Thursday 4 August 2011

Krishnajoo Razdan : A Great Saint Poet

In the 19th century,  Kashmir produced some great poets whose rich and prolific poetry created quite an impact on the people. Although Kashmiri poetry in this century was highly Persianised and imitated to the style of Persian classics, the credit goes to Bhakti poets who liberated Kashmiri language from the dominance of Persian diction in a way that it withered away gradually.  The 19th century also saw profusion in various genres and forms of Kashmiri poetry. Devotional Kashmiri poetry too got a fillip.
Sahib Koul’s devotional poetry had already carved a niche for itself. It was not till Parmanand appeared on the scene that it got finally established as a trend.  Paramanand was not just a pioneer in writing devotional songs in Kashmiri, but surpassed all his predecessors in both profundity of thought and poetic merits. It was during this period that many poetic works on the theme of Shiva-Parvati marriage were written.
Prakash Ram Kurigami, Paramanand and Krishnajoo Razdan, all composed works titled ‘Shivalagna’, but Krishnajoo Razdan’s ‘Shivalagna’  published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal, excels all other works on the theme.
Krishnajoo Razdan was born in Vanpoh in 1850, some say 1851, and went to his heavenly abode in 1925- in 1926 according to some. A famous writer of Lila (devotional) poetry,  Pandit Razdan was a Sanskrit scholar also. Being a prolific writer, he soon attained a distinct place among the writers of his age.  Writing about Krishnajoo Razdan,  Master Zinda Koul says: “He is very good in technique and excels even Paramanand in clearness of language, in description of nature, in local colour and perhaps in musicality of verse also.”
Krishnajoo’s language is simple and sweet. Rich in musical quality, his lyrics display great metrical variety. His diction is lucid, and he does not shy away from making use of Sanskrit words wherever required.  His works, the Shiva Parinay, Lila lyrics and Harihar Kalyan reflect his true poetic genius and passion.  Being well acquainted with Sanskrit, Pandit Razdan enjoyed great respect among the writers of metrical romances of his times. 
Shiva Lagna immortalised him as a saint-poet because of its beautiful lyricism and profundity of thought. His skill as a narrator and his weaving stretches of mystic symbolism into his highly musical verses makes him stand apart from other poets of his age.
The advent of the 20th century saw Krishnajoo Razdan emerge as one of the greatest writers of devotional poetry.  But he did not keep himself confined to devotional themes alone; he tried his hand at writing on other subjects and themes too. 
Some critics have said that Krishnajoo Razdan was the first devotional poet to highlight the spirit of patriotism in the beginning of 20th century.  This created a basis for poets like Azad and Mehjoor for strengthening the trend of patriotic poetry in Kashmiri.
In his poems, Razdan highlighted the plight of craftsmen and other professional workers like the potter, the jester, the blacksmith, the wrestler, the cook, the gardener etc.  He regarded this world as a “Bhand Jashan” or a folk-play.  Krishnajoo Razdan was indeed intensely devoted to Shiva-Shiva who is Jnana, the self-luminous light of lights. 
Shiva is the creator, infinite consciousness, eternal, omnipresent.  Shiva is the Ultimate Reality and the Absolute, without a beginning or an end.  Shiva is destroyer also – destroyer of Asuras, the evil-doers. He swallows poison to save the universe. The rich devotional songs in praise of Shiva written by Razdan are a great treasure of immense value for Kashmiri literature.
In one of his poems he says:-
My childhood passed   asking only  for you,
O Shiva.
Have mercy on me
Liberate me from the yoke   of  materialistic life.

He further says:-
You are my only hope, take   pity on me
I am your disciple,
get me out of this difficult   situation, O Lord Shiva.
  While praying to Lord Shiva, Krishnajoo asks for strength from “the hermit whose body is besmeared with ashes”.  He surrenders himself at his lotus-feet.In another hymn in praise of Shiva, Krishnajoo says:
The hermit whose neck is   adorned by snakes
And from whose matted   locks emerges the Ganga,
Is none other than    ‘Shambhoo’, my great Lord.
