The Mighty Fall

I was looking at the January 2008 newsletter of “The School – KFI” and there was an article named “A Study of the Cholas – A Quick Report” by Akhila Seshadri (Teacher of History) on their visit to temples built by the Cholas, a dynasty of kings who ruled in Tamilnadu until the 13th century.

Darasuram, Gangaikondacholapuram, Brihadeeswarar were the three Chola monuments we visited. The man in whose times the temples were built – the so called creator of the huge temples, the architect of a marvellous kingdom, Rajaraja is now represented by a black stone in an unmarked and unnamed field in a village called, Udayalur. This stunned the students who had seen the Thanjavur temple. I think they became immensely thoughtful after this. “Is this it?” was one question on many lips.

This reminded me of the poem, Ozymandias by Shelley although this was the first time I could relate to it directly. My grandmother hails from Tanjore and I have lived in Trichy for over 13 years. I have visited the magnificent Brihadeeswara temple and awed over its splendor and this news was a little saddening.

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

My father once told us about a man who had a paan shop at the bus stand in Trichy. He claimed to be the descendant of the Cholas. The Government had seized all of their property and they had been reduced to the state of menial workers to eke out a living.

In this context, I was also reminded of the Julius Caesar that Shakespeare wrought. He proclaims that he is as constant as the Northern Star only to be stabbed to death immediately afterward.

Cæser: I could be well mov’d if I were as you;
If I could pray to move, prayers would move me;
But I am constant as the northern star, (68)
Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine, (72)
But there’s but one in all doth hold his place:
So, in the world; ’tis furnish’d well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one (76)
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshak’d of motion: and that I am he…

Julius Cæsar by William Shakespeare (Act III. Scene I.)

Yes, this is it!

4 thoughts on “The Mighty Fall

  1. I had been sent this link by Gautama to read his reply to you. He felt we too would like to know and understand what he had said. As I scrolled down, I saw the excerpt from my article and your own drawing on Ozymandias. Strange, but true. Every time I take the children there, that night, I read out that poem and the children need very little explanation and understand the poem. Thanks for understanding. Bless you.

    • That’s a very nice way to help students relate the ideas. 🙂 I had recently been to Mahabalipuram and the incomplete sculptures made me wonder who was working on them before the work was dropped halfway. Sometimes life catches up too fast before art can gestate.

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