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Namdev Life And Philosophy
Namdev Life And Philosophy
Description
Introduction

The Punjabi University, when it formulated its plans and programmes for the celebration of 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, coming off in 1969, thought of bringing out biographies of three saint-poets of India, namely Sheikh Farid, Namdev and Bhakt Kabir, whose hymns are found in the Adi-Granth side by side with the compositions of other bhaktas and the Gurus. In the editorial scheme of the Adi—Granth, the hymns of Namdev are given a place immediately after the compositions of the Gurus and Bhakt Kabir, followed by the hymns of Ravidas, Farid, Trilochan, Sain, Pipa, Dhanna and others, in the musical measures (ragas) represented in the book.

The holy Adi-Granth or Guru Granth of the Sikhs was compiled in A. D. 1604 by Guru Arjan (A.D. 1581-1606) the fifth spiritual successor of Guru Nanak. This was probably the first scriptural book of its kind in the history of India, which collected in one volume the outpourings of the poetic minds of saints and devotees belonging to different faiths, castes, creeds, regions and times. This sacred Granth preserves for posterity an authentic representative anthology of devotional hymns of Indian saints of the medieval age. It was but proper that Namdev, the most out standing saint—poet of Maharashtra should have been assigned an honored place in this holy Granth.

Namdev was a prolific poet. According to a legend, he composed nearly a billion verses, though some of these are attributed to other members of household. The various stages of the development of thought through which the saint passed are amply reflected in the verses he composed. The 61 hymns of Namdev included in the Guru Granth pertain to the period when he had attained enlightenment through Nirgunu bhakti, or devotion to the formless Absolute. In a truly devotee’s style, Namdev describes his relation with the Lord as that of a wife to her husband, or that between the beloved and the lover

I am a mad women and God is my spouse;
It is for him I decorate myself elaborately

This strand of thought is present throughout the bhakti poetry. Guru Nanak’s depiction of the various moods of the ‘bride’ in wait of the lord’s affectionate hug, in his Barnmaha Tukhari, not only is a study in aesthetic appeal of poetry, but heightens the effect of devotional sentiment of the individual going through the text.

Bhakt Namdev preceded Guru Nanak by two centuries, if the consensus of testimony by historians and researchers be accepted. They put his year of birth as A.D. 1270, though some scholars place him in 1370, or even 1390. Dr. Prabhakar Machwe, in his present work has sifted extensive material on this point; he has also presented, in brief, the arguments offered by the supporters of various dates of Namdev’s birth, but the internal evidence on which he has relied points to October 26, 1270. Similary, there is a controversy about the place of the Bhakta’s birth. Whereas certain scholars hold Narasi Bamani, a village in the district of Safara, as the place of his birth, others think it is Pandharpur. Still others put it as a village in Prabhani District or Gokulpur, or even Gwalior.

There is an interesting legend about the parentage of Namdev too. It is said that the infant bhakta was found floating in a shell (sippi), in the river Chandrabhaga. Another story gives the name of a widow, Lacchmavati, as his mother, who got him without a human father, and the child was brought up by Bamdev, father of the widow. But the majority of historians and biographers mention the names of Damashet and Gonai (or Gonabai) as the father and mother of Namdev. A number of legends associate supernatural powers with the name of Namdev, and describe many a miracle happening to him, But legends, are after all legends and cannot take the place of history. The present work does acquaint the reader with the legendary tales, current in Marathi literature, about Namdev. However, the author has also tried to give a historical treatment to all the valid facts about the bhakta’s life.

He has also tried to interpret his teachings as rationally as possible. As the reader would see, Dr Machwe has done his job splendidly well.

The author has translated a good number of Namdev’s Marathi and Hindi abhangas into English, A selection of 35 of these compositions, drawn from various sources, has been included this book by way of specimen. In addition, the entire set of 6l hymns of Namdev, as available in the Guru Granth, and rendered into English by Dr Macauliffe, has been appended at the end.

Namdev is held in equal esteem in Maharashtra, his home State, and in the Punjab, where he is stated to have spent nearly two decades of his later life. Some of his Punjabi followers believe that the bhakta breathed his last at Ghuman, District Gurdaspur. However, most of his biographers are inclined to believe that he had returned to Pandharpur before he died. The story of his life, as also his composition unmistakably point out that Namdev led the life of a householder; the name of his wife was Raja bai, he had four sons and a daughter; his four daughters-in-law and a maid, Janabai, also lived with him. He was so passionately absorbed in the love of Vitthal (Bithula in Punjabi) that he attained complete detachment from the worldly life and became completely in tune with the Divine.

Namdev devoted his life to the uplift of lowly and to the eradication of suffering and anguish from men’s minds; he laid stress on the purity of human conduct, rather than empty ritual and superstition, and deserves a place of honor among the saint poets whom the Indian people revere. Guru Arjan, the fifth Nanak, showed his veneration for the Bhakta by including his hymns in the sacred Granth he compiled. This monograph, which is being brought out on the occasion of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, amply brings out the identity of teachings of the Sikh Gurus and the medieval Bhaktas - a fact which needs to be stressed on such occasions.

