Sri Ganga Sthotram, “Hymn to Mother Ganges”, has a humble simple appearance. But, behind this simplicity, lies the stupendous effulgence of the Divine theme, depicted flawlessly by the Master, Sri Swami Tapovani Maharaj, who was known as the “Glory of the Himalayas” (Himavat Vibhooti). Mother Ganges is here conceived of, in the heart-vision of the poet, as the Pure Infinite Consciousness, Brahman. Revelling in Her fabulous religious beauty and spiritual significance, Sri Swamiji has poured out this Hymn, soaked in the quintessence of the Upanishads, and yet filled with endless devotion.
A writer looks at the world, now and then, through the window near his table. No one can avoid this. He gazes out, as he sets down his thoughts in writing. Very few, if any at all, never look out but bury their heads in their manuscripts. And they are, therefore, the most unsuccessful writers—often pure idealists, expressing ideas which are beyond any practical use in life for anyone. Others draw the curtains and screen, leaving only a pleasant slit through which they can see what attracts them the most. The screen is so arranged as to shield off all the unpleasantness in the prospect! And then there are others, mainly the modern writers, who pull the curtain completely down and then make a hole in it through which they fix a powerful telescope to peep, with one eye, at haloed scene, innocently going on in a distant courtyard of a farm or on the nearby terrace of a flat!
All these writers—essayists, novelists, dramatists, politicians, economists, historians, philosophers, etc.—are, no doubt, exhaustive observers, but of a partial view of life only. They never see the entire—the total life—the whole. It is only the mystics who generally refuse to sit at their congested table and write. They roam out, literally on to the peak of a mountain, to gaze at the Universe— at once at the sky and on the earth.
They alone are capable of picturing to us, readers, the entire prospect, the fabulous beauty and the total rhythm in the Universe. Such books have a fascinating hold upon us-an irresistible charm that compels our admiration for the view revealed, though we may not readily appreciate and fully understand it. <>p>
Such works touch something deep down within us. They ring true, though they may sound fantastic. Cur hearts accept them; yet, our heads reel under the dimensionless vastness of the idea expounded and the bottomless depth of the significance indicated.
This simple-looking book, SRI GANGA STHOTRAM, “Hymn to Mother Ganges,” belongs to the latter type wherein the author. Sri Gurudev, looks at life not through a window, but against the open vastness spread all around him. It is at such moments of inspiration that man’s heart experiences its subtle joys resounding with the Universal Harmony bears in the silence within the Great, Grand Song of the Spiritual Melody. All prophets heard It; all Rishis lived it; all Indian philosophers tried to indicate and define It; but rarely could they show It to us.
Rare are such books which can directly give a glimpse of the Silent_E5senceShlpme residing in the very depths of our own personality ever throbbing in perfect Unison with the Heart of the Universe. Here is one such rare compendium of verses. If the reader is a spiritually prepared student, with knowledge and sufficient devotion in himself already, be shall come to endorse the truth of what I have said by the time he comes to the concluding verse of this Hymn to Sri Ganga. Even those of us who have not received any earlier preparation shall find ourselves changed to be no more our old selves. The study of this work magically purifies, uplifts and transmutes us. Try-experience it for yourself.
Just as he himself lived for more than thirty years in the Tapovan Kuti, a single-room hut here at Utterkasi, so, too, into this simple- looking poemhutfl1ent Sri Gurudev has brought a saintly truth to dwell.
Sri Ganga Sthotram, as a “Hymn to Mother Ganges,” coming as it does from this Master who is called the “Glory of the Himalayas” (Himavat Vibhooti), has a humble, simple appearance but it would take a lifetime of study and deep reflection to realise the stupendous effulgence of the Divine theme dealt with in these 125 verses, arranged in five sections of twenty-five verses each, certainly, I would say, there is a war-steed style here, employed deliberately by the Master. LW6 a vicious horse tests its driver before it surrenders to his will, so here, too, the style halts, jerks, snorts and gallops to throw off the reader. He who can hold Oft sufficiently long faithfully taken by the poem to the serene goal.
