Viraha bhava or the mood of pain caused by separation is very popular in Indian poetry and music. The anxiety faced by the nayika (female protagonist) when separated from her beloved, her suffering and her intense need for reunion is featured again and again in Indian literature.
Seemingly, there is no gender equality here as mostly the poetry or prose depicts the nayika as the one who suffers. This may well be because this pain of separation is also associated with the women who leave their maternal homes after being wed. The songs of bidai, the ceremony to bid farewell to the bride, sing of viraha bhava as well.
In the spiritual world, Viraha is one of the nine paths of Bhakti listed in Narada Sootra. It is defined as the love within the intense pain of separation from God. Very popular in the Krishna cult, it is Radha’s suffering when separated from Krishna which the devotee experiences. Is this pain not just the longing for completeness? Hinduism often portrays the Ultimate as a male-female duality. Vishnu encompasses Lakshmi whom he holds in His vakshasthalam – in His chest close to his heart. Shiva and Shakti are often shown as two halves of the whole – as Ardhanarishwarar. Sankhya philosophy proposed by Sage Kapila talks of Purusha-Prakriti, consciousness and matter, the experiencer and the experienced. Is it a coincidence that Purusha also means a man, and Prakriti a woman? Just as Vishnu is incomplete without Lakshmi, Shiva without Shakti and Purusha without Prakriti, the bhakta is incomplete without his Lord. In fact, Viraha is welcomed by the bhakta as it acknowledges his oneness with God and the union which is to come.
Many poets have written on this theme of viraha. Today I have chosen a beautiful song written by Ambujam Krishna(1917-1989). She says ‘It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet? Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’. Ambujam Krishna writes words which ring true. Her viraha bhava is tinged with jealousy and doubt. If you would like to know more about this poet, read this nice tribute published in the Hindu in 2004. She did not set her poetry to music. I am unsure who did set this song to the raga Revati but it suits it so very well. To know more about the raga Revati, click here.
Listen to Bombay Jayashri’s very pleasant rendition here.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
என்னை விட்டுப் போன கண்ணன்
வரக் காணேனே -சகி
குழலோசை கேட்டு கூடிடும் மங்கையர்
விழியால் வலை வீசி அழைத்து சென்றனரோ
புழுவென நான் இங்கு புலம்பி துடிக்கையிலே
பூவையுரடன் அங்கு பேசிச் சிரிக்கப்போ ?
பைங்கிளி உன்னை கணம் பிரிகிலேன் என்ற
பேச்சும் மறந்தானோ பேதையை துறந்தானோ ?
pozhudu migavAchchudE ennai viTTup-pOna kaNNan varak kANEnE sakI
kuzhalOsai kETTu kUDiDum mangaiyar vizhiyaAl valai veesi azhaittu sendranarO
puzhuvena nAn ingu pulambi tuDikkayile pUvaiyaruDan angu pEsi sirikkappO
paingiLi unnaik-kaNam pirigilEn endra pEchchum marandAnO pEdaiyait-turandAnO
It becomes late, why has Krishna, who left me alone, not come back yet? Perhaps the ladies who gathered around him when they heard his flute have cast a net with their glances and drawn him away? While I lament and writhe in agony like a worm here, is he talking and laughing with the women? Has he forgotten his words to me – ‘My parrot (a term of endearment), I’ll not leave you even for a moment!’ ? Has he abandoned this naive woman?’