Two wives for a perfect life: Nag'mati and Padmavati in Jayasi's PadmAvat as symbols of the integration of bhoga and yoga
- 1. Introduction.
- 2. A sacred love poem.
- 3. PadmAvat's way of love.
- 4. Daily life and ascetic life: the choices of Indian Sufism.
- 5. The story of two wives.
- 6. Yoga and bhoga in PadmAvat.
- 7. Two wives for a perfect life.
- 8. Epilogue.
Urged by the love for a damsel of perfect beauty, who dwells in a distant island, a Raj'put prince named Ratan'sen abandons his wife and his unsatisfactory life, becomes an ascetic and sets off in search of her. But after overcoming the afflictions of a long journey and finally experiencing the divine joy of meeting the girl, he still feels a sense of separation. Indeed, no part of a man's life may ever be left out: enjoyment (bhoga) only proceeds from discipline and austerities (yoga), but discipline is useless if it does not lead to full participation (bhoga) in everyday life. Taking his second wife with him, he thus comes back to his kingdom and resumes his daily duties as a husband, as a ruler and as a warrior: a war, in fact, is now imminent. A fascinating description of court life and heroic deeds follows. At last, Ratan'sen accomplishes the fate of his caste by dying in a duel; Nag'mati, his first wife, and Padmavati, the second one, jointly enjoy a perfect union with their husband by sacrificing their life on his funeral pyre. Soon after that, the huge army of the Muslim emperor Alauddin will conquer the city of Cittor.
Love and the description of love make PadmAvat,1 the magnificent poem of the Indian Sufi poet Malik Muhammad "Jayasi" (1494-1542?),2 into a quintessential, absolute work. Although it also contains events which could be measured out on the yardstick of history,3 its inspiration is so deep that even marginal episodes, such as the preparations for the emperor's banquet,4 seem to enounce truth, line after line. The story of the two queens is its central theme. On the one hand, they incarnate the different ideals of austerity and daily life, and their complex relation; on the other, they both possess a lively personality through which Jayasi portrays two surprisingly modern Indian women who are as independent and resolute as strong-willed.
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