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Poetry as prophecy - Kanakadasa

I have always been fascinated with this genre of poetry labeled ‘mystic poetry’. I believe all poetry to be mystic. I see poetry as a kind of documentation. a form of expression deriving from observation, insight and questioning. This critical, yet piercingly plain gaze is directed at the unknown and the unseen, much like mythology, philosophy or theology. The poet-prophet is an important figure, not only because of the profundity of verse, but because they rise from within a social and cultural fabric, and become historians and sociologists through their poetic fervour. One could say this of Ghalib, Kabir, Tukaram, Hafiz and countless other visionaries across our living history.

Kanakadasa was a 16th Century bard who wrote poetry that cut across caste, class and other societal impositions. This voice was formed, also because of his own experiences of untouchability and discrimination. Today, his poetry is even appropriated by Carnatic musicians, because of its simplicity, its “God effect" as well as its use of metre, rhythm and rhyme.

"Nee Mayeyolago…” is a brilliant example of Kanakadasa’s radical vision that questions the very nature of perception, reality, sensation and existence itself. I find the sense of surrender deeply interesting. The poet is at peace with what he cannot conceive. His very act of questioning is a philosophy of being. a lifeworld that is sensitive and filled with beauty. The simplicity of form allows it to escape the trappings of losing oneself in the craft, while, at the same time creating an idiom that seamlessly punctuates his “mystic” questions.

The audio narration in the video is from Pawan Kumar’s Kannada film Lucia - a tour de force which deals with questions of reality and illusion, among other things.


Are you a creature of Illusion Kanakadasa

Are you a creature of illusion? Or is illusion your creation? Are you a part of the body? Or is the body a part of you?

Is space within the house? Or the house within space? Or are both the house and space within the seeing eye?

Is the eye within the mind? Or is the mind within the eye? Or are both the eye and the mind within you, Hari?

Does sweetness lie in sugar, or sugar in sweetness? Or do both sweetness and sugar lie iin the tongue?

Does the tongue lie within the mind? Or the mind within the tongue? Or are both the tongue and the mind within you, Hari?

Does fragrance lie in the flower? Or the flower in the fragrance? Or do both the flower and fragrance lie in the nostrils?

I cannot say, O lord Adikeshava of Kaginele O! peerless one, are all things within you alone?

ನೀ ಮಾಯೆಯೊಳಗೊ ನಿನ್ನೊಳು ಮಾಯೆಯೊ

ನೀ ದೇಹದೊಳಗೊ ನಿನ್ನೊಳು ದೇಹವೊ

ಬಯಲು ಆಲಯದೊಳಗೊ ಆಲಯವು ಬಯಲೊಳಗೊ

ಬಯಲು ಆಲಯವೆರಡು ನಯನದೊಳಗೊ

ನಯನ ಬುದ್ಧಿಯೊಳಗೊ ಬುದ್ಧಿ ನಯನದೊಳಗೊ

ನಯನ ಬುದ್ಧಿಗಳೆರಡು ನಿನ್ನೊಳಗೊ ಹರಿಯೆ

ಸವಿಯು ಸಕ್ಕರೆಯೊಳಗೊ ಸಕ್ಕರೆಯು ಸವಿಯೊಳಗೊ

ಸವಿಯು ಸಕ್ಕರೆಗಳೆರಡು ಜಿಹ್ವೆಯೊಳಗೊ

ಜಿಹ್ವೆ ಮನಸಿನೊಳಗೊ ಮನಸು ಜಿಹ್ವೆಯೊಳಗೊ

ಜಿಹ್ವೆ ಮನಸುಗಳೆರಡು ನಿನ್ನೊಳಗೊ ಹರಿಯೆ

ಕುಸುಮದೊಳು ಗಂಧವೊ ಗಂಧದೊಳು ಕುಸುಮವೊ

ಕುಸುಮ ಗಂಧಗಳೆರಡು ಆಘ್ರಾಣದೊಳಗೊ ಅಸಮಭವ ಕಾಗಿನೆಲೆಯಾದಿಕೇಶವರಾಯ ಉಸುರಲೆನ್ನಳವಲ್ಲ ಎಲ್ಲ ನಿನ್ನೊಳಗೊ

- ಕನಕದಾಸರು

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