Category: UCO

The Amazing Story of Apu Ollantay

The Story’s Background:

Before I discuss the important scenes of Apu Ollantay and a closer reading over Cusi and Apu Ollantay, it is a good idea to get into the background, such as how it was created.

Before the story was created, it was considered a drama that “…was cultivated by the Incas and the dramatic performance were enacted before them” (Markham). It was also popular for the Incas during the time and was included in their theaters as well. Also, I believe that the performances were done in Inca as they wore colorful and animal costumes. That is what I have noticed in the illustrations from Caroline Picard that are included below.

Also, since the story was mainly performed for the Incas, some information I found was that it was “…first reduced to writing and arranged for acting by Dr. Don Antonio Valdez, the Cura of Tinto. It was acted before his friend José Gabriel Condorcanqui” (Markham). It is interesting how these three people brought in the writing of Apu Ollantay and creating it in a play. It is also noted that the first print of Apu Ollantay “…appeared in the Museo Erudio, Nos 5 to 9, published at Cuzco in 1837 and edited by Don Jose Palacios” (“Apu Ollantay”). This was a while back when it was first printed, but it’s interesting how it ended up being used in plays.

Apu Ollantay Important Scenes:

The story of Apu Ollantay is a story about Apu Ollantay, who despite not being of royal blood, wants to marry Cusi Coyllur; however, the problem is Cusi’s father, Inca Pachacuti, disapproves of their love thus many trials occur in the story. Throughout the story, three acts occur, and these are some of their important scenes as without them it wouldn’t make sense.

The importance in the first act that the readers should take into consideration is to learn that Cusi has a child with Apu Ollantay and she tells her mother about it (Picard 319). In this scene, she even tells her mother to keep it a secret which she did. With this scene, I found it very enduring how her mother cared for Cusi despite her not following the Inca’s traditions of marrying someone from royal blood.

The image below shows the interaction with her mother about Cusi’s child.

Image one: Picard, pp. 319

Also, during act three, right after Cusi’s father disapproves of Apu Ollantay’s blessing, the queen and the daughter disappear (Picard 320). This is when Apu Ollantay runs in search of Cusi. Now, what the readers weren’t aware of later on were the mother’s whereabouts. I wasn’t sure if the story just skipped it or it was unclear to understand her whereabouts; however, this act does make it clear that Apu Ollantay did appreciate looking for Cusi.

The image below is the scene where the palace is informed of the disappearance of both the queen and Cusi.

Image Two: Picard, pp. 320

In Act Two, what’s important here is the introduction of the daughter of both Apu Ollantay and Cusi named Yma Sumac (Picard 321). This act is also where Yma asks to see her mother to which she does near the end of the act (Picard 322). During this scene, I started to question why was Cusi in jail in the first place and it did become difficult to understand that. Also, I believe many years did pass later as Yma is already older in act two. Meaning that the illustrations shown here did skip over a lot of scenes that occur during this time skip.

The image below shows the reunion between both the daughter and the mother as she is placed in a jail setting.

Image Three: Picard, pp. 323

Finally, in Act Three, the most important point here is the father of Cusi is dead, and Mama Ccacca is ordered to open the jail cell where Cusi is located (Picard 324). Right after this scene, the reunion of Cusi and Apu Ollantay happens where Apu Ollantay describes how long she was away from him and the family lived happily ever after (Picard 325). During act three, with these illustrations, readers can start to notice how fast the end turned out with Cusi’s father dying and the family reuniting. I wonder how the story would have turned out if Cusi’s mother lived or her father would have been alive, then what would have happened?

Below, is a picture of the reunion of the family where Apu Ollantay is describing what I have mentioned previously.

Image Four: Picard, pp. 325

Apu Ollantay And Cusi Coyllur Nusta Marriage Vs How It Is in The Inca Culture:

The story of Apu Ollantay ended pretty cute and the story received a happy ending; however, would this ending even be true in the Inca culture?

In the story of Apu Ollantay, despite Apu Ollantay’s financial situation, both he and Cusi ended up together. Now when it comes to the Inca Culture during this time, the website under “The Project Gutenberg” mentions that this kind of ending wouldn’t be allowed as “…for the marriage of a sister by the sovereign or his heir, and the marriage of princesses only with princes of the blood-royal were rules first introduced by Pachacuti… ” ( Markham). This quote from The Project Gutenberg is a bit long. However, it does describe that during that time, it was forbidden for royalty to marry someone who wasn’t of their status. That’s why I believe if the father wasn’t dead, maybe the happily ever after wouldn’t exist at all. Even when after Act 2, Ollantay becomes much stronger, and “…he appoints the Mountain Chief.” (Markham). Even after that, I would see this story play out to how the Incas married would turn out to be in real life.

To end this short blog response, I do believe the Apu Ollantay was a good tale. I did enjoy the illustration from Caroline Picard and even the context of the story itself. Even when the text was hard to understand, it was still good!

Below, I have included one last illustration to show both Apu Ollantay and Cusi hugging as they did deserve that happy ending, even when their Inca culture tells them otherwise.

Image 5: https://thegraphiccanon.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/contributor-interview-caroline-picard/

Images Taken:

Image 1-4: Apu Ollantay Illustration (Caroline Picard)

Image 5: Apu Ollantay Illustration (The Graphic Canon) https://thegraphiccanon.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/contributor-interview-caroline-picard/

Works Cited:

“Apu Ollantay.” Edited by Clements R. Markham, The Project Gutenberg EBook of Apu Ollantay, Project Gutenberg, 9 Apr. 2021, www.gutenberg.org/files/9068/9068-h/9068-h.htm#:~:text=APU%20OLLANTAY.,of%20a%20Tucuyricuo%20or%20Viceroy.

Markham, Clements. Apu Ollantay: Introduction, Sacred Text, www.sacred-texts.com/nam/inca/oll/oll01.htm.

Picard, Caroline. “Apu Ollantay.” pages 315-325. The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2. Editor Russ Kick. Publisher Seven Stories Press. 2013. New York.

