A very happy Janmashtami to all of you! I hope that you joyfully celebrated the occasion with your families. Are you replete after having many lovely treats as ‘prasadam’? Our household Gopala is on a diet and gets only fruit even on his birthday!
Other than adding an extra something to my daily prayers or going to the temple, I am not in the habit of celebrating our various festivals. I guess it all started with being married outside my community; my husband has little interest in rituals. He also did not appreciate my kind of festival ‘feasts’ or sweets. In my need to ‘fit in’ at the start of our life together, I gave up most of what were my own cultural ways. But I didn’t pick up any of his cultural festivities either which is my own loss. We moved overseas within a year of being wed so familial influences were lost as well. The thing is, festivals are social occasions rather than religious ones, don’t you think? One needs a community to celebrate them well, or at least a partner of the same mind. My children have never known the pleasure of kneeling on the floor with their mother, painstakingly drawing ‘footprints’ of Gopala to lead from the front door to the Puja room. I remember doing that with my mother and the picture in my mind is of the house we lived in more than 50 years ago. So it is with that memory and my mother’s kind face smiling at me that I mark the festival today.
As for a musical offering, I have wandered away from my normal Carnatic Music posts to this beautiful piece of Hindustani music. In this song, the poet urges us to meditate upon the feet of the Lord to help us navigate this ocean of existence. ‘Those who meditate upon the Lord find reconciliation‘ says he. Are we not all in need of reconciliation? A composition in Shree by Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, it was made famous by the incomparable D.V.Paluskar. (Note to Carnatic Music fans: Shree Raga is quite different in the Hindustani system). In this version from a 78 RPM recording, Paluskar demonstrates ably why he lives long in the memory of his listeners. I find him simply incredible!
हरि के चरण कमल निसदिन सुमर रे
भाव धरकर (alt : धर सुधा) भीतर भव जलधी तर रे
जोई जोई धरत ध्यान पावत समाधान
‘हररंग’ कहे ज्ञान अबहु चित धर रे
hari kE charaNa kamala nisadina sumara
bhAva dharakara (alt: dhara sudhA) bhItara bhava jaladhi tara rE
jO’I jO’I dharata dhyAna pAvata samAdhana
hararang kahE gyAna, abahu chita dhara rE
Remember (sumara) the lotus-feet (charaNa-kamala) of (kE) Hari everyday (nisadina). Holding (dharakara) this emotion (bhAva) within (bhItara) and cross/swim (tara) the ocean (jaladhi) of existence (bhava) . Those (jO’I jO’I) who hold (dharata) in thought/meditation (dhyAnA) find/get (pAvata) reconciliation (samAdhAna). ‘Hararang’ (I think this may be the poet’s pseudonym) says (kahe) hold this wisdom (gyAna) in your mind (chita) from now (abahu).
I was reminded of this beautiful composition when I heard it ‘live’ in a webcast earlier this year. I had made note of it then, meaning to share it with you all. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande is a musician I have admired for a long time and I hope you enjoy her performance as much as I do.
Listen from 15:00 to about 1:02:00.
The Dhrut section reminds us that without a Guru, it is difficult to find a transcendental pathway.
गुरु बिन कौन बतावे बाट
भव सागर का लम्बा घाट
गुरु बिन ज्ञान नाही दूजा
ज्ञान बिना नहीं दीपक दूजा
दीप बिना कैसे देखूँ बाट
guru bin kaun batAvE bAT
bhava sAgar kA lambA ghAT
guru bin gyAn nAhI dUjA
gyAn binA nahIn dIpak dUjA
dIpa binA kaisE dekhU.n bAT
Who except a guru (guru bin) can teach (batAvE) the transcendental way (bAT)? Of the long (lambA) wharf (ghAT) of this ocean (sAgar) of existence (bhava) ? There is no other (nahin dUjA) knowledge (gyAn) without a (bin) Guru, and no other (nahIn dUjA) lamp (dIpak) without (bin) knowledge (gyAn). Without (binA) a lamp (dIpa), how (kaisE) will I see (dEkhU.n) the transcendental way (bAT)?