Themes of Poem Abhisara – The Tryst

Theme of Love, Compassion and Selflessness

Abhisara presents the theme of love, compassion and selflessness by the character of Upagupta. The monk Upagupta is a true disciple of Lord Buddha. He was truly devoted to the service of mankind. He led a simple life and was indifferent to the harsh weather conditions and hardness of life. when Vasavadatta, the court dancer of Mathura city, filled with proud of her youthful beauty and wealth, offered him, her house to rest, Upagupta was not fascinated by the luxury of her house.

He rejected politely her offer and said –

” When the time is ripe I will come to you”.

Upagupta believed in selfless service to mankind. He was ready to offer his help whenever someone needed it. He thought that Vasavadatta did not need his help and service at that time so he promised her to visit her when the appropriate time would come.

The monk Upagupta shows true compassion towards mankind, when he helped Vasavadatta in her time of need. Not more than a year, the famous court dancer of Mathura, Vasavadatta has changed a lot. Now Vasavadatta is afflicted with the deadly and contagious disease smallpox, her body is all covered with sores. Her youthful beauty, on which she used to pride, has faded away.

She was driven away from the city, in order to prevent the spreading of the contagious disease and was lying on the dusty ground unattended. At this condition, she once again encountered with Upagupta. Upagupta is not deterred, he remained unnerved by Vasavadatta’s present condition.

He sits by her and comforts her. He “took her head on his knees”, ” moistened her lips with water” and “smeared her body with balm” to give solace to her sores.

He is kind and compassionate to her. Upagupta’s ominous word about ‘meeting her at the right time’ now spring to mind.

His act of selflessness shows his profound understanding of the stark reality of life, the truth in Buddha’s teachings, change is the only constant and thus all beings must be treated with compassion.

Transitory Nature of Youth and Beauty :

Abhisara -The Tryst presents the theme of transitory nature of youth and beauty by the character of Vasavadatta. The poem confronts the readers with the harsh realities of life. The poem shows Vasavadatta, who once was a beautiful court dancer of Mathura city and who was proud of her youthful beauty and wealth and was loved by all. As the poet says –

” the dancing girl, starred with jewels/ Clouded with a pale blue mantle, drunk with the wine of her youth.”

The same woman Vasavadatta, within a year has transformed into a woman with her body spotted with sores of small pox. Her lips were chapped and dried. She has nobody to attend her and she was driven out

  The same woman Vasavadatta, within a year has transformed into a woman with her body spotted with sores of small pox. Her lips were chapped and dried. Her beauty was faded away. She has nobody to attend her and she was driven out of the city to prevent the spread of the disease through her contact.

The dancing girl of Mathura, who is shown to be proud of her beauty in the first part of the poem realises this truth when she , stricken with the epidemic, is abandoned by all. She is no longer an object of beauty and attraction. 

    This reminds us that youth and beauty are not permanent. The pride of the dancing girl of her beauty and youth was forcefully shaken off from her when she was stricken with smallpox.

The character of Upagupta shows us that true beauty is more than just physical appearance. Upagupta despite seeing her in both states, treats her with the same kindness and compassion, this suggesting that he values inner beauty over outer beauty.

   So we should never be proud of such transient thing of our life and should emphasise human qualities like kindness and compassion.

Figure of Speech in Abhisara -The Tryst :

1. Personification:

  It is a figure of speech where human attributes are given to non living things. 

  ” Stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August”.

     “Suddenly the black night showed its teeth in a flash of lightning / The storm growled from the corner of the sky.”

  “from the mid sky gazed the full moon on the shadows of the silent town.”

  2. Alliteration :

   Repetition of consonant sounds twice or more than two times in a line.

  ” in spring season” ( s – sound)

   ” festival of flowers” ( f – sound)

3. Metaphor :

 In this figure of speech, two things are compared without using ‘like‘ or ‘as‘ . “Clouded with a pale blue mantle, drunk with the wine of her youth”.

  Explanation : Just like wine can intoxicate a person who takes it in excess, the lady was also overwhelmed and excessively proud of her youthful beauty.

4. Foreshadowing:

This is a literary device which gives cues about the future events.

Example : “Thunder” and “Lightning “

Explanation : Both these words presage the coming sorrow and suffering of the dancing girl, that will bring a sudden change in her life when she will no longer be praised by the people of her town but will be hurriedly left away at edge of the town because of her disease. She will have nobody to take care of her in her suffering except Upagupta, the monk.

5.Transferred Epithet / Hypallage :

   It is a figure of speech formed by the transfer of an epithet. The term ‘ epithet’ refers to an adjective or a phrase that modifies a noun in the sentence. In order to form a transferred epithet, the epithet is transferred from the noun it is actually meant to describe to another noun in the sentence

  “forgiving eyes” is an example of transferred epithet because adjective ‘ forgiving’ is generally used to describe mind, but it is now used with ‘eyes’.

  “gay notes of a flute” is also an example of transferred epithet or hypallage as people feel happy (gay) listening to the tune of the flute, but the flute itself can not be gay.

  “sleepless plaint” is another example of the epithet because the koel birds are sleepless and not really the plaint (complaint) .

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