It was during the rule of the Pala kings in Bengal (7th CE-11th CE) that the old Sanskrit language, having turned into several derivative or Apabhramsa languages and also having mingled with several of the spoken languages of the people known as Prakrit, had, in these parts of the subcontinent, turned into Magadhi, Ardh-Magadhi – meaning half-Magadhi – and then into Pali – and was slowly turning into the Bangla language. It was at this juncture that the Twilight Language came to be – a pre or proto-Bangla language where the words often had multiple folds of meanings, the core one being hidden in mystic mist. This was also a period of intense churnings of faith – churnings that were to form the philosophical foundations of songs written and sung in this language.

During those Buddhist times, the curse of casteism had not broken society up through fear and hateful violence. Music flowed free and happy in carnivals abound. Carnivals have always been abound in geographies that are Bengal now. The land was fertile and the people well-fed. Thus, happiness had prevailed and freedom was cherished. Carnivals were places where people would eat, drink, make music, dance and make love. Unlike the Vedic rituals, the masters of these ceremonies would be the shamans – the casteless Tantric bards whose songs would tell tales of mystic paths and cosmic joys, and the people would sing along – telling tales of their daily and nightly lives, of how they live. Such carnivals were known as Ganachakra – meaning, People’s Wheel. The mystic philosophical contents of these songs had come to be as a result of a beautiful confluence of the a-binarism or Void-worship of the Buddhists as was founded by scholar Nagarjuna and the cults and rituals of the several tribes that had lived in the subcontinent since times immemorial.

The mysticisms that form the thematic bulwark of this Twilight literature lie hidden within the very twilit folds of the language – in the darkness of enchantment interspersed by glimmering Bodhi. From Buddhism, it incorporated the Void beyond all binaries; and from the multiple peoples’ religions (Lokayat), it incorporated the corporeal materialism – the idea that the body is the universe, there is no soul, no spirit that lies independent of the body, of speech and of mind – all being matters perceivable. Along with speech, silence was also important – for the core of the philosophy that lies behind the Twilight Language literature such as Charya tells of the Anuttar – the unanswerable that cannot be expressed in words. To tell of what cannot thus be grasped by signifiers and syntaxes – this is the challenge the Twilight bards had taken up.

Song 11

The strength of vessels is held in bed very firm,
Heroic volume rises in spontaneous drum.
Kanhu a dark yogi, is engaged for the rite,
Through the city of the body’s surrondings.
Breathing in and breating out are tied to his feet,
Like ankle bells of the hour that rings.
Day and night are turned into pleasure-amulet,
Wearing ashes from burntout anger, illutions and hate.
Kahn kapalik adorns garland with pearls of salvation,
By killing maternal links and related moral question.
Song 12

On the seat of mercy I play chess,
True Guru makes me win the universal race.
Duality, my king, does conquer,
From benefactor’s advice Kahn sees bliss-city is near.
First I don’t let the pawns to survive,
I take bishop and defeat those five.
I checkmate the living with my queen,
So that all worldly existence I can win.
Kanhu says: I know when to move where,
And take a count of sixty-four-square.


Song 13

Tri-refuge boat captures eight virgins,
Empty chamber, pity resides in body’s margins.
I crossed the river of existence like a dream,
In mid-river I came to know waves full to the brim.
Five Tathāgatas are appointed as oar,
Kanhu, row the boat beyond dream-shore.
Let smell, touch and taste be as they are,
Like a dream without a sleep to refer.
The mind is a boatman that sails Empty River,
Kanhu goes to union with great bliss forever.


Song 14 

Between the Ganges and Yamuna the boat glides,
Elephant-goddess take drowning men to other sides.
Row on Dombi, there’s no time to slain,
True Guru’s blessing I shall go to the city of life again.
Five oars splashes; rope is bound at the end,
Sift with the sky-sieve so that water may not extend.
The sun and moon are the two wheels at first,
While creation and destruction are the mast.
Right and left cannot be seen, you steer on,
Takes no payment or tendence, ferries for intension.
He who mounts the chariot, not knowing how to steer,
Wandering from shore to shore is his greatest fear.

Song 15

Self can determine itself not perceived by measure,
If taken the easy road the return path seize a closure.
Amble not along shores, you fool, straigtht livelihood,
Do not take the bends, gold awahes the highness road.
Illusion is an ocean hey you fool cannot fathom,
Why not ask guru even no boat or raft in the kingdom?
Empty horizon, void boundary yet don’t forget to go,
Eight great attainments here if straight road you follow.
Leaving paths to left and right, briefly says Shanti,
Go with eyes closed where there’s no toll or security.

Song 16

Intact roar in body-speech-mind, dark clouds thunder,
Hearing it demon of death flees whole atmosphere.
Like a mad-drunk elephant mind starts the chase,
It whirls around nonstop thirsty in the field of space.
Breaks shackles of virtue and vice, grinds pillar to dust,
Mind touches the peak of sky entering Nirvana at last.
Ignores three worlds intoxicated with Supreme-essence,
An expert on five subjects, do not see any opponents.
Scorched by burning sun entry into yard of sky,
Mahitta says I drown here yet no vision in my eye.

Song 17

Sun is the gourd; the moon is the string’s mimmick,
Unstruck sound is the neck; the disc is very eccentric.
Playing O Darling, the ancient-mystic-lyre,
Void string’s vibrations make sadness prior.
Duality of real and surreal is separately tuned,
While absolute equilibrium – oneness is consumed.
Strings pressed by fingers like an elephant’s trap,
Thirty two strings spread out on the musical map.
Dances mental-elephant, goddess sings song,
Buddha-drama gets incomprehensively wrong.

Song 18

I flow by the three worlds nonchalantly;
I sleep in the sport of verb very happily.
How, O Dombi, tell me, is your harlotry?
High castes are outsiders, Kapalik gets entry.
O Dombi, you waste it all on this occasion,
You made the moon stagger without reason.
You are bad, such comments people make,
Wise men do not leave, hangs from your neck.
Kahna sings: You are sultry, passionate girl,
Dombi, you are the most unchaste among all.


Song 19

Earth and Nirvana is the tabor and drum’s musical,
The mind and breath are the flute and the cymbal.
Victory cries fill the skies with over spillage,
Kahna and Dombi went towards marriage.
Kahna weds Dombi and gets to reincarnate,
As a dowry he received the clime of silent.
Day and night pass by in love making.
Nets of the yogini bring night’s ending.
With Dombi the yogi who is intense,
Don’t leave for a second crazed by ease of sense.


Song 20 

I am hopeless; my husband is a monk,
My derived sex cannot be described without junk.
Labour pain spent looking for prenatal care,
What I want isn’t found here.
The first-born is my desirable wealth,
Pulse felt – fades away the breezes of health.
My pitcher of new youth spills over,
Source uprooted, flayed the father.
Kukkuripa says this world is still,
He who knows that has heroic skill.

About author

Tanvir Ratul
Tanvir Ratul 3 posts

Tanvir Ratul, born 2nd June, lives in Liverpool, mainly writes poetry and nonfiction; and ideologically opposes the concept of literary organisation based on profit making mechanism. He is currently working as a researcher and faculty member at a University, his teaching interest remains within Literature and Creative Writing, whereas, research domain includes Natural Language Processing and Computational Linguistics.


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