On Gokulashtami, August 28, a teacher in Nainital will finish the penultimate chapter of his epic, centred on the Mahabharata’s favourite swashbuckler.
“While the character of Lord Rama has much to do with propriety and perfection, Krishna has a unique universality. With all the human weaknesses, prowess and sensibilities that he is credited with, he has always been beyond time and place. His character always appears to be full of dramatic potential and possibilities when compared to that of Lord Rama. I am surprised, at times, that poets like Valmiki, Kamban, Tulsidas and others did not create a full-length epic based on his life like they did with Rama’s,” says Mahesh ‘ashant’, a teacher, who lives in a remote village close to the small town of Bhowali, some 10 km downhill from Nainital.
Originally from Sitapur in U.P., Mahesh, since 1983, has been composing a mega epic titled Krishna-Charitamrit, on the life of Krishna (which he says was spread over a period of 125 years). It has already swollen to over 7000 pages, about 10 times the volume of Ramcharitmanas. He is determined to complete its 10 and penultimate volume by Janmashtami this year. “The concluding sopan (volume) entitled ‘Moksha Parva’ will take another year or so,” says he.
For the devotee Mahesh, Krishna is mentor but the poet ashant sees in him a colourful “protagonist” with a life crisscrossed with vicissitude. “Born in a jail, he was separated from his parents, spent his childhood as a cowherd, under threat to his life by evil forces like Jarasandh and Kamsa. He orchestrated war and peace during the course of Mahabharat and saw the destruction of his own clan before passing away. Where else can one have such a sprawling canvas?” he asks.
Spending around seven to eight hours a day composing poetry, he has, for the past 30 years, been living in the constant company of the Mahabharat, Harivamsa Purana, Shrimad Bhagvat and other scriptures based on the life of Krishna. The poet in him occasionally avails of ‘poetic license’. “I remember seeing Nautanki of Nandu Nai in my childhood at Sitapur, and equating the character of Bhavamasur with the contemporary milieu is a liberty I have taken,” he says. On Janmashtami every year, a 36-hour non-stop recital of Krishnacharitamrit takes place in his house. “Being a part of the routine recital of a prayer Namami Bhadra Kalike is really ethereal,” says Dr. Rakesh Belwal, a professor in the University of Sohar in Oman.
Mahesh does not know from where he will get the money to publish his work; the proposed cost is Rs. 10-12 lakhs. “I was inspired to compose it. It is up to society now to accept or reject it.” One of his old students, however, has recently offered to bear the expenditure of publishing the first volume, in memory of his father.