Indian Goddess in the poem To The
swaminathan by Octavio Paz
“India, by his own admission, was the
land of his “second birth”, Octavio
Paz, Mexican author philosopher, anthropologist and critic of art and literature,
but he is recognized as a poet. In 1990 he granted the Nobel Prize of
literature for his poetry. As a world poet whose poems surrounded a world stretching to America to Asia. Octavio
paz’s poems have a profound influence on India. His acquaintance started in
1950s, when he had visited Indian on his way to Japan. In 1962 he became the
Mexican ambassador to India and deeply involved in this country before
resigning six year later. His creativities
are India witnessed in the titles of some of the poems are The Trilogy of
Himachal Pradesh, Madurai, Vrindavan, The day in Udaipur, Cochin, Near Cape
Comorin, Sunday in Elephanta Caves, In Lodi Gardens etc…
travelled widely in India and he absorbed some fundamental Buddhist thoughts
and Hindu myths in his poetry. Even before Paz came to India he had a
connection. It was with his Guru Andrew Breton, the famous French Surrealist
who had first introduced Paz to Buddhism as early as 1946. But Breton in spite
of his being conversant with Buddhism, the orient meant all that was not clear
and also exotic. For Breton and other surrealists the East remained distant
music and a symbolic world. But Paz was something different from theirs; he
actually came to live in East. He stayed in India proved to be his most intense
period as a poet.
did not enter me through my head but through my eyes, ears, and other senses,
than any reading”….. It’s a description
of Paz while he memorizing India.
In Light of India
is his recently essays collection work on India. Paz’s friends influenced
highly him in his poetry. Paz wrote many books about his friends in India. The
man heading in this list is late J. Swaminathan, one of the profound painter in
India,writer,ideologue, institution maker, he was a ‘self –willed’ artist of
extraordinary determination who laid the foundation for inherent
understanding of contemporary art.
Paz described swaminathan as an
iconoclast, and he was one of the closest friends of Paz. The poem for the
painter swaminathan dedicated to J. Swaminathan. This poem is a thrilling one
which deals a spell on the reader with its burst of colors and intense passion.
Here the poet is witness to the creative frenzy of the artist at work. The empty
space on the canvas invites the painter like a challenge. To Paz it brings back
memories of a matador’s moment of truth when face to face with a raging bull.
Mesmerized, Paz sees his friend create throbbing patterns of color on the white
of the canvas, not with a brush but with a knife and a piece of cloth. Each color
comes to life. These different colors symbolize the Indian life. Each color
mirrors the heightened excitement of the painter. The essence of the poem is
the universal presence of mother Goddess and mainly focused on Indian Goddess
the Mexican red
Turns black The Indian red springs
Turns black The lips go black The black of
Then the lines turn into Indian goddess Kali.
The Mexican red is that of the Aztec sacrifices. Then in his eyes Paz sees this
transformed into the blood on the protruding tongue of the Hindu goddess
Kali. Paz describes her adorned with a
garland of skulls as she clutches the dismembered head of an asura in her left
hand. She levitates on a sea of blood and dancing on the prostrate body of her
divine half, Shiva. She is both Parvati (Devi) and Kali; both calm and violent.
She can create all and destroys all. She is the feminine form of Kala. She is
Shakti, the Mother-Goddess from whom springs life. Paz deeply observed the
Indian myths. “The
blue body of Kali”, her color is midnight blue which represents the womb of
existence. For Paz, the painting of Swaminathan portrays the many forms of the
universal mother goddess, be she Kali, Guadalupe or Tonantzin. She is the
primordial force worshipped by different names.
Not only this poem but also we can
see the reference of Indian goddesses in other poems of Octavio Paz, for
example his poem Ladera east. Paz’s
indian experience can be best summed up in his own words ” It was a happy time…..
It was a second birth… what I lived and felt during six years I spent in India”…