Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Hero

Today is 25th Baishakh, Rabindranath Tagore's birthday by the Bengali calendar. I was thinking of translating one of his poems for this occasion. As I said before on this blog,
One of the earliest memories that comes to my mind when I think about Rabindranath Tagore is that of my mother reading Beerpurush (The Hero) to me. Whenever she took the Sanchayita (a fat anthology of Tagore’s poems) in hand, I’d tell her to read that poem at least once.
Here's Tagore's own translation of the lovely poem. However, that translation only tells the story. The structure of the original Bengali poem is not preserved. So I thought, "Why not translate Beerpurush?" and started on it. Lack of time and difficulties in translating certain phrases keeping the rhyme intact almost made me give it up. Then I found this on the Net:

I have a very skeptical view of the Indian animation industry, but this animation is so beautiful that I feel I need to change my views. It is the recitation of the original Beerpurush in Tagore's own voice, along with animation created along the lines of Nandalal Bose's illustrations of Tagore' book "Sahaj Path". I felt I needed to share this.

So I started with renewed vigour and translated the rest of the poem. Enjoy!

The Hero
By Rabindranath Tagore

Imagine, I’m on a foreign tour and

Taking mother to a far away land.

You are on a palanquin, mother,

Going with the door slightly ajar,

I’m traveling on my red steed,

Trotting by your side.

The hooves kick up a cloud of red dust

That flies behind us as we ride.


Evening comes, the sun drops down low,

By the field of the twin ponds we go.

It’s desolate as we look all around,

There’s not a single soul to be found,

You are by yourself, in your mind,

A little scared, thinking “Where are we?”

I’m telling you, “Don’t be afraid mother,

That’s the dried up river we can see.”


Hidden thorns cover the vast field,

The curved path in the middle lies revealed.

Cattle are nowhere to be found,

To the village they went at sundown,

Who knows where we are bound?

In the dark we can’t see properly.

Then imagine you called me and said,

“What’s that light on the shore that we see?”


Suddenly a war cry we hear

And see some people draw near!

Scared inside the palanquin

To the gods you start praying---

The bearers dropped their load trembling

In the bushes they have hidden in dread.

Imagine, I call you and say,

“I’m here mother, why are you afraid?”


Sticks in hands, bushy hair on their heads---

Their ears are stuffed with flowers red.

I call out “Halt where you are,

If you take a single step further

Just take a look at my sabre,

With this blade I’ll mince all of you.”

Hearing this they jumped up

And uttered their war cry anew.


“Child, don’t you go!” you pray

“Be quiet and watch me.” I say.

I rode on my horse in their midst,

There was a clanking of swords and shields,

The fighting was, mother, so intense

You’ll get goose bumps if you hear.

So many people ran away in fright,

So many others’ heads were chopped clear.


Fighting with so many people alone,

You think your child is surely gone.

Then I come drenched in blood and sweat

And tell you, “The fight has ended.”

Then from the palanquin you alight

And kiss me and pick me in your arms.

Saying, “Thank God my child was with me,

Or what a calamity it would be!”


So many events happen every day---

Why doesn’t something happen this way?

It would just be like a story then,

It would amaze all who’d listen---

Brother would say, “How can it happen?

My little brother isn’t that strong!”

The neighbours would hear it and say,

“Thank God she took her child along.”

(Translated by Sugata Banerji)


  1. Thanks for the translation! This actually explains a lot--guess this is where the Oedipal tendencies of most Bongs originates from

  2. Lovely post. Just blogged it.