Bhakti – an eternal flow of devotion and surrender
I never have been a morning person as far as I remember. And yet today I remember about those dawns. Announcements airing on Akashwani Nashik, FM 101.4 MHz around 6:00 am always disturbed my sleep. Soon after, the station used to air traditional Marathi abhangs penned by saints like Tukaram, Namdev, Ramdas, etc. The Voices of legends like Bharatratna Bhimsen Joshi and Lata Mangeshkar used to fill the atmosphere.
I used to be reluctant to wake up this early and the noise of the radio irritated me. Yet these tunes and words have formed strong memories. These songs gave me a basic introduction to Bhakti as a feeling. I was very young to understand it of course however, the impact these songs had on me was great.
My encounter with Alwar literature
My recent experiences of writings of some unfamiliar saints from other parts of India recalled this memory from my childhood. In the 2024 edition of Pune Kabir Festival, I was fortunate to listen to Priya Purushotamman, a fantastic vocalist of Agra Gharana. She presented renditions of Alwar saints, Akka Mahadevi, Basavanna and Kabir. I was clueless about the vast expanse of works of 12 Alvar saints. She sang a few couplets written by two of them. The meaning, she explained, blew my mind even though it’s Tamil literature. I would like to share a glimpse of the concert in which Priya sings Mirabai’s नाव किनारे लगाव प्रभुजी.
A few months ago, I came across writings of Saint Ravidas and Paltudas. My familiarity of Bhakti tradition from north India was limited to a few Mirabai and Kabir Bhajans. I am thankful to a duo of my favourite vocalists, Mandar Karanjkar and Dakshayani Athalye, for this introduction. One of my favourite couplet which stuck in my mind was
ना मै किया ना करी सको, साहेब करता मोर,Saint Paltu Das
करत करावत आप है, पलटू पलटू शोर.
Common grounds in Bhakti tradition
Even though these wise people were from different eras, separated by centuries, they have some common message. What Paltu Das says in पलटू मन मुवा नही, चले जगत को त्याग is very similar to Sant Dnyaneshwar’s कर्म मी करेन। किंवा ते सोडेन। बोलणे हे जाण। अज्ञानाचे।।. While explaining works of these saints, Mandar emphasised on the similar examples, same words used by all the saints like Kabir das, paltu das, Gorakh nath, etc over 8 centuries.
These two concerts piqued my interest in exploring the writings of various saints from Bhakti tradition of India. Wisdom spread across in those writings in very simple words. If you get a chance to listen to any of these artists, don’t miss it. It’s a treat for ears even if they chose a different subject to present. They are wonderful musicians.
And if you have any memories about particular bhajan, hymns, and kalam which you cherish, do share them in comments.
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