An analysis of Jayanta Mahapatra’s Dawn at Puri

An analysis of Jayanta  Mahapatra’s Dawn at Puri.


Dipen Bezbaruah


Jayanta Mahapatra is known as a minute observer of social and religious realities. Through the poem ‘Dawn at Puri’ he has unveiled before us a very sad picture of the realities, which encircle the Great Jagannath Temple located at the holy city of Puri, with a tone of underlying criticism at the Indian society. The poem is very short, but it consists of a host of images, each exposes the rotten fabric of some of the social and religious realities prevalent in India.


The poem starts with the poet’s observation of a morning landscape that is quite common in and around the holy temple. In the morning one can hear endless noises of crows. Hindu beliefs normally do not accept crow noises as something that should be welcomed. In fact, it is thought to be ominous. The crows can be termed as scavenger bird and they usually like to live in the dirty places. The presence of innumerable crows practically indicates the filthy condition of the environment encircling the holy temple.


In the sprawling sea beach of Puri he has observed a skull lying on the sands. The presence of a human skull lying in this manner practically gives a picture of ill-fed, hunger stricken people who live amidst extreme poverty. It shows that there are many under privileged people whose condition is not better than a stray dog. Many such people throng in the holy cities like Puri seeking sustenance and salvation, but very often they die a neglected death.


Next we get an image of white dressed Hindu widows standing in a row to enter into the holy temple. These women have been leading an austere life and have put all their faith in religion. They are the women caught in their self-imposed religious net. Their mind is governed by the strand of faith that only lord Jagannath can offer salvation to them. They are also the victims of equally orthodox social system which put all the blames of the death of their husbands on their shoulder.


With the frail early light catches the holy place, a number of people suffering from leprosy are seen outside the temple. These are the people caught by the deadly disease and discarded by the society. Their condition is very pathetic. They have neither social security nor individual identity and they have to depend on the blessings of the devotees for food and clothes.


The poet also gives the image of an imaginary pyre with flames covered with smoke. He tells about his aged mother’s last wish to be cremated in the sea beach of Puri. This reference to the poet’s mother’s wish indicates the last wishes of many Indian women to be cremated in this holy place.


Though the poet is Christian in religion, he is also an Indian and so he is well aware of the Hindu customs and belief systems. The picture drawn by the poet is realistic in nature with a touch of irony and satire.



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