Volume 2 Issue 37 | July 5, 2008 |


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From Barisal

Embracing the Feet of the Devoted

Saimon Zakaria

It's unusual for us to not know about the big things in Dhaka, but a lot of us have not heard about this. I myself didn't know about this until 2003. The news is that most Hindu temples in Dhaka have keertan sessions on Janmastami- Sri Krishna's birthday. I was attracted to the 'padabali' keertans in particular. I found out that some temples in Dhaka held padabali keertan programs that went on for weeks, divided up into parts. Accomplished keertan performers come to these shows from different regions of the country. Last August I got my invitation to attend a padabali keertain function at a temple from Sri Shambhuchandra Das who worked at the audio-visual studio Dhonichitro. The function was arranged by the Sri Sri Geeta Sangha. I learnt that the sessions would be from the pala called “Uttoragoushtholila”. The keertan artiste to be performing was the 40-year-old Dulal Chakrabarty from Barisal- a man well known within the field. His group was called the “Radha-Kalachand Community”. Since the show was taking a while to begin, I decided to have a talk with Shambhu and Manik Manobik. It turns out that after spending two years with his guru, Dulal himself became the main keertania. He has been performing all over Bangladesh for the last 24 years. Usually he performs six palas- 'Jagoron-Rosodgar', 'Goushtho', 'Shurjo Puja', 'Uttoragoushtho', 'Rupanurag' and 'Rasa-lila'. Dulal informed me that today's pala was 'Uttoragoushtolila'. The subject was the Lord Krishna himself, playing with his friends by the river Jamuna. Later Krishna returns home- and this pala is concerned with all that happens in between.

Even before the main keertanias arrive, the instrumentalists start playing their music. The lead keertania arrives and shows respect to the image of Krishna. The he starts singing: Probhu Krishna, Gobinda, Joy. Joy Radha Madhava. Joy Joy He. The devotees love it. Now the singers move forward into the main story. The instrumentals join the vocals to really set the mood.

The keertania sings:
Lord, will I not get the chance to touch your feet? Lord, do I not deserve your feet? …. Will I remain like this? So many sinners have been absolved by taking your name. Hare Krishna. If you do not love me, then…Lord, give me your feet…

The gardener in the forest is called a 'bonomali'. He cuts the weeds and makes the garden beautiful. If a king or a landlord has a large flower garden, there needs to be a gardener to tend to it. Gouroshundor, you are the gardener of the world. Men and women are the source of Bhakti. Gouro, you are the gardener of my heart. O Lord, look and see all the weeds of desire. Cleanse our hearts with your name, your love. Give us the privilege of serving you, Lord.

The gardener is playing binod. What does 'binod' mean? Beautiful. How was that play? The Lord used to play in Brindaban. How was the play in Brindaban?

Subol tells Balarama, “Balai dada, even after trying a hundred times, I could not beat Kanai. Tell us how we can hold him. He just touches us and leaves! The day we can hold him back, we'll win in the games. Every day we lose in the games and we have to carry him on our shoulders. But one day, I would like to ride on his shoulders.”

Hearing this, Balarama says, “Listen Subol. You can never hold him back, no matter what you say. If anyone in the world can hold his feet then he will own the Gobinda's feet forever. Kanai has come here to touch everyone.” Subol wants to be the first to touch Kanai's feet. As soon as he grabs Kanai's feet, he sees the Lord Krishna standing there. From then on, Balarama's group wins the games. The Lord is asked, “Kanai, why do you lose at the games these days? You used to win!”

The Lord Krishna says, “O Brother, this habit of losing is not new. For ages I have been losing to my devotees.” Sri Krishna loses to his devotees. Hare Krishna. Bhagaban says- my devotees are my mother and father. Devotees are my lords. I go in whatever direction the Bhakta wants me to go. Hare Krishna. Bhagaban says- when I lose and have to carry Subol on my shoulders, his feet rest on my chest. Then I embrace Subol's feet. Why? I embrace my devotee's feet.

The devotees are now completely immersed in the music and words. The keertania continues:

I lose everyday and hold Subol's feet to my chest. Hare Krishna. Gouro Hari is playing. Hare Krishna. Both have come to the river banks to play. Krishna comes up to the river bank and calls the gopis. Gouro Hari is calling the worldly people- O worldly folk, how much longer will you wallow in material things? Come to the river banks. Hare Krishna. Nitai Gouro Hari says- I have no regrets about what life is. But what I have gained and then lost makes me sad. You can forget the pain of never having. But it is hard to forget the pain of losing. Hare Krishna.

The Lord has brought these people together. We call them 'people'. But are they? If you want to be a person then go where you will encounter another. If you want to be a person, then touch another's feet. There is no divide between Muslim and Hindu. Gouro Hari calls everyone and says, “stop the games now! Look at the sky, night is falling. Stop the games and go home.”

And so it goes. The keertan started with Krishna and his friends starting their play on the banks of the river Jamuna. It ended with dusk falling and everyone going home. The keertan is all about what happens in between. Just like Krishna's play, it is quite clear when the keertan is over, and just like Krishna and his friends, it is time for the audience to go home.

Translated by Abak Hussain

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