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Some poets live, compose poems and then when they die, sadly their poetry dies with them. There are very few poets whose poems and songs remain fresh long after they are gone. Ramprasad Sen was one such mystic Bengali poet whose devotional songs on Mother Kali, called Ramprasadi, are sung to this day at Durga puja, centuries after he died. His songs to Kali were filled with so much pathos that it they have continued to touch people’s hearts even today.
Ramprasad Sen’s father was an Ayurvedic vaidya (physician) and a Sanskrit scholar in the town of Halisahar, in Bengal, where Ramprasad was born. As a youth, Ramprasad showed promise in poetry and learning new languages. He learnt Persian, Sanskrit and Hindi. However, he seemed very detached from worldly pursuits and his father realized that Ramprasad was not inclined to train in the family profession. Moreover, Ramprasad was always immersed in longing to see his real cosmic mother Kali. This was a cause of immense anxiety to his parents and they soon concluded that marriage would wake up Ramprasad to the real world and therefore, he was married.
Today the name Kashmir invokes images of violence and terror in our minds. It brings back memories of the horrific genocide perpetrated on Kashmiri pandits, reminding us, sadly, of brutal extremists in its midst. Even though Kashmir today epitomizes chaos, this is not what the real Kashmir –the land of sage Kashyapa – originally stood for.
Kashmir ranks amongst the most beautiful and pristine lands in all of India, reverberating with the sacred sounds from the Himalayas. The real Kashmir is the residence of Ma Sharada Devi – (recall the verse “namaste Sharada devi kAshmirapuravAsini”. Sri Adi Sankara after his visit to Kashmir, set up the Sharada Peeth here). Kashmir is the also land of the accomplished Kashmiri pandits – who Monier Willams described as being the ‘finest representatives of the Aryan race’ – and it is also the land which gave us the supreme philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism.
The sandals (paduka) which adorn the Lord, which help in the attainment of all that is good and auspicious, which give knowledge, which cause the desire (of having the Lord as one’s own), which remove all that is hostile, which have attained the Lord, which are used for going and coming from one place to another, by which all places of the world can be reached, these sandals are for Lord Vishnu.
This incredible verse which uses just one vowel (a) and one consonant (ya)- infused with imagery, love, devotion and poetic sense- is taken from the Paduka Sahasram, an epic poem of 1008 verses praising the footwear of Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. Verses like the above are created only with beautiful Sanskrit as a powerful tool, with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the real truth, and with a poetic mind that is also devoted to the supreme. And, definitely, despite being an expert in Sanskrit, only incarnations of the divine are capable of producing such striking work of word-play. Of course, the paduka sahasram was written by the unparalleled mulitilingual poet and VisisthAdvaita philosopher – Sri Vedanta Desika. Read the rest of this entry »
There were some key phrases, poems and slogans that made up an important instrument in invoking a deep feeling of patriotism and love in the minds of those fighting for India’s freedom from the British. One such beautiful poem was “Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna”, written by Ram Prasad Bismil – an exceptionally passionate and brave freedom fighter. While merely reading this poem can summon such passion in the minds of the reader, it is rather difficult to imagine what transpired in the heart of the poet Ram Prasad Bismil during the composition of this beautiful poem.
सरफ़रोशी की तमन्ना अब हमारे दिल में है
देखना है ज़ोर कितना बाज़ुए कातिल में है
Six primary orthodox schools of philosophy exist in India. They are – nyaya, vaisheshika, mimamsa, vedanta, sankhya and yoga. At different periods in time, India has produced exceptional scholars who were unconditional masters in these respective schools of thought. It has often been the custom among learned men to debate the merits and demerits of these various systems of philosophy. When one scholar won, typically the other would renounce his philosophy to serve the winner as a disciple. Of course, the disciple’s disciples also became new disciples. One such famous debate took place between the two very renowned scholars – Adi Sankara and Mandana Misra in the latter’s residence in present day Bihar.
Upagupta, the disciple of Buddha, lay sleep in
the dust by the city wall of Mathura.
Lamps were all out, doors were all shut, and
stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August.
Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets,
touching his breast of a sudden?
He woke up startled, and a light from a woman’s
lamp fell on his forgiving eyes.
It was dancing girl, starred with jewels,
Wearing a pale blue mantle, drunk with the wine
of her youth.
She lowered her lamp and saw young face
“Forgive me, young ascetic,” said the woman,
“Graciously come to my house. The dusty earth
is not fit bed for you.”
The young ascetic answered, “Woman,
go on your way;
When the time is ripe I will come to you.”
Suddenly the black night showed its teeth
in a flash of lightening.
The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and
The woman trembled in fear of some unknown danger.
* . *
A year has not yet passed.
It was evening of a day in April,
in spring season.
The branches of the way side trees were full of blossom.
Gay notes of a flute came floating in the
warm spring air from a far.
The citizens had gone to the woods for the
festival of flowers.
From the mid sky gazed the full moon on the
shadows of the silent town.
The young ascetic was walking along the lonely street,
While overhead the love-sick koels uttered from the
mango branches their sleepless plaint.
Upagupta passed through the city gates, and
stood at the base of the rampart.
Was that a woman lying at his feet in the
shadow of the mango grove?
Stuck with black prestilence, her body
spotted with sores of small-pox,
She had been hurriedly removed from the town
To avoid her poisonous contagion.
The ascetic sat by her side, took her head
on his knees,
And moistened her lips with water, and
smeared her body with sandal balm.
“Who are you, merciful one?” asked the woman.
“The time, at last, has come to visit you, and
I am here,” replied the young ascetic.