Yogini Poems: Love and Life: by Dr.Adyasha Das
Published by: Black Eagle Books, Dublin, USA
Review by – Sankar Narayan Mallick, General Manager, NABARD, Aizawl
Books of original poems in English are fairly rare from authors of Odisha. Rarer still are the books in English that have the verve and vibration of the vernacular in their flow and flavour. Rooted in the heritage and tradition of the land and yet reaching out to the modern aspiration for flight and freedom, the Yogini poems span a wide range of emotions and orientations of a woman.
Adyasha Das is a bilingual author having a flair for writing in both English and Odia and well versed in both prose and poetry. She is also a scholar in the area of tourism and Yogini cult. She has a book to her credit on the subject of Yoginis of Odisha, ’The Chausathi Yoginis of Hirapur: from Tantra to Tourism”, published by the same publisher Black Eagles Books, which has earned wide readership and recognition. It has been an Amazon bestseller for five times. She is an accomplished singer too and has lent her voice and contributed to crafting of the maiden music video in the state on the theme of Yoginis. Coming in the wake of these cultural forays into the world of yoginis, the present book of poems is yet another welcome initiative by the author at highlighting this amazing aspect of Indian art and culture.
The hypaethral Chausathi Yogini Temple at the outskirts of the capital city at Hirapur, had stoked the interest of the poet in study of Yoginis. The Yoginis, sixty-four in number, are in a circular form around the central deity, Shiva. Each of them is unique with distinct face, body language, ornaments, vehicles and even different coiffure! Indeed, the Yoginis are, in a way, poems carved in stone. The circular shape of the temple and position of Yoginis is indicative of Mandalas studied by Jung. They indicate unity, eternity, equality and completeness. With Shiva at the centre, they are a universe in exuberance. While the temple has an unfinished look from a traditional view, it is intimately suggestive of being connected to the canvas of the sky, the cosmos! All this constitutes the canvas for Adyasha’s poems.
The Yogini as portrayed in the book evokes an esoteric and exotic image. The Sacred Feminine dominated the religious impulse of the people throughout the world in the periods prior to the evolution of the highly institutionalised religions which tended to be androcentric and hierarchical. While the Yoginis bear the imprint of a democratic and inclusive belief system where nature and women have a prime place, they also are away from the mainstream and subjects of occult worship. As such they tend to inspire diverse streams of poesy which are inclusive, universal, mass-oriented and also maverick, rebellious and recondite.
The book opens with a poem which comes up with a canvas that is immense in time and space and hints at hidden connections and continuity:
‘The wind of the bygone eras, the fire of the future
Alone, in this deserted temple
I see the sea flowing in the sky
And the sky submerged in the recesses of the sea.”
The fifty poems in the book flow with fire and flowers. There is a touch of the timeless in the way they are crafted. Yoginis, though a symbol of the latent spiritual power of women, are looked at in a very human way with a poignance and pathos of the perennial. There is a sadness which has a mystic beauty and power revealed in the utterances of the Yogini:
You inhabit me like a wreathe of sadness
Coiled all over me and deep inside
Ever since you left, countless aeons ago!”
The many facets of mind are merged in musing over the Yogini. It is mellow and multi-layered. The leitmotif is, as it were, a yearning for infinity. There is a mystic touch in the way the Yoginis walk to the Ultimate, lissome and lilting, hoary and haunting! The Yogini wants to celebrate its separation and sadness and craves to retain the awareness of the yearning for the Cosmic One:
“My mind is trapped in this weary body of stone.
Take all from me, but my power to realise that you are gone.”
In the poem ‘Companion’, the Yogini is the voice of the Divine wooing the human:
Be my companion,
My alter-ego. Just mine.
If you try, you can reach me.
The surface is rough, the climb tough. Can you walk down a bit?
There is no starting point, no point of end
You to me
An eternal quest
The Sacred Feminine, though ancient and mystic has yet emerged as an inspiration to the feminist awareness and movement for being fierce, fearless, fiery and freedom-bound. The Yogini, as such, invokes the Goddess in woman and also celebrates her emancipation beyond the confines of tradition:
‘I am the Goddess woman
As I make my transition from the fiery yogini to the modern woman
I dare to rewrite history
I have loved Shiva too fondly
To be fearful of rejection.’
Yoga is connection. It is an aspiration of the finite for the infinite. In the end, the Yogini crosses over the barrier of gender itself and mirrors the canvas of cosmos. The poet has a felicity with words and there is a touch of the intense and the sublime in the aspiration of Yoginis. The array of feelings and their expression is subtle, sweeping and serene and touches in many ways the reader’s imagination.
“I am everything
I am also nothing.
Between these two extremes
A rhythmic swing of mind
The book is bedecked with appealing and evocative pictures of statues, temples and sketches of Yoginis and offers an aesthetic and mystical touch to the reader. It comes with a lovely look and layout and has a fine and imaginative cover. There is a shadow of smile on the lips and in eyes of the Yogini, suggestive of many an unknown world of love, life and beyond. I congratulate Satya Pattanaik, Director, BEB for bringing forth a book on a unique theme and packaging it in an excellent manner.
About the Reviewer: Sri Sankar Narayan Mallick is a postgraduate in Management from Utkal University. He has worked in the field of agriculture and rural development in Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and UP and is presently General Manager of NABARD in Mizoram. His passion is reading different genres of literature in English, Odia, Hindi, Bengali, and Assamese and listening to music. His passion is studying the nuances of different cultures.
Yogini Poems: Love and Life
Published by: Black Eagle Books, Dublin, USA
Available at : Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1645600807/ref=sr_1_2…
Amazon India Kindle linl: