Monday, November 26, 2007

Rama Setu in Bhaktamaal

bhakti, bhakta, bhagwant, guru - naam chatur bapu ek
inke pad-vandan kiye, naashain vighna anek

{devotion, devotee, Bhagwan, Guru - four names of the same object
by praying to their holy-feet, all obstacles vanish}

Above is the preface of a great medieval work called 'Bhaktamaal', of Sant Sri Nabhadas-ji. Bhaktamaal can be said to be the first ever collection of biographies and narrative of the different Bhaktas of Bharat - irrespective of sect or sampradaya.

As per the anecdotal traditions, he was commanded by his Guru Sri Agradasa-ji to write a collective narrative of all the Bhaktas of Bharatvarsh, irrespective of the panth. Nabahdas-ji, who was not literate, asked how he would be able to write. Guru blessed him and said that all the Bhaktas themselves would appear to him one by one and narrate/write their own tale.

Thus we have Bhaktamaal, which starting from Satayuga, down to midieval ages, narrates the story of known-unknown Bhaktas.

When and where did he live? Scholars have different opinions. Like all Bhaktas, he has said almost nothing about himself. But most agreed upon opinion is that he was born towards the beginning of the 16th century when Mugals had arrived. He mentions about physically meeting Tulsidas-ji to compile his narrative into Bhaktamaal. So that makes him near-contemporary of Sant Sri Tulsidas-ji

In opinion of bhasha-scholars like Acharya Sri Ram Chandra Shukla, Nabhadasji's parents were Telugu. According to him, he was born in Tailanga-desh, at a place called Rama-Bhadrachal on the northern banks of Godavari, and his father Sri Ramdas ji, himself was a Bhakta.

Like Tulsidas ji, he has mentioned in the background, the political situation of his contemporary times. he says:

gond ganvaar nripaal kali, yavan maha mahipaal,
saam na daam na bheda ab, keval danda karaal !!

{Kaliyuga has truely arrived when our nripala-s (kshatriyas) have become quality-less, and yavana-s have become the ultimate emporers.
sama, dama, and bheda - all these have disappeared, and only danda (suppression) is in vogue}

Anyways, Bhaktamaal is a great work, a complete encyclopedia of our Bhakti tradition, which after Nabhadas, his shishya-s like Bhakta Sri Priyadas-Ji continued to revise and append with newer entries like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and also provided commentaries on the older ones.

In the Bhaktamaal, there is an interesting mention of Sri Ram Setu as follows:

tin ke rAmAnand pragaT visvamangal jinu bapu dharyo
Sri rAmAnuj paddyati pratAp avani amR^t hai anusaryo
anantAnand kabIr sukhA padmAvati narahari
pIpA bhAvAnand raidAs dhanA sen sursur kI gharahari
auro sisya prasisya ek te ek ujAgar
visvamangal AdhAr sarvAnand dasadhA Agar
bahut kAl bapu dhAri kai pranat janan kau pAr diyo
Sri rAmAnand raghunAth jyon dutiya setu jaga taran kiyo

A fluid translation of the above pada which is in braja bhasha:

in his (Sri Raghavanand's) house appeared Ramanand, taking body for the benefit of the world,
And followed the graceful path shown by Sri Ramanuj Acharya, the very nectar on this earth.
Anant-Anand, Kabir, Sukha, Padmavati, and Naraharidas
Pipadas, Bhavanand, Ravidas, Dhanna, and Sen etc,
(All these) and many more were his disciples and further their disciples, one brighter than the other.
For the sake of good to the world, he spread devotion in all the ten directions,
and lived for a long time delivering countless humans (from entangling worldliness)
Indeed! Sri Ramanand constructed a second Setu, just Like Lord Ram before him, for people to cross (this ocean of) the world.

hits since Chaitra 7, 2064 Vikram (March 26, 2007)