Aranyak: The song of the forests

One can never have enough of a book that continues to fascinate its readers even after almost 80 years of its publication. ‘Aranyak’, literally meaning ‘of the forest’, was the fruit of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s intense love for Nature. Filled with the scent of tropical jungle , the novel seeks to discover the ancient ties between man and nature and the eternal love for the woods which remain hidden within most of us.

More than a decade before writing ‘Aranyak’ (written in 1937-38), Bibhutibhushan had written in his diary, “I shall write something about the lives around this jungle …  this jungle, its loneliness, losing one’s sense of direction while riding a horse … about the poverty, simplicity of these people, this virile, active life, the picture of this dense forest in the pitch darkness of this evening – about all of this.” (Smritir Rekha, 1924)

The classic novel does not have a complicated plot, and no central character as well. The story revolves around Satyacharan, a western-educated city dweller who finds himself in the middle of the unfamiliar forests of Purnia in Bihar, after being appointed as the estate manager of the district. Purely an urban youth, he was at first dismayed by the lonely, alien surroundings and longed to return to his beloved bustling hometown of Kolkata. Nevertheless, the breathtaking landscapes, mystical starry nights and golden sunsets gradually magnetized him, and the simple, unpretentious people soon became the ones he loved the most.

Just like Bibhutibhushan himself, the protagonist of ‘Aranyak’ is also a mystic. The vastness of the sky, the delicate beauty of little wild flowers- all seemed to bring out mystical revelations in him . They generated a state of euphoria- when the narrator could feel the rhythm of the dancing leaves in his own heartbeat, and be at one with Nature. The permanence of Mother Nature instigated a realization of history in him. In the sixth chapter, Satyacharan writes, ” These forests and hills have remained unchanged since time immemorial. In the distant past, when the Aryans crossed the Khyber Pass and marched into the land of five rivers, this forest was the same. The night when Gautama Buddha left his newly-married wife behind, this hilltop manifested the same smiling demeanor in the middle of a moonlit night, like today.”

To experience the inexplicable joy of spotting a host of beautiful flowers in their full bloom, the immense delight of riding a galloping horse through the open meadows during twilight and losing oneself in the enthralling wilderness, dive into the pages of ‘Aranyak’. A breath of fresh air, heavy with the smell of dense foliage is eagerly awaiting you!

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