Popol Vuh, The Twins Defeat Seven Macaw

The Popol Vuh is a collection of stories cherished by the ancient, the colonial, and even the modern Quiché Maya people of Guatemala. The Popol Vuh covers the creation of the world and humankind. The Popol Vuh borrows from ancient council “screen-folds.” The following illustrations are of the hero-gods, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, defeating the over-proud Seven Macaw. Their work prepares the world for society and for the well-being of individuals within society.

Lugh of the Long Arm, An Irish Epic

 

The following is an account of the life of Lugh of the Long Arm. In Irish mythology this man is the savior of the people of Danaa, the true rulers of Ireland. This story covers Lughs origin as son of Kian, the sun god, and the battle between the people of Danaa and their oppressors the Fomorians. This particular text was found inscribed in a cliff face of the western coast of Ireland. Battered by wind and waves, the text was hard to transcribe. The order of the story is as follows : Intro to the epic, the origins of Lugh, his time in the palace of Nuada of the Silver hand and cultivates in the battle between the people of Danaa and the Fomorians in which the evil king Balor is finally slain. 

 

 

Three sons, 

from their mothers breast 

untimely ripped, by the hand 

of the one whose legacy 

preserved by this heinous act

 

Balor, king of those evil peoples

the Fomorians whose darkness

covers all of Ireland 

ne’er letting a drop of light through. 

 

But o, what luck is this 

that all seeing druidess 

Birog snatched from the surf

the infant Lugh, the savior of Ireland. 

 

For the origins of our hero true 

we look to a tower, a jealous king, 

and the theft of a calf

that one belonging to the sun king. 

 

For once Balor, that evil man, 

heard of his foretold demise

by the hand of a grandson, 

 

he locked his infant daughter

Ethlinn, that maiden fair,

in the tallest tower

out in the middle of nowhere

 

his plan foolproof, 

his life secured, 

Balor continued to rule without remorse

 

but he, that evil king, 

fell victim to greed, that fatal flaw

when he eyed the calf 

of that sun god

 

Kian, the one who bears the light, 

held prized his calf 

ne’er letting it out of his sight.

 

One fateful day, while three brothers bickered, 

that prized calf, yes, the sun gods own 

was spirited away

Balor, disguised as a little boy, 

did steal from the king of the sun. 

 

looking to reclaim what was stole from him

Kian comes across the tower 

where Ethlinn is held. 

 

Aided by that magical druidess Birog

Kian steals to the bedchamber 

of that maiden fair 

 

to fulfill the prophecy spoke long ago, 

“Balor will not be slain by foe, 

but rather kin, a grandson

who he will never know” 

 

The seasons change and soon

fair Ethlinn, maiden no more, 

bears three sons.

 

Learning of the babes, the king orders them 

ripped from her breast and thrown from the sea. 

Balor, that patricide complete

goes off to rule once more assured of his peace. 

 

But o, that fair, that great druidess 

Birog had other plans 

she who uttered the prophecy 

was determined to see it through till the very end

 

plucking that infant Lugh from the surf

Birog spirited him away

to learn the trade of his uncle 

Goba the Smith.

 

Under the tutelage of his uncle

and his father, Kian the sun, 

Lugh grows into a man unmatched 

in all of Ireland.

 

Learned of all the great skills, 

Lugh was sent to the palace of Tara

to work in service of Nuada of the silver hand. 

 

Reaching the doors of that great place, 

the hero Lugh was halted. 

That doorkeeper, the highly regarded man

questioned his skills 

 

“of what are you capable?”

“I am a carpenter sir, 

I fashion wood into carvings, statues, and more”

the doorkeeper looked down 

at the heroes face,

 “we’ve no need for you here, find another place.”

 

“but doorkeeper,” the young hero said

“do not turn me away so soon, I am a smith too. 

I have skill in the forge fashioning weapons and swords”

“boy” said the doorkeeper, “as I’ve told you before, 

we’ve no need for you here. We have a smith. 

We do not need one more.” 

 

At this the hero began to take fright 

his father had led him to this place, 

could it not be right? 

 

Refusing to turn back,

the hero Lugh tried again to gain entrance 

into the palace of Nuada, the one of the silver hand.

 

“Listen to me once more I plead with you sir, 

you say you have a carpenter, a smith too, 

but have you a warrior?” 

 

The doorkeeper looks down 

“Boy, give up your quest 

the greatest warrior in the land rests in this palace. 

We’ve no need for you here” 

 

Turning to close to heavy iron door, 

the man looks back once more, 

“have you any other skills? 

Perchance you’ll find a place here.”

 

filled up with hope the young man 

lists each of those arts that he has mastery in 

“I am an artist, a poet, a harper, a bard, 

a healer, a spencer.” 

 

The doorkeeper simply shakes his head

“boy we already have the most accomplished artists in all the land. 

How are you to compare to the great warrior Ogma 

or the most accomplished poet in the court of Nuada?” 

 

“Just give me one more chance. 

Go in, ask that king if he knows any man 

accomplished in all these arts. If so, I will be on my way. 

If not, perchance he will let me stay.”

 

The king searches for three days 

to find a man as accomplished as that stranger at his gate. 

Finding none to match the skill of young Lugh, 

the hero was welcomed through the gates

into the place of Nuada of the Silver hand. 

 

It soon came to pass that the elders of Ireland 

weary of the Fomoroians tyranny 

called to that young man, Lugh of the Long Arm 

to fight in battle for them. 

 

One day, the one in which their payment was due, 

the chiefs of Danaa gathered to get council from Lugh 

“Oh what are we to do? These peoples, these Fomorians 

do take our wealth our land and our health. 

Help us Lugh you’re our only hope.” 

 

The hero, no longer a young man, fashioned a plan.

 Instead of paying the tribute 

like they’d done so many times before, 

the chiefs were to fight, to pick up their powerful swords. 

 

At last the day of the battle came. 

The Fomorians, those evil peoples, 

came to take the wealth of the Danaans

those people of good, those people of light. 

