From the Mahabharata

In Kurukshetra | painting by Sudeep Mukherjee

Water is silvered into glass
In the palace of the five princes.
Duryodhan steps into a pool,
Thinking it to be obsidian;

He baulks at a dark floor,
Taking it to be black water
Mimetic of touchstone.

Draupadi’s laughter ripples through
The crystal pillars of air;
Her silence beads into sweat
On her guest’s forehead.

Harbinger of war—
Their equation of hubris,
This mythopoeic algebra of history.


According to Hindu mythology, Chitragupta (literally, ‘He who is hidden in the picture’) is the immortal secretary of Yama, the god of death, and oversees the bureau of punishments in all the hells of the underworld. And it is said that even the celestial gods are not spared when the supreme accountant of the universe measures out the destinies of all beings.

by art on canvas

He first visits us
Just after we are born,
Transcribing in invisible ink
The letters and sentences
Of our fates

Between the lines
Of our foreheads:

The entire alphabet
Of our karma,
Encrypted in the secret
Cipher-book of our mortality.

Throughout the rest
Of our lives,
He meticulously records
All our daily transactions
In his ledger folios.

There’s no escaping him, is there,
Chitragupta of the ineluctable quill!

At the end of the day,
We get to meet him again
When he closes down
The bank-balance of our years,
And the small change

In the suspense account
Is settled with infallible exactitude.

Debit and credit,
Reward and punishment—
Both sides of the binomial equation
Balance each other out

As we turn over a new leaf
Of samsara’s everlasting journal.

Cover Illustration by Kathleen Mooney

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howard young

Great art and poetry combined!