“Urmila,” a poetic masterpiece by Krushna Singh, unfolds in the rich tapestry of the Odia language. Written in the mid-sixties, Singh’s verses vividly reimagine the overlooked character of Urmila from the Ramayan. Modest yet profound, the collection explores her sacrifice, portraying her as a figure surpassing even Sita in nobility. Singh’s rhythmic Odia verses beautifully convey the depth of emotion and philosophy in this timeless literary work.
The poetical work ‘Urmila’ by Sri Krushna Singh, a close disciple and associate of Sri Nabakrushna Chaudhury, Smt Malati Chaudhury, and Maa Ramadevi during the post-independence Bhudan Movement, is a unique piece of literature in the Odia language. It was written by the poet in his youth in the mid-sixties of the 20th century when he was bubbling with enthusiasm, inspired by the socialistic ideology of the revolutionary leaders of the then Odisha. Though the poet did not have much formal education due to his poor social background, by virtue of his poetic sensibilities and uncanny mastery over chaste Odia language, his poetic work can claim to be a milestone in contemporary Odia literature.
This poetic work is about ‘Urmila,’ a generally neglected character in the great epic, the Ramayan. She was the sister of Sita, married to Laxman, the close associate of Ram, during his fourteen years of exile. While Sita preferred to accompany Ram to the forests, ‘Urmila’ chose to stay back and serve her ailing in-laws at Ayodhya, who had been heartbroken at the turn of events leading to the expulsion of Ram from the kingdom for fourteen long years, just when he was poised to be crowned as the king.
Though the great poet Valmiki has not thrown much light on the sacrifice and greatness of ‘Urmila,’ the divine lady in his epic poem, poet Krushna Singh has attempted to project her as a great lady, even loftier than Sita. She was very modest, down-to-earth, devoted to her husband and in-laws, and above all, a great philosopher and artist. Her sacrifice for the Raghu clan in its days of sorrow and misery will remain unparalleled in Indian mythological history.
Sri Singh appears to be inspired by the poetry of Sri Radhamohan Gadanayak, the famous litterateur of those times who wrote profusely in verses in Odia with rhyme and rhythm. ‘Urmila’ is also a rhythmical work of poet Sri Singh. His portrayal of Kaikeyi, the most hated of Ramayan characters, is in a completely different light, being a matured political philosopher with very practical and pragmatic ideas of statecraft, transcending the petty considerations of motherly love and affection. She wanted to dispatch Ram to the forests for fourteen years not out of hatred and jealousy against him but to save Ayodhya from the soft and liberal administration of Ram, who, according to her, was extra benevolent and loose, not fit to keep the multitude of subjects of the kingdom loyal and bound to the state.
In this work, an attempt has been made to translate the long poem of ‘Urmila’ into simple English language because it has attracted the translator the way it has been written. It is also felt that the English version will introduce poet Sri Singh to a longer span of pan-Indian readers to appreciate his literary genius. The translator is not a student of English literature but rather a student of the dull and dreary subject of Electrical Engineering. A humble attempt has been made to retain, as far as practicable, the meaning and essence of the poem with the rhyme and rhythm of the original Odia version wherever and whenever possible. The translator will feel grateful to the readers who, with their understanding and magnanimity, will condone errors and mistakes if found any.
Deep gratitude is conveyed to Sri Krishna Singh who has encouraged this translation work, reminding every fortnight despite his age and failing health. This shows and reflects his love and affection towards the translator as that of an elder brother.