Journey of the Epic Hero:
A Critique of SUDHAKAR GAIDHANI’S “Mahaavaakya”,
Devdoot The Angel, Canto II

“Seabirds are especially compelling to us humans…being that they are perfectly at home in a location so alien and hostile to us-their mysterious experience is what, paradoxically, makes such rich metaphors…birds are illuminating parallels- they are animals below human status in one sense, and yet occupy the ethereal heights above humans as well; they are both mundane and numinous at once”( Birds besides symbolising souls also stand for powerful messages and experiences. Ruzbihan, the Sufi poet uses bird as symbol of “angels and saints who are described as birds flying in the heavenly garden” (Irmawati 698). Appropriately, Sudhakar Gaidhani’s epic Devdoot The Angel comes out of a seabird travelling across regions, culturesand cosmos symbolizing peace, knowledge, freedom of thought and strength of understanding. This symbolism of bird has further significance so far as the poem’s internal balance (structural and stylistics), is considered. The malaise of the current age, as analysed by the critics, is that of an ‘‘existential vacuum’’, a sense of meaninglessness. Devdoot, the messenger of God arrives and teaches us that we can transcend the vacuum by cultivating love, humanity and moral choice; we are led towards discovering the meaning of existence what will enable us to live in “tragic optimism” amidst sufferings of life, “hope when there seems to be no reason for hope”( Heavilin https://www.
Fariduddin Attar’s philosophical work “Mantiq Al-Thayr” tells us of the journey( a journey through which they are to cross seven cosmic mountain valleys) of thousands of birds in search of their King, Simurg who finally reveals to them the mystery of their nature and His nature. In Gaidhani’s Devdoot canto II, Devdoot’s final wish is granted, that is, “to hold a philosophical dialogue with you all”(26).The assembled wings, eagerly collecting “pearls of wisdom” (26) from the flow of discourse generated thereafter, are challenged by Devdoot, the ‘Guru'(10), the “torch-bearer”(16): “Is there a single volunteer amongst you, who is willing to enter heart of the universe and return safely to the earth?”(26). Canto II begins with a bird named Avdhut coming forward to undertake the sui generis adventure saying : “O king of birds, I would be more than happy to avail of such a rare opportunity”(26). The poet in the prologue says that Avdhut “sets along the journey towards traversing the universe as commanded by the supreme Guru. Throughout the journey the Guru and disciple pair engage themselves into an interesting debate which is the context of Canto II. As it is impossible for the (26) “wounded bird”, the “injured mass” Devdoot to take on such a difficult journey, everything experienced by Avdhut and his companions(to know about the companions of Avdhut one is to go through the other cantos as well), is communicated to Devdoot. However, the reader is interested to know the nature of the journey undertaken in this epical poem. Joseph Campbell in The hero with a thousand Faces(1973) says: “…The passage of the mythological hero may be overground, incidentally, fundamentally it is inward – into depths where obscure resistances are overcome, and long lost, forgotten powers are revivified, to be made available for the transfiguration of the world. This deed accomplished, life no longer suffers hopelessly under the terrible mutilations of ubiquitous disaster, battered by time, hideous throughout space; but with its horror visible still, its cries of anguish still tumultuous, it becomes penetrated by an all-suffusing love…” (Garcia 156). There can be in life, the critic avers: “a series of primary-secondary-reflections cycles leading us to greater and greater understanding of our life situations” that accompany us as we trudge, “hopefully to wisdom” (Gracia 167). Devdoot, the giant bird is wounded; it’s a break in his living and a shock is received. The critic says: “… Reflection is nothing other than attention, i.e., directed towards this sort of small break in the daily chain of habit…. To reflect…is to ask oneself how such a break can have occurred ” (Marcel 78). Devdoot’s primary reflection starts when just before his death he is forced to stop and think. He, as happens during primary reflection, detaches himself from the world and takes an impartial stance or a distant look. He scrutinizes the problem and in an effort to find a solution. The world is realized to be broken. In Canto II while Avdhoot takes on the journey with his companions, spanning across universe, it might be considered as the secondary reflection of Devdoot. He embraces the situations, moves within it, understands it as a free-flowing reality. Besides, he visualises an ideal existence and even prays for our upliftment. In this light Avdhoot and his companions might be understood as Devdoot’s travelling ‘ego’ and the “Fellow voyagers” as different shades of ‘ego’ of Devdoot who starts seeing the problem (the life) as a mystery. Canto II offers us the recuperative effects of secondary reflection of Devdoot.
