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Cover of a translated version of the Manipuri classic "Jahera"

The Sublime Love Featured in Jahera of Mahakavi Anganghal – Part 1

Anganghal is a poet of Love. Like Mahakavi Kalidasa, he attributed the various distinctive physiognomies of Love. Most of the books he wrote are all about Love. Between Khamba and Thoibee in Khamba-Thoibee Sheireng, Gopal and Indu in Shingel Indu, Haoba and Konu in Yaithing Konu, and in Thambal, between Thambal (Lotus Flower) and Khoimu (Black Bee), he revealed several characteristics of love. In his novel Jahera too, he projects the feature of love between a Meitei youth Kunjo and a Muslim maiden Jahera. Different from other stories of his, in Jahera Kunjo and Jahera did not get united, rather did Kunjo murders Jahera and the novel ends in tragedy.

There is a similar pattern too in his books on how love began between the protagonists; always ‘love at first sight’ it is. One day Kunjo came in search of some medicinal herb for his sick mother. Within the homestead of Amir, he met Jahera for the first time. How they fell in love at the very moment the two met each other on this day, Anganghal unveils beautifully with a deep quintessence of romance. “What is this?” Jahera puzzled over in bewilderment . it happened more like in a dream on that day to both of them ” (p 10). The author successfully depicts the frenzy, the stupefaction, the state of being in a trance the two felt at the first sight itself. The romantic love that set in between the two is analogous to what Shakespeare said with his distinctive language, “Youth to youth, beauty to beauty, ardour to ardour.” Building gradually up such nous of love and desire between man and woman to maturity, Anganghal created a feature of sublimeness of love in the persona of Jahera. Thus, he epitomised a symbol of devotion’, the status of which is higher and more elegant than the level of love, not something that ends with union. This, later on, moulded up into the image of an ideal archetype of philosophy. From her individual notion, he let Jahera ascend to the universal level of philosophy, and he exhibited the wide vision and concept of ‘dedicated devotion’. Thus, the feature of love that Anganghal showed as a paradigm in Jahera is a symbol of high level spiritual love different from what he did in other writings of his.

Most of the scholars and critics of Manipuri literature agree that Jahera’s love was of a higher level. However, none seems to have mentioned clearly what kind of higher love it was. And as this novel was fabricated with a story that deals more with emphasis on the love between two individuals of different races, of two different religions and social conflicts between the sanctified and the non-sanctified, and perceiving the story more in the sense that it shows more of a challenge between the love visible in Jahera on one hand and the social ethos on the other, they thus assume that Jahera’s is a love, which the traditional taboos and conventions forcefully suppressed. Therefore, several opinions of contrasting views came out from many on this most controversial concluding end of a novel. Some say, Unable to come to a rational effective culmination, the author killed Jahera” As the bind of religious interdictions and the restrictions by way of social tradition were too strong, the tip of Angahal’s pen got hitched; when there was no more space to pass each other, and right at the moment, when the ultimate of the union was at hand, the sharp dagger of antagonistic skew in the religions murdered Jahera. When putting the two on the balance in Anganghal’s mind, as religion and tradition weighed down heavier on him, instead of cleansing away the divisive society caused by narrow views of religion, he had to wipe out the very visage he wilfully painted. As none can bring in somebody within the orbit under the confines of Goudiya Vaishnavism religion, the author lets Jahera’s love well conformed to high ideals and lets her resolve that dedicated devotion for each other is higher than union.” Hence there had been emergence of opinion that the author cogently brought this high philosophy of Jahera’s love in the line of devotion for each other. However, the critic concurs that Jahera’s love belonged to a higher kind, Making her be determined not to marry in life, if that would be a threat to Kunjo’s life, the author makes Jahera’s love stand higher than the level of the common romantic love among humankind. What it says is that Jahera’s concept of love is at a higher status than that of the love between the humankind man and woman.

On the love between Jahera and Kunjo, E. Dinamani remarks, “Both are brave dedicated love-devotees, both did not recede even a single step back. They never ever even thought of retreating. In the dedicated love-devotion for each other, in their love for each other, they staked their lives and souls. One no longer cared for one’s soul for the sake of the other. The heart triumphed over the soul. Lf a living creature no more cares for its soul; it is but natural that nothing further remains, an absolution it is. KunjoJahera’s romantic love is a pure love, devoid of any concocting additive element of any kindDinamani with no hesitation opines clearly that in this ardour of genuine beautiful love, Kunjo, overwhelmed with his notion that Jahera had to be his, murdered Jahera; and that is no high ideology. If his caprice was that he murdered Jahera with kind of a notion that he would possess love for sure, and if it would not work, he would exterminate everything, Kunjabihari’s ideology was very poor, not even an ideal act of killing” (p 242). What it means is that Kunjo’s love is not of an ideal kind. And, on the other hand, as Jahera really loved Kunjo in the true sense of the term, what Jahera’s philosophy dwelt upon ‘with love as this pre-existing love would have demanded, with devotion for each other as this pre-existing devotion stands out, let us live separate lives with everlasting devotion for each other”. Dinamani attributes that this is love of a very high status. He comments on Jahera’s love, “in short, not a beautiful love, nor a high philosophy, nor an ideology, is it not. It is love of an ideal status” (p 228).1n brief what he means is that Jahera’s love is an ideal philosophy that shines at a well heightened status. And what is this kind of high level love such as Jahera elucidated? How does Anganghal fabricate up this feature in his novel?

