Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Words Divine, Songs Divine

On the Occasion of Sri Krishna Janamashtami

A special post in the series: "All Music is Only the Sound of His Laughter"

Three Beautiful Aphorisms by Sri Aurobindo

Three Beautiful Songs by Pandit Jasraj, Ustad Rashid Khan and Lata Mangeshkar

Radha-Krishna, Rajput school; Source: Google Images

There are four very great events in history, the siege of Troy, the life and crucifixion of Christ, the exile of Krishna in Brindavun and the colloquy with Arjuna on the field of Kurukshetra. The siege of Troy created Hellas, the exile in Brindavun created devotional religion, (for before there was only meditation and worship), Christ from his cross humanised Europe, the colloquy at Kurukshetra will yet liberate humanity. 
Yet it is said that none of these four events ever happened.

God has so arranged life that the world is the soul's husband; Krishna its divine paramour. We owe a debt of service to the world and are bound to it by a law, a compelling opinion, and a common experience of pain and pleasure, but our heart's worship and our free and secret joy are for our Lover.


The seeker after divine knowledge finds in the description of Krishna stealing the robes of the Gopis one of the deepest parables of God's ways with the soul, the devotee a perfect rendering in divine act of his heart's mystic experiences, the prurient and the Puritan (two faces of one temperament) only a lustful story. Men bring what they have in themselves and see it reflected in the Scripture.

Click here for the previous post in this series.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

On Harmonious Living Spaces - Outer and Inner

A few months ago I had written a post inspired by some thought-provoking words of Rabindranath Tagore.

Today it feels right to reflect upon the last sentence of that post...that of the significance of Tagore's thought on how we may design our living spaces. But before I start, a disclaimer is necessary. All that I am about to say here is based entirely on my personal view on how to design visually appealing and comfortable living spaces. And certainly, as someone with no training, professional or otherwise, in interior design and decor, my view is very much the result of my trials and errors in creating my personal living spaces.

Recently I watched a Hindi film titled, Listen Amaya. The film is actually quite interesting and different from the usual masala and formula films dished out by the Hindi film industry; the storyline is sensitive and delicate, though at times I felt that some parts were handled in a rather “filmy” and somewhat clichéd manner. But then this post is not a critical review of the film.

What caught my particular attention was the visual backdrop of the film. Well, I knew from the credits of the film that the whole set decor of the film was done by Fabindia and therefore expected a certain kind of visual sensibility and aesthetic appeal. And in a way it had generated my curiosity about the film because the visual backdrop of the film was a key aspect of the film why a few people familiar with my taste in home decor and interior design had recommended the film. Now those of you who frequent Fabindia stores know that there is a specific visual appeal and characteristic to the whole range of their products. And I will be honest in admitting that I personally like that kind of aesthetic appeal very much – the whole hand-woven, hand-made quality and look of fabrics, furnishings, combined with somewhat bold and rustic looking old-wood furniture and earthy-feel home accessories made of natural material. Mostly, it is the Indian touch and feel of some of these products that appeals to me very much. 

(Too many things on the walls crowding up a very tiny corner. And what’s with that tall display stand in the bedroom? It not only makes the whole space stuffy and dark, it simply doesn’t make sense to display these objects in a bedroom- at least in my view)

But then sometimes too much of a good thing can also be....well, simply too much. That is at least how I felt when exposed to an overdose of all the Fabindia stuff in pretty much every shot of the film Listen Amaya. It sort of became a bit distracting and irritating to see an over-abundance of the “ethnic-chic-decorated” look. And since most of the film is shot in the interior locations (home settings such as living room, bedroom, kitchen etc, and coffee shop), there were plenty of occasions for the filmmakers to showcase the FabIndia style of home decor. And boy, did they use them all?! At times I was wondering if the filmmakers had ever heard of the word “restraint”! I mean, why zoom in so many times on the coasters and that serving tray? Perhaps it was the nature of their contract with Fabindia that compelled them to highlight everything in the set decor which was from Fabindia – from coffee mugs to serving trays to table coasters to kitchen utensils, from bookshelves to beds to chairs to sofa sets to wall decor to all other doo-dads that filled up the living spaces of the characters in the film. The result was that the spaces shown in the film felt artificial, crowded, stuffy and over done. At least for my taste they did. 

