Sigiriya Frescoes from Dreamstime

‘Kali! I meditate on thee!’ and ‘Waiting for Indra’

Abhik Ganguly


This poem is a mythopoetic attempt at chronicling the spiritual aura of non-dualism that I’d experienced whilst meditating on a cremation ground in my maternal uncle’s village in Bengal. 

Meditating in a shamshan [1]

at 2 AM of the night,

a canopy of constellations

hang over my head.

The moonless night 

mutters in my ears, 

the veil of Maya [2] she’s

worn, starts wearing thin.

Flames from pyre

are caught in a trance

of their own, the fire

now ignites my soul.

Cries of humans afar,

hearing the laments of

loss of a sister, of a brother,

of a mother and a father.

Stuck they are 

in this never-ending loop

of transitory dualities

like life and death.

Spending their lives

chasing caskets of gold

unknowingly, for they are

fleeting specks of time.

Why don’t they come to

the Mother, I wonder

and move past the dualities 

of pain and pleasure.

The Mother prefers the 

cremation ground, over

a palace adorned with the 

richest of jewels.

Just like her consort [3]

who roams the world

dressed in rags, matted hair,

body smeared with ash.


[1] Shamshan, or śmaśāna is a crematory ground for Hindus, where deceased people are taken to have their remains burned on pyres. It is typically found around a village’s periphery.

[2] Maya alludes to the world’s illusionistic nature in Advaita Vedanta, where Shakti (Shiva’s consort) keeps people immersed in illusion as Maya and liberates them from the cycle of birth and death as Mahamaya (The Great Illusion, or the Supreme Goddess).

[3] Her consort refers to Kali’s husband, Lord Shiva. He is referred to as ‘The Destroyer,’ besides being revered as the god of the arts, yoga, and meditation.

(From Left) Idol, Temple, and Village of Shamshaan Kali (Crematorium Kali)

Photos by Abhik Ganguly


This poem, while trying to breathe life into the frescoes of the Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka, gives voice to the apsarās, who often lacked agency in ancient tales.


Celestial rains pour outside in the ghostly night. Here we await, since our invocation by the King Kassapa I. His artisans after all breathed life into us. The caves, lit with torch-fires, keep us warm. Rākṣasas and bhūtas [1] roam the streets outside. Yearning for their halcyon days, with a mingling of memory and desire.

What magical days they were! Drunk on the vigor of our passion, we would dance all day long to the tune of Gandharvas [2]. In Indraloka [3], water lilies gave us company besides lakes of butter and banks of nectar. Menaka wore her wits on her sleeves. Ghritachi, Tilottama, so many of us. Jewels in the crown of devarāja [4] Indra. All of us, apsarās [5], born out of the churning of the Ocean of Milk.



The devas [6] are expected to arrive, when the longest of nights fade into oblivion. An oblivion, past the memory of this pain and longing. An incarnation, with a remnant of remembrances from our past lives. The rustling of leaves as the night slithers, bely us with a queer sense of belonging. How we await, like in olden times when devarāja would come home on Airāvat [7], triumphant with the sóma [8] wearing off.

Mortal visitors pay visits to our cave too. Scribbling poetry in a language we didn’t speak but now quite understand. Marveling at our esoteric elegance, just the way the rishis [9] of yore did. Their fractured gazes, turning them into inanimate statues. Perhaps, their only chance at immortality by forging their fractured gazes within an envelope of aesthetic abundance.


The lightning and thunder in such wretched nights, augment the ache of separation in our hearts. Let our husbands return in the morning twilight with devarāja. For when they come, we’d look at them crossed. And the moment shall come, when they will play their sarangi and arwajo [10]. The reconciliation will follow as a woman’s dreams, so seldom come true.


[1] Rākṣasas are a kind of demonic creature with the ability to shape-shift at will. Whereas bhūtas are spirits of dead creatures, who didn’t get a proper funeral.

[2] Gandharvas are revered as the heavenly demigods who accompany the devas (gods) as their musicians.

[3] Indraloka is the celestial home of Hindu Gods.

[4] Devarāja refers to Indra, the King of Gods.

[5] Apsarās are the dancers at Indra’s heavenly court, accompanying musical performances of their husbands, Gandharvas.

[6] Devas are the celestial gods in Hinduism.

[7] Airāvat, the celestial elephant, is the vāhana (vehicle) of Indra.

[8] Sóma is a significant ritual wine in Hindu scriptures. Drinking it produces immortality. Indra and Agni are described as ingesting large amounts of sóma.

[9] Rishis are enlightened sages believed to have composed the hymns of the Vedas. 

[10] Sarangi and Arwajo are the two main instruments used by the Gandharvas for playing divine music. 

Sigiriya Fort Apsara Frescoes

Photos from Dreamstime

Abhik Ganguly is a Junior Research Fellow pursuing PhD at the University of Delhi. He has won prestigious events like the ‘Poetry on Spring’ contest organized by House of Harmony 2023, besides winning the Amity International Literature Festival’s 'Comic Trivia' which included short story writing and 'Twitterature’. His works have been published in Setu, Creative Flight, The Criterion, and Room 16 (CES, JNU). 

X: @GangulyRicky

Instagram: @abhik_ganguly_