Funeral Rites by Romesh Chunder Dutt


Victor of a deathful battle, sad Yudhishthir viewed the plain,
Friends and kinsmen, kings and chieftains, countless troops untimely slain,
And he spake to wise Sudharman, pious priest of Kuru’s race,
Unto Sanjay, unto Dhaumya, to Vidura full of grace,
Spake unto the brave Yujutsu, Kuru’s last surviving chief,
Spake to faithful Indrasena and to warriors sunk in grief;
“Pious rites are due to foemen and to friends and kinsmen slain,
None shall lack a fitting funeral, none shall perish on the plain.”
Wise Vidura and his comrades sped on sacred duty bound,
Sandalwood and scented aloes, oil and ghee and perfumes found,
Silken robes of costly splendour, fabrics by the artist wove,
Dry wood from the thorny jungle, perfume from the scented grove,
Shattered cane and splintered lances, hewed and ready for the fire,
Piled and ranged in perfect order into many a funeral pyre.
Kings and princes, noble warriors, were in rank and order laid,
And with streams of melted butter were the rich libations made,

Blazed the fire with wondrous radiance by the rich libations fed,
Sanctifying and consuming mortal remnants of the dead.
Brave Duryodhan and his brothers, Salya of the mighty car,
Bhurisravas king of nations, Jayadratha famed in war,
Abhimanyu son of Arjun, Lakshman proud Duryodhan’s son,
Somadatta and the Srinjays famed for deeds of valour done,
Matsya’s monarch proud Virata, Drupad fair Panchala’s king,
And his sons, Panchala’s princes, whose great deeds the minstrels sing,
Cultured monarch of Kosala and Gandhara’s wily lord,
Kama proud and peerless archer, matchless with his flaming sword,
Bhagadatta eastern monarch, all resistless in his car,
Ghatotkacha son of Bhima, Alambusha famed in war,
And a hundred other monarchs all received the pious rite,
Till the radiance of the fire-light chased the shadows of the night!
Pitri-medha, due to fathers, was performed with pious care,
Hymns and wails and lamentations mingled in the midnight air,
Sacred songs of rik and saman rose amidst the women’s wail,
And the creatures of the wide earth heard the sound subdued and pale!
Smokeless and with radiant lustre shone each red and lighted pyre,
Like the planets of the bright sky throbbing with celestial fire!
Countless myriads, nameless, friendless, from each court and camp afar,
From the east and west collected, fell in Kuru-Kshetra’s war,
Thousand fires for them were lighted, they received the pious rite,
Such was good Yudhishthir’s mandate, such was wise Vidura’s might,
All the dead were burned to ashes, and the sacred rite was o’er,
Dhrita-rashtra and Yudhishthir slowly walked to Ganga’s shore.

Source: The Bengali Book of English Verse (1918)

Romesh Chunder Dutt -(1848–1909)

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