                      (That tall shelf on the wall is so redundant and unnecessarily crowds up the space, in my view.)

As much as I like the Fabindia style (though I will also admit I have perhaps only a couple of objects in my home that were purchased from Fabindia – I generally prefer more direct and local sources than a retail chain outlet) does it mean that I would want to live in a “Fabindia style” museum which doesn’t allow my eyes or mind any visual and spatial relief? Certainly NO. And after seeing this film's visual backdrop I have become a bit more aware of how I want my living spaces to look and feel. My style (if I can call it that) involves more of a mix-and-match of different looks and styles with an aim to create a somewhat cleaner, natural, balanced and minimally decorated look. But that could be the subject of some later post, I suppose!

A living space is not “decorated” by merely lining up all the products bought from your favourite store(s). A beautiful and comfortable living space is put together over a period of time in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. And a conscious and deliberate process of creating a living space (whether it is a room or a corner of the room) includes not only the process of adding objects, but also eliminating and removing those objects that don’t fit in that space. Maybe that is another word – “remove” – which the set designers of Listen Amaya could have benefited from when planning the overall visual appeal of the film’s sets. Sometimes simply by removing a bit of the “stuff and fluff” and creating a visual relief can enhance the overall appeal of the space.  

But then all this is perhaps a subjective view. And others may feel very differently about everything I have said here. No issues there. Really!

While attending a Bonsai demonstration recently in Delhi, I was reminded of the significance of the idea of removing all the 'extras' which distract from the aesthetic appeal of the main object (in this case the bonsai plant or tree) that is to be highlighted. And just this past weekend I was reminded of this principle again in a very practical and applied way when I was arranging some greens and stems in a couple of tall vases in my home. Just a few snips of the extra-looking branches and leaves from the stems I was using actually made the whole arrangement look cleaner and balanced...and in a strange way, even fuller in its visual impact.

But what is perhaps most relevant and worth remembering is that these ideas of restraint and removing the fluff are not just limited to creating harmonious living spaces on the outside. The same principles apply to the spaces inside of us, where we live when we are by ourselves. Our minds, our thoughts, our emotions, our real inner living spaces. How do we practice restraint there? How do we remove the extra “stuff and fluff” from there so that we have cleaner, more harmonious and beautifully balanced inner spaces in which we dwell? 

And perhaps it is time now to remind ourselves of those forceful words of Gurudev Tagore, which inspired the previous post as well as this one: 

“Things in which we do not take joy are either a burden upon our minds to be got rid of at any cost; or they are useful, and therefore in temporary and partial relation to us, becoming burdensome when their utility is lost; or they are like wandering vagabonds, loitering for a moment on the outskirts of our recognition, and then passing on. A thing is only completely our own when it is a thing of joy to us.”

And this, I believe, is truly the key to a true “interior decor” – both of ourselves and our living spaces, of our inner and outer homes. 

(All stills from the film Listen Amaya are courtesy of Facebook page of Fabindia)

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Who is that Presence?

A Poem and A Song - III: A Series to Celebrate Art in All Forms 

It is actually quite amazing when you find the same thought being expressed through a picture, a poem, a song, or even a gesture.
Perhaps it happens because the thought has sunk deep into you, at least for the time being, and you just view a certain picture, read a certain poem and hear a certain song as expressions of that singular thought.
Or perhaps they really are conveying the same thought, but in different shades and hues. 
And it just so happens that when that very thought captured your attention, certain pictures, poems and songs also appeared before you allowing you to delve deeper into the thought and let it reveal its deeper essence to you.
Regardless of how it happens, it is always a moment to relish and cherish the beauty. The beauty of the picture, the song, the poem. The beauty of the experience. The beauty of the moment.

