Inrasara: TEMPLE OF SUNLIGHT – Explicatio

Translated into English by Alec G Shachner
Explicated by Dr Ramesh Chandra Mukhopadhyaya


For hundreds of years the temple has stood
The ocean afar and the sands by its side
For thousands of generations the temple has shined
On a deserted hill
like a rest note

Without a single bush – without a single cloud
An infinity of sunlight and vastness of sand
Sound is mute – time absent
Empty space dense on all horizons.

Without a single verse of praise
Without even a single lyric of glory
Still the temple stands engrossed in sunlight
In the empty desert of humanity’s cold heart.

The Saigon-to-Panduranga route
I have passed over more than one hundred times
The temple is there – I’d been pretending as though it were not
In a twinkle of skana, space is imploded
The temple appears in its original form
temple of sunlight


The title of the poem – “Temple of Sunlight” could mean many things such as a temple belonging to sunlight or a temple made of sunlight and so on. And surely sunlight could stand for the Sun or Sun god. A temple is a holy place where people worship gods and deities. Temple of Sun god would mean there fore a built space which is deemed holy because of the presence of the Sun god inside the built space. Worship of the Sun was widely spread in ancient times. Japan the land of Rising Sun used to worship the Sun goddess Amaterasu. Ancient Egypt worshipped Sun god Ra. With Akhenaten Sun god is all in all. Ancient Persians worshipped Sun god Mithra. Jesus is the Sun symbol. In India Sun god is worshipped since time immemorial. Earlier there was a sect which worshipped Sun god in the main. But one of the most popular mantras chanted by the Hindus which is interpreted by many as a prayer to Sun god is Gayatri. It reads – Om Bhur bhuvah svah Tat Saviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi, Dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat. The three worlds of earth ether and heaven. We meditate on the god of their progenitor who destroys all our crudities. May he bless our intellect. The Sun god likens the china rose. He is the child of the sage Kasyapa. His luster is enormous .He destroys every disease. He destroys sins. He is the architect of the day. In India there is the famous Sun temple at
Konark. But no longer the Sun is worshipped there. It is now earmarked as a world heritage site. The temple of sunlight-the very name brings all these motifs to the mind of an Indian reader impelled by the law of association. The temple of sunlight might mean the temple belonging to sunlight which is beyond the sphere of sorrow. Or else it may mean a temple made of light in the encircling gloom.

The poem opens with the statement that for hundred years the temple has stood. That evokes our curiosity. We want to see a built space of the ancient times lingering still—a marvel of our time and a world heritage site. The second line—the ocean afar and sands by its side seems to depict the temple before our minds eye. May be we cannot hear the sea but we can surely espy the waves of the sea. The temple stands on a deserted hill for thousands of generations. Now we can visualize the temple standing on a hill near the sands. The sea can be descried. It is afar the phrase deserted hill suggests that the temple itself is deserted as well. The hills and mountains have been believed to the abode of gods. Does the phrase deserted hill suggest that we moderns are no longer drawn to the hills where the temples or the abode of gods exist. The poet says that there is not even a bush in the neighbor hood of the temple. It is a sheer deserted place grand in its loneliness and eerie. There is not a cloud to c over its head. It is exposed to the infinite skies that have no trace of cloud. The temple is as it were a stern ascetic seated on a hill below the canopy of boundless blue deep. All around him there is no single trace of life. Nature around him is arid and bare. And there is no sound about. Silence reigns supreme. Thus silence and empty space robs the poet of his awareness of time. The temple seems to be timeless in an empty space. Once space seems to be empty time vanishes. And the temple there fore turns into a figment of dream. But dreams could be more real than the real world sometimes. The third stanza observes that the temple stands without a single verse of praise without a single lyric of glory. It stands unknown and unsung. May be because human speech and human praise cannot reach the dizzy heights of empty space and timelessness, far removed from the world of eye and ear. Still the temple stands in an infinity of sunlight and vastness of sand engrossed in sunlight. The vastness of sunlight and the sand seem to stand for the desert of the humanitys cold heart. Well here is the rub.The humanitys cold heart is as hot as the sunlit sand. Or else the sunlit sand is as cold as the cold heart of humanity. Well here is a vision of Nature which is bald which is empty. Does the poet argue that the stark and empty nature that surrounds is the externalizationof mans cold heart that has no love no sympathy for anything about. Poetry is at bottom criticism of life. As civilization advances Nature is being denuded. But again does not the sun temple stand at the heart of a Nature robbed of its apparels? Does not the sun temple stand at the centre of the cold heart of the humanity? Here is a note of robust hope. Let civilization and reason do what it can the Sun temple stands at its heart. The Sun stands for fresh creation. Earlier the poet described the sun temple as a rest note exposed. It there fore stands opposed to the human world of hectic activity getting and spending. But rest is at the heart of every motion. The poem is prophetic in its suggestion that a day will come when the humanity will realize the sun temple at its heart. A day will come when the humanity will hear the note of rest ringing at its heart. The poet says that the temple can be seen on the way from Saigon to Phan Rang. The poet recalls that he went along the route several times He saw the temple over and over again and yet he did not see it till in a twinkle of ksana or a fraction of second the temple made itself manifest to the poet. The poem concludes with the line—The temple appears in its original form temple of sunlight boundless. This is flashback. A sudden reversal of the poets view of life took place at that ksana. This adds to the poem the taste of a narrative. When the poet speaks of the original form of the temple he distinguishes between appearance and reality. True that the contingent world is in the thrall of time and space. But that is the appearance. Time and space collapse and the reality is manifest. But the reality as experienced by the poet Inrasara is too bright for eyes to see. Our eyes are dazed and our minds thoughtless before such a vision of light light alone that exists. Thousand suns seem to pale before it.

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