Category Archives: Namdev

Teertha Vitthala Kshetra Vitthala

NamdevI am very short sighted. In my world, there are no edges to objects. Things which glow invade the objects beside them. Outlines merge until I never know where one thing starts and the other ends. Objects lose their individuality, my eyes see no boundaries. How odd that what my eyes saw from childhood was not understood by my brain for years! I attest to myself today once more; boundaries are but illusions.

Take your skin, for example. That which was your skin one minute ago was quite different from what it is this moment, for you have lost 30,000-40,000 cells already. What happens to them? They are dust at your feet, literally! Dust mites gobble up these dead skin cells. What was you one minute ago, changes identity and becomes a dust mite a couple of minutes later. Same matter, but identities have changed.

Identities are but more illusions, a play of maya. Isn’t more than 70% of the human body just water? I take a glass from the tap, and in no time, I call that water me. I go for a walk and that very me evaporates from my skin. It rises into the air, joins a cloud, comes down as rain and is drunk by that dog of yours. We are but two manifestations of the same, the dog and I. But of course, it is not the same molecule. The hydrogen and oxygen atoms which make up one molecule of water remain together only for some fractional time. They jump from one molecule to another, sometimes remaining as water, sometimes transforming into something else. Nothing is constant. Everything has fuzzy edges.

If even the physical cannot be contained in boundaries, how can we imagine that God can be contained in a form, be it Shiva, Vishnu, Jesus or Buddha? The wise ones, the mystics, the sages and the visionaries have told us from time immemorial, God is everywhere and in everything. Take away the edges and let God spill over. Namdev too was one amongst these wise ones. He is ecstatic in his vision of Vitthala, his ishta-devata, in everything. In this hypnotic abhanga, he says ‘Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship. Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.  Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan’. For lyrics and translation see footnote.

To present this song, I have a video of that astounding master of music, Bhimsen Joshi. The video has a short disturbance early on but what a pleasure to watch these old videos!

There is another short version from an old LP which I like as well.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Marathi

Note: I do not speak Marathi but the words are mostly simple and derived from Sanskrit. I am dependent on web resources for the lyrics (aurally verified) and translation below.

तीर्थ विठ्ठल, क्षेत्र विठ्ठल ।
देव विठ्ठल, देवपूजा विठ्ठल ॥१॥
माता विठ्ठल, पिता विठ्ठल ।
बंधु विठ्ठल, गोत्र विठ्ठल ॥२॥
गुरू विठ्ठल, गुरुदेवता विठ्ठल ।
निधान विठ्ठल, निरंतर विठ्ठल ॥३॥
नामा म्हणे मज विठ्ठल सापडला ।
म्हणूनी (alt: म्हणोनी) कळिकाळा पाड नाही ॥४॥

Transliteration
tIrtha viTHTHala kshEtra viTHTHala
dEva viTHTHala dEva pUjA viTHTHala
mAtA viTHTHala pitA viTHTHala
bandhu viTHTHala gOtra viTHTHala
guru viTHTHala guru dEvatA viTHTHala
nidhAna viThala nirantara viThala
nAmA mhaNE maja viTHTHala sApaDalA
mhaNUnI (alt: mhaNOnI) kaLikALA pADa nAhI

Translation

Vitthala is a holy body of water, Vitthala is a holy land.
Vithtala is God and Vitthala is His worship.
Vitthala is my mother and Vitthala is my father.
Vitthala is my friend and Vitthala is my clan.
Vitthala is my teacher, Vitthala is the teacher of Gods.
Vitthala is tranquility, Vitthala is everlasting.
Namdev says ‘I have found sanctuary in Vitthala’.
‘Even in this Kali yuga, I can come to no harm!’

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Filed under Abhanga, Bhimsen Joshi, Namdev

Bhaktajana Vatsale

Come O Vitthal, for the love of your devotee! Flled with mercy, O Panduranga, with a complexion like a rain cloud heavy with water, wearing yellow clothing come and give us salvation, O King Keshava. Namadev says you are the creator of the universe, the One who lives in the milky ocean, O Mother of the world!

NamdevThere has been a tradition to sing Marathi Abhangas as minor pieces towards the end of  Carnatic Music concerts. Even the celebrated vocalists  M.S.Subbulakshmi and M.L.Vasanthakumari have done so. This trend has seen a bit of a revival in recent times with artists such as Aruna Sairam, Ranjani & Gayathri and O.S.Arun becoming well known for their Abhangas.  An Abhanga is a form of devotional poetry written in Marathi, most in praise of Lord Krishna in the form of Vitthala or Vithoba.  The saints who wrote and sang them belonged to the Varkari movement, a Bhakti movement in Maharashtra which was popular between 13th and 18th centuries.

My song choice today is by the poet-saint Namdev. Though I had heard of him, I was not familiar with his life story. Hoping that it would interest you, I have decided to write a synopsis of his life story as I educate myself.

Namdev was born in 1270 AD to a family of tailors in a little village in Maharashtra. Soon the family moved to Pandharpur where there was a temple of Vitthala. From early childhood he showed extraordinary devotion to Vitthala to an extent that he neglected everything else. In his mind, Vitthala was his friend and playmate.

Being rather one-track about his devotion to Vitthala, Namdev paid no attention to his studies or to learning his trade under his father, which caused much distress to his ageing parents and later to his wife. As was the custom in those times, he was married at a young age (11) to Rajai  who joined this family in their life of extreme poverty. They were to have five children together.

When Namdev was about 21, he met Saint Jnanadev and his companions, a meeting which was to change his life.  Made to realise that his vision of God was still limited, his friends advised him to take a Guru. He took initiation under Visobha Khechar and under him learnt to expand his devotion from Vitthoba to the universal Brahman. He then travelled widely in India, singing songs to spread Bhakti. He is said to have spent 20 years in Punjab with such a wide following that the Sikhs look at him as their own. He then came back to Padharpur and spent the rest of his life spreading his message by means of his Abhangas. He died in 1350 aged 80.

Namdev left behind a body of work in the form of Abhangas of which about 2500 are known. 61 of them are included in the holy book of the Sikhs – the Guru Granth Sahib; these are hymns on the Nirguna Brahman (God without attributes) as opposed to his many Abhangas on Vitthala.

In my song choice of today, Namdev pleads to Vitthala to ‘Come, for the love of your devotee’….’come and give salvation’.  For lyrics and translation see footnote. To present the song, I have chosen a simple rendition filled with Bhakti-bhava by O.S.Arun, sung in raga Brindavana Saranga. To know more about this raga, click here. Click here to listen.


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Marathi

In Devanagri script:

येई वो विठ्ठले भक्तजन वत्सले
करुणा कल्लोळे पाण्डुरङ्गे
सजल जलद घन पीताम्बर परिधान
येई उध्धरणे केशीराजे
नामा म्हणे तू विश्वाची जननी
क्षिराब्धि निवासिनी जगदम्बे

Transliteration:

yEI vO viTTalE bhaktajana vatsalE
karuNA kalloLE pAnDurangE
sajala jalada ghana pItAmbara paridhAna
yEI udhdharaNE keshIrAjE
nAmA mhaNE tu vishvAchI jananI
kshirabdhI nivAsinI jagadambE

Translation :

Come O Vitthal, for the love of your devotee
filled with mercy, O Panduranga
(with complexion like) a rain cloud heavy with water, wearing yellow clothing
come and give us salvation, O King Keshava
Namadev says you are the creator of the universe
One who lives in the milky ocean, O Mother of the world

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Filed under Abhanga, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Marathi, Namdev, O.S.Arun