Sunday, August 25, 2013

Macchapuchare - The Brave and Beautiful One

Paula Sengupta is an installation artist and print maker who did a very interesting installation work on the unclimbed mountain of Nepal - Macchapuchare, the Fish Tail.

 In Paula's own words, "Macchapuchare - The Brave & Beautiful One is a book constructed in the form of a bioscope of sorts, replete with an audio track.It tells the tale of a fish that journeyed from the high Himalayas to the rivers of the deep South in search of adventure. Eventually, in an effort to brave the stifling Nagarjunasagar dam, she meets with death. Her indomitable spirit though survives, frozen in time, as the magnificent mountain Macchapuchare, coveted by all yet conquered by none. A multi-layered fairy-tale, Macchapuchare - The Brave & Beautiful One confronts certain personal crossroads in the images closeted within the bioscope, even while questioning, on its outer face, current burning issues of ecological disaster, poverty, and unemployment wrought by the indiscriminate political ambitions and visionary zeal of icons of our time. " The text of the audio track follows... 


Once upon a time, nestled deep in a verdant valley in the high Himalayas, was a glistening, golden lake. Its dark waters shimmered as the sunbeams danced upon its silken surface, allowing barely a glimpse of the enchanted world that lay beneath. As the yellow sun rose up on high, the fish that peopled this magic world skimmed to the surface, pursing their lips to kiss the sunbeams that dappled the air. Like dancing dervishes they pranced and pirouetted, splashing the icy waters hither and thither in their wake.

And lo and behold, rising like a majestic tide through this golden spray, suddenly appeared the magnificent Macchapuchare, scales gleaming silver like the moon, tail slicing the azure sky, sharp as a razor’s edge. Like an eagle in flight, she skimmed through the water, her tail smiling now at the sun, now at the moon, defying both day and night, both heaven and earth, each dazzled by her immeasurable beauty and irrepressible spirit. As she swam relentlessly from bank to bank, her mother watched sadly from the enchanted depths, saying eventually, “Even the vast waters of this magic lake are not enough to contain the thirst that courses through my daughter’s veins. She thirsts for adventure – she must journey forth to the river, and thence the ocean.”

And so it was that the beautiful Macchapuchare, Macchapuchare of the flashing eyes and lotus lips, of the silver scales that mocked the moon, of the golden tail that shamed the sun, of abounding courage and a heart so brave, bid farewell to the dancing dervishes and ventured forth from the confines of the golden lake down to the gushing, gurgling waters of the rivers thundering their way into the plains of India. From the Seti to the Gandak, from the Gandak to the mighty Ganges, never stopping until she arrived on the haloed banks of the ancient city of Kashi.

As the city coursed its way upstream and downstream, Macchapuchare too coursed her way through sunrise and sunset, flashing her gleaming tail and silver scales alongside the little rowboats that bobbed on the river, listening to tales of lives lived, loved, and lost on those very banks. As souls wafted up to heaven from the glowing pyres that crowded the ghats, Macchapuchare watched life and death walk hand in hand on opposite banks, each beckoning the other forth. Cleansed of the weariness that had begun to overcome her and now bereft of her fears, Macchapuchare continued her journey downstream, swimming east in search of the mighty ocean.

Finally it came, in all its terrifying glory – great waves that rushed with unimagined frenzy and broke with a deafening crescendo on shores that were forever shifting like the sands of time. Macchapuchare, steering her mighty tail to and fro, flashing her golden fins, struggled to stay aloft the giant waves. Watching the battered shores through the corner of her exquisite eyes, Macchapuchare swam with all her strength towards the deep sea in search of calm. She pushed south, journeying along the coast, her spirit soaring with the waves, yet her body weary from braving waters that were so unimaginably vast. Homesick at last, Macchapuchare longed for the golden lake nestled amidst her beloved mountains.     

But what tales of terror wafted down to Macchapuchare’s ears – the sylvan hills that cradled her home, the snowy peaks that bore her prayers, the fertile valleys that nurtured her people, were no longer as she had left them. The hills crawled with Mice, gunshots echoed from peak to peak, and murder and mayhem reigned supreme in the valleys that were once so verdant. With neither food, nor work to pass the day, her people idled the hours away basking in a sun that no longer shone so bright. The children no longer laughed and played on the banks of the golden lake and Macchapuchare’s friends, the dancing dervishes, no longer skimmed to the yellow light of the sun to watch their little games. Saddened and deeply dejected, Macchapuchare decided to journey on.

Moving inland now, upstream from the great sea, she made her way up the Krishna River in search of the great lake, Nagarjunasagar, of which she had heard so much. Tales of its pristine beauty and unparalleled calm drew Macchapuchare closer and closer to its shores. She swam on, further and further, braving the currents and the rising heat of the southern sun.

The southern fish watched in wonder as this dazzling creature from the distant hills journeyed on and on in search of she knew not what.

At last the lake lay before her – vast like the golden lake that was her home, the waters blue as blue can be. Macchapuchare’s heart leapt with joy and with great glee, she danced again – in through the water and out again, a twist and a turn and the flash of a tail, the splashing droplets making music all the while! And what enchanted land was this at the bottom of the lake – great ruins of wondrous stone, each carved with images such as she had never seen? In and out of each nook and cranny Macchapuchare wove, her eyes widening at the world that she had found!

As the days passed, Macchapuchare explored the lake from bank to bank as she would the golden lake that was her home. One day, at the far end, she hit upon a huge wall such as she had never seen – a wall with gates and wheels and odd machines. Though she could not fathom what it was, it filled her with a sense of foreboding such as she had never known before. Slowly, it dawned on her that here, in the great Nagarjunasagar, the fish neither sang nor danced, the sun never smiled, the moon never shone, the breeze never blew. No leaf stirred and no bird sang – an eerie stillness hung over the placid lake, the air as if frozen in fear.

And then one day, the gates opened – the southern fish cowered at the bottom of the lake, darting into the ruins in search of shelter. A great wind welled up from no one knew where, the trees keeled over in sudden distress, the birds screeched in utter frenzy! Not one to fear, Macchapuchare of the heart so brave, deftly swam her way to the top, leaping, as she had done a thousand times before, out through the surface as if to touch the sun. Great torrents of water rushed through the gates flooding all that lay before and after. They whipped up Macchapuchare and dashed her against the giant wall – like a stone she fell to the ruined floor, dead.

The southern fish wept – “ The dam has claimed the beautiful Macchapuchare, Macchapuchare of the flashing eyes and lotus lips, of the silver scales that mocked the moon, of the golden tail that shamed the sun, of abounding courage and a heart so brave …”. But even as their wailing rent the air, Macchapuchare’s indomitable soul rose – rose and rose, higher and higher, sweeping upstream and downstream, past ocean and sea, over Mice and men, even past the dancing dervishes and the golden lake that had been her home – it rose and rose to the highest heavens where the snowy peaks reach for the azure skies. And here, with a flash of her golden tail, the great soul froze into the mighty mountain Macchapuchare, coveted by all yet conquered by none. 




  1. Beautiful. Informative blog. Just chanced upon it. Now following.

  2. What a treat this piece of writing is! Is this a legend or is it a tale made up by Paula? It deserves to be a legend. I can't wait to see Macchupuchare!

    1. Yes Kalpanaa, Machapuchare is one of my favourite mountains- it is interesting to see how the angle changes from Pokhara to the Annapurna Sanctuary!



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