My posts this spring and summer have been so very infrequent! I’ve had a busy time with lots of visitors and my own travelling. Just last weekend my husband and I returned from a long road trip to the North of Spain, driving nearly 4300 kms in 16 days.
This was a trip that I had had in mind for quite some time. Five years back I had made plans to go on the famous Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route with my two lady friends from Australia to celebrate all of us turning 50. We had planned to walk about 300 kms of this route but sadly for me, I had some health issues and could not join in. As it is unlikely that I would ever be able to do this walk, I took the opportunity this summer to do the route the easy way.
I have a great love of Cathedrals and in this trip we saw some really outstanding ones. I will never forget the sheer magnificence of the Burgos Cathedral, nor the magic of the stained glass at León. The Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela had that indescribable atmosphere that only holy places have. But this is a music blog; you’ll have to wait for my travel blog to read details about it all! Those of you who are wondering why this Iyengar woman goes on a Christian pilgrimage, I see the presence of God in the beauty of the architecture, in the skills of the artisans, in the creativity of the sculptors and painters, in the bhakti of all the believers who have come to these cathedrals for the last thousand years. And if I address Jesus or Mary with a couple of Hindu shlokas, I don’t think they mind very much!
This concept of a holiday which is a pilgrimage comes from my childhood. In fact, I used to think that was the way everyone had holidays! Come school break, my parents would take my sister and me to either our grandparents’ homes or on a teertha yatra, or a combination of the two. We went to many sthalas all over India but the most memorable ones for me involved a dip in Ganga. I remember the crowded ghats of Kasi, the swirling rush of Haridwar and Rishkesh, the freezing waters of Badrinath and the body-and-mind-numbing waters of Mandakini at Gaurikund, en route on our walk from Soneprayag to Kedarnath. (I just referred to my article published in my school magazine to remind me of the name of the place. If you would like to read of our pilgrimage at that time, here is a link to my rather immature article from 1975!) But most magical of all was a dip in Prayag at the Triveni Sangama; my then teenaged and very fanciful mind was quite taken by the idea of the hidden river Saraswati quietly flowing and meeting with Ganga and Yamuna.
And thus I come upon my song choice of today. Meera is said to have written Chalo Man Ganga Jamuna Teer in Prayag (unconfirmed). In her song, she says ‘O Mind, Go to Prayag’, The Prayag that she urges us to is not the confluence of the rivers but the sangama of the Nadis– Ida, Pingala and Sushumna– at the Ajna chakra (between our brows, position of the third-eye) . Ida is associated with Ganga, Pingala with Yamuna and Sushumna with Saraswati. This meeting point is called ‘Mukta Triveni’; it is the point of liberation. Meera urges us to this sangama, saying that the waters here are pure, stainless; such a dip, she says, will cool down our bodies. Cool from what? I imagine she means the heat of the passions and emotions that we live with. So, you see, though I have been on a many a pilgrimage, I have not dipped in the most important of sangamas. What use such physical pilgrimages then? !!
To listen to the song, there can be none other than the voice of D.V.Paluskar who made this song his own. Enjoy, and perhaps you will be inspired to take the dip that Meera urges us to. As the uploader has not allowed the video to be embedded, see it on YouTube on this link.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Language : Rajasthani / Brijbhasa
(Lyrics as sung by D.V.Paluskar; I could not verify Meera’s original words which could well differ)
चलो मन गङ्गा-जमुना तीर ।
गङ्गा-जमुना निर्मल पानी ।
शीतल होत शरीर ।।
बंसी बजावत गावत कान्हा ।
संग लिये बलबीर ।।
मोर-मुकुट पीताम्बर सोहे ।
कुण्डल झलकत हीर ।।
मीरा के प्रभु गिरिधर नागर ।
चरण कमल पर सीर ।।
chalO mana gangA jamunA tIra
gangA jamunA niramala pAnI
shItala hOta sharIra
bansI bajAvata gAvata kAnhA
sanga liyE balabIra
mOra mukuTa pItAmbara sOhE
kuNDala jhalakata hIra
mIrA kahE prabhu giridhara nAgara
charaNa kamala para sIra
O Mind (mana), go (chalO) to the shores (teera) of Ganga and Yamuna (this means Prayag, where the two meet with Saraswati). The body (sharIra) becomes (hOta) cool (shItala) in the stainless (niramala) waters (pAnI) of Ganga and Yamuna.
There (implied), Krishna (kAnhA) is playing (bajAvata) his flute (bansI) and singing (gAvata), accompanied (sanga liyE) by Balarama (balabIra).
Krishna’s crown (mukuTa) of peacock (mOra) feathers and yellow garments (pItAmbara) suit him (sOhE). And from his earrings (kuNDala), diamonds (hIra) glitter (jhalakata).
Meera says (kahE) that her head (sIra) is on the lotus (kamala) like feet (charaNa) of her Lord who held up the mountain (giridhara nAgara).
17 responses to “Chalo Man Ganga Jamuna Teer”
hello Suja, i chanced upon your blog a year or two ago. i am impressed. thank you. keep writing. wish you all the best.
