Buddhas of Bamiyan
Two vast statutes stood on the Silk Road,
hewn into sandstone cliffs, sculpted from
limestone, mud and straw, stuccoed by the
ingenious mind of man. Giant frescoes from
the other side of time, one of carmine red,
celestial light and the other of rainbow hue,
meditating radiance, pillaring a world,
shrouded in the grey mists of war.
Their quotidian rhythms breathed patterns
of a mountainous day, a dusty white dipped
in ochre and of a swathed night, a gunpowder
black deflagrating into a pyrotechnic dawn
that endlessly debated on vice and virtue.
Their robes of sandstone lace pure as the sun,
who dreamt on cormorant wings, his twilight
prayers lighting their feet. The ancient jewels
of their robes, robbed by the wind, told of time
warped conquest and siege. Nesting in their folds,
the songs of passerines that aspired for the skies.
Nothing remains of that Gandhara art, the hands
that carved and the mind that dreamt, all devoured
by the hungry earth. Their outlines still linger on
the ashen rock face. Behind them they left blue
murals, moth eaten by time and sitting Buddhas
in vermillion robes, cross legged on the threshold
of palm leaved centuries. Mythical creatures play
at their feet, sketching intertwined lines of some
greater universal causality that manifests in sandstone.
Gandhara – Indo-Greek
Siddhārtha becomes Buddha
Spirit like, a starved, ethereal Siddhārtha
takes a sip of milk from the village girl’s
pitcher. The milk chokes in his throat as he
gasps for air. He is a warrior prince reduced
to seeking alms. Suffering and sensuality tie
him up in infinite knots. Somewhere, a wheel
spins and a conch speaks. Siddhārtha listens.
The conch speaks in a Pali dialect of beginnings
and endings, of desire spreading like wild fire,
of ambition vaulting over the Himalayas, of truth,
bitter as fenugreek. The wheel spins stories of the
white elephant dream of a childless queen, of a
beautiful woman, birthing a lotus boy under a
shala tree clinging on to its flowering branches.
He reclines into jade dreams of spinning mandalas
in lightning runes and nirvana, ultimate liberation,
etched in gnostic lustre. The infinite knots bind
him like seasons binding the cyclic sky, like the
sun and the moon binding the pregnant earth.
He wanders the streets of Gaya, the wheel
spinning inside him. He hears it rattling in the
giant banyan tree, he hears it in bird song, he
inhales its pulsing rhythm. He feels the searing
pain of spinning into himself, while turning away.
Under the sacred banyan tree, he spins out the
marble palace that walled him from the outside
world, the music that danced from torch lit halls,
the chariots of gold, the comely woman pining for
him in yellow robes, the chuckling infant, imprint
of his lineage. Under the banyan tree, Siddhārtha,
the blue eyed one becomes Buddha, radiant as light.
Indian born Usha Kishore is an internationally published poet and writer, now resident on the Isle of Man, where she teaches English in a Secondary School. www.ushakishore.co.uk