Ramta Padhaaro Ganpati

This is a Meera bhajan from Rajasthan. We learnt it from Mahesha Ram ji. It invokes the Lord of Beginnings, Ganesha, inviting him and all the other gods to our ‘nij mandir’, our very own, deeply personal, temple – this body, where we may welcome all the gods if we prepare it well enough.

Dhoop khevaada agarbatti nij mandariye mo
Ramta padhaaro Ganpati

Moose ri asvaari vaala Ganpat aaya
Sang ma re laaya Riddhi Siddhi

Nandi ri asvaari vaala Shiv ji aaya
Sang ma re laaya Parvati

Raam ji re aaya vhaala, re Lachhman aaya
Sang ma re laaya Sita sati

Anjani ka jaaya vhaala, re Hanumant aaya
Sang me re laaya amar booti

Bolya Meera bai, ne Girdhar gaayo
Guru milya hai Ravidas 

Stop by on Your Travels, O Ganesha

Incense sticks in my self-temple are lit
Stop by on your travels, O Ganesha

A mouse for his vehicle, Ganesha arrives
Together with his wives, wealth and wisdom
Stop by, O Ganesha

Riding his bull, Shiva arrives
Parvati, his partner, by his side
Stop by, O Ganesha

Raam arrives, and Lakshman arrives
Together with Sita, embodiment of truth
Stop by, O Ganesha

Son of the wind, Hanuman arrives
Bringing the herb of eternal life
Stop by, O Ganesha

Meera says, in service of Krishna
I found Ravidas, my true guru
Stop by, O Ganesha

Translation by Vipul Rikhi
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Kaachi Chhe Kaya Thaari

This body is perishable. The yarns we spin about ourselves and the world are false. Gorakh nudges us to confront these difficult truths in this song, insistently asking, “Who made this fragile body?” Gorakhnath was a legendary ascetic and poet from the 11-12th century, widely known for popularizing the Nath Panth and its yogic practices. See more at www.ishqfakiri.com

Kaachi chhe kaya thaari
Jhuthdi chhe maya Raam
Jhuthda se lekh likhaaya Raam
Kaachi ho, kaun ghadeli thaari kaya?

Ghat maan hi Ganga Raam
Ghat maan hi Jamuna Raam
Ghat maan hi teerath nhaaya Raam
Kaachi ho…

Ghat maan hi amba Raam
Ghat maan hi ambi Raam
Ghat maan hi chaakhan-haara Raam
Kaachi ho…

Ghat maan hi taala Raam
Ghat maan hi koonji Raam
Ghat maan hi kholan-haara Raam
Kaachi ho…

Machhinder prataap jati Gorakh bole re
Samjhya so hi nar paaya Raam
Kaachi ho… 

How Frail Your Body

How frail your body, how false your world
How untrue the account you give of it
O Raam, dear Raam
Pray tell, do tell
Who fabricated your frail body?

In the body, Ganga flows
In the body, Yamuna flows
In the body, the pilgrim who takes the dip
O Raam, dear Raam
Pray tell…

In the body, the ripe mango
In the body, the raw mango
In the body, the one who tastes and knows
O Raam, dear Raam
Pray tell…

In the body, the lock
In the body, the key
In the body, the one who opens the door
O Raam, dear Raam
Pray tell…

With Machhinder’s grace
Gorakh says
One who got this, got everything
O Raam, dear Raam
Pray tell…

(translation by Vipul Rikhi)

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Shartiyun Aain Ta

Allah, you’ve made lovers
Of many different kinds
One waits on the path
Another wakes all night…

Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, the deeply loved Sindhi Sufi poet of 18th century, spoke through the famous tragic love legends of the Punjab and Sindh region. In this song Latif speaks in the voice of Sasui, whose beloved Punhoon has been wrested away from her on the morning following her wedding night by Punhoon’s kinsmen angered by the cross-community marriage. This is a well-known song sung by many different singers in the oral traditions of Shah Latif, which straddle both sides of the border between Pakistan and India.

Sasui is a Brahmin girl abandoned at birth by her parents and raised in Bhambhor by a childless Muslim washerman and washerwoman couple. Her crime is to fall in love with a stranger called Punhoon, who is King Aari Jaam’s son. For this crime, her punishment is to have her husband abducted on the morning following her wedding night! He’s plied through the night with alcohol by his brothers and then put on to their camels and taken across the desert, back to where he came from. Sasui, determined as steel, sets off alone across the hot desert, without any supplies, in the pursuit of her retreating beloved…

In this moment, Sasui is stepping into the harsh Thar desert when her friends try to stop her from embarking on this impossible journey. She brushes them off with the words of this song. She knows that the path to finding her Beloved, her truth, her own true self, cannot be without the necessary striving and suffering.