Artist: Prince Chand

I still remember the first time I heard the poem titled "Who" by Sri Aurobindo. It was being recited by someone at a public function. The immensity of what I felt at the moment can't be described in words. Since then I have read this poem so many times and every time it has been a blessing. 

The poem was written in 1909, and was first published in Karmayogin

Read it aloud to know Who Is. Who is That?


In the blue of the sky, in the green of the forest,
Whose is the hand that has painted the glow?
When the winds were asleep in the womb of the ether,
Who was it roused them and bade them to blow?

He is lost in the heart, in the cavern of Nature,
He is found in the brain where He builds up the thought:
In the pattern and bloom of the flowers He is woven,
In the luminous net of the stars He is caught.

In the strength of a man, in the beauty of woman,
In the laugh of a boy, in the blush of a girl;
The hand that sent Jupiter spinning through heaven,
Spends all its cunning to fashion a curl.

These are His works and His veils and His shadows;
But where is He then? by what name is He known?
Is He Brahma or Vishnu? a man or a woman?
Bodied or bodiless? twin or alone?

We have love for a boy who is dark and resplendent,
A woman is lord of us, naked and fierce.
We have seen Him a-muse on the snow of the mountains,
We have watched Him at work in the heart of the spheres.

We will tell the whole world of His ways and His cunning:
He has rapture of torture and passion and pain;
He delights in our sorrow and drives us to weeping,
Then lures with His joy and His beauty again.

All music is only the sound of His laughter,
All beauty the smile of His passionate bliss;
Our lives are His heart-beats, our rapture the bridal
Of Radha and Krishna, our love is their kiss.

He is strength that is loud in the blare of the trumpets,
And He rides in the car and He strikes in the spears;
He slays without stint and is full of compassion;
He wars for the world and its ultimate years.

In the sweep of the worlds, in the surge of the ages,
Ineffable, mighty, majestic and pure,
Beyond the last pinnacle seized by the thinker
He is throned in His seats that for ever endure.

The Master of man and his infinite Lover,
He is close to our hearts, had we vision to see;
We are blind with our pride and the pomp of our passions,
We are bound in our thoughts where we hold ourselves free.

It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless,
And into the midnight His shadow is thrown;
When darkness was blind and engulfed within darkness,
He was seated within it immense and alone.

And then hear this...Truth expressed in another way. A lovely rendition of Husn-e-haqiqi, written by Sufi poet Khwaja Ghulam Farid (1845-1901). 

Beautiful indeed. 

Singer: Arieb Azhar
Credit: This version with English subtitles is available via the youtube channel of 
Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry 

To see previous posts in this series, click here and here.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Imagine a Society Like This...

On the Occasion of Indian Independence Day....

For the Freedom that is Yet to be Won....

Imagine a Future Society...

Where the fulfilment an individual is seeking is “not the utmost development of his egoistic intellect, vital force, physical well-being and the utmost satisfaction of his mental, emotional, physical cravings, but the flowering of the divine in him to its utmost capacity of wisdom, power, love and universality and through this flowering his utmost realisation of all the possible beauty and delight of existence.”

Where the individual grasps the truth that “he is not only himself, but is in solidarity with all of his kind... That which we are has expressed itself through the individual, but also through the universality, and though each has to fulfil itself in its own way, neither can succeed independently of the other.” (Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle, pp. 46-47).

Where a substantial mass of individuals have experienced the inner evolution of consciousness and are leading their lives in accordance with an inner law of the spirit.

Where an individual’s law of the spirit leading him or her in a unique direction specifically suited for the individual’s progress is not in conflict with the life-direction of other individuals on their unique journeys of seeking for true subjectivism. Free-progress of the individual and infinite variation among the individual paths of progress captures the group consciousness as the underlying deepest truth of human experience.

