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Monday, 29 October 2012

Gonanda II - by Sualeh Keen

A poem inspired by the earliest history of Kashmir. Gonanda I is killed, fair and square, but his son Damodara seeks revenge and is killed as well, leaving the burden of history upon the young Gonanda II. Did the latter break the cycle, or did he die like his father and grandfather? 

Sometimes people just don’t know when to stop letting history ruin their present and future. It is said that when Gonanda II grew up, he too was killed.

Gonanda II

Gonanda the Second is my given name
I say yes, I am Gonanda, even as I am Damodar
I am but a third player caught into the game
Of a family funeral gone on for ever

Outside Kashmira's land, in a battlefield any
As a price for with friendship taking side
Killed by Yudhishthra's friend, his friend's enemy
On the banks of Yamuna, my grandfather died

Then was my father Damodar's turn to burn
With revenge's fire to boil his brooding brain
The reign of this beautiful country did he spurn
A pregnant wife's tears like toil down the drain

Did he ride himself to death or was he driven?
Was he cremated with honour or left for dead?
Family honour doubly lost, oh was it misgiven
Any last regret as a chakra chopped his head?

Burden of birth, the gory mantle now falls on me
A baby king who knows no other way through
Beauty all around, duty of revenge calls on me
Got to kill an old enemy named Gonanda too

© Sualeh Keen

Historical backdrop of the poem:

After the mythical creation of Kashmira by the draining of Satisar, history presents a blank till the reign of Gonanda I at the beginning of the Kali yuga. This powerful king was contemporary with Yudhisthira and a friend of his enemy Jarasindhu. Gonanda I, who ruled in Kashmira, where the Ganges flows cheering the mount Kailaas on her way, was invited by Jarasindhu to help him in his invasion of Mathura, the capital of Krishna. With a large army they invaded that city and encamped on the banks of the Yamuna to the great terror of their foes. On one occasion the army of Krishna was defeated in a battle, but Balarama not only retrieved the confusion of his army, but made a vigorous attack on the allied force. For a long time victory remained doubtful, till at last Gonanda I, pierced with wounds fell dead on the field, and the army of Krishna was victorious.

On his death, Damodara I ascended the throne of Kashmira, and though possessed of this beautiful kingdom, he was far from being happy: his proud heart brooded on his father's death. While in this state, he heard that the Gandharas had invited Krishna and his relatives to the nuptials of some of the daughters of their tribe, to be celebrated near the banks of the Indus, and in which the bridegrooms were to be chosen by the brides. While great preparations were being made for the nuptials, the king moved with a large army of infantry and horse, and interrupted the festival. In the battle that ensued, many of the Gandharas were killed, but the king, pierced with Krishna's chakra, perished.

He left his queen Yasobati pregnant, and she was by Krishna's orders raised to the throne. This step was opposed by his envious ministers, but he silenced them by repeating a verse from the Purunas, to the effect that the girls of Kashmira are Parvatis. "Know," said he, "that the sovereigns of Kashmira are portions of Hara, and they should not be hated by the wise even if they be wicked and worldly-minded. Man does not value the woman he enjoys, but the subjects will see in her, their mother and goddess." In due course the queen gave birth to an auspicious male child, and it was a sapling of a family which had well-nigh become extinct. The ceremonies of his birth and coronation were performed by Brahmans, and he grew up and was named Gonanda II after his grandfather. Two nurses were employed for him, one, his mother, to give him milk, and the other to do all other work. His father's ministers would bestow wealth on those on whom he would smile, though the smile of a child is meaningless. If they could not understand his lisping words, they left ashamed. They would often set him upon his father's throne, his feet not reaching the footstool, while his hair wave in the breeze of the flywhisk, they would administer justice to his subjects in his presence. It was at this time that the great battle of Kaurava Pandava was fought, but he was then an infant, and was not therefore asked to help either of the parties.

Taken from Jogesh Chunder Dutt’s
“Kings of Kashmira"
being a translation of the Sanskrit work
Rajatarangini by Kalhana Pandita

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