How can one separate the music of India from its Gods? Devotion is a thread which links disparate parts of India together, just as music does. In the South, Carnatic music is almost all devotional. Though Hindustani music seems a bit more secular, the underpinning devotion is not far away. The Sufi Qawwalis that I love are Islamic devotional music. And then there is the devotional music from different regions – be it Bhajans all over India, Abhangs from Maharashtra, Kirtan from Punjab, Baul from Bengal, to name a few. There is the poetry of Kabir from Uttar Pradesh, Meera from Rajasthan, Jayadeva from Orissa, Avvayar from Tamil Nadu and so many other equally famous Saint-Poets who have paved the way for the Indian music of today. Additionally, there are sacred chants in Sanskrit from Vedic times, a couple of thousand years before Christ – chants which are still sung in much the same way even today in many households, mine included.
Even when it comes to popular music, devotion is not ignored. Composers for Indian films often include devotional music of some sort. Who can remain unmoved by Man tarpat hai from Baiju Bawra or Ay Malik Tere Bande Hum from Do Aankhen Bara Haath? The current trend is to include some Sufiana music in almost every film.
Today I am posting a bhajan written by Saint Tulsidas (1532-1623), a bhajan which is known and loved by millions. The poet says :
ठुमक चलत रामचंद्र बाजत पैंजनियां ||
किलकि किलकि उठत धाय गिरत भूमि लटपटाय |
धाय मात गोद लेत दशरथ की रनियां ||
अंचल रज अंग झारि विविध भांति सो दुलारि |
तन मन धन वारि वारि कहत मृदु बचनियां ||
विद्रुम से अरुण अधर बोलत मुख मधुर मधुर |
सुभग नासिका में चारु लटकत लटकनियां ||
तुलसीदास अति आनंद देख के मुखारविंद |
रघुवर छबि के समान रघुवर छबि बनियां ||
It describes the little Lord Rama in beguiling terms. The poet imagines him as a little child, his anklets ringing, tottering unsteadily as he just learns to walk. His mother and nurses take him in their laps in turn. What an adorable picture is painted by the poet! The last couplet is significant; when Tulsidas tries to give a simile for little Rama’s beauty, he fails to find an equivalent and can only compare Him to Himself!
Why depict a God as a small baby who doesn’t even know how to walk? Is this not in opposition to the idea of God as all knowing and powerful? Hindusim proposes four Yogas, or paths to salvation: Jnana Yoga (path of knowledge and introspection), Karma Yoga (path of duty and righteous action), Raja Yoga (path of meditation, discipline and control of the mind) and Bhakti Yoga (path of adoration). In Bhakti Yoga, for ease of visualisation, a devotee’s relationship with God can be thought of in human relationship terms. For it doesn’t matter how you think of God, its about the love you feel for God. So one can think of God as sakha (friend) like Sudama did, as a child like Yasoda did, as a beloved like Radha did or as a master like Hanuman did. Or as a father or a mother or a Guru (teacher), and there are classical examples of each. So visualising God as a small child is a perfectly acceptable path for Hindus. Songs like Thumak Chalat make this visualisation easier and sets the devotee well on his chosen path of Bhakti Yoga.
Today I present D.V.Paluskar (1921-1955) singing this song with beauty. The quality of recording is not the best but Paluskar’s astonishing skills are unmistakable. It is set to raga is Jaijaivanti, called Dwijavanti in the Carnatic system. To know more about this raga, click here.