 

Instead of a cowering chief, 

they were met with an envoy of swords. 

Soon all lay slain, but nine escaped, 

reported to their king, Balor of the Evil Eye

all that had happened and all they had seen. 

 

“A man, one whom on ne’er we laid eyes

led a charge and now your men, dead they lie. 

With the strength of a bull and the speed of a steed 

he did slay all those who dared to fight. 

 

Since that dreadful day 

we heard rumors of his might, 

Lugh of the Long Arm they call him

for his sword is quite a sight.” 

 

That king, that evil man, 

did thunder and roar at the news 

that power he had no more. 

 

“Lugh of the Long arm ye say, 

this man who dare to take my money

who dare to attack my men

he will regret ever laying a hand against the Fomorians.” 

 

The king then called for his sword

“Get ready for battle, bring in all the ships,

slaughter the cattle and prepare to defeat 

those peoples led by that hero Lugh 

the Danaans they are now, dead they will be soon.” 

 

Soon the very ground cried out for war, 

rumbles of battle were on every shore. 

Lugh noticed the stirrings and prepared his men. 

 

In an omitted section, Lugh goes out to find magical instruments essential for the defeat of Balor. 

While he’s passing a spot of rock, the stones cry out with his fathers blood. Kian, the sun god, had been murdered by three brothers. Wanting retribution for this heinous act, Lugh sends the three on an series of quests to gather impossible items (much like the 12 labors of Heracles) 

The story resumes with the long awaited battle between the Fomorians and the people of Danaa. 

 

On that fateful day 

the people of Danaa gathered on the plains of Mortya

determined to face down their foe. 

The brave hero Lugh rallies the peoples

the warriors and speaks of their great foe. 

 

“Men, we have lived under their tyranny for too long. 

How many of you have lost daughters, have lost sons

to those evil peoples these Fomorians? 

No longer will we sit under their evil hand. 

No longer will we let them rape our land. 

No longer will we let them reign over all of Ireland.”

 

At this the warriors gave up a great shout. 

They charged into battle assured of their victory

“For Ireland!” 

 

For two long weeks they toiled, 

for two long weeks they bled

those people the light of Ireland. 

 

At this point the text becomes distorted. 

 

Goban the Smith, that wondrous man

along with the most talented smiths in all of Ireland 

repaired weapons with the speed of swallows 

those fast strong african swallows. 

 

As men bled out on the battlefield, 

the people of Danaa pulled out

they pushed back those Fomorians 

gained more and more ground. 

Oh what a happy sight! 

Oh what a happy sound that clashing of sword upon sword! 

Victory for the Danaans seemed assured. 

 

But O, the Fomorians had tricks of their own. 

Their king they brought out to stare at their enemies, 

those people of Danaa. 

 

Balor of the Evil Eye 

was named such because his gaze 

had a lethal, a deadly tone.

The eye on the left had power to kill 

held venom in it’s gaze. 

 

When Balor was wheeled out on the battlefield, 

his attendants lifted up his eyelid,

he was an old man you see and the 

eyelid dropped ever so slightly, 

and Danaan warriors begin to fall

 

Those people, the light of Ireland

became smothered by the king of darkness. 

Among those who fell was that great man, 

that Nuada of the Silver Hand. 

 

Alas, the king of the Danaan people fought no more

if not for Lugh of the Long Arm, what a man, what a sight

all would have been lost in the battle for Ireland. 

 

That warrior, that clever Lugh 

found a way to win the fight. 

With the eyelid of Balor dropped ever so slightly 

Lugh picked up a bolder, that man strong as an ox 

and threw landing right in that Evil Eye that cause of such death

 

The stones throw was true 

so there Balor fell, the king of the Fomorians 

that evil man, lay dead on the field 

slain by the hand of his grandson. 

 

Lugh, hero of Ireland slaid that great beast

and fulfilled a long ago spoke prophecy

 

Hail Lugh of the Long Arm, 

Hero of Ireland!

 

At this point the text ends. Popular Mythic tradition holds that after his great success in battle, Lugh became king of Ireland. He enjoyed a peaceful reign of 20 years and is held as a deity in the Irish Mythic Canon. 

Vikatanitambā: Three Women Poets

Who is she?

Not much is known about Vikatanitambā. We do know she is one of the Three Women Poets that are mentioned in The Classical Sanskrit Lyrics. It is stated in our book that based solely on her name alone, it is believed she is from southern India. So perhaps she looked something like this:

  The history of sari: The nine yard wonder - Times of India

What is known about her is that she lived sometime between the fifth and seventh centuries. But even that is a very wide idea of when she was alive. I think to truly understand Vikatanitambā’s work, we need to understand the role of classical Sanskrit lyrics. These works of art are defined as being a short snapshot of a singular fleeting moment. As the book states it is “seeking to forever capture an intensely emotional experience.” Sanskrit lyrical poetry is called subhāsita, meaning “something beautifully expressed in language”, it has to be short, well-crafted and thought out, and a self contained thought. And boy, oh boy, does our girl Vikatanitambā deliver on all of that. Despite our book saying she has a few poetic pieces, I was unable to find any other than the one below. 

 

Her work

As we will soon read, Vikatanitambā had no issues using erotic themes in her writings. But she showed us images through skillfully crafted words instead of using vulgar descriptions. Because of this, we can focus on the emotions she shares about the love making with her partner rather than being distracted by the details. I want to share the entire poem instead of just excerpts because it really is such a beautiful poem that I think should be viewed in its entirety.

As we see, her poem is a breathtaking view of love making and we, as the audience, get to experience the emotion and passion that took place during this act. It’s beautiful and intense, without being uncomfortably sexually charged. The poem conveys sensual images instead of overtly sexual ones. We are left imagining the act itself. We get to experience the intense and intimate idea of losing yourself in your partner during sex. Of everything becoming a blur, of forgetting the meaning of anything in life and just being enthralled in being wrapped up in the emotions and feelings that making love with someone you care deeply for brings.

