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My Translations of Narsinh mehta

 

Narsinh Mehta (15th century) is one of the most loved saint poets on Gujarat. He is called the `Adi Kavi' of Gujarati because he is the first major poet in Gujarati whose influence and significance is widely acknowledged. His compositions are sung through out Gujarat with great love and devotion. His `Vaishnava Jana To...' got international popularity as it was particular favourite with Mahatma Gandhi. His essentially musical compositions are full of passion, grandeur and moral earnestness. Many of his compositions, probably composed early in his life, reveal the influence of lyrical eroticism of Jayadeva. His later compositions are more didactic and philosophical. His achievement lies in his ability to express complex metaphysical ideas in extremely poetic and accessible language. Some of his later compositions on the theme of being, aging and death resonate with existential anguish and bitterness. The translations provided here, with the exception of  `The girls merrily watch... are mainly from the critically edited collection by Dr. Shivlal Jesalpura. The poem, `the girls merrily watch..' is from the edition by Jayant Kothari and Darshana Dholakia.

 

Sachin Ketkar (1972) is a poet and a translator. He writes in Marathi and English. He has translated around hundred compositions of Narsinh Mehta into English for his doctoral thesis. Many of the compositions are translated for the first time.

 

1

 

One who feels others grief as his own,

Who obliges others in distress

Without being swollen with pride,

He alone can be called a Vaishnava!

 

Humbly he bows before everyone in the world

And indeed he scorns none.

He is ever resolute in his words,

Deeds and mind - Glory be to his mother!

For he alone is a true Vaishnava!

 

He views everyone with equal eyes;

He has relinquished the tormenting thirst

And looks upon another’s woman

As his own mother!

He alone can be called a Vaishnava!

 

His tongue never utters a false word,

Never does he covet another's wealth.

One who feels others grief as his own

He alone can be called a Vaishnava!

 

Maya never overpowers him

And the spirit of renunciation is ever firm in his mind.

He is forever rapt in chanting Rama Nama

All the pilgrimages reside within him.

He alone can be called a Vaishnava!

 

He is without greed or cunning.

He has abandoned lust and wrath.

Says Narsinh, mere sight of such a man is enough

To liberate seventy and one generations of your kin!

He alone can be called a Vaishnava!

 

2

  

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

You are the divine in the human flesh,

The fire you become among the elements,

In the void, you become the Word, which the Vedas laud!

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

O Sustainer of the Earth! You are the wind!

You are the water and you are the Earth!

You are also the outstretched tree blossoming in the sky!

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

Only to taste the nectar of being manifold,

You created the jiva and the siva and countless other forms!

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

Ornaments differ not from what they are made,

As the Vedas and other scriptures truly say,

Only their names differ once their forms are cast,

Gold is always gold in the end!

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

But the books messed up this truth and left it unsaid,

So the people worship whatever they like,

With all their hearts, words and deeds,

Thinking what they understand is true.

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

You are the seed in a tree and the tree in a seed,

I see you close just behind the veil,

You will never find him with your mind, says Narsinh,

Love him and he will manifest himself before you!

In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari,

Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!

 

3

 

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

At the feet of the dark one, I wish to die

For simply matchless is my beloved Krishna!

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

 

So unfathomable is the mystery of his dark beauty,

You lose your way in the eternity of celebration!

As you clutch at the love's life-giving roots

Both the living and the lifeless become ambrosia of immortality!

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

 

Where the brilliant flame with effulgence of million suns is lit

Which pales even the brilliance of gold,

There  Satchitananda frolics in joy

Happily swinging in the glorious cradle of gold!

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

 

Without wick, without oil, without thread,

Shines perpetually, the immaculate Flame!

See him without eyes; make out the one who is without form;

Enjoy the nectar without tongue!

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

 

He is unknowable, imperishable; he is everywhere,

Narsaiyya's lord has encompassed all

Yet he is snared by saints in the subtle strings of love!

Look, who is roving in the sky!

I am he, I am he, the echoing word replies!

 

4

 

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom!

How pure and clean he looks with tilak adorning his forehead!

