Meghnad instantly seized the divine sword but he could not lift it. He pulled atthe bow It remained in Lakshman s hand. He angrily grasped the shield, but his efforts were useless. . . . First published in Bengali in 1861, The Poem of the Killing of Meghnad (Meghnadbadh kabya) by Michael Madhusudan Dutt is an epic in blank verse that has Indrajit (Meghnad), Ravan s warrior son who is slain by Lakshman in the Ramayana, as its protagonist. But the manner in which Meghnad is killed by Lakshman in a temple, where he has come to carry out a puja to Agni and has no means of defending himself is a departure from the Kshatriya warrior-code. This is the most subversive and original feature of Madhusudan s epic, and a daring way of turning Meghnad into a tragic hero. Something of an Indian equivalent to Milton s Paradise Lost, this magnificent work is an expression of Madhusudan s mind, of the Bengal Renaissance, and even of the wider Indian modernity that has emerged from that era. Imbued with irrepressible enthusiasm, youthful exuberance and rebellious flamboyance, Madhusudan s voice was compellingly new and inventive. This lyrical and vigorous translation by William Radice is accompanied by an extensive introduction, detailed footnotes and a comprehensive survey of Madhusudan s use of Indian and Western sources.
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