Chakori by Chandrasekhar Kambar

Chakori

Translated by O L Nagabhushana Swamy and Pranava Manjari

Chakori by Chandrasekhar Kambar, translated from Kannada by O L Nagabhushana Swamy and Pranava Manjari, is a stunning example of what can be achieved with a good mix of mythology and fantasy fiction. Engulfed with folklores and local myths from North Karnataka, Chakori gives us a magical tale of love, faith and the powers of music. 

Then…

In Chakori – dreams act as a device to move the narration forward. Like mythological tales, it begins with an invocation of Lord Shiva, then proceeds to detail the origin of earth and life. In this case, this is the story of Adi Maya’s curiosity resulting in her perishing to the Great Darkness where a long wait turns her parts to various elements of earth and her rebirth as Punyakoti , the cow, into various species of life! The days and nights originate as a result of search for Adi Maya by Sun and the Moon (who become opposite clans) sent forth by Shiva.

“The swollen parts of Adi Maya’s body

Became the hills and mountains

Her perspiration and tears

Became the brooks, rivers and the drops of rain

Her breath became the winds

Thus the world of mortals 

Was created.”

(PS: Think, The Silmarillion by J.R.R Tolkien)

Cut to now

To this Clan of Moon belongs Chandamutta who is born after several prayers and offerings to the Yakshi ( a goddess) in the household of Sirilakki of Shivapura. After the early demise of her husband, Lakkabbe brings up her son with utmost care and love.

Learning music from the guru of the clan, Chandamutta, the cowherd, plays the best flute in the village. A chance encounter with a stone statue while grazing his cows has him exchanging a garland with the Yakshi’s statue in lieu of marriage. It’s a harmless prank by his friends but has him enchanted and dazed for days.

A musical event at the temple festival leads to Chandamutta’s humiliation at hands of Jogti, and his search for the perfect raga of moonlight. The rest of the book follows the tale of Chandamutta, his quest, and the secret of Yakshi – interspersed with themes of jealousy, a mother’s possessiveness and forbidden fruits.

Narration and book cover

Extremely lyrical and poetic, the translation flows beautifully, like the ebbs of rivers. Enchanting you into the world of mythical creatures, different worlds and beings, the book is hard to put down.

The personification of inanimate elements is characteristic of Kannada literature, when narrating tales inspired by myths and folklores. 

“In the beginning there was a forest…

By and by, life in the forest

Became dull;

Her eyes burning red with desire”

For instance, Girish Karnad‘s Nagamandala is narrated by  ‘stories’ (or kathe), Devanoora Mahavera’s Kusumabale where ‘deepa’ or light forms an essential part of narration – the same pattern continues here with the narration by ‘ dreams.

The personification sheds a third person point of view breathing life to the characters in a truly intimate way.

The book cover is beautifully illustrated  by Jayakumar G to depict an event in the book where a mythical deer comes out from the moon . ‘Chakori’ – the title refers to a mythical bird only rendered when the musical notes enchant the universe.

Conclusion

If you enjoy mythological or fantasy fiction this would be a perfect read. Excellently translated, poetic and lucid, it pleasantly surprised me. The translation, in particular the use of poetry, adds the magical touch.

Favorite quotes

Achievement is a curse and fame can be another. The desire for fame had given birth to jealousy.

He made the notes of the flute flow like rivers

And we swam like little fish

Caught in the current, in the swirl of the pool, Where could we find the bank?

The notes of the flute, like a net,

Try to catch the mysteries of the unknown depths.

Like the artist, Art too is in search of the proper.

We searched for each other

I found you

You found me.

Final Verdict: 4.5/5

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Swathi is a software engineer with a keen interest in reading and gardening. Her main area of interest is reading Indian literature and discovering them from the shelves of her favorite second hand bookstore. She hopes to one day have a nice library with a collection of books.

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