Where individuals realize the inherent ideal purpose of their works. Writers’ hearts open wide to receive experiences and realizations that are translated into words and woven in beautiful prose and poetry that avoid unnecessary sensationalism and convey the deepest truths and ideals of human experience. Artists and sculptors create forms that carry them and their patrons into the realms and imaginations of formless. Musicians and singers in their music bring forth the stirrings of the depths of their souls and create a bridge between the form and formless for the listeners. Dancers bring into being deep, wide formless truths through their graceful forms and movements in front of which all purified human hearts would involuntarily bow in utmost humility.

Where children grow with self-discipline that comes from deeper freedom, not with mindless confusion and mind-numbing authority. Parents discover the true spirit behind the words – “child is the father of man.” Teachers and students are co-learners in their journeys to discover and uncover the truths of the world; they collaborate in a mutually respectful manner and deeply appreciate and grow from their differences. Education is not a business, and businesses are managed through human-centered and consciousness-based approaches. Business leaders worry less about the balance in their bank accounts but more about the balance in their junior-most employee’s retirement accounts. 

Wealth-generation as an important social activity has regained its heart and realizes its purpose in creating a warm luxurious reign of beauty, harmony, comfort and contentment for all. The weakest and poorest sections of the society are looked after by an enlightened socialistic economic setup where individual freedom and enterprise is just as valued and encouraged as state-run programs and enterprises. A spiritualized ethic of compassion and caring for all creation guides social action.  
Where small, sufficiently self-reliant economic and social aggregates are freely formed by individuals who have come together because of common interests, backgrounds, and affiliation. These aggregates encourage people to practice the kind of work that is deeply meaningful and fulfilling, but in the name of self-reliance and self-sufficiency there is no pressure to cover all needed areas of economic activity. The sphere of economic activity is determined by the creative potential of the people in a community, and the availability of natural and other resources in their geographical area. Reasonably regulated exchange of goods and services among the aggregates is preferred without encouraging mass and unlimited production of goods and services that could lead to unbridled commercialism, industrialism, and rule of the market. 

A small group of elected officials use a consensus-based decision making process to manage the necessary administrative functioning of the aggregate. Politics, law-enforcement, and other necessary administrative and governmental activities are chosen as life’s work by those individuals who see these fields of action as instruments with a deeper purpose to bring forth the ideal of Divine Life on earth. These individuals work toward increasing transparency in legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government.

Where such smaller aggregates are loosely and freely held together by a common spirit that ties them to larger aggregates. People are relatively free to move from one social aggregate to another, are able to make decent living in new places. This type of migration and assimilation is somehow smoother because of the already-loosening hold of one’s social and cultural egos that could prevent one from connecting to somewhat unfamiliar cultural and social norms. 

The tendency of political, social and cultural aggregates is not to dominate or devour the ones that are relatively weaker and poorer, but to aid them to grow and develop with their unique identities and traditions intact and blossoming. Cultural traditions, practices and values are not marketable items, but there is a free-flowing exchange of ideas and thoughts leading to new forms of synthesis of a variety of traditions and practices. 

The larger aggregate is secure in the unity of its spirit and in the diversity of its forms. With full confidence in such deep and inner security these aggregates interact with other large and small aggregates and collectivities in the spirit of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. Compassionate progressivism, free-spirited interdependence, shared prosperity and a free unity of nations guide international diplomacy.  

Illustration by Willy Pogany

Where there is a wider human tendency to live through and with pain, death and loss as the needed grist for the mill so that individual soul may progress and grow through such experiences. Humanity recognizes that the misery and violence resulting from exaggerated mental, vital and physical ego are crude but necessary steps to a golden future that is evolving through these stumbling efforts.

