Waking up to a dawn-hymn

I find that at dawn I always catch my mind in the midst of some unsynthesized thoughts. This morning, for instance, I woke up with two diverse poetic verses written more than three centuries apart and in two languages.

I woke up humming a popular song in Marathi language whose first lines say:

Ghanshyam Sundara Shreedhara Arunoday zhala

Uthi lavkari vanmali udayachali mitra ala

These are from a dawn-hymn written by the great Marathi cowherd poet Honaji Bala (1754-1844). For those of you interested watch the clip for a very approximate translation to get a sense about what he is saying. Essentially, the poet is capturing the unfolding of a pastoral morning with Krishna as his reference point. Ghansyam Sundara Sreedhara is Krishna. The viedo, I must caution you, is an acquired taste, particularly for those of my readers unfamiliar with Indian culture.

The second song that I was reciting in my mind almost simultaneously was:

Jaagi ne joun to jagat deesey nahi

Ungh ma atpata bhog bhasey

These were written by Narsinh Mehta (1414-1481), regarded as my home state Gujarat’s greatest poet-saint. One of the poet’s many fascinations was the idea that the universe is Maya, as in illusion or Leela, a grand cosmic spectacle. In these particular lines he describes his befuddlement at finding that the world has disappeared when he wakes up but in sleep how its bewilderments trouble him.

Interestingly, Narsinh Mehta too has written extensively about his devotion to Krishna and, in particular, about how one morning it was time for Krishna to wake up and tend to his cows. Dawn, Krishna and cows have been an enduring construct of what is known as the Bhakti (Devotion to the divine) movement in India’s enormously rich traditional literature.

Coming back to my tangential connection to these two songs, it is no more than the fact that I woke up this morning humming the lines for no apparent reason. If I must channel great poets, it is flattering that I do Narsinh Mehta and Honaji Bala.

Of course, my own poetry is informed by the sensibilities of my time where my milk arrives every Tuesday morning, delivered by an employee of the local Oberweis dairy. Picture, if you can, a scenario where I am waiting at 4.30 a.m. for the milk deliveryman and singing “Jaag ne jadva Krishna gowalia, Tujh vina dhen ma kon jashey? (Wake up O’ Krishna the cowherd, Who else but you would take the cows to graze?) A few police cruisers might show up with sheriff’s deputies saying, “Sir, please put down your delusions.”


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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