These five sections are each called a Stabaka, meaning a “Cluster of Blossoms,” a “bunch of flowers.” This term Stabaka is generally used lo indicate a section or a chapter in works whose title contains word like “tendrils” or “creepers” (Lata or Latika).
Mother Gauges Is here conceived of, in the heart-vision of the poet, as the Pure Infinite Consciousness, Brahman; and he prostrates to Her Divine Effulgence in endless devotion.
Devotion is a love-play between the devotee’s heart and the Supreme Divine. As such, any amount of descriptions will not convey the depth of the emotion of devotion. Therefore, Sri Swamiji himself dramatises the emotions of love in a hundred different moods, and each of his moods is so perfectly expressed that it cannot but deeply influence and move the reader, if he has at least a trace of devotion already in him for this glorious river of sacred associations, both historical and cultural.
A life-long devotee of Mother Ganga, Sri Gurudev refused to move away from Her enthralling banks, and ever remained near Her, either at Utterkasi, or at Gangotri, or at Rishikesh. Beyond these three spots he never went anywhere else all through the twenty closing years of his life. Such an ardent and deep devotee of Ganga himself, when he took his pen in hand to revel in her fabulous religious beauty and spiritual significance, he produced this Hymn, soaked in Vedanta, and yet filled with devotion.
If his pen is soft like a feather when he praises Ganga, or when he paints the beauty of the Himalayan setting—the same pen becomes a terrible spear with which to attack the atheists, or it becomes a shining dagger with which to stab at mere erudite scholars and noisy Pundits. His satire is pungent, vehement, and ruthless in its deeper effects. There is no mercy in them, though the words themselves are apparently smooth, soft and calm.
There are some extraordinarily brilliant flashes here and there in this uniformly blazing poem, such as when he defines Sanatana Dharma, or when he champions the need for mental purity in seekers, or when he describes the part played by faith in our spiritual life. The fine touches of his poetry rise to heights of classical lyricism when he wields a metaphor, or when he describes his final demand from Mother, as in the closing verse of this Hymn, this Sri-Ganga praise-poem (Sthotram).
Sri Tapovanam had the authority, born out of his perfect life, to re-define “renunciation” (Sannyas), “detachment” (Virakti), “peace” (Shank), “self withdrawal” (Uparati), “detachment from all actions” (Nivriti), etc. and he does it all so exquisitely that his declarations emerge out of him with a new life and vigour, to provide them with a fresh relevance to our every-day life.
There arc subtle, but highly eloquent, confessions of his own experiences in Realisation. Yet, be never looks down with contempt or derision upon the married people, the householders. He all along extols them and their magnificent life of service and righteousness when they live in devotion unto Mother Divine. He reminds us that all our Rishis were themselves married men.
As an anti-thesis to his appreciation of a noble householder, he condemns a mere external Sannyasin, a cheat who wears the robes but has no sincere devotion in his heart no faith, knowledge, or steady contemplation. Men who have these, for them it is immaterial whether they are in the forest or at home, since Mother Divine will rain Her Grace upon them all wherever they be. In her Grace, devotion will increase. Consequently, the-devotee’s ego will get more and more surrendered and he will come to realise the Supreme Essence that is Mother Ganga.
In bringing out this simple 0mmentafy, I owe a lot to Sri Swami Govindagiriji Maharaj, whose was the hand that fair-copied all Sri Topavanam’s writing in their original, all through the Master’s life. Swami Govindagiriji was for years with Sri Gurudev now and then, for a year or so, no doubt, be would run away into the deeper Himalayas for loneliness and intense practice. But, always, Sri Gurudev nodded him back to Utterkasi and Gangotri.
I also owe much to our Mission workers—Sri Bhatia (Bombay), Urmila (New Delhi), and Bharathi (Simla)—all of whom worked hard in preparing the manuscript for the press.
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