God creates the world by his mere will. Maya produces illusion. Karma or action pays only if it is Nishkama or unattached to any desire.  Renunciation means to get rid of Maya that keeps us in shackles.  Fear of God is a deterrent to evil deeds. God is aware of all our actions, whether good or bad.  We cannot hide our misdeeds from him when he already knows about them. 
In this manner Krishnajoo advocates detachment from those earthly and mundane desires which hamper one’s union with Shiva.
Krishnajoo does not believe in sannyasa in the prevalent sense of the word, or in renouncing the world. For him renouncement meant giving up kama, krodha, lobha, moha and ahankara.  He questions the very basis of renunciation and sannyasa in the following lines.
Why should we renounce  the world?
We will devote ourselves
wholly to the love of Krishna.
For us that is austerity and  yogic practice.
Razdan remained continuously engaged in penance and spiritual practices throughout his life.  He writes:-
“I follow you Shiva,
 searching you on the  Harmukha
My Lord, bestow upon me your grace
by granting me your Darshana.”
Like Lalla, Krishnajoo wants to take his Lord in his lap and sing a lullaby to Him. He wants to love Him from the bottom of  his heart. 
Whether it is Ganesha, Shiva, Rama or Krishna, all of them represent the ultimate reality, a  union which is to be achieved by the spiritual aspirant.
Krishnajoo had attained eternal peace by turning his mind away from worldly pleasures and adoring the divine in his heart. This gave him freedom from want, worries, anxieties and fear. He believed sincerely in the oneness of the universe and in the brotherhood of mankind.  “Let us all unite”, he exhorts, “and go in for introspection. Let us stand united and strive for peace”.  Again like Lalla, he seems to believe that, it is “we who existed in the past and we who shall exist in the future”.
While the great saint-poet has become a household name in Kashmir, he is not totally unknown in other parts of the country.  Sir George Grierson got his ‘Shiva Lagna’ published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal.  Well-known Kashmiri scholar, Professor S. K. Toshakhani also published some of his songs.
 Let me merge in thee forever
Om Namah Shivaya!
Exquisite Verbal Painting
Prof. Kanhaya Lal Moza calls Razdan’s devotional poetry as exquisite verbal painting, as he refers to the numerous passages in ‘Shiva Parinay’. Instead of hurrying through such narrative segments, we observe him luxuriating in deliberate verbal strokes for conjuring up some captivating aspects of the nineteenth century Kashmiri Hindu life.
Actuated by infinite patience and wonderful artistic discipline, the immortal bard’s creative effort illustrates his consummate artistic detachment and high objectivity. 
In this respect, he stands uniquely apart from all other devotional poets in Kashmiri literature.  Krishnajoo Razdan as a verbal painter is  a topic of vast critical scope.  Here I consider only two pieces from the immortal bard’s Shiv Parinay for illustrating this scintillating feature of his great poetry.
In ‘Daya Gon Gyav Pyath Tumbakhnare’, Pt. Krishnajoo Razdan celebrates the maanzi raath of Girija, the divine consort of Lord Shiva. 
The poet wonderfully conjures up the atmosphere of a contemporary Kashmiri Hindu household on such a festive occasion.  The guests in the magnificent hall designed and erected by King Himal (Himalaya) for the matrimonial celebrations are crowded around the cauldron containing henna and they are singing the praises of the Lord to the tune of tumbakhnaar.
The assembled guests have been singing throughout the night to the great appreciation of the Lord who is himself both Shiva and Keshava. They have been enjoying nectar trickling down from the heavens. They have sung away the night and the sun has made his presence felt.  The shower of bliss sent by  Siriya Div has made flowers  bloom in floral tufts.
The poet here beautifully portrays a  Kashmiri maanzi raath gradually yielding place to twilight dawn.
