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Syndic Literary Journal

Darkness and Light

Written/Narrated By Pondicherry India Poet/Essayist/Critic Aju Mukhopadhyay

Darkness and Light ~ Part One


Darkness is as old as the Time Past. In spite of all arguments against and abhorrence or dislike for darkness it may be rightly said that darkness too has its place among creatures of the earth; like dark colour against white or brown or yellow. Without darkness light would not be known, without dark power of light would not be felt, without darkness light would be devoid of its worth. There are creatures including humans who prefer darkness. Below are presented two areas of Darkness; Darkness by Death and Darkness by Choice.

dead is past

cannot be revived exactly-

as it was

Fossil Park: Fossilized Witnesses of Time

Time effaces everything. Dead are forgotten sooner or later. Those who live for some thousands of years are historic personalities but they live only academically; they live in scripts, books and stones or are mummified. But who remembers trees, except the ones like the great Bow Tree under which Buddha Deva got his enlightenment? Some of the trees live for thousand years and more, some die too early. But die they must and get transformed like most living things after death. If left untouched, big trunks and branches of the trees are petrified; they fertilize other living trees. Down the ages some are transformed into coals, into diamonds and other precious stones; may be after many million years. The ages of these petrified trees, kept in enclosures, under the governance of the Geological Survey of India in Tirukkarai village in Tamil Nadu, are about 20 million years. Compared to those once living trees, mummies of Egypt are of recent origin. It is said to be the first official Fossil Park of India.

       Parts of the bodies of the giant trees, laid to rest for millions of years, do not give fruits, seeds, shades or fire woods; they are sturdy stones, lie with stone-cool indifference. Living trees are around but they do not have any significance in that surrounding. It is the world of dead trees which attract some curious visitors; some serendipitous travelers, some students and some, maybe locals. Some have come with a picnic party nearby. Some of the wood-stones are as big as 30 meters.

       Of the nine fenced enclosures, ‘B’, the main enclosure is kept opened for visitors. A watchman usually guards the area. Everything is open. One has to explore all by her or himself.

     The trees, it is said, had been transported here before they were petrified. It is an uneven rocky terrain. Besides trees and fossils there are some mounds. The formations are geologically called Cuddalore Series. The earliest detailed account of the fossils, made by a European Naturalist Sonneret, has remained since 1781. Some of the fossils belong to Mesembrioxylon Schmidianum and some belong to Angiosperms. The modern families like Guttiferae  and some resembling Tamarindus species of trees exist. Some of the modern living forms possibly existed during that period. Folklore suggests that the petrified trunks were the bones of the Rakshasas or demons, destroyed by Lord Vishnu the supreme God, on the spot.

     A contact with the In-charge of the Park may help one to gather some basic information and facts about the fossils and the Park. It was said that he would be available at the nearby Chandramouleswara temple. But the time it was visited is long past. Who knows where is he now or if he has to sit there all the time. Chandramouleswara is a Kali temple dating from the Chola dynasty; thousand or more years ago. Kali is usually worshipped on a new-moon night by the tantric. But here she is worshipped on a full-moon night.

     There is an Ayyanar temple inside the enclosure ‘B’, worshipped by the local people. Festivals are also held. One may find some sculptors sculpting statues out of granite stones quarried from nearby places.

cessation of life

occurs in its time

by disease, choice or committed


Darkness and Light ~ Part Two


Death by Choice Death by Compulsion

There are some huge hollow urns in and around the village, which has rocks all around, where, it is said that people used to bury their elders alive after providing food and drink while they were still living. No doubt that this practice was prevalent in the ancient world, even up to past few hundred years in some societies.

     In Egypt humans were buried alive, maybe at the last stage of their lives, left with some food and a cat. In some other community an older people at the ripe age decided to die. He was given to drink wine up to the neck, his body drenched with honey and he lied down in a secluded place to be completely devoured by ants and other insects leaving only the bones for the progeny to preserve.

     Who can forget, if he or she has read “The Law of Life” by Jack London! The story of old Koskoosh who was left lone under the falling snow by his son and his associates, to die frozen.  He was given fire and some logs instead of food to continue to live till the fire existed. The old man considered his son’s behavior better than other’s sons, perhaps according to their customs. Their camp was broken. All were on their way home. Let’s hear the last words of his son,

     “The tribesmen hurry . . . . I go now. It is well!” 

     The old man replied, “It is well. I am as a last year’s leaf, clinging lightly to the stem. The first breath that blows, and I fall. My voice is become like an old woman’s. My eyes no longer show me the way of my feet, and my feet are heavy, and I am tired. It is well.”

     The snow was covering him rapidly while he was putting more logs on fire. The bull-moose approached and the old man fought a little with the burning logs till he could while others of the same animal group came and dragged him. He would die at their attack before the snow could fully cover him. (The Best Short Stories of Jack London. New York: Fawcett Publications. 1962. 110)

      In some ancient society it seems that dying at the old age willfully was a custom and there were systems and rituals to perform for the purpose. Those may be the examples of euthanasia without disease. But the following example is of killing such people by their own descendents out of disrespect and animalistic behavior towards them though such practices even among the animals have not been heard. Some males of cats of different species eat their own offspring.

     In “The Voyage of the Beagle” by Charles Darwin we get such pristine tales of grandchildren’s chasing and catching of their fleeing-for-life grandmother from a hill, burning her and eating together her body, considering that she was old enough to be of any use, less valuable than some water animals they ate because such animals gave birth to more such animals for their food.

     Though human attitude towards their elders have undergone huge changes among the civilized people, the germ of their primitive ancestors seem to have existed in some moderns in different forms. Euthanasia has been legalized in some societies but in most others it is still illegal. Whatever may be the merits and demerits of such practices it is a world of Dead after one dies. It is considered a world of darkness. The Fossils are not the same trees to which they belonged. Each particle of things is replete with consciousness. Trees and Fossils have different consciousness. Though Fossils too are entities they are enormously different from the trees died long back. Past is the region of darkness, it is not bright.

     Humans in general wish for and pray for Light. Part of a prayer in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is: Tamaso Maa Jyotirgamaya (From Darkness of Ignorance lead me to Light).

The Lovers of the Dark

None came to such a remote place

Near Pannawonica in Australia, without access

No bird has known it, not even a skink

Troglobites live in the dark caves, never shrink

Humans came with iron mining project

But noticed the exceptional nature of the tiny insect;

Darkness keeps them smart

Bright light kills the insects

They live in the caves dark

Spider like tiny blind invertebrates

The aboriginal heritage of the earth

Deserve human interest for their special worth;

Man has abandoned mining there

Leaving the rocky caves to the insects’ care

To protect the lovers of the dark

From the assault of the light stark

Strange world accommodates all the opposites

Pannawonica like sanctuary is one of such sites.


© Aju Mukhopadhyay, 2021 



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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