Why does some poetry last eight centuries in the memory of men while others last not even a generation? I don’t really have an answer. I am referring to Jayadeva’s epic work Gita Govinda. If a work’s success is to be measured by its longevity, this work from the 12th century surely meets its mark. It is sung and danced to in different parts of India, from its native Odisha to Kerala, a couple of thousand kilometres away. I have already featured one song from Gita Govinda in this blog; today I am exploring Natha Hare which is well known to Carnatic Music fans.
The song describes Radha in a state of viraha or abandonment by her beloved. She is a forlorn heroine and Jayadeva paints a pitiable picture of her. My last post on a Qawwali describing an intoxicated lover is not that different from this post featuring a lovelorn Radha. Both represent the longing of the soul (Jeevatma) for the Divine (Paramatma), both use the human emotion of romantic love as an analogy. The former shocks us with drunken revelry, the latter with erotic imagery. Poets always use a combination of imagination and life experiences to draw us into an emotional understanding of what they want to convey, and Jayadeva has done that with exquisite artistry.
That exquisite artistry is matched by Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra (1926-2004) in giving abhinaya (expression of the sentiment) to this beautiful song. I particularly chose an ashtapadi this week because I wanted to feature this revered Guru of the Odissi dance tradition. He was acknowledged with the Padma Vibhushan in 2000 for exceptional and distinguished contribution to the arts. A dancer from Odisha to give abhinaya for poetry from the same State seems apt! I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Radha dressing herself and secretly leaving her house to meet Krishna.
There is a longer version here for those who are interested.
Natha Hare has been sung by Carnatic musicians in different ragas. However none of the many renditions I listened to were of the full song. If you would like to listen to some renditions, here are a couple of links :
- A rendition by Dr.M.Balamuralikrishna in Darbari Kanada. His renditions are very well known of course. I am a bit surprised that he has sung it as ‘nAda harE’ instead of ‘nAtha harE’.
- A rendition by Unnikrishnan in Madhuvanti. Both the softness of the raga and the silkiness of his voice match the mood of this poetry to perfection.
As with other long pieces, I have given a word for word translation and an interpretation based on my understanding, limited though it is.
पश्यति दिशि दिशि रहसि भवन्तम्।
तदधर मधुर मधूनि पिबन्तम्॥
नाथ हरे जगन्नाथ हरे।
सीदति राधा वासगृहे धृवम्॥
pashyati dishi dishi rahasi bhavantam
tadadhara madhura madhUni pibantam
nAtha harE jagannAtha harE
sIdati rAdhA vAsagRhE dhRvam
Radha is surely (dhRvam) pining (sIdati) in the bed-chamber (vAsagRhE), sucking at (pibantam=drinking) that (tat) sweet (madhura), honeyed (madhUni) lower lip (adhara), secretly (rahasi) looking (pashyati) in all directions (dishi dishi) for you (bhavantam), O Lord (nAtha) Hari (harE), O Lord of the Universe (jagat+nAtha)
Radha awaits Krishna for a union much as a devotee awaits a union with the Divine. She looks in all directions, not knowing where He is. This quest for God is described by many poets in many different ways. A song from an old Hindi film comes to mind – तू ढूंढता है जिसको बस्ती में या के बन में, वह साँवरा सलोना रहता है तेरे मन में – He, whom you search for in populated places or in forests, that beautiful dark skinned one lives in your heart. Radha, who has Krishna in her heart, still looks blindly for Him everywhere.
त्वदभिसरण रभसेन वलन्ती।
पतति पदानि कियन्ति चलन्ती॥
विहित विशद बिस किसलय वलया ।
जीवति परमिह तव रति कलया॥
dvadabhisaraNa rabhasEna valantI
patati padAni kiyanti chalantI
vihita vishada bisa kisalaya valayA
jIvati paramiha tava rati kalayA
She (implied) eagerly (rabhasEna) hastens (valantI) to your (tvad) rendezvous (abhisaraNa), walks (chalantI) a few (kiyanti) steps (padAni) and (implied) falls (patatI). Girdled (valayA) with the soft (vishada) sprout (kisalaya) of a lotus plant (bisa) (implication-in order to cool the heat of her desire), now (iha) henceforth (param) she (implied) lives (jIvati) by imagining (kalayA) the pleasure of your love-making (tava rati).