There is a kinder and more compassionate understanding and acceptance of those dark moments and life-phases that are part of overall human experience, and these are seen as opportunities for deepening one’s transformation. Peace comes from the realization that it is an endless journey to perfection that we are on. Tranquility comes from the knowledge that every little victory along the way is a marker to the countless victories that await us, and every little failure along the way is a sure sign of even more countless victories that await us. Calm courage of the spirit is the inner guide as individuals move through various stages and phases of life.

Imagine. We must. 

Create. Can we? 

Begin. How? 

Seek. We must. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Inner Truth of a Flower

A new post in the series - Satyam Shivam Sundaram

A series featuring inspiring words from various sources, words that speak of  timeless truths, words that remind me of the deeper and hidden truth behind surface events and phenomena, words that shine light when all seems dark, words that are just what I need - 
for this moment and for all times to come.

This is one of those passages which compel me to simply listen to the truth of these words and not add anything from my own limited mind. This is one of those passages which compel me to listen to the truth of these words again and again. 

And again if I still don't get it. 

"In the outer world of activity nature has one aspect, but in our hearts, in the inner world, it presents an altogether different picture.

Take an instance--the flower of a plant. However fine and dainty it may look, it is pressed to do a great service, and its colours and forms are all suited to its work. It must bring forth the fruit, or the continuity of plant life will be broken and the earth will be turned into a desert ere long. The colour and the smell of the flower are all for some purpose therefore; no sooner is it fertilised by the bee, and the time of its fruition arrives, than it sheds its exquisite petals and a cruel economy compels it to give up its sweet perfume. It has no time to flaunt its finery, for it is busy beyond measure. Viewed from without, necessity seems to be the only factor in nature for which everything works and moves. There the bud develops into the flower, the flower into the fruit, the fruit into the seed, the seed into a new plant again, and so forth, the chain of activity running on unbroken. Should there crop up any disturbance or impediment, no excuse would be accepted, and the unfortunate thing thus choked in its movement would at once be labelled as rejected, and be bound to die and disappear post- haste. In the great office of nature there are innumerable departments with endless work going on, and the fine flower that you behold there, gaudily attired and scented like a dandy, is by no means what it appears to be, but rather, is like a labourer toiling in sun and shower, who has to submit a clear account of his work and has no breathing space to enjoy himself in playful frolic.

But when this same flower enters the heart of men its aspect of busy practicality is gone, and it becomes the very emblem of leisure and repose. The same object that is the embodiment of endless activity without is the perfect expression of beauty and peace within.

Science here warns us that we are mistaken, that the purpose of a flower is nothing but what is outwardly manifested, and that the relation of beauty and sweetness which we think it bears to us is all our own making, gratuitous and imaginary.

But our heart replies that we are not in the least mistaken. In the sphere of nature the flower carries with it a certificate which recommends it as having immense capacity for doing useful work, but it brings an altogether different letter of introduction when it knocks at the door of our hearts. Beauty becomes its only qualification. At one place it comes as a slave, and at another as a free thing. How, then, should we give credit to its first recommendation and disbelieve the second one? That the flower has got its being in the unbroken chain of causation is true beyond doubt; but that is an outer truth. The inner truth is: Verily from the everlasting joy do all objects have their birth." 

~ Rabindranath Tagore
selection from Sadhana: Realisation of Love
(Photos by Suhas Mehra)

Friday, 9 August 2013

Only You

A Poem and A Song - II: A Series to Celebrate Art in All Forms 

It is actually quite amazing when you find the same thought being expressed through a picture, a poem, a song, or even a gesture.
Perhaps it happens because the thought has sunk deep into you, at least for the time being, and you just view a certain picture, read a certain poem and hear a certain song as expressions of that singular thought.
Or perhaps they really are conveying the same thought, but in different shades and hues. 
And it just so happens that when that very thought captured your attention, certain pictures, poems and songs also appeared before you allowing you to delve deeper into the thought and let it reveal its deeper essence to you.
Regardless of how it happens, it is always a moment to relish and cherish the beauty. The beauty of the picture, the song, the poem. The beauty of the experience. The beauty of the moment.

