On waking I find the world invisible
in sleep perceive the confounding carnal.
Engrossed in sentient delight is the mind
archly does Divinity flirt beside the Divine.
Born of the Supreme five cardinal elements are
with the sublime twined and bonded together.
Fruit and also flower are of the tree, know
nor is the bough detached from the bole.
The Vedas1 assert, Shruti – Smriti1 support
no difference between ear-ring and gold.
Names get diverse once forms are fashioned
gold at end though remains just gold.
By own volition Shiva2 and jiva3 emerged
through wizardry fourteen worlds they formed.
Declares Narsinh ‘That art thou, That art thou’
remembering this many attained sainthood.
1 Indian scriptures
3 The individual soul as a speck of Godhead
જાગીને જોઉં તો જગત દીસે નહીં,
ઊંઘમાં અટપટા ભોગ ભાસે;
ચિત્ત ચૈતન્ય-વિલાસ તદ્રૂપ છે.
બ્રહ્મ લટકાં કરે બ્રહ્મ પાસે !
પંચ મહાભૂત પરિબ્રહ્મથી ઊપન્યાં,
અરસપરસ રહ્યાં તેને વળગી;
ફૂલ અને ફળ તે તો વૃક્ષનાં જાણવાં,
થડ થકી ડાળ નવ હોય અળગી.
વેદ તો એમ વદે, શ્રુતિ-સ્મૃતિ સાખ દે,
કનક-કુંડળ વિશે ભેદ ન્હોયે;
ઘાટ ઘડિયા પછી નામરૂપ જૂજવાં,
અંતે તો હેમનું હેમ હોયે.
જીવ ને શિવ તે આપ ઇચ્છા થયા,
રચી પરપંચ ચૌદ લોક કીધા;
ભણે નરસૈંયો 'એ તે જ તું તે જ તું',
એને સમર્યાથી કંઈ સંત સીધ્યા.
This is one of the most famous of Narsinh Mehta’s poems. Couched in a magnificent paradox, the beginning is evocative of Hindu philosophy of worldly delusion and a transcendental reality: “On waking I find the world invisible/ in sleep perceive the confounding carnal”. There is some controversy about the authorship of the poem, as of many other poems attributed to Narsinh Mehta. It is best, therefore, to think of the poem as being authored in the Narsinh Mehta tradition.
Narsinh Mehta (15th century) is believed to have been born in Talaja, near the town of Bhavnagar in Saurashtra. But he spent most of his life in Junagadh, also in Saurashtra, a town perched on the ‘holy’ mount Girnar. He was a worshipper, initially of Lord Shiva, and then of Krishna and Lord Vishnu. He was born a ‘Nagar’, a Brahmin caste known for its prowess in cooking, writing, diplomacy, and soldiering. Indeed, his father died on the battlefield. Mehta has been eulogized as the foremost pioneer of Gujarati poetry. He is believed to have authored over a thousand poems. There is, however, some controversy on whether Mehta authored all the poems attributed to him. He was a poet of wisdom, wit, vision, and devotion to God. Many of his poems highlight the love of the ‘gopis’ – milkmaids – for Krishna, and the love of Jasoda – Krishna’s foster mother – for Krishna. His erotic poems may have been influenced by Jayadeva’s ‘Geet Govind’. But some of his poems evoke the majesty and immanence of the supreme Godhood. He represents a crest of the ‘bhakti’ (devotion and love for God) movement that swept through India in medieval times whose effect was to loosen Hindu – Muslim and inter-caste antagonisms. Mehta was one of the few who could go to sing devotional songs in the settlements of ‘untouchables’. For this he suffered from ostracism at the hands of the orthodox members of his caste. Mehta has been one of the most autobiographical of Gujarat’s poets. He composed poems on the occasions of his son’s marriage; his providing the customary gifts to his in-laws at his daughter’s confinement; when he was severely tested by the Rajput monarch of Junagadh for his self-proclaimed devotion to God, and vice versa; and when a debt of his had to be honoured. On all these occasions he got into a tight corner, and according to legend, he was bailed out by Lord Vishnu. Later he migrated to Mangrol on the coast of Saurashtra, a Muslim principality, where he composed most of his sublime lyrics. He died in Mangrol.