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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, June 30, 2010

Narasi Mehta of Gujarat (C 1490-1556CE)

Prayer-meetings of Mahatma Gandhi are world famous. Gandhiji found time in his busiest schedule and participated in these meetings where people sang bhajans, meditated, and listened to religious discourses. Gandhiji's most favourite song was ,Vaishnava janato", which is composed by Narasi Mehta, foremost Saint-poet of 15th century Gujarat.

Nagar Brahmin by birth, Narasi was son of Krishnadas and Dayakunvar. He lost his parents early and was brought up by his uncle. From a very young age, Narasi had showed spiritual tendency. Married at the age of seventeen, to one Manik bai, he had two sons and a daughter. He lost his wife and son in succession, which turned him away from worldly life altogether.

Narasi used to sing songs of God's glory with accompaniments of drum, tals etc. He now started composing songs in various verse-forms that existed in his native land like hoondi, chaturi, raas, shodasi, nadas etc. His songs could be set easily to music. Even today his padas are popular in Gujarat-Rajasthan region. They are nice combination of devotion and philosophy and are sung individually or in groups, on all occasions.

Narasi called singing his songs of God's glory, as wish-fulfilling jewel (Chintamani) of this Kali age. He calls himself trader in Ramnam. (Rama's name). This commodity is saleable in all times (trikal) and most valuable. Ram-nam recitation, he insisted, was surest way to God realization or final liberation. Like Purandaradasa the saint-poet of Karnataka, he reminded people, that human birth is the greatest and rarest gift of God. Visiting places of pilgrimage did not yield better results than remembering and singing God's grace all the time, meditating and getting absorbed in God. Serving others in times of need, was the real test of a devotee.

In his famous composition, "Vaishnav janato" Narasi tells that the real Vaishnav (Vishnu"s devotee) is he, who understands suffering of others, who helps those in distress, without feeling proud, and one who leads a pious and detached life.

Many miracles and legends are quoted from Narasi"s life. He was to visit his daughter's place once. As is the custom, some gifts were to be carried. Narasi, who was too poor to buy anything, however started on a rickety bullock cart with his friends and on the way forgot himself in singing bhajans (devotional songs). At his daughter's village her relatives started jeering at him and his daughter, when a smartly dressed young man "Shamal Shah", arrived with cartfuls of all goodies, clothes, ornaments and money. He introduced himself as muneem (clerk) of Narasi Mehta! The lord had appeared as Narasi"s assistant, a little before Narasi himself, arrived in his rickety cart. He was overhelmed by the reception in his daughter"s house. He was sure, it was all God"s grace.

"Those devotees, who constantly think of Me, and worship Me in disinterested way, those who are always united with Me in thought, I bring full security and personally attend to their needs", says Bhagavadgita. (IX:22). Narasi Mehta was such a blessed soul whom the God helped.

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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