Monday, July 6, 2009

"Bhagwaen Daed-The Poet we know not"

I wonder how many of us even know of a mystic poet called Bhagewaen Daed.

I would stay clear of a dry scholarly paper because that would defeat my idea of choosing her as the woman who would represent the Kashmiri kaleidoscope.She wasn’t in any sense a forlorn or estranged wife or even a disconsolate daughter in law that we generally associate with Kashmiri poetesses.

Krishan Joo Razdan,the great Kashmiri Leela poet would have found a match for his metaphor”basti manz sanyasi roz” in Bhagwaen Daed. Bhagwaen Daed lived amongst people like us and yet she was connected to her higher self. I will not bore anyone with mundane details but to understand her thought and poetry we need to know of the time and space that she lived in. To give you an idea of the space I will go to the following verses by Abdul Ahad Zargar,who in my opinion is one of the greatest mystic poets in not just his era but across timelines in Kashmiri literature.

Yas babe dodh choth,Daam dame sheer
Tas seet nikah chuy,Ba tadbeer

The above verse invited a fatwa from the Islamic clergy and clearly clipped the wings which Kashmiri poetry could have taken. So I guess you have an idea of the time. It was as Charles Dickens would have described it, ”It was the best of the times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of hope, it was the age of despair”. Under the Dogra rule Hindu revivalism was taking small strides and Sanskrit texts were being re-written or published after a long time. Krishanjoo Razdan had passed away leaving a rich legacy of bhakti poetry, so the leela had become a much stronger genre of poetry than it was ever in the past. It was in this time that Bhagwaen Daed appeared on the Kashmiri literary-spiritual firmament.

With that introduction let us now understand Bhagwaen Daed the poet and the seeker.
As I said in the beginning I will try not to be too pedantic or dry. I begin with an anecdote that my grandmother tells me about Bhagwaen Daed and believe me or not, this isn’t hagiography. Due to her spiritual penances she had attained a stage where she needed a Guru to lead her further. She was a restless wandering soul with abundant spiritual energy but in a state of entropy. In the process she wanted Ahad Zargar to be her Guru because Govind Kaul refused to take her as his disciple. Upon seeing her in a state of restlessness, Ahad Zargar put her on a tonga to Wanpoh and directed the coachman to take her to Govind Kaul of Wanpoh. Probably the message from Zargar made Govind Kaul take the young Bhagwaen as his disciple. The above anecdote can be testified by the following verses

Man phyoor Zars zaresey,man vot nish zargarasey
Zar-e-zare havyom prahuhas,man myon aantan kobohas
Govind-goo sware bhagwanene,laey gache paanay man ti pranay
Laey gache syam hamsoo has,man myon aantan koboohas

It seems these were still early days in her spiritual journey and when by her own account she still was like the proverbial parud (mercury) that is unstable. It was under the spiritual and poetic genius of Govind Kaul that Bhagwaen was chiselled.

Staying away from falling into the trap of how her poetic career took shape and how many phases her career had, I shall try and take a look at her stylistics as a poet, her thought and her diction, her idiom of expression and the rhyme in her poems. We will also try and look at her contribution towards furthering the Bhakti movement in Kashmir.

She is a poet who is immensely or shall I say singularly devoted to her preceptor. Her book of poems titled Manposh has 150 poems and there isn’t one where she hasn’t made mention of her guru. Most of the poems are dedicated in form or another to the grace and divine glory of her preceptor. The echo of Govind-goo in her songs is a direct manifestation of her love for her Guru. She anoints herself as the cuckoo who sings Govind-goo. Although the expression of goo and kukil isn’t new to Kashmiri poetry yet the poet presents them as her own expressions drawn out of her experiences and not merely as jugglery of words. I will stick out my neck to assert that there is a tinkle and a rhyme in her poetry which would do a Krishanjoo proud. The reader doesn’t simply read them; he sings them along in ecstasy.

Kukilay Govind goo karnaavtam
Hoo hoo karyo bhi
Bhagyewaene Baste seet daam dyavnamtam
Shaye shaye shiv chuy

Govind govind naam chuy aemusuy
Kukilay damsey manz wich tray
Dham heath dam rat mao praar tamesey
Chay mahramasay maene manz jay

In a way Bhagwaen Daed has not broken the old mould of spiritual poetry. Stylistically her poetry is very similar to that of many other Sufi poets. The influence of all these poets is clearly reflected in her language which remains Persianized to large extent.The metaphors, the symbols, and the similes are borrowed hugely from the Persian word-stock. But that’s where the analogy finishes. As a poet she has her own experiences to recount and those are the experiences of a Yogini. Her regular references to words like Agam, Shaktipaat, Shieshkal, Muladhar and various processes of Yoga are a testament to the fact that whatever might have been her medium of expression her thought was clearly rooted in the hoary religion of the land. One is reminded of poets like Shams Faqir or Prakash Ram as one reads Bhagwaen.

Shams Faqir

Hate oosum mwothehaar,gate manze gash trovnam
Kaal-e-shah su laal-e-bazzar,harmwokh vichu deedar

Bhagwaen Daed

Bhakti-bade vochumay shakti shahanay,Pwokhtekaar mwothkte dahanay aav
Mwotehaar vichumaey tamesund khanay,Gaash shabanay paanay aav

Bhagwaen’s Bhakti is of a type that is unheard of in the Kashmiri literature. Her yearning and love for her Guru manifests in various ways. At one point the guru is the divine consort while at the other he is a child who is to be cuddled and put to sleep. I find this unique because no other Kashmiri poet has taken Guru to a pedestal where love manifests itself in such roles.

Chaen lolan karenas bambereay,ghare ghare soo ham soo
Pan naveth saveth chey laare,ghare ghare soo ham soo

Garas haey Rophe Manzuluy,Baras Jigreke Lolay
Vichas vaen korkumuy,Mae Yaar vuch hane hane

As Bhagwaen moves a stage up from naiveté her verse changes, yet she feels she is still not there

Na bhi pwokhtay nab hi khamay
Mae kaem aaram nyumut vaseye

It is this stage of her spiritual quest when she feels the pangs of separation. It is here that she speaks of her un-sureness, her being neither complete nor incomplete.

But the stage of incompleteness is soon trounced. Her unison with her higher self is reflected in such poesy and ecstasy that one wonders what poetic genius springs from the cosmic union and oneness with the supreme

She sings it in the following verses

Vothaan,beyhaan,Shongnuuy,Manz Saad-e-Sangan Daey Vuchum
Rangarang Berangney,Lahas ti labas laey vuchum
Madham Murali Changeney,Manz kalwalaan mouy vichum

I hope this small write up on mine would persuade readers to read about this rather forgotten poet of ours. There is so much to write about her but I am afraid I don’t have the wherewithal to do so. A translation of some of her poems would be the least that we could do so that the younger generation may get to read some of her poems and then maybe they will delve into her poetry.

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..