The picture above is what I imagine when I read her poem. The idea that everything “real” fades into the background and all we are left with is a cosmic feeling. The last two lines when she mentioned that she forgot everything, that she couldn’t even remember who each of them were. Maybe she means that their bodies became one and mixed in a magical and atomic way.

Even though we know essentially nothing about Vikatanitambā, we all know the emotions she speaks of. We can feel that we are kindred spirits with her.

 

 

image sources:

photo one: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/fashion/buzz/the-history-of-sari-the-nine-yard-wonder/articleshow/70277974.cms

photo two: a creation of Mika Sweetman

photo three: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/226446687503940010/

 

Bhāvakadevī

Classical Sanskrit Lyrics

The name for Sanskrit lyric poetry is subhasita meaning “beautifully expressed in language”. Classical Sanskrit Lyrics are identified by their many unique traits and qualities.  These poems, unlike western poetry, are usually impersonal and universal.  Typically, classical Sanskrit poetry is very short.  They consist of only a few verses or lines.  There are two types of poetry that fit this requirement, either a complete text in a short form, or poetry extracted from a longer work that can stand on its own.  Because Sanskrit poetry is meant to be short, the consequence is that it can’t explain everything or give the entire story in detail.  Instead, subhasita’s give the reader just a glimpse of the mood; this is known as rasa. These subhasita’s also make use of indirect suggestions called dhvani instead of providing a direct description.

Despite being short, it is also necessary for a classical Sanskrit poem to be a self contained thought; that is, that the idea or storyline is all wrapped up with no loose ends.  Sanskrit poetry is well crafted in that the poet should use the best words and images and feature many twists of language and figuration called alamkāra.

Bhāvakadevī herself

Bhāvakadevī, also known as Bhāvaka-devī or Bhavadevi, is actually her stage name, however very little is actually known about her real name.  Bhāvakadevī lived and wrote her poetry during the middle of the Classical period of Sanskrit literature.  She was one of the few women poets, as they were rare and elusive during a time when men dominated the poetry world.  More is known about other classical, female Sanskrit poets.  With only two recovered poems, Bhāvakadevī is truly a mystery.

Poem 1

Bhāvakadevī wrote the classical Sanskrit poem, “At first our bodies knew”, also dubbed ‘Bitter Harvest’.  This poem is a good example of a subhasita, a type of Sanskrit poetry, for many reasons.

Bhāvakadevī’s poem contains two phrases, with seven lines in total. This qualifies it as complete text in a short form, which is a subhasita quality.  Her poem is self-contained; it completely explains feelings and the situation they surround.  Yet, because it is a subhasita, and short by nature, it cannot fully display the essence of an emotional state.  There is more depth to the nature of the emotions in this poem.  As a subhasita, we only get a rasa, a snapshot of a mood in one moment in time.  The use of dhvani is also seen in this poem, as Bhāvakadevī gives us only ideas and suggestions of what has happened with her husband, and not a direct description of him cheating on her.  I would argue, however, that in this particular poem, Bhāvakadevī does not write in a universal way- this poem actually seems rather personal.

“At first our bodies knew” is also a well crafted poem, another signifier of classical Sanskrit lyrics.  Strategically placed antonyms and repetition, create a flowing beautiful read.  The first line features the word ‘perfect’, and the last line ‘broken’, which makes the poem appear finished and complete.  The second line features the word ‘grow’ and the penultimate line features the word ‘reap’.  This suggests the seasons of Spring and Fall- that time has passed, and that there is a cycle to their love.  Bhāvakadevī also crafted this poem with repetition in the word ‘I’, which emphasizes her feelings of isolation.

other translations

I have found two other translations of this poem, both with their own differences.  R. Parthasarathy’s translation makes use of the word wretched instead of unhappy.  The final lines have most of the same content, just phrased differently. I like the line “hard to swallow” because it brings more of the fruit/harvest symbolism.  The beginning of the Columbia University version is most clear out of the three translations. The phrase “diamond hard life” is a great ending.  It is interesting that the other two translations call the fruit bitter but this version doesn’t, even with the title “Bitter Harvest”.  If I pieced together my favorite / the most clear lines, It would go like this:

At first our bodies knew a perfect oneness / then grew two when you stopped being the lover, / but I, wretched one, kept on playing the beloved. / Now, you are the husband, I the wife, / a broken pledge is all that’s left / to reap the bitter fruit of my diamond hard life.

Content

All of these translations, although slightly different, give us the same story.  A husband and wife who used to be intertwined in love, have grown apart due to the husband’s infidelity.  She kept on playing her role in the marriage despite that the husband stopped playing his. Assessing the situation- they are still husband and wife, but now with a broken trust between them. Moving forward, She rhetorically questions what is left of her life except to continue in this broken relationship.

 

Poem 2

These are two translations of the second and only other recovered poem by Bhāvakadevī.  ‘Her breasts are brother kings’ does not tell a story like “At first our bodies knew”, but metaphorically compares a woman’s breasts to royalty. This is another good example of a subhasita because of its length. It is one sentence in four lines, and this is roughly half of the length of Bhāvakadevī’s better known poem “At first our bodies knew”.  Like the prior poem, ‘Her breasts are brother kings’ is also qualified as a  complete text in a short form.  It is also self contained, as it raises no questions of ‘what else?’.

In ‘Her breasts are brother kings’, Bhāvakadevī uses dhvani to indirectly describe to the reader a woman’s breasts that are equal in “nobility” and “altitude”.  Bhāvakadevī illustrates this woman’s breasts as having grown strong, after all that they have gone through in life.

We don’t know who the woman in the poem is.  Was it Bhāvakadevī writing about herself?  Or did she have a female lover?  So little is known about Bhāvakadevī, and the nature of a subhasita is that we don’t know the full story, just a rasa.  Whoever this is about, we can infer that Bhāvakadevī thought she was a strong and resilient woman.  Despite being female, the woman in this poem ruled over her own body much like a king rules over his land.

