All Hindus are no doubt familiar with the tradition of waking God in the morning with prayers and music. Much as we believe that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, we still enjoy the play of wishing Him a good night, and waking him with a ‘Good Morning’ each day. Surely, M.S.Subbulakshmi’s Suprabhatam is one of the most recognized prayer songs in India? This is addressed to Vishnu, but there are waking rituals for other Gods and Godesses, be it a Sanskrit Shloka or a simple prayer song.
Today I have selected a Bhajan written by Meera Bai (1498-1547), arguably the most well-known Saint in India. The version I like best is rendered by Shobha Gurtu, in her CD Hari Rang Raati, an album of devotionals that I have had and listened to with great pleasure for the last 20 years.
I do so love songs which paint a picture! Jago Bansi Vare is a particularly evocative piece of poetry. Even those not familiar with village life in those times can well imagine how the village slowly wakes up in the morning. ‘Wake up’, Meera urges Krishna ‘the night has passed, and dawn has arrived. The shutters are opening in every home. You can hear the bangles of the cowherdesses as they churn the yoghurt. Do wake up, both Gods and men are their doors. The young cowherds are joyfully cheering as they gather with bread and butter in their hands. Do wake up!’.
It seems to me that it is Krishna’s mum who is singing this song for did I not wake my son just like this each morning, hurrying him to catch the school bus? The world has changed, yet the world remains the same. The jingle of cowherdesses churning butter have been replaced with the ping of the microwave and the whirr of the juicers, instead of shutters we draw open the curtains, the muted sound of cars starting have replaced the sounds of men readying for work, and the boys still shout cheerfully, waiting for the school buses, with school bags and lunch boxes, instead of cowherds collecting their cattle, holding their bread and butter for lunch. Meera’s song to wake Krishna is the song of mothers everywhere. For those wondering why this is a prayer song – there is not a single prayer-like request – I think it is symbolic; Meera is urging Krishna to wake to her plight.
For lyrics and translation, see footnote. Now listen to Shobha Gurtu who emotes so beautifully with her voice alone.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
Note : I use ITRANS transliteration scheme.
जागो बंसी वारे ललना, जागो मोरे प्यारे ।
jAgO bansI vArE lalanA, jAgO mOrE pyArE
Awake, oh little one with the flute, awake my dear,
रजनी बीती भोर भयो है, घर घर खुले किवाड़े ।
rajanI bItI bhOr bhayO hai, ghar ghar khulE kivAdE
The night has passed, dawn is breaking and shutters are opening in every home
गोपी दही मथत सुनियत है, कंगना के झनकारे ॥
gOpI dahI mathat suniyat hai, kanganA kE jhankArE
We can hear the gopis churning yoghurt as their bangles jingle
उठो लाल जी भोर भयो है, सुर नर ठाढ़े द्वारे ।
uThO lAl jI bhor bhayO hai sur nar ThaDe dvArE
Do wake my dear, it is dawn, Gods and men are at their the doors
ग्वाल बाल सब करत कोलाहल , जय जय शब्द उचारे ॥
gvAl bAl sab karat kOlAhal, jay jay shabd ucharE
The young cowherds are joyously cheering
माखन रोटी हाथ में लीन्ही , गउवन के रखवारे ।
mAkhan rOtI hAth mE(n) lInhI, gauvan kE rakhvAre
With bread and butter in their hands, these protectors of cows
मीरा के प्रभु गिरिधरनागर, शरण आयां कूं तारे॥
mIrA kE prabhu giridharnAgar, sharaN AyA.n kU.n tArE
Oh Meera’s Lord who held the mountain up, I fall upon your grace (note: unsure of last phrase)