Sunday, February 13, 2011

'pandhariche bhoot mothe' by Sant Tukaram


A friend sent me a video link of an abhang recently. It was sung by noted vocalist duo Ranjani and Gayatri. The abhang was composed by much revered poet-saint Sant Tukaram Maharaj (1608-50). Maharaj spent most of time of his life in Dehu at around 25 km from city of Pune in Maharashtra. He along with other contemporary poet-saints like Samarth Ramdas was instrumental in keeping alive the cultural and religious identities of the religion in and around Mahrashtra through the Bhakti Sampradaay's philosophy. It is also known as Warakari Sampradaay and Bhakti Movement. The efforts were praiseworthy in the atmosphere prevailing then in the region. The region was was in great turmoil due to the never ending assaults and oppressions upon the natives thrusted by the Moghul army from the North and sultanates of Nagar, Vijapur (Bijapur) and Bhaganagar (today's Hyderabad). He also attacked the hypocritical behavior of a certain section of priestly class in the Hindu society. He spread the message of equality and devotion to Shri Hari Vitthal through his compositions.

At a later stage of life, Maharaj traveled to South and preached his philosophy, spread his thoughts through numerous compositions, written mostly in Marathi. He also restored a number of temples of Shri Vitthal, built many new temples with the help of local community. In Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, he is still remembered and his compositions are sung by people. I attended a few such programs, kirtan, in Chennai, Kalpakkam and Thenangur wherein the groups performed compositions of Tukaram Maharaj devotedly. Native Tamil singers with no knowledge of Marathi singing those abhangs is the icing on cake. These groups and the artistes like Ranjani and Gayatri are the reasons for Tukaram Maharaj's compositions in South India to survive test of the time.
***

पंढरीचे भूत मोठे
आल्या गेल्या झडपी वाटे

बहु खेचरीचं रान
बघ हे वेडे होय मन

जाऊ नका कोणी, तिथे जाऊ नका कोणी
जे गेले, नाही आले परतोनी

तुका पंढरीसी गेला
पुन्हा जन्मा नाही आला

The abhang 'Pandhariche bhoot moThe' is in the praise of Shri Kshetra Pandharpur , also called as Pandhari, and which is the chosen abode of Shri Vitthal and Devi Rukmini. Some of the characteristics of the place are described by Maharaj in this composition. He has adopted an unusual way while narrating the characteristics. He terms the place as the notorious one and goes on giving his own experience as an example to prove his hypothesis. It may be mentioned here that it is nothing but natural to understand that what he really means is not what his words literally suggest. Maharaj has used a soft humor in instilling a deep belief into the minds of people that the place is special. It is divine. It is the final destination the soul is searching to rest in peace. The abhang also tells us that one can have humor over Gods. The well intentioned one will please Gods and also can become wonderful vehicle for Him to reach the common man. This narration can be likened to descriptions of Mathura or Gokul known for the numerous tales of the naughtiness and deeds of a divine baby named krushna. The arguments put forward by Maharaj go as follows.


पंढरीचे भूत मोठे
आल्या गेल्या झडपी वाटे
Beware people! Pandhari (Pandharpur) is haunted by a dreadful ghost. Be careful when you are passing by this place or visiting it. This ghost nabs every one going near the place. If you are afraid of being possessed by the ghost, change your path or just cancel your plan in the interest of your (so called) well being.

That was literal meaning. In the hindsight, Maharaj wants to suggest exactly the opposite. He hints, if you stay away from the place, you will never have the divine experience which is possible only in the company of Vitthal-Rakhumaai. (Rukmini is referred to as Rakhumaai in Pandharpur and elsewhere by devotees.) And this is possible only if you go to Pandhari. The place will possess you when you will reach this place. You will loose your own self, ego, desires and the earthly beliefs. Thus, in no time, you will experience a closeness to the God.

बहु खेचरीचं रान 
बघ हे वेडे होय मन
The land around Pandhari is so fertile, and it is full with green. It is nothing but natural that the animals from all over would rush there for grazing. Hence the land is full with animals of all sorts. The sight will make your mind go crazy if you go even near to Pandhari. (खेचर is a hybrid between horse and donkey.)