 

Bhāvakadevī

How I wish that more of Bhāvakadevī’s poetry had been recovered.  I’m sure that there is so much more that she had to say.  Based on the two poems that we have of hers, we can identify that she writes sensual poems, maybe not as explicit as some Egyptian Love Poetry, but sensual nonetheless.  Despite the fact that only two poems remain, it is still a great feat that Bhāvakadevī managed to infiltrate the poetry world at a time dominated by men.  It does not go unnoticed that the subject of both of her two poems is the resiliency of women.

Vidyā : Three Women Poets

 

Female Sanskrit Poetesses 

Female Sanskrit poetesses were prominent around the 9th century Common Era (CE) to the 14th Century. Classical Sanskrit poetry consisted of many epics, dramas, sex, love, nature and fables that were written by both men AND women. Female Sanskrit poetesses were equally as good as their male counterparts, but they didn’t receive the same recognition because Classical Sanskrit poetry was “traditionally” male dominated. As a result, many works from female poetesses have been lost and neglected. There has been little to no attempts to recover any female Sanskrit poetry. However, we have been fortunate enough to retrieve some of the beautiful and ethereal poems from the Sanskrit women. There are about forty women poets who have been identified and celebrated. Although Silabhattarika is the most famous female Sanskrit poet because 46 of her poems have been retrieved, her female counterpart Vidyā is also very popular.

 

Who is Vidyā?

Vidyā, also known as Bijākā and Vijja, is one of the most revered Classical female Sanskrit poets. The name Vidyā means “knowledge of the spirit,” and most of her poems imply that she was spiritually enlightened and deeply engaged with the universe. She lived and wrote between the 7th and 9th centuries. Vidyā can be classified as a hippie because of her profound adoration for the earth, nature, emotions, and love. 

 

Vidyā’s Poetry

Vidyā has a natural affinity to nature. In this poem, she wrote about a Champaka tree being neglected by it’s farmer because of his insatiable need for wild plants. (poem 1)

                           (poem 1)

 

Vidyā not only writes about nature in her poems, she also writes about romance and heartbreak. In this poem in particular, she is emphasizing the separation of two lovers. The indication of the separation seems to come from infidelity. (poem 2)

 

  

                            (poem 2)

Vidyā’s poems are usually light hearted and have nature elements, but this poem in particular was emotionally charged. In this poem, a woman who was separated from her lover was angry at the Love God Kamadeva because of her broken heart. (poem 3)

                            (poem 3)

Emotions are also charged in this poem, however, there is a lot more nature imagery. Water represents the flow of our emotions, cleansing and baptism, but it can also represent feeling overwhelmed as if your emotions will spill over. This poem also shows frustration and anger because of heartbreak. (poem 4)

                        (poem 4)

 

This poem highlights very heavy emotions such as despair, anger, and abandonment. (poem 5)

                         (poem 5) 

So far most of Vidyā’s poems have been about strong emotions and nature. This poem slightly contrast the others because there is a focus on poverty. Poverty is external and internal. Many times, people assume that poverty is about the lack of material things, but poverty can also be a lack of love. (poem 6) 

                           (poem 6)

 

 

Vidyā’s poems consist of nature, heartbreak, romance and emotions. She uses the imagery of nature to illustrate the intensity of emotions in her poems. Vidyā is very much a sensitive and delicate woman. All of her poems have some element of emotion to them, and that shows that Vidyā was in tune with her own emotions. Vidyā’s poems are very important because many Female Sanskrit poetesses work has been lost or misconstrued. There’s no telling how many poems Vidyā actually wrote, but nevertheless, they are all very enchanting and remarkable. 

 

Work Cited: 

Pal, Banik Supriya. (2010). Asian Literary Voices: From Marginal To Mainstream. Amsterdam University Press.

Geddes Sloane, Marie Kathryn. (2018). Voices from the Margins: Aesthetics, Subjectivity, and Classical Sanskrit Women Poets. The University of British Columbia

 

Images: 

Image 1: Indian Woman Painting  (Pinterest) 

https://in.pinterest.com/pin/332140541240537866/

Image 2: Hippie (Pinterest) 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/848365648550970986/

(The rest of the images were created by me.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunjata

Who is Sunjata?

Sunjata, also known as Sundiata Keita, was the prince and founder of the Mali Empire. This empire reigned in west Africa as one of the largest empires in western Africa. This Empire reigned from 1230-1600.

This map shows the expansion of this empire.

He founded the empire circa 1235 and ruled until his death in circa 1255. He is known as one of the greatest African rulers in history. Sunjata was unique in the was he treated his people. He treated them all with respect and would visit with the lower classes and would have discussion and conversation with them. he built relationships with his people. So much that his people wrote stories and legends of him. the most famous of these was Sunjata. He is truly a king for all of his people.

Sunjata Plot

Sunjata is what is known as an epic poem. An epic poem is, to put simply, an extremely long poem. This poem begins with Sunjata’s dad named Maghan Kon Fatta, who is the king of Mandinka, being told that he will have a son that rules a massive empire. The only catch was that he was going to marry an ugly woman. Though he was already married and already has a son named Dankaran, he met an ugly woman with a hunchback and married her because of the prophecy. This woman’s name was Sogolon. When his father died, his first son took the throne instead of Sunjata against his father’s request. Sunjata was born unable to walk but was able to after his father’s death. His brother exiled Sunjata and his mother from the kingdom. They end up seeking refuge in the Mema kingdom.

During his time there, Sunjata grows very strong and works his way all the way up to the heir to the throne. His mother wants Sunjata to go take his spot on the throne of Mandinka where his brother has left due to a tyrant named Soumaoro Kante who is king of Sosso. This king has captured 9 kingdoms. The people of Mandinka call for Sunjata so he fights off the king of Sosso and takes his place as the first king of the Mali empire. The people loved Sunjata which helped him to gain his power and for the government to form there. It also allowed his empire to reign for longer.

