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25 July 2007

Jai Hari Vithal

If you haven't guessed by now,I love Mumbai.

Unlike most people I'm not addicted or swear by the life or lifestyle it offers-I'd live as well in other other city in India or out of it. But after three generations of being a bombayite or Mumbaikar-take your pick - because it is the only home I know, my gaon, muluk, village or home-town.

To those of us who feel this way, by definition this feeling normally does not extend to the state of Maharashtra. Somehow all mumbaikars are just that. When John Donne wrote about no man being an island, that man wasn't a mumbaikar, cos in Mumbai just like the city, every man really is just that-an island- connected to his counterparts via some reclaimed land of relationships. If you think as I do, that is a mixed and messy a metaphor as a hindi film dialogue, you are not far from the truth cos I was thinking (and humming) in hindi about the title track of Tanha, as i wrote this- Dekhiye to lagta hain, bheed mein hai sab tanha.

It is also due to the fact that large parts of the city's population migrated from other parts of the country who hence feel an affinity to their home-town and are sentimental about whichever town the family visits during the childrens school summer vacations( before Sita Tours and Kesari tours made Europe holiday destinations popular). But there is one aspect about Maharashtra that I take a great pride in, even though pride is not the exact word I seek. And as a run up to Ashada Ekadashi tomorrow,it is but appropriate to write about the Saints of Maharashtra.

India is a blessed country of many holy saints, many who are from this part of the country. Tukaram, Ramdas, Eknath, Gyaneshwar,who transalated the most holy of books, Srimad Bhagavad Gita into Marathi, thus making it accessible to every common folk, Namdeo, Jana bai, Savta Mali, Sai baba, all lived and worked as humble folk in even more humble professions. They realised God and conveyed this realisation to the villagers around in simple songs known as abhangs and kirtans, infusing their hearts with love. Taking religion out of rituals and in to the hearts of people. The Pandarpur yatra undertaken by the devout, twice every year on ekadashi in July (Ashada) and in November (Kartik) is a fitting tribute to this heritage of land of saints. Hundreds of simple folk, wind their way with no pomp or ostentation, only sheer devotion, to Pandarpur a very small town and the Vithal temple. The group or sect known as warkaris dressed in simple white work clothes, in a tradition that is centuries old, sing and play the traditional instruments and songs and the atmosphere, as a sea of hard working, rural folk from all over the state converge in Pandarpur is steeped in piety, celebration and joy.

Himachal has its valleys, Goa its carnival and beaches, Assam has its tea, Rajasthan-the havelis and palaces, Gujarat, its arts and crafts, Tamil Nadu, the bharatnatyam and coffee, kerala, the backwaters, karnataka and andhra, their temples. And Maharashtra - its Saints.

While other parts of the country boast of grand temple structures, here the very land is made holy by the lives of its saints- by Bhakti.

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