In the story "The Lost Jewels" by Rabindranath Tagore, what is the main intention of the narrator to represent characters like Bhushan Saha and his wife Mani (Nitya Kali)?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked about the characters Bhushan Saha and his wife, Mani in 'The Lost Jewels' by Rabindranath Tagore.

What is the main intention of the narrator? Tagore has often been characterized as a post-modern Indian author. The open ending of this short story is indeed an example of this post-modern style. This means that one can interpret the story however one desires. Although there are a few interpretations of this short story, I would like to draw your attention to the last part of the story where Bhusan states that the name of his wife is Nitya Kali.

In Hinduism, Nitya Kali is the embodiment of endless time. She is the goddess of empowerment or Shakti. She transcends time and has both maternal and destructive characteristics. As Nitya Kali, Shakti is often portrayed as a goddess protector and warrior, with her foot on Shiva. Now, Shiva is also named Kala, which means death or darkness. In Hinduism, both Kali and Shiva are equal opposites and are complementary cosmic forces. When Kali fights the demon Raktabija, she is unrivaled in her strength: she sucks all the blood from the demon and dances in victory, hungry for more blood. To prevent her from causing more destruction, Shiva lies down on the ground to appease her. When Kali realizes that she is stepping on her beloved, her wrath is assuaged and she becomes calm.

Bhushan gives us some clues that his wife is this Nitya Kali:

See, all your things are waiting for you. No one will claim anything more from you, but only ask you to give a living unity once more to these scattered and lifeless things, by the mere presence of your imperishable youth and unfading beauty. [Here, Bhushan is Shiva, who begs his Nitya Kali to light his world once more with her warmth and love. He talks about her youth and ageless beauty, for which the goddess Kali is well known.]

Bhusan, who ought to have been born five or six centuries hence, when the world will be moved by psychic forces, was unfortunate enough not only to be born in the nineteenth century, but also to marry a woman who belonged to that primitive age which persists through all time. [Here is another characteristic of Kali, the goddess of endless time.]

Man is the rod of God's justice, to him has been entrusted the thunderbolt of the divine wrath, and if at wrong done to himself or another it does not at once break out into fury, then it is a shame. [Here, Bhushan is referring to another aspect of Shakti - as Gauri, she becomes submissive to his Shiva, and he adores her for allowing him to dominate her. However, as Kali, it is she who depends on Shiva to appease her.]

God has so arranged it that man, for the most trifling reason, will burst forth in anger like a forest fire, and woman will burst into tears like a rain-cloud for no reason at all. But the cycle seems to have changed, and this appears no longer to hold good. [Bhushan refers to the changing cycles; these changes are characteristic of the many forms Shakti takes. Shakti is ever-changing, she can be anything she wants.]

By those very steps, up which the sound had come, the bejewelled skeleton went down step by step, with a stiff gait and hard sound. On the swift current of the river, flooded by the heavy rain, a faint streak of moonlight was visible...The skeleton descended to the river, and Bhusan, following it, placed one foot in the water. [It is interesting that Bhusan's wife leads him to the river. In the story, we see the goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati mentioned. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth - she wears much jewelry as does the skeleton; Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge. She is also represented as a river. Kali - also known as Parvati - Saraswati, and Lakshmi are the three main goddesses of Hinduism. Along with their husbands, they are believed to be the maintainers of world balance.]

So, the narrator very cleverly presents both Bhusan and Mani as the representation of revered Hindu gods and goddesses. At the same time, one can also interpret the story as a sketch of married life: who can fathom the full mysteries of the female and male relationship?

Thanks for the question!