Thank you for your kind words! I enjoy hearing from my readers, do drop a line every now and again 🙂
Yes, you’re right Suja, I’m sure that not only would they “not mind” your shlokas, but they would develop a liking for them, and YOU would have to be the careful one, because they would ask for more and more!
I read the very pleasant account from 1975: nice! It’s a pity you’d been so ill all the time: do you know what it was from?
And as for holidays being teertha yatra, well, perhaps it’s logical since they are “Holy” days…!
I’ll be looking out for that Spanish account of yours on the travel blog!
Hello Yves, nice to hear from you again 🙂 As to my shlokas – well, what do I know of Christian prayers? So I address poor Jesus and Mary in an alien language, with alien names, and trust that with the kindness and Grace that they are known for, they will accept Sanskrit shlokas in the same way as they accept Latin hymns 🙂
Oh you read my schoolgirl attempt at a travelogue? 🙂 There are many mistakes but you know, I saw with quite some amusement that my ‘voice’ has remained the same! I sound like me..that pleased me, to make that transition from 16 to 55 without a change in ‘voice’. I had a bit of a flu then but I still remember the trip as being wonderful! hehehe ‘Holydays’ indeed 🙂 I’ll have my travel blog done by next week I hope – I just have hundreds of pics which I am still organizing.
Dear Suja: Meera’s song is simply divine! I have an old LP of this Paluskar song. Hearing it after such a long time. As my former colleague from The Times of India, Mumbai, T K Achuthan, says your blogs are quite informative.
I love it too Mouli! I too don’t hear it often but when I thought of songs to suit the theme, this was the first which popped out in my mind! Glad you and your friend find my posts of interest, one can never have too many readers 🙂 Cheers. Suja
You have a fondness for Meera’s songs – they appear from time to time on this blog and are invariably superb to listen to. These days however, a dip in the Ganga or Yamuna has to remain mostly metaphorical, alas.
You are right – the 1975 travelogue is very much “you”. And what do you mean “mistakes” and “immature” – thou shalt not put down a budding, excellent young writer 🙂
Indeed Ramesh, I have a fondness for Meera’s songs, they are so full of bhava, no? As to dips in the Ganga, shall we trust politicians and their promises? Thanks for appreciating my 1975 travelogue’ I confess, I did read it with a fondness for the girl I was 🙂
You know I’m not the bhakti type, Suja, though I do greatly admire the charm and fluidity of your writing.
So why this jawaab? Because this Paluskar bhajan takes me back to when I was myself 15. Because of the agitation for a separate state of Telangana disrupting our education, we were often packed off to my grandparents in Satara for learning maths. The contrast between Hyderabad and Satara was striking! I suddenly found myself in a Hindutva-rich environment. Bhajans and prayers were the order of the day and Paluskar’s bhajans topped the list. This bhajan is from that immensely popular Paluskar 5-pack. All the bhajans were outstanding but my personal favourite was thumaki chalata.
Given my admiration of your own enviable expertise with words, your compliment gives me a real boost 🙂 And yes, I know my taste of music and topics aren’t exactly yours but it seems I have picked something today with which you too feel a connection. These voices from our childhood keep following us, don’t they? Paluskar died in 1955, before we were born, yet his music was such that it left an indelible stamp in our memory banks. I remember well listening to his Thumaka Chalata on AIR in my own growing years. Your memories give form to another interesting background for this song.
Paluskar easliy glides across the notes creating a fluidity that is hardly matched today.
Have you listened to this soothing Desi by Paluskar?
Reminds me of Giripai nelakonna of MDR. Though there is no obvious connection!
Indeed Paluskar is smooth as silk! That particular fluidity is what makes the Hindustani tradition so very easy on the ears even for a wide audience. Now which Desi do you mean? Perhaps you meant to attach something? Hmmm I cannot quite see the connection to MDR but I will listen once more and see if I can make the link..
I chanced upon your blog when I was searching for Thumak Chalat by DV Paluskar. Wonderful reading you. Agree with you about sang amd too. Thank you so much.
Thank you Gayatri, glad you enjoyed it 🙂
This is the first time I have come accross your Blog while I was searching for actual meaning of the Bhajan: “Chalo man Ganga Yamuna teer…” and to my surprise you have connected Ganga-Yamuna to Ira-Pingala and so on…! I am not quite sure about your explanations, however seems plausible in the sense of deep-rooted Indian spiritualism, especially in terms of Tantra Yoga or Kundalini Yoga!
Thanks for the comment. The Ganga-Yamuna-Saraswati connection Ida-Pingala-Sushumna is not my original thought by any means. Frankly, I’m not where I acquired that info but I did a quick search now and came up with this site which mentions the same connection. https://www.tantra-kundalini.com/nadis/ I think a little further search will yield the origin of this imagery.
Thanks for your comments including a relevant Link on the theme! However, in the morning I was searching for the same and found out this particular Link!
I support a lot for your exploration of Indian songs, though I’m an Omnivore regarding songs and music which includes Russian, Greek, Latin American and so on!
Wish to share if it’s permissible at all!