The purpose of using this metaphor is not very clear and the metaphor may have different interpretations. I am picking the most logical according to me. It could possibly go like this. Like the land full with grass attracts the cattle, Pandhari being the food - source of energy - attracts mobs of people from all over the world. And when somebody goes there, the ghost does not leave him or her in its original form. This can be applied to the gender, race, caste, religion and species too. Thus forms hybrid minds which is possessed by the divinity.

जाऊ नका कोणी, तिथे जाऊ नका कोणी

जे गेले, नाही आले परतोनी
Maharaj cautions everybody that such a place which you are tempted to visit, a place which hosts a dreadful ghost whose only business is to nab and possess each passerby, should be left at a distance. Every sane person, every one who does not like such possession and the one who wants to escape if possessed, should not go to the place. Because, Maharaj says, no one has returned from this place. What a dangerous place! Even thought of going there should be forbidden.

तुका पंढरीसी गेला

पुन्हा जन्मा नाही आला
Maharaj gives his own example to support his arguments. He says, finally Tuka (Tukaram Maharaj himself) himself went to Pandhari intending to find the truth. Not only that he never returned, but also that he was never ever born again!

While concluding the abhang, Maharaj describes the great centripetal force the sacred place possesses that acts on each visitor and eventually does not let him go away. He goes on to tell us his own experience that underlines the holiness of Pandhari. He suggests that the life cycle of one's soul can completed with the pilgrimage of Pandhari. You attain moksha at sacred place. Actually, Sant Tukaram subtly tells us that he attained moksha after visiting Pandhari by saying that he was never reborn. In reality, numerous folklores exist about his सदेह वैकुंठगमन, the travel to Vaikuntha without shedding his physical form.

***


***

15 comments:

  1. Prasad..

    Thanks for taking the time to post the verses and the meanings as well. Sant Tukaram Maharaj's Abhangs are always a joy.. more so when you watch a video and understand the meaning with a little bit of history thrown in. Thanks.
    Vijay Raghavan vijayr@msn.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks prasadji! i waited so long for the meaning from you and you never told me you had written abt it in ur blog! i found it accidently when peeping into ur blog! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Had you asked for the meaning? Sorry... I probably had forgotten.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing! this Abhanga has deep meaning, the link was first hit on google search.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Jaya Rama Krishna Hari !

    Prasad Mauli,
    It was indeed a wonderful translation that you provided for this abhanga of Tukaram Maharaj.
    I wonder if you could provide a translation for -Rajas sukumar madanacha putala. I appreciate your beautiful translation. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for your words of appreciation. I will certainly give my best try to translate 'rajas sukumaar...' as soon as possible.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks ..It is great ..
    Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Prasadji,

    Ranjani and Gayatri are Tamilians but lived in Mumbai and among Carnatic Musicians who sing Abhang, apart from Aruna Sairam, they have formal training in singing Abhangs and are Marathi speakers.

    Srini

    ReplyDelete
  9. really such wise words

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you so much ! ! This is beautiful

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just saw your translation of Khechari as `mule', which is an infertile hybrid of the donkey and the horse. May I suggest an alternative: the mystical syllable `kha' deals with space and those creatures who inhabit or live in space are called khechars! (Versus Jalachars or fish and turtles etc). Similarly, the Khechari Mudra in Yoga, for example, involves an inverting of the tongue in the mouth to stop inner space....So Khechar is another adjective, I feel, dealing with Sri Vitthala as an apparition or spirit or `Mothe Bhoot' that Tukaram Maharaj is talking about! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for the post...:)

    In my opinion, the Abhanga is not by Sant Tukaram, as it does not have Tuka MhaNe..which is his mudra.

    We know the story of Sant Tukarams passing away from Pandharpur to Vaikuntha in a Vimaanam. Maybe that is a metaphor of direct access to Moksha. That is what the poet wants to say.

    Now I cant say why he chose to remain anonymous. Maybe there are other lines which are lost to us...:)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for translating the abhang... Priceless...

    ReplyDelete

Please note that your comment will go live immediately after you click 'Post Comment' button and after that you will not be able to edit your comment. Please check the preview if you need.

You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a> etc.