How attractive are his consorts! How happily they sprinkle vermilion around!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

The palanquin is of green bamboo shoots, and is carried by four,

Wet cloth they have for headgear, Rama Nama they chant!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

They have built the pendal for the ceremony and fetched dung fuel for fire;

As mongrels are already eyeing the sweets with relish!

They are carrying firewood in the front; they are also carrying fire at the back!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

Lo, here the groom is going to his in-laws, so the mother-in-law is overjoyed!

The fiery sparks beautify the pendal, and the fire decorates the marriage altar!

O Wake up hideous mother-in-law, the groom is at your door!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

`Cremation's the name of the ceremony and `crematorium' the village of marriage!

Chita Kukmari is the bride's name and she is daughter of Lalbai, the Red One!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

The groom here has decided to stay at his in-laws, his escorts have returned!

Lavishly they spent on the feast and had a grand marriage!

Putting a rupee on earthen pots and bowls, indeed, they have performed it well!

Go and tell the groom's father to lament loudly if he wishes!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

The Jiva is being whisked away by the heralds of Death!

See how they have tortured his mortal remains!

It is good if one meets Narsaiyya's Lord, for He alone can rescue one from the world of woes!

How merrily the girls watch the procession of the fine young groom

 

5

 

My fruit-like breasts are your possessions, my love

How can they be offered to anyone else?

Come once to my home and I will tell you more, by dear admirer!

My fruit-like breasts are your possessions, my love

How can they be offered to anyone else?

 

My youth is forsaking me

If you don’t come which man will I enjoy?

My fruit-like breasts are your possessions, my love

How can they be offered to anyone else?

 

I have seen many admirers on this earth,

But there is none like you Narsinh's Lord, sweeter than the nectar of immortality!

My fruit-like breasts are your possessions, my love

How can they be offered to anyone else?

 

6

 

What is it about your eyes, love? Tell us, tell us truly!

It makes our hearts go flutter when you look at us and it makes our hearts go wild,!

What is it about your eyes, love? Tell us, tell us truly!

 

The magic of your eyes makes my mind quiver with joy!

Usually, my love, a proud gorgeous girl happens to bewitch man’s mind,

But it is you who has enthralled the minds of proud alluring girls!

What is it about your eyes, love? Tell us, tell us truly!

 

Your eyes have ravished our hearts, love!

Turn out the elixir and rob us of everything we have O Narsaiyya’s lord!

What is it about your eyes, love? Tell us, tell us truly!



The sap of the earth has spread through the branches,

The god of love in the eyes has come to dwell...!

Filling the breasts with voluptuous love to brim,

The connoisseur, the Master of the god of pleasures has indeed arrived!

The sap of the earth has spread through the branches,

The god of love in the eyes has come to dwell...!

 

He has turned things bottom side up, this lord with the garland of flowers,

The one with incomparable might, he has conferred upon this girl

The sweet ambrosia of the entire universe!

The sap of the earth has spread through the branches

The god of love in the eyes has come to dwell...!

 

Amazing strength he has given to this frail woman

While cowardice he has reserved for the most manly of men

Upon her, he has conferred the laughter of the forest creepers

And in her voice he has put the music of koels!

The sap of the earth has spread through the branches

The god of love in the eyes has come to dwell...!

 

He may have reserved Yoga and austerities for the detached yogis

But the sheer enjoyment he has in store only for his lovers.

Penance and rituals he has reserved for the insensitive ones

But the joy of singing our lord's praises, he has kept for Narsinh!

The sap of the earth has spread through the branches

The god of love in the eyes has come to dwell...!

 

8

 

O today it’s Diwali! O it’s the Festival of Lights for me!

For the Lord with garland of wild flowers, at last, has come to me!

He invites me and soothes the searing desolation of so many days!

O today it’s Diwali! O it’s the Festival of Lights for me!

For the Lord with garland of wild flowers, at last, has come to me!

 

Light, O Light the brilliant lamps!  Draw rangoli with exquisite pearls!

Sing, O sing the auspicious hymns, sweet proud girls,

And beat, beat the festive drums,

For today is Diwali! O it’s the Festival of Lights for me!

For the Lord with garland of wild flowers, at last, has come to me!