Allahu aasikan ji beli khalke kedi jaat
Hikda vithai hin vaat te, bya jaage saari raat
Pan vo dost ain bevafa jaat ja
Jo ko deey landhe nindhrun karin

Shartiyun aain ta vinyodi vinyo la
Muinjhodi pech Punhal saan
Muinjhodi lekh lakhanta

Allah miyaan, hede sheher Bhambhor mein la
Med miskeen ji manyodi manyo la
Shartiyun aain ta…

Allah miyaan, uth Aari Jaam ja la
Daaghan daan diyodi diyo la
Shartiyun aain ta…

Allah miyaan, shartiyun Shah Latif chain la
Laalun laal Latif chain la
Aahe andhar aavaan unyodi unyo la
Shartiyun aain ta…

Friends, Be On Your Way 

Allah, you’ve made lovers
Of many different kinds
One waits on the path
Another wakes all night
But those lovers are false
Who drift into sleep
At the fall of day

Friends, be on your way
My destiny is written
Friends, you go your way
I’m bound to Punhoon

Oh Allah
In the city of Bhambhor
Hear the plea of this poor wretch
My destiny is written

Oh Allah
Put shackles on the feet
Of the camels of Aari Jaam
My fate is sealed

Oh Allah
Shah Latif says, listen friends
The thirst within me is intense
I belong to desert ways

Translation: Vipul Rikhi and Shabnam Virmani

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Ber Chalya Mera Bhai

O wise one, I was the first to be born
Then my elder brother
With great fanfare my father was born
In the end my mother

All things seem possible in the upside-down world of Kabir! I am born first and the mother is born last; an ant carries an elephant for her dowry; the baby in the womb speaks but not the child that is born. What does it all mean? We, who are ever seeking for meanings (and perhaps ever failing), are hopelessly baffled by the ‘ulatbaansi’ (upside-down verse) of Kabir. Perhaps it is we, not Kabir, who are looking at the world upside-down, the wrong way round. I heard this song from Mahesha Ram ji of Chhatangarh village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Ber chalya mera bhai
Magan hui, ber chalya mera bhai
Raam re naam ro gelo re pakdo
Chhodo ni moorkhaai
Raam re naam ro gelo re pakdo
Chhodo ni ghamandaai

Pehle toh guruji main janmya
Peechhe bada bhai
Dhoom dhaam sa pita re janmya
Sabse peechhe maai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Pehle toh guruji doodh jamaayo
Peechhe gaay ne doi
Bachhda unra rame pet mein
Ghrit bechva gayi
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Keedi chali saasre
Nau man surmo saath
Haathi unra haath mein
Oont lapetya jaai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Eenda hata bolta
Bachhiya bolya naai
Kahat Kabira suno bhai saadho
Moorakh samjhe naai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Time is Slipping Away

Time is slipping away, my friend
Meditate – time is slipping away
Take the path of Raam’s name
Quit this silly pride

O wise one, I was the first to be born
Then my elder brother
With great fanfare my father was born
In the end my mother
Time is slipping away…

O wise one, first the yogurt was set
Then the cow got milked
While the cow was yet to deliver
The butter fetched a good price
Time is slipping away…

The ant goes to her husband’s home
Nine bags of kohl, her dowry
In one hand, she carries an elephant
Under the other arm, a camel
Time is slipping away…

The unborn child could speak
The newborn child says nothing
Says Kabir, listen seekers
Fools can go on guessing
Time is slipping away…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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Chala Chali Ka Khela

It’s all a game of come-and-go! Nothing stays; everything slips away. Fleeting, transient, impermanent. And, therefore, beautiful! In this poignant yet delightful song, the saint-poet Brahmanand speaks directly of this truth. I learnt this song through Mooralala Marwada. You can listen to his version on Ajab Shahar here.