She is eager for the union but stumbles and falls as she hastens to meet Him. Shall we take it to imply that the path to our union with the Divine is not a straightforward one? We will have doubts, we will stumble and fall and sometimes all that will console us is imagining that one day we will be be one with God.
मुहुरवलोकित मण्डन लीला ।
मधुरिपुरहमिति भावन शीला॥
त्वरितमुपैति न कथमभिसारम् ।
हरिरिति वदति सखीमनुवारम्॥
mahuravalOkita maNDana lIlA
madhuripuhamiti bhAvana shIlA
tvaritamupaiti na kathamabhisAram
haririti vadati sakhImanuvAram
Adorning herself (lIlA-disguising or dressing as one’s paramour) with ornaments (maNDana) like that of Krishna (implied), she (implied) looks (avalokita) again and again (muhuh) at herself (implied) and is accustomed to imagining (bhAvanashIlA) ‘I am (aham) Krishna (madhu ripu=enemy of Ripu)’ . How is it (katham) that Hari doesn’t (na) swiftly (tvaritam) come towards (upaiti) the rendezvous (abhisAram), she (implied) says (vadati) to her friend (sakhi) time after time (anuvaram).
To take on the colours or the form of the beloved is a metaphor for drowning oneself in His love. Our beloved Meera said मैं तो सांवरे के रंग राची – I am dyed in the colour of the dark one. The wonderful Bulleh Shah said रांझा रांझा करदी नी मैं आपे रांझा होई । सद्दो नी मैनूं धीद्दो रांझा, हीर ना आखो कोई । – By repeatedly calling for Ranjha, I myself became Ranjha. Call me Ranjha from now, don’t call me Heer. Jayadeva, who predates both Meera and Bulleh Shah, has used a similar metaphor in these verses. ‘I am Him‘ is Vedantic thought isn’t it, no wonder we come across it in many forms! .
श्लिष्यति चुम्बति जलधरकल्पम् ।
हरिरुपगत इति तिमिरमनल्पम्॥
भवति विलम्बिनि विगलितलज्जा ।
विलपति रोदिति वासकसज्जा॥
shlishyati chumbati jaladharakalpam
harirupagata iti timiramanalpam
bhavati vilambini vigalitalajja
vilapati rOditi vAskasajja
Thinking (implied) that (iti) Krishna (harih) has arrived (upagata) she (implied) embraces (shlishyati) and kisses (chumbati) the vast (unalpam-not small) cloud-like (jaladhara=cloud, kalpam=similar to) darkness (timiram). Realising that he (implied) has become (bhavati) delayed (vilambini), Radha (implied), a woman ready to receive her beloved (vAsakasajja – vAsaka=home, sajja=decorated/prepared), wails (vilapati) and weeps (rOditi) without shame (vigalita lajja).
Radha takes the very darkness that surrounds her to be Krishna, the dark one. Darkness is often used to symbolise ignorance. Radha, who in her ignorance thinks she is separate from Krishna, weeps in despair.
श्रीजयदेव कवेरिदमुदितम् ।
shrI jayadEva kavEridamuditam
May this (idam), which has been said (uditam) by the poet (kavi) Shri Jayadeva accomplish (tanutam from verb tanutE) great (ati) delight (muditam) in an appreciative (rasika) audience (jana=public).
Jayadeva signs off, hoping that his verses pleases his audience. To me, this is not a very meaningful or important verse, but this is the verse included by most musicians!
Image citation : Radha Pining for Krishna from a Gita Govinda manuscript, Freer Gallery of Art