Saga of a lady eminence | Daily News


Saga of a lady eminence

The Sinhala film that bears the title Bimbadevi or Yasodhara happens to be a work which embraces a long list of research source both prose and verse as well as folk and classical linked into the mainstream of religious visions of Buddhist thought. Director Professor Sunil Ariyaratne, along with producer H D Premasiri, has taken pains to trace the most significant resource material that enables a spectator to hunt more of the same.

Whether the film Yasodhara is received by the spectator or not is not the question I asked myself when I came out of the auditorium. I was drawn towards going down the memory lane where I first encountered the ballad titled Yasodharavatha or the versified profile of Yasodhara the queen consort of Siddhartha, the would be Buddha. She is portrayed in the versification, not as a sentimental lamenting female, instead a tranquilised individual who tries to feel the reality.

The feeling makes her say:

Karanava buduvenava lakunu dene

Nera patuva ava ma sarana gene

“As I saw signs in you who is destined attain the Buddhahood, I traversed all the way in the cycle of births taking your hand.”

This, I feel, is the sense that the creator of the Sinhala film intends to pinpoint. I feel that the work Yasodharavatha of anonymous authorship still remains uninterpreted in the real sense of a vision.

Yasodhara, although physically alone or isolated with the newborn, Rahula, nevertheless feels within herself the impermanence that her husband Siddhartha perceived just before his great renunciation. On further analysis taking some other poems, a reader may feel that the work is just not a mere sentimental versification of a woman who yearns to see her deported husband. The visual creator Sunil Ariyaratne had been quite careful in the enveloping of a selected number of verses without reaching a verve of sentimental mood. He also uses the Pali Narasimha Gathas or stanzas that express the physical as well as the spiritual qualities of the Buddha, in order to transfer her feelings to her growing son his father walks past the palace. Perhaps as I see, the Sinhala versification of Yasodharavata may have been inspired by those stanzas.

As for me both the Narasiha Gatha as well as Yasodhara Vata are high grade sensitive and spiritual metaphysical poems which influenced the poets of the generations that followed. But some of the poets of the Colombo School of Poets located the pulse of sensitivity embedded.

One such work of B H Amarasena of Hikkaduwa is titled Yasodharava. In this work, the reader comes across a lamenting lady.

Pera pera kandulu kiridaruveku atin dara

Perada nogos pembara mav piyan kara’

“Holding an infant and shedding tears incessantly, I [Yasodhara] have not gone to see my parents.

This reaches the climax when the poet makes the persona, Yasodhara whether he did tit for tat. The two Yasodhara portrayals are poles apart. The average Sinhala poetry reader may not receive the portrayal of Amarasena’s Yasodhara. But the former portrayal by the ballad creator left anonymous reaches a higher pedestal from a visionary point of view. Around the late sixties, I came across a Hindu poetic work titled as Yasodha. Composed by a poet named Maithri Saranagupta, the book was lying in my friend and wellwisher Venerable Siyambalagaharuppe Vijithadhamma Thera, a monk well versed in Sanskrit and Hindi.

I was made to know that this work was partly translated by the well known Buddhist scholar Venerable Professor Bambarende Siri Seevali Thera at the request of his friend, the well known Colombo poet P B Alwis Perera. Furthermore, I came to know that some of the translated poems were published in the monthly poetry magazine edited by the poet titled as Dedunna. Though I remember reading a few of those translated poems as published in the magazine, I failed to grasp the essence of the complete work as created by the original poet Maithri Saranagupta. Venerable Vijithadahamma Thera tells that the Hindi composition had a great resemblance to the Sinhala folk ballad version Yasodharavatha. Followed by all these versifications, I found the English narrative by the writer Edmund Barrett titled as Lady of the Lotus.

I had a copy of the book bought from a bookstall in London. I was just amazed to see the portrayal of the character Yasodhara just as I sensed in the already cited versified folk version that I read as a schoolgoer. I tried to trace more about the creative process of the English writer, but it was a failed mission.

Having returned to Sri Lanka I had the opportunity to discuss the narrative with a lady journalist who borrowed my copy. Sorry to say she never returned it. I was informed later that a Sinhalese translation has appeared. I have not had any access to that book as yet. I still yearn to get a copy of ‘The Lady of the Lotus’.

Perhaps on second thoughts, I felt that that the wandering minstrel (Tumindu Dodantenna) is used in order to link these sources. But I am not sure if the mission of that character had any impact. At least four Sinhala novels have been written on the theme of the great renunciation of Prince Siddhartha.

Pandit Vimal Abhayasundara did a radio opera titled Yasodhara. The text of the opera was published in one of his collections later on.

The feeling that the great renunciation is just not an escapism is stressed in the original Pali source as found in Mahavagga Pali. It is the highest ideal of letting off of al material wealth inclusive of lay life that culminates in the last Jataka narrative of Vessantara Jatakaya. At least we are made to feel the words of the Buddha.

“May you develop mental concentration

for whosoever is mentally concentrated

Sees things according to reality.”

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