Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Astachchap Poets : Praising Sri Krishna

The published Albums by Bhajan Maestro Purshottamdas Jalota are few and these are a Collector’s delight not only for their choice of very best in devotional poetry but the magical voice that continues to regale listeners. Praising Krishna-Astachhap poets is one such Album.

One of the major proponents of Saguna Bhakti has been Vallabhacharya of Sixteenth century. The devotional sect formed by him and his son & successor, Vitthalnath was based on the worship of Shrinathji, a form of Lord Krishna. The deity is worshiped through a process of elaborate rituals personifying the Lord as a living person.The hymns written in Braj Bhasa by the eight saint-poets formed the basis of temple worship or what has been called as Haveli Sangeet. These eight poets are disciples of Vallabhacharya and Vitthalnath. As introduction to the Album Pushottamdas Jalota describes the meaning of ‘Astachhap’ as the influence or ‘Chhap’ of these eight poets on the Indian society.

Paramanandadas,Nanddas,Govindswami,Khumbandas,Chaturbhujdas,Krishnadas,Surdas,Chittswami are these Astachhap poets.The selection of the poetry has been done according to the timing of seva or service offered to Srinathji starting from the morning Darshan to the Shayana or ‘bedtime’ of the Lord. The selection of the ragas has been in consonance to the timing of the seva. The Album starts with mangala or the first darshan of the Lord with a composition in Raga Durga-Chitta ko chora abahin jo paun by Paramanandadas wherein the devotee speaks of giving milk and butter to the Manohar in person. The singing portrays a persuasive mood where the Lord is awakened in the morning.

The next poetry by Nandadas Ram Krishna kahiye uthi bhor has been sung in Raga Bhairav,and is sung during Shringara where the Lord is dressed up in fineries.The song focuses that both Rama and Krishna are the incarnations of Vishnu. The rendition in this morning raga by the Maestro is mesmerizing.

Shringar is followed by Gvala,the third Darshan of the Lord when Krishna takes the cows to graze and is dressed as a cowherd.The composition by Govindswami Kaha karun baikuntha jaun is sung in Raga Darbari for the seva.The poet says that there is no point in going to heaven, as Krishna’s flute only resounds in Vrindavan. Purshottamdas Jalota being a master of the art again does full justice in evoking the appropriate mood.

The next Seva is Rajabhoga where Krishna’s feasting in his main meal of the day is celebrated.The poetry of Kumbhandas is used for the hymn during this period of darshan.Bhijata kaba dekhaun ina naina is the composition sung in Raga Hamira.The devotee in ecstatic mood desires to see Radha and Krishna beneath the Kadamba tree in the monsoon rain.The intense desire is reflected in the singing of Bhajan Samrat.

Surdas composition is used as hymn for the folloeing darshan i.e,Utthapana or awakening of the Lord after the mid-day sleep.Ab main nacyau bahut gopala is the popular number sung in Raga Mishra Khamaj.This is a celebrated song in the repertoire of Purshottamdas Jalota.

Bhoga is the next darshan where the Lord is offered fruit and sweets in the middle of the afternoon.The hymns of Chaturbhujadas Naina aisi bana pari/binu dekhe giridharana mukha jugabhara ganata ghari has been used for the seva. Sung in Raga Bhopali the single-minded devotion of the poet is manifested.

The hymns of Chittaswami Pritama priti ten basa kinon sung in Raga Yman form the song for the Sandhya Arati where the evening worship of the Lord is done. The tenderness of this special hour is brought to life by the rendition.

The Shayana forms the last seva where the Lord is left for His sleep. Gvalino Krishna darasa ko ataki is the composition by Krishnadas sung in Raga Malkauns as a hymn for this period of darshan. The rendition represents a form of lullaby ending the day-long seva of the Lord.

The last piece is a selection from Sursagar where Surdas sings in praise of his guru Vallabhacharya Bharaso dridha ina charanan mein (Firm is my faith in the feet of my Lord) is the perfect ending to this Album sung in Raga Bhimpalasi by the inimitable Purshottamdas Jalota.

The Album is accompanied by exhaustive sleevenotes by Dr.Rupert Snell,Reader in Hindi at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.The Album was originally produced in 1993 by Audiroec Limited,U.K.Of late it has been released in India through the subsidiary of the company in India under the label of Audiorec Classics. This timeless Album is a Collector’s delight and is a must possession for all those keeping interest in the divine poetry.

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