Bhagat Namdev and Sri Guru Granth Sahib
Dr. Nishikant Mirajkar
The Varkari cult was founded in medieval Maharashtra. This cult held a liberal attitude towards Bhagati (devotional practice). It rose above narrow considerations of one being a Brahmin, tailor, goldsmith, potter, etc. and brought everyone under the flag of Bhagati. Namdev played a leading role in taking the main principles of the cult from Maharashtra directly to Punjab. The only aim that Namdev had in his life was that he would devote his entire life to kirtan (devotional singing) and through kirtan he would light the lamps of knowledge in the world. Therefore, he showed the easy way to the people to get attuned to God. During his life span of eighty years (1270 to 1350 A.D.), he preached the gospel of Bhagati through the singing of his hymns.
The worship of Sri Vithal (Lord Vishnu or Krishna) of the Pandharpur region was being done by many generations of Namdev’s lineage. Bhagat Namdev also developed interest in Vithal Bhagati from his childhood. He came in contact with the leading light of Varkari cult, Sri Gyaneshar, at a young age, which, because of the similarity of views, developed into deep friendship. During this period, Namdev received ‘initiation’ and gyan from Ruhan Nath Yogi, Sri Visobha Khichar. Thus the spark of love of devotion was kindled within him from a young age. Thereafter, Gyaneshar, Namdev and other saints went on a tour of the places of pilgrimage in North India (1290 to 1295 A.D.). At the end of the pilgrimage, Gyaneshwar breathed his last. Namdev became very sad at the demise of his dearest friend and the propagation of the gospel of bhagati evolved by Gyaneshwar became the sole aim of his life. He made his second trip to the South of India up to Kanyakumari preaching the gospel (1295 A.D.). After this he again went across North India on foot. Once again Namdev set out on a long journey in A.D. 1330 which took him to Dwarka, Marwar, Mathura, Haridwar and then on to Punjab where he stayed for a long time near Gurdaspur which became his karambhoomi (field of action). He stayed there for twenty years. During this period he had many disciples of which Bohar Das was the most important. In A.D. 1350 Namdev returned to Pandharpur and breathed his last at the first step of the Pandharpur Vithal Temple. It was his last wish that the touch of the feet of those coming to worship Lord Vithal should always be available to his ‘samadhi’ (the place where he breathed his last).
Whenever Namdev went on long tours out of Maharashtra he composed his hymns in Hindi, which was the link language of the saints and sadhus of North India. Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla calls it ‘Sadhukri’ bhasha. Namdev’s hymns in Hindi created a deep impression on the minds of the people of Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mira and Narsi Mehta have made important comments about Namdev. 61 of Namdev’s hymns have been incorporated in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. These hymns are not at one place in Sri Guru Granth Sahib but at different places. In the 1973 volume of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, published by Khalsa Gurmat Press.
Fifteen saints whose verses have been included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sheikh Farid (1173), Jai Dev (1170) and Namdev (1270) belonged to the period prior to Guru Nanak. Five hymns of Jai Dev and Sheikh Farid and sixty one hymns of Namdev found a place in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. It is said that Guru Arjan Dev took into account their popularity and the excellence of the verses, when he selected their poetry to be included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. But if popularity alone had been the criterion, Tulsi Das, devotee of Rama and Sur Das and Mira, devotees of Krishna would have been preferred.
By reciting His Name, all the dirt on the tongue is washed. Just as a small quantity of seeds are sown in the field but the yield thereof has to be carried in carts, in the same manner only by reciting His Name, one can attain God and the pain of being born and dying again and again is removed. Thus says Namdev:
Sham hoch snan raam hoch dhyan.
Ramai gharai yag koti dekha.
Na lagati sadhanai nanmantra vivek.
Shamnami sukh rangi ka rey.
Nama mahno vaam hoch vachan aamha.
Nit ti paigrima socha kari.
By reciting God’s Name one gets the fruit of millions of yagyas (sacrificial worship).
Just as the night gets all the light when it is full moon, in the same manner by reciting His Name, human life is enlightened.
Namdev has emphasized the importance of reciting His Name again and again as also the greatness of the saints in his verses. He says:
‘The saints are God in the human form. They are born only to help the poor and needy. With the grace of the saints, even the evil doers and defeated ones are uplifted. The places of pilgrimage are held holy because of the saints only. To seek the company of such saints, Namdevji prays to God again and again.
Presachon sangain dhoh hoye suvarg.
Taisa bhetai narayan sant sangai.
Just as the touch of the philosopher’s stone turns iron into gold, in the same way one can attain God in the company of saints. Describing this, Namdev says:
O God, grant me the company of the saints.
I don’t ask for anything else from Thee.
The entire poetry of Namdev is full of beautiful emotions. Right from his childhood, Namdev remained absorbed in meditation of Vithal. He wanted Vithal’s idol to laugh and to talk to him; accept his love for him, bestow his benediction upon him and partake of offering of food made by him. All such feelings are found in his verses.
Namdev was full of love for God. He says: O God, you are the master of the downtrodden,
You know the devotees’ minds.
You have tethered me to the worldly peg.
Just as a calf is allowed to go to the cow
for a moment only, I too have been placed
in the same position.
With tearful eyes, day and night and with
outstretched arms I look forward to
meeting You but why don’t You appear?’
Namdev, in his dialogue with God, has expressed his helplessness and sought compassion. Sometimes his simplicity is clearly discernible. Talking of the playfulness of Lord Krishna during his childhood, Namdev beautifully describes the scenes of filial love. His sad state of mind and that of his elder brother and Guru Nivriti Nath at the demise of Gyaneshwar, has been described as under:
Nirvirtidev mahnai karita samabhan.
Kahi ketya mam rahat nahi.
Bandhya tavyacha pulastai paat.
Audh bara vata murdtati.
Maybapain aamha tygyelen jenha.
Aise sankat tevha jalen nahi.
Naam mehmai, petal hutashan.
Kara samadhan nirvartrichai. (Anga 1085)
Nirvriti Nath is feeling very restless like the breaking of a dam at a lake, its water flows out through different ways. His mind is in the same state. Breaking the tradition of sorrow, it has begun to wander about. He did not feel so much pain even at the death of his parents as he did at the time of the demise of Gyaneshwar. Namdev says ‘the fire of sorrow has flared up. Please grant peace of mind to Nivriti Nath.’
Such deep and delicate emotions are found in his poems. The importance of his verses lies, not only in the beauty of his expression, but in the sublime teachings contained therein.