There is no god in that temple

[Tagore’s poem ‘Deeno Daan’ (Destitute Donation) written on 4 August 1900, translated by Arunava Sinha for]

Said the royal attendant, “Despite entreaties, king,
The finest hermit, best among men, refuses shelter
In your temple of gold, he is singing to god
Beneath a tree by the road. The devout surround him
In numbers large, their overflowing tears of joy
Rinse the dust off the earth. The temple, though,
Is all but deserted; just as bees abandon
The gilded honeypot when maddened by the fragrance
Of the flower to swiftly spread their wings
And fly to the petals unfurling in the bush
To quench their eager thirst, so too are people,
Sparing not a glance for the palace of gold,
Thronging to where a flower in a devout heart
Spreads heaven’s incense. On the bejewelled platform
The god sits alone in the empty temple.”
At this,
The fretful king dismounted from his throne to go
Where the hermit sat beneath the tree. Bowing, he said,
“My lord, why have you forsaken god’s mighty abode,
The royal construction of gold that pierces the sky,
To sing paeans to the divine here on the streets?’
“There is no god in that temple,” said the hermit.
The king said, “No god! You speak like a godless man,
Hermit. A bejewelled idol on a bejewelled throne,
You say it’s empty?”
“Not empty, it holds royal arrogance,
You have consecrated yourself, not the god of the world.”
Frowning, said the king, “You say the temple I made
With twenty lakh gold coins, reaching to the sky,
That I dedicated to the deity after due rituals,
This impeccable edifice – it has no room for god!”
Said the tranquil hermit, “The year when the fires
Raged and rendered twenty thousand subjects
Homeless, destitute; when they came to your door
With futile pleas for help, and sheltered in the woods,
In caves, in the shade of trees, in dilapidated temples,
When you constructed your gold-encrusted building
With twenty lakh gold coins for a deity, god said,
‘My eternal home is lit with countless lamps
In the blue, infinite sky; its everlasting foundations
Are truth, peace, compassion, love. This feeble miser
Who could not give homes to his homeless subjects
Expects to give me one!’ At that moment god left
To join the poor in their shelter beneath the trees.
As hollow as the froth and foam in the deep wide ocean
Is your temple, just as bereft beneath the universe,
A bubble of gold and pride.”
Flaring up in rage
The king said, “You false deceiver, leave my kingdom
This instant.”
Serenely the hermit said to him,
“You have exiled the one who loves the devout.
Now send the devout into the same exile, king.”