About half a century ago, when I was in teens and living in eastern part of U.P. which is the heart of Bhojpuri language and Bhojpuri speaking people, there was a poet of Bhojpuri.
Those were not the days when the poets charged for appearance and participation, although we heard that Bachchan (Harivansh Rai) had started taking participation money which was unheard of these days. Maximum one could expect was to and fro fare, board and lodging and probably a small out-of-pocket allowance. I remembered that when posted at Durg (now in Chhattisgarh) I had gone to the railway station in the night, probably to see off or receive some dignitary or friend, I don’t remember now, and after I had done the duty, while returning I saw Sri Gopaldas Neeraj all alone on the platform,with a small suitcase beside him I had heard him the night before). Neeraj used to be our favourite during our student days. His ‘Carvaan guzar gaya, gubar dekhte rahe’ was quite famous, and later it was included in a film also. But what I most fondly remember of his his poetry is the four lines: ‘Haan woh apna chhota sa birwa/ Ghar ki har chudi jis par arghya chadhati hai/ Syed ka woh aala ki jis jegah har mushkil/ do chaar batashon mein hi hal ho jati hai’ (The small shrub all the ladies in the house offer water and prayer (Tulsi), Syed’s corner where every problem is solved with two or four sweets). The poem was about the devastation an atomic war would bring. Anyway I chatted with Neeraj for some time before going my way.
To come back to our Bhojpuri poet. I don’t think he would be alive now. At that time he looked to be in his forties.
The poem I remember is ‘Gori ke angana phule phulwari’ (The garden is bloomig on the body of the fair maiden). Now I remember only one more line of it: ‘Koin bani bichhuari’ (Lily with its long stalk becomes the toe-ring’).
The other day I tried to remember which other flowers he had mentioned adorning the fair maiden’s body, but I could not recall. If anybody remembers that poem or knows the source from where I could get the wordings of the poem, I will be grateful, and assure him a drink next time we meet.
But let me guess what flowers he would have described. Ears with amaltas (Indian laburnum) as jhumka (pendant), or maybe shirish (albizzia). Lotus for armband. A garland of mogra (jasminum sambac), palash flowers (butea monosperma) for waist band, juhi or chameli (jasmine again) for a wrist band, champa (michelia champak) for paijeb (ankle band)and a garland of maulshree (mimusops elengi) for offering (make it the lover or god!)
I also have a vague memory of calendar artists of those days who were very fond of painting Shakuntala-the forest maiden- decked only in flowers for ornaments. Raja Ravi Verma also did paint the immortal forest girl. But from those pictures I remember only lotus and jasmine. Lotus of course is closely associated with our mythology. Vishnu holds a lotus in one of its hands. Lakshmi -the goddess of wealth- is shown on a stand made like lotus, and the pollinating bumblebee caged inside a lotus flower overnight (at least in makhana flower, it happens!).
My my! I have completely forgotten hair decoration. What could this be?
Anybody game for finding the most appropriate flowers for adorning the fair maiden from head to toe (aa nakh-shikh)?