Travels in Bundelkhand
Jain temple at dusk
Against a stony sky the hill shapes
into the temple’s crumbling face
of worship that is touched
by something not of this world.
Those who excavated this desolate
soil toiled to create the same elusive
enrichment for their broken
lives on earth as we who journey
here seeking enchantment. Through
soft sinking darkness faint stars bubble: far
worlds that hymn their entrapment
Massive walls of exposed brick open to sky
that dangles light midway to the floor.
The trodden earth is dark. ‘These were
the elephant stables, these the camels’, this is
the king’s hammam, he bathed in rosewater
& milk.’ Structures sprawl under the gauzy
glow of suspended dust. On blackened
domes white weeds rise motionless. From deep
within the ruins a goat calls for its master.
Unattended shrine within the palace
Metal petals of coins lie around the small
god’s lotus seat. Suddenly vaulting
song fills the hall. Spin around
to see a blind musician enter, a
thin brown pup wobbling
at his feet. Their long shadows yawn
through the vast vestibule
as joke & prayer.
The small statue’s locked and lit
in museum light. Drive to where
she was found through a tube
of bumpy dream, on road and
dust road, past hogs pawing
refuse, to the bus depot. Stop.
The temple’s wrecked
pillars rise to hold up
a gloaming sky. Not long
ago she lay amidst this rubble
with her face of bliss.
*10th-century salabhanjika/Tree Goddess from Gyaraspur
Priya Sarukkai Chabria is a poet, writer and translator. She edits Poetry at Sangam. Her five books include poetry, novels and non-fiction. Her work has been translated into several languages and published in international anthologies, journals and websites.