 

A wonderful crown graces his head,

An exquisite necklace of champa flowers graces his neck,

His cheeks stuffed with red betel leaves!

And dressed in beautiful yellow garment,

He exudes alluring perfumes of sandalwood!

O today it’s Diwali! O it’s the festival of lights for me!

For the Lord with garland of wild flowers, at last, has come to me!

 

Because of you, we are not orphans, O Lord!

Can we ever sing your praises enough?

Just don’t go away, Narsaiyya’s lord, that’s all I ask!

O today it’s Diwali! O it’s the Festival of Lights for me!

For the Lord with garland of wild flowers, at last, has come to me!

 

9

 

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

How shall we, the weak survive, now that you have forsaken us?

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

Friend now that he has left nothing remains; he has taken everything.

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

We didn't hold out our palav in complete surrender then,

Now what is the point of rubbing our hands in vain?

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

He knows not our pains, and he has broken all the bonds of childhood love,

He has broken all the bonds of affection; Hari-O that dandy has betrayed us!

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

You can explain things to a stupid man ,

But how can you deal with the experienced ones, my love?

Separated from you I roam aimlessly, O Trikramji!

Don't abandon us like this!

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

Gopis have become mad for Govind, ` Do return home O beloved of Laxmi!'

What shall I say, dear friend, to Narsaiyya’s Lord?

Only that , please understand the plight of your lovers!

The sea of ecstasy has ebbed and gone, dear friend

The ocean of sorrow floods and overwhelms.

 

 

10

 

This dark night- my enemy, has flowed away,

The dazzling mystic Sun is up in the sky!

The three worlds now lay open before me,

The engulfing deluge of Maya is finally allayed!

This dark night- my enemy, has flowed away,

The dazzling mystic Sun is up in the sky!

 

Pretty friend, all my limbs are wide-awake

To behold the irresistible Master of all Yogis!

Millions of gods of love are surging with the winds

O I have seen the God of gods!

This dark night- my enemy, has flowed away,

The dazzling mystic Sun is up in the sky!

 

Innumerable lotuses have bloomed

O how the imprisoned wasp is ultimately freed!

I have met the Narsaiyya's Lord over there

He has filled me with absolute contentment!

This dark night- my enemy, has flowed away,

The dazzling mystic Sun is up in the sky!

 

11

 

Recite O parrot King Rama's name! Sati Sita instructs.

Dangling the cage near her, she makes him rehearse.

 

" I will have green bamboo shoots fetched,

I will make a pretty cage and deck it with exquisite jewels!

Recite O parrot King Rama's name!" Sati Sita instructs.

 

O parrot! I will have delicious bread crumble made for you

And I will serve you with sugar and ghee!

What else, O parrot will I order for you?

Recite O parrot King Rama's name!" Sati Sita instructs.

 

Yellow are his wings, pale his feet and a black band decks his throat

O with his own little tune, he worships Narsaiyya's Lord!

Recite O parrot King Rama's name!  Sati Sita instructs.

 

 

12

 

Who has sent the old age?  I thought youth was here to stay!

Even threshold seems a mountain now,

Even the village outskirts seem remote like foreign lands to me.

The hair on my body has irreversibly grayed

Even the small pail is now the mighty Ganga for me!

Who has sent the old age?  I thought my youth was here to stay!

 

Nobody asked for it, then how did it come?  I never looked forward to it!

At my house, I am humiliated, 'Shove his cot in corner’ they say.

You may love laddoos in childhood, but in your decline

You perpetually crave for rabdi and relish sev!

Such are the burning vices of the ripe old age!

Who has sent the old age?  I thought my youth was here to stay!

 

In morning, hunger torments my life,

And they say, ‘Well, he is not dying.  Why doesn't he sit in one place?’

Who has sent the old age?  I thought my youth was here to stay!

 

Many sons had I, today their wives are cursing me,

Sons-in-law have taken all of my daughters- see what is one’s plight in the old age!

Who has sent the old age?  I thought youth was here to stay!

 

All of my nine nerves have now come away: my hour has finally arrived.

Women disparage me, children swear at me; such is the final moment!

My sons have at last arrived at the door:

Only to take the purse from my chest and go away!