Contents

Introduction v
1 Life 1
2Philosophy 34
3 Poetry 61
4 Translations 77
Bibliography 127

Namdev Life And Philosophy

Item Code:
NAC171
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
1990
Publisher:
Size:
8.9 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages:
135
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 245 gms
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Introduction

The Punjabi University, when it formulated its plans and programmes for the celebration of 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, coming off in 1969, thought of bringing out biographies of three saint-poets of India, namely Sheikh Farid, Namdev and Bhakt Kabir, whose hymns are found in the Adi-Granth side by side with the compositions of other bhaktas and the Gurus. In the editorial scheme of the Adi—Granth, the hymns of Namdev are given a place immediately after the compositions of the Gurus and Bhakt Kabir, followed by the hymns of Ravidas, Farid, Trilochan, Sain, Pipa, Dhanna and others, in the musical measures (ragas) represented in the book.

The holy Adi-Granth or Guru Granth of the Sikhs was compiled in A. D. 1604 by Guru Arjan (A.D. 1581-1606) the fifth spiritual successor of Guru Nanak. This was probably the first scriptural book of its kind in the history of India, which collected in one volume the outpourings of the poetic minds of saints and devotees belonging to different faiths, castes, creeds, regions and times. This sacred Granth preserves for posterity an authentic representative anthology of devotional hymns of Indian saints of the medieval age. It was but proper that Namdev, the most out standing saint—poet of Maharashtra should have been assigned an honored place in this holy Granth.

Namdev was a prolific poet. According to a legend, he composed nearly a billion verses, though some of these are attributed to other members of household. The various stages of the development of thought through which the saint passed are amply reflected in the verses he composed. The 61 hymns of Namdev included in the Guru Granth pertain to the period when he had attained enlightenment through Nirgunu bhakti, or devotion to the formless Absolute. In a truly devotee’s style, Namdev describes his relation with the Lord as that of a wife to her husband, or that between the beloved and the lover

I am a mad women and God is my spouse;
It is for him I decorate myself elaborately

This strand of thought is present throughout the bhakti poetry. Guru Nanak’s depiction of the various moods of the ‘bride’ in wait of the lord’s affectionate hug, in his Barnmaha Tukhari, not only is a study in aesthetic appeal of poetry, but heightens the effect of devotional sentiment of the individual going through the text.

Bhakt Namdev preceded Guru Nanak by two centuries, if the consensus of testimony by historians and researchers be accepted. They put his year of birth as A.D. 1270, though some scholars place him in 1370, or even 1390. Dr. Prabhakar Machwe, in his present work has sifted extensive material on this point; he has also presented, in brief, the arguments offered by the supporters of various dates of Namdev’s birth, but the internal evidence on which he has relied points to October 26, 1270. Similary, there is a controversy about the place of the Bhakta’s birth. Whereas certain scholars hold Narasi Bamani, a village in the district of Safara, as the place of his birth, others think it is Pandharpur. Still others put it as a village in Prabhani District or Gokulpur, or even Gwalior.

There is an interesting legend about the parentage of Namdev too. It is said that the infant bhakta was found floating in a shell (sippi), in the river Chandrabhaga. Another story gives the name of a widow, Lacchmavati, as his mother, who got him without a human father, and the child was brought up by Bamdev, father of the widow. But the majority of historians and biographers mention the names of Damashet and Gonai (or Gonabai) as the father and mother of Namdev. A number of legends associate supernatural powers with the name of Namdev, and describe many a miracle happening to him, But legends, are after all legends and cannot take the place of history. The present work does acquaint the reader with the legendary tales, current in Marathi literature, about Namdev. However, the author has also tried to give a historical treatment to all the valid facts about the bhakta’s life.

He has also tried to interpret his teachings as rationally as possible. As the reader would see, Dr Machwe has done his job splendidly well.

The author has translated a good number of Namdev’s Marathi and Hindi abhangas into English, A selection of 35 of these compositions, drawn from various sources, has been included this book by way of specimen. In addition, the entire set of 6l hymns of Namdev, as available in the Guru Granth, and rendered into English by Dr Macauliffe, has been appended at the end.

Namdev is held in equal esteem in Maharashtra, his home State, and in the Punjab, where he is stated to have spent nearly two decades of his later life. Some of his Punjabi followers believe that the bhakta breathed his last at Ghuman, District Gurdaspur. However, most of his biographers are inclined to believe that he had returned to Pandharpur before he died. The story of his life, as also his composition unmistakably point out that Namdev led the life of a householder; the name of his wife was Raja bai, he had four sons and a daughter; his four daughters-in-law and a maid, Janabai, also lived with him. He was so passionately absorbed in the love of Vitthal (Bithula in Punjabi) that he attained complete detachment from the worldly life and became completely in tune with the Divine.

Namdev devoted his life to the uplift of lowly and to the eradication of suffering and anguish from men’s minds; he laid stress on the purity of human conduct, rather than empty ritual and superstition, and deserves a place of honor among the saint poets whom the Indian people revere. Guru Arjan, the fifth Nanak, showed his veneration for the Bhakta by including his hymns in the sacred Granth he compiled. This monograph, which is being brought out on the occasion of the 500th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, amply brings out the identity of teachings of the Sikh Gurus and the medieval Bhaktas - a fact which needs to be stressed on such occasions.

Contents

Introduction v
1 Life 1
2Philosophy 34
3 Poetry 61
4 Translations 77
Bibliography 127
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