After many months of being away from this blog, I am finally back to wish you all a very happy Janmashtami–Krishnatashtami-Gokulashtami! I have been feeling so guilty about ignoring my blog, but I couldn’t help it; nothing really felt like Music to My Ears.
It started soon after the stories of Covid became public. For some undecipherable reason, I just couldn’t listen to music anymore! I wondered and wondered about it, I even tried to force myself to listen but there it was – there was no music in my soul. There was a sense of disturbance in my mind, of a kind which would not allow me to concentrate on anything. For some, music soothes all disturbances. For others, true music only exists when there is little disturbance, or the disturbances can be swept away. Sadly, I am of the latter type. Months went by and I listened only to snippets, and nothing really drew me in.
Then last month my daughter sent me a video of my little grandson dancing to music. His expression of enjoyment, his concentration and his movements were such a delight to watch! “There it is!!”, I thought, “That’s the joy I have lost!”. Since then I have been listening more often and with more joy. My grandson was here this morning, and we played music for him so I could record his reactions for you. Here he is demonstrating his signature moves – the sway, the spin, the bounce and the clap 🙂 Today’s play list included the Beatles, Bhupen Hazarika and Jitendra Abhisheki.
It took me only a few moments to decide on the song I would like to feature on this Janmashtami day. ‘Hari, you remove the woes of all people‘ says Meerabai in this lovely Bhajan. I wonder, is this a prayer as in ‘Please remove the woes‘, or a statement ‘You are the remover of all woes‘ ? It works as both, does it not, a statement of belief and a prayer for relief. This seems exactly the right prayer for the times we are in today.
There can be no other than M.S.Subbulakshmi’s rendition for has she not made this bhajan totally hers! The internet abounds with stories of Gandhiji’s love for this song and his request for her to sing it, so I shall not repeat them. It has been set to tune in Darbari Kanada by ‘Piano’ Vaidhayanathan.
Footnote (Lyrics and Translation) :
Poetry : Meera
Music : ‘Piano’ Vaidhayanathan
Raga : Darbari Kanada
Language : Braj Bhasha
The lyrics below are sourced from Bhajan Sangrah (Geeta Press) 1938. That matches closely with the 2015 Edition too.
हरि तुम हरो जन की भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुरत बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप सरीर॥
हिरण्याकुस को मारि लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़तो गजराज राख्यो, कियौ बाहर नीर॥
दासी मीरा लाल गिरधर, चरण-कँवल पर सीर॥
The lyrics as sung by M.S.Subbulakshmi are slightly different as given below. I will stick to her version for a detailed translation. I used a Braj Bhasha dictionary; please excuse any errors.
Lyrics in Braj Bhasha
हरि तुम हरो जनकी भीर।
द्रौपदी की लाज राखी, तुम बढ़ायो चीर॥
भगत कारण रूप नरहरि, धर्यो आप शरीर।
हरिणकश्यप मार लीन्हो, धर्यो नाहिन धीर॥
बूड़ते गजराज राख्यो, कियो बाहर नीर।
दास मीरा लाल गिरधर, दु:ख जहाँ तहाँ पीर॥
hari tum harO jan kI bhIra
draupadI kI lAj rAkhI, tum baDHAyO chIra
bhagata kAraNa rUpa narahari, dharyO Apa sharIra
hariNakashyapa mAr lInho.n, dharyO nAhina dhIra
bUDatE gajarAja rAkhyO, kiyO bAhara nIra
dAsa mIrA lAla giradhara, dukkha jahA.n tahA.n pIra
Hari, you (tum) remove (harO) the woes (bhIr) of all people (jana).
You (tum) lengthened (baDHAyO) Draupadi’s garment (chIr) and protected her dignity/honour (lAj rAkhI – an idiom).
For the sake (kAraNa) of your devotee (bhagata), you (Apa) assumed (dharyO) a body (sharIr) in the form (rUpa) of Narasimha (narahari).
You killed (mAra lInhO.n) Hiranyakashipu. (Sorry, could not make sense of second half of this line. Dharyo-you took on, nAhina-negation, dhIra-courageous…what could this mean?)
You (impled) saved (rAkhE) the drowning (bUDatE) king of elephants (gaja rAja) by (implied) taking him out (kiyO bAhara) of the water (nIra).
Meera, the devotee (dAsa) of her beloved (lAla) Krishna (giri-dhara=holder of mountain) says (implied) “wherever (jahA.n) there is suffering (dukkha), there (tahA.n) comes (implied) a divine/holy person (pIra)”. (Note : pIra also means pain/difficulty/sorrow. Some people translate this last line as ‘wherever there is suffering, there is pain’. But that seems repetitive to me. Meera has given examples of how when there is suffering, a divinity comes to aid us. So I’ll go with the definition of divine/holy/siddha for pIra).