Who has sent the old age?  I thought my youth was here to stay!

 

How shameful is this old age!  Hence, O cast away your vain pride!

Only because of pious ways,

Mehta Narsinh has made it beyond this world.

Who has sent the old age?  I thought my youth was here to stay!

 

 

13

 

Serve me the draught of love's ambrosia

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

This futile threshing of arid philosophies tastes so insipid!

These emaciated cattle crave merely the dry husk,

They pine not for the ultimate liberation!

Serve me the draught of love's ambrosia

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

 

Parikshit could not grasp the secret of Love,

Sukaji knowingly hid this flavor of love,

And wrote the book with penance and austerity,

Showing us the royal road to liberation!

Serve me the draught of love's ambrosia

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

 

You killed and emancipated many demons,

Released countless saints and yogis,

Your love also possessed the gopis of Vraj

And even your true devotee, the rare connoisseur!

Serve me the draught of love's ambrosia!

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

 

Most endearing is the way of love

For the lovelorn beings can be quenched only by love!

By singing his sweet exploits

The vessel sets a sail brimming with the ultimate joy!

Serve me the draught of love's ambrosia

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

 

I have grasped the Gopinath's glorious hand

And nothing tastes as sweet!

Narsaiyyo yearns for this way and the knowledge of love

Which the monks or Satis could never dream of!

Serve me the draught of Love's ambrosia

One bedecked with peacock feathers!

 

14

 

Pointless it is to lament,

For it's always the wish of the lord of the universe,

The world teacher that prevails!

Never is it as we wish it to be.

One who knows this is finally saved.

Pointless it is to lament!

 

To think that one is the real doer of the deeds

Is sheer ignorance

Like that of a dog trotting under the cart

And thinking that he is carrying the burden!

Indeed whole cosmos is ordered like this

Only a handful of yogis and seers know something of this!

Pointless it is to lament!

 

One will never grieve

If this Knowledge is born in him

For by killing Ignorance, his real Foe,

He can have only friends!

Be it a prince or a pauper

His royal cover shelters all!

One foolishly worries what is in store for him,

Vines, leaves and fruits grow spontaneously and on their own!

Pointless it is to lament!

 

The mundane pleasures are mere delusions

Nothing but Krishna is true!

Says Narsaiyyo, I pray with all my heart,

That I would be able to love Hari

In all my births to come!

Pointless it is to lament

For always, it's the wish of the lord of the universe

The world teacher that prevails!

 

15

 

Be still, be still, O moon, do not make the dawn yet,

The life of my life has come to my home!

It is after hundreds of millions of lives of penance,

That I have attained my Vitthal, my love!

Be still, be still, O moon, do not make the dawn yet,

The life of my life has come to my home!

 

The chatak sweetly sings, `pee yoo! pee yoo!' and cuckoo too sings in honeyed notes,

I implore you O rooster, herald not the break of the day!

Be still, be still, O moon, do not make the dawn yet,

The life of my life has come to my home!

 

The moon adorns the moonlight like a tree adorning the entwined creeper,

And just as the earthen pots adorn the swan-gaited maids,

Govind adorns the milk-white girls.

Be still, be still, O moon, do not make the dawn yet,

The life of my life has come to my home!

 

The sea is adorned by the surging waves;

The waves are adorned by the wavelets,

And gopis adorn our Govind!

It is pleasing for Narsinh to attain his lord

And for the gopi to adorn Govind!

Be still, be still, O moon, do not make the dawn yet,

The life of my life has come to my home!

 

 

16

 

Dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me, he is ever in my heart

I leave behind all the pilgrimages, austerities and joys of Vaikunth

Just to be where he is!

 

To uphold my beloved devotee King Ambarish

I smote the vanity of the sage Durvasa,

For sake of my devotees, I cast off my pride and came into the world ten times.

For dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me....

 

I rushed on Garuda, my eagle to deliver the Elephant, my loved devotee,

I discriminate not between the high or low, as one who worships me is like me!

Dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me.....

 

Lakshmi, the better half of my very being, herself serves my servants!

My devotee's feet are holier than millions of Gangas

Millions of Kashis and all the holy shrines put together!

Dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me...

