Surdas and Krishna

It started with my search for one of Surdasji’s songs, and for its lyrics. Google took me to kavitakosh and I got the lyrics:

जसोदा हरि पालनैं झुलावै।
हलरावै, दुलराइ मल्हावै, जोइ-जोइ कछु गावै ॥
मेरे लाल कौं आउ निंदरिया, काहैं न आनि सुवावै ।
तू काहैं नहिं बेगहिं आवै, तोकौं कान्ह बुलावै ॥
कबहुँ पलक हरि मूँदि लेत हैं, कबहुँ अधर फरकावै ।
सोवत जानि मौन ह्वै कै रहि, करि-करि सैन बतावै ॥
इहिं अंतर अकुलाइ उठे हरि, जसुमति मधुरैं गावै ।
जो सुख सूर अमर-मुनि दुरलभ, सो नँद-भामिनि पावै ॥


My Translation:

Yashoda rocks Krishna in the cradle. She sings a lullaby for him lovingly and joins whichever word first comes to her mind for the lyrics. She calls Sleep and urges her to come quickly to her son. Krishna closes his eyes at times and sometimes he starts moving his lips. He sleeps for a time and during the sleep he probably has a nightmare. Yashoda sings sweetly. She gets the bliss rare even for the immortal sages so easily.

Why this song on a blog page on Kashi? Surdas had no Banaras connection, as far as we know. Neither has Krishna been reported coming to the city. His guru, sage Sandeepan, was from the city alright, but linking him to the city on the basis of that will be stretching it too far. What is the justification for their appearance then?

Bindu Madhav Idol

Well, the logical justification is in the traditionally centrally established cult of Krishna in Kashi. Before Aurangzeb had ordered its destruction, the temple of Bindu Madhav (Krishna) was the second largest temple of India (After the Jagannath temple of Puri), as Tavernier reports. The Vaishnavs have been strong in the city and that can be proven through facts like Goswami Tulsidas’s residing in the city for a long time, the rise of the Gosains in the nineteenth century, and, of course, the ancient Adi Keshav temple and the sacred Manikarnika dug by Vishnu. Although Kashi is Shivji’s beloved city, Vishnu resides here too.

Now, the personal reasons behind the appearance of the poet and his Lord. Surdas and Krishna are deeply related to the author of the blog. I was introduced to Krishna in my childhood through the stories my grandmother used to tell me and I used to read in Chandamama and  Amar Chitra Katha. Surdas came later. He was a regular presence in the Hindi books of Uttar Pradesh Board schools. I very clearly remember having read in my course books of Hindi the song given above and two more in this post.

The next song is about nostalgia. It’s about a person’s missing their home: the place and people they grew up with. It’s about a son’s missing his childhood, his parents and the love that they showered on him back then. So what is Krishna is an incarnation of Vishnu? His emotions are human:

ऊधो, मोहिं ब्रज बिसरत नाहीं।
बृंदावन गोकुल तन आवत सघन तृनन की छाहीं॥
प्रात समय माता जसुमति अरु नंद देखि सुख पावत।
माखन रोटी दह्यो सजायौ अति हित साथ खवावत॥
गोपी ग्वाल बाल संग खेलत सब दिन हंसत सिरात।
सूरदास, धनि धनि ब्रजबासी जिनसों हंसत ब्रजनाथ॥


My Translation:

The nostalgic Krishna tells his friend Udhav that he can’t forget his home: his Braj. He remembers the cool shade of the dense arbors of Vrindawan, and the satisfaction of looking at his parents in the morning. He can’t forget how mother used to feed him bread with butter and yogurt, and her love. He remembers how he used to play throughout the day with his friends. Surdas says blessed are the dwellers of Braj with whom Lord Krishna smiles and plays.

In a way, I suspect, he too can’t accept change as the only unchangeable law of nature. The good old days are past and will not come back, not even for Him from whom space and time originated.

I like the next song for its dense placement of similies, contarsts and analogies.

मेरो मन अनत कहाँ सुख पावै।
जैसे उड़ि जहाज की पंछी, फिरि जहाज पै आवै॥
कमल-नैन को छाँड़ि महातम, और देव को ध्यावै।
परम गंग को छाँड़ि पियासो, दुरमति कूप खनावै॥
जिहिं मधुकर अंबुज-रस चाख्यो, क्यों करील-फल भावै।
‘सूरदास’ प्रभु कामधेनु तजि, छेरी कौन दुहावै॥


My Translation:

Where else can my heart get rest. Like the bird of the ship returns to it after circling it in the ocean (my heart is drawn towards my home). Like the fool who worships some other gods instead of He whose eyes are like the lotus flower, or the person whose mental faculties have been so much compromised that he commissions the digging of a well by the side of river Ganga. How can the honey collecting wasp who has tasted the nectar, like the taste of a wild berry. Surdas says who would leave Kaamdhenu, the celestial cow,and opt for the milk of a goat.


Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.




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