The year 1861 saw the publication of a Bengali epic poem that perplexed readers by going against traditional norms, but soon became one of the greatest works in Indian literature. Meghanadavadha Kavya (The Slaying of Meghnad), written by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, upturned the Hindu hierarchy by making a rakshasa his protagonist and the unfair slaying of Ravan’s son, Meghanad, by Lakshman his central theme.
Teary-eyed, Ravana, the love of Mandodari, spoke
again, “Speak, news bearer, I must hear; how did the son of
Dasaratha slay Dasanana’s champion scion?”
“How, O world’s sovereign,” began once more the bearer of bad
tidings, “how, O wealth of Raksasas, can I bear to speak
of that, or you to listen? Ramacandra pounced upon
your son in battle, as the lion, yellow-eyed, with gaze
afire, gnashing wrathfully awful fangs, leaps upon the
nape of a bull’s neck! Then all about swelled the waves of war,
like a raucous ocean dueling with the winds! Sabers
flashed, like tips of flames, from amidst ten thousand aligned shields
which resembled smoky billows! Conch shells blared with a roar
like the ocean! What more shall I say, my lord?
(Translated by Clinton B Seely)
In a letter to his friend, Rajnarayan Basu, Dutt admits that “People here grumble that the sympathy of the poet in Meghanad is with the Rakshasas. And that is the real truth. I despise Ram and his rabble but the idea of Ravana elevates and kindles my imagination; he was a grand fellow.”
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