 

Sunjata’s impact

Sunjata was one of the most powerful and influential people in the world during his reign. To say he did not have an impact on the world would be absurd. Though he is not well known, many compare his impact and legacy for the west African empires to that of Alexander the Great. It is also widely speculated that there is a popular Disney movie whose story is a reflection of Sunjata and his story. This movie is the Disney classic called Lion King. It is widely known that the writers of this movie and Disney itself have said that this movie is based off of Hamlet, but when looking at comparing the story, setting, and the similarities in the impact Sunjata and Hamlet both had, it is easy to see why people would speculate. Sunjata is also said to have grown into the strength of a lion. He was also nicknamed “The Lion King of Mali.”

Why is Sunjata not More Well-known?

If Sunjata ruled such a massive and one of the longest lasting empires of all time, then it stands to question, why is he not more well-known? Could it have been because he was black? Because it was African? Let’s look at the time periods when his dynasty ruled and when his history may have been written. It would not be unheard of for him to be in direct opposition to the whiteness of our history. The United States of America is exceptionally lacking in history of cultures other than white culture. Growing up in the United States educational system, I know for a fact that we did not cover very much of any cultures in Africa nor Asia. The question is, is this due to racism? I cannot say for sure, but it is important especially in today’s world to cover the history of other peoples. This is especially so with major empires and people such as Sunjata and the Mali Empire.

But what about Disney? Why does Disney not claim the fact that their movie The Lion King, named the same as Sunjata’s nick name and based in Africa, not even based on him at all? Disney has a vast trail of racism scandals and themes in their work. These examples include Peter Pan with calls to Native American stereotypes and referring to them as redskins among other things, Siamese cats in Lady and the Tramp representing anti-Asian stereotypes, a Siamese cat in Aristocats playing piano with chopsticks, a group of crows in dumbo with seemingly black voice actors with the lead crow being named Jim Crow (Jim Crow Laws), and much more. The founder of Disney, Walt Disney also had a running with racist allegations. Walt was known to take part in Nazi propaganda and attend Pro-Nazi Organizational meetings. It begs the question; did Disney leave this fact out due to its racist backbone? More recently, Disney has done a good job of fighting racism in its content but not when The Lion King was released. Whether it is due to racism or simply just a lack of education of certain part of the world, it is evident that the awareness of this great king and ruler and founder of the Mali dynasty should be more well known and celebrated like his comparative white counterpart, Alexander the Great.

Zhuangzi’s Wanderings

What Are We Exactly?

Everyone claims that they know exactly who they are. They could be self-reliant and emotional people or they could be narcissistic dwellers, but do we all know who we really are? Do we really know anything about the world around us and what it possibly means? Zhuangzi thinks he has an idea or two about what exactly we could consider ourselves and our actions within this world. Everything must have a great deeper meaning right? Everything must have a special purpose in life shouldn’t it? Zhuangzi gives many theories and explanations as to why things exist the way that they do. What we do need to ask ourselves is whether or not we should listen to this man, I mean who does he think he is anyway? If you do know who he is then you might have an inkling as to why you should listen to him, but if you have no idea who he is, let me give a brief explanation of his background and I might be able to convince you that he is legit.

Who is Zhuangzi?

Although we don’t actually know much about this fundamental Daoist philosopher, we are given a picture of what type of man he is from the text that shares his name. The goal of Zhuangzi is to teach others how they can live a good life and be good themselves even though they are surrounded in a world full of violence and possible misery. One of Zhuangzi’s main concepts is that an individual is living a good life if they are free from any type of societal bound or political affiliation and are one with the “natural Way” (Norton, 1369). The “Way” is actually the main idea of Daoist philosophy which states that Dao is the impersonal dynamic ground of being (Clasquin-Johnson). It simply is. Zhuangzi uses our lack of understanding in order to ask us important questions about human life. He claims that humans don’t understand what is really useful in this world (Norton, 1369). Zhuangzi has many different philosophies about certain aspects of life such as, death, nature, and even heaven. He also talks about many of the skills that we are graced with that cannot be passed on to others and that will die with us when it is our time.

See the source image

The Philosophy of Zhuangzi – Literary Theory and Criticism (literariness.org)

Death. Why Do We Mourn?

Chapter three in Zhuangzi discusses how Qin Shi reacts to the death of one of his beloved friends and Laozi’s disciples  is the witness to his action. What is interesting is how there are three stories within this one chapter which discuss becoming one with the “Way” or why we are created to look differently than others, but I am mainly going to focus on the last story of the chapter. When Laozi dies Qin Shi comes to mourn him, but he finishes mourning only after three cries. This interests Laozi’s disciples and so one of them dare to ask the question as to why he is mourning him this way. “Weren’t you a friend of the Master?”…”And you think it’s all right to mourn him this way?” (“Zhuangzi”, 1383-1384). His disciples almost seem offended that he has not mourned much more than three cries for his supposed friend. I mean, wouldn’t we all question him for not mourning his friend much more than three cries? Wouldn’t we also wonder if he was actually his true friend because of his short mourning session? Wouldn’t we all agree that when we lose someone that is close to our hearts, we mourn them longer than crying three times? It almost makes Qin Shi look disrespectful and insincere in a sense because he doesn’t mourn his dear friend for very long. Qin Shi does have an explanation for his behavior and Zhuangzi agrees with him because it shows one of the Daoist ways of life. He says, “[a] little while ago, when I went in to mourn, I found old men weeping for him as though they were weeping for a son, and young men weeping for him as though they were weeping for a mother. To have gathered a group like that, he must have done something to make them talk about him, though he didn’t ask them to talk, or make them weep for him, though he didn’t ask them to weep” (“Zhuangzi”, 1384). Qin Shi is trying to say that although he was a great friend of Laozi, he wouldn’t want him to waste too much time mourning his loss. Qin Shi goes on to explain that Laozi knew that it was his time to go and that weeping for him in such a manner would be committing the crime of hiding from Heaven. This meant that you would believe that everyone should have the chance to live forever, but the Daoist way of belief is that you are “being freed from the bonds of God” (“Zhuangzi”, 1384). Qin Shi knows that you can’t deviate from the cycle of life. You will lose people you love, but as long as that person was content with the way that they lived their life, then he believes that it isn’t possible for joy or grief to penetrate. It’s almost a modernistic way of thinking about death for the time that this was written. We all know that it is hard to lose the ones that we love, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t continue to live with us even after they are gone. It means that we are able to cherish the memories that they left behind with us. Are we ever truly gone? Qin Shi stated “[t]hough the grease burns out of the torch, the fire passes on, and no one knows where it ends” (“Zhuangzi”, 1384). Was this a possible hint to the belief in the afterlife. I mean, we don’t really have any evidence that proves that we don’t go to an afterlife when we die because no one has the chance to come back and tell us all what happened. It isn’t guaranteed that we won’t see each other ever again, so maybe Zhuangzi wants us to take note by saying that we should be present and not worry about what we could possibly lose. Maybe we should cherish each moment as if it were our last and we will never have to wonder if we feared missing out on anything.

