Friday, June 6, 2014

Rāmprasād: Man Re Krishi Kaaj Jano Na

The Bhakti tradition of India provides an interesting foil to the Sufi canon of Khorasan.

Rāmprasād Sen (Bengali: রামপ্রসাদ সেন; 1718-1775) was a Shakta poet and saint of eighteenth century Bengal. His Bhakti poems, usually addressed to the Hindu goddess Kali and known as Ramprasadi, are still popular in Bengal.

Born to a Tantric family, Rāmprasād became a disciple of Krishnananda Agamavagisha, a scholar and yogi in what is now Nadia in West Bengal. This was a time when forays of English, Danish, French and Portuguese power were consolidating military European bases and 'factories' in agricultural Bengal, displacing farmer and herder from these enclaves. Ramprasad became well known for his devotional songs, eventually becoming court poet for the king Krishna Chandra of Nadia.

Ramprasad created a new musical form that combined baul music with kirtan. The new style took root in Bengali culture with many poet-composers combining folk- and raga-based melodies. It was the fusion music of its time.

Structurally, the composition below is a ghazal, but the sublimation is no longer directed to a divine male or female 'Beloved' of the Sufi, it is a child's yearning for his Mother. Durga the ten-armed evil-slaying Goddess at the obverse, at the reverse Kali whose flames lick at the cremation ghat as she spreads her lap to take her child at the end of this life - that is the currency of sublimation in Ramprasadi.

মন রে কৃষি কাজ জান না, মন রে কৃষি কাজ জান না ।
এমন মানব-জমিন রইলো পতিত, আবাদ করলে ফলতো সোনা ।।

Man re, krishi-kaaj jano na, Man re, krishi-kaaj jano na
Eman manab-jamin railo patit, abad karle phalto sona.

O Mind, you know not to till; Mind, you know not to till
Such human-land stays fallow, tended would gold yield.

কালীনামে দাওরে বেড়া, ফসলে তছরূপ হবে না ।
সে যে মুক্তকেশীর শক্ত বেড়া, তার কাছেতে যম ঘেঁসে না ।।

Kali-name daore bera, fasale tachhrup habena
Se je mukta-keshi'r shakto bera, tar kachhete Yama ghneshena.

Make fence of Kali's name, none the harvest embezzle would
Strong fence - of She of unpinned locks - who Death'd elude.

অদ্য অব্দশতান্তে বা, ফসল বাজাপ্ত হবে জান না ।
আছে একতারে মন এইবেলা, তুই চুটিয়ে ফসল কেটে নে না ।।

Adya abda-shatante ba, fasal bajapta habe jano na
Achhe ek-taare Man eibela, tui chutiye fasal kete ne na.

Today or century-end somewhen, confiscated the harvest will be
Keep Mind on one Tune while you can, bring in the harvest free.

গুরুদত্ত বীজ রোপন ক'রে, ভক্তিবারি তায় সেচ না ।
ওরে একা যদি না পারিস মন, রামপ্রসাদকে সঙ্গে নে না ।।

Guru-datta beej ropan kare, bhati-bari tai secho na
Ore eka jadi na paris Man, Ramprasad-ke sange ne na.

Plant the Guru-given seed, irrigate with devotion all day
If you can't by yourself, Mind, let Ramprasad with you stay.

Nivedita compared Ramprasad to William Blake. The rhapsodic aspect of the Ramprasadi, however, is close to that of the works of Persian Sufis, and at the same time it has an interiority that reminds of the stoicism of Kabir.

এমন মানব-জমিন রইলো পতিত, আবাদ করলে ফলতো সোনা |

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