The cauldron containing henna is meticulously garnished with gold.  All the assembled guests have applied henna to their hands and feet singing the praises of Ishaan to the melody of the percussion instrument.  There are jubilations and celebrations everywhere and goddess Divath has brought good fortune in abundance.
The night of maaenz  has come after jostling away numerous nights in succession.  Jyotirup Shiva renders bringing of Laayi Boi and Ganga Vyas imperative and every object around gets covered by Shiva’s sacred ashes. On this festive occasion, goddess Barkat has come laden with an inexhaustible treasure of bounty. Goddess Siddeth entering the portals sits at the window.  She listens to the praises of the Lord sung to the beats of the tumbakhnaaer. 
The bride Parvati, whom
Pt. Krishnajoo Razdan calls Vaak Devi, the goddess of the primeval sound, is embellished by goddess Sharada for the matrimonial occasion.  Goddess Siddha Laxmi binds her long hair into charming plaits.
In ‘Daya Gon Gyav peth Tumbakhnaare,’ Pooshi Nool (golden oriole) symbolises human consciousness and Vana Haaer (starling) is the body.  Razdan  obviously desires that human consciousness should subordinate the body to singing perpetually the praises of the Lord. 
This ideal was preached long ago by the great Greek philosopher Socrates.  In recent India, saint Razdan and Mahatma Gandhi strove assiduously for the realisation of this ideal. 
In Daya Gon Gyav Peth Tumbakhnaare, Pt. Krishnajoo Razdan catalogues Divath, Ganga Vyas, Laayi Boi, Barkat and Siddeth, the typical characters from Kashmiri Hindu pantheon, alongside the pan-Hindu beneficent goddesses like Vakh Devi and Sidda Laxmi.
In Samivoo Lukav Sona Shin Vaalav, Pt KrishnaJoo attempts a painting of Kashmiri landscape under a chaste immaculate sheet of snowy alabaster.  The poet wonderfully captures the stir and commotion which a heavy snowfall inevitably ushers into the heavenly vale.
As Lord Ishaan, accompanied by horrible creatures constituting his marriage procession is asked by Girija’s relations to produce ornaments for bedecking the bride, he brings down from heavens filigree flakes of gold. 
At this point of narration Razdan Sahib luxuriates in the verbal painting of Kashmir landscape laced with thickly falling filigree flakes of snow. 
Kashmiri Hindu populace crowds wooden roofs covered with birch-bark sheets and thick layers of clay for pushing down massive loads of scintillating pearls and golden snow.
 They find it difficult to garner the mushy wealth in baskets and other containers; they fear the towering of their paths above the roofy turrets; they propose repairs of barns and garners for storing the precious wealth; the streets and alleys become bleak as shopkeepers rush away to their homes after downing shutters of their shops. 
Indra informs the supplicating relations of Parvati that their cries are bound to be futile unless Lord Shiva himself sweeps the glossy firmament off the pearly rich pregnant clouds.
At the conclusion of the poetic artifact saint-poet Razdan reaffirms his conviction that Shiva is realisable only through an unguarded plunge into the mysterium tremendrum constantly dogging human existence.
The eulogizing frenzy persistently generated  by the Lalleshwari is a manifestation of the same atavistic critical predilection.  It is due to the same reason that numerous scholars have miserably failed to appreciate the beauty of the poetic artifacts where saint-poet Razdan, adopting the Shiva Mahapurana as the scaffolding, luxuriates in the painting of Kashmir landscape and Kashmiri Hindu life. 
In medieval times poetry was a handmaiden of philosophy.  We observe a persistent recurrence of this phenomenon down the centuries.
Pt. Krishnajoo Razdan deserves being highly credited for his mature artistic efforts to disentangle poetry from philosophy. Most of his poetic compositions transparently objectify his deep conviction that the principal concern of literature should be to portray and not to preach.
Article by : Ravinder Ravi
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 October 2010
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