 

The “Way”

It is important to note that the “Way” is a very important symbol and belief in the Daoist religion. Chapter 22 Knowledge Wandered North discusses the “Way” in many different terms. Master Dongguo approaches Zhuangzi one day and asks him where the “Way” exists. Zhuangzi replies that the “Way” exists everywhere (“Zhuangzi”, 1393). I might be going too far, but I would compare the “Way” to being the same as “dharma” or “God.” We are always told that it is everywhere and that it exists within all different forms of beings, but we never know if there is a true face or identity to this being. Zhuangzi does however argue that the “Way” won’t be in any particular place at a given time. It does what it pleases and is in harmony with nature. Zhuangzi almost has a hard time with people who wish to complicate situations or life. Zhuangzi believed in living a simple life and not questioning how things are meant to be. We all should just go with the flow and not try to manipulate aspects of our life. Our life is meant to be lived according to the “Way” and if we don’t follow the “Way” we are only complicating our lives.

Taoism01.jpg (400×300) (brewminate.com)

Works Cited

Clasquin-Johnson, Dr. Michel. “Taoism: The Way.” Brewminate, 21 Jan. 2017, brewminate.com/taoism-the-way/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20Way%E2%80%9D%20The%20central%20concept%20in%20Taoism%20is,play%20like%20ever-changing%20cloud%20formations%20or%20restless%20waves.

Mambrol, Nasrullah. “The Philosophy of Zhuangzi.” Literary Theory and Criticism, 21 Apr. 2019, literariness.org/2019/04/21/the-philosophy-of-zhuangzi/.

“Zhuangzi.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, by Martin Puchner et al., W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.

Checking in on Li Bo

Earth is a strange place. We come here every year to check on him, our son, to make sure he’s doing well. We’d take him back with us, back to his life on our planet, but he’s been on Earth ever since he was a baby, sent there in a ship that wasn’t supposed to be open. By the time we finally found him, he was an adult. They had given him one of their human names: Li Bo. And while he might be ready to learn of our existence, the rest of them certainly are not. We can’t risk it. So, there’s not much we can do but keep our ship high in the sky and try to spot him with our telescope.

And they haven’t been good to him. It makes it all the harder to not land and take him away from this cruel place. Away from that horrible drink they give him that made him lose his job at the Hanlin Academy. Poor Li couldn’t get enough of it. Away from all the violence and bloodshed. and all these humans’ silly little rebellions (one of the strangest parts about humans to me is just how much they seem to want to hurt each other). And now they’ve exiled him, forced him into isolation and loneliness. I wish so badly that we could save him.

At least he has his poetry.

We’ve managed to translate most of it. Our telescopes are powerful enough to see it even from all the way up here. I can’t imagine how lonely he must feel after reading this one:

The floor before my bed is bright:

Moonlight-like hoarfrost-in my room.

I lift my head and watch the moon.

I drop my head and think of home.

I like to imagine he thinks of his real home. But I know that’s impossible. There’s no way he would know of it. But there is the matter of the moonlight. He seems to like the moon very well. There’s another poem we’ve translated with this passage inside.

I drink alone, no friend with me.

I raise my cup to invite the moon.

He and my shadow and I make three.

He views it as a friend, that glowing rock in his sky. I suppose it makes sense that one of our kind would not be accepted well among them. He seems to be capable of talking with them to some extent (if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have gotten that job at the academy in the first place). But he’s always looking to the sky in these poems. Perhaps looking to us, even if he doesn’t know it. He enjoys mountains as well, the closest humans seem to be able to get to the sky. This poem is one of my personal favorites.

The flocks of birds have flown high and away,

A solitary cloud goes off calmly alone.

We look at each other and never get bored-

Just me and Jingting Mountain.

What a nice one. Very calming to me. It seems that the closer he is to the sky, the closer he is to us, the happier he seems to be. Another one I enjoy is his one about the mountain, Heaven’s Crone. It is about a dream, but humans seem to put a lot of importance on dreams. When Li has a dream about a mountain, about meeting the sun and the moon at its peak, I have to believe that it matters to him. But then, it evaporates, gone when he awakes.

When I leave you now, you go,-when will you ever return?

He doesn’t seem to enjoy Earth much past how close it can get him to the sky. No wonder he can’t get enough of that drink, no wonder he says in another poem that

All I want is to stay dead drunk

and never sober up.

He talks about the violence, too. The wars humans seem intent on fighting for little reason. There’s another poem where he says

Beacon fires blaze without ceasing,

the marching and battle never end…

The troops lie mud-smeared in grasses,

and the general acted all in vain.

Now I truly see that weapons

are evil’s tools…

No wonder he wants back to us! No wonder he’s so obsessed with the moon and the sun and the mountains! All this bloodshed and war! Exile and isolation! Earth is truly a strange, horrible place. Could Li have gone somewhere worse than this blue and green planet in the least developed galaxy in the universe?

And he must know about us! He must know we’re up here, watching him, worrying about him! He says very clearly in another poem

…there are other earths and skies than these.

