Vidyapati, a fourteenth century Indian poet, is famous for his love songs, written in Maithili, a regional language of Eastern India. These songs treat Radha and Krishna as ideal lovers whose idyllic romance embodied many vital phases of human experience. The similarity of their theme, coupled with their verbal charm, led Vidyapati to be hailed in his life-time as ‘the new Jayadeva’.
These translations are done by Deben Bhattacharya, the modern Bengali poet whose broadcasts and recordings of music have achieved wide recognition.
These translations are taken from the book published by Motilal Banarasi Dass- Love Songs of Vidyapati edited by WG Archer
SIGNS OF YOUTH
Radhas glances dart from side to side.
Her rest1ess body and clothes are heavy with dust.
Her glistening smile shines again and again.
Shy. she raises her skirt to her lips.
Startled, she stirs and once again s calm,
As now she enters the ways of love.
Sometimes she gazes at her blossoming breasts
Hiding them quickly, then forgetting they are there.
Childhood and girlhood melt in one
And new and old are both forgotten.
Says Vidyapati: 0 Lord of life,
Do you not know the signs of youth?
Heavy with dust Radha has felt so restless that she has not cared e she went or sat. Because of this her body and clothes have become dirty with dust.
Each day the breasts of Radha swelled.
Her hips grew shapely, her waist more slender
Love’s secrets stole upon her eyes.
Startled, her childhood sought escape.
Her plum-like breasts grew large,
Harder and crisper, aching for love.
Krishna soon saw her as she bathed,
Her filmy dress still clinging to her breasts,
Her tangled tresses falling on her heart,
A golden image swathed in yak’s tail plumes.
Says Vidyapati: 0 wonder of women,
Only a handsome man can long for her.
There was a shudder in her whispering voice.
She was shy to frame her words.
What has happened tonight to lovely Radha?
Now she consents, now she is afraid.
When asked for love, she closes up her eyes,
Eager to reach the ocean of desire.
He begs her for a kiss.
She turns her mouth away
And then, like a night lily, the moon seized her.
She felt his touch startling her girdle.
She knew her love treasure was being robbed.
With her dress she covered up her breasts.
The treasure was left uncovered.
Vidyapati wonders at the neglected bed.
Lovers are busy in each other’s arms.
Awake, Radha, awake,
Calls the parrot and its love.
For how long must you sleep,
Clasped to the heart of your Dark-stone?
Listen. The dawn has come
And the red shafts of the sun
Are making us shudder..
RIVER AND SKY
0 friend, I cannot tell you
Whether he was near or far, real or a dream.
Like a vine of lightning,
As I chained the dark one,
I felt a river flooding in my heart.
Like a shining moon,
I devoured that liquid face.
I felt stars shooting around me.
The sky fell with my dress,
Leaving my ravished breasts.
I was rocking like the earth.
In my storming breath
I could hear my ankle-bells,
Sounding like bees.
Drowned in the last waters of dissolution,
I knew that this was not the end.
How can I possibly believe such nonsense?
FEAR AND LOVE
O friend, friend, take me with you.
I am only a young girl,
No one can stop him
So violent a lover is he.
My heart shudders to go near him.
How the black-bee ravishes the lotus-bud.
He crushes my frail body
Quivering like a drop of water
On a lotus leaf.
How long must I endure the curse of life?
Which god invented that she-demon night?
Vidyapati says: Who can believe you?
Do you not see that dawn is coming?
0 friend, how can I say what happened in the night?
Madhava was torture.
Thrusting his fingers on my breasts
He drank my lips.
Pressing his face hard on mine,
He took my life away.
His youthful strength
So wantonly aroused
Drugged his senses.
A country boy,
He did not know
The art of love.
I prayed and begged in vain.
My dear lady,
You are enchanted by that greedy god.
He left me saying he would be back tomorrow.
I’ve covered the floor of my home
When dawn came, they all enquired:
Tell us, friend,
When will your tomorrow come?
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I gave up my hopes,
Mv beloved never returned.
Says Vidyapati, listen, beautiful one,
Other women held him back.