In other sense the whole journey is symbolical. It is the journey of inner soul. In Tagore’s Giranjali we experience the Rishi poet’s yearning to feel the oneness with God who is at once in him (the Hindu concept of ‘self-God’) and yet distant from him. To Gaidhani who having started life as dishwasher at a village eatery attains the stature of poet par excellence, Life is God. If Tagore’s absolute is God, Gaidhani’s absolute is Life. As says professor Pendefunda in the Preface: “Man’s desire to experience the absolute is the highest search, the supreme anxiety. Sudhakar Gaidhani’s verses, springing from the desire to find out and to sit in the peace, in deep peace, also lean on”( Pendefunda 21). In Devdoot we experience the inner soul’s journey across the strange waters of life to know it in its full; the poet as well embraces life in an effort to have a creative relationship with it that imbues his life with a meaning. The Socratic dictum is “Know thyself !”. Devdoot reflects on our life to achieve the philosophical objective of knowing oneself. Devdoot is a book of wisdom that values human experience, having focus on feelings of anxiety, hope, anguish, fear and other related experiences as the poet endeavours to find the answers of two existential questions: “why?” and “What is the meaning of my life?” One must remember Devdoot’s words uttered at the very beginning: “This endless voyage is really an exotic one. Let your soul feast on it…whole-heartedly”(2).
Any discussion of Devdoot is not complete without an eye to the brilliance of the poet in constructing the images. The readers are the seafarers exploring an unknown ocean at every layer of which the undiscovered riches, unrecognized gems are awaiting him. The images like “The wounded lament of wondering kites”(32) or “clouds playing with endless waves of colours painting an illusion of the dark image of lord Krishna or rather like gopis letting loose the overflowing waves of their tresses!”(35), are mesmerizing as all the rest. As Gaidhani’s “highest search”, “supreme anxiety”(21) is to understand life and its meaning, the poet’s challenge is twofold. First, in his “Mahaavaakya” he is to maintain a balance between high epic style and that of the commonplace one. Next, he is to express his understanding of life poetically. The poet attains both the aims through perfect control on his diction and through imagesthat are at the same time transcendental yet revelatory. The images are not ornamental rather they open our eyes to the inner truths. When Devdoot, the giant bird starts his reflection, it is as if the readers’ centuries old expectation is fulfilled- as if Jatayu, the big bird of Ramayana(fatally wounded in his fight against Ravana, Jatayu dies thereafter) whose sudden demise was surely the loss of wisdom of ages, is back among us. Jatayu physically struggles to rescue Sita(she stands for honesty, purity, patience, innocence and all such noble virtues that mankind must crave for) from Ravana’s grip whereas Devdoot’s efforts aim to tow humanity back to its glorious and sinless ways of life.