Some years ago, I discovered the amazing work of this Iranian-American artist, Rassouli. In most of his artworks that I have seen on the net I find a deep mystic quality and a sort of an invitation to go deep into the inspiration behind the work itself. An artist influenced by Sufism and Eastern mysticism, Rassouli takes the viewer to a journey within through his paintings. In his own words, "My paintings are inspirational for they allow the observer to experience infinite viewpoints and perceptions. They are not abstract for they represent what is actually more real than what our eyes are able to see. They allow the viewers to be inspired by taking their own perception beyond their senses and their surroundings."

In one of his artist statements, Rassouli says - "Creation is the product of synchronizing our energy with the universe. Once we experience the whole and recognize it, we become aware that we are nothing but the Divine Creative Force."

You, You Only Exist

You, you only exist
We pass away, till at last,
our passing is so immense
that you arise: beautiful moment,
in all your suddenness,
arising in love, or enchanted
in the contraction of work.

To you I belong, however time may
wear me away. From you to you
I go commanded. In between
the garland is hanging in chance; but if you
take it up and up and up: look:
all becomes festival!

Singer: Pandit Jasraj

To see previous post in this series, click here.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Of Pots and Religions...with a bit of Santoor and Piano thrown on the Wheel

It is the multi-faceted diversity and complexity of human nature, temperament, and inner tuning that requires and also explains why different people need different ways or paths on their spiritual journey. Each religion has captured some essential aspect of the Great Truth and each has made some important contribution to the overall march of humanity. The Supreme Being and Nature will not want any uniformity; diversity is the principle of Truth. So there will always be diverse paths, diverse religions and diverse teachers of the Truth showing different ways to the Truth. 

The quarrels of religious sects are like the disputing of pots, which shall be alone allowed to hold the immortalising nectar. Let them dispute, but the thing for us is to get at the nectar in whatever pot and attain immortality.
You say that the flavour of the pot alters the liquor. That is taste; but what can deprive it of its immortalising faculty? 
~ Sri Aurobindo

Humanity’s response to a diversity of religions has either involved a sense of disharmony and conflict, or in more recent times, a somewhat more tolerant but often aimless, postmodern religio-moral relativism resulting in an ethical void. A deeper seeking for Truth however is surely and gradually compelling a growing section of humanity—and signs of this awakening are already there all across the world—to strive toward a greater harmony between the diverse religions and spiritual paths. 

This may be accomplished either through something like a world-religion which may attempt to synthesize the truths emphasized by different religions known to humanity but harmonized in the light of a greater Supramental Truth that has not been a part of any religion so far. Or through something that is sort of an a-religious spirituality that transcends all religions. In fact, the first may be a beginning step for the second, though there again the truth of diversity will remain. 

Perhaps some of the new-age world music is already showing us the way of such harmony...such coming together, such confluence...

Rahul Sharma, Santoor: Richard Clayderman, Piano

Monday, 5 August 2013

Reckless Lovers

A Poem and A Song - I: A Series to Celebrate Art in All Forms 

It is actually quite amazing when you find the same thought being expressed through a picture, a poem, a song, or even a gesture.
Perhaps it happens because the thought has sunk deep into you, at least for the time being, and you just view a certain picture, read a certain poem and hear a certain song as expressions of that singular thought.
Or perhaps they really are conveying the same thought, but in different shades and hues. 
And it just so happens that when that very thought captured your attention, certain pictures, poems and songs also appeared before you allowing you to delve deeper into the thought and let it reveal its deeper essence to you.
Regardless of how it happens, it is always a moment to relish and cherish the beauty. The beauty of the picture, the song, the poem. The beauty of the experience. The beauty of the moment.