What else could that be referring to but our planet? Our skies? He must know about us, and he must be longing for us! Oh, Li Bo! We miss him terribly!

But I don’t know for certain that we would be able to please him. Or even that he would be any happier than he is on Earth. We aren’t as violent or destructive as humans are, certainly. We don’t have that drink that ruins him. And maybe his love for the sky and the mountains is a longing for us. But there is one thing we can’t give him.

All pleasures in our mortal world

are also just like this,

whatever has happened since ancient times

is the water flowing east.

Despite all our advancements, we are still mortal. Perhaps Li isn’t looking for us. Perhaps he’s looking for something greater than we can give him. Something eternal and peaceful. Something we can’t really give him. Perhaps, even if he were to live on our world, his poetry would remain the same. There’s too much that mortal existence cannot give him. He would always be discontent.

I think it’s time for us to go now. But we’ll be back next year to check in on him again.

I hope one day, he will be content.

 

Source:

The Norton Anthology of World Literature, by Martin Puchner et al., B, W.W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 1116–1123.

The Queen of Sheba

The Kəbrä Nägäśt, In Summary

The Kəbrä Nägäśt is the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. The Queen of Sheba is told, by the merchant Tamreen, all about King Solomon and his wisdom. She is so intrigued by his stories of the King that she plans the long journey to meet him. According to Google Maps, if you walk this trip today you could make it 778 hours, if you never took a break.

When the Queen finally arrived, she was as intrigued by the King more than she had ever imagined possible. The Queen even declared that she would adopt King Solomon’s religion and share it with the people of her country. She stated, “From now on, I won’t worship the sun, but only the sun’s creator, the Lord of Israel! The ark of the Lord of Israel shall be my lady, as well as of my descendants after me, and of all the people in my dominion, this who are under my rule” (Norton 585). Upon hearing of the Queen’s wish to journey back home to Ethiopia, King Solomon invites her to dine with him. They make a pact that evening that King Solomon will not take the Queen “unlawfully by force” and she will not “take unlawfully by force” anything in his palace. In laymen’s terms, he will not force her to have sex with him if she does not steal anything from him. (Sidebar, could you imagine this kind of deal being made in today’s age?!)

King Solomon filled Queen Sheba’s belly with salty foods and did not give her any water. She eventually woke in the middle of the night and took water from a pitcher that King Solomon set out to temp her into quenching her thirst. By his definition, this broke the pact and he could then have his way with her. She agreed reluctantly and they did in fact have sex. She still left for her home country in the following days and King Solomon gave her a ring to keep as a memento, in case she gives birth to his child. Along Queen Sheba’s journey back to Ethiopia, she did in fact give birth to a baby boy, who she named Bayna Lihkim.

In the Norton’s translation of the text it reads, “But, then, after King Solomon had fallen asleep, a brilliant sun appeared to him, descending from the skies and shining brightly over Israel. Later, however, after remaining there for a long time, it suddenly withdrew and soared away until it came to the land of Ethiopia. Then, it shone brightly there, and will for eternity, because it loved to dwell there.” This is symbolic of the Ark of the Covenant moving from Jerusalem to Ethiopia.

Eventually, Bayna Likhim learns his father’s identity and makes the journey his mother once made to Jerusalem. She gave him a token that King Solomon once gave her and sent him on his way. King Solomon showered his son with gifts in an attempt to keep him in Jerusalem but Bayna Likhim did wish to return to his people in Ethiopia. With him, came the Ark of the Covenant.

Views on The Queen of Sheba

I grew up in a southern Baptist church here in Oklahoma. I have heard the story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba at Sunday school. No one ever cared to mention the fact that she was from Ethiopia and NOT WHITE. The European conceptions of Queen Sheba are asinine. She is from Ethiopia in medieval times. There is a zero percent chance of her being white.

That was not the only misconception. She was also cast in a poor light. They make her out to be a force of evil that tricks the King. They think her entire goal was to steal his totem. As if she had it planned all along. When in reality, HE TRICKED HER INTO SLEEPING WITH HIM. Hello?! Why was it so important to the Islamic and Jewish versions of this tale, for her to be the villain? They praise King Solomon fo this wisdom but show Queen Sheba as an evil and foolish woman. She has even been compared to Lilith. Yes, as in the mistress of Lucifer himself.

Diary of A Mad Ethiopian Woman

Dear Diary,

Me again, Queen of the South.

Can you believe these white men? Sure, I’m the bad guy. I tricked poor little Solomon out of his totem. Boo hoo. That man tricked me into an awful one night stand and knocked me up. But sure, compare me to Lilith. Don’t they know my son brought the Ark of the Covenant back to MY HIGHLANDS? Solomon isn’t all that bad… I guess. He did teach me about the Lord of Israel. Which is good for him since I needed the patience of the Lord to not bury that man and his stupid followers.

Did you see who they chose to play me in the movies about me? White women. Did they forget where I come from? Let’s not erase my culture here. At least they chose Halle Berry later… the 1990s were a better time for me in film.

It still isn’t good enough. Why do they want me erase us? Why do they portray everyone as white people? How can we fix this? I’m not crazy. I’m angry. I want justice but do not know where to find it.

I had a culture. My lifetime was lived in that culture. Now I am looking down at my people, who now live in America and are confused about where they come from. Why did they take my descendants from our home? Why have they attempted to erase us and force them to assimilate? Why do they feel superior to us?

Haven’t they heard? I’m the Queen of freaking Sheba.

Works Cited

Puchner, Martin. “The Norton Anthology of World Literature-Fourth Edition (Volume B).” W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. (Pages 578-597).

Belcher, Wendy Laura. “FROM SHEBA THEY COME: Medieval Ethiopian Myth, US Newspapers, and Modern   American Narrative.” Callalo. Spring, 2010. Vol. 33, No. 1, ”ETHIOPIA: Literature, Art, & Culture. pp 239-257. The   John’s Hopkins University Press.

 

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-ark-of-the-convenant

I took inspiration for the diary entry title from Tyler Perry’s movie “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”