To show the image of high level love, Anganghal brought some very specific and important concepts in. They are ‘love’, ‘desire’ and ‘dedicated devotion’. This novel, externally, is a dissection of the situation that evolves from the love between a Meitei (a Hindu) arid a Pangan (a Muslim); and what is unveiled deep inside is the conflict situation between love and dedicated devotion. These two situations, in fact, are not entirely separate from each other, rather is it an endeavour to annotate the inner situation based on the outer one. As two different colours enrich each other, the philosophy of the two different loves of Kunia and Jahera expounds the higher and lower status of their love crystal-clear. The author builds up too, the plots of the novel on a solid foundation to show the visage of this love clearly. As the kind of writing of the older days was of long and prolonged expressions, which we encounter in this novel, every episode in it is about Kunia and Jahera, and about their love. Every incident is a calumny related to the duo. The happenings are what rolled and ran on them, they in the role of wheels. In this novel, Jahera and Kunia do not often meet each other physically. However, the two are shown as the centrifugal forces and others as the ones in their shadows. Moreover, the grit, courage, vagary, firmness of determination, and forbearance of the two are very similar. Therefore, Kunjo’s desire (marriage and union) and Jahera’s dedicated devotion for each other without union ever remained in confrontation till the last stand.

At the end, whimsical and capricious Kunjo (“he often stayed quiet and silent; at midnight he used to go to big brother Zamini’s place for talks; he would suddenly be on his feet ready to move to Sadiya; he went alone up to Thoubal; Jamini often grumbles, (this young man will ‘walk around mad some day”) stabbed Jahera with his dagger. The triumph proved to be the might. In fact that was Kunjo’s defeat. And for Jahera it was her victory. Because Kunjo who thought headway strongly, ‘why people devote and dedicate to each other is for the culmination into union’, ‘]ahra is never to lose life’, ‘I must possess ]ahem physically’, having killed Jahera, could not attain even a single one out of his volitions. Kunjo, ‘right from the very beginning till the end’, loved with desire; but he could not fulfil his desire. On the other hand, for Jahera there was no breach in her purpose, her stand, and her notion of life. Jahera believed, Instead of dedicated-devotion to be diminished, I will not ever go for the so called union of love and desire in life. Jahera fulfilled her volition. Jahera did not fear death. Jahera loved death as much as she did dedicated devotion. Thus to signify the high status feature of Jahera’s love, Anganghal brought the essence of ‘dedicated devotion’ in. Union hardly matters in Jahera’s ‘dedicated devotion’. Her ‘dedicated devotion’ is more valuable than life itself; to die for it matters little. Jahera’s ‘I dedicated devotion’ is much higher than the common love and union; its value much more eminent too.

How this high philosophy of ‘dedicated devotion’ evolved in Jahera is introduced in the novel is not something, which is just thrown in towards the end of the book or plugged in conveniently as we see how ‘swarthayag’’ was flung into Madhabi. Beginning with her love for Kunjo, it was a firm metaphysical sense built up tranquilly, calmly, unruff1ed, understanding fully with a hard perseverance. Love blossomed antecedently at the first sight itself of Kunjo. She hardly could think of any consequences; a wonderful phenomenon love’s motif was. Later on she realised their races were not blending, intermarriage banned. Social traditions kept them apart with a tall wall between them. This very realisation as the hue in the shadow, made her love Kunjo all the more. Her love was leisure to her ever. In this novel there is no single moment where Jahera did not think of Kunjo. Thus, not to allow such love to diminish Jahera, after thinking deeply in details, took her strong willed decision not to marry ever in life. As a result of her extreme love for Kunjo, caring for him maximally, Jahera took this decision ‘I shall not to marry.’ Jahera who handsome Tomba Miya of no less charm and calibre was crazy about and was whining all the time for somebody to approach and just plead to her that he would keep her as a queen, and would like to marry her, had to give up the God-given creed and deed of marriage. Jahera’s decision, “I shall not marry”, she took it with the notion of a high kind of love, deep sense of sanctity and renunciation, as a resolve reaped from far inside of life’s credo. In the 12th chapter, when Fatima asked her, Jahera answered “I shall not marry, sister.” This happened in the early part of her acquaintance with Kunjo. When Ibemcha and Gopal wanted to know her real and exact mindset, there Jahera let them know too her mind’s firm decision, “I had said the other day already, I I shall not marry’; how many times should I say” (p 104) ? Jahera’s decision, she did not change till the last moment before she died. When Kunjo insisted her on going to his home she proclaimed, “My love, please do tell me to go away, please release me. I can’t serve washing your feet; if you want me to vanish, I’ll do it; please release me my love” (p 277). Jahera believed with a strong conviction that attaining union and marrying each other was not the end for man and woman. So long there was this essence of pure ‘dedicated devotion’ in the mind, love’s motif was not to be lost.

However, ‘dedicated devotion’ is not a trifle matter. One can attain it through renunciation, devotion and accomplished supplication of a pure heart only. All these distinct traits were in Jahera. There was not the least falter in Jahera’s heart about Kunjo. Jahera could renounce and sacrifice her soul for the sake of ‘dedicated devotion’. She died in the hands of Kunjo. The essence of Jahera’s devotionalism and invocation is amazing. Just for the sake of her love for Kunjo, she suffered from woe, shame and many a severe plight. Her race ostracised her. She had to split away from friends, and near and dear ones. She was driven out from her home. Leaving her own land she had to take shelter at Sadiya. She did not get even a single moment of the hang of happiness in her life. Hers was such a sad tearful life that she spent. However, she endured everything; she had to face many a sorrow for the sake of Kunjo. Thus Jahera’ s philosophy of ‘dedicated devotion’ came to taking the image of prem’ of the Vaishnavite philosophy, kind of transcendental love’, which is built up with renunciation, devotion and supplication.

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