Dara Shikoh’s Head By Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee

Dara Shikoh’s Head

As I visited the tomb of Humayun
I found Dara Shikoh’s grave,
I asked a guide – busy convincing
His English tourists, the stars
At the entrance door are not David’s —
“Where can I find it?”
“It’s in the main mausoleum,
Dara’s headless tomb

I walked, suddenly aware
Of my head, aware of the sentence
That severed Dara’s head
From his body, freed from his
Commands, free
From the word, split in two

Is Dara anymore Dara? His
Head bore his name, but no longer
His own, severed —
By a swish — where was Dara?

For Aurangzeb, Dara bore a prickly
Shadow, contrary
To his faith, rival to his sword, Dara
The heretic prose,
In love with other hymns, Dara,
Mystic bird, who flew
From parchment to parchment,
Seeking god in translation

The translator visits every poet’s
House, to look for the secret
Hiding inside the word that spells
A similar universe, echoing
In another time, below other lamps,
The same word, Dara, master
Of tongues, a master-boat, rowing
From tongue to tongue,
His head lost in translation

Devil’s child, Dara,
Declared god’s animal, buried
To the hellfire of beasts
For reciting The Upanishads,
Later, did someone
Come to recite a marsiya,
Where Dara’s incomplete body
Was looking for its head?

Where will the land go to find
The secret, lost between Dara’s head
And body, a secret trembling
In the severed air, sacrificed before
The translation was over? I stood
Before the cenotaph, telling
Dara, I carry you in my head, you have
So many heads, translating
Every day, all that you left unfinished,
Translators, we join the night
And the day, we betray the word, parry
The sword, every day,
We put Dara’s head back in place

By Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee


Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer, translator and political science scholar. His poems have appeared in The London Magazine, New Welsh Review, The Fortnightly Review, Elohi Gadugi Journal, Mudlark, Metamorphoses, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Postcolonialist, George Szirtes’ Blog, The Missing Slate, The Indian Quarterly, The Little Magazine, and Coldnoon. His first collection of poetry, Ghalib’s Tomb and Other Poems (2013), was published by The London Magazine. He is currently Adjunct Professor in the School of Culture and Creative Expressions at Ambedkar University, New Delhi.

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