“In the imperishable realm of the Formless Lord, I play the flute of the unstruck sound current.”
God’s name was always on the lips of Bhagat Namdev Ji. He was asked by the king to show miracles. Bhagat Namdev Ji refused to do so and was thrown before a drunk elephant to be crushed to death. God saved His own saint. Bhagat Namdev Ji spent the last day of his life in village Guman, now in district Gurdaspur, Punjab (India).
Guru Granth Saheb recognizes many saints of the Bhakti movement of medieval India. Namdev are the saints belonging to this movement which swept across the North India from 1100 A.D. till 1600 A.D. When Fifth Guru Guru Arjan dev ji compiled Guru Granth Saheb, he decided to give some recognition to the saints of Bhakti movement, that is the reason that Guru Granth Saheb contains verses of such saints. In some cases Guru Granth Saheb is the only voice remained for such saints over the years.
According to the generally accepted version of the current traditions, Namdev was born in AD 1270 to Damasheti, a low-caste tailor, and his wife, Gonabai, in the village of Naras-Vamani, in Satara district of Maharashtra. Janabai, the family’s maidservant and a bhakta and poetess in her own right, records the tradition that Namdev was born to Gonabai as a result of her worship of Vitthala in Pandharpur. Namdev was married before he was eleven years of age to Rajabal, daughter of Govinda sheti Sadavarte. He had four sons and one daughter, Under the influence of saint Jnanadeva, Namdev was converted to the path of bhakti. Vitthala of Pandharpur was now the object of his devotion and he spent much of his time in worship and kirtan, chanting mostly verses of his own composition.
In the company of Jnanadeva and other saints, he roamed about the country and later came to the Punjab where he is said to have lived for more than twenty years at Ghuman, in Gurdaspur district, where a temple in the form of samadh still preserves his memory. This temple was constructed by Sardar Jassa Singh Ramgarhia and the tank by its side was got repaired by Rani Sada Kaur , mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh . In his early fifties, Namdev settled down at Pandharpur where he gathered around himself a group of devotees. His abhangas or devotional lyrics became very popular, and people thronged to listen to his kirtan. Namdev’s songs have been collected in Namdevachi Gatha which also includes the long autobiographical poem Tirathavah. His Hindi verse and his extended visit to the Punjab carried his fame far beyond the borders of Maharashtra. Sixty-one of his hymns in fact came to be included in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Saheb. These hymns or sabdas share the common characteristic of lauding the One Supreme God distinct from his earlier verse which carries traces of idolatry and saguna bhakti. In the course of his spiritual quest, Namdev had, from being a worshipper of the Divine in the concrete form, become a devotee of the attributeless ( nirguna) Absolute.
Bhagat Nam Dev is a pioneer of the Radical bhakti School. Though he appeared a century earlier than Kabir, his religious and social views are very much like those of Kabir. He unambiguously repudiates all the four fundamentals of Vaisnavism. Though in his devotional approach, he is clearly a monotheist, he makes many pantheistic statements too, e.g., every thing is God; there is nothing but God; consider the world and God to be one; the foam and the water are not different. Chaturvedi writes: “Sant Nam Dev seemed to believe both in transcendence and immanence, in pantheism and nondualism. His devotion was purely of the non-attributional absolute. He also considers God to be immanent, everywhere, in all hearts, and the Creator of everything. Like Kabir and the Sufis, Namdev is very other worldly. He says, “The strength of contempt of the world should be in the body an unchanging companion. One should lay aside differences between oneself and others, and feel no anxiety for things of the world.”Ranade also writes: “He (Nam Dev) tells us that it is impossible that the pursuit of God can be coupled with a life of Samsara. If it had been possible for a man to find God while he was pursuing Samsara, then Sanaka and others would not have grown mad after God. If it had been possible for him to see God while carrying on the duties of a householder, the great Suka would not have gone to the forest to seek God. Had it been possible for people to find God in their homes, they would not have left them to fond out. Nam Dev has left all these things, and is approaching God in utter submission (Abhg. 83).
NamDev’s cosmogenic views are also orthodox. He says that God created maya and “maya is the name of the power that placeth man in the womb.”Indirectly, he is neither happy with the world, nor with the human birth. Him, shop, shopkeeper, men and everything are unreal excepting God. In this background he seeks release from the world and suggests renunciation: ” Namdev gave up trade, and devoted himself exclusively to the worship of God.
The world being a play of maya and not being a worthwhile of spiritual endeavours, Namdev’s goal is to have union with God through devotion and singing. His praises. He says, “I perform worship, sing God’s praises and meditate on Him for eight pahar in a day i.e, round the clock. At the same time, he suggests good conduct and purity of life. For, God created all men alike. Though he holds every person responsible lor his acts, he clearly does not believe in a world rigidly governed by karma. 13ecause he says: If everything were determined by karma, who created karma originally?
NamDev not only claims union with God, but, like Kabir, also states that more than once God miraculously intervened on his behalf to reveal Himself to him, or help him. Without doubt, Nam Dev’s approach remains otherworldly both before and after his achievement. At one time, he even gave up work so as to remain absorbed in his worship and meditations. He never initiated any religious institution or movement. His was a solitary search for God, without creating any social or religious organisation.
We find that in his repudiation of Vaisnava doctrines, in his metaphysical ideas, methodology and goal, and more particularly in his otherworldly approach to the world and society, Namdev’s views are quite identical with those of Kabir.
Shabad by Bhagat Nam Dev in the Siri Guru Granth Saheb where the temple rotated towards his direction as he was not allowed to sit in there.
Laughing and playing, I came to Your Temple, O Lord.
While Naam Dayv was worshipping, he was grabbed and driven out. || 1 ||
I am of a low social class, O Lord;
why was I born into a family of fabric dyers? || 1 || Pause ||
I picked up my blanket and went back, to sit behind the temple. || 2 ||
As Naam Dayv uttered the Glorious Praises of the Lord,
the temple turned around to face the Lord’s humble devotee. || 3 || 6 |
Shabad by Bhagat Nam Dev in the Siri Guru Granth Saheb on how he had the darshan of the Lord.
Nam Dev milked the brown cow,
and brought a cup of milk and a jug of water to his family god. || 1 ||
Please drink this milk, O my Sovereign Lord God. Drink this milk and my mind will be happy.
Otherwise, my father will be angry with me. || 1 || Pause ||
Taking the golden cup, Nam Dev filled it with the ambrosial milk,
and placed it before the Lord. || 2 ||
The Lord looked upon Nam Dev and smiled.
This one devotee abides within my heart. || 3 ||
The Lord drank the milk, and the devotee returned home.
Thus did Nam Dev come to receive the Blessed Vision of the Lord’s Darshan. || 4 || 3 ||
Extracted from Gurbani De Racheta by S Abnashi Singh and Gurvinder Singh.
Published by: Gaganmai Thaal International,Jandiala Guru,Amritsar