Happy Janmashtami to everyone! May Lord Krishna shower us all with his blessings!
I write so very rarely here that my readers have surely abandoned me! But I could not let this day pass without at least a simple offering from my part. You see, our own Gopala has come calling upon us! My daughter-in-law and son have presented me with a grandson who arrived just a few days ago. It seemed right to celebrate this happy occasion with a post to honour Janmashtami. The good God has showered me with the best of blessings, the chance to dote upon another little grandchild.
A few weeks ago I had a very lucid dream, a dream in which I was half-aware of dreaming. In that dream, Goddess Durga came to me, tall and beautiful, clad in red. She handed a child in my arms and leant down to hug me. She was a Goddess, I should have been looking at her, I should have fallen at her feet. Instead, in my dream, I stare down in fascination at the little child in my arms, who stares back at me with wide, beautiful eyes. I don’t know if it was a figment of my imagination, or the Goddess came in truth. But it is clear that all the lectures I hear on vedanta, on remaining unattached, have failed!! My grandchildren have tied me up in their web of love…
This is my life.
Last week, I am telling my first grandson about the baby in his aunt’s belly who is soon to arrive. He looks at his soft, 3 year old belly and back up at me.
‘When will I have a baby in my tummy, Patti ?‘ he asks.
‘Boys don’t get babies in their tummy. One day, you will find a nice girl who will be your wife and then she will have your baby in her tummy‘. I explain. He looks nonplussed.
‘Where will I find her ?‘ he asks in puzzlement. I smile and say not to worry, he will find her when the time is right. But my little fellow has a plan.
‘Will you be my wife Patti ?‘ he asks trustingly.
I laugh. ‘No my Bajji, you have to find someone your own age‘.
‘But why Patti, I love you best!’ he protests.
I melt into a puddle for this wonderous little fellow I have the privilege to love.
Then there is the little one, almost one. I sit on the floor, watching him while he crawls around exploring our rather large home. Every now and then, he crawls back to me, smiling his gummy smile while drool dribbles onto his already soaking wet bib. Climbing onto my lap, he rests his head on my chest and sucks his thumb with a contended sigh. That contentment passes on to me as I too sit quietly, gently rocking his soft, warm body. I don’t know what you all call joy, but that moment, for me, defines joy.
Yesterday, I met my third grandchild for the first time. Covid rules here don’t allow hospital visits; he is already 2 days old when I hold him. His weight is like nothing in my hands, yet it is everything at the same time. I stare at his well defined features, his dark hair, his rosebud mouth. Emotion wells up in me, tears stream down my face as I take in this new love of my life. He sleeps through it all; I have yet to see the eyes I saw in my dream.
‘We are going to be the best of friends‘ I whisper to him. His lips curl up.
‘Look, look, he is smiling for me‘ I exclaim to my son.
‘He’s just scrunching his face‘ laughs my son. But I know better. We are going to be the best of friends.
So it is in joy that I offer this lovely song by Muthuswami Dikshithar (this attribution is questioned by some people) in the soft, melodious raga Yamuna Kalyani. As I translate it, it sounds more like a bhajan, just a string of words in praise of the blue-hued one. Presented below is the great Maharajapuram Santhanam whose rendition is both familiar and beloved.
For an instrumental version, here is the very talented flautist Jayanth with his lovely rendition.
Footnote : Lyrics
Language : Sanskrit
Raga : Yamuna Kalyani
नन्द गोपाल मुकुन्द
गोकुल नन्दन यमुना तीर विहार
मन्दर गिरि धर मामव माधव
मुरळी धर मधु सूदन हरे
मन्द हास वदन मञ्जुळ चरण
अरविन्द लोचन आश्रित रक्षण
पीताम्बर धर पन्नग शयन
कलि कल्मष हरण करुणा पूरण
(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
वन्दित मुनि वृन्द गुरु गुहानन्द
वैकुण्ठ स्थितानन्द कन्द
गोवर्धनोद्धार गोप स्त्री जार गोविन्द
Transliteration in English :
nanda gOpAla mukunda
gOkula nandana yamunA tIra vihAra
mandara giri dhara mAmava mAdhava
muraLI dhara madhu sUdana harE
manda hAsa vadana manjuLa charaNa
aravinda lOchana ASHrita rakshaNa
pItAmbara dhara pannaga shayana
kali kalmasha haraNa karuNA pUraNa
vandita muni vRnda guru guhaAnanda
vaikuNTHa sthitAnanda kanda
gOvardhanOddhAra gOpa strI jAra gOvinda
O cowherd (gOpala) of Nanda! O giver (da) of liberation (muku)! O One in whom Gokula rejoices (nandana)! O One who takes pleasure (vihAra) on the banks (tIra) of Yamuna!
O One who holds (dhara) the Mandara hill! O Madhava! O One who holds (dhara) a flute (muraLI)! O One who destroyed (sUdana) Madhu! O Hari! Protect (ava from verb av) me (mAm)!
O One with a gentle smile (manda-hAsa) on his face (vadana)! O One with beautiful (manjuLa) feet (charaNa)! O One with eyes (lochana) like a lotus (aravinda)! O One who protects (rakshaNa) those who seek refuge (Ashrita)! O One who wears (dhara) yellow (pIta) garments (ambara)! O One who reclines (shayana) on a serpent (pannaga)! O One who removes (haraNa) the sins/wickedness/impurities (kalmasha) of the Kali Yuga! O One who is full of (pUraNa) compassion (karuNA)! O One who is praised (vandita) by a numerous (vRnda) sages (muni)! O One who delights (Ananda) Guruguha (the composer’s mudra/signature)! O One who resides (sthita) in Vaikuntha! O the root-source (kanda) of bliss (Ananda)! O One who held up/raised (uddhAra) the Govardana hill! O Paramour (jAra) of the herdswomen (gOpa strI)! O Govinda!