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Shvoong Home>Books>Poetry>Abstract on “Dawn at Puri” by Jayanta Mahapatra Review

Abstract on “Dawn at Puri” by Jayanta Mahapatra

Book Review   by:akso6o175     Original Author: Andy Kester Sawian
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‘Dawn at Puri’ is an imagist poem (a poem consisting of a number of vivid, sharply etched, but not necessarily interrelated images). The Panorama of Puri (in Orissa- a land of ‘forbidding myth), artistically portrayed with vivid images and symbols, becomes evocative. Puri is the name of a famous town in Orissa, which is considered sacred because of the temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of Orissa. This temple is said to date that to 318 A.D. It is particularly famous for the chariot festival of Jagannath; an annual ritual conducted for the glory of this deity and is attended by a large number of pilgrims. ‘Endless crow noises’; a reference to the endless cawing of the crows, a visual as well as an auditory image. ‘A skull on the holy sands’: This is a startling imagery created with the juxtaposition of the abstract with the concrete, where the abstract ‘holy’ and the concrete ‘skull’ are grouped together. It is believed that the deity of Puri was carved out of a tree trunk that was washed ashore and this fact is alluded to in his poem ‘Losses’. Hoping for some kind of redemption for this wayward world, the speaker in the poem muses: “Perhaps the piece of driftwood/ washed up on the beach/ heals the sand and the water”. Puri is regarded as a sacred site and it is the wish of every pious Hindu to be cremated there to enable them to attain salvation.
‘It’s empty country towards hunger’: a reference to the poverty to the people of Orissa including the sight of the skull lying on the sea-beach symbolizes the utter destitution of the people. ‘White-clad widowed women’: reference to widows wearing white saris and the phrase that points to their predicament as well as the rigidity of Hindu customs and rituals. ‘Past the centers of their lives’: having spent the middle years of their lives and passing their prime. ‘Their austere eyes stare like those caught in a net’: the misery resulting in utter hopelessness is clearly visible on their faces for there is an expression of solemnity in the eyes of the widows in which no worldly desire is perceptible and are full of desire like the eyes of creatures trapped in a net.
‘Dawn’s shining strands of faith’: A person having a firm belief in religion never losses hope, so in spite of their circumstances, the only thing that sustains the widows is their religious faith and the hope born of it. The reference to dawn is to be noted. It refers to a new beginning in nature and thereby, to a new start in mankind and civilization. The tone of quiet acceptance, with a latent awareness of suffering, perhaps indicates a very Indian sensibility. ‘The frail early light’: the dim light of the dawn is a reference to the title of the poem which must be noted. ‘Leprous’: from leprosy, an infectious disease affecting the skin and nerves and causing deformities. ‘A mass of crouched faces’: a large number of timid persons standing in a group, having no confidence in themselves, preferably referring to the lepers and widows who are not allowed to move freely in the town. ‘And suddenly breaks out of my hide’: suddenly emerges from beneath my skin.
‘A sullen solitary pyre’: A pile of wood is used for burning a dead body as part of a funeral rite. The sight of this reminds the poet of his mother’s last wish to be cremated here as it is the gateway to Heaven or the ‘Swargadwara’ which is the name of that part of the long sea-beach where the funeral pyres go on burning. Since the temple of Lord Jaganath at Puri ‘points to unending rhythm, dying in this place will take one to silence the ultimate desire of a human being which will enable him to attain Nirvana. ‘Twisting uncertainly like light on the shifting sands’: This is an apt image of the smoke rising from the funeral pyre where the wind from the sea causes the smoke to twist uncertainly. This is an example of Mahapatra’s ‘transcendal mode’ and an example of his attempt to trap elusive meanings. The poetic exploration of this place turns out to be a search for the self. The view thrills the poet and he becomes an integral part of it, observing a morning scene on the sandy sea-beach in the town of Puri. By means of a series of vivid pictures, the atmosphere of dawn has been created. Mahapatra also underlines the importance of the temple town of Puri and what it means to the Hindus in India.

Published: November 05, 2010   
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  1. 1. Debanjan Mitra, MA 1st yr WBSU Barasat

    dawn at puri

    what about the abject poverty net imagery death imagery and clso the clash between tradition nd modernity and the feeling of urgency voiced in the poem ? Another point is the sceptic discourse of religion questioned by the poet and his surrealistic portrayal of the Puri beach.

    0 Rating Wednesday, December 07, 2011
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