Kāvyārtha is a series of short online articles about the artha (the meanings and ends) of kāvya (poetry) in Hindi. The poems are discussed not as examples of this or that genre, or as milestones on the path of literary history, but as distinctive and individual literary moments in their own right. Each article gives a translation of the verse being discussed, if only to indicate “what the words mean” in literal terms; and because translation leaves so much unsaid, I also look at other factors that help convert the base metal of words into the shining gold of poetry.
Whatever else a poem has, it has form … and it is worth looking closely to see how the rules of meter, like the rules of grammar, help the poet articulate meaning to the fullest possible degree (especially in the relatively formal conventions of pre-modern verse). To borrow an image from a poet of our own times, Agyeya (1911-87), a poem is like a wood or forest: open on all sides, yet enclosed within itself – defining itself by the very shape it occupies…
मैं सभी ओर से खुला हूँ
वन-सा, वन-सा अपने में बंद हूँ
शब्द में मेरी समाई नहीं होगी
मैं सन्नाटे का छंद हूँ ।
अज्ञेय, ऐसा कोई घर आपने देखा है (Delhi 1986)
The self-awareness of Agyeya’s voice is characteristic of literary modernity; yet the skills and sensibilities of the old poets, and their inner stillness, linger on in his sublime poetic vision. Kāvyārtha, to which new articles will be added from time to time, is dedicated to his memory.
I am grateful to Jonathan Seefeldt, HUF’s Media Coordinator & technical wizard, for designing a fine interface for this project, and for his patient & creative support throughout all our HUF enterprises.
For an introduction to the Braj Bhasha dialect see Braj in Brief.
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