In his mission the poet is afraid of none. At the very outset one hears “A human being is both her own adversary and mentor..A divine messenger. A human being is and also, terminator. The messenger of death.”(3). With this terrifying honesty the poet explores his absolute, the Life. The poet says: ”A conversation blossoms into An endearing discourse While an argument degenerates into a toxic verbal war, But when you unfold Layers of a mind…petal by petal, It surely fills your heart with a matchless treasure of joy!”(7). The same happens to the readers who accompany the poet in his search of existential questions. The readers are spellbound by amazing wisdom of the poet and astounding coverage of life’s issues/concerns. “Mahaavaakya” is constituted of uncountable pearls. On the theme of failure and success Devdoot says: “even a failure is an equal partner, sharing fruits of success… failure rises-up as an equal partner to carry the load of an unmanageable victory”(5). The fakir “tirelessly moves along the skies to unravel the mystery shrouding the root of the mankind treasured in the heart of the universe”(9). And he is to state his experience through the art of poetry – “a potent word craft unites with a discerning heart, both erupt into a timeless duet between surreal and real”(8). The discourse on the “unfathomable mysteries of the universe”(15) is interfused with the ‘Fakir’, the ‘beggar prince’s’ observation of the beauty of mother earth, of the grand existence beyond our known universe. Devdoot reminds his fellow voyagers of the right equation between a guru and his follower : “A guru and his follower are but two faces of the same coin, Like a bamboo and a broom, Like butter and its fat Born to a same mother”(10). As the poet is never completely swayed away by the marvellous beauty of cosmos- unity of theme is maintained all along- similarly the guru advises the followers not to be distracted by the attraction of flesh. The long discussion on love and lust starts and continues for long till the Fakir is overtaken by another issue like ‘patrioitism’ (30). In Wordsworth’s “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey” we hear that the burden of mystery is unravelled to the poet while during tranquil recollection of all things beauteous, his bodily motions are suspended and he becomes a living soul. Gaidhani says : “then you need to become one with your inner soul and entrance yourself into the temple of a fathomless hush like a meditating Buddh…And in case if you attain this sublime state successfully, then even God will beseech you to grant Him your tutelage and master the secret of attaining the ultimate nirvana!”(31). The “horizon trotting Fakir” needs to surrender his “molecular form” and bless himself by dissolving “into utter nothingness within a total vacuum” to hear the “divinely eternal notes”(32).
Alongside unfolding the dark mysteries of this existence continues the satire of our life and living, ranging from fake nationalism, racial barriers, falsehood of the saints to fake competitions among nations etc.. Superb poetry of Gaidhani resonates with satirical vein when we hear of “furnace of burning hunger”(40) that only reminds us of our “selfish interests”(41). Devdoot doesn’t overlook our “greedy minds”(43), the ways we shamelessly assault nature, our naive hopes to control “ the planets after plundering mother earth hollow like a giant rat”(42), our love of ”material pleasures” (63), our impatience and self centeredness – “co-existence is the name of an endless journey in this universe, but in the mortal world inhabited by the humans, a human cannot stand even the smell of another fellow human”(68), our indifference to human suffering -“nobody feels any pang about pain of others”(68), our mechanized civilization -“in future even the man will turn into a machine and with their uncontrolled rule, the machines would wipe the human race from the face of the earth”(68), our sinfulness-“God was held by his collar by the crowd in a broad daylight in the public square asking him to pay them, their price for their devotion. Some were asking to ‘let go of him’ while others were screaming, ‘thrash him ruthlessly’ on that very moment out of nowhere sin made a rushing appearance and rescued the God”(77), our ingratitude to elders(80), our brutality to the living souls around us (86-87), our meaningless religious rituals(88-89), our socialist hypocrisy(100), our religious sectarianism(99)etc. However, as Gaidhani the poet, Devdoot never loses his balance . He advises his disciple/s : “The essence of your speech should never lose its balance, even if you choose to colour the same with a profound depth of sarcasm”(78).
Another balancing factor of Devdoot is the poet’s unconditional love of life, of mankind and of the created universe. On the one hand he questions the demise of saint Tukarama by saying: “Those who are blessed with the wisdom towards welfare of the universe, even they are tortured by the beastly stupidity heaped by these fools”(93). On the other hand, he prays for us: “May the voice of a millennium ring with a melody of love and the germinated seed into soil of humanity may open its petals as it blossoms into a new life!”(113). Alongside portraying the ideal world saying:
“When these wise people would forgo the citizenship of diverse geographies and become the global citizens then only, the whole loving earth will be entirely saved from the vicious cycle of fearful conflicts among various nations then only will end there penchant for weapons and missiles Mother earth will then be treated as every soul’s mother land, silencing the arrogant discourse of knowledge and science either retrograde or forward thinking”(84)
he prays for “this unique animal called human being” so that they turn “clear hearted like a pristine lake” (103). The journey will continue till man behaves “with other creations like a creator Himself”(103). The poet pines to see the cup of human life to be filled with “eternally streaming concotion of humanity”(107) and very suitably Gaidhani’s “Mahaavaakyya” ends with his holy prayer for the human beings and the whole world: “Let the whole world be rid of all the sorrow as the nature drenches merrily under the divine drizzle of holy salvation And even the Learned Buddha cannot spot a single living being to be grieving with sadness!!!Let every human being on the earth be enlightened with a global wisdom as animals and birds look up to him with admiration and grace”(114). Again we are reminded of Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” that ends with benediction.
