Orrcha & the Poesy of Iarchus


It has been an eventful week since I last blogged, the majority of which was spent at Gwalior. Our programme included a visit to a blind school where we jammed with the best of the blind musicians. This was organised by Bhagat, whose Sarita School is the lucky new recipient of the Linkey Lea money.


While in Gwalior, I thought I’d check out the old recipients – the Snelhaya orphanage 16 k out of town. It was sad to see, actually, for the place had grown a lot shabbier since my last visit in 2006, & I left the place feeling upset & angry that Linkey Lea had completely abandoned the kids. The reason, I am told, are down to a fall-out between the orphanage boss & the Linkey Lea charity – but once again, as in the history of mankind, when power politics comes into play it is those who stand low in society who are the true victims.


To alleviate just a little bit of my emotions, Victor & I returned to the orphanage with bags full of sweets like venerable Indian Santas, if only to sprinkle a little happy dust for a few moments, & let the kids know that East Lothian was still thinking about them.


There was also time for some conventional sight-seeing, which saw us ascend the great hill at the heart of Gwalior – the Gibraltar of India – where the Man Singh Palace was a wonder to behold. Most disturbing, actually, was the sight of a thousand or so bats ‘sleeping’ upside down in one of the emty rooms – an unnerving experience but highly interesting. Back on the plain there was another, built for the Maharaja of Gwalior, whose opulence was quite ridiculous to see in a country of such extreme poverty as India.


Built in 1874, the dining room was a wonder to behold, while much of the regalia was scattered about the palace & opened to view. It was an excellent hour of museum-going, at a cost of only £3.50. It was also interesting to learn that despite the Maharajas having lost any actual power, the Gwalior version has set himself up in politics & in a few weeks will attempt to take control over the state. Some things never really do change, I guess.

Maharajan Dining

We stayed on in Gwalior an extra couple of days, for it was Diwali, & Bhagat & his family wanted us to share in the festivities. The festival is based upon a poem – the Ramayana – & is meant to celebrate the day which Rama returned home after rescuing his beloved Sita from the clutches of the Sri Lankan demon, Ravana.

Diwali Decorations 3

It is called the festival of light, & is supposed to reflect the candles that Rama’s subjects lit around their city upon his return. Just like them, Victor & I also lit candles all about the school, which was a great many indeed & quite some time to finish.


After this, we shared in the worship ceremony, in which Bhagat’s father, the founder of this school, & a wonderful man in his own right, read out a hymn from the Vedas which was sang along to be the women of the household. After this, we all consumed far too much food (at separate times I may add) while a million firecrackers erupted through Gwalior, whose quality puts our own Guy Fawkes efforts to shame. In particular I loved the ‘butterfly,’ which upon being lit would flit & sparkle randomly about the place, just like the real thing.


Yesterday – Monday – we finally left Gwalior, with Bhagat very kindly picking up the hotel bill for the week. A couple of hours to the south, then, we found ourselves at the village of Orrcha, which spreads about the wonderful 500 year old palace & fort of the old kings of Orrcha. I had been here before, back in 2006, when I was in the midst of writing Axis & Allies. I remember being here particularly, for it was in Orrcha that I composed the stanzas that were set in Hell – following a traditional epic device used by Homer, Virgil, Dante & Milton. This time, however, I’m here to work on Jesus. I can’t actually place him here, but the atmosphere is so chilling, & the scenery so lush, that any literary endeavours can only be pursued with a tranquility of mind rarely obtained in this modern world.


The gist of the work I shall conduct in Orrcha in relation to Jesus, is an exposition on the poetic nature of the Indian Jesus. In essence, Philostratus tells us how Iarchus was steeped in Greek literature, including the Homeric poems. To this I added the work of a certain Ishvara Krishna, whose name translates as Lord Jesus Christ. He is known for one text, the Samkyhakarita, which expounds a philosophical system known as the Samkhya. This system is also found in the Bhagavad Gita, spoken by the Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield at Kurukshetra. Looking at this text, we learn it was created in the first century & is inspired by the Greek literary form known as the Socratic Dialogue. Thus it is indeed plausible that Iarchus wrote the Bhagavad Gita, after which he was given the appelation Krishna. This also explains how the memory of Iarchus giving sanctuary to the flood-hit populace around Govardhan, became the myth of Krishna raising the hill with his little finger.


Ishvara Krishna then leads us to Asvaghosa, another famous poet of just the right time, whose names can be connected through the Chisper effect. Asvaghosa, we are told, began life as a Hindoo – giving him the opportunity to write the Bhagavad Gita – before converting to Buddhism. He then turns up at the Fourth Buddhist Council as one of the chief initiators of Mahayana Buddhism, whose central poetic figure is the Jesus-like Avaloketisvara. To explain all this, one must assume that Ishvara Krishna/Asvaghosa/Iarchus was a great poet whose fertile & divine imagination created Krishna for the Hindoos & Avaloketisvara for the Buddhists. It makes sense, for it is the poets who first create & articulate the gods, such as Homer & Hesiod’s work with the Greek pantheon.


Ah poetry – my life-blood, my mistress, my song! It seems that recently I have been struck by the muse, I guess. It’s been a long time since I really got going with my poetry, but every artist needs a fallow period. Anyway, as I get closer to Tamil Nadu, I have begun to think more & more of the Tirukural which I transcreated in 2008-2009. Ive barely looked at it since, but ‘fresh’ from my work with Y Gododdin, where I really began to concentrate on the cynghanned of my lines, I think the application of these newly-acquired skills on my version of the Kural can’t hurt, after all its one of the great pieces of my artistic life. So, back in Gwalior I printed out the Kural (1 rupee per page), & have just began to go through them one-by-one.


In addition to this, I have also began to look at my sonnet sequence - THE INDIAD - to which I have added on each of my previous four visits to India. I’ve decided to strip it down & rebuild it once more, which has led to the projection of three new sonnet sequences which I shall attend to at some salubrious spot, being;

(i) 14 transcreations of Vedic hymns
(ii) The story of the last Mughal King in Delhi
(iii) A Love story using the poetic techniques of Tamil poetry


But before all that, I think a beer in the sun on my hotel roof, listening to the Victor Pope Band gazing on the palace & river is in order.


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