The English translation of a 120-year-old poem by Nobel laureate and freedom fighter Rabindranath Tagore is going viral on social media, a day after the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. While the event, which was led by PM Narendra Modi, has been celebrated by many, several others have expressed their grief at what this means for the secular fabric of the country. Still others have questioned the need to perform such a ceremony at a time when the country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
In an eerie coincidence, the Bengali poem Deeno Daan, which is from a collection of poetry titled Kahini, was signed by Tagore exactly 120 years ago on the same day, as per the Bengali calendar.
The poem is about a king who wonders if the saint he's speaking to is an atheist because the latter tells him that god does not reside in the newly built temple which cost the kingdom 2 million gold coins.
In the course of the conversation, the saint reminds the king that the poor masses were left devastated without food or shelter in a recent drought. At the time, the king had turned them away when they sought help but he is now glad to spend his gold on the grand temple.
"The King was enraged;
“No God? Oh Saint, aren’t you speaking like an atheist?
On that throne studded with priceless gems, beams the golden idol,
And yet, you proclaim that it is empty?”
“It is not empty; rather, it is full of royal pride.
You have bestowed yourself, oh King, not the God of this world”,
Remarked the saint.”
Many on social media have remarked on the relevance that the poem has in today's times.
While the poem was first shared by literary enthusiasts, particularly those who follow Tagore’s works, an English translation by a Delhi resident, Banojyostna Lahiri, on Facebook went viral. Soon, the poem found its way to other social media platforms and personal messaging groups.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Banojyostna said that Tagore was a vocal advocate of spirituality. He was not an atheist but was against organised religion as it speaks of “arrogance and monetary wealth”. She added that she had translated the poem to English for the benefit of the non-Bengalis on her friends list on Facebook.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram Temple was held on Wednesday after the Supreme Court in November 2019 paved the way for the construction on the disputed land through a unanimous judgement in the decades-old case.
The land until December 1992 had the 16th-century Mughal era Babri Masjid which was demolished illegally by Hindutva activists pledging allegiance to the Ram Janmabhoomi cause.