Thus, in Canto II at the level of secondary reflection, the world seems to be repaired from brokenness; the poet, Devdoot and his disciples all get reconciled with the paradoxes experienced in life in an attempt to understand the existential dilemma like “What is life” and this reconcilement results in peace which professor Pendefunda mentions in the Preface. The philosophy of Gaidhani is affirmed in the course of this symbolical journey from disgust, rejection and disappointment to love, compassion and acceptance wherein lies the meaning of life. Devdoot Canto II uncovers Life, the absolute, in all of its shades; the benevolent prayer of a humble soul (with which the ‘Mahaavaakyya’ ends) is the succour to our anguished existence. So far as the symbolic journey of the soul/ hero is considered, this analysis of Canto II of Devdoot opens up further scopes of research and indeed ‘Mahakabi’ Gaidhani’s epic Devdoot The Angel for its “surreal depth” (Vaidya 6) and vast canvas (5 cantos) demands highest attention among scholars and inspires further explorations of the classics of Homer, Dante and so on vis a vis the distinctiveness of Gaidhani’s Devdoot The Angel. Viewed otherwise, as says professor Pendefunda adeptly in the Preface: Devdoot “… represents the sum of our consciences”( Pendefunda 22) As Heroic Age(presented in ‘Adikabi’s’ epics of Action) succumbs to the age of machines and manipulation, it’s high time to listen to our conscience. As ours is an era hypnotized by evil, to protect our mother Earth, our civilization, let us take recourse to Gaidhani’s epic of Discussion. Here one is likely to be reminded of Shakespeare’s “Last Plays” as Devdoot’s secondary reflection is at the same time very much a lesson in peace and forgiveness. Contemporary, yet a reservoir of age old wisdom, Devdoot is a peerless creation of our era.




Works Cited
Attar, Fariduddin. “Mantiq Al-Thayr”. Translated by Charles Stanley Nott. The Conference of the Birds: Mantiq Ut-Tair; a Philosophical Religious Poem in Prose, London: The Janus Press, reissued by Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1961.
Gaidhani, Sudhakar. Devdoot The Angel, Canto II. Nathe Publication Limited, 7th July, 2022.
Garcia, Elenita dIR. “Immortality Lost: Existential Themes in Gilgamesh and Other Hero Epics”. https:// ejournals. Ph/ function/ reader 1/ read/ web/ viewer.php.
Heavilin, Barbara A. “From an Existential Vacuum to Tragic Optimism: The Search for Meaning and Presence of God in Modern Literature”, https://www.
Irmawati, Marwoto Johan. “Birds Symbolism in Persian Mysticism Poetry” International Review of Humanities Studies, July 2019 , ,, p.698-706.
Marcel, Gabriel. The Mystery of Being: Reflection and Mystery. Translated by G.S. Fraser. South end, Indiana: Gateway Editions, 1978, p.78.
Pendefunda, Liviu. “Preface”. Devdoot The Angel, Canto II. Nathe Publication Limited, 7th July, 2022, pp . 21-22.

Tagore, Rabindranath. Gitanjali. Kolkata: Sahityam, December,2017.
Vaidya, Vishwas. “Translator’s Note”. Devdoot The Angel, Canto II. Nathe Publication Limited, 7th July, 2022, p.6.
Wordsworth, William. “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”.

Web Source
“Birds in Old English Poetry”, 28th Nov. 2018, https://compleatbirder.wordpress. Com/tag/birds-in-old-english-poetry/

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