Sab chala chali ka khela
Do din ka hai jug maan mela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Koi chala gaya, koi jaave
Koi gathhdi baandh sidhaave
Koi khada taiyaar akela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Kar paap kapat jaal maaya
Dhan laakh karod kamaaya
Sang chale nahin ek dhela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Ghar maat pita sab bhaai
Tere ant suha ek naai
Ud jaayega hans akela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Yeh nashvar sab sansaara
Kar bhajan prabhu ka pyaara
Brahmanand kahe sun chela
Sab chala chali ka khela

It’s all a game of come-and-go

It’s all a game of come-and-go
Our meetings in the world are fleeting
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Someone’s going, someone’s gone
Someone’s packing their bags to go
Another stands alone, ready for the road
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Plotting, scheming in the web of life
You amassed a billion in wealth
Couldn’t take a penny when you went
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Mother, father, siblings and friends
No one comes along at the end
The swan flies away alone
It’s all a game of come-and-go

The world’s in the throes of death
Meditate on the master, my friend
Brahmanand says, listen seeker
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Translation: Vipul Rikhi and Shabnam Virmani
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Lai Re Naam

Remember the Name, take the name – the name is what saves! This ‘Name’ is the breath, the inner sound, the energy, which keeps us alive! Why not remember it, stay connected with it, and find in it the ground of our being, as this song gently suggests?

I learnt this song through Velagana Bhil from Kutch. You can listen to his raw, powerful version here.

Lai re naam, lai re naam, naam se tire
Naam bhooli aatma, bhamti phire ji

Baahare ubho mrigalo khetar mein chare
Dhani aave dhore ubho bhajto phire ji
Lai re naam…

Aandhade ne maala deeni, phenkto phire
Moorakh haathde heero deeno, dharti dhare
Lai re naam…

Nugura na neema deeno, kehto phire
Pehere kastoori kapda, tel mein tare
Lai re naam…

Saadhuda na sang jaaye, sudharo phire
Dev Dungarpuri bolya, naam se tire
Lai re naam…

Remember the Name

Remember the Name
Chant the Name
The Name is what saves
One who forgets the Name
Wanders aimlessly

The deer grazes the crops in the field
When the keeper arrives, it turns and flees
 Remember the Name…

Pearls in a blind man’s hand don’t stay
A fool fritters his diamonds away
Remember the Name…

The fool thinks his inner cloth is for show
Smears with perfumes his musk-scented robe
Remember the Name…

Seek good company if you want to re-form
Dev Dungarpuri says, the Name transforms
Remember the Name…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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Jab Lag Sukhiyo Shareer

 

Indian philosophy is understood to propose four stages of life – childhood, youth, middle age and old age, with prescribed dharmas for each stage. This is usually understood in the culture to mean that inner work, meditation, spiritual search or satsang are literally a ‘last resort’, to be postponed diligently till old age while the duties and pleasures of the householder’s life hold sway in youth. Kabir turns this on its head. He says the best time to meditate is now, while your body is still young and willing. In old age, with no prior practice, neither body nor mind is going to buckle down to it! So do it now, while you’re well and the body is game! We learnt this song through Mahesha Ram ji of Rajasthan.

Hove re bhaag bhala re saadho
Satguru madiya, padiyo samand maan seer
Hansa re hove chug leejiye
Naam amolak heer

Peecche re yaad nahin aavse re piya
Pinjde mein vyaape peed
Hari ra gun gaay le re haan
Saadhu bhai, jab lag sukhiyo shareer

Hove re joban hata bhaj leejiye
Jej nahin karna beer
Vikal budhaapo tane aavse re piya
Manado nahin jhaale dheer
Hari ra gun…

Hove re pal pal kshan kshan aayu ghatat hai
Jyon anjali ko neer
Phir re hanso nahin aavse re piya
Maansarovariye ri seer
Hari ra gun…

Hove re sab devan ro dev Raamaiyo
Sab peeraan ro peer
Kehet Kabira bhaj leejiye
Sukhsaagariye ri seer
Hari ra gun…

While You are Well

Sing the praises of Hari, brother
While you’re well and the body is game
You won’t remember to do it later
When your frame is rattling with pain

Oh yes, my fortunes improved, the stream
Merged with the ocean, my true guru came
If you’re a swan, then seek
Only the precious jewel of the Name
Sing the praises…

Meditate while you still have youth
Don’t delay, brother, don’t wait till the end
A restless old age is creeping up on you
Your heart will lose all patience
Sing the praises…

Life slips out of our hands like water
Each moment, each instant, trickling away
The swan returns to the great mountain lake
It won’t pass anymore on this way
Sing the praises…

Oh yes, the god of all gods is Raam
The saint of all saints
Kabir says, meditate on that ocean
Of bliss, and become a part of it
Sing the praises…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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