Saturday, June 13, 2009

वन्दे मातरम

Vande Maataram
For some reason unknown these words have been ringing in my mind incessantly today. The Words keep hitting on the outer labyrinth of my mind which receives it with a perturbed indifference. Something seems to be rejecting the sound. As if a something inside me is afraid of these words, the material sound of it.As if a conspiracy inside me is about to be unveiled and the conspirers are making the last attempt to force the sound of "Vande Matram" out of me.
With a loud implosion the labyrinth shattered. And as the sound of its shattering subsided there was a calm. The words rushed in through the newly created passage. It travelled quite a bit inside me and settled down somewhere close to my heart with a strange sensation of peace, hitherto unknown.It was a moment of joy and the whole body participated in the celebration. The blood under my skin had a strange sensation, a feeling of lovely touch. My wet eyes were seeing clearly this beautiful world. Everything around was so fresh, so delightful.
Vande Maataram was surely written by Bankim Chandra in a moment of inspiration.I got to read its translation by Sri Aurobindo. I did not understand the original but was sure that the translation by Sri Aurobindo would be as close to the original as possible except for the limitations of English language.
Here I would like to share my thoughts on this wonderful poem and my understating of the same.
The most striking thing about Vande Maataram is its sound. The way it starts gently like the sound of hustling of leaves in the morning, generates a sense of beauty in the reader and then takes rapid strides towards its crescendo to a very agitated call to the motherland.
"sujalaaM suphalaaM malayaja shiitalaaM" takes you slowly over the calm Indian waters, the green Orchards and the delightfully cool breeze. The poet however does not let the sound of beauty last very long with the introduction of - "SasyashyaamalaaM" - dark fields. The sound suddenly changes at the end of first stanza to that of an uneasy calm. The Dark fields are waving to the Land.
The second stanza does not change the sound much with a continuation of the tone built up in the first. It is in the third stanza that the vibrating agitation appears to set in. "sapt koti kantha kalakalaninaada karaale" - The alliteration sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The sound is the sound of revolt that of a forceful denial of the feeling that India has grown weak in its own Land. The Poet goes on to implore the motherland to rise up. In words of Sri Aurobindo - "Thou who savest rise up and save".
The other easily noticeable aspect of this poem is a personification not into a mere human being but into an apotheosised Deity, the giver of love, peace, riches but at the same time destroyer and protector of her children. She is rich with her streams, beautifully garlanded with her Orchards. She is Vidya,She is Dharma and She is Durga. She is not like Durga but is Durga herself.
The poem does not lament about the fallen glory India but goes on to deny it. This is unlike several contemporary patriotic poems.Most of the verses written during the time of British colonisation of India began with an acceptance of the fallen glory of the country and implored the people of the country to rise up and save her.Her death was accepted and therefore the attempt was towards a resurrection. Bankim Chandra however is sure of the fallacy of idea of India's downfall. He does not believe she has had a downfall and needs a saving. The people of India however need to be saved and he asks the motherland to save her children,the people of India. It is definitely noticeable that as against commonly understood and advocated notion that a country is a collection of its people, this poem has made a clear distinction between the people of India and India - The saviour and the saved.
Vande Maatram, probably revealed it to me according to my ability to comprehend. It is often said that great poetry has relevance at different levels and different meaning at different levels of realization. I do not know which stratum of my being was knocked by this great piece of creation but I am grateful that Vande Matram chose to knock some stratum of me.

My salute the great poet Bankim Chandra for this immortal creation.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mahant Jee

Mahant jee was more than just family to us. Apart from being the sole bridge between us and our village, he was a like a guardian a guide to all of us. Whenever something ominous threatened our home, he would appear out of nowhere, quelling all apprehensions, fear. The aura that followed him was enough to tell you that he had been seeking the soul and was very close to finding it, if not found it already. A childlike smile, a shining countenance, rewarding voice he was a medium we used to convey our prayers to God.

Mahant jee was an exponent of Ramcharit Manas.Under his guidance and with his blessings we were exposed to the vastly surreal and mystic meaning and explanation of the simple verses of Ramayana. A celibate, Mahant jee renounced all his earthly possessions in the pursuit of the Eternal, all pervading truth -- Rama. He would never speak without beginning the sentence with Ram. If he were to ask me to get a glass of water he would say -- "Ram Kishu... Paani aano tanta". The modern thinking mind might not appreciate this much, but I believe it was his attempt of establishing the truth that all beings, all creations are the same as the eternal word Rama.There might be further resistance an even more forceful dissidence by the rational mind saying that the truth need not be spoken several times to be established.The truth can be perceived as truth only by truth. The soul alone knows the supreme word, the eternal vibration of the aether. The Body however is made up of various layers, a series of existences at different levels of consciousness. The greater the ignorance, the greater is the force required for the perception of the truth. I believe it was this force he was trying muster to change the lower natures of his existence. His soul knew, but he was not just his soul and everything else that did not know needed to know.

Everyone who was associated with him (and the number is very huge) has a definite memory of
him. To me he was our saviour. Yesterday he decided to cut the last thread of his material connection - the attachment to his body and entered the mahasamadhi - the final yogic trans of a saint. He had initiated the recital of Sunderkand in a village gathering and it was during the recital that he pulled the plug and let his body be without the vital touch of his omniscient soul. His decision to pull out of his body has left a huge void a feeling of being an orphan, very vulnerable. It will be a while before the onset of grief and mourning. People from remote villages are swarming in to get the glimpse of the last remains of the saint. He was one who kept the village together, kept it going even in the face of greatest adversities. Now it appears suddenly that everything is so vulnerable.
Although the life and achievements of such saints are not on the surface for common people to see and fathom, it definitely requires a mention. He lived in an age of spiritual destitute where the word Raam has become a potent communal weapon which the modern demons keeps wielding from time to time. What the weapon kills is not us(Although that too happens) but our faith and to some extent our understanding of relevance of the word. It is, but too natural to shun a word that has become synonymous with bloodbath.
Mahant jee, living in the same age, sought to reignite the dwindling flame. He rose and heard the eternal beat and made his vocal cord recreate the splendour, the bliss in this world. Ramayan came out of the "Puja ghars" of our village households and the word began being chanted. The milkman, the farmer the rich the poor began to enjoy. I owe what ever little I know of the epic to Mahant jee.

There is an Old Village song which Nanaji explained to me( We heard it from the Bhajan Mandali that used to sing Ramayan in several villages)
"Mahua Naam ke Chuwaybai he Kalalindh banke ho"

The splendour the Name , I will trickle down to earth . There were other lines which i do not remember from the original, but it roughly meant..

I will make this body a pitcher
and contain the splendour,
Not only will I get drunk but will entice million others to the nectar
And together will forget all our religions all our dharma

My Last Pranam to the Mahayogi.