Dream by M.A.R. Chughtai

How does one write anything about a piece of art like this? It captures the essence of love between a lover and beloved, between two souls merging to become one, become earth and sky, become Radha and Krishna. No words are necessary. Only a feeling. Or if you must have some words, let them be of Rumi. Or of Amir Khusrow.

Love is reckless

Love is reckless; not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong,
consuming herself, unabashed.

Yet, in the midst of suffering,
Love proceeds like a millstone,
hard surfaced and straightforward.

Having died of self-interest,
she risks everything and asks for nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.

Without cause God gave us Being;
without cause, give it back again. 

Singer: Ustad Shujaat Khan, Lyrics: Amir Khusrow, 1253-1325

Friday, 2 August 2013

Timeless Literature, Timeless Songs

Sometimes when everything in the present is a bit confusing and chaotic, it helps to take refuge in the, I don’t mean personal past, but the larger history, or to be more precise, historical fiction. At least that’s what I did recently with the help of some of the works of the great Bankim Chandra Chatterji, the seer who gave India the mantra of Bande Mataram

Referring to his body of work as “pure gold” Sri Aurobindo writes this about Bankim Chandra: “Bankim, the greatest of novelists, had the versatility developed to its highest expression. Scholar, poet, essayist, novelist, philosopher, lawyer, critic, official, philologian and religious innovator,—the whole world seemed to be shut up in his single brain.” (Early Cultural Writings, pp. 103-104)

The masterpieces of this pioneering writer, set in a historical backdrop created by a vibrant mix of real events and some wonderful imagination inspired by those real events, are not only a delight to read, but also inspire one to rise beyond one’s narrow concerns and outlook and reach for those noblest heights of character that make life deeply meaningful and fulfilling.

He, whom Sri Aurobindo refers to as Rishi Bankim, “was a great poet, a master of beautiful language and a creator of fair and gracious dream-figures in the world of imagination... It is probable that the literary critic of the future will reckon Kapalkundala, Bishabriksha and Krishnakanter's Will as his artistic masterpieces, and speak with qualified praise of Devi Chaudhurani, Ananda Math, Krishnacharit or Dharmatattwa. Yet it is the Bankim of these latter works and not the Bankim of the great creative masterpieces who will rank among the Makers of Modern India. The earlier Bankim was only a poet and stylist—the later Bankim was a seer and nation-builder.” (ibid., 637-638)

Some of Bankim’s timeless works have also been adapted into films. Who can forget the film based on the classic novel Ananda Math that demonstrates the most unique contribution of Bankim to the cultural and political renaissance of India? It portrays the true spirit of patriotism and love for the motherland guided by a deeper, inner moral strength and spiritual fervour.

And even if one forgets the film, this beautiful song is truly unforgettable.

What a deep calling for the Divine...what divine voices of Geeta Dutt and Hemant Kumar...truly timeless. Selected stanzas of the Dasavatara Strotam from Jayadev’s Geet Govind when set to this remarkable composition by Hemant Kumar make possible for the listener a deep experiential sense of continuity and eternity. Divine Help is there in all times, in all ages...we must know how to Call. 

Lovers of old, I mean really old, Hindi film songs will also certainly remember the next song. The never-forgettable voice of Pankaj Mullick, the song was featured in the film Kopal Kundala made in 1939, based on a novel by Bankim Chandra Chatterji. 

What is unmistaken here is the sheer exuberance and eagerness of a lover going to meet the beloved, the anticipation of a devotee walking the path to unite with his or her Lord.

Bankim Chandra was a class apart in portraying the deeper sentiment of love, love that would be victorious after all kinds of tests and trials, love that would never weaken or chain or enslave but would serve as a deep source of strength for the lovers and set them free to pursue their life’s mission which would be beyond their narrow interests and petty ends. It is fitting to end this post with a beautiful and dreamy romantic song from a 1956 film Durgesh Nandini, based on the first novel written by Bankim Chandra. This again is a melodious composition by Hemant Kumar.


Click here for the previous post in this series.
Click here for all the posts in this series.