 

When he walks, I walk in front, when he sleeps I wake!

I don't spare the one who tries to harms my loved ones,

I destroy him and all his clans!

For dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me....

 

My devotee alone can deliver the ones whom I shackle

But not even I can release those whom he binds,

Once he binds me, even I cant free myself!

Dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me...

 

When he sits and sings, I stand and listen

And I dance when he stands and sings!

Never even for a moment I am away,

As Narsaiyyo truly says, from such a devotee

For dearer than life is the Vaishnava to me....

 

17

 

O saints, we are the traders of Rama's name!

Merchants from distant villages come to us

O saints, we are the traders of Rama's name!

 

Our goods happen to be modest and suit everyone's taste;

All castes come to us for purchase.

O saints, we are the traders of Rama's name!

 

Limitless are our assets; why should we deal merely in millions or billions?

It is pure musk, buy it if you want -its a sure bargain!

O saints, we are the traders of Rama's name!

 

To enter the name of Laxmi's beloved in the ledger

And jot down the name of Chaturbhuj in a chit - that's Narsaiyya's job!

O saints, we are the traders in Rama's name!

 

18

 

She plays with the dark one, her sweet anklets chime.

In full bloom of her youth, she goes to meet Mohan

Maddened with desire!

She plays with the dark one, her sweet anklets chime.

 

She looks gorgeous in her ravishing blue garments

She has the gait of a swan in her walk

Her choli firm on her breasts

Threatens the honor even of adept!

She plays with the dark one, her sweet anklets chime.

 

Teeming with immense love, she approaches the bed

Puts her pretty arms tenderly around his neck

Lightly Narsaiyya's lord takes her close to his chest

And with unlimited joy she celebrates the night!

She plays with the dark one, her sweet anklets chime.

 

19

 

How will I worship you, Krishna

O treasure house of compassion!

Ineffable is this mysterious bliss....

 

How will we contain him in our tiny casket?

He encompasses everything, moving and motionless!

How will I worship you, Krishna?

O treasure house of compassion!

Ineffable is this mysterious bliss....

 

The beloved of Laxmi bathes in torrential rains

How will he be pleased by a mere trickle from our conch-shell?

Fifty and nine winds fan him.

O how will he prefer my small effort?

How will I worship you, Krishna?

O treasure house of compassion!
Ineffable is this mysterious bliss....

 

By becoming the Sun, you scorch the three worlds,

By becoming the moon, you cool them,

O Vitthal! You pour down by becoming the clouds,

You blow by becoming the gale!

How will I worship you, Krishna?

O treasure house of compassion!

Ineffable is this mysterious bliss...

 

You are the fragrance in every herb,

What then is a gardener with a mere bunch of flowers?

What is our offering with perfumes and fragrant oils?

When the aroma can be hardly compared to yours?

How will I worship you, Krishna?

O treasure house of compassion!

Ineffable is this mysterious bliss...

 

Kamala serves you daily with exquisite delicacies

What then is our insignificant offering?

Says Narsaiyyo; he who has tasted the elixir called Krishna

Is never born again!

How will I worship You, Krishna?

O treasure house of compassion!
Ineffable is this mysterious bliss...

 

20

 

When I wake up, the world recedes from my sight.

Only in sleep, its bewildering miseries and enjoyment perplexes me!

My being is a play of the Consciousness:

The brahman playing with the brahman!

When I wake up, the world recedes from my sight.

Only in sleep, its bewildering miseries and enjoyment perplexes me!

 

The five elements have sprung from the Supreme brahman

And are ever in his mutual embrace.

Blossom and fruit are parts of the same tree, and bole no different from the branch.

Vedic lore avers that gold is not different from the ornaments,

Names and forms differ once they are cast,

Yet, gold is always gold in the end!

When I wake up, the world recedes from my sight.

Only in sleep, its bewildering miseries and enjoyment perplexes me!

 

By his own will, he became Jiva and Siva

And created the mystery of the fourteen worlds

‘You alone are him!  You alone are him!' chants Narsinh

Remembering him, countless saints have attained their goal!

When I wake up, the world recedes from my sight.

Only in sleep, its bewildering miseries and enjoyment perplexes me!