12 May, 2021

Love And Obstacles

Kakar’s Bhartrhari agonises over love at its cynical and cruel best. Its painful glory is sung in exquisite poetry.

Love And Obstacles

From the opening sentences of Sudhir Kakar’s kama-soaked historical novel, The Devil Take Love, it is clear that desire will take a wrong turn and come to a bad end. Kakar has imaginatively recreated the life of Bhartrhari, the greatest Sanskrit poet of love, renowned for vacillating between an exuberant life of pleasure and one of world-weary austerity. Since little is known about him, Kakar makes him, quite plausibly, the court poet of the kingdom of Avanti, setting his story in its romantic capital city of Ujjaini during the time of emperor Harsha.

Kakar refashions the “city of beautiful, sensual women in their white mansions”, which the earliest travel guide of our subcontinent, Kalidasa, des­cribed thus to the cloud messenger in Meghadootam: “Though it takes you off your northward course/don’t neglect the view of the roofs/of Ujjaini’s white mansions. If you aren’t delighted/here by the women’s eyes—their darting sidelong looks startled by the glitter/of your cleft lightning—why, you have...

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