that knew no impediments. At last, she found her inner eye!
One such dark night, she returned to the king." It's time, my beloved - I can be away no more." In the quivering light of the small lamp she carried, Kamalika exclaimed - "O'my dear king! How truly beautiful you are, my darling!"

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